Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan. / He who does not know how to look back upon where he came from, will never reach his destination.
– Jose Rizal
Talking to my family always provides much-needed perspective – sometimes, incredibly needed ones, on days when I feel like absolute shit, on a day like today where I was *this close* to buying a pack of cigarettes that I’ve managed to avoid for just over two years (well, I’ve lapsed on the smoking part a couple of times, but have not purchased an entire pack since).
I feel compelled to write about how I feel – about why my generation of globally-plugged in Filipinos love our food, but generally slide on the actual cooking part – but feel like I’ll want to cover so many points that I don’t even know where to begin. This week, an article from the Washington Post titled “At long last, Filipino food arrives. What took it so long?” made the rounds on all my social feeds, with lots of conversation around it. And I will admit that reading it earlier today, prior to meeting my lola for breakfast, hit me in so many ways – I nodded in agreement with acknowledging the “hiya” factor on Filipinos’ acceptance of Filipino food as a whole, and bobbed my head with vigorous enthusiasm on Filipino food channeling “spice, sourness and pungency, three of the trendiest flavors in American dining.”
I feel incredibly fortunate to participate in the Filipino Food Movement sweeping the globe, slowly but steadfast and sure in its pace, particularly when an article about four trendy Filipino restaurants opening in D.C. appears in my reading list next to a piece about “kaldereta a la pagpag” – kaldereta being a tomato-based meat stew, in this version made with chicken flaked off of previously consumed pieces of fast-food leftovers.
It breaks my heart, and the hard part is knowing that this middle ground where I feel like I’m straddled between two worlds, not knowing what to do, never seems to go away.
I’d love to write about what Filipino food means to me, from the perspective of someone who grew up loving it but always shelving that love beneath the pedestal of Western cuisine – and now realizing how robust the subject of Filipino food really is. The variety of ingredients and cooking methods across the Philippines could take decades to document in its scope; the cuisine’s history just as long to research; its cultural influences, regionality and seasonality leaving much room for discussion and study; its flavours and textures ready to be broken down and reconstructed not as trendy fusion food, but in essence as a reflection of how Filipinos have adapted to their environment through time.
These stories could take years to understand, with countless stories to tell.