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Usually I like to keep my ramblings upbeat and extol the virtues of life as I know it in the Philippines, however in keeping with the policies of our illustrious host, Dave DeWall, aka, "The Kano".  I find I must offer this little tidbit about the differences of our adoptive country to any who are planning to live in the Philippines and especially those who have yet to meet the in laws or future in laws.Desktop

As we all know, the people of the Far East eat with little sticks, the people of the Middle East eat only with their right hands, and the people from Mexico eat lots of tacos, while the folks from Scotland are known for their consumption of Haggis.

Well the people of the Philippines just PLAIN EAT! It seems they are constantly eating. They eat breakfast, they eat lunch,  they eat dinner plus the ever present mirenda (snack).  If you enter a Filipino home, chances are someone is preparing a meal, consuming a meal or clearing the table away after a meal. Having said all this, do not,  I repeat do not,  commit the same mistake I did when introduced to the family and friends of my Asawa.

Now having been raised in a solid American household, where a hand in the cookie jar before dinner would result in a smack by a wooden spoon. Or the normal I’m hungry, can I have a snack whine before dinner was rewarded by the dreaded response of “Eat an apple if you’re hungry”.

And where once you sat down to a meal you did not get up until every Brussels sprout, green bean and solitary pea was consumed. Where you asked for seconds because you knew the next meal was at least eight hours away.

In my case, this eating habit was reinforced at the age of eighteen (as I am sure a lot of you were also) by a big, ugly, foul tempered brute of a man (affectionately known as a DRILL INSTRUCTOR) who informed me I had thirty minutes to eat everything on my plate, and fifteen of those minutes are GONE! So my whole life I have looked at eating as visiting a gas station for the body. You filled up the tank, and drove on.

This brings me to my first exposure of this most important aspect of the Filipino culture. On our first visit to my Wife’s home town for some unknown reason she wanted to show me off to her friends and relatives.  Our first visit was to the house of her College Batch Mate (classmate to us Kano’s) where I was offered a buffet style selection of delicious looking food. To cover my nervousness, and so I didn’t do anything stupid, I proceeded tofill the tank.” food

We next went to another relative's house, (3rd or 4th cousin, I forget) where again a huge spread had been laid out.Eat, Scott,  eat” I was constantly told. Well,  being full I picked at some cakes so as not to appear rude.food

At the next house, more food was shoved in my face along with eat, Scott,  eat” which I politely declined saying I was full. I should have caught the warning glances, but being new to the Islands I had no idea of the customs let alone the TABOOS that were in place.

This scenario was repeated at two or three more houses each with the “eat, Scott,  eat” mantra. The side long glances becoming more and more meaning full as my refusals became more and more forceful.

I finally had enough and I pulled my blushing bride (blushing from shame at my rudeness most likely) aside and asked what is wrong with these people! Can’t they see that I am full! I am not hungry! I don’t want to eat anymore! Can’t they take no for an answer?”  My wife calmed me, and I think she explained to all that would listen that I was not used to the heat and the hustle and bustle of Manila.

It wasn’t until years later on a subsequent visit that I learned that to a Filipino, eating is not just “filling the tank”, but more of a social event, and even a status symbol to an extent. Entering even the most humble of homes you will be offered something to eat, even if it means that they will go hungry that night. If there is no food in the house, someone will run to the nearest bakery to buy something. To refuse is almost to say that you are so much better than them, that you won’t touch what they have to offer.food

So, to those of you who have yet to meet your significant others friends and relatives, I offer two pieces of advice: 

  1. Buy "Expat Guide to the Philippines" by Dave DeWall.
  2. NEVER refuse food no matter how full you are. Shove it around on your plate. Sneak around a corner and slip it to the dog. Swap plates with your wife or girlfriend after she has finished hers, or best yet, do what Mom always said and just finish your DAMN PEAS!


19 thoughts on “NEVER Refuse Food From A Filipino!

