April 11, 2006

Muesli on the Beach

This Holy Week, the whole Manila dung heap population will undergo a mass exodus to the provinces. The only objective of this unholy affair is to soak up the sun, splash in the turquoise waves and to voluntarily get skin cancer. That is what the Holy Motherly Church has been trying to tell our melanocytes: Go forth and multiply! Exchange your Small Cell Lung cancer for Squamous cell carcinoma! So, instead of kneeling in front of marble saints and reflecting on the Gospel of Judas, the Da Vinci Code and the Passion of the Christ, Manileños all go to Boracay, Cebu, Hundred Islands, Baguio and Mindoro to have fun, booze and party. I'm not sure Good Friday at Friday's in Boracay means singing the Pasyon, but I'm sure the scene is similar to a bad taping of Temptation Island.

Speaking of Boracay which is the epitome of an expat-packed beach, I can't help but wonder how people stomach non-native foods at such a locale. The beach itself is isolated from any urban center and getting to the island is not easy save for the rinky-dinky airport to bring in the goods. Thus, having Foccacia with Balsamic Vinegar and Olive oil under a Bahay-kubo or eating Pecan & Walnut Muesli in your two-piece or speedos is not only paradoxical and anachronistic but also surreal. I'd expect native Filipino foods like Inasal, Sinugba, Halo-halo, Sinigang, Pork BBQ, etc at the beach, but unfortunately due to international demand, this is not so. Expatriate culinary expertise and coño Manileños with the grungy backpackers make such a supply-and-demand situation possible, and these people just lap it up! If it's a matter of economics, then there's no quib about it, but if you look at it from a cultural standpoint, it's quite insulting on our part.


1. Though experts imply that having international cuisine on Boracay is a showcase of the "love" foreigners have for the island or of the vibrancy of the place, the argument also suggests how these foreign carpetbaggers cannot assimilate to Filipino cuisine. This is different with a Pinoy expat serving adobo and pinakbet in his LA turo-turo house. With Pinoys, we cater our soulfood to fellow Kababayan because we know there's a sizable Filipino population within the vicinity, and such a business is logical. But have you seen a Boracay Brit or Greek serving Filipino cuisine in their establishments? No, they would rather serve haggis, bangers & mash, and gyros than our liempo or lumpia. And it's not even fusion cuisine. They cook it just the way they do it at home. For whom? For the handful of their expat compatriots? Yes; them and everyone else.

As for us Pinoys, we lap it up because having muesli for breakfast or penne arrabiata for dinner is as exotic as the island itself. You won't find it in your corner-street in Manila. I bet you'd rather have bulgogi than bulalo, or eggplant parmigiana than tortang talong anytime you're in Boracay- all because you're on vacation. V-a-c-a-t-i-o-n. And if I was there, I'd do it to. We don't feast on it in Manila, so finding it cheap in Boracay and at such array is a unique experience. You can have a French breakfast, Greek lunch and Korean dinner every night. For some, it's more unique to have a lassi drink than a mango shake. Truly, it's more of an "experience" than your usual Pinoy fare. But that's a case-to-case basis. I like Japanese cuisine, but I'd rather eat it in a Japanese restaurant in Manila than in a pseudo-Bali Hai open beach restaurant where the decors are from Kalibo and the wasabi flown in from Tokyo. But some will digress.

The pointless point here is this: Why dish out foreign cuisine when your ingredients cannot be sourced easily? Why do foreigners eat the same food they make at home, when the purpose of a vacation is to get away from it all? It's like a Filipino who went to Paris and ended up eating adobo and sinigang by the Seine. Why cook it for a population that's over two-thirds local tourists? Pasalamat na lang sila na sanay ang lasang Pinoy sa foreign dishes like bratwurst (mmm tastes like Swift hotdog), meusli (mmm tastes like pinipig), crepes (mmm tastes like lumpia wrapper), vichyssoise (mmm tastes like Knorr sopas), or sashimi (mmm tastes hilaw!)

2. Many tourists are not interested in our culinary culture. They try some native dishes for a night or sample the local drinks for the "experience", but after the novelty wears off, their tongue forces them to revert back to their home cuisine. That is why you'll see hordes of grungy unwashed backpackers wolfing down waffles during the day and Korean lemmings gorging on kimchi (a winter dish) in the middle of summer. Whatever makes them happy (and open their wallets) is fine by me. As long they're spending their budget on the local economy, expat and otherwise, it's as good as them eating our native dishes. I just hope our food is the main come-on, and not their home cuisine. If you compare this to Kho Phi Phi in Thailand, many of the restaurants there serve Thai cuisine with a few continental dishes interspered in their menu. It's a rarity to see an establishment there solely selling Greek, British or Korean cuisine. That's to show how respected their foods are, so much so that foreigners just shut up and eat Pad Thai rather than whine about the lack of Blueberry waffles. Here, we prostitute ourselves too much and everyone's oblivious to it.

Our restaurant is famous for its delicious food of original salads, succulent
paninis, oversized sandwiches, crusty pizza, creamy risotto, famous pastas,
day-fresh seafood and tender and tasty steaks. This season, our Chef is cooking some original food specials: Fresh Goose Liver (Foie Gras), Duck Breast (Magret de Canard), Ostrich Steak, Lamb Shank, Sea Bass and Chicken roulade.

-Blurb from Friday's Boracay Website

Ahhhh..... I rest my case. Oy waiter! I'll have some foie gras and champagne to go with my sinigang!


banzai cat said...

Hah! You're right and double-right!

I like Boracay but suffice to say, nothing beats Puerto Galera where you can walk around and order a whole fish grilled or two skewers of barbeque plus rice and vegetables for 150 bucks. In Boracay, you'd be lucky if you can buy something for the same. Granted they have the grilled thing going but how much would it cost you? And no rice!

At least I manage to try the talipapa in Boracay before it burned down. Did you ever to get to try that? I remember my gf and I splurged there: she got a whole crab while I tried out a whole lobster. And all for 1k, plus rice, veggies and drinks! You can't get that at their D'Mall. Ekk.

Funny enough, when I was a kid, I got to go around Europe with my parents. However, when we got to eat, we'd normally go to a Chinese resto. I remember asking my parents why, instead of trying European food. They told me: "European food is bland." Hah, the irony.

Jules said...

banzai: you're absolutely correct. medjo mahal na ang boracay, save for the talipapa (which looks like a transplanted wet market from iloilo) and you can haggle..yehehe

boracay has somewhat perverted its charm as an idyllic paradise. i think it wants to reinvent itself as a epcot center of sorts.

euro food is bland? hawhawhaw - considering all those ingredients they put in, that's quite an irony... maybe because they don't us vetsin unlike us.

J.P. said...

couldn't agree with you more -
what frustrates me about pinoys is that puro salita lang ang pride nila sa sarili nila - when it comes to foreign stuff, laging "inferior" ang pinoy thing - whether it's food or what have you......boracay and the other resorts over there should be used as an opportunity for pinoy chefs and cooks and locals to expose the rest of the world (well at least to those who visit the pinas) to the vibrant wonders of our cuisine - if travelers are forced to eat what the locals really eat, then that local cuisine will not only flourish, but will gain more respect in the culinary world - when americans travel to europe, we often seek out the local cuisine - same thing when we travel to thailand or china or japan - of course there's nothing wrong with other cuisines, but i wish pinoys just got it in their heads that pinoy food is neither superior nor inferior to others - they should view it as an experience worthy of every local or foreigner's tongue and soul.

Jules said...

j.p.: well said! that's very true. We tend to bend backwards for foreigners too much that we have lost our charm as a culture.