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How Filipinos are Loosing their True Identity

What happens to the Filipinos foods?

Haven’t you noticed, foreign foods are invading the Philippines by storm? International restaurants serving foreign cuisines are everywhere. Culinary arts, the way Filipinos look at it, is just becoming a trendy topic. Chefs, food blogger, culinary experts, food architect - goodness, are they soon to replace the simple “kusinero” and “kusinera” words that best describes our real identity as Filipinos in terms of cooking?

Lechon - an original Filipino Cuisine


Hamburger - considered as a foreign food in the Philippines that originated from the West

Globalization shapes the future of the country, particularly the food landscape. There is nothing wrong with innovation. I’d been a waiter for quite some time in a popular catering business and if its about food preparation, I’m really impressed with the way our cooks and kitchen staffs do it. Those garnishing, decorative artwork, and plating styles, they really add beauty to the foods we serve. Even an authentic Filipino food, they make a twist making it lovely and attractive to the hungry eyes.

Those terms like “buffet”, “a la carte”, “fillet”, “pastry chef”, “Au jus”, “supreme” (which even me is not familiar of) we commonly hear during important occasions from the food enthusiasts, they’re in a way changing the atmosphere of food business. Some may call it international, foreign-inspired, or alien food recipes. But is there anything wrong with the coming of these foreign cuisines to the Philippines?

Fried Chicken and Spaghetti combination - meal conceptualize in the West and introduced to the Philippines

You be the judge. I’ll be the presenter of facts.

As a Filipino who grew up in a rural setting, I’ve seen how foods typically cooked in the province differs from the foods cooked in the city. For instance, fast food chains like the popular Jollibee, McDonalds and Chowking, with the way they cook and serve their foods, is quite complicated compared to that in our local towns and barangays. Our typical “karinderya” normally have those foods placed in round plates, bowls, and oval platters. Inside fast food chains, even classy restaurants, foods are in boxes of different colours, sizes and designs. To the curious eyes, there could be something called “marketing gimmick” that they may see there. To the hungry stomach and envy mind, it's the food suitable to the modern taste buds. What’s quite noticeable is that the foods inside these disposable boxes are way expensive than foods in the regular plate, or even more compared to those in banana leaves.

Lechon Manok - typical Pinoy food sold shops along Philippines streets

How that happens?

Like many of you, I eat outside when budget and time allows. Who do not want to try a hamburger from Burger King or a pizza from Shakey’s? I do eat on foreign restaurants whenever given the chance. Considering my background in the food catering industry, these are what I had observed.

If it’s about the taste, our “karinderya” (small eatery or mini restaurant) menus are still better. If it’s about presentation, food chains win it. Cleanliness, hard to exactly figure out because sanitary permits these days are just piece of papers signed for the sake of legality. So I would say it’s pretty the same on both for that aspect. Healthy recipes, for me, Filipino foods are still way healthier than foreign ones. Except only that with the twists being done nowadays, you cannot easily distinguish which is really healthy and which is not. Now, if it’s about the price, it has nothing to do with food at all. I’ve noticed that the reason foods in the city restaurants are more expensive than that in our local towns is because of these factors:

  • ambiance of the place where you will eat it (usually air-conditioned)
  • marketing efforts exerted for the food to sell
  • cost of operating the business 
  • way foods are prepared and presented to the customers
Do you observe these things too?

So if its about food, I will have my head held up high in saying this:


Napakasarap pa rin ng mga pagkaing Pinoy!
(Pinoy foods are still very delicious.)


This time around, let me present to you some Filipino foods and why they are among of the best cuisines to represent Filipinos' true identity. Have a look.


Piniritong Manok and Sinangag


Piniritong Tuyo


Pansit Bihon


Adobong Pusit


Kutsinta


Halo-Halo


Kakanin


Sinaing na Bigas


Tapsilog and Pancit Canton (innovative versions)


Sopas



The foods that are invading our Filipino identity, here they are:

Hamburgers


Cakes


Ice Creams


Pizzas


Potato Fries


Instant Noodles and Seasonings


Canned and Bottled Goods


Chocolates


What do I mean with “invading our Filipino identity”? Let me be clear about that.

Look at our dining tables during Christmas, birthdays, and other special occasions. What do most of us typically serve? There we have the Coca-Cola, the Red Ribbon or Goldilocks Cake, Selecta or Magnolia Ice Cream, Chicken Joy, spaghetti, pancit, pork and chicken menus, sweets and desserts. How many are original Filipino cuisines or recipes there? Three, four, five. How many foods are introduced to us by the westerners and middle-easterners? Six, seven, eight. The thing is that we are used to choosing the foods that is originally not our own and we tend to ignore many of those that symbolizes our true culture and tradition, our very own identity.

