Boodle Fight: the Ultimate Filipino Food Experience

As the husband of a Filipina one of the things that will show up again and again in your life is not just Filipino food and parties, rather something much more extreme: I am talking about the ultimate Filipino food experience known as “Boodle Fight”.

For those of you who are newbies (perhaps recently married to a Filipina or just courting one) the scene in the picture above is something you will see pretty often.

What the boodle fight basically involves is this: tons of rice and ulam (fish, eggs, meat, anything at all that goes with rice) are placed on a table (a long one) lined with banana leaves (we didn’t have any so we just used aluminum).

The reason why this is called a “fight” is because guests are allowed to grab as much food as they can and eat everything with bare hands.

As far as I know this tradition comes from the Philippine military where hungry soldiers ate with bare hands as a sign of camaraderie.

Unless you live in a small village of a European country (or anywhere else in the West where there is not any Filipino community) where your Filipino wife is the only Filipino in hundreds of square miles and she has no frequent contacts with her mga kabayan or fellow Filipinos, chances are you will very often run into some kind of boodle fight.

The picture above tells everything about what this experience is like so I don’t need to add much apart from the obvious warning that your level of insulin might skyrocket after the “fight”.

Food is the core elements of Filipino gatherings and boodle fight is definitely the ultimate Filipino food experience.

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Tagalog Lessons (Lesson 3): “Ang”, “Si”, “Ano”, “Sino” and Focus Personal Pronouns.

In my previous post about the Tagalog language I mentioned that in a sentence like for example “I threw the garbage in the garbage can” I could highlight 3 parts:

  • Who did the action: nagtapon ako ng basura sa basurahan” (“I am the one who threw the garbage in the can”)
  • What was thrown: itinapon ko ang basura sa basurahan” (“the garbage is what I threw in the can”)
  • Where it was thrown: “tinapunan ko ng basura ang basurahan” (“the can is where I threw the garbage”)

So, the “article” (or more correctly “the marker”) that I am using before the noun that is in focus is ang which basically means the.

Examples:

The man=ang tao

The cat=ang pusa

And so on

If I wanted to use a proper name instead of a common noun I would have to use si instead of ang:

For example if I wanted to say: “Eduardo threw the garbage….” I would have to say: “si Eduardo ang nagtapon ng basura…”

If I were asking: “who threw the garbage….?” I would have to use sino” (meaning who when the doer of the action is in focus)

If I am asking about the object then I have to use “ano” (“what”) like: “ano ang itinapon mo…?” (“What did you throw….?”) Or “ano ang tinapunan mo ng basura?” (What is the place where you threw….?”).

When the doer of the action is in focus the personal pronoun in the example above is ako meaning I (I am the one who threw the garbage).

If, instead of I, I wanted to say you, he (or she), we, You, they, I would have to use the following personal pronouns:

Ikaw=you

Siya= he or she

Kami or Tayo=we

Kayo=You

Sila=they

So, to wrap it up, in the focus part of the sentence you use:

  • Ako, ikaw, siya, kami or tayo, kayo, sila as personal pronouns
  • Ang as marker (basically article)
  • Si before proper nouns
  • Ano to ask “what”
  • Sino to ask “who”.

Why Filipinos Keep Buying Bottled Water Even When they Move to a Western Country

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I live in a city that has lots of problems such as traffic jams, inadequate public transport etc.

Yet the city of Rome has a great asset: tap water is safer than bottled water.

In Rome we have fountains everywhere and tourists don’t need to buy bottled water.

Yet my Filipino wife never drinks tap water and all Filipinos whom I know here either buy bottled water or a filtering machine that they connect to the tap.

I guess the reason is simply a mental conditioning. Because Filipinos have been raised in a country where you need to boil tap water to kill the germs before you can drink it, they carry with them this mental conditioning wherever they go and keep buying bottled water, even if they move to a country where it is scientifically proven that tap water is a lot safer than bottled water (especially water that is sold in plastic bottles).

Buying tons of unnecessary bottled water is not just useless, it is also a huge waste of time and energy. Yet, if you are married to a Filipina, this is highly likely something you have to get used to, even if you have been used to drinking tap water since childhood.

