Cooking Lechon is a labor of love. Traditional Filipino methods dictate an open fire be made specifically for a freshly-slaughtered pig, slathered and stuffed with simple spices, continuously rotated until painted a golden-brown, when it is then meticulously carved for serving. Eating Lechon is less labor and more love. Not only because it’s a delicious dish, but because of what it represents. My mother made sure I would learn the importance of what it represents when she brought me to the homeland last summer. She grew up during Marcos’ reign, but his extensive infrastructure projects would hardly reach her village at the tip of Mindanao island, hundreds of kilometers from capital Manila. She lived on land farmed for generations, where undeveloped roads were partially blocked by rows of drying coconuts and huts were still made from bamboo shoots. I saw first-hand that although she hardly came from anything material-wise, it was more than made up for by it was more than made up for by culture and family. Lechon was one of the few ways this city boy from New York could relate to my family in Davao. It amazed both me and my newly-united kin to see the terminals of mother’s laborious journey of immigration: me seeing the starting point, them seeing me as a representative of her destination. They prepared Lechon for us three times in our week long stay. Each time, I learned more what it meant to come from Filipino culture as we shared a simple dish that meant the world to us.
– Justin Pacquing