In October 2007, Sam took the photo below somewhere in Bulacan through the open window of our moving car.
Just about everywhere we go, when I see a carabao in the rice field, I take photos. But none has ever come near the imagery of Sam’s photo which captures the essence of the Filipino farmer’s life.
Last Thursday, somewhere in Laguna, when I saw a carabao chewing grass very near the road, I asked Speedy to stop the pick-up. And I got out and took photos.
Judging by the length of its horns, this is a much younger carabao than the one in Sam’s photo above, which should explain why it was lounging near the road instead of pulling a plow.
It didn’t look too happy that I disturbed its meal.
I didn’t mean to, I just wanted to get to know him a bit.
That’s a lucky shot, above, with the white butterfly fluttering by.
Sassy, ain’t he?
Those bits of grass on its lips tell you exactly what it was doing when I came near.
What’s the big deal about the carabao? It evokes conflicting emotions in me. The old-fashioned method of farming is such a reminder of our Third World status. Yet, it is also a symbol of our connection with the soil.
The carabao figured prominently in the failure of the Japanese to colonize the Philippines peacefully during World War II.
The Japanese… slaughtered carabaos for meat, leaving the farmer without the animal labor needed to cultivate the fields at the same time that they were taking approximately one-third of the fertile land out of cultivation through destruction. (Source)
The carabao also characterizes the dwindling ethics in today’s local business practices. Where there used to be a distinction between the more tender cow meat (beef) and the tougher carabeef, we find markets where vendors will sell the cheaper carabeef for the price of the more expensive cow meat.
For non-Filipinos who are wondering about the “Erap’s English” portion of the title — former President Joseph Estrada, convicted of plunder and granted pardon, a former actor popularly known by his nickname Erap, is also famous for his stilted English which has come to be known as carabao English. I just wish we’d stop referring to Erap’s English as carabao English as the carabao has not done anything to deserve such an insulting association.