Aso Adobo: More than Food for Thought

I made a commitment to blog about World Food Day as part of Blog Action Day. It sounded appropriate for a Service Sunday blog post. I just didn’t think I’d have so many different things to blog about that I would end up posting twice in one day. This is my real Sunday blog. Sure, the chocolate post is about food, the best kind, and it’s about about service, paying it forward. But this post is more about meeting basic needs.

Food, shelter, and clothing are the most basic needs we humans have. Getting enough to eat isn’t easy for much of the world’s population. My church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, encourages members to put food away, up to a year’s supply, in case of emergency. So far we haven’t had severe financial difficulties to the extent we had to live on our food storage for a long period of time. But we’ve often used it for short times. Here in Florida we’ve used our stock during hurricanes, once when the power was out for almost two weeks. Because our house didn’t get flooded, we didn’t have a lot of cleanup to do at home. We had a fence fall over and the neighbors shrubs knocked over one of our trees. I organized a work party at church to assemble personal sanitary and food kits to send to Lousiana. We filled a moving van.

The work parties we went on showed us how much worse it could have been.

The worst hardship we suffered during that time was cooking on the grill, getting hot and sweaty without air conditioning, and taking cold showers.

That wasn’t enjoyable, but it was familiar. I first learned to deal with humid heat and the shock of taking cold showers in the Philippines. During the rule of Ferdinand Marcos, we lived on the main island of Luzon while my husband was on remote duty assignment to Wallace Air Station. The USAF doesn’t pay for families to go on remote duty assignment. It was tight financially because we had to take out a loan for airfare for me and our oldest son, then 6 months old, to fly over. Then we had to save money to get back. Our house had no phone and no toilet seat. But we did have electricity. We were rich compared to most locals.

There wasn’t enough food to go around after Marcos nationalized the state and took many businesses from their rightful owners. Many of our neighbors and friends at church were forced to become squatters on public or other people’s land. They were dirt poor, so they fashioned huts out of bamboo, just big enough that the family could lie down side by side to sleep at night. Cooking was done outside. Few women knew how to bake, because only the rich had ovens. We were lucky to find a house that had a stove with an oven. Looking back, I remember that I baked to avoid buying bread because even we couldn’t afford the prices in the market. The missionaries never missed baking day. They lined up at our door like hungry puppies, and we fed them fresh bread with butter and jam. Sometimes I baked cinnamon rolls, cakes, turnovers, or even pies. I taught the women at church how to use 5 gallons biscuit cans as ovens and we made a crumb cake. Now I realize that was a crummy idea when they couldn’t afford to buy either flour or sugar. They ate a lot of fish and rice if they could afford it.

Here in the US, most pets are better fed than people in some countries. My heart goes out to animals I see that are neglected and hungry. But how much more for a starving child? I’m going to tell a true story that will make many pet owners cringe. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it illustrates the point that too many people in the world are hungry, even starving, in spite of advances in farming and technology. The Philippine people were no exception. We often saw cages full of dogs in the local markets. Those dogs weren’t for sale as pets, they were food, although some upper class families did have dogs as pets. I couldn’t find any pictures of the dog cages, which were stacked like the chicken cages. The goats got better treatment, usually being sold in open pens.

We moved when my husband was chosen to be bishop of a small church group farther away from the air station. Our second house came with a dog abandoned by former tenants. We named her Mutt. She was half-starved, but when I bought dog food at the base commissary she wouldn’t eat it. We had to mix it with rice to begin. Mutt was a sweet dog, and It didn’t take long before she gained a healthy weight and became a loyal pet. Then she got pregnant, and bore a litter of cute pups. Mutt took good care of her babies, and as they grew, we had many requests for puppy adoption. We made it clear that these puppies wouldn’t go to anyone who would eat them. Then the worst happened, but not how you might expect.

The puppies were about 6 weeks old when I decided to go to the market one day to buy groceries. My husband had taken our car to work, but I was used to riding in local jeepneys. These were nothing like our taxis. They looked more like a truck crossed with an open tram and a clown car painted in bright circus colors. The way those drivers drove, they needed bright colors to avoid collisions. Anyway, I walked from our house down the dirt road to the paved main road, crossed it and hopped on the first jeepney that stopped.

We weren’t 10 yards down the road when the driver stopped, turned to look at me, and got out. I had no idea what was wrong until he came around back and asked me if I had a dog. My heart fell into my stomach. For the first time ever, Mutt had left her pups to follow me down the dirt road, across that busy main road and then gotten hit. I never suspected she would leave the yard because she never had before. Now she was badly injured for showing her loyalty.

The driver offered to take her back to our house and he did, but I didn’t think she would live long. Next I steeled myself and asked the driver to take me to the hut of a man who served with my husband at church. I knew this man was out of a job and he had a big family. I might not want to face it, but I knew what I had to do. When Mutt died a short time later, this man came to collect her body. Eating dog was nothing unusual to him or his wife and children, but he knew we considered Mutt as a pet and expressed his gratitude for the sacrifice. Of course I’d been crying since Mutt got hit. I’m crying now as I remember how she ended up as Aso Adobo (Ilokano dialect). Yet Mutt fed some hungry children that day, and I would make the same decision again.

I could spend all day asking what if? How much better would the economy have been if the government hadn’t taken over those private businesses? How much better if more people got involved with charitable organizations that feed starving children or teach their parents how to make a better living? The real question is for you, the reader. What will you do to help feed the hungry and make the world a better place? After seeing what a mess government made taking over private enterprise in the Phillipines, I sure don’t believe more government involvement is the answer. Unlike the message at the end of the quiz below, provided by Save the Children, I think it’s up to me and you to be the good Samaritan who helps our neighbor.

Share A Heart

Indie author-friendly freelance editor, children's book blogger for picture books through YA, kid lit, SF/fantasy lover with special fondness for middle grade, pun-loving SCBWI member, meter-maid for poetry and rhyming picture books.


  1. I’m speechless…and convicted.

  2. Wow. I’m with Cindy. Speechless. I’ve heard so many stories from the Philipines, but seeing it first hand must have been . . . just, wow.

    I spent some time on New Caledonia (as a missionary) and when I got back I was horrified by the lavishness of the U.S. Which we totally take for granted. And New Cal is one of the “rich” islands.

  3. Most people in the US have no clue how the rest of the world lives. Having lived and visted all corners of the world I have seen the poverty. Even the poorest of the US citizens live like kings compared to many of the poor people in many of the nations of the world. And yes, Mutt was a good dog. She used to follow Bobby & I into the jungle as we gave candy to the children in the remote villages.

  4. What a cute little boy. I bet he was a standout among all of those Asians. Did he have problems getting his skin pinched & his soft blonde hair rubbed by all of the women? Great article about helping the poor.

  5. Wow. This post really brought back memories. I also lived in the Philippines during Marcos’s reign, but during his first, legitimate term. We lived on Sangley Point next to Cavite City, across from Manila. In the P.I. there were really only two classes, very rich and dirt poor. Most people were dirt poor.

    I thought of those people when I worked for the Bishops Storehouse in CA. How many people here consider themselves poor yet still have a car to get around in?

    My heart broke over Mutt. What a sacrifice. *hugs*

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