I’m not from Hawaii. I moved here with my family over 20 years ago from a place on the mainland where racially you were either black or white. So moving here was a reverse culture shock when I discovered that I looked like everyone else and I was a part of the majority of races. Most importantly, though, I am learning more about what it means to be Filipino.
Attempting to get closer to my Filipino heritage, I recently joined the Hawaii Filipino Junior Chamber. Its goal is to share Filipino culture with its members and the Hawaii community through activities and outreach. On Saturday, I attended its picnic in the traditional Filipino style of kamayan.
Kamayan means to eat with your hands. It’s a practice that predates the Spanish era of colonialism in the Philippines. In more modern times, Filipinos follow these traditional cultural practices to retain their identity and heritage.
Why do Filipinos eat with their hands? The answers are varied. Some say people in rural areas could not afford utensils, while others say it keeps eaters conscious of hygiene. And there are also some who believe it helps build their immune system. But, if you ask any Filipino, the majority will probably respond that it’s because they saw their parents do it.
Either way, a shared meal among friends and family is what kamayan is all about.
If you’d like to try kamayan, here are some simple guidelines:
1. In your dominant hand, place a small amount of the main dish on top of a small amount of rice
2. Pinch the food together between your thumb and fingers
3. Lean your head forward and lift your hand towards your mouth, placing your thumb behind the food
4. Push the food into your mouth using your thumb
For more information on the Filipino Junior Chamber and its activities, visit fjchamber.org.