Eating Out In The Philippines
Eating Out Is An Adventure
Something someone should explain to foreigners is how to eat out in the Philippines.
I am not sure what it is like in other parts of the world. I am not a would traveler. But, being from the US, I think that when you order from a restaurant you are ordering a meal—meaning meat, veggies, and potatoes. And that it will be a meal for one.
Not so in the Philippines.
When you order, ask questions. The first week we were here we had friends that ordered for us. That was all well and good. It didn't seem so hard. So we tried it on our own. I got soup for 6. My husband got meat, and only meat, for two. We didn't know you had to order your rice to go with the curry. And, if you want vegetables, you have to order them separate also. And that the meat dish he ordered was for two. We didn't know the soup was family size. And the waiter didn't give us a clue either. He didn't raise an eyebrow. He must have thought we foreigners had really funny eating habits. He was much too polite to question our decision.
You would think the price would have given us a clue. But, no. Being from the US we know how different the food prices are depending on where you chose to eat out. We just thought we were eating at an expensive restaurant. Anyway, he did laugh at our suprise when he brought us our dinner. I was polite and served up myself a bowl of soup and told him he could have the rest. I don't know if he ate it or not, but I hope it went to someone who could eat it. I hated to waste it, and a 'doggy bag' just wouldn't have kept it.
Sense then we have tried to be more careful, but we haven't always been successful. The price does tell you a lot. And the dish doesn't usually come with vegetables. Pictures on the menu is the best way to know. You can usually trust pictures.
So... my advice to 'foreigners' when going out to eat is to understand that if there are no pictures, the meat dish you are ordering is probably going to be a double serving, and you will need to order your own rice to go with it. That means two servings for rice. Meat is for two. Rice is for one.
If you are like me and just want a bowl of soup for dinner, be sure to ask. Know that soup for one is not going to be over 70 pesos. Anything over 100 pesos is more than likely be for 4-8, depending on the price. And fish soup has the heads of fish. (FYI)
Another thing friends of ours mentioned is when ordering vegetables, if you don't like liver, to tell them 'no liver'. They may or may not put liver in them, but if you are like me and don't like liver it is better to just address the issue then to have to eat around it. Besides, it is wasteful. Lots of Filipinos like liver. It is better to have them not add it if you are not going to eat it and save it for those who do. We should not be wasteful.
Most everyone in the Philippines is mindful that foreigners often get sick on their water.
The Philippines are no different than anywhere else. Their water is not the safest, when it come to drinking. Filipinos drink bottled water themselves. A bottle of water costs just about as much as it does in the US, unless you have a bottled water dispenser. Their bottled filtered water in the big 5 gal bottles is only about $1.00 USD. When going out, I save my individual bottled water bottles and refill them to take with us instead of buying bottled water. At the restaurant we order soft drinks or shakes.
One more thing many foreigners don't think about when eating out is the ice. If your drink comes with ice, you might ask if the ice is from filtered water. Ice made with regular tap water may make you sick. To be safe we use ION bactericide drops. You can find them online. I have not seen them in the Philippines.
So, I suggest the rule of thumb when ordering drinks to be:
- Use some form of purifier you add, if your drink has ice.
- If they bring you the can or bottle it is probably safe.
- We have ask if the ice was from filtered water and they said yes and we drank it and did not get sick.
Many of the restaurants we ate at served filtered water at the in a glass, (we ask and they told us the truth). We have had them tell us that the water they serve is not filtered.
I think the Filipino business owner is like anyone else doing business. They know if you get sick at their establishment you will not come back. And word gets around.
What About Eating With The Locals?
There are tons of street venders selling food along any roadway you wish to go down. I think the word on that is buyer beware. From what I hear from the locals, if it looks fresh and you see them cook it, it is probably safe. Don't buy from any place that looks dirty (no brainer). We haven't been brave enough to buy from our neighbors yet. But, many people do, none of them foreigners as far as I can tell however. We have eaten at beach parties without any LBM.
Be prepared. Ask questions. And laugh when you get suprised.
Remember,education always costs money.