Monday, September 8, 2008

Embrace your Filipino-ness

Yesterday, we went to a restaurant here in Zürich whose chef is Filipino. He comes to our table to chat every once in a while throughout the meal. I remarked that I miss lechon and kare-kare and so I asked him why he doesn't prepare Filipino dishes since it is totally unknown in Switzerland (and the world actually). Since he is starting to get known here in Zürich it would be a perfect opportunity to introduce Switzerland to adobo (also a little originality won't hurt). He replied "You're in Switzerland now tita! You have to embrace European food!" It was like he was reprimanding me for still having Filipino tastes. I got a bit irritated. Throughout the meal I was thinking that this is the reason why I don't have Filipino friends here in Zürich. I am irritated with a lot of Filipinos because of their very strong colonial mentality.

The fact is, I have embraced European culture without losing and being ashamed of my own . I am able to appreciate cheese, foie gras and wine without losing the taste for bagoong and daing. I learned in the 5 years that I had been away from the Philippines that our culture is as good as any other and sometimes even better. Actually, after appreciating the simplicity and elegance of Scandinavian design I grew to appreciate the simplicity and elegance of Filipino design. After lavishing in the richness of French cuisine, I discovered that Filipino cuisine is definitely as rich, if not even richer. We don't have to damn our own culture to be considered "cultured". I don't think we become more class if we look down on our own culture. By belittling our Filipino-ness we only betray our ignorance.

I feel that a lot of Filipinos abroad are so biased about everything that is Filipino that it irritates me. I hate to hear "We don't have this in the Philippines...", "In the Philippines this doesn't taste as sweet...", "In the Philippines this is less good...". It is so pathetic really.

Why do we always need to throw away who we are? In the Philippines, we exchange our typical Filipino architecture to build houses looking like Swiss chalets. As a result we have towns with mongrel architecture. We exchange our native furniture for Ikea and other Ikea-like laminated wood furniture that gets broken even before we use it. We need Brad Pitt to purchase our rattan furniture for us to reconsider that our native furniture is of good taste. Why can't we see that we can be proud of who we are and what we have?

I will always be proud of being Filipino and I will always promote the Philippines and our culture. I hope that someday more Filipinos will do the same.


e-souled said...

I cant help my self but to have hope every time I visited a blog or a site of a Filipino working or studying abroad but yet still proud of her country!

How many Filipinos will say the same thing:
“I have embraced European culture without losing and being ashamed of my own …I will always be proud of being Filipino and I will always promote the Philippines and our culture. I hope that someday more Filipinos will do the same.”

What is so special about Beijing Olympic? What is so special about the Bird’s Nest? America has at least 7 stadiums that are as big as or bigger than the Bird’s Nest.

What makes Bird’s Nest so unique is not the size but its Chinese identity. It is not European, it is not American… It is Chinese! Bird’s Nest is a Chinese soup delicacy, which costs at least $30 a cup. It is created by a certain species of bird that creates a nest with its saliva. What is amazing is HOW FAR and HOW GRAND the Chinese can attach meaning to something as ordinary as soup. It’s like creating a stadium and then call it “Sapin-sapin” or “Burong Talangka.” But no brilliant Pinoy architect has ever risen to promote our indigenous culture and express it NOT with “barriotic-ness,” but with a jaw-dropping, state-of-the-art facility like the Bird’s Nest.

The names of our stadiums are bereft of meaning and creativity: ULTRA, AMORANTO, ARANETA… Our theatres, convention centers are also meaningless: CCP, MERALCO, METROPOLITAN, FOLK ARTS, PICC. There is one theatre named in Tagalog, Lisa Makuha’s ALIW theatre. But just the same, no national identity. Just cute names.

Singapore’s Esplanade whose design was taken from a popular fruit among the Singaporeans—with the best varieties in fact, being grown in the Philippines (Davao): the odorous Durian. In the Philippines, Durian is considered the king of the fruits (Arancillo and Native are the best! How about Durian coffee? I love the taste) But to Singapore, Durian is an icon of culture, progress, civilization. Same with Bird’s Nest, it is so symbolic of Chinese culture.

F. Sionil Jose was right: “We are poor because we are poor.” There is a greater poverty that inflicts us, and it is the poverty of the soul.
Let’s not be surprised if the Oxford Greek Dictionary today defines the word “Filipina” as “domestic helper.” As Jose Rizal sharply pointed: “There are no tyrants where there are no slaves.” We cannot find the Dragon in us, because we think like slaves and therefore we are treated as one. Sikat tayo kapag halukikip tayo ng puti. Hindi tayo makatayo sa sarili nating mga paa—lagi na lang tayong nakasabit sa laylayan ng mga banyaga. We cannot have the will to empire because we are contented with dole-outs and free-loads. Mahirap makahanap ng dragon sa Pilipinas.

I’m suppose to post the article next week on my blog: but I cant help my self but to post it here as a comment as my appreciation and gratitude to you for loving our country kahit nasa lugar ka ng mga banyaga!

I know it’s unethical, but is it ok if we exchange link? Thanks

please visit my site too. your comment will be much appreciated. Blogging is my way of showing how much i love my country.


Joe said...

Ayayayay! What kind of a dork is he? Sayang naman yung popularity niya if he won't get the best out of it.

