how to eat like a pinoy
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11 Tips on How to Eat Like a Pinoy

Filipinos are world-renowned for their hospitality, which even extends to their dining habits. In fact, foreigners would be pleasantly surprised that one of the most common greetings said by Filipinos is not “Hello!” or “Nice meeting you!” but “Have you eaten yet?”

Filipinos are ready to invite anyone to partake in a feast of delicious homemade meals. But before sitting down at the dinner table and gobbling the delicious food in front of you, here are some pointers on how to fit in and eat like a Pinoy in a Filipino-hosted feast. Warning: Some of them may be strange, but that’s just how unique the Filipino culture is.

1Arriving on time might be too early.

how to eat like a pinoy: filipino time

Arriving fashionably late is still widely accepted in the Philippines. In fact, if you arrive on time, your host will exclaim that you are early! As a rule of thumb, arriving 10 to 30 minutes past the agreed time is acceptable. You are only considered truly late if you arrive an hour later; even then, Filipinos will simply shrug off your tardiness.

2It’s called host. Not hostess.

If the person who invited you is a woman, do not call her a hostess. Hostess has a negative connotation for locals.

3No shoes allowed.

how to eat like a pinoy
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Before entering a Filipino home, remove your shoes, and place them outside the door unless your host tells you to leave your footwear on. Once inside the house, don’t loiter around because certain places in the house may be off limits to visitors.

4Don’t sit at the kabisera.

In a seated setup, your host may tell you where to sit. The kabisera (the lone seats on either side of a rectangular dining table) is usually reserved for the host. If the setup is a buffet, go to the buffet table, get enough food you fancy, and return to your place.

5Don’t be the first person to dig in.

Don’t start your meal unless the host insists because sometimes meals are started with a thanksgiving prayer. In formal situations, although rare, you should wait for the host to start his or her meal first then you can start yours. More often, the host will be the one to serve the guests and will insist that guests start eating their food.

6Be a little laway-conscious (saliva-conscious).

how to eat like a pinoy
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All dishes may have an accompanying serving utensil because most, if not all, Filipinos are wary of salivary contamination. Use the serving utensil to take and transfer food from the main bowl or dish to your plate. This is not the case though when the setup is a boodle fight, and you are required to eat with your hands, which is an even more traditional type of Filipino dining.

Curious as to how Filipinos eat with their hands? Here’s a little video tutorial.

7Every Filipino can find the sharp end of a spoon.

Filipinos eat with spoon and fork as standard dining utensils. During a Filipino meal, you will realize that your spoon is quite a versatile dining tool. You can use it as a soup spoon, a knife, or a masher. Don’t ask for a steak knife. Your host will most likely bring you a kitchen or butter knife. However, knives are usually included in your dining set in a restaurant.

8Don’t take the last bite (unless the host seriously insists).

You might find it strange that Filipinos will leave a small portion of food on the serving plate, tray, or bowl. In fact, they may be hesitant to take the serving because of shyness. To be safe, don’t take this last portion of food. Chances are this last serving is traditionally reserved for latecomers or people who are truly hungry.

9When you see someone not eating while you have your meal, invite that person to eat too.

This is very common to Filipinos. Sharing their food seems to be so natural that you will often get invited to join them at the table when they see you are not eating while having their own meal. Eating is a communal and enjoyable experience.

10Wait for everyone to finish eating.

Try not to excuse yourself during the meal. Stay put, and do not leave the table until everyone is finished eating. Also, some Filipinos may be superstitious about cleaning up the table before everyone’s even done with their meals, so it would be best to relax, enjoy the chats and laughs, and resist cleaning up. Filipinos never allow guests to clean up.

11Have some leftover takeaways.

After the meal, your host may pack leftovers in small doggie bags or transparent tubs for you. Take them and say thank you. Refusing the packed food is considered rude.

Hopefully, you find these tips helpful for your next meal at your Filipino friend’s home. If you wanna share more tips, let me know through the comments section below.

Kainan na!

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Gian is an avid traveler, adventurer, scuba diver, rock climber, mountaineer, and extreme sports enthusiast. He documents his sojourns in his travel adventure blog Adrenaline Roman...
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