My wife is Filipina and she comes from a culture that is all about togetherness or pakikisama in Tagalog.
Im a strong introvert and I have always felt ill at ease in large and noisy social gatherings.
I love carving out for myself quality pockets of solitude to read, journal and meditate and when I do associate with others I definitely prefer being with few selected individuals to being in a large get together.
The bright side of large social gatherings
Yet, since I am married to a woman who comes from an environment where togetherness is one of the most cherished values, I cannot afford to march to the beat of a different drummer and I have to figure out ways to balance my desire to either be alone or with an intimate circle of few selected individuals, where I enjoy quality conversation and more meaningful interactions, with the need to build rapport with Filipinos.
Filipino social gatherings are pretty large and the advantage is that no one is left out, as being left out creates tampo (offense or stumbling). So in order to minimize tampo Filipinos generally organize those large social gatherings where as many people as possible are invited.
This is without a doubt something that I have learned from Filipinos because I used to be way too selective in my choice of whom to associate with.
Social gatherings that are too large keep communication at a shallow level
On the other hand, although large social gatherings create a very happy and cheerful atmosphere, they are rather noisy, and being able to drown out some of that noise and engage in quality conversation with someone in particular can be difficult so conversations tend to be rather shallow.
Another aspect that characterizes those large gatherings is the K.K.B. philosopy or kanya-kanyang baon, meaning that each participant is supposed to bring some baon or, basically, bring some food that becomes part of a giant buffet.
The great advantage of the K.K.B. approach is that it saves a lot of money and it doesn’t put a heavy financial burden on the shoulders of the host family.
Social gatherings that are all about food take away time and energy from quality togetherness
The problem is that Filipinos just cannot fathom the idea of preparing baon that is not elaborate and that doesn’t take hours to prepare and so food is the main focus of those gatherings and this, of course, gives meaningful social interactions a back seat, as everyone is busy with the preparation of elaborate dishes.
This reminds me of an incident that is recorded in the gospels where Jesus of Nazareth said to a woman who was way too busy preparing a ton of food that she’d better take a more minimalistic approach to food and focus on having deep conversation with her guest and on receiving some uplifting.
The advantages of smaller social gatherings
I believe that by organizing smaller social gatherings where food is not the main focus there is still a way to both minimize the expenses and avoid causing tampo while creating a better environment to enjoy quality togetherness.
On my part I am trying to share with my Filipino friends the idea that if, instead of always having huge gatherings and spending entire days preparing lumpya, pansit, adobo etc, Filipinos tried inviting one family at a time on a rotational basis, to have deep conversation over a simple meal, no one would be excluded, there would be no tampo (because by inviting people on a rotational basis in the end everyone gets invited), there would be no need to spend a lot of time and money and that would free up precious time and resources to take the spirit of pakikisama to the next level.
In the Philippines it is all about food and the expressions kumain ka na? (“have you eaten?”) and kain ka (“have some food”) or “meryenda ka” are the expressions that immediately follow kumusta ka? (“how are you?”) when you visit a Filipino home.
This happens both in the Philippines and among OFW in my country.
Filipinos love food and every street in the Philippines is lined with food stalls and eateries.
Both in the Philippines and in my country Filipinos have social gatherings or salu-salo as often as they can.
In winter salu-salos take place indoors while between spring and autumn Filipinos who live in Rome take advantage of the fact that Rome has plenty of parks and that the weather is, more often than not, ideal to gather outside and mag-ihaw or prepare barbecue marinade.
The basic ingredients used to make barbecue marinade, at least the way they do it here, and the way my Filipino wife does it, are soy sauce, ground black pepper, lemon juice, banana ketchup, garlic, onion and brown sugar.
Filipinos just love it.
The problem is that, for most Filipinos here in Rome, BBQ is something that they cannot afford to do as often as they do it in the Philippines because they live in apartments and, although most apartments here in Rome do have a balcony or a terrace, chances are that neighbors will complain if Filipinos dare using their balcony to BBQ, as Italians like hanging their clothes on the balcony and they hate wearing “smoked” clothes.
The only Filipinos who can BBQ on their terraces or balconies are the ones who have the luck to live on the last floor of an apartment building, in a penthouse (that can be hard to find in Rome and pretty expensive).
What’s the solution then?
There is no other option then than either wait for warmer days and BBQ in a park or buy an electric grill, one of those that can even be used indoors.
My wife and I have one and it does its job, this way my Filipino wife’s cravings for BBQ are satisfied all-year-round…
This is more or less the way my kitchen looks like on Saturdays or Sundays.
One thing that I have found out in my 20-year long relationship with a Filipina is that Filipinos easily learn how to cook (quite proficiently) the foods that are typical of the country they work in.
My wife is not the only Filipino migrant in Italy who excels at preparing Italian dishes (as Filipinos usually work for rich and demanding employers) but, when it comes to lasagna, she does a pretty amazing job.
From time to time I try to fool around with lumpya and pandesal and I have a crazy idea to come up with my own version of halo-halo.
