Filipinos like to make their guests “feel at home”. We serve them the best Filipino food we can cook; give them the coziest room in the house to sleep in; offer assistance or help every now and then.
Last week, one of my husband’s friends had a 5-day vacation in the Philippines. He has met my family a few times before, so when my Mom learned that he was coming to Pampanga (my hometown), the very first thing that she asked me was: “What is Chan’s favorite Filipino food?” Mom is known for being not only a great cook, but also for being the most accommodating person you will ever meet, so when she invited Chan to have dinner in the house, he got very excited and accepted the invitation right away.
When a Filipino invites a guest for lunch or dinner, it is normal for the host to ask what kind of food the guest fancies. The host wants the guest to EAT and ENJOY, so the former prepares the food requested by the latter. During the meal, the host may even put the best piece of meat on the guest’s plate or refill the guest’s empty plate. To some foreigners, this may be a gracious act, but to some, this can be awkward. If a Filipino host keeps offering you food but you are too full that you can’t eat anymore, it would not be a sin if you refuse it or simply say, “No, thank you. I am full.” DO NOT LEAVE MOST OF THE FOOD ON YOUR PLATE UNEATEN. The host might think that you didn’t like the food. Also, leaving food on your plate may seem rude, especially to a Filipino family that’s not well off and had spent most of their month’s earning just to prepare a sumptuous meal for you.
My Mom knows how Koreans love barbecue party and San Miguel beer, so she prepared different kinds of barbecue for Chan and had my cousin do the grilling. My brother-in-law bought some beer. My uncles got the “drinking place” ready. (Mom has this rule: NO DRINKING IN THE HOUSE, so drinking is usually done in the garage. Vehicles are moved to the garden; a table and some chairs are placed in the garage.)
The men in the family stayed home to welcome the guest and join him in drinking after dinner. In the Philippines, the entire family is involved in “entertaining” the guest. If you happen to stay in a barrio (rural village), other male neighbors may also join the “drinking party“. Lucky for Chan, our family lives in a private subdivision, so he didn’t have to drink with strangers in the neighborhood. (Filipina women don’t usually join men in drinking. This is not the case in Korea.)
When the men finished drinking and Chan called it a day, my brother-in-law offered to take him to the place where he was staying.
When Chan came back to Korea, he had only good things to say about how warmly he was received by my family although my husband and I were not there with him.
On the other hand, my family was impressed with our Korean friend’s thoughtfulness. When my cousin Bart (A.K.A. Jumong among Koreans because of his long hair) picked up Chan from the airport, Chan asked to be taken straight to my family’s house. We asked him to bring some Korean tea, medicine and other things for my family, which we didn’t expect that he would deliver right away. (Those were two big paper bags and he brought them all.^^) Aside from those, he brought his own “pasalubong” (homecoming gift) for Mom and the family: a cosmetic set for Mom and assorted chocolates and cookies for the family. When Mom met him by the door, he gave her the presents first and even used the word “pasalubong”. Most Koreans who have been to the Philippines know the word “pasalubong”. They also have this tradition of bringing some 선물 (gift) when they visit a family. When Chan came to my family’s house for dinner, he brought the biggest and the most expensive cake he found in Red Ribbon. My husband’s other friends, too, would always bring something for us every time they come to our house here in Korea. At first, I thought it was just my husband’s way of wooing me and my family, so he would bring presents for almost every member of the family when he came to visit me in the Philippines, but later on, when I have met his friends and other Koreans (like my adult ESL students), I realized how thoughtful Koreans truly are… and they just don’t give any gift… they give the BEST gift. If Filipinos don’t mind spending too much to prepare the best and the most appetizing dishes for our guest, Koreans don’t mind spending too much on a present.
Every time my husband and I have our vacation in the Philippines, my parents-in-law give us a load of things to bring for Mom and the family. (My husband always complains because we always have too many things to carry.) Two years ago, the in-laws asked us to bring a crate of dried persimmons, a box of sea laver and a bag of fresh chestnuts. (You can just imagine how heavy those chestnuts were! Good thing we didn’t have to pay for extra baggage.) Last year, they gave a box of expensive dried fish, another box of sea laver and kimchi. (Yup, my family is crazy about kimchi. ^^) Omonim was asking me to bring preserved squid and other salt-cured sea food, but hubby said they might not be allowed in the airport, so we didn’t bring them.
On 추석 (Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving Day) and 설날 (Seollal or Lunar New Year), my parents-in-law send gifts to my 형님’s (sister-in-law) family, too. In return, they are given pricey presents such as traditional Korean snacks or rice cakes, fresh Korean beef and boxes of fruit. You’ll be surprised how much Koreans are willing to spend for a Chuseok or a Seollal present.
It’s going to be Chuseok in a few months, and I’m sure that the veranda in the house is going to be filled with gifts and goodies from family and friends, as well as from the companies we work for.
As for me and my husband, it’s about time we save up for Chuseok and start thinking of what gifts to give his parents.
- What is a Filipino?: A reaction on the question of race (maribetholiver.info)
- What I Miss in Pinas (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Filipinos Love to Party (thefeistsgreatescape.wordpress.com)
- Things I Do in Korea that I Never Did in Pinas (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Filipinos Seeking Jobs in Korea (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)