Food Culture and Tradition

Food, People and Culture Resources

Domestic Life in Philippines


The influence of American and Spanish occupations is apparent in both public and private life. The Spanish occupation brought with it increased religious participation especially by women. But the newer patterns did not replace ancient Asian kinship ties: the importance of family relationships and responsibilities are of prime concern. The new religion remained family-centered, not church-centered as in Spain. Family shrines became the worship centers, and on special occasions the entire family would join a procession carrying its own personal statues rather than those belonging to the community church. It was largely through the women’s interest and devotion to Roman Catholicism that European ideas of dress, customs, and music made inroads in Philippine family life.

Though Philippine women enjoy equal status with men, and frequently are the “family treasurers,” nonetheless like Spanish women, they manage in a very feminine way to make their husbands and sons feel dominant. The father makes all family decisions concerned with the outside world: schools, voting, business and community affairs.

The Filipino’s family is of great importance for it represents the only source of love, sustenance, and security. There is almost nothing the Filipino will not do for the sake of family. Lamangan is a Filipino expression meaning more or less “by hook or by crook to get on top …” It is also an expression that suggests some of the difficulty of accepting loss or defeat and the intense importance of self-esteem, pride, and dignity. In fact, the Filipino’s super sensitivity is often considered to be a Malay trait called hiya and may be the underlying reason for the difficulty in giving or receiving criticisms.

As mentioned above, it was mainly through the women that European ideas were introduced, including ideas about food and its methods of preparation. Filipinos have always been alert not only to new food ideas but also to methods of sanitation and food preservation. In the larger cities, modern kitchens and appliances abound but contrast sharply with low-income homes where the barest minimum of food and equipment are available.

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