Last Saturday, my family, as in the entire De Jesus clan, gathered at my lolo and lola’s old house for brunch in celebration of (holds his breath) 3 birthdays, a despedida and a bienvenida. And since my family is a family of foodies, breakfast was chosen as the best meal of the day where could feature our talents (and of course, taste) in the fine confections of the first meal of the day.
Typically, Filipino families of good pedigree are exposed to breakfasts that are generally continental: breads, jams, cheeses and cereals as well as different cold cuts and fresh fruits. However, some Filipinos have also developed, through the decades, unique and pleasurable breakfast fares that can attest to the people’s Spanish, American and native culture and history. Filipino breakfasts, like Filipino lunch and dinner meals, are savory, colorful and of course, heavy. A day of heat, labor and unpredictability demands a heavy breakfast and the Filipino does not fail in that respect.
First, there are the American dishes. The ubiquitous corned beef (whatever brand) is served best if it is guisado, complete with garlic, onions and potatoes. There is also the red hotdogs, either cocktail or large, tempting due to its red coloring. The Virginia ham also has appealed to the palette of the majority of Filipinos. All of these are eaten with the Filipino sinangag, which is left-over rice that is fried in oil and garlic or with pan de sal, the Filipino staple bread. If one is truly to be American, then one can also buy some Pan Americano or the more available tasty bread.
On the other hand, there are also some Filipinos, usually from the old rich families, who would opt for Spanish or Fil-Hispanic breakfasts. Composed of Spanish sardines, pan de sal, different kinds of cheese and the jamon curado and different chorizos usually brought home by relatives from the Mother Country (well, nowadays, bought from Rustan’s or S&R!), Spanish breakfasts are usually light, and thus, not favored by the majority of Filipinos. This is also viewed as too much “burgis”.
However, the Filipino dishes of breakfast are those, which really stand out. The dried fish (sometimes referred as bulad or tuyo) is fried and eaten with a sawsawan of vinegar with sili, paminta, sibuyas and bawang. There is also the longganisa or what some believe is the Filipinos’ version of Spain’s chorizo. The longganisa though is unique and its different flavors vary in comparison with the Spanish counterparts. It has the best variations from the towns of Ilocos (e.g. Vigan and Laoag), Pangasinan (e.g. Alaminos), Tuguegarao (which is known to have derecado or very garlicky ones) and Lucban, Quezon that SHOULD all be eaten with the sawsawan of sukang Iloco, a kind of vinegar that is deep in hue but rich in flavor or the Visayan’s orange-colored pinakurat. If you don’t have access to these, then make sure your vinegar is infused with the flavors of sili, paminta, sibuyas and bawang. There is also the red colored cured meat, tocino, which can roughly be derived from the Spanish tocino de pancheta or pork belly. Succulent and sweet, these strips of pork fat seduce any foodie with its fatty edges. Again, this should be eaten with vinegar. Then, there are the different kinds of tinapa (smoked) meats and fish. All of these are best eaten with a heap of hot, steaming garlicky sinangag or fried left-over rice, a dish that speaks of the Filipino’s value for food and commendable fear of wastage.
There are also the different kinds of native rice cakes or kakanin, that are delectable and pleasing to the eyes. There are so many kinds of kakanins in the country, granted that it is an agricultural and rice-loving people.
But is it simply wise to discriminate and categorize? I think not.\
At the end of the day, it is the Filipino who has cooked, is cooking and will continue cooking all these rich dishes for his Filipino family. In the end, it is at the table of the Filipino that this fusion, if not, revolution of breakfast dishes that will identify that which is Filipino. The corned beef served with the pan de sal, the daing na bangus served with chorizo from Bilbao and sinangag and the suman taken with a cup of hot chocolate, is the Filipino breakfast.
It is not American, Spanish or Asian. It is Filipino.
For family’s breakfast, we had the following: Chicken adobo, bacalao (a traditional Spanish fish dish that was also usually present in the homes of Filipinos on special occasions), sinangag na tinapa, paksiw na bangus, home-made cured jamon, French toast, bread pudding, two home-made freshly baked loaves of bread, pan de sal, butter, ensalada (with tomatoes, onions and itlog na pula), omelets, cheeses, fresh fruits such as mangoes, melons, pineapples and bananas, Peruvian coffee and carabao’s milk. The milk, the fruits and the vegetables used all came from the family farm from Bicol.
Such is the beauty of meals such as breakfast. Fresh, refreshing and most of all, culturally rooted. There were no canned goods, there were no instant meals cooked in the microwave nor ordered dishes. All home-made, all grown in the family farm, all Filipino.