We get this all the time. Foreigners in the workplace telling us that Filipinos tend to eat every so often. Lunch is no sandwich and a fruit. Neither is it a half hour break. Naaaah. That one hour lunch break can easily stretch to a couple of hours, often blaming the traffic for not getting back soon enough. These days, there are many joints a walking distance from the offices. But lunch is lunch, and every Filipino observes it not just as a break from work but also as a chance to chat away the blues and break the monotony of working behind a desk. As for snacks or mid-day “mini-meals”? That’s when it is more likely to find Filipinos eating that sandwich or fruit. But the hardcore ones would still crave for their carbo fix: a noodle dish, rice porridge or rice cakes. In between lunch and that midday mini-meal, don’t be surprised to find them munching peanuts, pork cracklings, chips, or splitting pumpkin seeds.
Luckily for us, there is no shortage of food to be found and bought. Stuck in a traffic jam? No worries. The street vendors plying the main roads sell anything from peanuts to pork cracklings to boiled eggs to mint candies to fruits to bottled water to “fish balls, squid balls and shrimp balls”. Boiled bananas, boiled peanuts, even corn on the cob! Walking the streets of Manila is an adventure. Every tourist should try this. Buying street food is very much a part of every Filipino’s way of life. And there’s more to be found in urban centers like Manila, where folks are supposed to be “busier” than their counterparts in the provinces who may have the time and energy to cook their own meals and snacks.
As it is summer, try going to San Andres Market, a stone’s throw from Malate Church. You can get your freshest fruits here to eat, or to be made into a fruit shake. You can’t go wrong with a 10 peso fruit shake (less than US $0.25) or the local “halo-halo” (literally means “mix-mix”) for 20 pesos (less than US$0.50). I strongly suggest you try the halo-halo which is a mixture of sweetened fruits, ice shavings and milk, topped with a local sweetened ube yam. You can’t be more Filipino than that!
Or you may want to head all the way to Chinatown for your dimsum fix and other foodstuff. The street vendors here range from those selling fruits, vegetables and cooked food to those selling almost anything you need to get from an honest-to-goodness hardware and supermarket. Around Quiapo Church, you can buy your religious icons, candles, fans (strongly suggested on hot, humid days) , flower garlands, brooms (yes, brooms), fruits, vegetables , squash flowers, and fish (live, dead, smoked or dried!). From Quiapo Church through Santa Cruz Church to Binondo Church, you will find street stalls selling footwear, garments and again, more foodstuff. There is an alley near the Binondo Church called Carvajal where I wanted to buy almost everything I laid my eyes on! Forget the diet. There is so much to buy here to take home as TV dinners. Sushi? Taho? Meat loaf? Rice cakes?
You may also want to check out more photos from my TravelBlog site.