A fiesta is an annual week long birthday celebration the patron saint of a city or a town, Colorful banners are slung between telephone posts. The circus comes to town; there are Ferris Wheels, bumpy rides. Fat clowns and colorful lights. There are crowds of people at the town plaza. Town offices are closed. Guests spend the day ‘house-hopping and are expected to partake of the food served in every home they visit. It is the respectful and proper way.
After having gone to too many fiestas and suffering from having eaten too much food, I have fashioned a very good method which I am glad to pass on. A soon as you enter a home you will be directed straight to the dining area.
“come let’s eat” is the enjoined. Look appreciatively at everything for I assure you that all the most delicious and grand food would be served: Lechon, Morcon, Embutido,Menudo, Pancit, Lumpia, party salads, Paellas, various vegetable dishes, saucers of condiments and relishes and desserts of all colors and sizes. Feast your eyes on the beauty of the spread at the tables. When feasting your eyes on the food, look appreciatively at the dishes; ask how the dishes have been cooked. Was there special technique that they used? How did they make the meat look so different on this one? How about that one? Take the cue from the host or the cooks; listen to what they say and focus on the most important dish that they consider the best on the table.
“Oh, but you must taste this Atsara, there could not be anything better prepared than this one. “Go ahead, taste it.” And taste you must, Take a reasonable amount, not very little, as it would look so unhappy and lonely on the plate. Then ask, “What should I take next?” Try that vegetable with this Lechon meat. It is absolutely imperative that you eat this with that.”
Arrange three or four dishes on your plate in an attractive and attentive way. This gives the hosts as much pleasure to see that you have taken so much care with their dishes. Eat appreciatively. With every mouthful, remark on the flavor and chew much longer than usual.The difficult part is if this is the first house you are visiting and you are hungry, you have the inclination to eat a lot and fast Don’t. Remember, there are at least ten more houses to visit and more of the same dishes to try.
The art of feasting started from the decadent Roman years when eating was a continuous food binge. In many cultures, feasting is perceived as an impractical excess. In Filipino fiestas, feasting is the norm and anything less is a disappointment and bad form. As a guest in these fiestas, it is important to remember to leave the hosts with a “face”, meaning not taking away their dignity. A perfect guest gives the hosts respect for being gracious and generous hosts. Eating and enjoying their offered food is a form of respect; telling them how you appreciate their beautiful home. Every Filipino has mastered the art of being the perfect guest and being the perfect host; how else have Filipinos been touted as the most hospitable people in the world?