HOUSTON – The Philippines has become a popular site on many travelers’ bucket lists. With beautiful beaches and warm welcoming people, it’s no surprise why. But, I’ve noticed that Filipino food is still relatively unknown to many people. As a Filipino, I could not let this stand. So, I set out on a mission with Houston Life Photographer Paul Shelton and special guest KPRC2 Reporter Rose-Ann Aragon to remedy this. We met with Gerry’s Grill Co-Owners and siblings Suzette Villapando and Roger Garriel as well as Branch Manager Dennis Mayoral to get the 411 on Filipino cuisine.
Straight off the bat, we asked the Gerry’s Grill team to pick one dish to represent Filipino culture. We all agreed that it was a tough task to accomplish.
“It’s way too diversified,” said Villapando. “You really can’t name one dish associated with the Filipino cuisine just because of diversity.”
The Philippines is an archipelago made up of more than seven-thousand islands. Because of this, many regions have their own distinct dishes or different ways of preparing dishes than other places. And if you ever thought it was weird that people in different regions of the U.S. have different accents, imagine how crazy it is for the Philippines to have eight major dialects. I guess that’s what happens when one nation is dispersed among thousands of islands. On top of that, Filipino culture is heavily influenced by several other countries.
“It has a mix of Chinese culture in it, Malaysian culture in it, Spanish culture in it and of course the Filipino culture in it all together,” said Garriel.
While all these crossroads of culture may seem overwhelming, one thing is for sure: it makes for some fantastic food.
It was difficult to focus on the interview with the spread they laid out before us. Rose-Ann’s favorite was the Kare Kare, a creamy peanut-butter-based stew filled with chunks of tender beef, oxtail and vegetables. The one I had my eye on was the Sinigang Na Hipon, a sour soup with shrimp and vegetables that was prepared just like my mom’s. All the dishes are served family-style, because that’s just the Filipino way.
“Not only the food is a way of sharing the Filipino culture, but also the hospitality, the warmth of the place - that embodies Filipinos,” said Mayoral.
For the full interview and to get legit travel tips from me and Rose-Ann, watch the video above. To connect with Gerry’s Grill, visit their website.