It’s a known fact: Filipinos love to eat! You don’t believe me? Well, visit a Filipino home, and the first question they’ll ask, “Have you eaten?” Yes, it’s, in fact, their way of saying hello. Extremely hospitable and friendly, Filipinos will readily share their meal with you even if they have barely enough for themselves.
But don’t take advantage of their hospitality and friendliness. Remember that your hosts are humans too, and instilled in them are centuries of culture, tradition, morals, and beliefs. Thus, when dining with Filipinos in their home country of elsewhere, observe the following protocols:
* Unlike other Asian countries, Filipinos don’t use chopsticks to pick up their food. Instead, they use a spoon and fork. Use them, and don’t expect a knife to cut your steak. You won’t find a knife in a typical Filipino dining setup. To cut your food, use the edge of your spoon.
* In more informal setting such as picnics, you are expected to eat with your fingers. This is why you should wash your hands thoroughly before partaking of any food. Serving spoons are offered so you can scoop up food items to your plate where you pick them with your fingers. Never use your fingers to pick food from the main table.
* Don’t eat the last bit of food from a central serving plate. Filipinos usually leave the last bit of food in case someone hasn’t eaten yet.
* Don’t smoke while eating. There may be non-smokers with you.
* When invited for a dinner, it is actually a polite gesture to gently refuse at first. If they insist, then you can say yes. Take note too that when Filipinos invite someone, they might just do it in passing and are not really intent in inviting the person to eat with them.
* Do not eat until the oldest person in the table has been served and has begun eating. This is considered a sign of respect.
* Upon arriving at the restaurant or at the home of your host, you will be offered a seat. Stay there, and if you really need to change seats, ask your host first.
* It is bad manners to bring a friend, spouse, or loved one to dinner if they are not invited. Make it a rule of the thumb that when Filipinos invite you, it’s RSVP. If you wish to bring someone along, ask the permission of the host first.
* Generally, you don’t need to come on time. Filipinos have this weird concept of punctuality called Filipino time; you are not really late even if you arrive 15 to 30 minutes later. But that is actually frowned upon, especially in a business dinner. Better come on time.
* Usually, the host pays the bill. However, it is a polite gesture for you, as a guest, to shoulder part of the expenses of the meal.
Kain na tayo (Let’s eat) and enjoy the beauty of Filipino culture and hospitality.