Some readers might think that I mis-spelled the title of today’s post, and say that I probably had azucena in mind… You know the frangrant tuberose flower which is generally used to make funeral wreaths in the Philippines. Said plant is native to Mexico and was probably brought over by the galleons that plied the Manila-Acapulco route from the 1500s to the 1800s.
Azucena, polianthes tuberosa
I really do mean to write ASOCENA. It is a compound word: aso (Pilipino for “dog”) and cena (Spanish for “dinner” or “evening meal”). Together, the two words stands for any dish prepared with dog meat.
A Cable News Network (CNN) correspondent in Asia reported last week that Taiwan has banned the consumption of dog and cat meat on the island. This is said to be a step up from a previous regulation prohibiting the slaughter and sale of dog and cat meat. The amendment specifically forbids people from eating the meat of said animals. Fines for non-compliance amount in the thousands of dollars.
In the Philippines, Republic Act 8485 (The Animal Welfare Act) was enacted as far back as 1998. It then became illegal to slaughter dogs and cats for personal of commercial trade and consumption, except when done as part of indigenous religious rituals. Enforcement of the law has been sporadic; local and foreign animal rights groups have many times publicized the sorry lack of observance of RA 8485 in many parts of the country.
Following the lead of Taiwan (as shown in the above newsflash), might the Philippines begin yet again to enforce the law? After all, the country is somewhat expert at copying foreign practices.
The consumption of dog meat happens in the Philippines for a number of reasons:
- Regional practice. In the Cordillera Mountain area of northern Luzon, eating dog meat can be as common as eating pork. It started started with ritual slaughters in Ifugao and Benguet: tribes used to sacrifice dogs before battle, hoping that warriors would become as fierce as dogs.
Over time, the practice continued despite the fading of the rituals. In the cold-weathered uplands, people believed that dog meat imparted a warm feeling in their bodies.A number of adjacent lowland provinces, such as Pangasinan and Pampanga, have began to adopt dog meat consumption.
“They cook it adobo-style, sauteed with garlic, onion, and laurel leaf, seasoned with soy sauce and vinegar. This is the favorite appetizer during drinking sprees,” wrote one blogger.
- Peoples’ desire to sample exotic fare. Adventurous tourists, local and foreign, will sometimes try dishes from unusual meats. Ever heard of The Carnivore restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya? It boasts of serving ostrich, crocodile, and camel meat dishes among the more common meat offerings.
In the same spirit, an out-of-the-way eatery might feature limited servings of dog meat for the “shock value” of offering taboo meats.
- Lack of protein sources. Unscrupulous people round up stray dogs for slaughter and sale to any takers. This is not a common occurrence, but it happens. For the most part, dogs (and cats) are not widely considered as food animals in the Philippines.
Still, John M. wrote in 2010: “… dog meat is a source of protein. Not as much as other meats, but it’s there… Dressed dog meat sells for around 65 pesos per kg. at the palengke in Cagayan. If you are poor, compare to the price of other meats, and it becomes a cheap source of protein.
Where does our word ASO come from? Instead of looking at word translations in many dictionaries, I consulted a website on dog care, The Dog Breeding Information Center. I found the word for “dog” in more languages than I ever imagined. The list gave me a glimpse of relationships between languages.
Our word aso is expressed in other tongues as:
- Asu (in Tetum, which is spoken in Timor; in Tola Batak, spoken in northern Sumatra; and in Javanese, spoken in Java)
Marco Samson of San Francisco State University wrote in a 2010 research paper that Indonesians were the first to introduce dogs into the Philippies. It goes without saying that their word for the animal would carry into the local language.
- Cho (Vietnamese). This is intriguing. There is very little similarity between the Philippines and Vietnamese languages, but it is interesting to listen to aso and cho.
- Achu (in Kuna, spoken in Panama and Colombia)South America is across the Pacific Ocean from the Philippines, so this presents yet another curiosity. Aso, achu… two similar sounding words from regions separated by a wide expanse of water.
How do you say “dog” in your dialect or language?