Table etiquette of Filipinos
16 Nov 2015
Eating habits of various cultures are as diverse — and strange — as the cultures themselves. It’s no wonder why some table etiquette practices would be considered as “normal” in one country while it could be considered as improper when practiced in another country. Still, the age-old adage of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is very applicable when it comes to understanding table manners and eating behaviors.
So when you find yourself dining in the Philippines, here are six simple survival tips to know the basic table etiquette of Filipinos.
1. The utensils challenge
While most of the Western world is used to dining with a fork and knife and East Asian/Southeast Asian countries use chopsticks during meals, Filipinos use a fork and a spoon during any meal. Yes, the spoon is even used to cut up the dishes in the absence of a knife. But when the dish calls for a knife (like steaks), then a steak knife could be asked from the servers, easy.
2. No utensils? Now what?
Filipinos also dine in the “kamayan” way, with “kamay” meaning hand. Thus, this means eating with your hands. Yes, there is a way of doing this in a classy way without making you look like a slob. There are specific restaurants that encourage the traditional kamayan way of eating to closely savor the richness of the dishes they serve. OF course it goes without saying that they also provide you with a wet towel before and after the meal. There are washing bins or sinks at the corners, too, if one wishes to wash and disinfect their hands before and after eating. Needless to say, kamayan is also a fairly common style of eating in households.
3. No order of dishes for consumption
Foreigners used to having a chronology of food serving styles usually get baffled when dining for the first time in the Philippines. This is because they are sometimes served a soupy dish during meal time, while it is expected that soups should be served first before the main meal. However, a basic understanding of what constitutes Filipino cuisine will clear this up. Many major dishes served during meals do have soup broth in them, such as the popular sinigang (sour broth) which come with pork cubes, fish cuts or even salmon heads. Yes, the soup is taken with the meal itself, together.
4. When to start eating
When dining out with friends, wait until all of the orders are served. Then, that is the right time to start eating your dish. Others would encourage you to go ahead when yours get served first, but it’s often understood that it’s better if everybody starts eating at the same time.
5. When to stand up after eating
Traditional customs sometimes seep into contemporary dining practices in the typical Filipino table. One such custom is the belief that you will have bad luck in finding a special someone if you are last one eating on the dining table and people begin to stand up or leave the table when they’re done eating. Of course there’s no scientific basis to this etiquette but Filipinos have somewhat stuck to practicing this, not standing up if someone is not yet finished with their meal. Hey, when it comes to finding love, any custom might help! Better be safe, then.
6. Burping etiquette
It’s not rude to release a burp after a meal, as long as you apologize in some way for it. Say “Excuse me!” out loud, to no one in particular, after burping — and everything will be fine. It helps if you try to cover your mouth during the act of burping itself, to show how “apologetic” you are of the act. Expect a smile to greet that act. Yes, Filipinos tend to be cute and nice that way sometimes.
Written by: Olivia Cantor