ASF scare

By Atty. Antonio P. Pekas

“If that happens, our valuable heritage from the Sicwaten family would have to be dug out. It is a jewel in the sand waiting to be picked up.”

And now its the African swine fever, the new scare. As one friend revealed, an Ibaloi family was scared enough to forego the butchering of several pigs before their dead (a 12 year old who was the victim of a vehicular accident) was finally interred. Tribal people also know what innovation is.
At any rate, there are now ASF cases in Kalinga and Abra but most of the Cordillera cases are in Benguet. Somehow some hogs infected with the virus were brought in.
So Regional Executive Director Cameron Odsey (Ron) of the Department of Aggriculture called a press conference to allay the fears of the people and to announce that the government, through his department, is doing something about it. With him as panelists were government officers whose functions involve dealing with animals and meat in the region and in Benguet.
I engaged Ron in a short banter before the event began. How I wish we had more time. We had a good laugh but we could have had a lot more. We were classmates one summer in UP Baguio and when we went down to Diliman his board mate was also a friend of mine so I often visited them.
In the presscon, being an animal doctor, Ron was in his element. And he was gracious to take the questions whenever his co-panelists had difficulty answering them.
As I raised, was there a danger of the ASF virus infecting other animals like cattle or chicken? The answer was yes. That was the scary thing. Good thing, it was found out that humans are safe from the virus.
There were a good number of media people and the mood was quite serious. Then I fielded my last question which was if the panelists ever considered the cheapest remedy which was to invite Quiboloy from Davao to exercise his spiritual power by causing the extinction of the virus?
That should be peanuts for Quiboloy because, according to PDu 30, he even stopped the occurrence of another earthquake in Mindanao.
Ron said that why not if the Quiboloy methods were found to be scientific. Well, you don’t use the word scientific in a sentence when Quiboloy’s name is also there.
Though I could have hugged the microphone, since there were many waiting to ask questions, I did not mention what the late Atty. Kawi said during the bird flu crisis in Taiwan that the infected chicken could be shipped to the Cordillera and the people can safely make pinikpikan out of them.
Another matter I could have perorated on was what was mentioned that rabbit raising could be an alternative livelihood for our farmers. It appeared that our present crop of media people are not so informed about rabbit raising.
There had been many people raising rabbits in Besao, Sagada and Bontoc, Mountain Province. And perhaps in other towns there.
In Baguio the pioneer or stalwart of rabbit raising was the late Father Juan Sicwaten (an Anglican priest) who also traced his roots to Mountain Province. He and his wife Salome even popularized key chains and other products made from the body parts of a rabbit. If memory serves, the key chains were with the tails or paws of a rabbit. I think they even had hats or caps from rabbit skin.
The products were good.
Their only son, however, after graduating from UP Baguio migrated to the states and that was the sad end of the business.
I googled Father Sicwaten’s name and I found a handbook on rabbit raising by the US Peae Corps based on the Sicwaten family’s experiences.
Ironically, while rabbit raising was being discussed during the presscon at the DA compound, everybody was unaware of the experience and worthy efforts of the Sicwaten family who once lived by the Ferguson Rd. gate of that same DA compound.
I could have but there was not time for everybody to speak. I am well aware of the fact that a number of local journalists are resentful of my tendency to dominate presscons whenever I could.
Am sure though that Ron will read this piece and might mobilize his office to promote rabbit raising with all its potential as a source of better meat and other commercial products.
If that happens, our valuable heritage from the Sicwaten family would have to be dug out. It is a jewel in the sand waiting to be picked up.**

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