One of the ideas that I’ve shared, a few times, in this blog is that, for a number of years, I tried to build rapport with my wife and her family by “going Filipino”. I learned how to play Filipino songs on my guitar, I learned, for example, how to play “Himig ng pag-ibig” by Asin, “Anak” and “Sa kabukiran” by Freddie Aguilar and a few others. I watched several Pinoy movies such as “All my Life“, “Dubai” etc.
On top of all that, I became a quote-unquote “expert” of Filipino dishes and cuisine.
It has been said that the Filipino culture is all about food and “kumain ka na?” (“have you eaten?”) is one of the main ways Filipinos welcome somebody.
If Filipino food is such a core element of the Filipino culture, does it mean that, in order to gain the acceptance of your Filipino wife’s kin group you must necessarily eat bagoong, patis, tuyong isda, kilawin etc. and enjoy (or pretend that you are enjoying) foods that taste miles different from what a Western palate is used to?
What if you are a vegan or someone who makes healthy eating a top priority? Do you really need to part with your eating habits and start eating baboy, tocino etc.?
Let me give you a clue: I don’t think you need to.
Why do I say so?
As I’ve already abundantly mentioned in my previous posts, at one time, I had virtually become Filipino under almost all aspects, to gain the approval of my wife’s family and her Filipino community in general. However, somewhere along the way, it dawned upon me that “building an emotional bridge is way more effective than building a cultural one” (I’ve written a post on this). I found out that, true, I had become the “master of the Filipino culture” but my relationship was not exactly thriving and my bending over backwards to “go Filipino” was only producing the result that my efforts to inject myself into the Filipino culture were being perceived as “plastik” (a Tagalog word for “fake” or “one who is faking or pretending”). So I shifted gears and started moving in the direction of looking for ways to create an emotional bond rather than a “head level” or intellectual one.
Today I’ve almost quit eating most Filipino foods that I used to eat (as well as most Italian foods like pizza and pasta for that matter), because I’ve switched to healthy eating (I mostly consume vegetables). Yet my relationship, both with my wife and the extended family, is thriving more than ever.
So, although Filipino food is one of the core aspects of Filipino society and culture, my experience has taught me that the only way you can build genuine rapport is by creating an emotional connection.
As the famous Indian sage Patanjali said “if you become steadfast in your abstention of thoughts of harm (or of judgement or negativity) ALL LIVING CREATURES (people of all races) WILL CEASE TO FEEL ENMITY IN YOUR PRESENCE”.
This is a very powerful idea, in my case, this has proved to be the real turning point in the relationship: when you relinquish thoughts of judgement and frustration (thoughts that I hadn’t really parted with by immersing myself into the Filipino culture, because, as I said many times, I was going about it “mentally” not “emotionally”) and replace them with thoughts of APPRECIATION you’ll project them outward and “ALL LIVING CREATURES” FEEL COMFORTABLE IN YOUR PRESENCE as a result and you will have created a CROSS-CULTURAL EMOTIONAL CONNECTION THAT ELIMINATES OR, AT LEAST, REDUCES THE NEED TO ADOPT ALL THE CUSTOMS OF YOUR SPOUSE’S CULTURE.
Practice this and you will not really need to condition your “palate” to get used to foods that are so far away from what you are used too.
If you make the effort to condition yourself to eat these foods, so much the better, but this is not the real key to building lasting rapport.