Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Adobo: pork and/or chicken stewed in vinegar, oil, garlic,
and spices; often considered the national dish, although there officially is none
Bistek: thinly sliced beef marinated in soy sauce then
fried in a skillet; typically served with onions
Mindanao: food from this region is generally heavily spiced, similar
to Malaysian or Indonesian food and since many people here are Muslim, pork is forbidden
Stews: a very common dish, served in a wide variety of options
It is a rare opportunity to be invited into a Filipino's
house as it is more common to be invited out to a restaurant. If you do meet at
a restaurant, get your vocal cords ready as karaoke seems to be the country's
national past time and if in a karaoke restaurant you may be asked to sing and are
expected to accept (Note: if there's a scoring apparatus on the karaoke machine,
you gain extra points for volume, as opposed to quality).
If you are lucky enough to dine at someone's house be sure to bring a sweet
as a gift, compliment their house, and don't be afraid to bring your spouse
or a guest; the locals regularly show up with uninvited guests as any guest is always
welcomed, even if not verbalized. Whether dining at a local's house or in a
restaurant the etiquette rules are similar.
Arrive to a meal 15-30 minutes late, this time frame is the common schedule for
the Filipinos who lived under the notoriously late Spanish
for years and seem to be too relaxed to stress out about arrival times. Once at
the restaurant or house, decline everything at least once; your host (don't
use the word "hostess" as this is not a very flattering term), will insist
you eat, eat more, drink, or drink more and declining on the first offer is actually
Once at the dining table, keep your hands above the table so they can be seen at
all times. You will most likely be offered a fork and spoon, the spoon should be
held in your right hand and the fork in your left; use the fork to push food onto
the spoon and eat from that. However, food in the Philippines
is variable and if the main course is Chinese
or Japanese, chopsticks may be offering
in place of a fork and spoon. If Indian
is the cuisine of choice, there may be no utensils at all, as the Indians generally
eat with their right hand only.
Once it is finally about time to eat, wait until you are invited to begin eating.
You may also be faced with alcohol, although it is more commonly served after a
meal. The Filipinos do expect you to accept a beverage
if offered, but they view getting drunk as rude, so the amount offered should be
limited and if not, be careful to limit your intake to maintain sobriety.
If eating at a restaurant, the person who initiated the meal is expected to pay
for all those in attendance, and remember that number may double as each person
invited may bring a spouse or guest and they should feel welcomed. If eating at
a local's house, send a thank you note the next day.
Tipping is growing in popularity, especially in western restaurants. However, many
of these places automatically add a 10% service charge, so before tipping, check
to see if this service charge has already been added; if not, tip up to 10%.
The last thing to be aware of is that in the southern islands there is a significant
Muslim minority. If dining with Muslims try to dress more conservatively, avoid
drinking alcohol, and don't eat pork unless your local host does. Most Muslims
in the Philippines are quite liberal so take little to no offense to these items,
but follow their lead none-the-less.
Celebrations & Events
The largest and most important festival in the Philippines
is Christmas Eve, which comes with great foods. The main course is ham with toppings,
multiple side dishes, and appetizers including Edam cheese, pastries, and puto bumbong,
a purple yam-flavored dish. Wine and brandy are the drinks of choice at this meal.
During most festivals and holidays in the Philippines
there are a few common dishes, which are considered luxurious goods and usually
only served on special occasions. These dishes include lechon, which is
generally a whole roasted pig, although other meats are also common. The most common
dessert is leche flan, which is a Spanish-styled custard made from milk and eggs.
While all drinks, including tea and coffee are common in the
Philippines, a local specialty that can be found nearly everywhere are fruit
shakes. These drinks consist of fruit, ice, and cream, but be careful as the ice
can sometimes be contaminated.
Beers, brandies, and rums are the most common alcoholic beverages in the
Philippines, a sign of their past under both Spanish and
American rule. The most authentic alcoholic beverage in the Philippines
is tapuy, which is a clear wine made from fermented rice and tends to have
a sweetener added.
The tap water in the Philippines should not be consumed
because in most places it is not safe. Be sure to also avoid anything with ice as
it may have been made from the tap water. Salads and fruits may have also been washed
in the tap water so be careful with those foods as well.