pagbalik (going back)

One of the reasons I’m latching on to learning as much as I can about Filipino food, I think, is that through the emotional turmoil and contemporary chaos that surrounds me every day, the pleasure I derive from tasting, visually consuming, and thinking about Filipino food is something I can count on – like seeing lush, tropical forests bursting with ripe fruit across the spectrum of colour, just peeking above the horizon.

It truly means a lot to me seeing the community behind The Filipino Food Movement grow in leaps and bounds. It’s what I look forward to when I open my Instagram feed, and what I tell interested co-workers about when they ask what I’m having for lunch. I love having an appreciation of the technology that enables us to reach so many people in incredibly fun, engaging ways. I love having a network of people across the world who share the same desire to learn more about themselves – as professional and home cooks – by creating and re-creating recipes that have resonated strongly with them through the years.

It’s inspiring as fuck to see how we Filipinos interpret the food we clearly have a deep attachment to.

I never cared much about history as a subject matter, but find that I now have over 15 books specifically listing Filipino recipes, two collections of compiled essays from distinguished Philippine culinary historians, one 465-page book about fermented foods of the Philippines and an expanding library of general food history books and “exotic” fruit and vegetable indexes.

When I finally found steady work, I dropped the first flow of spendable cash I had on books about Filipino food, because I couldn’t find the information I wanted online. I wanted to read more from Doreen Fernandez, a culinary scholar whose passion for the foods of the Philippines made me want to travel the homeland, to taste the flavours she described so eloquently.

I realized that I desperately wanted to find out how certain cooking styles became so associated with certain regions, and that I would love to share the information I find online (from archives, books, journals, and hopefully one day, field interviews).

But why?

That’s a question I ask often. To me, it kinda pulls everything together. As I learned about the importance of sustainability in farming and agriculture (Sam Hiersteiner’s piece at Lucky Peach is a good primer), it made me think about the abundance and sheer variety of Philippine produce. What types of solutions might exist around utilizing those resources to boost the image – and consequently, consumption – of Philippine fruits and vegetables?

As I read about the importance of food security both in Western and non-Western societies, I thought about the state most Filipino farmers currently find themselves in – struggling to stay above the poverty line on a good season, penniless on the off. Farming is done in the rural provinces, where accessible educational material for things like root crop rotations and charts to document rice harvests are scant, and still very much needed.

I want to keep learning because it spurs my interest, and encourages me to write about Filipino food from different viewpoints.

Featured image: El Kundiman (1930) by Fabián de la Rosa

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