Another funny aspect is that all Filipinos whom I know never buy sparkling water, they only buy still water. Recently I asked my wife why and she said that she cannot stand the “itchy” sensation in the throat. Other Filipinos have told me exactly the same thing.

Now I could perfectly understand all these concerns about rigorously buying bottled still water if Filipinos drank nothing but water.

What I can’t quite understand is that the very people who steer clear from tap and sparkling water drink tons of Coca Cola, Fanta, Sprite and the boys (the macho heavy drinking Filipino men) who steer clear from sparkling water that supposedly causes an “itchy” sensation in their throat have no “itchy” sensation when they drink strong beer, gin, rum and whiskey.

Yes, Filipinos seem to have problems when it comes to tap and sparkling water yet they drink the whole world and that is not a problem.

Tagalog Lessons (Lesson 2): Focus

In a Tagalog sentence, a Tagalog speaker will select a portion that they most want to highlight or the point of the sentence.

If for example I say something like: “I threw the garbage in the trash can” I can either emphasize the one who did the action thereby answering the question: “who threw the garbage in the can?”. Or I could highlight that the garbage is what I threw in the garbage can thereby answering the question: “what did you throw in the garbage can?”. Or you could highlight where the garbage was thrown thereby answering the question: “which is the place where you threw the garbage?”.

Depending on where I put the focus I have to adjust different things:

  • The marker (basically the article) that appears before the noun
  • The personal pronoun
  • The affix of the verb

Let’s say for example that the question is: “who threw the garbage in the can?”, which in Tagalog is: “sino ang nagtapon ng basura sa basurahan?”

The answer to this question in Tagalog would be: “ako ang isa na nagtapon ng basura sa basurahan”.

What I am doing here is:

  • I am using the ako personal pronoun which is the pronoun you use when the one doing the action is in focus.

The other focus pronouns are: ikaw (you), siya (he or she), tayo or kami (we), kayo (You), sila (they).

  • I am using the marker ang to highlight the noun that is in focus
  • I am using the affix nag- before the root word of the verb, which is the past tense (or more accurately the “completed aspect”) of the verb magtapon.
  • In the question I am also using an interrogative pronoun that is in focus which is sino

Other verbal affixes that go with the portion of the sentence that is in focus are, for example, –um-, maka- or makapag- so, whenever you come across a verb like kumain or uminom or makakita you know that those verbs are referring to the focus of the sentence.

The basura in the sentence is the object but it is not in focus because the question I am answering is “who threw the garbage….?”. In this case instead of ang I have to use ng before the noun.

The pronouns that go with the ng part of a sentence are: ko, mo, niya, namin, ninyo, nila.

The verbs that go with the ng portion of a sentence have different affixes like i- (like itapon=to throw) or –in (like basahin=to read).

This means that if I wanted to answer the question: “what did you throw….?” I would have to say: “itinapon ko ang basura….”

If I wanted to highlight the location where the garbage was thrown I would have to use a verbal affix ending with -an and saybasurahan ang tinapunan ko ng basura” .

This is just a taste of what focus is about in Tagalog. Focus is the key to the Tagalog language and once you understand it the rest of the language will easily fall into place and it didn’t really take me years to understand these concepts, I think in few weeks one can understand the nuts and the bolts of the Tagalog grammar.

How to Make the Most of your Trip to the Philippines

The first time I visited the Philippines I completely messed up my trip and I returned home quite frustrated and pissed off.

The reason why I quote/unquote messed up my trip is because i didn’t take into account two important factors.

The first, as I have already mentioned, is that I was assuming that my Filipino wife would be eager to show me around and travel with me to the most exotic places in the country. Pretty soon I discovered that when Filipinos go home they are much more eager to spend time with their relatives than with their foreign husband (in many cases at least, not always) so it gets really hard to get them to visit the country.

But even when I finally managed to get my wife to travel a bit I found out that moving from my wife’s place was extremely complicated.

When I planned my trip to the Philippines I calculated the distances between my wife’s barangay and various tourist spots I wanted to visit based on the Italian standards. So I kind of reasoned: “well, from Bulacan to the One Hundred Islands is like going from Rome to Florence” and in my mind there was the idea that I would cover that distance in a couple of hours.

