Sunday, February 19, 2023

Filipinos and Food

Food seems to be a particularly important part of Filipino culture. Whenever there is something to celebrate, this is done with a lot of food. When you want to comfort someone, you try to give them something to eat. It is a very Filipino trait to have food around for anything and everything. When I say anything and everything, I mean it: I’ve grown up accustomed to people bringing food even when they visit someone at the hospital.

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I remember that I had a friend whose love language was asking someone if they’d already had something to eat and if not, she would offer to join that person for a meal. I would like to think that we Filipinos may have different approaches to it, but most of us have food involved in our love language.

The thing with this Filipino trait is that it’s not just having food around, but having a lot of it. I remember learning from my older relatives that when it comes to food, “may mabuti na ang sobra kaysa kulang” (it is better to have more than less). That means that when you have people over, a feast will surely be prepared for those visitors. And that is just for when you have people over. It’s a whole different story if you are having a celebration. That would most likely be a bigger event food-wise.

In my experience, food has been a way to break any awkwardness of people when they are together. It’s like if you share food, there is a tendency to let your guard down, and helps people feel at ease with each other. Plus, it’s always more fun to bond when you are sharing food at the same time. Whenever there are get-togethers with the family, we tend to gather around food, chat as we eat, rest a bit to chat some more, and go back to the food to start again later. 

The thing with Filipinos and food is that it is not just the whole eating together that is important. Even the act of preparing the food together is. I’m not sure if it is the same with everyone, but from what I have seen of families I have been around, it is also a good bonding experience when families prepare and cook food together. The younger ones are learning from the adults about how to cook the dishes being made and at the same time everyone is getting to know each other better and bonding through the act of doing something together.

As good as this trait can be, there are some ways that it can be a challenge for some people. Some people feel the pressure to have food for others to celebrate a special occasion even when they cannot afford to. I’ve heard of people who would rather get a loan to be able to celebrate and have food for people just to avoid being embarrassed that they don’t have any. I think that shouldn’t be the case. People should not be pressured to do this because this is what we do naturally/culturally. I think that people would understand if they can’t afford to celebrate (and if not, these are people you shouldn’t value in the first place). 

That negative aspect aside, I would like to think that the trait of sharing food is, at its core, about sharing our blessings. It is about showing others that we value them because we share what we have. Food is about sustenance, it is about survival. With some people having more of this than others, it can also be considered a luxury. The act of sharing food is about opening ourselves up to other people and sharing our good fortune, including making and spending time with others over a meal. It is a beautiful part of our culture, and it is something that I am proud of. If Filipinos can be known for something, being known for being generous and having a lot of good food is a great trait to be popular for.

In an episode of the Fandesals Podcast, my friend Judith and I talked about the most common traits of Filipinos, with the love for food being one of them. If you are interested, I have posted the episode here. I hope you like it!


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