Friday, May 05, 2006

Part Of Culture Or Simply Bad Table Manners?

At this time, the still unresolved impasse in Canada involving the little Filipino immigrant boy of 7 chastised by his lunchroom monitor and school principal for his exotic table manners is about as passé as the proverbial dead horse being beaten.

But the continuing deadly silence emanating from the Canadians has allowed this little petty incident to not only take on a life of its own but could actually morph into an ogre of a situation.

The justifiably angry rhetoric coming from expats and compats of the islands nation of the Philippines continues to being heaped unabatedly upon the two hapless Canadian bureaucrats who have remained silent, at least publicly.

I wonder why they just do not get right on to it and explain where and what really is the crux of this problem. And mind you, I do not think it was the because the little boy showed ambidextrous finesse with his unusual ease in the use of two metal utensils (spoon and fork) why he was being chastised and isolated from the rest of his classmates during lunch. That can’t possibly be the real cause.

So why not just come up and say that Westerners get turned off seeing and hearing from some Asian cultures the manner they chew their food with mouths open and making audible lip-smacking sounds doing so.

To the typical Westerner’s eye while this may be part of the alien’s culture, it also seemingly smacks of unsavory table manners.

And you know what, they would probably have unanimity of opinion on this, including from those coming from those same cultures in question.

Consider the following reactions coming from Filipinos themselves:

FilAm from Stockton
Who hates it when people make chewing noises and consume with their mouths open while eating / who loves to eat hot and spicy food / who loves all types of food …

A comment from one blogsite:
Re: Filipino Table Etiquette Punished at Montreal School
by jen on Fri 28 Apr 2006 09:54 PM EDT | Permanent Link
“Eat like a pig”???
Boy that makes me mad. I find someone chewing with their mouth open far more offensive. While they’re at it, they should clamp down on people who lick their knives as well.

A FilAm Student of UC – Irvine:
Pet Peeves? Chewing with mouth open/smacking your mouth when you chew.

A Filipina In Hawaii
Pet-peeves: People who PDA in front of everybody, people who chew with their mouth open, …..

From An Asian Lady in UC-Davis:
What are your pet peeves?
People who chew with mouth open, talk with mouth full;

From An American from faraway Rhode Island:
What things turn you off about someone?:
Smoking (It's not good for you). Chewing with mouth open.

Here are a few statements from a blog entry that was intended as a parody on our most famous FilAm political journalist/blogger and best-selling author, Michelle Malkin:

Progressives have long questioned the authorship of Michelle Malkin’s books & articles, as it stretches credibility to imagine that someone who’s a minority twice over - not just a short person but one from New Jersey - would be capable of spelling her own name. While it’s true that Filipinos are known for being extremely rude, real Filipino women dress in mismatched prints & eat with their mouths open.

Linked to the last clause, eat with their mouths open, was the following:

Category: Geography
Subject: Lip-smacking Filipinos
I work in a small office with three Filipino employees and live in an area with a large Filipino population. It seems that most or all of them smack their lips when eating - and not quietly. I avoid taking lunch when they do because this is so annoying to me. I was taught that smacking lips and eating with your mouth open is very rude. Is this something common to the Filipino culture and not considered rude there?
POSTED 8/23/2004
Mike, Santa Cruz, CA, United States, 43, Male, Humanist, White/Caucasian, Gay, Finance, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 8132004122029

So there you have it. And there is more from where this came from.


  1. When in Rome, DON'T complain about how the Romans eat.

    Eating with mouth open IS disgusting, but if I'm living in a place where that is custom I keep my mouth shut about it. Keep this in mind though, if a person comes into my house and eats with mouth open, there won't be a return invite.

    The boy needs to learn how to eat like a proper Canadian; he is one isn't he? I believe its in his best interest. On the other hand, he shouldn't have been treated like a pariah and humiliated in public. That was WAY too harsh.

    His parents SHOULD teach him how to eat in "acceptable" Western fashion. If he wants to spit on the floor like they do in China, or mix his rice and gravy with his hands like a Filipino, let him do it AT home.

    If I was in the position of the boy's parents, I would insist on being informed of any ettiquette violations, then I would take care of fixing it. If some lunchroom nazi handled my kid like that boy got handled, the nazi is going to get a facefull of ME!

  2. Phil,

    I agree. And I now have read an item where some kind of clarification has been issued by the Canadian side of this issue, basically claiming that the issue was not about the use of utensils in eating but about the way food was being ingested and how the kid was acting as he was chewing his food.

    A little trivia. The mom, Maria Theresa Gallardo, who appears the more vocal of the parents, originally comes from our province in Northern Mindanao and may have gone to the same school I went to.

    As a general personal observation, many critical comments came too fast and appear to be signs of oversensitivity about a rather petty issue. We tend to paint our kids today as these very fragile, easily permanently traumatized individuals. Well, kids are much more resilient and can heal fast. They are essentially much stronger than we give them credit.

  3. Your last hits the nail superbly Amadeo. I was raised by military parents who survived the Depression years. I had strict boundaries and the first thing I learned how to do properly was to eat according to ettiquette. In a way, that is one of the primary measures of a culture's civility, ie, no one wants to see the food in your mouth while you masticate!

    As you said, kids are NOT fragile little butterflies; and if you handle them that way, what you end up with is a spoiled selfish self-occupied brat. I wasn't exactly sure how you fell on this one Amadeo, I'm heartened by your last comment.

  4. Anonymous10:55 AM

    Hello everyone. I work with a couple of Filipinos and of course have nothing against the people as a race, but one of my co-workers (a female Filipino) really gets on my nerves when she eats. I told her that her parents obviously did not teach her any manners. She was smacking her lips like a cow eating hay. I know it is not just some Filipinos that do this, but caucasians do it as well. When I was growing up with my cousins, they smacked their lips very rudely and it got to the point that I could not eat at the same table with them.

    Smacking of the lips when eating is a pet peeve of mine and it makes me very upset when I tell someone (kindly of course) to please stop smacking and they continue. I told my female Filipino co-worker twice (kindly) to please stop, but she said that's the way she eats and I told her she has no manners and I can't eat with her at the same table. I waited for her to be done. It sounded like she was trying to supress the smacking and I thought 'well, thanks for trying'. I believe it is controllable, but some people are so disrespectful and ignorant that they are doomed to be condemned as barbaric savages and might as well just stop speaking any kind of intelligable language and revert back to the cave man era. If a person cannot learn, then that person is his or her own worst enemy. If a person cannot learn to close his or her mouth while eating and consume quietly like all other civilized people (of all races), then let us release them into the wild and have them walk on all fours because that is what I think of people who do not have the respect, manners, etiquette and just plain common sense not to piss off anyone with there bad habits and apathetic attitudes. Down with smackers! Have a great day everyone.


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