The reality is that covering 300 km in the Philippines might take up to ten hours and, in fact, it took us long hours to get to Alaminos City.

What was even worse is when we went to Tagaytay. My reasoning was: “I know we have to go through Manila, so we’d better get up at 4.30 am to avoid traffic”.

Well, in Rome if you get up at 4.30 the streets are empty but at 5 am the EDSA Avenue in Manila is already heavily congested and it took us 5 hours just to get from Quezon City to the toll gate of the South Luzon Expressway.

I learned the lesson and the second time I visited the Philippines I spent 9 days in a sea resort first thing, then once I was in my wife’s province I just explored the surroundings and I didn’t even try to cover 2 or 300 km by car.

The bottom line is: the Philippines does not have the infrastructures that Europe has and moving from point A to point B can be extremely difficult so my idea is that you better focus on one area and stay there.

Tagalog Lessons (Lesson 1): How Words are Formed in Tagalog

In this blog I primarily talk about how to make a marriage between a Westerner and a Filipina work.

I also glimpse into the Filipino culture and mentality and I have also briefly touched on the language.

As I have repeatedly said, although I can speak Tagalog, I prefer to communicate with my wife in English.

However, for the sake of building better rapport, I have decided to apply myself to the study of the Tagalog language.

Should you be interested in learning this language you can check out my posts about Tagalog that from now on will be part of this blog.

The Tagalog language is not the main topic of this blog, I will continue to talk about the Filipino mentality and how to deal with it, especially if you are married to a Filipina or wish to marry one, but my articles will occasionally be interspersed with some tips about how to learn Tagalog.

Let’s talk about the way words are formed in Tagalog.

Basically words in Tagalog are the result of combining a root or core word with one or more affixes.

English speakers are already familiar with this concept because in English a number of words are formed by adding an affix to a root word.

For example the root word beauty can be combined with ful to form the adjective beautiful.

Take for example the Tagalog root word ganda (that conveys the idea of beauty): if you combine it with ma- you form the adjective maganda or beautiful; if you combine it with -um- (between the first consonant and the first vowel) you form the verb gumanda and if you put the prefix ka- before the root word and the suffix -an after it you form the noun kagandahan.

A root word is simply a basic, core word that can be used to make other words, like an atom, or a building block that is used to make a house.

This is the starting point to understand the structure of the Tagalog language and what I can say is that I’ve found out that the structure of Tagalog is much easier than that of most Western languages, especially when you are learning verbs.

Being able to speak Tagalog can make an intimate relationship with a Filipina (which is tantamount to marrying the whole culture) much more interesting.

Lazy Filipinos and Tough Ones

As I’ve pointed out in some of my articles, the Philippines is a country that has a strong car culture.

During my trips to the Philippines I’ve noticed many times that Filipinos who live in urban areas hardly walk from one place to another, even if they could.

As I’ve already said, the thing that really struck me is that in my wife’s barangay nobody would walk to the market place, even though it was less than 500 meters away. Everyone would wait for a tricycle and spend what little money they had to travel comfortably.

Similarly, in my country, most Filipinos whom I know have a car and definitely prefer using it to go everywhere to walking to the bus stop or to the subway station, let alone using a bicycle.

Yet, I’ve also noticed that, while in the urban areas of the Philippines, katamaran or laziness is widespread, if one goes few miles away, a little further inland and into more remote areas, a different scenario presents itself.

People who live in more remote areas, including little children, are quite tough and real machos.

The boy in the pictures above would literally climb a coconut tree in 2 or 3 seconds, pick the coconuts and then break them open.

I’ve seen Filipinos dive into a river from very a high cliff as well as Filipinos braving the thick jungle boastfully saying that if a snake came along they would turn it into pulutan (food they snack on while doing inuman or binge drinking).

This is one of the amazing contrasts you can find in the Philippines. In few miles you can go from urban areas where life is all about kwentuan, fast-food restaurants, window shopping at the mall and riding on a jeepney or a tricycle to cover few hundred meters, to remote areas where little children climb a coconut tree in few seconds or jump into a river from a 30 meter high cliff.