Food Culture and Tradition

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Special Occasions in Philippines


The population of the Philippines is 80 percent Roman Catholic. About 4 percent of the population follow the Muslim faith and are called (much to their resentment) Moros. The latter group live in independent groups faithfully following Islamic ceremonies and customs and are ruled by their own chieftain or sultan called the datu.

Mestizos is the name given to those of mixed native and Spanish heritage, but more recently this term is used to denote any mixed racial background. Mestizos are also sometimes called Cacique.

The predominantly Christian population of the Philippines is unusual in that it represents the largest body of Asiatic peoples converted to Christianity. Both the Spanish and American periods of influence have also left the islands with a more western culture than any other Asian country. Thus it is natural to expect that the Christian festivals of Easter and Christmas will have a special significance. Religion is more family-centered than church-centered and this makes for a special festive spirit on any occasion. Families gather and share special foods and their preparation brings a spirit of happy anticipation.

Sunday is a time of family relaxation, and is often celebrated with a special dinner of puchero. This special dish is a loving combination of several meats and many vegetables cut in large chunks glowing with a rich golden sauce of well-simmered tomatoes and yellow yams all bathed in a rich blend of sautéed onions and garlic. Served with mounds of rice, it is a Sunday meal for leisurely eating conducive to rest afterwards. With a puchero, other courses are hardly necessary!

Pork usually holds the center of attention for Christmas and Easter. Despite an ample array of many classical dishes arranged in bountiful buffet, the jamon de Navidad, a baked Christmas ham glazed with fruits and crusted with brown sugar, or the lechon de leche, charcoal-roasted suckling pig, will probably steal the scene. Inehow, the whole stuffed banana-wrapped baked fish, and lumpia will likely be other specialties on the menu. A full array of fresh fruits, cheese, and special sweet custards, puddings, and cakes as well as the leche flan will complete any festive meal.

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