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Byline: Edilberto Alegre
Twelve years ago when I first came to Tacloban I was into food research. I was then researching and writing in tandem with Doreen G. Fernandez of Ateneo de Manila University. In fact, we came out with several books about that domain. She had been in the field much earlier and so, academicians that we were, we respected turfs. Early on I had claimed markets, carinderia, the fare of the lowly, and the anthropology of food as mine to explore.
We did a whirlwind getting-to-know-you sort of "research" through the Visayas and Mindanao. Well, that was one way of starting in the field. I wrote more on traveling that time. I was into the distinctive characteristics of our "regional" food then. Then came the funding from Bookmark Publishing Co. to find out and write about kinilaw, our version of ceviche, the barely cooked, or raw, in our case.
A taste of the local in terms of restaurant cuisine was also a result of my roving almost the entire archipelago. We came out with several Dining Outside Manila guide books. I was really into food: while slumming in the food world of the AB Filipino, I was exploring that of the bigger portion of our population. Before that I was the student of Prospero R. Covar, Ph.D., the only anthropologist who had a total view of the Philippines.
And that is how I was able to write reams about our food. I committed grave errors though. Like a good student I had and worked best with paradigms: distinctive food, distinctive culture; emergent national culture. That was the orientation of a mildly nationalistic UP academician. The approach resulted in a seemingly endless cornucopia of food essays.
For that is what the exploration of the what of our culture is truly like - endless. Three years of that and my desperation to get out of the paradigm grew more intense with every foray into a different locale. Too, the field data were telling me a different story.