Food in Daily Life

Filipinos do not consider it a meal if rice is not served. Plain steamed rice is the basis of the diet. Three crops a year are harvested to provide enough rice for the population, and the government keeps surpluses stored for times of drought. Saltwater and freshwater of fish and shellfish are eaten daily, served either fresh or salted. Fish, chicken and pork are usually fried, although people are becoming more health-conscious and often choose alternative methods of cooking. Garlic is added to food because it is considered healthful. Filipino food is not spicy. All food is cooked on gas burners or wood or charcoal fires and is allowed to get cold before it is eaten. Rice is cooked first, since it takes longer. When it is ready, rice will be placed on the table while the next items of the meal are prepared and served.


Table knives are not used. Forks and spoons are used for dining. The food is eaten from a spoon. The traditional method of placing food on a banana leaf and eating with one's hands is also used throughout the country. It is acceptable to eat food with one's hands at restaurants as well as in the home.


Breakfast is served at 6 A.M. and consists of food left over from the night before. It is not reheated. Eggs and sausage are served on special occasions. Small buns called
pan de sol may be purchased from vendors early in the morning.


At midmorning and in the afternoon, people eat
merienda. Since Filipinos are fond of sweet foods, a mixture of instant coffee, evaporated milk, and sugar may be served. Coca-Cola is very popular. Sweet rolls, doughnuts, or a noodle dish may be available. Lunch is a light meal with rice and one other dish, often a fish or meat stew. Fish, pork, or chicken is served at dinner with a soup made of lentils or vegetables. Fatty pork is a favorite. Portions of small cubes of browned pork fat are considered a special dish.


Fruits are abundant all year. Several kinds of banana are eaten, including red and green varieties. Mangoes, the national fruit, are sweet and juicy. A fruit salad with condensed milk and coconut milk is very popular on special occasions.


Vegetables are included as part of a soup or stew. Green beans and potatoes are commonly eaten foods. The leaves of
camote, a sweet potato, are used as a salad and soup ingredient. Ube, a bland bright purple potato, is used as a colorful ingredient in cakes and ice cream. Halo-halo, which means "mixture," is a popular dessert that consists of layers of corn kernels, ice cream, small gelatin pieces, cornflakes and shaved ice. Patis, a very salty fish sauce, is placed on the table to be added to any of the dishes.


Fast food has become part of the culture, with national and international chains in many towns. All meals at fast-food restaurant include rice, although French fries also tend to be on the menu. Banana ketchup is preferred, although the international chains serve tomato ketchup. A national chain, Jollibee, has entered the U.S. market with a restaurant in California, where many Filipino immigrants live. The company plans to expand to other cities with Filipino populations.


Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions
Léchon, a suckling pig that has been roasted until the skin forms a hard brown crust, is served at important occasions. The inside is very fatty. Strips of the skin with attached fat are considered the best pieces. The importance of the host and the occasion are measured by the amount of léchon. served. Blood drained from the pig is used to make dinuguan


Sticky rice prepared with coconut milk and sugar cane syrup is wrapped in banana leaves. Glutinous rice is grown especially for use in this traditional dessert.


Gin and beer are available for men and are accompanied by
balut, a duck egg with an embryo. Dog meat is a delicacy throughout the country. It is now illegal to sell dog meat at markets because cases of rabies have occurred when the brains were eaten.