BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
Iloilo is home to the “litson manok Bisaya”, free ranged chicken marinated then roasted on barbeque stick.
Without mentioning the restaurants offering them, they taste similarly when they are stuffed with tamarind leaves, lemon grass and even dried banana leaves, and broiled on slow charcoal heat. They command a price, P250 apiece (averaging 800 grams) at the Iloilo City Central Market, or above P300 each in specialty restaurants.
The litson manok Bisaya is a tourist attraction; not quite a few national private organizations and government agencies pick Iloilo as venue for conventions if only to give themselves chance to repair to our specialty restaurants to relish the dish and take out some as “pasalubong”.
However, something awry is going on in the industry: the farmer who produces the free ranged poultry is at the receiving end. The bonanza of traders and restaurants cooking the manok Bisaya hardly trickles down to the very producers.
Igbaras, a mountain town 40 kilometers south of Iloilo City, is one of the major suppliers of the free-ranged chicken. On market days – Wednesdays and Sundays – more than a ton of that is transported to Iloilo City.
However, its prices dip at the very season that farmers need cash most – July through August – that they called “tigkiriwi” (season for the contortion of the face), a merry term for a worse form of “taggurutom” (hunger), because the victim grimaces in pain.
In July, the farmer has to look for capital to finance the start of the rice cropping. The loan he/she contracts is usurious. For one, every bag of good seeds borrowed has to be repaid by two. Cash borrowed is paid double after harvest.
The farmer must scrounge for P5,000 in seeds and farm inputs for half a hectare. It is also the season that families enroll their kids to school, which requires cash (by loan) to pay their tuition, miscellaneous fees, uniforms, school supplies, and allowances.
That is also the reason that farmers sell their livestock en masse that often encourages traders to depress prices.
The litson manok Bisaya that you eat in Iloilo City at P250 to P300 plus a piece, is cheaper by more than one-half at the public auction section of the Igbaras municipal market where the “negosyante” or “comprador” fixes the price of a live chicken, averaging a kilo and a half, at only P90.
Even at P120 each live , the price according to producers is just break even. Most of the chickens brought to the Igbaras public market weigh above a kilo.
The local commerce on manok Bisaya has done away with the metric system; it still uses the ancient practice of “pamata”.
“Pamata” (root word “mata” or “eyes”) skirts the need for the weighing scale; the value of the merchandize is determined by mere visual calculation of the comprador, to the detriment of the farmer.
Many farmers are aghast at the downright devaluation of their poultry that they labored hard for to raise. Free ranged chicken is far more delicious and nutritious than “factory” chicken which is better known as “45-day old” chicks produced by commercial poultry farms. It takes at least eight months for a free ranged chick to reach commercial size, at least 800 grams in weight.
At least now, many farmers no longer bow down to the dictates of the middle trader. They withdraw their birds from the market and bring them back home for family consumption. That’s a wiser move: better serve the manok Bisaya on the table for the entire family to partake than sell it at a give away price.
The free-ranged chicken’s protein is far safer than that of a 45-day old broiler that reeks of artificial hormones and anti-biotics that undermine the human body’s defense system.
Stated otherwise, if you want to shorten your life with diseases, go to any fast food restaurant to eat fried 45-day old broiler. If you want your vital organs like liver and kidney to collapse, patronize the 45-day old broilers, as what happened to many Filipinos who now undergo weekly dialysis or transplants due to their dying kidneys at their tender ages.
If you want the backyard poultry farmer of Iloilo to survive, patronize the manok Bisaya and you get healthier as well.