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February 17, 2009

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Tony did the Philippines right.

Marketman is a Svengali with the pig. I'm an American born Fil/Am and also know how it feels visiting the Philippines. Sensory overload.

Tony showed real class visiting the dry fish market. When my wife took me there last winter (same one in Cebu) I would not get out of the AC van. That place smells like something dead...

Reality always seems to fall just a bit short of high expectations and they were in the atmosphere for this episode. Still, we thought it was a very good show and I enjoyed seeing the faces behind the familiar names of Claude Tayag and MarketMan.

Because I study the relationship between food and identity, I loved how Bourdain tried to probe the issue of Pinoy ID, and the answers from his guides only touched on the matter. I was a bit disappointed, though, that the show didn't really capture the incredibly celebratory spirit of Filipinos! Everyone seemed so subdued - where was the energy that makes any large family gathering a giant par-tay?

As for the food, everything looked great - the goat bile soup was new to me - but it goes to show that the depth of Filipino cuisine is so great that only the surface was skimmed.

Next time, Marvin, you should be the one to take Bourdain around! In the meantime, I'm going to order some pig's face and make us som sizzlin' sisig!!

Great looking dishes and I have yet to watch the episodes!

Hi Marvin, I finally downloaded the episode from itunes and enjoyed it. For the Cebu section with Marketman & Crew alone, the crew shot some 20+ HOURS of video and that was boiled down to 8-10 MINUTES. So it's hard to understand what made it in and what didn't. But overall, I thought they did a pretty nice job for an hour show... And yes, I am on cloud 9 as Tony was extremely complimentary with respect to the lechons... :)

@Tangled:

I'm glad I wasn't the only one saying that - those were some subdued Filipinos.

omg! i loved it! its on my DVR! hahahaha just like andrew zimmerm's visit, though it cant be compared. it was like walking down memory lane for me for some parts, huhuhu TToTT
oh but that comment about pampanga really ticked me off! wtf!? i also mentioned it in tonys blog, haha i sound like b*&%@.
anyway, marketman! im a big fan! before and now. i lurk your blog! good job also!
im glad tony did this episode, im off to watch it again!

Marvin, my initial thoughts are the same as yours. I thought Marketman and Claude Tayag were great, and I think this episode may set up future visits to the Philippines.

However, although I can relate to Augusto's Fil-Am experience almost perfectly, I would never have put myself up as a representative of the Philippines or its cuisine, and I've been there more times than Augusto. I'm glad he stepped up to get Bourdain to finally go to the Philippines, but as a guide, I thought he was ineffective. It was like the opposite of the Korea episode. Bourdain's assistant Nari, while American, had strong ties to Korea and the food, as well as a truly compelling family story.

Of course, Augusto's story did set up Bourdain's take on Filipinos and identity that closed the show, but I would have preferred it to focus more on the food than Augusto's search for his culture.

I did buy the episode from iTunes and will be watching and writing more later...

It was a trip hearing Tony say pinakbet. I wanna go back so bad!

I agree with everyone's comments, especially with Arnold's comment on the show's focus during Augusto's segment. I certainly sympathize with Augusto and share many similarities with his situation, but it brought an awkwardness to the show when I just wanted to see the food. However, I wish Augusto well and hope he got what he wanted out of that particular trip "home". (And what a cute baby he has!)

I appreciate the enthusiasm each host displayed for their respective dishes and the fact that the show tried to cover different regions, though in a broad fashion.

I think Filipino cuisine doesn't get as much respect because, in my experience, much of the food known to outsiders are cheapened, greasy fast-food versions of real Filipino food. I don't know too many Filipino eateries in NorCal that are above the scale of, say, Goldilocks or the Mom-n-Pop type places that only Filipinos really care to enter. And I've seen some pretty poor attempts at fusion-style restaurants that try to incorporate the more popular Filipino dishes. If there were more places like Patio Filipino in San Bruno that presented our food with more respect and higher quality, who knows? We might see an upswing much like all these Thai places popping up everywhere (at least when there's also an upswing in the economy).

I'll end this by saying: those are some delicious-looking recipes that I need to try!

Just stumbled in here after visiting Anthony Bourdain's blog then pinoylife.com. Great sites btw (I'll definitely start frequenting on the regular).

I think it was a fantastic take on the Philippines and I've learned over the past few seasons of NR that Anthony is a writer and deep-thinker. It's not just about the food. The food is put into context of the greater culture-at-large. Impulsively, I just want the "food-porn" on all the shows and him to glowingly rave about how beautiful everything is and delicious all the food is in the Philippines. But he's done so many shows... eaten the most extravagant and amazing things around the world, so I understand why he goes beyond the surface B-roll shots of beaches and focusing just on food here and there. I appreciate his honest and deeply thought-out take on the Philippines. I'm just happy when the Philippines is showcased for the world. I was excitedly nervous as the show finally started. Like everyone else, felt a little awkward during Augusto's piece. Triumphant during Marketman's lechon piece. Relieved and proud as Anthony summed up the show in the end.

