Do you agree that Pinoy food is “packed with salt, sugar and oil”?
Sure you do.
We live on sisig, lechon, bagoong, menudo and adobong baboy floating in lard. We dig the umami saltiness of “magic powders” and the sodium overload of broth cubes. And we put sugar in our spaghetti.
‘Old and gross’
But let’s take that same phrase—“packed with salt, sugar and oil”—and attribute it to Polish food and travel bloggers Agness (Agnieszka Walewinder) and Cez (Cezary Król), who went to Banaue, Cebu, Bohol, Manila and perhaps Vigan to sample the local fare.
Let them say things like: “The fruits we bought at local markets daily looked and tasted old and gross” and “I had a massive migraine, mood swings and heartbum (sic) caused by spicy and oily pork” and “The biggest disappointment was not trying traditional Filipino dishes (because) we simply could not find them!”
Finally, let them title their blog entry, “I Would Rather Go Hungry Than Eat Filipino Street Food Again!”
And voila! A readymade firestorm dreamed up in viral heaven, thanks to what the bloggers called their “honesty” and what many Pinoys thought was a gross insult to our culture (hashtag #PinprickedPinoyPride).
Uploaded on March 17, 2014 on eTramping.com, the post has generated 679 (moderated) comments (with more waiting in the wings), raised hackles on Facebook and had writer Agness defending herself on Twitter.
It didn't help either that the blog showed a black and white photo of Agness looking sickly and disheveled, with the caption, "My 'I'm starving but I don't want to eat this food' face".
Among many things, people took issue with her photo of a hotdog sandwich which she captioned: “We asked for ‘longganisa’ which is Filipino famous sausage and this is what we were served – American style hot dog.”
Based on the single-serve condiment packs seen in the photo, commenters deduced that the hotdog was bought at a 7-11.
Commented @wooribadboy: “Finding good food is a specific journey and not just go out there blindly and order it and declare this is the flavor of this country. If I went to your country and find the first convenience store and ask for something local, are you confident that it will represent the flavor you want a friend to experience?”
Traveling on $25 a day
On his Facebook page, activist and Manila tour guide Carlos Celdran called Agness a “silly ignorant traveler” while acknowledging that he felt “so sad to read this article.”
He said, “…at the end of the day, unless we do something about uplifting the masses, poverty will always be the defining force of Philippine cuisine. Period.”
In fact, Agness and Cez, who call themselves “adventurous tramps (and) best friends,” claim on their blog that wherever they go, they live on US$25 a day.
An American travel blogger jumps in the fray
Meanwhile, an American travel blogger who has lived in the Philippines for a year, has reacted to the ruckus, noting on his own post that Agness and Cez seemed “intentionally trying to antagonize Filipino people in order to bring attention to (their) blog.”
Nathan Allen noted that the bloggers earlier wrote about their "impressions" on the Philippines with a few negative comments about Filipino food.
"Then, perhaps you sat back and watched all the comments slowly start coming in. When you realized how sensitive and proud Filipinos can be about their food specifically, you decided to take advantage of the situation and write another inflammatory post all about the food," he opined.
What Polish bloggers told Yahoo SHE
Allen accused Agness and Cez of deliberately being "offensive" to generate even more comments.
"Yes, they're almost all negative (though you have done a good job hiding the people who are really speaking their mind), but look at all that blog traffic!" Allen wrote.
Contacted to comment on the online fury their post caused, Cez told Yahoo SHE in a private message: “The article attracted much more attention than it should already, and we do not want to further escalate it. What we have written is true and resembles our personal opinions based on our own experiences. It's written solely about food, and our view is that people over-react and look for implied meanings where there's none.”
Yahoo SHE asks: Are you Pinoy? If so, what do you think are the BEST and WORST things about our food?