From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."

Filipino Hospitality and Korean Thoughtfulness

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A foreigner who has been to the Philippines and has visited a typical Filipino family will most probably agree that Filipinos are one of the most hospitable people in the world.

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.

Full house… and more guests coming… ^^

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 husband’s cousin and his cousin’s family and friend were invited to celebrate Christmas Eve with us two years ago. It was their first time to have dinner with a Filipino family and they enjoyed all the food Mommy prepared. After dinner, they had a few San Migs and a barbecue party with my uncles.

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 boys and their beer… ^^

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.)

The “gangsters” playing tong-its with my “veteran” husband one lazy morning. ^^

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.

Our friend Chan bonding with my sister and my brother-in-law… while eating his favorite yellow mangoes… ^^

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.

Dried persimmons are sold in winter season and are usually given as Seollal present in Korea
.

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.

Traditional Korean snack gift set

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.

Some of the Seollal gift sets we received last year… ^^

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.

6 thoughts on “Filipino Hospitality and Korean Thoughtfulness

  1. so nice hope me too….

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  2. its so sad that A LOT of koreans are ILLEGALLY putting up businesses in the philippines and politicians are just ignoring this because of money that these “thoughtful” koreans are paying them under the table😦 its always on the news but nothing has been done. Koreans are using filipinos to front their businesses .sa sad😦

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  3. Thank you, John Arthur. ^^

    My blog is entitled FROM KOREA WITH LOVE, but actually, I would also like to talk about the “good side” of the Filipinos/Philippines. Tama ka, we should be proud of Filipino hospitality, and sana ito ang isang ugali ng Pinoy na hindi magbago. ^^

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  4. i so love your post..relating our own culture to the korean culture. I agree..we truly are hospitable. Filipino hospitality is one of the things we should be proud of.

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  5. Thanks, Ms. Brook. ^^ You have got to try yellow mangoes in the Philippines, too. My husband and my in-laws love them, but we can’t bring them here in Korea, so at times we buy dried mangoes to bring here instead.

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  6. Mangoes! While living in Malaysia in the mid-90s, we tried wonderful mangoes…sometimes sliced and eaten with papaya. So colorful and refreshing and just-right sweetness. One lady there said she liked “mangoes and sticky rice” and that sounds good, but I’ve never tried it.
    The expensive chocolate cake looks wonderfully decadent!
    What an inspiring piece about sharing food and kindness. *Thank you.*

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