MANILA – Reaping outrage from locals on social media is a blog entry by a tourist who said she would rather go hungry than eat Filipino street food again.
Agness Walewinder, who hails from Poland, is one of a duo of travel bloggers. According to their website, they call themselves “tramps” because they “live without permanent home and for under 25 bucks a day, since 2011.” They said they travel on a budget, and try to keep their expenses to $25 a day.
Walewinder’s blog entry “I Would Rather Go Hungry Than Eat Filipino Street Food Again!” written on March 17 chronicles their experience with food in the Philippines.
The entry has gone viral on social media, with livid Pinoys criticizing the tourists’ "poor knowledge" and bad choices in picking where to eat.
As the title shows, they were not happy with most local food, which Walewinder describes as "packed with salt, sugar and oil." Filipinos also love starchy, sugary food as evidenced by the food sold in many bakeries, she said.
After days of scathing comments from Filipinos and not a few curse words, Walewinder changed the original title of her entry and added the word “street,” as Filipinos said the food she and her friend Cez ate were not reflective of what locals ate on a regular basis, and were mostly from food stalls and cheap canteens or "carinderias."
For example, when they asked for a “traditional Filipino breakfast” in Pagudpud, she said what she got was “a bunch of fruits (an apple, an orange and a banana), coffee with milk and some cakes filled with jam.”
While many Filipinos, especially those on a budget, do eat only a few pieces of bread from the corner bakery and coffee, it is not considered a “traditional” breakfast.
According to commenter Gaki, who describes himself as a local, a traditional breakfast typically consists of pan de sal (Filipino bread rolls which literally translates to "salt bread") or rice, tomatoes, and dried fish or any one of an assortment of cured meats such as longganisa (local sausages) or tocino (sweet cured pork).
“Your guide must have misunderstood your request and gave you whatever he can grab at that time,” he said.
Also, Walewinder said they were disappointed because they could not find traditional Filipino dishes such as balut, adobo, asado, and daing despite visiting an “enormous amount of local food stands and restaurants”.
Eventually, they said, while they loved the barbecued meats sold in food stalls, they could not live on barbecue alone. They had to visit a local grocery and convenience stores in order to get more nutritious food, as they could not eat any more local fare.
Insights on the Philippines
The blog entry is only one of several that the duo has on their site on the Philippines. While it seems they enjoyed the country’s beaches and even riding in jeepneys and tricycles, they had some bad experiences with locals asking for money in exchange for photos, and they did not enjoy the food as what they encountered was generally unhealthy.
The poor quality food may be the reason, Walewinder said, why they noticed that “in the north, the vast majority of Filipino kids and young people are overweight.”
However, Walewinder eventually concluded at the end of her entry that while Filipino food did not live up to their expectations, she hopes they can return in the future and have better luck. She also said in the comments section that they are only writing the truth, as traveling is not only about rainbows, unicorns and puppies.
The comments section of Walewinder’s blog entry is filled with advice and statements from Pinoys and a few tourists who said they wished the “tramps” better luck in future, as local food is not all that bad. However, there were also some who agreed that Filipino food takes some getting used to, or is indeed hard to like, unlike food from other countries such as Singapore or China.
Commenter Edward E said Walewinder should not have looked for the cheapest food available, and instead got mid-priced local food.
“That’s a thing about Filipino Food, we don’t really do good cheap food. If it’s cheap, it’s really cheap in more ways than one,” he said.
Others pointed out the financial state of many Filipinos—that most who survive on food from carinderias can only afford cheap fare, and typically eat to live.
“Many communities can’t afford fresh fruit, vegetables, and clean meats. Poor people don’t have the luxuries we privileged people have, especially with food. These are socioeconomic things one should think about when talking about the culture of food in general. And, this is something you should definitely think about especially when going to a third world country,” said commenter ThinkCritically.
However, some Filipinos agreed that local food is typically sweet, oily or salty, and street food is unclean.
Gaki said, even locals would avoid street food, but are generally poor. “Our stomachs are used to dirty food (good for survival, come zombie apocalypse, I guess),” he wrote.
Blogger ChinoF also wrote on GetRealPhilippines.com that Filipinos should not overreact when anything from the Philippines gets negative feedback, especially when observations such as those by Walewinder only show the truth—that markets and food stalls care little for food safety.
“Street food already tells a lot about our society, that we are a dysfunctional society. But it’s not just the nature of the food. It’s the conditions surrounding the food,” he said.
On Flpno.com, a blogger meanwhile said it is admirable that Walewinder and her friend actually ate Filipino food, because some Filipinos actually shun local food: “Earlier this week, a blog post by two polish travelers received a lot of attention when they said they would rather starve than eat Filipino street food again. Many took offense to that. But, the difference is they gave it a try.”