|From one of my favorite animated films, Ratatouille|
I have had the privilege of having been given the chance to work in a company where for a time, quite a number of individuals were foreigners. It's fun to get their take on life in the Philippines as they complete their 3-4 years assignment in the country.
Their most common answers would be about our innate hospitality, our warmth as a people, our creativity, a resilient and happy disposition despite a bleak improvement in the country's future, their astonishment at our faith, and the wealth of beautiful natural resources we possess. Out of all these however, one answer never fails to elicit a proud smile from me. That is their amusement at how many times we have meals in a day, all of them considered major. Hehehe. Of course, there is your usual breakfast, lunch and dinner. But there is also the mid morning and mid afternoon snack which, mind you, are not really light fares at all sometimes. :D
One thing good about our culture is that since we value family very much (another thing foreigners appreciate about us), we still do make the effort even in this impersonal day and age to keep our families together. Amidst the worries and burdens of life, you might ask, "How so?"
Filipinos LOVE food. There is no argument there. For each region, town, or city, there are as many variations of one dish as there are the cooks that make them . Whether these are treasured family traditions, or bold new experiments into the fusion cuisine trend and beyond. The hearth in the home is where the family cooks... mothers, aunts, nieces, daughters, daughters-in-law, and now, even sons and fathers, pass on the most valuable family secret food recipes. These are the things that give each family it's identity in the intricacies of food preparation.
Families bond in the "unity of their palates." Sharing becomes easier. Major and trivial concerns are put to light at the dinner table where the goodness of the food offers a palatable perspective on the situation. Family values are reinforced in the way things are done. As each family cook will have his or her own set of systems as to the way things should be done. At the same time, creativity is encouraged because from a main recipe, kitchen greenhorns, when deemed "ready", are also allowed to put their own spin into their own brand of cooking, in the same way that Filipinos are generally more tolerant of individual personalities, while keeping the tenets of faith and values anchored firmly as they do so.
With the longest Christmas season celebrated anywhere in the world, do not be surprised to find the fires in Filipino kitchens constantly stoked; burning steadily, amid the frantic hustle and bustle of activity in the home. For it is here where everything is prepared with love and care, consideration and understanding, because those that will partake of the meal, whether one, two, or a clan, will taste love with each mouthful. Hope is renewed in the very steam rising from the food in front of them. People who may have come in surly, cranky and hungry will always be made a place for at a Filipino home and offered food. Around family and friends, happiness is found once again, nowhere else on earth.