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Philippine Food Fun This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I ate a live chick. Well, at least one that was three days away from hatching. I had just moved from Brazil to the Philippines with my missionary family. Arriving in a bustling airport full of tricycles (motorcycles with a cab attached to the side) and hawking vendors selling everything from Chinese toys to high-tech Japanese cell phones was a completely new experience for me. A strange-looking man tried to persuade me to buy a bowl of soup with large bones I was sure must have come from an exotic fish. With my fingers holding my nose tight, I made my way to the exit, but my adventures were just beginning.

After spending a few days at the mission base in Manila, we received our first assignment: Baguio, a remote city in the north. Great, I thought, we get to live in the mountains. And I thought that the Philippines was a tropical country. As we arrived at the house, I was excited to think I would be using the Internet again. I had no idea how wrong I was. Six months with no Internet!

Despite this setback, on my first day I had a very delicious lunch: chicken adobo. I loved it, but I wasn't sure that all Philippine food would be this good. And I was right. When we went to live with my mother's relatives on the island of Masbate, it was a frightful food experience.

Standard breakfast: dilis (tiny fish) and coffee at 6:00 a.m.

Lunch: more fish, rice, and some soy sauce.

Dinner: more fish, this time cleverly disguised as sinigang, a weird name for weird fish soup.

Doritos? Pringles? Forget it. If I wanted a snack, I was told to pick a green mango and put salt on it.

Then my family hopped to the next island, Cebu. Here, I admit, is where I ate foods that would make most Americans faint. Returning home after a long day of missionary work, my dad and I bought some barbecue from a street vendor. Big mistake. After eating, my dad asked what it was. I wish he hadn't. “Dog meat,” replied the vendor with a toothy smile, “with pork eyes.” I almost vomited.

I thought nothing could be worse, but I was wrong. During a Chinese New Year festival my family attended, my brother and I served ourselves and started eating with relish. The friendly Chinese hostess walked by and exclaimed, “Wow, you're eating that!”

“Er, what is it?” we asked with a slight fluttering in our bellies.

“Beans” – we were relieved to hear, but she hadn't finished – “in pork blood.” We threw the rest in the trash when she walked away.

One day during breakfast with relatives, we were served something that looked suspiciously like a fried egg mixed with food coloring, and so we ate it. When asked what it was, my aunt replied, “It's called balut.” I later found out this is an egg that is fried three days before it hatches. I had eaten it. Nasty.

But not everything was slightly inedible, according to Western standards. One food I really enjoyed was halo-halo which is basically grated ice mixed with sweet beans and an assortment of other unknown ingredients. Chuck three balls of ice cream under it and you have a cold, delicious God-sent snack.

Despite all of the strange and definitely exotic foods, I would love to return to the Philippines (I am currently living in Brazil). It was there that I learned that food is food; sometimes you can't do anything but eat it. There are probably many other types of food that I didn't get to try during the three-and-a-half years I lived there, and I'd like to taste it all. Call me crazy, but that's what culture is all about: you need to experience every aspect before you judge and say, “That's gross!” And that's what Philippine food is all about: strange, exotic, delicious, nasty, and just plain fun!

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 9 comments. Post your own now!

Mr. Stew said...
May 2, 2013 at 10:03 pm
Congrats!!! It's fun to see this again!
 
annikamreyes said...
Dec. 5, 2012 at 11:23 pm
There are many food in PH. If you are not particular standing up, you might want to visit mercato centrale in the fort or mezza norte near University of the Philippines. There's also one in Cubao.  I hope you enjoyed your stay here!   Cheers, Annika charmee.com.ph
 
Sofie_Orlet said...
Nov. 26, 2011 at 5:04 pm
Noel! I really enjoyed reading this! So many things about the philippines I had forgotten, and you brought them all back. You are a great writer, I even chuckled a time or two. Keep posting! So proud of you!
 
Noel_OrletThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Oct. 9, 2013 at 1:07 pm
Really?! You chuckled?! Thanks...!
 
LifesIllusion said...
Nov. 25, 2011 at 7:18 pm
I love your voice in this article! I felt like I was sitting down with you and you were telling me your story. The only thing I can critique is the amount of detail you give the readers. I just wish i got to hear more of your eating werid food stories. But other then that....perfecto!
 
FreedomIsMyVirtue said...
Nov. 2, 2011 at 11:35 pm
I just came across this article when I saw Philippines on the title. By the way, I'm from the Philippines.

But I love this article. Well, Filipinos are actually fond of eating and we have a very big appetite. We eat healthy to unhealthy to food you wouldn't even think edible. We eat almost anything.

I love this article and it is very well written. Hope you enjoy your next tour :)
 
Sara PI said...
Aug. 7, 2011 at 11:02 am

 Great job Noel, God bless you! Those are our days of travelling, witnessing and meeting many Filipinos who are in great need of Jesus' love and salvation! And at the same time you learned so much about their culture, get to know them on a personal level.

Keep going for God! Keep writing articles to enhance your writing ability as well! Praying for you!

 

 
JamieNicole replied...
Nov. 25, 2011 at 4:05 pm
Noel I love it! amazing!
 
Noel_OrletThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 3, 2013 at 9:43 am
Thanks! I'm trying to gather the enthusiasm to write a similar article based off of Brazilian foods, and I hope to post it soon! Once again, thanks everyone for all the constructive criticism and acclaim! :)
 
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