This is the second entry in my diary from our recent visit to the Philippines, covering our trip to Baguio City, north of Manila, to explore the final destination of dogs captured for their meat.
Dubbed by a government official as the ‘dog meat capital of Asia’, Baguio is one of the main destinations for dogs captured to the south of Manila. We traced the journey of the dog meat traders in order to get there, which involves six hours of crowded roads populated by dilapidated vehicles, motorbikes carrying multiple people in their side cars and breathtaking scenes of paddy fields, water buffalo and roadside videoke bars. Baguio is a popular holiday resort as it sits high in the mountains and enjoys a more moderate temperature compared to Manila. As our visit was in monsoon season, we were welcomed by pounding rain as we navigated the winding mountain roads on the approach to the city.
The objective of our trip to Baguio was to meet with the mayor to discuss the dog meat trade and the existence of dog meat restaurants and markets operating in flagrant violation of the law.
We woke early so that we could inspect local dog meat restaurants and the market. Our first stop at a restaurant next to the central bus station was an eye opener; a dog head, a large bowl of cooked dog paws known as “spare parts’ and organs were openly displayed in the kitchen.
The chef informed us that the head had been blow torched to remove the hair and the teeth brushed to improve the appearance. As we asked questions and snapped pictures, the owner arrived behind us and the mood immediately intensified as it became apparent that we were not innocent tourists looking for lunch. We quickly left, passing a man plucking a live chicken.
We moved on to the market, but despite our early arrival, it turned out that the dog meat traders had already left, likely because they had been alerted to our inspection. The ominously discarded dog meat stand amongst bustling butchers selling everything from whole cow heads to chicken feet was evidence that we had missed our target so we hurried on to the mayor’s office. Because the mayor was ill, we ended up meeting with the vice mayor. Friendly and informed on the dog meat issue, he offered his assistance in tackling the dog meat trade although we were left feeling unconvinced that the issue was anywhere near a top priority for his department.
We departed Baguio and returned south, lost in recollections about what we had seen in the city. The piles of bones, the brushed teeth on the dog and the blatant disregard of regulations relating to the sale of dog meat symbolized the uphill struggle that we face in trying to end the dog meat trade in the Philippines. However, being able to follow the dogs’ journey from urban stray to dinner plate delicacy was an important fact-finding mission and provided vital inspiration for our campaign.