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Learn About The Roots Of Filipino Cuisine From “The Food That We Are” With Chef Tatung

Catch this returning food show on Metro Channel, which delves into the history and heart of our food and cuisine

Most of us grew up eating and cooking Filipino food, but truthfully, our knowledge about our own cuisine barely scratches the surface of our diverse and rich culinary culture. Because sprawled across the more than 7,107 islands of the Philippines are different communities and ethnic groups with their own language, produce, way of life, and of course, food.

With the sheer size of food knowledge to be unearthed from both our history and traditions, Chef Tatung Sarthou embarked on a mission to learn about what lies at the core of Philippine cooking—and that meant discovering the ways of our ancestors, learning about the local produce, and going from province to province, talking to people and tasting the many flavors that each community has to offer.

As a result of his extensive research and journey, he came up with Philippine Cookery: From Heart to Platter, now a bestselling and award-winning book with ABS-CBN Books (then ABS-CBN Publishing), to share his learnings with chefs and cooking enthusiasts all over the country.

Philippine Cookery: From Heart to Platter - Kindle edition

  • Philippine Cookery: From Heart to Platter - Kindle edition

Born from this book is a special mini-series titled The Food That We Are, where Chef Tatung is joined by food experts to dice up and serve their food knowledge in bite-sized portions, for easy and enticing viewing.

The first episode of this four-part special opens with a glimpse at the roots of Philippine cuisine—what kind of food our ancestors planted and harvested, how it was cooked, and how it was translated to what we know now as a regular Filipino fare. In this episode, Chef Tatung is joined by three food experts who helps him explain our food history: Jack Medrana, food archaeologist; Felice Prudente Santa Maria, food historian; and Dr. Fernando Zialcita, anthropologist.

Did you know that root crops and grain crops were the very foundations of our cuisine? Did you know that before pots were available, our ancestors used to cook rice in bamboo shoots? Did you know that we have so many varieties of rice because Filipinos then had to adapt and cultivate different types of rice so they can plant it depending on their location and season?

There are so many learnings to be had from the first episode alone, from why the coconut is called the tree of life, to the roots of the SuTuKil fare in Cebu, a combination of Sugba (grilled), Tuwa (simmered in broth) and Kilaw (kinilaw or eaten raw) dishes that dates back to what Rajah Humabon served to Magellan when he first arrived in the Philippines.

Grab Your Smartphone And Start Cooking—The Search For The Best Home Cook Is On!


Grab Your Smartphone And Start Cooking—The Search For The Best Home Cook Is On!

Food as a part of our culture

Talking about the importance of looking back and examining our traditions, Chef Tatung says, “If we connect back to our earth and we connect to our nature as Filipinos, we will be able to present a cuisine that not only resonates among us but with the rest of the world.”

He adds, “This show is close to my heart because I am passionate about Philippine cuisine. I want Filipinos to appreciate the vibrant culture and history of how our delectable dishes came to be through this in-depth exploration.”

Felice, who also appears in this episode, emphasizes how three Filipino words explain how anchored our culture is in our food: ginhawa, higara, and naya-naya. According to Felice, in Filipino, ginhawa translates to many things: well-being, spirit of life, and well-being from eating well. She also cites the word higara from Samar, Leyte, which says “we like to eat with people,” or “we don’t like to eat alone.” This emphasizes how important eating is in Philippine culture.

Her favorite, however, is naya-naya, a Hiligaynon word used back in the 1800s that means two things: one, to serve a table or give food to people; and two, to be a happy person. When the two meanings are put together, it makes for a great basis for Philippine hospitality. “It’s the fact that serving people food makes us happy. And that should make the people we are serving happy, as well,” she explains.

Filipino cuisine is indeed a vibrant and rich cuisine, born from our lands and the seasons. And there is much to explore and discover about it—which is a journey you can start embarking on with The Food That We Are.

La Bulakeña Turon


La Bulakeña Turon

Watch The Food That We Are, premiering on July 4, Saturday, 5:30 p.m. on iWant, Youtube, and Metro Channel, channel 52 on Sky Cable and channel 174 on HD.

Lead photo from Edible and A Family Feast