Typical Foods or Menus served during Filipino Occasions - Fired Tilapia, Puto, Salad, Talong & Alamang, Garden Salad, White Rice, Fried Lumpia, Ice Cream, Pancit, Rice Cake, Juices, Fruits

What’s going on then?

There is nothing wrong with trying foods from the foreign lands, even making them as part of the courses during our celebrations. What is wrong, and worth thinking, is that we used to complain that our own foods are getting more expensive while here we are eating on western-inspired restaurants and sad to say, many of us almost don’t even bother to look on the price. I might be wrong, but what I can see is that most restaurants inside shopping malls are full-packed during weekends, paydays and holidays. Millennials, do you?

And this is the hard-to-swallow reality:

With deceiving advertisements and commercials, we tend to believe that foreign foods and cuisines are in many ways better that ours - in terms of quality, taste, presentation, etc. And therefore, we are being convinced to go inside those multi-decorated restaurants more often.

And there is another alarming truth.

There are Filipino restaurants that can match or even exceed the quality of foreign foods. No question about it. This is absolutely true. But the problem here is that with the influence and coming of west-patterned restaurants, Filipino restaurants tend to adapt their style. When we order adobo, they serve us this so-called “pork spareribs in marinated sauce topped with garlic and chili bits”. When we order lumpiang sariwa, here comes the so-called “spring rolled fresh veggies served with honey-flavored sauce and grounded nuts”. When we ask for water, some so-called first class restaurant will verify if it’s “bottled” or if it’s mineral or purified or ionized. Gone are the days when the name of food is this short and simple. When you look up on those well lit-up menu boards or fancy menu brochures, the name of chicken and rice combination is just becoming complicated, and so is the pricing. Where is the Filipino aspect there? Where is the Filipino identity? Gone!

A Restaurant in a Philippines Shopping Mall serving Filipino-inspired Dishes

On the contrary, Filipino food is evolving. When I was a waiter back then, I used to serve these “grilled blue marlin in lemon butter sauce” and “mixed vegetables in oyster sauce”. How sweet to hear those food names, whereas we can simply call them “inihaw na tuna” and “ginisang gulay” in our local terms. We used to adapt the ways and styles other countries are cooking and preparing their foods. Maybe part of the reasons why is because millions of us have been into foreign lands as OFWs or tourists and when we come back, we try to look for food we used to have in the country we’ve been into. That’s alright if we tend to be more decorative these days when it comes to foods. It could be a sign of progress. We even see TV programs showing innovative cooking styles, like the show of the popular Chef Boy Logro - “Idol sa Kusina”. Pretty great.

Foods on a Plate usually served on Birthday Parties in the Philippines

But do we still know the foods that are our own and those that are not? I am not sure but maybe, not. Whatever the case maybe, here’s what I want to share with you.

I am encouraging you to go to the provinces and order from karinderyas or authentic Pinoy restaurants the foods that are truly Filipino. I am not a food historian but I have this book titled “Pagkaing Pinoy” and whenever I am craving for something original, I consult this book.

Pagkaing Pinoy Book

Eat on the karinderyas. You can choose from over a dozen authentic Pinoy cuisines on these little restos. I've seen a lot of karinderyas that are clean, decent, and offering healthy menus. You can even eat with your hands (we call it sakol, kamayan or boodle fight in English).

Also I want to share this tradition of the Batanguenos in my province of Batangas. Whenever there is occasion like wedding, birthday, baptism, fiesta or funeral, well-known cooks of the barangay or town are coming to cook the main courses. We use firewood, large pans we call “tulyasi”, this metal stand called “tungko”, and long “syansi” and “sandok”. There we help each other prepare the ingredients, chop the meat, and slice the vegetables. After three to four hours of “bayanihan”, we now have the menus ready on the buffet table. There we have “humba”, “kaldereta”, “adobo”, “dinuguan”, “potsero”, “kare-kare”, “afritada”, “tausi”, “bulalo”, “paksiw”, “chopsuey”, “lechon”, "ginataang gabi" and more. I believe that this tradition is still observed in many parts of the Philippines to these days.

A Batangas Tradition of Cooking Using Firewood


This tradition reminds me our true Filipino identity. And with this, I want to end this post with these famous words from one of our former presidents, President Carlos P. Garcia.


“Pilipino Muna”


About this Post
In a fast evolving society like of the Philippines, things are changing unnoticed. If its about the Filipino foods, obviously, a lot of them has been replaced in our dining tables and grocery store shelves with foreign foods and cuisines. We go to foreign-inspired restaurants and we order the pizzas, burgers, and fries. For a curious observer, like of Noriel Panganiban, the author of this blog and founder of Knowriel.com, there is something wrong going on and it is somewhat affecting the Filipinos true identity in his/her very own land. The intention of this blog post is to deliver this simple message to all Filipinos: Let us not loose our identity. Let the Filipino foods stay.


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