Cebuanos lash out at critics of Street Food Asia’s Cebu episode
Vanessa Balbuena (The Freeman) - May 1, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The producers behind Netflix’s “Street Food Asia” “fell in love” with Cordova’s famed nilarang na bakasi, thus the decision to zero in on Cebu for its Philippines episode.

Jude Bacalso, a host and writer who appears in the episode as one of its resource subjects, pointed this out to The FREEMAN after a filmmaker argued that Cebu is not the food capital of the country and some netizens complained how “there are better provinces with better food to feature and that the country was not represented properly.”

“At the press conference for the show in Manila, Myke [Chef Myke ‘Tatung’ Sarthou] and I were candid about admitting that the show was not representative of street food in the country,” Bacalso began, “and that it didn’t have to be.”

“The producers fell in love with the bakasi, which is why they handpicked Cebu. But we were hoping this worldwide exposure would make people more interested in Filipino food. Netflix was just scratching the surface of our wonderful food culture.”

“Street Food Asia,” which began streaming on April 26, also features Thailand, Japan, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam and Singapore.

The online outcry among Cebuanos began when director Erik Matti’s social media post circulated online, where he expressed disappointment on the episode that tackled Cebu’s nilarang na bakasi, lechon, tuslob buwa, lumpia, among others, and the people behind them.

“The Cebu episode of Street food borders on poverty porn. The dishes except for lechon are food that are not really a staple for Filipinos. All the other Asian countries had their classic world-renowned street food while we had…bizarre. Bad research,” said Matti, who incidentally has been tapped to direct the HBO Asia food anthology series “Food Lore,” which will talk about myths and superstitions found around specific countries in Asia and set to air this November.

Mike Acebedo Lopez was one of those who rebuked the director behind the films “Seklusyon,” “On The Job,” “Buybust” and the upcoming horror film “Kuwarema.”

“Well, Erik Matti, this tweet of yours borders on racism and ignorance – a shameful ignorance on the richness and diversity of Filipino culture and cuisine. Typical Manila-centric attitude that brands as ‘bizarre’ what we celebrate in other parts of this beautiful country of more than 7,000 islands and a host of languages and sub-cultures. It’s not bizarre. You’re not cultured, that’s why…Just because you don’t know what it is, doesn’t mean it’s not Filipino,” Lopez posted on social media.

Lawyer and The FREEMAN Opinion columnist Ian Manticajon also offered his two cents: “It was the story behind such authentic Cebuano street food experience like the linarang nga bakasi, lumpia and tuslob buwa that the producers were after. And it was great storytelling. Simple people but there was no glorification of poverty in it. Matti is good at commercial cinematic execution and production but his weakness has always been storytelling.”

In a separate post after scathing retorts from netizens, Matti defended his remarks, saying, “Twitter world, please don’t put words in my mouth. I am not saying eel bakasi is not good. I am not saying Cebu food is not good. I love Cebu food. The eel bakasi is just not identifiably regarded as a quintessential Filipino street food that can represent our food to the world. Ilocano fried empanada is much more truly Filipino.”

Bacalso added that as a storyteller himself, Matti “should know better that the conversation is moved forward by the discussion of new ideas, the untold stories. Not rehashing the same narrative, the same plot.”

“Then again, Gagamboy. What was I thinking,” added Bacalso.

Another filmmaker, Joey Javier Reyes, chimed in on the discussion as he sided with Matti.

“I agree with Erik Matti. The Cebu episode of Netflix’s street food is an epic fail,” Reyes wrote on his Facebook account. “Whereas other Asian countries highlighted the celebration of food as a way of life, the Philippine segment showed food as an act of survival against poverty. Excuse me, Cebuanos are far above that.”

But Bacalso pointed out that “Joey Reyes has failed to see that among our SEAsian sisters, our food remains that...survival. It has not reached a level of sophistication that, say Thailand has. In a way, it is the only one that has remained honest to its original purpose. The survival of those that subsist on it, and those smart enough to peddle it.”

In a lengthy post, Matti offered his apology if he offended Cebuanos, and seemed to chide himself for forgetting how his personal thoughts could ignite such controversy.

“I woke up today and I see my timeline on Facebook flooded with comments. Some good, some intelligent, some insulting and some are very nasty. I apologize if I hit a nerve regarding my opinions on the Cebu, Philippines episode on the Netflix series Street Food,” Matti began.

He added, “But several insights came out of this bloody post. At the top of it and I think the most important is that through this small post (which I thought was a personal insignificant one) we highlighted how divided we are as a people. Kanya kanya, tayo tayo. Sila sila, kita kita.”

“I never posted my thoughts on the Philippine episode of Netflix to take away the pride that it gave us as a country. If it came out that way, then I apologize.”

STREET FOOD ASIA
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