Filipinos are known for a lot of endearing traits. Our hospitality is renowned, as it is common for us to place our guests’ comfort over our own. Jessica Sanchez and Manny Pacquiao put the Philippines on the map through their innate prowess in the fields of singing and boxing, respectively. We’re praised for our crazy adaptability and resourcefulness. (Leave us in a kangkungan, and we’ll end up making Adobong Kangkong.) But seriously, this list could go on.
But let’s face it. We’re not always the most charming human beings either. Ever heard of crab mentality and the Mañana Habit? Did you see “sottocopy” trend across Twitterverse? And when it comes to the dining table, we could make any outsider cringe with these annoying habits we can’t seem to break.
A dinner party that starts at “6pm, American time” is different from one that starts at “6pm, Filipino time.” It’s not unusual for Filipinos to arrive at a party at least 30 minutes past the official call time. Come earlier than that, and you’re perceived as too eager.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with inhaling the heavenly aroma of the feast served in front of us. By all means, savor the zesty scent of Mom’s turbo chicken—she’ll be flattered to see your eyes rolling back as you appreciate her masterpiece.
But to sniff food like a dog searching for narcotics, especially when you’re a guest? Not cool. How would you feel if you labored for hours in the kitchen, only to find your guests regarding your labor of love with a suspicious sniff before they tuck in? Yup, your mother thought so, too.
Judging by our over-decorated jeepneys, sari-sari stores that sell everything from achuete, walis ting-tings (a broom made of sticks tied together), and our famous goblets of Halo-Halo brimming with a mix of incongruous ingredients, we Filipinos have a thing about mixing stuff together, even those that should be kept separate.
Unfortunately, this also translates into our eating habits. Attend any town fiesta,and you’ll see every guest’s plate stacked with Menudo, Chop Suey, Embutido, Pancit, and a heaping mound of rice, all spilling indiscriminately atop each other. If the plate still isn’t full, expect to find a little serving of Leche Flan or Fruit Salad somewhere in there, too.
Speaking of rice, there’s no doubt we Filipinos are a rice-eating people. We consider meals without rice to be mere snacks, and all a restaurant has to do to get our attention and money is to offer “unlimited rice.”
Despite knowing the horrible effects of excessive carb consumption on our health (see ‘diabetes,’ ‘obesity,’ and ‘just plain feeling sleepy most of the time’), we insist on having our favorite carbohydrate with practically everything.
Is our obsession with rice just another chapter from our nation’s multi-volume book, Making the Most of What’s in Front of You? Both my siblings could eat rice with nothing but ripe mangoes or bananas—I kid you not. But regardless of this addiction’s root cause—whether biological, social, or cultural—this is one “Unli-“ offer that wouldn’t hurt our country if it expired.
If unlimited rice isn’t your thing, I’m pretty sure that rice with gravy perks up your appetite. Fret not if you can’t afford anything on a KFC menu beyond a single, tiny chicken wing, and a ton of rice. Just pour gravy onto your rice, as though this thick brown goo were a soup like Sinigang or Tinola. Voila! Budget and hunger problems solved.
And who could blame us? It would be such a waste not to take advantage of the seductive, shiny gravy pitchers in most KFC branches (especially with that free refill).
We Filipinos have taken the slogan “reduce, reuse, and recycle” to heart. We like to maximize the lifespan of an object in every possible way, lest it go to waste. This is a positive trait until we invite guests to our kitchen or dining area.
A typical Filipino fridge is usually stocked with recycled plastic bottles in all sizes containing drinking water. In the same manner, we love buying hefty glass jars of instant coffee or peanut butter because they can be reused as drinking glasses.
Well, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt (or dies!) of either cancer from the chemicals leaching off the overused plastic bottles, or food poisoning from the ancient containers getting contaminated with a sundry of condiments and other substances that haven’t been washed off thoroughly.
Our unconditional love for freebies takes on a horrifying form at the buffet.
On a trip to Bangkok with the family, we noticed the strange attitude of the hotel staff toward us as we sat down to enjoy a breakfast buffet. As soon as we were settled at our table, two servers stationed themselves nearby, and discreetly watched as we ate. We eventually figured they were making sure we weren’t nicking stuff from the buffet, and stashing them in our bags (in the Filipino vernacular, nagbabalot)—from bread rolls and fruits that could be saved for merienda, to toothpicks and table napkins that could be kept for personal use.
But who could blame the foreigners for their wariness? To them, Filipinos always seem to be preparing for the Hunger Games, just like ants during rainy days. We got so used to hoarding food that special occasions in the Philippines are much more appreciated when hosts allow (or even encourage) their guests to take home some food. That, or guests themselves bring plastic bags, ready to pack food away as soon as the coast is clear.
Let’s come clean.Which of these habits are you guilty of?
[Illustrations via Kitkat Pecson]