In the spirit of a good meal that lasts several hours because the talking is just as satisfying as the eating, this B-Side episode continues on the social role of food.
This time, we’ll hear from Maria Angelica B. America, an advocate of sustainable development who also teaches economics to senior high school and university students.
She tells BusinessWorld reporter Jaspearl Emerald G. Tan that food is a matter of national identity.
Food is central to Filipino culture and community.
When Filipinos leave home, they cope by eating or cooking certain dishes that make them feel like they’re not so far away.
“Filipinos won’t be the same without our food … When we leave the country, we think, oh, when I want to feel more Filipino, I will cook, I will prepare, or I will eat Filipino food. It helps me get in touch with my Filipino identity,” said Ms. America.
Food creates a sense of belongingness.
A person first learns about the concept of belongingness through being fed by their parents, according to Ms. America.
“In an ideal situation, as the child grows up, he or she comes to equate feeding—or eating together for that matter—with the concept of family, of togetherness, of belongingness,” she said.
In cases where the family is not too expressive, food can take the place of words, especially when it comes to expressing difficult emotions, like saying sorry.
Food also helps people learn to fit into society, helping them form new bonds and strengthen old ones.
She noted that eating together is a sign of friendliness and community. “You show the intention to get to know somebody if you want to eat with them.”
Food is memory.
The pandemic “shook the fabric of society” because it took away the community aspect of Filipino life. “A lot of the things we did, we did together,” said Ms. America.
The most important events in a person’s life are often in the presence of food, she said, because “food amplifies the experience.”
“It might be simple food, but if it’s shared with great company, prepared with great company, you will always go back to that memory. That’s beautiful. That’s the power of food.”