Dapat talaga kahit saan ka man magpunta, hindi mo nakakalimutan yung dugong Pilipino mo. I have to give you a thumbs up for doing so, Cathy. I would never be ashamed of my "pinoy-ness" even though I am interested with other country's culture. At the end of the day, Pioy na Pinoy pa rin ako!


Anonymous said...

I wonder what possessed this Pinoy chef to say that to you. I must admit that I would be a bit irritated, too. :-)

Being colonial minded will always be one of the traits of Pinoys (I blogged about this way back in 2005). Sad, but true.

Sorry to hear you have no Filpino friends there in CH, Cathy (I can fully understand why). If ever you find yourself somewhere near Bern, I'm just an e-mail away. I will not 'reprimand you for not embracing European food' (how assuming of that Pinoy). :-)

Like you, I'm proud to be Pinoy. But just some Pinoys abroad are

Have a nice day!

Anonymous said...

Erratum: I meant " friends there in Zurich," and not "no friends there in CH."

Cathy said...

I didn't expect so much reaction to this post!

e-souled- I agree with you completely! When an Italian friend came with us to the Philippines, she said that we don't have "architecture". I can't blame her. I think the "Burong Talangka" idea is great! Sure we can exchange links! I will link you as soon as I finish writing this comment.

Jowell- I was ashamed of being Filipino before but the more I grow and learn, I more I grow proud.

Jayred - I might just take you up on that offer! I need to go to Bern soon to get a German Visa. Need to attend a conference in Munich. I hate getting visas!!!!!

Thank you all for your comments!

Anonymous said...

Good for you Cathy! Really great post. I must disagree though - Filipino architecture does exist. Perhaps not in grand edifices like they have in Italy which are in fact derivative of Greek and Roman, but in the well thought out designs by the likes of Nakpil, Antonio, Arellano, Locsin, Manosa and countless others who continue to struggle to infuse their work with "Filipino-ness". Albeit harder to see amidst the towering generic monuments to multinational companies, we do have architectural gems to be proud of. Talk to a Filipino architect and they will be more than delighted to enlighten you! :)JohnD

Cathy said...

Hi John D!

Thanks for the comment! I am aware of all those architects and architectural gems that you referred to but those are not exactly what I was talking about. I was more referring to the architecture of average Filipino towns and houses. It's the house of the average citizen that gives flavor to a town. It doesn't have to be grand. Take the houses in the south of France, they are old, broken and in-need of paint but these houses are the "gems" giving flavor to the south of France. Same goes for Italy or Greece.

When I build my house in the Philippines it will be a bahay kubo or a house with capiz windows. I hope the subdivision where I have the land will allow me. The design needs to be pre-approved, you see. They would be expecting something very western and pastel in color, I suppose.


e-souled said...

hi Cathy thanks for the link!

Btw, i have speaking engagement this friday to a group of Filipino in Davao. Is it ok if i use your story with that "chef" as an illustration?don't worry i will not mention your name!lol

thanks for keep on visiting my site!

Cathy said...

Hi e-souled!

Of course!No problem! You can even mention my name!


e-souled said...

Thanks a lot cathy!

Anonymous said...

really interesting post. and sad. actually i find that the more i get to know about how people live in other countries, the more i realize that, while we may not have a lot of what some other countries have (such as local jobs for example), :( one thing we do have is a truly great culture when it comes to dealing with people.

i get horrified when i see how some people comment on blogs and forums (i've been looking at a lot of blogs especially in relation to the american election). and i contrast that with the truly warm, helpful and even caring environment i observe when i'm on a philippine blog or forum.

i try not to generalize, but i really do feel that people from out country tend to be quite nice, and it really shows online.

so while i can't really speak with regard to architecture and furniture and other similar things as i'm not an expert (although i've also heard good stuff, especially about our rattan furniture), i can, i think, pretty safely say, that as a people, we truly have a lot to offer and demonstrate to the world. :)

and i'm proud of that.

wawam said...

"You're in Switzerland now tita! You have to embrace European food!"

how can that statment mean "colonial mentality" and "being ashamed of your own culture"? i think too much is being read into that sentence.

he probably gave that answer becuase i assume the resto is a european resto and not an an asian or filipino restaurant and therefore cooking pinoy food there will be too out place.

the truth is filipino food is not an international food, like for example indian, japanese or even thai food.

i love my country and am proud of my culture, too but let's not read too much into things.

Cathy said...

Hi Wawam,

It was not a European restaurant and he owns the place...I don't want to say more.

Why is it a "truth" for you that Filipino food is not an international food? What does other cuisines have that Filipino food doesn't have?

Indian, Japanese and thai food is known internationally because they have citizens who did not believe that their cuisine is not of international caliber. Their citizens went abroad and introduced their culture without shame or feelings of inferiority!

I am not a person who "reads" into things. I am a very literal person. But I can distinguish hypocrisy when I see one.

Our culture is of international quality. I assure you of that. We are the only ones who thinks it isn't so. Your comment just proved my point.

Best regards,

Katherine Josh said...

i've been drinking bird nest soup every night (i only get the homemade kind back at home). the only reason why i drink it is because it's supposed to be good for complexion.

i’ve been taking the store-bought kind online (e.g. of famous branded only of course) which is directly mailed from Hong Kong. this would be at a more affordable price.

Ann said...

Hi Kathy, I salute you for your message. I am very proud to be a filipino.