The current population is 85 million, of which 83 is Roman Catholic, 9 percent Protestant, 5 percent Muslim, and 3 percent other religions (Dalton, 2007). The country has more than 150 languages and dialects. The main languages are Tagalog, English, Cebuano (spoken in Cebu), Ilocano (north Luzon), Ilonggo (Iloilo), Bicol, Waray (Leyte), Pampango and Pangasinense (both in Luzon) (Dalton, 2007). The major industries of the Philippines are textiles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, wood products, food processing, electronics assembly, petroleum refining and fishing.
Its primary agricultural products include rice, coconuts, corn, sugar cane, bananas, pineapples and mangoes (Dalton, 2007). Below (Figure 1) is a basic map of the Philippines. This map just gives us an idea of the size and location of the Philippines. The country is located in Southeast Asia, north of Malaysia and south of Taiwan. As we can see, the country is made up of many big and small islands. It is considered an archipelago and therefore it is surrounded by various water forms. Figure 1 Basic Map of Philippines Principal Foods Filipino foods are always very rich and diverse in flavour.
Food is an integral part of Filipino culture, whether it be social, economic, or even religious. They value food highly and perceive it as a way of bringing families and communities together. Food is a significant facet of Filipino beliefs and traditions, one of which are the customary fiestas often held in various villages around the country. On average, 60% of the total budget is spent on food while 40% goes to non-food items. Among the food items, the largest single item is rice consumption, which takes up about 16% of the total household budget.
Around 9% is spent on meat, 7% on vegetables and fruits, 7% on fish and 4% on eggs and dairy products (Fuwa, Marciano, & Reano, 2010, p. 3). Filipino foods are also rich in history and innovation. While its roots are mostly influenced by the multitude of ingredients found naturally in the Philippines, it is also inspired by Chinese, Spanish, Arab, Malay and American cuisines (Roa & Roa). The Chinese people, who came to trade, influenced Filipino wives with their cooking such as pansit (noodles), lumpia (vegetables rolled in edible wrappers), siopao (steamed filled buns), and siomai (dumplings).
Then when the Spaniards came, they brought influences from not just Spain but also Mexico. They introduced new flavours and ingredients such as cheese, ham, olive oil, saffron, paprika and cured sausages. They introduced paella, which was a dish cooked in fields by Spanish workers combining pork, chicken, seafood, ham, sausages and vegetables, bangus (silvery milkfish), and ensaymada, which are brioche cakes buttered, sugared and sprinkled with cheese (Alejandro & Fernandez, 1998, p. 8).
The most noteworthy influence of Americans on Filipino food culture is fast food, the biggest of which is McDonalds. Before discussing the principal ingredients in Philippines food, we first look into a few of the most common dishes of the country. One of the most popular dishes is adobo, which is braised chicken, pork, beef, or fish cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and other spices (Roa & Roa). Another favourite is sinigang, which is a boiled sour soup made of fish, shrimps, pork, beef or chicken mixed with vegetables and tamarind leaves (Filipino Foods, 2006).
Lechon, a whole roast pig that is slowly roasted over live coals and basted regularly with a tasty sauce created from pig’s liver then simmered with vinegar, sugar and herbs, is a dish that will always be seen in big parties, gatherings, and fiestas. Other common dishes are bistek (beef and onion rings braised in soy sauce), lumpia (spring rolls), pansit (noodles) and the infamous dinuguan (pig blood and innards simmered with vinegar and hot peppers) (Alejandro & Fernandez, 1998). Now we dive deeper and look more specifically into the main ingredients of the national cuisine.
From the brief discussion of common dishes above, we can clearly see that meats such as chicken, beef and pork are an important part of the cuisine. However, rice is the staple of country’s food identity and is also the main agricultural crop (Tope & Nonan-Mercado, 2002, p. 117). Rice was planted to over 4 billion hectares producing over 14 billion metric tons in 2005. Rice farming was also the main source of income and employment to 12 million farmers and family members in that year (Altoveros & Borromeo, 2007, p. 19). Meals are not complete for Filipinos unless rice is served with it.