Thursday, July 15, 2004

Filipino's Eating Habits

I just remembered having read this sometime in the past, e-mailed by a friend...

Subject: A Matter of Taste by Matthew Sutherland

The following is from a British journalist stationed in the Philippines.

His observations written in 1999 are so hilarious!!!!

I have now been in this country for over six years, and consider myself in most respects well-assimilated. However, there is one key step on the road to full assimilation which I have yet to take, and that's to eat BALUT.

The day any of you sees me eating balut, please call immigration and ask them to issue me a Filipino passport. Because at that point there will be no turning back.

BALUT, for those still blissfully ignorant non-Pinoys out there, is a fertilized duck egg. It is commonly sold with salt in a piece of newspaper, much like English fish and chips, by street vendors usually after dark,presumably so you can't see how gross it is. It's meant to be an aphrodisiac, although I can't imagine anything more likely to dispel sexual desire than crunching on a partially-formed baby duck swimming in noxious fluid. The embryo in the egg comes in varying stages of development, but basically it is not considered macho to one without fully discernable feathers, beak, and claws. Some say these crunchy bits are the best.Others prefer just to drink the so-called 'soup', the vile, pungent liquid that surrounds the aforementioned feathery...excuse me, I have to go and throw up now. I'll be back in a minute.

Food dominates the life of the Filipino. People here just love to eat. They eat at least eight times a day. These eight official meals are called,in order: breakfast, snacks, lunch, merienda, pica-pica, pulutan, dinner,
and no-one-saw-me-take-that-cookie-from-the-fridge-so-it-doesn't-count. The short gaps in between these mealtimes are spent eating Sky Flakes from the open packet that sits on every desktop. You're never far from
food in the Philippines. If you doubt this, next time you're driving home from work, try this game. See how long you can drive without seeing food and I don't mean a distant restaurant, or a picture of food. I mean a man on
the sidewalk frying fish balls, or a man walking through the traffic selling nuts or candy. I bet it's less than one minute.

Here are some other things I've noticed about food in the Philippines.Firstly, a meal is not a meal without rice-even breakfast. In the UK,I could go a whole year without eating rice. Second, it's impossible to drink without eating. A bottle of San Miguel just isn't the same without gambas or beef tapa. Third, no one ventures more than two paces from their house without baon and a container of something cold to drink. You might as well ask a pinoy to leave home without his pants on. And lastly, where I come from, you eat with a knife and fork. Here, you eat with a spoon and fork.You try eating rice swimming in fish sauce with a knife.One really nice thing about Filipino food culture is that people always ask you to SHARE their food. In my office, if you catch anyone
attacking their baon, they will always go. "Sir! KAIN TAYO!" ("Let's eat!"). This confused me, until I realized that they didn't actually expect me to sit down and start munching on their boneless bangus. In fact, the polite
response is something like, "No thanks, I just ate." But the principle is sound-if you have food on your plate, you are expected to share it, however hungry you are, with those who may be even hungrier. I think that's great.

In fact,this is frequently even taken one step further. Many Filipinos use "Have you eaten yet?" ("KUMAIN KA NA?") as a general greeting, irrespective of time of day or location. Some foreigners think Filipino food is fairly dull compared to other Asian cuisines. Actually lots of it is very good:spicy dishes like Bicol Express (strange, a dish named after a train);anything cooked with coconut milk; anything KINILAW; and anything ADOBO.

And it's hard to beat the sheer wanton, cholesterholic frenzy of a good old-fashioned LECHON de leche feast. Dig a pit, light a fire, add 50 pounds of animal fat on a stick, and cook until crisp. Mmm, mmm... you can actually feel your arteries constricting with each successive mouthful.

I also share one key Pinoy trait ---a sweet tooth. I am thus the only foreigner I know who does not complain about sweet bread, sweet burgers,sweet spaghetti, sweet banana ketchup, and so on. I am a man who likes to put jam on his pizza. Try it! It's the weird food you want to avoid.

Duck fetus in the half-shell, items to avoid in the Philippines include pig's blood soup (DINUGUAN); bull's testicle soup,the strangely-named "SOUP NUMBER FIVE" (I dread to think what numbers one through four are) and the ubiquitous, stinky shrimp paste, BAGOONG, and it's equally stinky sister, PATIS.

Filipinos are so addicted to these latter items that they will even risk arrest or deportation trying to smuggle them into countries like Australia and the USA, which wisely ban the importation of items you can smell from more than 100 paces.

Then there's the small matter of the blue ice cream. I have never been able to get my brain around eating blue food; the ubiquitous UBE leaves me cold.

And lastly on the subject of weird food, beware: that KALDERETANG KAMBING(goat) could well be KALDERETANG ASO (dog)... The Filipino, of course,has a well-developed sense of food.

Here's a typical Pinoy food joke: "I'm on a seafood diet. "What's a seafood diet?" "When I see food, I eat it!"