Two of the Filipino songs that I used to listen to at the start of my journey with the Tagalog language are “Leron Leron” and the one that goes “nanay, tatay gusto kong tinapay. Ate, kuya gusto kong kape….lahat ng gusto mo ay gagawin ko”
It seems like the lyrics of “nanay, tatay gusto kong tinapay…” need to be slightly modified, based at least on what I am reading in this article
“The cases of alcoholic drinking among the youngsters [between the age of 13 to 21 years old] have reached an alarming level compared to the recent past,”
This is indeed very alarming. “Philippine law sets the minimum legal drinking age at 18 but underage drinking is widespread,” wrote Joyce P. Valbuena in a report for Health Action Information Network (HAIN). “Most young people get alcohol from home with or without their parents’ permission. They know how to obtain alcohol—they are able to get it from friends or they can discreetly buy for themselves.”
What is even more alarming is the fact that more and more youngsters are now drinking than in the recent past. In a survey conducted by the University of the Philippines, 60 percent of Filipino youths today are drinking alcoholic beverages.
Even at a young age, Filipino teenagers are already drinking. A study conducted by the East-West Center (EWC) in Hawaii showed 11 percent of boys began to drink by age 15. Only 4 percentof the girls commenced to drink at that age
So it seems like many young people in the Philippines are no longer singing “nanay, tatay gusto kong tinapay” but rather “nanay, tatay gusto kong isang tagay” (“shot”) and even the final part of “Leron Leron” imbes na “isang pinggang pansit ang aking kalaban” ay nagiging “isang baso ng gin ang aking kalaban”…..
“lapit mga kaibigan at makinig kayo ako ay may masarap na pandesal galing sa bahay ko, nais kong ipamahagi ang mga kwento at mga pangyayaring nagaganap….sa kusina ko.”
Well, iba yata ang lyrics ng song (“lapit mga kaibigan at makinig kayo ako ay may dalang balita galing sa bayang ko…”) pero dapat ninyong tikman ang aking espesyal na pandesal (whole grain version, mas healthy…)
Sa Pilipinas ay may “Pan De Manila”: gusto kong buksan ang “Pan de Maresca” (Maresca ang apelydo ko: hindi ako si Glock 9 na “wala siyang apelydo”)…..
As I often mention in my posts, Filipinos are very social and like spending hours talking and gossiping.
Filipino women seem to be more inclined toward tsismis or gossip (not always malicious gossip, most of the time it is just a harmless sticking of their nose into other people’s affairs).
Men in the Philippines, on the other hand, only seem to know two kinds of conversation: the mabuting usapan (literally the “good conversation” meaning, I guess, a conversation centered around a topic) and the maBOTEng usapan, bote meaning “bottle” (of gin of course) which is a conversation that has no specific topic, rather it is just an opportunity for drinking.
I remember walking down the main street of my wife’s barangay and noticing that early in the morning men were seated either on the side of the road or in front of their homes and, because they knew I could speak Tagalog, they would say to me: “kwentuan tayo” (“let’s chat”)and, because I had already acquired some experience with the Filipino community here in Rome and I was already rather acquainted with the two possible types of conversation Filipino men engage in, I would ask: “ito ba ay isang mabuting usapan o isang maBOTEng usapan?” at which they chuckled and pulled out a bottle of Ginebra San Miguel to make it clear that 99% of the times the usapan is a maBOTEng one!
To put it simply: white rice, the staple food of Filipinos, is high on the glycemic index and increases the risk of diabetes.
This is certainly not an attack on the eating habits of Filipinos. I come from a country where most people eat pasta and pizza all the time and pasta and pizza are refined carbs just like white rice and they are high on the glycemic index just like white rice.
I am not saying this thing because I am an expert in the field of nutrition. It’s just that I have come across a doctor, who is also a famous health coach here in Italy, and he preaches the 50+25+25 rule, which means that a truly healthy meal should be made up of 50% raw vegetables (meaning leafy green vegetables that should either be eaten raw or lightly steamed, like steamed broccoli for example). The remaining part of a healthy meal should include 25% whole grain carbs (that could include rice but it should be strictly 100% wholegrain) and the remaining 25% should be a portion of healthy proteins.
I’ve made my own research and I’ve found out that, although there are several conflicting theories out there (some say that we should only be eating veggies and proteins and discount the carbs, including the whole grain ones, others say that animal proteins should be avoided etc.) but all experts seem to agree on one point: vegetables should be the bulk of our diet, not rice, not pasta and not bread.
So it seems like both Filipinos and my Italian fellow countrymen are definitely messing up because both races are high on refined carbs and they both regard them as the bulk of their diet.
And sure enough, both my country and my Pinoy wife’s country are experiencing an epidemic of heart disease and diabetes, which is not just a personal disaster for the people who get sick: it’s a massive problem for the health care system that, while in my country is public, in the Philippines it is largely private.
One might say that Filipinos are too poor to consider healthy alternatives. Maybe this is true. On the other hand though most Filipinos who work overseas are not poor at all and they still eat tons of white rice. The more money they make the more they spend to go eating out, typically to the so-called “eat all you can”-style restaurants where they can have unlimited rice.
Italians have plenty of money to buy food and they also make the very poor choice of eating refined carbs in the form of pasta or pizza (or both) every day.
So, poverty is probably not the real issue here.
The habit of consuming huge amounts of refined carbs is the result of an indoctrination that begins in early childhood and both in the Philippines and in my country very few people dare to question the validity of this eating style.