I believe Filipino cusine will have a higher profile some day... between this show, all the chefs on Top Chef that have a Philippine link, the first White House Executive Chef (under the Bushes) having been a Filipina, etc. I guess we just need more Filipinos outside of the Philippines to make their good food and open some restaurants. We need to frequent those restaurants to support them and keep them going as non-Filipinos can start venturing in and getting hooked.

I have to agree with Arnold's post above. Overall I enjoyed the episode, especially Marketman and Claude's segments. But I felt the shift towards Augusto's story was unnecessary. I'm a Filipino-American, too, so I understand where he's coming from. But I wouldn't want to be Tony's guide in the Philippines. Leave it to the locals to guide him.

There were some great scenes, though. Tony eating sisig and drinking beer with the guys. Marketman and lechon. I think many of us are just overanalyzing the show because we've been hoping for a Philippines episode for a long time. Ultimately, I would love to see him return for a second episode. To focus more on the food and less on personal stories. To travel to smaller villages. To go during festivals. There's so much more to the Philippines than what was shown in one episode.

To me the episode was okay. I'll call it the way I see it.

1. Augusto's story in a way had a negative effect.
2. Some of the hosts were a bit boring.
3. It would have been nice if some of the hosts were a bit more informative.
4. Perceived lack of enthusiasm
5. Lack of that family joy that Filipino families demonstrate.
6. Lack of insight into the techniques used to properly cook Pinoy dishes.

Despite the above I think the episode was adequate. If there's one thing I was really dissappointed at, it was that the hosts failed to express what unified us Filipinos in terms of culture and food. There was too much emphasis on diversity and regionalism. That's all fine and good but that unifying factor that made the Philippines the Philippines and us Filipinos who we are was missing or wasn't also emphasized. Identity became the predominant theme, but it was skewed to one side ... it came out as if we had no identity or lacked one. Watching the ep, you also didn't get that feeling of warmth and hospitality that we Filipinos are known for. All those things that gave us an identity (love of family, friendliness, hospitality, togetherness through sharing of food, resourcefulness, etc.) weren't emphasised as much. That was sorely missing in the episode.

To be fair, I respect Augusto for putting himself out there. It's not easy being in front of cameras, in front of thousands of Filipinos watching and analyzing every moment. Just think about how you would feel in his shoes.
Remember that the editors have a lot of power in this show, and it seems that they decided to put Augusto in the spotlight. He did the best he could and I'm sure his family is proud of him.

I wish I could comment but I haven't seen it! :( I will have to wrangle a copy of the episode somehow! Having tasted "the best lechon ever" I am pretty excited to see it!

As a half Caucasian Fil/Am I can relate to Augusto’s feelings of “ethnicity” or lack there of.

I’ve visited Cebu twice and both times there was a disconnect. I don’t speak the language so sometimes all I can do is sit and smile, wondering “What’s going on?”

Augusto did a great job enticing Tony. Marketman and the rest of his guides closed the deal.

Note to Tony, future NR episode: Bourdain wading ashore on the beach in Leyte with Augusto (wearing a campaign helmet) at his side. They stride to the beach and Tony, with his hands on his hips, declares “I have returned”.

augusto certainly piqued anthony b's interest in finally making a stop in manila but the production of this episode was...boring. manila looked, well, ugly. ivan mandy and claude were boring. it didn't help that there was so much emphasis with augusto. at least the cebu episode showed a little of the lushness of the country. but i blame the editing and the concept behind the segment, not the principals. all in all, the show defined that cebu lechon was tops!

Argh! I missed this!! Where can I download the videos?

I missed half of it. I thought I missed all of it till someone turned on the TV and I realized I was off on the sked :P
I was disappointed. While I can certainly understand the desire to keep the eating environment socially sterile and "elite" for a celebrity, it's not what the Philippines is about. At least not the Philippines I'm used to. There should be a fuss. Karaoke. Mothers forcibly pushing their kids to AB for "mano". The help swatting away flies from the food. A side-table of antisocial men drinking and seemingly eating a different subset of food. Dogs eating bones thrown on the sand. Though a producer might be concerned that it'd look too contrived, it's not at all. Fuss is natural. As it was, it was kind of boring, sigh. At least the food looked good?

As they were stuffing that pig for roasting, I literally got pangs in my chest because I knew how good it was going to be!

But how come they always make it seem like it only takes 45 minutes to roast? That thing must have taken all day, with that guy spinning it over the coals.

The episode was a winner, if only for AB totally lovin' the sisig! And he washed his meals down with San Miguel Beer...I think I love this man now LOL! This is the first time I've seen the show, and I seriously appreciated how "into" the country, culture, and food AB was. His staff took time out to do their historical research, and it seems to me that they picked the perfect local foodies--Claude Tayag was an excellent choice. The show was done with a lot of respect, which might sound weird, but it's turning me into a fan of AB's show, so it's all good right?

And YAY @ Cebu lechon being declared the best roast pig ever! Can't wait to watch the episode again with the hubby...thank you TiVo!

