Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Feeding Frenzy

In Philippine culture, eating is not just a means of satisfying a physical requirement. It serves as a psychological fulfillment as well, and one that cuts across all socio-economic classes an genders.  So it was not surprising that the topic and consequences of “emotional eating”—using food as a means of escape from personal  problems—recently came to the fore as related by Sharon Cuneta, a popular local actress and unofficial spokesperson for whom this phenomenon predictably resulted in weight control problems, as it does for so many people. 

And no wonder. Because of its soothing and other pleasant sensory effects, eating is practically a recreational pastime here as well, especially as a group activity with family and friends. And it’s everywhere. For instance, when traveling through towns and the countryside, just glance out the window of your vehicle and you will see table after table of people gathered together in their yards or at roadside eateries enjoying a meal.  I will bet  that food sales, whether they are transacted by street and market stall vendors or in upscale restaurants and everything in between, likely comprise a disproportionate share of the  Philippine economy compared with this type of commerce in other countries.

Filipino food (basically a melding of Malay, Spanish, and Chinese influences)  is delicious and diverse.  And  my wife Lydia is an excellent cook of not just native dishes but various other cuisines as well.  Fortunately, neither of us has a weight problem—yet. Thus  this local custom of consumption suits me just find. I also eat in response to emotional distress, especially certain comfort foods. So  the first time that I heard the phrase "emotional eating", my immediate reaction was "What, is there another kind?". 

However, it should be emphasized that healthful eating is certainly a viable option in the Philippines.  Many fruits and vegetables here such as papaya and malunggay are highly nutritious.  It's just that foods with high cholesterol and fat content such as crispy pata and lechon are also the most tempting and sought after.

Meals themselves for the immediate family usually consist of at least two main dishes. When entertaining guests, three entrees are the usual minimum. As for the latter, sometimes it's hard to know where "Philippine hospitality" ends and ostentatiousness  begins.

So if you plan to settle or even just visit the Philippines, be sure to pack your appetite.   Whatever your tastes, you're almost sure to find a dish that will become your personal favorite.  As they say here "Kain kayong mabuti" (Eat well.)


jbushkin said...

Secular Guy, the quality and usefulness of your posts is quite good. Thank you! - Jeff.

Secular Guy said...

And thank you, Jeff. Some writers can express themselves very easily and readily. Unfortunately, I don't have that gift, but I do give it my best shot. It's very rewarding to see that on occasion, it works.

jbushkin said...

I know youre a 'Secular Guy' but can you tell me if there are any Jews in Davao? Just curious being an epicurious guy myself! - Jeff.

Secular Guy said...


There may well be a few, but I don't know for sure. I know of one who just recently left there (see blog site "American in Davao" ( and returned to the U.S.

Actually the number of Jews in the Philippines is at least 100--200. And it's quite a mixed bag, demographically speaking. The congregation consists of people from all over the world as well as natives who have converted. Most of Jews are in Metro-Manila, of course, but there's another bunch called the "Bagel Boys" in Angeles City, home of a former American military base and a new group forming in Baguio City. There are also foreign Jews married to locals and are scattered throughout the provinces. No one knows for sure how many as they are not part of any official count, unintentionally or otherwise. Many of the other foreign Jews here are transients, such as business people temporarily assigned to the Philippines, and snow birds who are seasonal residents.

Oh, one other thing about Jews in the Philippines. They may be under-counted because the only official way to determine our population here is by membership in the Jewish Association of the Philippines which is Orthodox and hence a turnoff for a lot of non-traditional members of the tribe. (Personally, I just grin and bear it).


And here's a twist. There may be thousands of Filipinos who have but are unaware of Jewish ancestry. These are the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese conversos, Jews who were forced into Catholicism centuries ago under the threat of the Inquisition. Some of the Filipinos whom I know converted "back"to Judaism when they discovered their marrano / converso background.


Randy C said...

I thought you were going t talk about the phenomenon that I've witnessed in regards to food served at a party or function. Feeding frenzy indeed.

I witnessed a "debut" party with what I would consider upper class pilipinos. They served a buffet style dinner. The mistake was serving it after the first couple of introductions, including the 18 candles ceremony.

I could not believe the scene at the buffet area when it was finally announced that it was dinner time. It was every man for himself, and I am not kidding. Pushing and shoving and absolutely no semblance of a line or any kind of order. It was a little bit frightening actually.

Thankfully I ate before I went and left the crowd immediately.

Secular Guy said...


I know what you mean. I've also seen this lack of decorum where one would least expect it.

This behavior is an example of the narcissism that is endemic in Philippine culture no matter what socioeconomic level. The result of course is that it's holding the country's progress.