NOTES FROM THE EDITOR - Singkit (The Philippine Star) - February 3, 2019 - 12:00am

Pigs all too often get a bad rap – they’re regarded as dirty (wallowing in mud and muck), gluttonous, disgusting (ang baboy mo!)… But we do love our porky treats, cholesterol and clogged arteries be damned – lechon, liempo and chicharon (with laman pa!).

But now the Pig (with caps P, take note) takes the spotlight as we usher in the Year of the Pig on Tuesday. The Pig is the last in the Chinese zodiac of 12 animal signs. I guess by now everyone knows the story behind the 12 animals, how the Jade Emperor on his birthday called for a race in the animal kingdom, with the first 12 animals to come in being given the privilege of having a year named after it. This was to make it easier to keep track of years and people’s ages; as a kid I learned to recite this sequence like a nursery rhyme or kid’s ditty. Subsequently, characteristics of the animal were ascribed to those born in that year, and the Chinese zodiac became a significant part of feng shui and matchmaking.

You may be more familiar with Porky Pig and the divine Miss Piggy, but I grew up with stories from the Chinese classic novel “Journey to the West,” about the monk Tang Sanzang’s journey to the Western regions (India) to get the sutras or Buddhist sacred texts. He was given three assistants to support and protect him on the arduous and dangerous journey – Sun Wukong or the Monkey King, the ferocious-looking Sha Wujing and Zhu Bajie (literally, pig of eight restraints or Ti Pat Kai in Hokkien). While the Monkey King is the most famous of the three, I enjoyed stories about Ti Pat Kai the most, because he was always getting into trouble, eating and drinking too much. But he is a good fighter and can do 36 transformations. I think my father embellished and maybe even invented stories of Ti Pat Kai’s adventures, since he always had a new one every time I asked. We have a set of four clay figurines of this story, and when we set them up I was told to always put Ti Pat Kai at the rear (Monkey King is in front), and at some distance too, because he tended to lag behind, still eating or looking for something to eat! 

Thus we may think that this is going to be a sloppy, slobby year that will have us wallowing in the muck and indulging to excess. But to the Chinese, pigs are not all that bad. For obvious reasons, Pigs symbolize plenty, wealth, prosperity, so hopefully that should augur well for our coffers and wallets. The Pig by nature isn’t combative or aggressive, so perhaps in the year ahead we will have less upheavals and violence, confrontations and conflicts.

Do ring in the Year of the Pig with a hearty dinner tomorrow night, gather family and friends around your family hearth, indulge a bit and do have enough left over for the next year. We’re having a full table tomorrow evening, so from my family hearth to yours, xin nian kwai leh, wan shr ru yi!

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