Philippine Culture – A Filipino’s Love Affair with Food

To say that a Filipino likes to eat is an understatement. ‘Like’ is not quite the term to use to describe the relationship between a Filipino and food.

Consider these truths. An average Filipino eats at least four times a day. The daily meal is consists of: breakfast, lunch, snack, and supper. Snack is somewhat not just an optional meal. It is part of the daily meal for the Filipino. It is a need and not just a want. Sometimes, these four meals stretch to six meals! The daily meal will then be consisted of breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, supper, and finally- snack.

This is not yet mentioning the “mini”, “in-between”, and “informal” eats a Filipino does during the day. He or she is about to go home after a long day at work. He or she sees a food kiosk of Chinese dumplings in the train or bus station. Guess what happens next? He or she buys four pieces, eats them, and takes another order to go to bring to the family. He or she then is greeted with the smell of supper, takes out the Chinese dumpling, and starts eating with the family.

‘Like’ never describes a Filipino and its relationship with food. To say that a Filipino loves food then is a better description. However, it does not still encapsulate the whole truth. A Filipino has a love affair with food.

An affair describes a commitment, status, and a mutual understanding between two parties. In effect, a Filipino does not just have a one way relationship with the food; the food loves a Filipino too!

The food ‘loves’ a Filipino because of its ‘concern’ that a Filipino does not go hungry. This is very evident with thousands of different food chains all over the islands of the Philippines. This is not yet counting the number of restaurants or the number of food kiosks in the nation. Wherever one looks, especially in the cities, a food shop or a restaurant is always open to satisfy one’s cravings.

In addition to this, the food loves a Filipino for being present even at home. More than 80% of advertisements and commercials whether on the television, radio, newspaper, magazine, and on the internet is about food or something that has to do with the food industry. There is always a reminder about food whether a Filipino rides a jeepney, or a bus, or a cab, and even on trains. The lingering memory of the food, its aroma, and of course its taste is everywhere!

The food industry also has a lot of impact even to very young children. For the Philippines, gone are the days when a baby’s first word is, “Daddy” or “Mommy”. It is a normal phenomenon that a Filipino’s first word is, “Jollibee”, which is the most famous fast food chain in the Philippines.

Eating is also the best family (and even among friends) bonding. Ask the children what they want to do for the weekend and the reply will be, “Eat out”. For a Filipino, eating strengthens the family ties because issues of success, accomplishments, and even pains, and struggles come out over the table. For a Filipino, it is not rude or a bad manner to discuss problems and difficulties over the table. It is in fact either expected and anticipated, or most welcome.

Eating is also the best form of hang-out for most Filipinos even with the young adults. Before they even think of partying or clubbing, they most likely will suggest that they eat first. After a long party night and heavy drinking, they cap the dawn with an early breakfast before going home.

A Filipino is never stressed for he or she knows the best de-stressor: food. Stress levels and the emotions accompanying the stress are best measured with the gauge of food. Many Filipinos unload the burden by eating. To them, it has a soothing and calming effect. Heavy eating equals heavy problems.

A Filipino’s love for food is also evident when he or she travels either for business or leisure. Ask him or her favorite part or memory of the trip and the answer will be about the food or the delicacies in a certain area. The stories about the adventure or sealed business deals are just the next bullet point to a long outline of food.

In addition to this, it is a Filipino’s culture to bring gifts or presents back to their families or loved-ones after a travel, may it be a two-day trip or a one week trip. “Pasalubong” is the Filipino term for this culture. And for the average Filipino, they know that food is the best pasalubong to bring back home.

A Filipino may not be well versed with geography but he or she certainly knows what the best food there is in a certain province or city. Give a city name and even if he or she cannot point it in a map, he or she knows what best foods are there on that place.

Finally, a Filipino’s love for food is most evident in occasions and celebrations. Celebration is equated with feasting and food for the Filipinos. Even if he or she lacks money, feasting should still be in the itinerary. There should be no excuse in celebrating with a lot of food. No food, no celebration. Food sometimes becomes the center of the occasion more than the celebrant even. Sometimes, Filipinos find a reason- even the minutest and simplest just to celebrate.

Food is a basic need of any individual. It keeps the human body going. But for the Filipinos, food is not just a basic need. Food is something that defines who they are. Food is a very big part of the Filipino culture. It is a common denominator for Filipinos rich or poor.

At the dinner table, a Filipino becomes who he or she really is. There are no pretensions. To some extent also, food brings the family and loved-ones together.