Pinikpikan: A Ritual Dish Rooted in Igorot History and TraditionMarch 30, 2020
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Pinikpikan is a dish from the Cordilleras that’s prepared by beating a live chicken, before burning, slaughtering, and cooking it. It’s name comes from the word “pikpik,” or “to beat repeatedly.” We’ve covered “the brutal, bloody story behind pinikpikan” before. But on a recent trip to Baguio, some new friends gave us a glimpse into how it’s made; and helped us further deepen our understanding about its roots to history, and its significance to the Igorots.
The interpretation of pinikpikan differs throughout the Cordilleras. It depends on who you’re speaking to, and furthermore, on what tribe they’re from, and what they’ve been accustomed to as taught by their elders. Nevertheless, the history is more or less standard. Pinikpikan began as a means of food-hunting by tribes of the Mountain Province. It was also done as a ritual for decision-making, with the innards of the chickens dictating good or bad. Following their beliefs—that the “life of the chicken must go back to where it belongs”—Igorots followed certain practices in preparing the bird, such as invoking the spirits and slaughtering the chicken in very specific ways.
To prepare pinikpikan, a live chicken is beat with a stick, generally in the area under the wings. This method helps the blood clot, so when it’s slaughtered, it doesn’t spew out. It also enhances the flavor of the chicken after, since the blood sticks to the bones better. After a few hits, the chicken is struck one last time on the neck to kill it. Once the chicken is dead, it’s burned—along with its feathers—atop a fire. When all the feathers are burnt off, the chicken is dismembered. There’s no waste here; all parts of the chicken are used in the final dish.
After butchering the chicken, it’s then made into a soup. There are many ways of preparing pinikpikan; and it differs household to household. Some add more vegetables, spices, or other ingredients they find in their own gardens. But it’s common to include etag, or Sagada-style smoked and salted pork.
Though some of the rituals done to prepare pinikpikan have been lost or diluted through generations, locals still regard the dish as an extension of their culture.