Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Pinoy Popular Food Culture So far…

So far I haven’t actually had a bad meal in the Philippines yet. I think I have a good balance of eating out and cooking at home. Convenience is key to Pinoys. Most families who can afford it have cooks, family’s and friends dine out on a regular basis, and instant noodles are as common as packets of crisps.  The selection has to be admired though. With noodles from Japan, China, Korea and the Philippines, you are spoilt for choice.

Fast food chains line the main streets of Manila. Popular places to hang out, and expensive even for the common Manileneo. From Inasal (grilled chicken and rice), to Joilibee, Mc Donalds, and Chowking (chineese fast food). To name but a few. It's always interesting to observe to change in menu from one country to another when global fast food chains are concerned. For example Mc Donalds, Burger King, and KFC all have rice combo meals, as pinoys LOVE their rice – “a meal is only a meal once rice is included, otherwise it’s a snack”. A recent meal in Chowking after a whole afternoon of bargaining, proved to be actually very filling, cheap and tasty. 

Even chains like Starbucks have an interesting ambiance and a menu to match. Entering one of the many Starbuck in Manila, you escape the sticky heat and enter into a plush environment, clean, air-conditioned, warmly furnished, jazzy Christmas songs playing the background, and the sweet sweet aromas of coffee fills your nostrils and takes you to a comfy place in you head. Ah, yes… Starbucks, a million clone replicas each the same as the last. No matter which country you are in, you could be any where. The one thing that has to be admired though, is there drink selection as you can imagine has warm drinks and a good selection of frappuccinos…. But one drink stood out for me… Green Tea Latte… yep. I’m a fan of Latte’s and a huge fan of green tea’s, so when I saw them together, I know I had found my drink. Now, I’m not Starbuck’s biggest fan, and I try and stay away at any cost, a “grande Green Tea Latte” has been my after grocery-shopping perk. Defiantly an idea I’ll be taking back with me. 

A rather amusing craze at the moment is Angry Birds. Angry bird t-shirts, hair bands, Shoes, Earings, stationary, Computer game, Angry Bird toys…. Etc etc. IT is literally everywhere, and I’m pretty cure most of these people purchasing these copyright infringed products have never really even played Angry Birds! Anyways, there’s a cake shop near me called Kinky Cakes, and I saw this on display and thought it hilariously funny! I also recommend visiting Kinky Cakes’s website… the name says it all!!!

Fair Trade, Philippines

Many pardons for not having blogged in a long time, but I’ve been a little busy… in the Philippines. I arrived in early October to for fill my duty as an intern-volunteer for the World Fair Trade Organisation Asia. Based in their main office in Quezon City, Manila, I have been given the task of designing them a new website and of finding ways in which the smaller producers can change production methods, improve packaging and improve marketing so they appeal more to the Asian Market. As of now, there is what is called a “South-North” bond which means that most of the Fair Trade products from producing countries tend to end up in the West, due to market demand. But slowly and surely, the wealthier  countries in the East are starting to pick up on the benefits of buying and supporting Fair Trade. These countries are: Hong Kong; Korea; Japan; Singapore; Malaysia and India. 

“WFTO ASIA commits itself towards enabling disadvantaged producers to improve their livelihoods through Fair Trade by linking, promoting, and protecting the integrity of Fair Trade organizations, and speaking out for greater trade justice in world trade”

My task specifically, will be to investigate three of the most consumed Fair Trade products in Asia: Coco and Mascavado Sugar from the Philippines; Tea from Nepal; and Coffee from Timor Leste. It requires visiting the producers and liaising with possible buyers, a lot of talking and researching, investigating new agricultural methods and reading up on standards. 

The Philippines was ranked in the top 10 Countries most effected by climate change, and when visiting food markets and going to the countryside, this is ever evident. Flood fields, houses destroyed by typhoons and earthquakes, and even drought. The Philippines experiences it all. With 70% of the population some how involved in agriculture, this is seen as a major problem which needs resolving. I have a friend who works for the government in the Climate Change department, and she has given me a massive insight into ways the government are helping by suggesting new modern techniques of agriculture. This may be farming new crops, or even suggesting to go organic. As you can imagine, the Philippines is very fertile and dotted with countless Volcanoes making it ideal to grow almost anything. But even with this, small scale farmers are very reluctant to make changes, making it very difficult to convince and persuade. Understandably so, as they are putting their livelihoods at risk.

So this is one of my major problems. I am also having a hard time of getting the producers to supply basic information, as they are ties into contracts with Western buyers, who control the producers a lot more then one would think.

It’s a challenging task, but I’m fully enjoying it so far. It’s taken me to some stunning places, and I have met some lovely people. People who are so helpful and willing to share information about Fair Trade. 

The new website will be under from mid December through to early January 2011, but please visit the WFTO website in the mean while, and visit our new website in the new year. Show your support and buy Fair Trade. It’s fair for the producers, fair for the environment and fair for you.