If there’s one thing Filipinos are known for, it’s the hospitality we have. Growing up, we were grounded with principles that revolved around faith, family, and food, which are often defining components of any culture. Filipino food especially, is something that leaves an indelible mark on us. When uprooting ourselves to live in a different country, it’ll only be a matter of time before the nostalgia kicks in, and the craving starts for a mouth-puckering bowl of sinigang, or a clay pot of nutty kare-kare. Soon after comes the search for bright red, sugar-laden versions of birthday spaghetti, or colorful halo-halo to quench the thirst for home.
Living abroad can be a tough feat, especially for Filipinos who are exceptionally attached to families and friends. Take Barby Tan, for example, an interior designer who practiced freelance design in Manila for two and a half years, before moving to New York where she started working at an architecture firm. “After four years in the design industry, I decided to take the chance and pursue a path that would immerse me in a different experience of businesses and studying consumers, that intersected with my interest in food. It led me to where I am today, crafting coffee as a barista in Chicago.
“Being away from home for two and half years has taught me a lot. It can be intimidating to be a stranger in a whole new city, but I’m gratefully surprised and humbled by the kindness of other strangers. More than anything, I miss my favorite people, seeing my friends and family grow up back in Manila, but what I also miss is Filipino food! Certain vegetables, fruits, and home-cooked meals never fail to strike a nostalgic cord.
“Lengua cooked in either mushroom or tomato sauce, sinigangna bangus or sinigang na liempo in guava are just a few of the dishes that I’ll dig right into when I visit Manila again—also, my grandmother’s cooking, the best of which is crab cooked in coconut milk with talbos ng camote. Though there are many good options available around every corner—in Chicago, especially, as it’s one of the growing food cities in America—I think that once you’ve been exposed to a Filipino breakfast, there’s simply nothing that could replace the satisfaction of having daing na bangus with mounds of garlic rice, salted eggs, and tomatoes. Then, of course, there is the incomparable thrill of biting into freshly-popped chicharon and hearing it crack and sizzle when dipped in a bath of vinegar.
Barby (left) and her friend Roo
“Living abroad has taught me that whatever city or continent you’re in cannot limit how much you can grow. I’ve learned that much of life is determined by perspective, and people who want to learn will learn, and will do something about it. While I may be miles away from home, I take comfort in knowing that I have a full feast to look forward to, and of course, my family and favorite people to dine with.”
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All photos courtesy of Barby Tan.
How can you not miss food? Filipino food is surprisingly not known across the globe despite all the wonderful flavors it has to offer. When people ask me what it taste like, I can’t pin point a single description so instead, I would describe it having a mix of Chinese, Spanish and American influences. Here are a some of the dishes I miss back home, Adobo (braised pork or chicken in soy sauce and vinegar), sinigang (pork fish soup in vegetables), binagoongan(pork in shrimp paste) , liempo (grilled pork belly), tapa (cured beef), tocino(pork in a sweet marinade), longanisa(local sausage), kare-kare (mix of beef and veggies in peanut sauce), lechon (roast pig) and fresh seafood. Anywhere you are there is an outlet where you can enjoy most of these food in one place. Streets, Dampa (seafood market with a variety of kitchen/ restaurant where you can have your fresh seafood cooked the way you want it), food halls in malls and now a lot more hole in the wall restaurants are popping out.. and even better with the endless supply of tropical fruits everywhere. Need I say more?
2. Cheap transportation
I miss riding on tricycles, jeepneys, cheap taxis, buses and the MRT. There’s always a way to get from one place to another and its cheap!
I miss that you can just go in a place and find everything that you need. Malls in the Philippines are fully equipped with everything you can think of from groceries to department stores, bookstores, bowling alleys, cinema, restaurants, ice skating rinks, medical clinics, spas and a lot more, all in one spot.
4. Tagalog & all the variations of the language
How I miss speaking Tagalog and all its funny expressions. There are so much made up words and gay lingoes that makes the language even more enjoyable. I can never fully express myself unless I speak my own tongue.
5. The people
I miss them because they are truly the happiest people in the world, or so I think, not to mention their amiable character. I miss hearing jokes and funny remarks about, pretty much anything. It’s usually not easy to understand and you may need a local’s interpretation for you to fully comprehend their humor but you’re definitely in for a good laugh.
I miss the convenience of cheap shopping, Tiendesita, Greenhills, Fort Christmas bazaars, 99 stores. They’re all up to date with the latest fashion and most of them are cheap and affordable.
7. The beaches
I miss going to the beaches in the Philippines where I am not questioned whether or not I know how to swim because not being able to swim is normal. I miss how nobody cares about taking a million selfies in the ocean, no one will ever judge you because everyone is doing the same thing. The array of beaches to choose from, white sand, gray sand, black sand and beautiful landscapes. Some even a stones throw away from your house. Boracay, Cebu, Palawan, Bohol and now so much more places to discover.
8. My family & extended families
I miss spending time with my family and my cousins and every other far relatives that comes in our houses whenever there’s a birthday or any special occasion. It’s always more fun in the Philippines.
9. My friends
I miss hanging out with the same people every week, where I don’t have to keep introducing myself or telling my story. I miss my girlfriends who I can share occasional weirdness and I can confide in and have deeper conversations with.