Thursday, October 20, 2011

Filipinos and Their Food

Photo credit to Dungug Kinaray-A.
In the Philippines there are five meals in a day:  almusal (breakfast), segundo almuerzo (second breakfast or morning snack), pananghalian (lunch), merienda (afternoon snack), and hapunan (dinner.) A traditional breakfast usually includes pandesal (salt bread), kesong puti (white cheese), champorado (chocolate rice porridge), sinangag (garlic fried rice), and meat—such as tapa (jerky), longganisa (sweet sausage), tocino (cured meat)karne norte (corned beef), or fish such as tinapa (smoked fish), tuyo (dried fish) or daing na bangus (salted and dried milkfish)—or itlog na pula (salted egg.) Morning and afternoon snacks usually include kakanin like puto (steamed rice cake) or pansit (noodle dish.)  A full lunch and dinner typically includes an appetizer or soup, main course and dessert.  Rice is almost always present in every meal. Regular mealtimes are strictly observed in the Philippines.  Filipinos do not let their food "sit on the table" for a long time.   
During a meal, food is not served in courses.  Filipinos prefer to have the complete meal laid out before them so that they can eat the entrees simultaneously from soup, vegetables and meat.  Condiments, flavorings, and dipping sauces are normally present on the table so diners can season their own food at their own discretion. Food is eaten with a fork in one hand and a spoon in the other, knives are seldom used. Until now, certain families (usually the ones in rural areas) still eat with their hands.

Filipinos love to eat and food is considered to be the basis of social life. The people are naturally hospitable and gregarious.  Whenever you visit a friend or family in the Philippines, be prepared to eat because aside from gestures, the Filipino hospitality is mainly shown through their food.
It is mandatory for families who are eating to invite a person who is passing by to "come and eat."  The polite response is to say you've already eaten.  But during fiesta and other special occasions like weddings and birthdays where there's an abundance of food, participation is highly welcomed. Culturally speaking, it is impolite to jump at the first invitation.  A polite excuse is to point out how inconvenient it would be for the host then wait to see if you're pressed further.  It's another aspect of Filipino culture of politeness and sincerity... it's a way to enable the visitor to gauge whether an invitation is genuine or not. 

Guests are usually offered to eat. It is polite to wait to be urged to sit at the table or begin eating. If you don't like the food, eat a little and make an excuse rather than reject it outright.  After eating, it is good to leave a little food on the plate to indicate that you are satisfied.

Meat is usually expensive in the Philippines.  Poor families usually have rice, fish and vegetables for their meals and go heavy on starch for their snack.  Regardless of the economic status, all Filipino families try to splurge during special celebrations such as fiestas, Christmas, New Year, weddings and birthdays.  Multiple dishes are elaborately prepared during these special occasions.  Lechon (whole pig roasted on a fire pit) is usually present along with other special rice and noodle dishes and kakanin (sweet delicacies.)
I grew up with my maternal grandparents and I remember them inviting neighbors and even tradesmen to the dining table. Oh, there was never a shortage of food at that house! It might be from them that I built the idea in my head as a child and grown-up that food and eating are both enjoyable experience when shared with other people. I love eating good food and personally, I don't enjoy eating alone. It's always nice to eat with families and friends! 

Aranas, J.M., Briggs, B., & Lande, M. (2006).  The Filipino-American Kitchen:  Traditional Recipes, Contemporary Flavors.
Bartell, Karen H. (2009). Fine Filipino Food.
Alejandro, Reynaldo G. (1985).  The Philippine Cookbook.

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