In the Philippines, long before the South Beach diet hit Manila by storm, we used to serve lechon during birthdays, baptisms and Christmas.

Manilenos often buy one from a lechon store in their vicinity because it’s a labor intensive project. Market Manila says that there are many ways to prepare this Pinoy delicacy. It starts with choosing the right size for a pig, perhaps 28 to 30 kilos. The pig then needs to be cleaned thoroughly, and seasoned with sea salt and herbs. Market Manila also emphasizes that the charcoal needs to be placed at the sides rather than the pig’s bottom during the roasting process.

In early July, it was Nancy’s high school graduation. Nancy’s father was very proud of his daughter’s achievement and he wanted to commemorate the event with a party and roasted pig!

Louie, Anne Marie and Nancy in the Lapp's breathtaking farm

I was surprised that Louie was assigned the task of roasting the pig! Most Americans I know don’t even want to lay their eyes on a fish head so they settle for bland frozen fillets. And their shrimps are headless and deveined! Unthinkable for a Southeast Asian like me who enjoys dipping shrimp heads in Datu Puti vinegar and sucking its salty, mushy brains!

Louie drove up to Philadelphia, New York two days before Nancy’s graduation. His brother-in-law and grandson helped him season the 300 pound pig, carry the 300 pound pig and roast the 300 pound pig in this box–

At some point, the box caught on fire!

So did the pig’s skin!

But you know what? It was still one of the best roasted pigs I’ve ever tasted.

My photo doesn't do justice!

It was soft, and I loved how the sweet juice squirted on my tongue! But most of all, I love how Nancy’s family went out of their way to roast a pig with their bare hands.

Congratulations, Nancy! Congratulations, Louie, Matt and Kyle! And here’s to the next graduation…and the next pig roast!