Filipinos also eat strange bits of animals---the feet, the head, the guts,etc., usually barbecued on a stick. These have been given witty names, like "ADIDAS" (chicken's feet); "KURBATA" (either just chicken's neck, or "neck and thigh" as in "neck-tie"); "WALKMAN" (pigs ears); "PAL" (chicken wings);"HELMET" (chicken head); "IUD" (chicken intestines), and "BETAMAX"(video-cassette-like blocks of animal blood). Yum, yum. Bon

Though food plays a major part in a Filipino's lifestyle, I am so proud to say that OBESITY IS NOT AN EPIDEMIC in this food-loving community!


baguiogirl said...

I remember reading this article. I think the writer received a lot of negative responses from the Pinoys. I tried to read and reread his article and personally I thought that all he said in his article was so true. I do not know why we should get hurt because his observation was really the core of our lifestyle. I later learned that we are not the only country who has this lifestyle. Friends from Vietnam also eat dinuguan and Koreans eat dogs. It just varies in the way we prepare them.

BatJay said...

dito sa singapore, isa sa mga unang tanong pag nalaman nilang pinoy ako eh: "so, do you eat balut?"

this normally gets my goat and as a response, would ramble on and on describing in detail what a balut is, how it looks like, what the duck embreyo feels like when it's in between your teeth, the taste, how you mix it with vinegar and salt, etc. etc. i go on and on and on until i too am grossed out. hehehe.

as if naman wala silang mga pagkaing exotic - minsan sinasabi ko rin - "why the hell do you ask me about balut when you guys eat monkey brains and tiger's penis!

ma blog nga ito.

Anonymous said...

Chr bao le mei? (Kumain ka na?) is also a common greeting here in Taiwan. They also have their own version of "Betamax"(in their case it's a block of pig's blood with rice) , which you can even find in convenience stores like 7-11!!!

Kung exotic food ang pag uusapan, dami din dito, grabe!!! stinky tofu, frogs, snakes, what-have-yous not only sa night markets nila, pero pati na rin sa mga restaurants ha!

My husband jokingly teased me, na Taiwanese na raw ako coz I finally ate stinky tofu which was not bad actually despite the awful smell, masarap pla. It's an acquired taste, but then again, I have adventurous taste buds, I eat anything, hehehe.


van said...

Well, I was about to blog something that goes "in PI, it is very vital in every conversation to ask (the one you are talking to) whether he/she have already eaten". I wouldn't really noticed that its a Pinoy thing have I not been spending time conversing with a Fil-Am friend. Never would he ask me if I had my breakfast, lunch or whatever... whereas in Pinoy scene, thats the next thing u ask after you have gotten pass "Kamusta ka na?". The thing is, in certain places, people are sometimes too busy to eat, too preoccupied to hear their grumbling stomach, or just doesnt really care how many times they ate in a day. Here, in PI, we just gotta have to eat 3 square meals a day. Ahehehe... tama na, dito na ako nagbloblog e.

PS: I was looking for an authentic Filipino recipe of Gambas, and I somehow got directed here ;) I'm glad I did. I enjoyed the article.

jamie said...

honestly, i liked this article. haha! i mean, i'm a Filipino and what he said is mostly true. i'm proud of our food here in the Philippines, and i don't really mind his comments about how gross balut or betamax is. to each his own i guess? and really, not many foreigners are fond of that kind of food.

every culture/country has at least ONE weird food right? like... in Japan, they have Sakura - raw horse meat! (i've tried it, mmm... gummy. haha) and Natto - don't ask, never tried it, never will. Scottland - Haggis, etc.
it's pretty fun trying out food like that :D

Anonymous said...

read this article today 9-11-08 and find it very amusing being a pinoy myself. it is not offensive because that is just the way it is. i'm from zamboanga and when we order pancit to go, the restaurant will always put banana catsup on top. go figure. i guess to each his own. go ahead and try it you might acquire the taste for it. he he he. enjoy life my fellow pinoys and keep an open mind.

Cat with 2 Dogs said...

While others may be offended, I wasn't. It provided a moment's entertainment for a physically and mentally exhausted mom of an almost 16 month old toddler. I must say, I was cracking up reading this article. According to Sutherland, total assimilation is complete once you've eaten balut. I was born and raised in the Philippines but now reside in the USA but I've never had balut. I hope this wouldn't ban me from visiting the Philippines. I swear I'm Filipino. :)

Anonymous said...

i have a question po.. :) may specific term po ba sa paraan ng pagkain wherein halo halo n lahat ng putahe na nakalagay sa long table or sa dahon ng saging... tnx

Manang said...

Buffet lang ang naiisip kong term.

Anonymous said...

boodle fight..=)

Anonymous said...

nice blog! i'm doing a research regarding filipino meal patterns though it's a bit irelevant to my topic.haha sarap kaya ng balut. =)

Anonymous said...


Rowena Lee said...

my boss said we filipinos eat monkey brains and I contested that. I never heard any pinoy eating monkey brains. And he is right in saying pinoys love eating but not obese...proud to be pinoy!! boss is welsh...

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