Man Eats DogFriday, March 05, 2010
Faith Healing and the Original Hot Dog
By Mati Laansoo
Illustration by Marv Newland
Vancouver Magazine, March 1982
According to the legend on which the original zodiac is based, the dog was the eleventh of the 12 beasts to visit the bedside of the dying Buddha. In celebration of Chinese New Year last month, I found myself eating man’s best friend; but first some events leading up to it.
The British burdened as they are with enduring affection for their four-legged friends, especial dogs and cats (although hundreds of English Societies are dedicated to the welfare of donkeys, pit ponies, budgies and mice, etc.), went berserk recently after a pair of sensation seeking hacks discovered a few trussed up mongrels at a remote village market in Northern Luzon, in the Philippines. The pitiful photographs, bearing lurid captions, appeared in the sleazy tabloids, and the nation’s pet lovers howled in protest. While countless Third World infants were dying from neglect and starvation, 30,000 Britons wrote condemning letters on the Philippine dog crisis, and 21 Members of Parliament asked questions in the House of Commons. To the great embarrassment of the diplomatic world, Margaret Thatcher, herself a devoted pet fan, demanded from the Ambassador to the Philippines and end to this brutality. It took His Excellency several days to understand what the fuss was about. As usual in these matters, the reality is somewhat different.
Although the Philippines is unofficially a dictatorship under martial law, and everything there is officially censored, the smell of Weimar was distinctly lacking when I arrived in Manila on my fact-finding mission. The few gracious Filipino friends who had even heard of the great dog scandal they had unwittingly precipitated regarded it as a joke invented by the press. Top officials of the Ministry of Tourism treated the matter with gentle derision.
“Tell us about the Englishmen,” they asked. “How can a nation that lovingly breeds partridges and pheasants in captivity for the sole purpose of shooting them by the thousands be outraged about a few stray dogs enhancing the dinner table of poor folks? ”
In a gesture of accommodations to my hosts, I promised to taste the truth myself.
I had originally journeyed to Baguio City in the Northern Philippines to check upon the doings of the Reverend Anthony Agpaoa, the celebrated faith healer who had been practicing psychic surgery on Western Canadians, among others, for many years. Tony had built up a large cult, and sensibly specialized on the profitable cancer patients. His trained eye singled out terminal cases who were left to die in their hotel rooms while the hypochondriacs, who made up the majority of his clientele, came back refreshed from the cure. Two weeks in the balmy tropics did wonders for the frozen Canadian winter blues. Tony bought and old Catholic monastery high on a hill overlooking Baguio City, rebuilt it and named it the Diplomatic Hotel. The package healing tours that soon sprang up included the charter flight, full room and board and daily afternoon trips to surrounding tourist spots. Early mornings were set aside for knifeless surgery to cure glaucoma, deafness, rheumatism, epilepsy, diabetes and leukemia. While all this went on, there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest in the United States for practicing medicine without a license.
Tony’s vaunted gift was that of healing without the knife. His bare hands would routinely cut through skin, muscles and bowels to produce little bits of chicken liver and other conveniently available organ meats that had been prudently concealed in his sleeve. Of course, he left no mark nor even the slightest scar to show where the miracle had taken place, but there was no question in the minds of the grateful that Tony’s healing powers had come from anywhere but “up there.”
Tony always told his patients that he himself was not immortal. Everyone’s time would come sooner or later, he said and his, I was to discover, would come sooner. On the morning that I arrived at the Diplomatic Hotel, it was announced that the Rev. Anthony Agpaoa had suffered a massive heart attack on the evening before and was now in a coma on full life support systems at the military hospital. This news by no means deterred the 40 good citizens from Alberta and B.C. who continued to be operated on by four assistant healers, suspicious looking youngsters in T-shirts and Adidas runners who bore an uncanny resemblance to Manila cab drivers.
But back to the main story: man eats dog. The morning’s doings at the Diplomatic having left me somewhat puckish, my guide drove me to the Five Sisters Restaurant of the Slaughterhouse Compound. There I met the jovial proprietress Mrs. Marcia C. Villaneuve, a locally celebrated cook. The restaurant was empty except for a lone Jeepney driver eating his daily dog, and a quiet foursome dining on a mixed menu that included the house specialty. I learned from Mrs. Villaneuve that in the remote barrios of the Philippines, where the average income is less than $5 a week, homeless mongrels are sometimes sold for food instead of being gassed to death by the SPCA. She went on to point out that “fragrant meat,” as the Chinese call it, is considered a delicacy only when the diners know that it is dog they are eating.
I ordered a round of San Miguel beer for the Five Sister’s lunchtime patrons and a plate of canine casserole for me and my guide. The dish arrived promptly, a rather nondescript gray in appearance, its gravy dotted with a few bay leaves. The taste was very much like some of the better Chinese meat dishes done in garlic and black bean sauce: a bit chewy, somewhat spicy and vaguely redolent of pigs’ trotters with all the little leg bones and knuckle joints to crush on. Appearances notwithstanding, it was very tasty, and arguably good value at 10 Pesos, or $1.35.
Of course, I complimented Mrs. Villaneuve on the delicacy of her dish, and she in turn beamed her approval and suggested that I pass on the recipe for culinary adventurers overseas. The carcass she said, should be skinned and hanged by a competent butcher, after which the choice meat should be cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked in rice vinegar for a very long time until it becomes “al dente.” After that, the meat is salted and simmered in a broth of oil, garlic, bay leaf and pepper, with a dash of monosodium glutamate to bring out the bouquet. It is then served piping hot in its own rich gravy, with a side order of fried noodle and sliced green mangoes. All cultural impediments aside, the dish (as many early European navigators in the region have testified) is delicious, although like the barnyard chicken who has become familiar enough to have earned a name, likely less so if you happen to have known the dish wagging its tail earlier.
I confess that after my Philippine luncheon I now look at my canine friends with renewed respect, and rather suspect that the feeling is mutual. These days, whenever I meet dogs fooling around in the street or being tedious at the pub, I just point my finger at them, like Charles Bronson in Death Wish, and they smarten up real quick, because they know.