Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Philippine native carabao

During the summer in Subic when I was a kid, my cousin and I oftentimes rode their family carabao to the nearby river after its hard day’s work in the rice field.  Once in the water, just before we leave him to soak in the cool water, we’d use him as a diving board to swim away.

When I mentioned this to my nephew, he exclaimed what a docile carabao it must have been because while growing up, the carabaos he encountered were usually grumpy to allow such things. He even added that they would walk by some distance away from a tied one for safety reasons.  I was astonished at his remarks and wondered if the genetic make-up of native carabaos has started to somehow degenerate since my youth; making them irritable and mean-spirited.

This conversation with my nephew came up after reading the news about the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) encouraging farmers in Iloilo to branch out into genetic improvement of their livestock, especially carabao, for meat and dairy production – and to preserve the native Philippine carabao for field labor.

Traditionally, with Philippine native carabaos, farmers use the males to till the farm while the females are used for milking and carameat, according to PCC..

The executive director of PCC, Dr.Annabel Sarabia, said there is currently a high demand for “carameat,” milk and other dairy products.  A solution her center came up with is to propagate high yielding Bulgarian Murrah hybrid carabao.

Genetic improvement is initiated through artificial insemination (AI). Currently, AI and bull loan programs are being implemented by PCC in 13 national centers in the country: Five in Luzon, four in the Visayas and four in Mindanao. 

I truly hope that GMO giants have nothing to do with this program.  Nonetheless, I had tasted both carabao milk (chilled, mixed with chocolate) and meat (cooked adobo-style) while here in Bohol.  They were both tasty, though I only had a small portion of the meat.  It was very dark and I was unsure of its nutritional value.  Also, I was told the locals traditionally do not recommend consuming carameat for anyone with an ailment.

Incidentally, the Boholanos are known for going all out in celebrating their fiestas; much more so than during Christmastime. To grace a buffet table with delectable dishes, most families will save up to buy a whole pig, or raise one or two in the backyard..  And for those with limited funds, a family may pool their money with three others to buy a carabao.  Supposedly, a fourth of which is cheaper than a whole pig, yet provides about the same amount of meat to cook several viands for their guests’ gastronomic delight.

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