No matter where we are in the world, it seems that EVERYONE has tried Filipino food. How, you may wonder, is that even possible? Our guess is that even when Filipinos are living outside of their home country, the food that they traditionally make is still a part of their diet on a regular basis. Filipinos are proud of their culture and particularly proud of their food: Whether it is chicken adobo, lumpia, pancit bihon, or even bulad, Filipinos know their way around the kitchen. Having all lived in the Philippines for a few years, few things make us miss the Philippines more quickly than tasting the delicious dishes that Filipinos love to cook. All of us had great (and sometimes weird!) experiences with food in the Philippines.
Jake: My first introduction to Filipino food was a couple months before I first went to the Philippines. I have a distant relative that is Filipina. She invited me over and made chicken adobo and lumpia They were both amazing! Those are still two of my favorite Filipino foods today. I also love chicken halang 2x, which is chicken cooked in coconut milk. I get really excited when I think about going back to the Philippines, and one of the main reasons is the food!
Tylan: I crave Filipino food every single day. There is something about its freshness and its flavor that you can't find in any other type of food and trust me… I love food.
I remember vividly the joy that a bowl of Sinigang Baboy would bring me when I lived in the Philippines. Even the rice changed my life. Can you find rice anywhere in the world? Of course! However, there is something very special about the rice in the Philippines. It is fresh and grown with such love and care, that you can literally taste the difference. I think what makes Filipino food so special is the love you find while it's cooking, and also while eating it. There was always so much laughter and love when having a Filipino meal.
Davis: After only a few days in the Philippines, I learned a really important lesson: Oftentimes, food and culture are closely linked. I learned that if I told a Filipino that I didn’t want to try their food, it was kind of like saying that I didn’t respect their culture. Though it was unnatural, I did everything I could to be a “true Filipino.” I tried to eat kinamot style, which took some practice. It was hard eating without utensils!
Because I never said no to any food offered me, I tried some things that I wouldn’t have on my own. I remember being fed by a kind family who had gone to the market for our sud-an. That night, we were having tambok sa baboy, and the panit and buhok were still on it! While it was an experience I will never forget, I haven’t had any more tambok sa baboy since coming back to America.
I miss Filipino food so much. It connected me to the culture and to the Filipino way of life. Whether it was saging and ginamos, munggos and chicharon, or yummy desserts like halo-halo and banana cues, so much of the Filipino spirit is captured in the country’s traditional food.
Connor: My favorite Filipino food is, without doubt, SINIGANG. When I first tried it, I thought it was a bit sour for a soup. With time it grew on me and I got to the point where I craved nothing more than a good bowl of sinigang baboy and some rice. Even today, whenever I see a Filipino Restaurant, I know exactly what to order: Sinigang. “Perting lami-a sa sinigang oi!”
Plus, a shout-out to Jonel Pastor from Cadiz City for making the best sinigang the world has to offer!
Sumner: Food has always been a really important part of my life. There’s something about sharing a part of yourself through food— you can feel the history and personality of a culture within the ingredients of the dish. I quickly learned this when I first got to the Philippines.
I remember the first time I ate bulad (dried fish). One of my first nights in the Philippines, we got to one family’s home and they seemed a little skeptical of me, this white American kid. There was a language barrier because they were too shy to speak English and I barely understood Cebuano. We sat down to eat and the nanay put a steaming plate of dried fish in front of us and she kind of smirked at me as if she knew I wouldn’t eat it. I was very reluctant, but I knew that I had to respect these people and their culture, so I took a huge bite. It was a new taste, but there was something about the saltiness with the hot rice that made it delicious. I ate the whole thing and went back for more. The nanay who prepared the food seemed shocked that I ate it all and she smiled big and exclaimed, “Mu-kaon diay ka’g buwad…HA!! Mura ka’g tinuod nga Pilipino!” That phrase taught me so much. “You seem like a real Filipino!" It shaped the way I acted. All of a sudden, this nanay was so happy to have me in her home; she saw that I was accepting her culture and all of her worries disappeared. We laughed and smiled and she taught me Cebuano words as we ate. In that moment, our cultural barriers disappeared and we connected on the deeper level of a home-cooked meal.
No matter how far away from the Philippines, we will always crave all the food that is so distinctly Filipino. We in the Hey Joe Show pride ourselves on having Filipino hearts… after thinking about it, we might have Filipino stomachs, too!