When the Filipino is down or happy, he sings. That’s how karaoke and the Filipino become one in the mind of the world—a people born to sing. In this pandemic, however, the Filipino has developed another form of love expression—indeed, a form of solidarity against the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Food has become the survival tool of Filipinos after many—too many to count—have lost or are losing their jobs and businesses. As if by reflex, many a home gets its kitchen churning out dishes, baking breads and desserts.
In this pandemic, food—cooking or baking—is the pushback of a people who don’t really complain a lot, certainly are not violent or given to revolt. We can suffer and cook at the same time, perhaps sing a song or two later. It’s not to say that’s something to emulate or perpetuate. That’s just the way it is.
Resilience is in our DNA, programmed by centuries of exposures to scoundrels.
For those to whom survival is not an issue, cooking and baking—utilizing one’s hands and palate—have become the stress-busters. Filipinos, the old and the kids, are experimenting in the kitchen just to fight ennui caused by prolonged lockdown.
Heirloom recipes. Trendy breads. Artisanal foods. High-cuisine dishes recalibrated into accessible, ready-to-deliver specialties.Thus the birth of ube pan de sal, the mutations of which one can hardly keep track of. (Our advertising executive Kat Garcia turns out a good bunch.)
Not many know—because he’s not promoting it—that our finance executive Joel de la Cruz makes a very good ube/cheese ensaymada and is actually a secret cook and baker even years before the pandemic—halo halo buko pie, avocado ice cream, baked kalamay with buko strips.
One never thought the Philippines has so many kinds of longganisa. My world has suddenly gotten bigger beyond the Vigan longganisa to the Calumpit longganisa which my cousin’s in-laws are turning into a thriving enterprise in Bulacan.
Even the tortang alimasag I grew up enjoying and which I thought, as a kid, was my mother’s exclusive know-how from Obando—is being sold by a leading Malabon food entrepreneur.
Support the neighborhood
Just the other day, my son got suman from his coach’s mother; it’s actually good. We buy dishes from our neighbors—spicy chicken wings, kimchi—because my son believes we should support the neighborhood.
A tennis mate whose husband lost his job at ABS-CBN can turn out 12 cakes a day from her kitchen. She’s a superb cook and baker to begin with. I used to order her kimchi before the pandemic. Her latest rollout is banana cake.
Lifestyle has been reporting the latest food creations of home cooks/bakers, foodies, restaurateurs, chefs, kitchen explorers. There’s always something new, innovative, classic, traditional, comfort fare on the internet 24/7. The scarier the pandemic becomes, the greater the frenzy in the Filipino kitchen.
Are our cooking and baking running on uncontrolled nerves? If there’s nervous eating, now it’s nervous cooking—perhaps because people are insecure about their future.
But Filipinos have a way of doing it with care and love, just like how we care-give the world. An expat friend in tennis wants me to explain how Filipinos will survive the pandemic given the chaotic affairs of the state.
No ready answer. Or, perhaps there is. The Filipino is cooking and selling food as a sign of resilience. The Filipino is buying each other’s produce as a sign of solidarity.
Let’s hope this solidarity becomes the vote when the time comes.