Sunday, May 14, 2006

Culinary hallmarks of our cultural identity

The Philippine Daily Inquirer continues coverage of the spoon incident in the same vein that they did last Sunday. There is no mention of the report from CSMB nor follow-up reports from the Canadian press. They still treat the matter as discrimination against Filipinos based on the way we use the spoon, despite indications that was not the reason for the disciplinary action. And this time, they've devoted a full page to the subject.

Sociologist Dr. Michael Tan goes to great lengths to describe Filipino eating habits, explaining that this is part of our culture. One line, in particular, was very striking:

Dining rules become dining habits, and we forget their origins even as the habits become “us”, part of our identity.

Now, let's follow the logic here: These habits become part of our identity. Any attempt to change these habits affects our identity. Therefore, repression of these habits is "intolerance" and "discrimination" and ought to be condemned, right?

But is there an authoritative list of these habits that are part of identity? Apparently, there is. Not just one, in fact, but several. They are on the Internet, posted on web sites and circulated via email. They are usually entitled "You know you're a Filipino when...", for example, has a comprehensive list, from which we have the following excerpts. In the interest of brevity, we can focus on habits relating to dining:

You wave a pom-pom on a stick around the food to keep the flies away.

When you are in a restaurant, you wipe your plate and utensils before using them.

You ask for the bill at a restaurant by making a rectangle in the air.

You use paper outlines when buying shoes for friends and relatives.

You play cards or mahjong and drink beer at funeral wakes.

Everything you eat is sauted in garlic, onion and tomatoes.

You put hot dogs in your spaghetti.

You eat mangoes with rice --- with great GUSTO!

You eat fried Spam and hot dogs with rice.

You love sticky desserts and salty snacks.

You eat your meals with patis, toyo, suka, banana catsup, or bagoong. Assorted sauces that guarantee freedom of choice, enough room for experimentaion and maximum tolerance for diverse tastes. Mga paborito: toyo't kalamansi, patis at kalamansi, suka at sili, bagoong, alamang, Balayan bagoong na pinigaan ng dayap, sukang Iloko, sukang galing sa tubo, at iba't iba pang kumbinasyon!

You prop up one knee while eating.

You love to eat daing, dilis, tuyo and tinapa. Adobo, kare-kare, sinigang, paksiw, nilagang baboy at iba pang lutong bahay na pagkain: home-cooked meals that have been passed from generations to generations, who swear by closely-guarded cooking secrets and family recipes!

Your pantry is never without Spam, Vienna sausage, corned beef and sardines.

You think sandwiches are snacks, not meals.

You think a meal is not a meal without rice.

You eat more than three times a day.

You eat with your hands.

Home is where one can let is all hang out, where clothes do not make a man or woman but rather define their level of comfort

Kamayan style: forget about the spoon and fork. And forget about the so-called table manners! To eat with one's hand is.....ah, like heaven!

We must take great pains that non-Filipinos be made aware of the items in this list, lest they offend our sensibilities with their ignorance of our culture. They must not laugh at us, they must not chide us, and they must not criticize us when we do these things because to do so is to insult our identity as Filipinos.

And let's not get started on the sections concerning luggage and traffic. Those are part of our cultural identity, too, right?

So forget Rizal, forget Mabini, forget Bonifacio, forget Luna, forget our entire history.... The hallmark of being Filipino now boils down to a few dozen simple rules circulating on the Internet about what it means to be a Filipino.

Thus begins the descent of our culture into triviality and insignificance.

Related posts:
Justified Outrage?
Psychology of Our Outrage
Epilogue? 2
Double Standards


  1. It's definitely another Art Bell Effect too Dom. Been monitoring the spreading meme of the fork and spoon in the's spreading along all the usual channels. See this Michael Tan read the editorial last Sunday and filed it away as "in his court" then he writes the column which now gets read by his regular readers and so on. This won't stop until some shocking headline comes out, like Luc Cagadoc just gored his teacher with a fork in the ass, or something.

  2. Check out the Newsstand of John Nery (he's INQ7 editor in chief and posted several on this)

  3. i forgot to tell you that i almost lost my breakfast laughing after reading your post.

    You have a wicked sense of humour Dom!

  4. Thanks, Dean, appreciate the comment.

    But...there we go with food again!

  5. Apparently, I'm only around 1/59th Filipino.

  6. awesome post. Yet there are reasons why guys like Anthony bourdain and foodies alike appreciate the culinary habits and methods of certain cultures. I really don't get why Pinoys can't be more Rizal about this and be diplomatic upon these kind of issues than finding a discrimination or racist loophole around it.