QUEZON CITY, Philippines – While most Americans tuck into their roast turkey dinners for Christmas, people in the Philippines sought out on Monday roasted pig on a spit, or lechon as it is known in Spanish and Tagalog.
One of the most popular areas to buy or eat lechon near the capital is the La Loma district of Quezon City, northeast of Manila, where there are numerous restaurants and shops serving the whole roasted pigs.
On Sunday and Monday, customers were seen in La Loma flocking to various shops selling lechon, including one staffed by about six men who were preparing the pigs from start to finish.
While the pale pigs are hung on the wall, a worker prepares a bed of coals to be heated for the roasting.
The pigs, with long wooden stakes driven through their bodies and mouths, are then laid across the hot coals and brushed with a sauce consisting of spices, onions, garlic and vinegar, among other ingredients.
The staff rotate the pigs manually as they roast and periodically brush them with sauce.
After about two hours the skin turns a deep, reddish brown and the cooking is complete.
Depending on the size and weight of the roasted pigs, prices range from 4,000-12,000 pesos ($80-$240) and a small pig would be enough to feed at least a dozen people, while a very large one could feed as many as 50.
Filipinos typically eat lechon with rice or pancit noodles and for Christmas and New Years – the most popular time of year for this meal – it also eaten as a snack during drinking sessions.
Lechon, which literally means roasted suckling pig in Spanish, reflects the Spanish colonial influence on the Philippines, which was a colony of Spain from 1521-1898.