Tuesday, November 11, 2008


(left) acrylic on canvas, 40" x 30";
(right) pen and ink on paper, 20" x 14"

(Both works can be viewed at 1/of Gallery)

(I entered this on Illustration Friday on their weekly contest with SIMILAR as a topic.)

Every day at 2 in the morning, like clock work, the section of the street in front of Libertad Market becomes alive with trucks and carts rolling in filled to the brim with the day’s supply of meat. Men would haul the carcasses of pigs and cows on their shoulders with their knives and cleavers dangling from their waists ready to cut the meat into sections once these are dumped on to the stalls. The air is filled with the sweet and dank smell of blood and sweat amidst the cacophony of shouts and yells from the men and women scurrying about preparing for the start of another market day.

It is during one of these early mornings when I found myself buying meat in the market. I buy them from this one particular vendor. I’ve known her only as Aling Emily. She’s hefty, smokes like a chimney and is as foul-mouthed as any of the big rough men who haul the meat from the trucks. I pass by her stall to see her daily supply and get my usual single kilo of pork.

Uy, suki! Maganda at sariwa karne ko ngayon. Galing ng Batangas. May karneng kabayo ako baka gusto mo? (My meat is good and fresh today. I even have horse meat from Batangas),” she waved her hand at me as I stopped by her stall.

“I’ll just have my usual. One kilo of pork. Liempo,” I said.

Ang aga mo yata ngayon ah. Ikaw ang buena mano ko. Oh heto, LIMANG KILO ng baboy para sa iyo (You’re early today. You’re my first customer. Five kilos of pork),” she said, and in one deft stroke, she sliced A HUGE SLAB from the mound of pig’s meat in front of her. She weighed it, placed it in a red plastic bag and handed the slab to me.

“That’s too much,” I remarked with surprise etched on my face.

Hay naku. Libre na yan. Pa-tenk yu ko na yan sa idrinowing mo na project ng anak ko. Perpek iskor daw siya (No, it’s free. It’s my thank you for drawing my daughter’s project. She got a perfect score)”

“Hah? Really?? Thanks. I should’ve ordered more,” I jokingly said.

Kung gusto mo, meron dito akong karne ng kabayo (If you like, I have here horsemeat),” she said while reaching for a mound of unfamiliar dark meat.

“It’s okay. This is already too much. I appreciate it a lot,” I said and proceeded to go to the other stalls.

Oh sige, sa susunod na magpapa-drawing anak ko, sabihin mo lang kung anong karne ang gusto mo (Next time my daughter has another drawing assignment, just tell me what choice of meat you like),” she called at me as another customer came to her stall.

I smiled while walking with the meat in hand and wondered when her daughter will have another drawing assignment.


“So, how would you know if you’re buying a *double dead meat?” I asked Vicky one morning while she opened up the clinic downstairs.

“The taste is different. It’s doesn’t taste fresh,” she said with authority.

“But how would you know if the taste is different, especially if you’re buying it from the meat stalls? You’ll poke your finger into the meat and lick it?” I jabbed her with mischievous sarcasm.

Libertad Market has been raided twice this year by the police. Some unscrupulous meat vendors were caught red-handed selling double dead meat. It was the second raid that I got to witness firsthand when a bunch of lawmen came swooping down through the stalls at dawn apprehending the vendors selling these items. They were cuffed and loaded into waiting police vans and the meat were hauled into another truck, declared as unfit for consumption and hopefully destroyed.

“So why all the trouble of selling this kind of meat anyway?” I further asked Vicky.

“Because they’re cheap,” she said.

“So you buy that stuff?” I asked.

! You can die from eating that or get some weird disease,” she said emphatically.

“But you do know how it tastes like, don’t you?” I followed up.

Of course,” she said.

Hmm, it made me wonder if there’s anything wrong with Vicky.


*Double Dead Meat refers to animals that died (usually of disease) hours or even days prior to being slaughtered. These are passed on in the market as freshly slaughtered. Libertad Market has been the scene of several raids. I found out from a policeman friend here in Pasay that the market and the nearby street of Villanueva has been raided more than 3x this year.

Double dead meat is also called "bocha" in street language.



I was reading a while ago that in medieval Europe, vertical stripe patterns are only worn by traders in the lower ranks like butchers. It's interesting that I remember Aling Emily the butcher wearing her long striped dress.

p.s. I wish I have a good digicam. The painting above beside the pen-and-ink version is a lot better than what you see here. In the words of Flosie who took the picture with her phonecam,"Koyah Dan, magatambok gani ang bayi nimo. Parang nga mag-jump day-ah sa painting."(Kuya Dan, she's so fat. The figure looks like she's gonna "jump" from the painting.) She's Ilongga and spells Emily as "E-m-E-l-y".


nutart said...

hahaha, Dan! love your style of...writing este art este writing. hindi ko alam kung anung mas maganda kasi pareho. para lang puputok ang mga figures mo...which makes them quite fascinating to look at! Hihintayin mong pumutok (heehee). I recall reading that Botong Francisco would also draw for the children of vendors and get free produce! Uuuy! Botong-Dan! ;-)

Anonymous said...

@ nutart: yeah. i've heard that he did that when he was alive. hahaha, it's not the meat vendor i've done some drawings for but also the fish vendor and a veggie guy. if i am going to gather the people i've drawn for, i can open up a small restaurant with great discounts. hehehehehe...

Ebb Tide said...

I am an avid fan of Vincent Van Gogh and have read his biography hundred times. He exchanged his art works to get a decent meal or new art supplies. It's not a crime to exchange one art works to survive as an artist. I think it's a clever way to live creatively without getting into big debt. I am glad to know you draw for others w/ no thought of money. By the way "Meat" is also money. You should have money to buy meat. Your acrylic work and black and white sketch of Aling Emily are marvelous. Congrats on a job well done. I am also a fan of yours.

Ayen said...

hi there! thanks for passing by my blog, and for not throwing beer bottles on my non sequitur posts. :D

do you do illustrations for children's books? saw some covers on your blog's column. i have kse a kwentong pambata i'm polishing for submission to adarna house, or kung sinoman tatanggap nun.


palma tayona said...

@ ayen : don't worry, i drink from a can. hehehehe

i have had several children's books illustrated a looong time ago. the past few years i've concentrated on paintin and what we do at canvas.com. the children's book covers you see in my blog, i designed them BUT the illustrations you see on them are done by other wonnderfully gifted artists.

just sift through my blog and you'll see some works i've done for children's books.

INDIGENE said...

I love your style and your colors are so vivid and beautiful! Wonderful imagery!


Anonymous said...

@ Indigene: Thank you. I went through yours and enjoyed the naive manner of your works. ;-)