Chicken fever

    A FEEDING FRENZY over chicken – primarily fried and adobo, and eggs – balut, hardboiled, and buro caught Pampanga by storm Friday. If only in photo-opped boodle fights staged by LGUs to allay public fears rising from a paranoia over the avian influenza.

    Actually, it started – the publicized feasting, that is – earlier in the week with Candaba Mayor Danilo Baylon rounding up a few brave souls, the provincial information offi cer Joel Mapiles included, to gorge on fried itik (mallard), the town’s culinary specialty.

    A few days after, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol himself, with Vice Gov. Dennis Pineda and San Luis Mayor Venancio Macapagal partook of avian culinary delights right where this current bird fl u started.

    The chicken fever peaked Friday with Lubao town and the cities of Angeles and San Fernando mounting their own look-‘machicken’s- still-fi nger-licking-fine festivities.

    Before taking to the long table groaning from the weight of chicken dishes and hardboiled eggs, Mayor Mylyn Pineda-Cayabyab went around the public market to check on the sale, rather, the lack of it, of poultry products.

    The responses she received from vendors ranged from matumal – very slow, to ala – zilch. Whereupon, the mayor’s pusong mamon (softhearted) took the better of her, buying wholesale the chicken and eggs unsold on retail.

    “Poultry products in Lubao remain safe from the avian influenza,” declared the mayor, picking a chicken leg from the adobo dish to signal the start of the joyous breakfast meal of chicken and eggs with the municipal council, barangay chairs, and anyone who wanted to join in.

    Whole chicken, dressed of course, and eggs which the mayor earlier purchased now bagged in individual packs were distributed – for free – to a frenzied crowd that suddenly materialized.

    ‘Pag libre ang manok, libre din ito sa sakit. Chicken given free makes it bird fl u-free! The virus swept away by the benevolence of the giver. Whoa, what miracle the mayor wielded there!

    “Abe, ali ka migaganaka (Friend, don’t worry) Pampanga chicken is safe” screamed a streamer in Barangay Panipuan, City of San Fernando as 3rd District Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales and Mayor Edwin Santiago led officials and the barrio folk in a brunch – boodle fight, but of course – of chicken and egg adobo and rice.

    “We want to drive the point that chicken and other fowls in San Fernando are safe. Our anti-bird flu task force has been monitoring the situation and are strictly checking the quality of chicken sold in our markets,” Santiago said, hoping this will arrest the precipitous plunge in the sale of poultry products at the city markets.

    Declared Santiago: “Chicken here is safe to eat, as long as it is cooked well and hygienic practices are observed, that is our assurance to Fernandinos and our cabalens.”

    Over at the Pampang Public Market in Angeles City, Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan and the city council feasted on lelut manuk (chicken porridge), adobo and fried chicken

    “Nyaman na (It’s delicious),” gushed Pamintuan over a crispy chicken leg, in effect making himself the specimen to disprove to one and all whatever supposed risks poultry products posed to humans in the wake of the avian influenza outbreak in far-off San Luis town.

    The mayors have made their point: Don’t chicken out. Fear not. Feast on.

    Come to think of it, could this avian infl uenza declaration by the Department of Agriculture no more than a disproportionate reaction to a “common” age-old problem of poultry farms?

    Patse sinipun ya ing manuc, icauani mu neng culungan para e la miaua reng aliua pa. Nung ali, ma-peste la ngan (When colds hit a chicken, isolate it from the others to prevent their contamination. Else, pestilence will kill them all). Some folk wisdom heard from the barrio of long ago when peste – avian flu was yet to be invented – killed chickens but did not warrant the setting of zero ground quarantine and seven-kilometer radius controlled areas, when no checkpoints were established to bar the transport of poultry products, when no wholesale culling was ordered. And eating chicken – those that did not die from the peste – was never deemed a risk to humans, much less ever forbidden. Why, even the infected ones made routine – and free – pulutan to the drinking sprees of the barrio istambays!

    Friday’s feeding frenzy is one triumph of the old Kapampangan will. That, instantly reminds me of Nietzsche: “…what does not kill me makes me stronger.”

    Why, there may even be some Shakespearean thing in the avian fl u outbreak. As in “much ado about nothing.”


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