  1. Hi Scott, Thanks for the tip. I have on occasion done the same as you – filled the tank. Sometimes I have eaten breakfast or lunch and dropped by a friend’s house and been offered a snack and turned it down – probably not a good idea! Maybe I sure eat sparingly in the future. Good advice.

    1. Hi John, thats the main reason I lurk around expat blogs like Dave’s and boards. Any tip that I can find to make life just a “little” bit smoother is welcome. But you know what? Its hard to eat sparingly, the food is just so dang GOOD!

      1. Back in April when we were in Tomaliques, Samar, it seems we ate something with our morning coffee (not countine the fresh pandesal) while we waited for the fresh morning catch so we could eat breakfast. No sooner is everyone done eating breakfast, they are already cleaning the fish for lunch! Then snacks, then supper, then palutin in the evening with SMB and maybe a tuba shooter here and there. What a lifestyle. I thought during my three week visit I would lose some weight…The only time I was more wrong was my first marriage! 😀

  2. HI Scott, you must be from the same mold as I. My grandmother was Bohemian and “ditto” to everything you said. The one thing that was grilled into me though was to ALWAYS eat everything on your plate because there were starving children in this world (mainly from the old country as she remembered). Full or not, you ate everything! My asawa thinks I’m just a little weird because I must eat every last grain of rice on my plate as grandma still haunts me. 😉 Who would have thunk I would become a rice eater? Anyway, the one good excuse I reserve for use is “Dr. says I shouldn’t eat that. It has too much xxxxxxx in it!” Also, if you are not feeling good, nobody expects you to eat – they don’t want you tossing your cookies all over the place 😀

    1. Good tip about saying your not feeling well Randy, but the family dog might be disappointed ;). One tip I forgot to metion is to try everything available, even if it looks like 3 day old road kill! I have found that the family looks at me with a bit more acceptance. I have heard more than once ” you like to eat (pick your poison)”. I refer you to Dave’s postings about Balut.

  3. My dad once told me that I couldn’t eat peas with a knife. Hahahaha. I showed him I could…never dropped a one. My mother thought it was funny but dad didn’t. 🙁

  4. I have Type 2 Diabetes so I turn down food all the time. Everyone knows this and understand. My Diabetes doctor here in Tagum City doesn’t want me to even eat Filipino foods as it is so unhealthy. Too much salt and too much sugar. That is why it tastes so good! 😛

    1. From the way my asawa eats Gary, the main staples of a Filipino diet are rice, fish, and greens of some sort. Actually pretty healthy. It’s when you stray into other realms of the filipino culinary that will get you in trouble. My asawa has the blood pressure of a teenager and she is, well….let’s just say 49ish and leave it at that. 😉

  5. Dave, Scott,
    You just have to pace yourself if you have to make several visits, that way all will stay happy. I can remember i hated liver growing up. It was disgusting to me. I would always get in trouble when i tried to hide it under my plate lol. Like they weren’t going to find it. Randy above was referring to face being popular in Florida. Down in Miami this naked guy was eating this homeless guys face. He would not stop so the police shot him dead. The homeless guy actually survived. Crazy. Had to be on some powerful drug. Have a nice day my friend.

    1. ya, papa…now you tell me…since that first exposure, when it looks like its gonna be a marathon relative visit, i just snack at all the places. Hope my mom never finds out lol

    2. Yup, a new drug straight from the truck stop bathroom, known as “bath salts”, compels people to eat the flesh of another person’s face. For now, it’s confined to the homeless population around Florida. Real-life zombie movie anyone?!!

      1. Ice Man, actually it’s almost becoming an epidemic across the country. These bath salts are being marketed to teenagers in colorful packaging with wild names like “Lavender Lush, Cloud 9, and Zoom” and can be purchase at many mini-marts. Just this year alone, Louisiana has documented over 150 ER cases alone. Some states have already banned the sale of these salts. This stuff is bad and makes people do some crazy things. Don’t you just love Amerika?

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