I enjoyed the show immensely including Augusto's segment. My daughter in particular said she can relate to Augusto totally. I watch reruns of AB's show but I'm not really a big fan...this episode might change my mind though.:)

I watched this show with anticipation, and in the end, I felt sad. Mainly because the whole bit that Anthony stated on the disconnect of Fil-Ams from the Filipino culture struck a cord. My grandparents immigrated, and while they kept the food in our household, my mom and uncle did not learn the language or culture. I'm as culturally bland as can be. I visited for two weeks back when I was 14, and I couldn't appreciate it for what it was.
Maybe it's something you grow into and learn to embrace, rather than hide in the one room with air conditioning. I want to learn more about this land, but it's hard getting information out of my grandparents, as old as they're getting. Food is the easiest thing to transport and in a way, the easiest thing to hide. Accents can stay around forever, but you can hide the pancit and the smell of kalamansi at home. I think a lot of what Filipinos faced when immigrating to America was adapting to the culture.
I don't blame this attitude, because it's hard being the new guy in a foreign country that's now your home, but probably that attitude allows for the influences to fall to the wayside. That's why when America looks for exotic, they embrace sushi and pho instead of sisig. It probably doesn't help that we really like our pig, and it hasn't had its share of good press with the nutritionists. ^^;
Of course, there was always more that could have been covered, and they are shooting for the average Joe who will probably never end up in the Philippines, but it was a bittersweet taste of home. I hope Augusto takes comfort, at least, in the fact that he's not alone.

well i thought it was an ok episode, but my gf (who is from pampanga/manila) was kinda dissappointed. she felt that he missed A LOT of stuff that wud have been nice to see. also he ate a lot of the same dishes multiple times, where we wud have liked to see a little more variety. another thing that we both noticed was that the hsot for the manila segment didnt really seem to know what he was talking about...like all his knowledge came out of a tourist pamphlet haha. wudda liked ot see some jeepnee and tricycle rides too. all in all a decent episode tho

I think Tony did the best he could with just an hour of show (less with commercials--something like 45 minutes, maybe?). You did get the sense that the PI has a wide scope of foods, and one of the host's wives even mentioned that no two houses or restaurants prepared one dish the same way--everyone has a family recipe. I liked that he stayed away from the really touristy stuff and instead focused on the cuisine (sometimes, he goes to places where food really takes a backseat).

The Augusto part really hit home for me. I feel that way even during family gatherings in SoCal, especially as one of the few cousins who doesn't speak Tagalog or Ilocano and who's never been to the Philippines.

As for why it Filipino food hasn't launched in the states, I wonder if it's because Filipinos themselves remain marginalized. There aren't any Filipino-towns to nurture Filipino restaurants or to act as homebase for Filipinos wanting to connect to their culture. Those cultural connections have had to be nurtured at home, with the relatives. Here in Phoenix, when I want Filipino food, I have to drive half an hour in one direction or the other to get to a Filipino restaurant, and those places rarely have steady business.

I am Sardinia-Algerian-English. All of me friends growing up were Filipinos and let me say, I rarely at a home. It was their house for dinner every other night. That is some of the best food on the planet...period!

I want Filipino food now. Period. do I have to marry a Filipina to get it? I'll support her shopping habit, go on vacations, movies, dining out .........anything, just get me some Filipino food now please! Thank you!

i watched part of the show, the reason the pinoys including Agosto were subdued ay because they are relatives but barely know each other. August only remembered those relatives when he got pick to host Tony in P.I.
My advice to August is: Remember your relatives in the Philippines even if you are succesful in america...

I really enjoyed the episode and the local foodies/hosts they got did a great job. I think Augusto's family was a bit subdued than most filipino families (mine included) but maybe they were just uncomfortable w/ all the cameras? Anyway, that lechon skin's crackle made it all worth it. BEST PIG EVER. Woo hoo!

Posted by: niknok | February 20, 2009 at 06:10 PM

"My advice to August is: Remember your relatives in the Philippines even if you are succesful in america..."

Balikbayan box Augusto, BB!

"The best pig ever!"... totally made my day (or night).... I am from Cebu and I am proud of it! :oD

"The best pig ever!"... totally made my day (or night).... I am from Cebu and I am proud of it! :oD

Bourdain's comment about Cebu's lechon totally made my day (or night)... I'm from Cebu and I know how good our lechon is! Glad we made it to Bourdain's Hall of Pigs.. LOL

Glad to hear about filipino stuff in this post.

-Stephanie

I think the Philippines is more marginalized as compared to other SE Asian counties for at least two reasons in my opinion.

1)First off, even though there is a large Filipino community in America and elsewhere, Filipinos are more likely to adapt to their host countries than many other Asian immigrants (as said in the show). Americans will experience some of the culture through the immigrants. Chinese immigrants have Chinatowns in America, and a good amount speak the language. But Filipinos in comparison do not spread around their culture like other Asian groups and many Fil-Ams do not speak Tagalog very well. Many of the host countries don't know what to expect when it comes to the Philippines because of this.

2) Some people sometimes assume that the since the Philippines' culture is westernized more than other Asian countries, that its not going to offer anything as exotic as Thailand, Korea, Japan, etc. However, a good amount of Eastern Asians (Koreans and Japanese notably) visit the Philippines for vacation. So although its not really noticed in Western countries, its a little more recognized in Asia for being a good vacation spot.

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