February 19, 2009

No Reservations on the Philippines (full episode)

(Part 1)

(The rest on YouTube. Many thanks to ArcApex of Toronto.)

I couldn't help but love this episode. The hosts Ivan Dy, Claude Tayag, and MarketMan were entertaining and informative enough. Augusto, the guy who sent in a fan video w/c convinced Chef Tony Bourdain to come to the Philippines, unfortunately, was not.

Poor guy. He seemed lost and his family was rather bland. I think Bourdain has been to some Filipino-hosted events and knows how noisy and festive we can be when we get together. So it was kinda a letdown for him I suppose that Augusto and his Cebu family were not animated enough for this episode. Na-conscious siguro sa cameras. Still, if not for Augusto, Bourdain wouldn't come, so he still gets props from me. Clap for the guy will ya?

I have no arguments against the foods served by the various hosts to Bourdain, from fishballs and taho in the beginning, to lechon at the end; the episode showed authentic Pinoy cuisine which even the masses appreciate. And we know how Bourdain loves street food. Yum! Sorry, no cholesterol-laden high-priced restaurants here, w/c would have been so out of place. It was just simple and sincere cooking, and in a few instances, served up in a group setting w/ San Miguel beers in hand. (I told a friend at SMC's PR Dept that they should probably send a one-year supply of SMB to Bourdain in New York for showing the product so prominently on the show. haha.)

Now I want to try the four-ways goat. That goat head broth looked particularly intriguing. How cool was it for Bourdain to just get a hook on the cheek and eyeball of that goat! Winner! I also want to try Aling Lucing's sisig. I've eaten sisig in restaurants here in the metro (w/ the one at Trellis supposedly the best), but Aling Lucing claims to be the original.

Btw, for Ivan Dy's info, adobo came by way of the Spanish conquistadores. It actually means "to marinate" w/c can mean in anything from soy sauce and vinegar, or tomato sauce, etc.

I only take issue w/ Tayag's rather un-PC comment about Capampangan food being "the best", and that "you can't be a Filipino w/o being Pampango first." Even though I identify myself as an Ilongga, I am conscious enough of regional sensitivities, and will not proclaim on international TV that Ilonggo food is the best.

I've eaten lots of dishes from different regions and provinces, and each has its own unique flavor and attitude. We should really stop this regionalistic behavior w/c is what's dragging us as a country down. We should all be Pinoys first and all local dishes, whether from Davao, Cebu, Iloilo, Pampanga or Ilocos Norte, are the best. Period. Nairita ba ako? That said, Tayag's kare-kare looked particularly appetizing. Mmm.

It's true though what Mary Tayag says, Pinoy cuisine is not popular abroad because there are so many different versions of say, adobo. Or sinigang. In the north, they use guava or sampaloc. In the south, they use batuan for the kansi, which is like a sinigang na baka. So foreigners will not take away one outstanding memory of the sinigang, but several confusing versions of it.

I don't quite agree that it's because no one visits the Philippines. I think it's because when the foreigners come, we always make yabang and treat them to the "best" or "newest" restaurants, which may not offer Filipino cuisine. I am partly guilty of this. When my cousin from the States arrived for the first time in Manila, we took him to what was considered the best Japanese restaurant then. And w/ my aunts, to the best Spanish restaurant. Ngek.

Pinoy food is so ordinary and everyday for us, we normally don't think of treating our guests to a Filipino restaurant unless they specifically request for it. We don't think of offering up Pinoy cuisine maybe bec. we think the dishes pale in comparison to the more sophisticated foreign cuisines. Perhaps deep inside, we still carry some of the colonial atiitutde, and continue to suffer from a national inferiority complex. We think of Pinoy as "baduy" but anything foreign as "modern, improved, and better."

Meanwhile, maybe we could take a leaf from what the Thais did. Their tourism authority simply drew up uniform recipes for traditional Thai dishes and exported the cookbooks abroad. So if you notice, Thai dishes anywhere have the same ingredients, tastes, and textures. Very few restaurants stray from the original recipes. But then yun nga, who's to say whose adobo version gets to be included in said official Filipino cookbook? I used to think all you had to do was pick up Nora Daza's Cooking it Up with Nora and you have the traditional chicken, pork adobo. (I like my version deep fried and flaked.)

Anyhoo, despite some minor irritants, it made me proud to see this show. It speaks tons of Bourdain's respect for his Filipino fans that he became a bit anxious about what exactly to show in the episode, and if he showed enough. Most of us were pleased. Kudos again to the hosts, and to Augusto. Wherever you are, I hope you enjoyed rediscovering your Pinoy roots through our wonderful multi-faceted cuisine.

(UPDATE: Upon request by MarketMan, we deleted his real name out of respect for his privacy.)

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