THE FILIPINOS' PENCHANT FOR SMORGASBORD
MANILA, MAY 15, 2007 (MANILA TIMES) By Johven Velasco - Pinoys like abundance on the table.
ARE you amazed how local stars promote their latest movie on TV? Or how pleased customers endorse the movie that they have just watched? “Ang ganda-ganda! May iyakan, tawanan, kantahan at sayawan,” they would enthuse and enjoin the public to watch a particular movie.
No wonder Star Cinema’s Ang Cute ng Ina Mo has made a killing at the box-office. It is an explosion of colors and textures not only in its location, props and costumes but also in the performances of an all-star cast and in the genres that the movie mixes. In sight and sound you are assaulted from all directions.
Mind you, these are not pejorative comments, for after all, the movie got a B rating from the overtly generous Film Ratings Board; besides, “marami rin pong aral na mapupulot dito,” as the folks would say. Honestly now, I enjoyed watching the film; it gave me some insights on what the Pinoy taste may be and why it is so.
The Pinoy is fond of seeing things plenty and colorful. It must be the deeply rooted influence of fiestas, which in itself is also an explosion of sight and sound. The span of his gaze should always be filled up. “No empty space, please!” And this has influenced the way he decorates his living room, where walls are punctured with photographs of members of his extended family and framed diplomas of his children; or at the family altar, where images of saints mushroom, with candles and flowers to boot. In due time, too, at the altar would be enshrined the ashes of one’s dear departed contained in ornate urns.
The filled-up-space aesthetics is also seen in Maranaw ornate carvings of florid and lush vegetation, as in the Mardi Gras-inspired parades and street dancing in Panay, in the Pahiyas harvest festival in Quezon Province, in the “rococo-baroque” architecture of the hispanic, colonial churches up North, or on the jeepney chassis when Sarao Motors was lording over their manufacture.
The art critic Emmanuel Torres calls this horror vacui, “the fear of empty space.” Maybe the common Pinoy’s experience of perennial deprivation and want has also something to do with this. Maybe she feels more secure to see a filled-up space, as this augurs a season of harvest and plenty at last!
It isn’t surprising, therefore, especially when it comes to dining, that the Pinoy should see abundance on the table—heaven’s answer to her long, long season of drought. To the common Filipino, regardless of eating in a carinderia or partaking in a fiesta, “the more the merrier,” even as to her more affluent cousin fine dining at a five-star hotel, “less is more!” To the gourmet, it wouldn’t be good for the taste buds if a variety of dishes is taken in one sitting ” One at a time and chew your food slowly, all the more to savor the fine taste of the food,” the typical Pinoy is admonished.
But the common Pinoy is different; his mouth is more accommodating, tongue more exploring, palate and taste buds more versatile, and eyes more greedy. He cannot be satisfied with just one particular taste. “Variety is the spice of life,” and quantity precedes quality. Eat-all-you-can dining must have been invented by and for the Pinoy.
Although he takes into his mouth viands one after another at split-second intervals, the Pinoy knows that they will eventually mix in his digestive system. So why observe any particular order of procedure? Why should soup be taken to start a meal as the Westerners do, when in the traditional Chinese lauriat, it is served midway during the meal as rice is served toward its end? In fact to the Pinoy at home, the soup is mixed with the rice on his plate from the very start—rice and the VAT-free noodle soup. Perfect combination! “Sabaw na, ulam pa!”
When it comes to entertainment, the Pinoy is similarly awed with exuberance. He prefers his favorite television show to be a mixture of song-and-dance routines, with comedy skits, games of all types, and minibeauty contests thrown in. Similarly, in the movies that she watches, the Pinoy looks not only for what would make her cry but also that which would make her laugh, dance and sing-along with. It would be better if she would be a little scared, too; or if a little action stunt and routine would rev up the blood circulation of her husband and son, in addition. The more genres are mixed, the more the Pinoy feels she gets back what she has paid for.
Still wondering why many of our food are mix-matched as our favorite merienda or dessert, the halo-halo? Again, the fiesta eclecticism. Chopsuey, bulanglang, diningding, pinakbet, sapin-sapin and guinataan make up the impressive list of gastronomic evidences pointing out the truly eclectic Pinoy taste, as the corner sari-sari store is.
Truth is, our culture and history are such, to start with—multiethnic population, multiracial colonial masters, multicultural consciousness. And because the Pinoy is multi-this and multi-that, his taste is necessarily eclectic.
Of course, not all Pinoys are eclectic in taste. The more “sophisticated” and “learned” are like the Westerners who swear by the principles of unity and minimalism, and are believers in restraint and control, as in his literary work or in her visual arts.
A, yes, that’s because the Pinoys also have multiple identity! And in their eclecticism, they are unintentionally postmodern. They do have the penchant for blurring boundaries, as well, but that’s another topic all together.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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