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Anthony Bourdain in the Philippines... finally!

The much anticipated No Reservations: Philippines episode aired on the Travel Channel not too long ago. Sadly, I wasn't up on it and missed it (I don't watch much TV and although No Reservations is definitely a show I'd sit down for-- hell, Anthony Bourdain has one of my dream jobs-- I don't watch enough TV to know when it's on). A few days after it aired, however, it became evident that I was the only Pilipino with a late pass.

Still suffering from being bit haaard by the travel bug, I surfed the net today for a travel-fix. Seriously, this guy has THE best job e-v-e-r, IMO. Sh!t, what I'd give to say, "I write, I travel, I eat and I'm hungry for more" whenever people ask what I do for a living.

So anyway, I plop down with a cozy blanket and a cup of chamomile citrus tea and finally find a forum that's posted the episode in it's entirety. I've always wondered why it's taken so long for Mr. Bourdain to make his way to the homeland, seeing that he's basically been to every country nearby. I was really curious to see what dishes would be featured on the show. I know Bourdain is no stranger to "questionable" foods that the average eater wouldn't dare touch with a ten foot pole, but there's long been a stigma towards traditional Pilipino cuisine. Even Americanized Pilipino spots are frequented mostly by Pilipinos unlike, for example, Chinese or Thai restaurants.

That being said, I was impressed with how things went... and happy to see that balut didn't make it onto the table. Not that I've got anything against a chicken embryo appetizer, it's just that that would have been a major cop out considering the diverse food that different regions of the Philippines have to offer-- delicacies that most people don't even realize are actually traditional Pilipino dishes.

Aside from the mouth-watering menu, the side story was pretty interesting as well. Bourdain finally decided to hit up the islands thanks to a young Pilipino-American named Augusto. Sprinkled in between shrimp, crab and bone marrow are Augusto's stories of the difficulties of being raised Pilipino-American, which ties in really well with Bourdain's number one question (as well as mine): "why is it that Pilipino cuisine is a blank page; why doesn't it have a higher profile in the states?"

I've had this conversation numerous times and it was somewhat... I don't know... validating, I guess, to see the issue being addressed on the Travel Channel. Friends and I have always concluded that the reason is because Pilipino food is just ugly. We're not big on garnishing our dishes; we don't add chives for a splash of color; and we don't really know how to describe the food in a very appetizing way (at one point, one of Bourdain's food guides said, "here's a gelatinous rubbery skin dish" [srsly? lol]). It's just not a good look. It's damn good, but definitely not good looking.

However, after watching the episode I realized there's probably more to it. Pilipinos easily assimilate to whatever culture is around them and a lot of the time disregard their roots in order to fit in. Although that can be a good and bad thing, simply put it's just something we do and do well. At times we're so disconnected-- how could we possibly introduce and successfully promote a foreign cuisine in the US when in most cases it's foreign to us ("us" being Pilipino-Americans) as well?

Anyway, it was a good episode, but definitely DID NOT scratch my travel itch-- instead I've just moved the Philippines up on my list; not only for the food, but also for the culture I've been missing out on.

Now go out and find some good eats!


mj said...

great post agent dee.... anthony bourdain: philippines had the "best pig ever."

dee said...

thanks, mj. maaan, i wanted to try that lechon sooo bad!

adrian said...

As if I didn't want to go to the Philippines bad enough! That Lechon looks ridicalous!

Marijoyce said...

SPEAK ON IT!! Let's go to the PI together...the fam has a condo out there =D