From Main Ritual to Main Course: Dogs, Dog Meat, and the Igorot Trope



The ritualistic sacrifice of what is universally referred to as people’s “best friend” has been part of countless ethnic rites since time immemorial. As an animal that has been culturally understood as being the guardian to the gateways of the land of the living and the dead, the dog in ritualistic slaughter plays a crucial role in the spiritual interpretations of the interplay between life and death.

As notions of influence move from colonial to more modern cultural understandings, the ritual sacrifice of dogs has moved also from areas of ceremonial worth to back-alley Igorot eateries, as dog meat found itself being incorporated into the Cordillera highland menu. Driven even more so by influences of touristic consumption, the exoticization of the Igorot has also seen the same treatment of their rituals, which have now been redesigned to cater to the outsider’s unknowing gaze. The Igorot in modern conventions become privy to the creation of identifying tropes that further distinguish them as the savage devourer of a friendly animal.

This paper focuses on describing how the rituality and culture of dog sacrifice and consumption tend to shift in meaning, purpose, and representations from the past to present. The paper also explores how rituals involving dogs and their sacrifice have been interpreted over time and have become part of a modern consensus towards trope and identity construction. Although discussing Igorot traditions and rituals involving dogs, I do not go deep into the technicalities and specificities of ritual dog sacrifice as exhibited individually by varying ethnolinguistic groups in the Cordillera. Instead, I discuss how such ritualistic traits have converged and would eventually obtain varying interpretations, leading to more modern apprehensions.

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