HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 51 no. 1-4 (2005)

GAMBILÀ: A Preliminary Framework for the Study of Philippine Culinary History with Multidisciplinary Impact on Contemporary Social Reality

Felice Prudente Sta. Maria

Discipline: Hotel and Restaurant Management, Philippine History



There is no substantial information on the history of Philippine culinary culture. A few students of anthropology and sociology are currently working to record what is still fresh in the current memory. But students of history have not authored research that can provide a chronological spine on which to nurture a body of claims about what is the Filipino’s food and food-way heritage.


For the tourism and restaurant sectors strategizing to create an enticing image of the Filipino and the Philippines, food is a vital component. In the shaping of a baseline Filipino menu, sinigang, suman, leche flan, and adobo, for instance, are likely to appear. What is Filipino adobo, accepting that every household has its own way of making it? Contemporary recipes demand vinegar and soy sauce. Would those be the traditional ingredients for Filipino adobo? How long should a recipe have been in use for it to become a “traditional”? The Spanish introduced adobo into their New World colonies and the Philippines. Vinegar is what made it adobo. Into 1922 the recipe for adobo used by intermediate graders throughout the Philippines did not use toyo. Soy sauce is not an ingredient either in a 1913 recipe; annatto is. Annatto is native to the New World and was introduced from there to the Philippines in the post Magellanic era. At what point was soy sauce introduced in the Philippines? When did it become available widespread? By 1958 soy sauce was an ingredient in Manila adobo.


Data about the evolution of sinigang, suman, and leche flan are vital, as enterprise seeks to tell both histories and stories about a dynamic Philippine cuisine. Can sinigang be traced linguistically to neighboring Asian countries? What of suman? When were cow’s milk and white sugar available to make leche flan? Wad the custard initially made with carabao milk and panocha? Or was the native adaptation a rural innovation to parallel what gentry and urbanites made, using “proper” ingredients? Should steps be taken to save the carabao milk version as part of Philippine culinary tradition? When were carabaos modesticated?


Identifying the whens. Whos, wheres, whys, and hows that make up the history of cuisine are vital as individual recollections falter and archival documents pulverize. This paper introduces a topical outline for research and shows where breaks in the polychronic body of culinary research occur.