Filipino Cuisine; A Blending Of History

Numerous indigenous Philippine cooking methods have survived the many foreign influences brought about either by trade, contact, or colonization.

The first and most persistent food influence was most likely from Chinese traders who were already present and regularly came to Philippine shores. They pre-dated Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s landing on Homonhon Island in 1521 by as many as five centuries.

The earliest written account of food was by Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian chronicler of the Magellan expedition. Pigafetta describes the dinner served by Raja Colambu, a local chief of Limasawa island as “pork in its sauce served in porcelain platters, roasted fish with freshly gathered ginger, and rice; turtle eggs; chicken; and peacock.”

The Spanish ruled most of the Philippines until Filipinos launched the first successful revolution against a Western colonizer, in 1896, and declared their independence in 1898. Three hundred years of Spanish rule resulted in the introduction of ingredients such as, tomatoes, annatto (locally called achuete), corn and avocados from other colonies of Spain, but principally Mexico. Peppers were native to Mexico, Central and North America and spread to Asia in the 15th century. The Spanish also brought varied styles of cooking, reflecting the different regions of their country. Some of these dishes are still popular in the Philippines, such as callos, gambas, and paella.

Some other delicacies from Mexico also found their way to the Philippines due to this colonial period. Tamales, pipian, and balbacoa are a few examples. These terms are still used today, but some ingredient and cooking procedure names have changed. The tamales Filipinos know today use rice instead of corn in Mexican versions; pipian uses peanuts instead of pumpkin seeds; and barbacoa is boiled beef shanks instead of the Mexican balbacoa, slow-roasted meat cooked in a pit.

Filipino cuisine is a sum of Philippine history, from the influences of Southeast Asian cooking brought by trade to the
colonial influences brought by conquest. In recent years, because of domestic migration, tourism, national food businesses, mass
media and social media, regional dishes from the different islands have gone beyond their immediate borders and become part of the national table. Today’s Filipinos are able to acquaint themselves with the food of their own country.

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