In all the years I’ve lived in the Philippines, there’s one specific thing I’ve noticed: Filipinos love chicken and rice, perhaps more than anything else they can possibly eat. How the chicken is prepared doesn’t really seem to matter.
The “rice” part isn’t saying much. Filipinos eat rice with as many meals as they can, regardless of where they get it from. Their main course doesn’t have to be chicken but it seems they prefer it over every other kind of animal meat, except fish of course.
The Jollibee Food Corporation took advantage of the Filipino love for fried chicken by introducing “Chickenjoy” in 1980. Other fast-food chains copied it to some degree over the years.
I ate rice with fried chicken for the first time after getting married to my Filipino wife, Josie, in 1985. I lived in Hawaii from 1974 to 1977 as a civilian and from 1982 to 1984 as a military service member, so I wasn’t a stranger to eating rice.
Today, almost every restaurant in the Philippines serves a chicken and rice dish of some kind. This includes franchises from the United States where chicken isn’t even sold in the United States, like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. I’m almost certain they capitalized on Jollibee’s original idea.
Josie and I used to take one or more nieces with us when we went to various restaurants. Even when they had what I consider better choices, they would still select chicken and rice dishes. So why bother? Nowadays, we’ll just take them with us to Jollibee or KFC and save a few pesos in the process.
When Josie and I are in the United States, we can eat chicken from Jollibee (Waipahu, Hawaii), KFC or Popeye’s. We don’t normally order the side dishes. Since both of the families we live with (Joe and Diann, Jon and Cathy) almost always have rice ready in a rice cooker, we don’t need to order rice.
Rice itself is an integral part of all of our families. Josie, Joe and Cathy are 100 percent Filipino. Jon is half. In fact, I’m the only white guy in the bunch. Regardless, I’ve learned to adapt to the Filipino lifestyle. I probably behave more Filipino than American after more than 35 years.
The concept of breakfast (almusal in Tagalog) food is lost on most Filipinos, unless they’ve lived in the United States. Most of the Filipinos I’ve seen eating breakfast eat the same food as any other time of the day, usually some type of fish and rice.
I’m a breakfast person. As long as I can eat a decent-sized breakfast with what I consider breakfast food, I can skip lunch completely. I’m talking about eggs, toast, hash browns and bacon or some other form of animal meat. I’ll substitute garlic rice for toast when I can.