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Franz L Kessler

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The Christmas Pig
By Franz L Kessler
Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rated "G" by the Author.

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This story from modern Sarawak illustrates
again the dilemma many country folks are facing - that animals can be farm animals and pets at the same time. Our heart loves the pet, but our hungry stomach wants the meat.

The Christmas Pig

When I was a small kid, we lived on the first floor of our wooden Longhouse in Long Laput, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Down below, on the ground floor, there was the smelly realm of the village dogs. They roamed around trying to make a scarce living from whatever nutritious followed the laws of gravity.

Directly below our rooms, there was a small stable, in which lived our pig named “Uting.” We fed it every day with left-over food and cooking refuse. Over time, it became a friendly pet.

Not all the village pigs were friendly. Our cousin’s was a huge aggressive male, with yellow-stained curled tusks. All the children and my sister Pouyang were terribly afraid of it.

Most times, our pig and the other village hogs roamed freely in the surrounding jungles, and on the river banks, feeding on worms and also wild varieties of oil palm fruits. They often interbred with wild boar.

Our “Uting” had a long snout, and its body was covered with a dense pelt. There was no need to brand our pig. It knew its way home, and when we called “Uting, Uting,” our friendly pig came running out off the jungles, and back to our village home.

The years went bye, and one day Dad decided it was time to cull the pig. Mom had died, my dad was a poor man, and as poor people we hadn’t many choices.

It was just before Christmas, our biggest feast.

We didn’t know when our Daddy had the pig slaughtered. He didn't tell us as he didn’t want to offend our feelings.

Someone of distant family did the culling.

Then Christmas came. After going to Church, we ate pig head, pig feet, pig liver, pig heart, and pig stomach – the only meat we had tasted for several months. We also sucked the marrow out off the bones.

The precious remainders was sold.

© 2007 by Franz L Kessler

After a narrative of Obong Jau, a Sarawak Kayan.

Longhouse, as defined by

“In archaeology and anthropology, a long house or longhouse is a type of long, narrow, single room building built by peoples in various parts of the world including Asia, Europe and North America.
Many were built from timber and often represent the earliest form of permanent structure in many cultures. Types include the Neolithic long house of Europe, the Medieval Dartmoor longhouse and the Native American long house.

Borneo longhouse

Many of the inhabitants of the Southeast Asian island of Borneo, the Dayak, live traditionally in buildings known as a longhouse, Rumah panjang in Malay, rumah panjai in Iban. Common to most of these is that they are built raised off the ground on stilts and are divided into a more or less public area along one side and a row of private living quarters lined along the other side. This seems to have been the way of building best accustomed to life in the jungle in the past, as otherwise hardly related people have come to build their dwellings in similar ways.

"One may observe similarities to South American jungle villages also living in large single structures. The design is elegant: being raised, flooding presents little inconvenience. The entry could double as a canoe dock. Being raised, cooling air could circulate as well as have the living area above ground where any breeze is more likely. Livestock could shelter below at night when their security might be a concern.

"In modern times many of the older longhouses have been replaced with buildings using more modern materials but of similar design. In areas where flooding is not a problem, beneath the longhouse between the stilts, which was traditionally used for a work place for tasks such as threshing, has been converted into living accommodation or has been closed in to provide more security.

"The layout of a traditional longhouse could be described thus:
Along the whole length of the building runs a wall placed near the middle. The one side would seem like a corridor or hall from one end to the other, while the other side is blocked from public view by the wall.
Behind this wall lay the private units, bilik, each with a single door for each family. These are usually divided from each other by walls of their own and contain the living and sleeping spaces. The kitchens, dapor, sometimes reside within this space but are quite often situated in rooms of their own, added to the back of a bilik or even in a building standing a little away from the longhouse and accessed by a small bridge due to the fear of fire, as well as reducing smoke and insects attracted to cooking from gathering in living quarters.

"The corridor itself is divided into three parts. The space in front of the door, the tempuan, belongs to each bilik unit and is used privately. This is where rice can be pounded or other domestic work can be done. A public corridor, a ruai, basically used like a village road, runs the whole length in the middle of the open hall. Along the outer wall is the space where guests can sleep, the pantai. On this side a large veranda, a tanju, is built in front of the building where the rice (padi) is dried and other outdoor activities can take place. Under the roof is a sort of attic, the sadau, that runs along the middle of the house under the peak of the roof. Here the padi, other food, and other things can be stored. Sometimes the sadau has a sort of gallery from which the life in the ruai can be observed. The pigs and chicken live underneath the house between the stilts.”


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Reviewed by Regino Gonzales, Jr. 6/15/2008
Thanks for bringing this matter out. In the Philippines, the abbattoir seems to be the final destination of water buffalos after having served as farm beast of burden. I hope there will come a fairer way to treat their kind.

Reviewed by m j hollingshead 7/30/2007
interesting read

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