Food has always played an important in our lives whether on special occasions like birthdays, weddings and baptisms or just a simple family dinner, it has always helped shape our Filipino identity. Through thick and thin, the way we cook, prepare and eat our favorite food helped define our psyche.

Our love for the really good food starts with the most celebrated and known food that describes our being Filipino, these are adobo, lechon and halo-halo. Adobo is the de-facto national dish of our country because of its simplicity, versatility and timeless quality. The people who started eating adobo centuries ago will probably be amaze to see that adobo is still a very important food next to rice. The Spanish brought lechon to the Philippines and just like adobo, it has spawned various incarnations from pork asado to lechon kawali and from lechon manok to lechon baka. Finally, the abundance of fruits in the archipelago has developed the creation of our favorite treat called halo-halo, which literally means mixed fruits.

As we go back in time, we can find age-old recipes that are handed down by our ancestors in our distant past. People nowadays are looking for the most authentic food in town and so we look for the oldest restaurants that is still operating until now. One of the oldest is Ambos Mundos -- located in Palanca Street, Manila. This restaurant maintained the rich fusion of traditional Filipino and Spanish cuisine. It is even older that the Philippine republic itself as it was said to be founded by Spanish immigrants in 1888.

On the other hand, we enjoy eating our pandesal with our hot coffee during breakfast but do we all know the oldest bakery that is still in operation until today? El Ideal Bakery and Restaurant remains to be one of the oldest restaurant in operation in the country. Founded in 1920, the bakery was founded in Silay City, Negros Occidental. Being in a Spanish-era city that is similar to Vigan, Ilocos Norte, the city boasts its Spanish-era houses and buildings and it is not surprising that the bakery remains operating despite the growing change happening in the bakery industry. El Ideal is still operating using their vintage charcoal-fed stoves and oven.

When we go for a stroll or on the road, we love to munch some finger foods sold in the streets like fish balls and banana cue but one street food that typifies everything Filipino is balut. Even some reality TV shows have even used balut as part of a challenge like Fear Factor wherein Joe Rogan (the UFC commentator) urged the contestants eat as much balut as possible. Balut's origins is ironically not Filipino because during the 17th and 18th century, there was a wave of Japanese immigration to the Philippines (particularly in Pateros, Manila) wherein they brought duck breeding to the country. At that time, the Tokugawa shogunate has persecuted Japanese-Christians and so many of them decided to stay in the Philippines for good. Duck culture in Pateros boomed and so to keep their business booming, the duck farmers check the quality of their eggs. Unfortunately some of the "bad eggs" were thrown away while other eggs were accidentally "cooked" because of the heat of the gas lamps used to incubate the eggs. These "cooked" duck eggs with the still-undeveloped embryo became what we know as balut.

As much as we want to eat good food, we also have certain food to avoid eating. National hero Jose Rizal is the same as you and me but one thing that may intrigue us is that he may have been a prototypical he once showed "displeasure" of eating cooked meat. Rizal loves to eat his champorado, rice gruel mixed with chocolate.

Fast foward to 1942, many of the Filipino and American soldiers who survived the infamous Bataan Death March were given bibingka by concerned citizens. Even if their lives are also at stake because they helped the emaciated soldiers, these people evaded Japanese patrols just to provide food to the men.

Our favorite fruit, mango, originated in India in 2,000 BC but it became widely cultivated in the country during the height of the Galleon Trade with Mexico. In fact, mango was only introduced to the West in the 17th century.

Our love affair with food will always be there and they will forever shape our lives ahead.

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{picture#} JP Canonigo is a historian, professional blogger and copywriter, online content specialist, copywriter, video game junkie, sports fanatic and jack-of-all trades. {facebook#} {twitter#} {google#}
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