Jody's Peace Corps Experience

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Killing Me Softly

No, this is not another venting entry! This past Saturday night, I was able to observe the whole Pinikpikan (translation=Killing Me Softly) process. My host brother, Juhn, told me that I should watch how it's all done. I've eaten Pinikpikan many times and have seen the birds after they had their feathers burned off, but this time I got to see it all the way through; start to finish. This time was also a unique experience because my lolo (grandfather) performed some sort of prayer ritual. He is a medicine man and often asked to pray over food, people and other things.

So Pinikpikan is a very popular Ilokano dish. I know I've mentioned it in the past and I have even begun to enjoy this dish that takes some getting used to. I like to say it's an acquired taste. Native chickens are most popular although they have begun to use imported chickens now. For the ritual, only native chickens are used. The first step is the "Killing Me Softly" portion. My host brother used the handle of a large knife to beat the chicken. Another guy was hold the chicken by the feet and head while Juhn held a wing and beat it. The reasoning behind this is that the beating breaks the blood vessels and makes the meat taste better.

While the beating was going on, my lolo held the other chicken and said prayers. Since this was a special Pinikpikan meal, only the men could partake in the meal. The women were given a separate dinner. After Juhn was finished beating the wings, he grabbed the bird by the feet and gave the bird a hard thump on the head with the knife handle. When the bird finally stopped convulsing, he pulled out the large wing feathers. All of the beating and thumping and ripping was done in the middle of the sala (living room) while they were watching television. And what else was on, but WWE wrestling! You wouldn't believe how popular that stuff is here.

The birds were then taken into the cocina (kitchen) and dunked in a pot of boiling water. This makes the feathers easier to pull out. There are also some remaining feather bits that cannot be pulled out so Juhn held the birds over the stove fire to burn them off.

After they were rid of all feathers, the chickens were taken back into the sala. Now it was my lolo's turn to be in charge of the process. He and another man prepped the birds for cooking. The other man made several slits, cuts and slices to the carcass. They explained to me that the breast bone is then ripped away from the rest of the body. This must have been the other man's first attempt as my lolo was explaining everything to him. Finally, my lolo just took the bird and ripped away the breastplate himself. Since he is a "holy man," he is able to read the meaning of the arrangement of the organs and tell the future. He then said a final prayer and the birds were cooked.

Men came out of the woodwork when the dish was finished cooking. I'm not exactly who they were or where they came from. I'm pretty sure they were all related to my host family in some way. There was tapuy (rice wine) and of course Red Horse beer to be shared between then all. I went to bed long before they left the house!

I have added photos of the whole process here.