And here’s another look at those idiosyncratic tendencies that delineate a Filipino from an Indonesian and vice versa.


Parking in the Philippines is a humongous problem especially if we’re talking about cities like Makati and Quezon City, areas with large malls. The car park buildings are not even enough to hold the throng of shoppers and whatnot. Some people like my dad would simply leave and forget about looking for a space if one or two rounds around the car park building result in no empty spaces. Other drivers, meanwhile, just go around or park behind the boot of a car and wait for any of the owners to come. Some, who spot an empty at the opposite end, have his/her companion get down and run to the lot to mark it as taken by standing there and waving people away.

But parking on the main road is something I have yet to witness in the Philippines, and which I saw on a Saturday night en route to dinner at Hard Rock Café at Entertainment X’nter on Jl MH Thamrin Kav in Jakarta from Bekasi. Vehicles, pointed out the driver Pak Nana, were parked on the main road, eating up a good three quarters of it, outside of the national stadium. It seemed legitimate because there was were parking officers signaling oncoming traffic to the other side of the road even way back before you hit the road where the stadium is. Apparently, it was the Indonesia Super League and super soccer fans were out in full force. And that meant traffic was reduced to a snail’s crawl from Tebet all the way to the national stadium. *groan*

Singaporeans have a funny way of marking their territory, too so to speak. No they don’t occupy three-quarters of the main road, as they’ll be fined and given a point-deduction.  But I have seen them have their companion reserve the empty lot by standing on it. When it comes to eating spaces, Singaporeans love to reserve tables at hawker centers, canteens and fast food places by placing certain items on the table. The most popular is a packet of tissue while others use their umbrellas. Naturally, foreigners only learn about this rule after living in Singapore for a period of time or if they’re dining with the locals. I think, at one point, one angmo (white man) got back at the locals by putting rolls of tissue paper on all the empty tables at this eating place he frequented. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, as the saying goes.

Junk food Goodness

Chips are the ones that come to mind when someone mentions junk food. Throw in chocolate chip cookies, ice cream and the sweet and fried stuff that, if taken in excess, really mess up one’s health. Instant noodles are both a favorite snack of Indonesians and Filipinos. A former flat mate of mine – an Indonesian – filled our cupboard with packs of Indo Mie Mie Goreng Original and Mie Goreng Satay instant noodles and was happy as a lark. A box of instant noodles always arrived in the post every month – her mum wasn’t going to let her daughter starve in food-paradise Singapore. I’m no fan of instant noodles, completely put off by the headache-inducing monosodium glutamate. But, out of desperation one time (read: nothing much happening in the fridge), I had Mie goreng. Boiled the noodles until I was certain that whatever preservatives where in the noodles were gone. Skipped the seasoning oil and powder, and chili sauce, but sprinkled the roasted garlic and drizzled kecap manis (sweet sauce) over the noodles. I then piled it high with the tomatoes and cucumber I scrounged from the vegetable crisper and topped it with sunny-side up egg cooked in olive oil.

To my surprise, instant noodles have turned into something like potato chips. I’ve seen my students emptying tubular packets of crispy noodles into their mouths at one go. That’s lunch for them. It’s a cheaper lunch at Rupiah1, 000 per packet compared to, say, Rupiah7, 000 of a bowl of freshly made mie ayam (chicken noodle). That’s healthy diet defined by high school students for you.

Where’s the Dip?

The sweet-ish Jufran banana ketchup is the perfect companion to Max’s fried chicken for most Filipinos and Mang Tomas’ Lechon sauce, which is made out of liver, for the lechon or roasted pig (babi guling as the Indonesians call it). Bottles of chili sauce are not that ubiquitous in Manila although I vaguely remember bottles of hot sauce in pizza places. There’s also bagoong, or shrimp paste, which is not spicy but salty, served with kare-kare (tripe in peanut sauce) and green mangoes.

Meanwhile, the array of dipping sauces for the Indonesians includes the kecap manis that most drizzle over their nasi goreng (fried rice) and which I drizzle over my fried chicken at times. Another is sambal – the Indonesian version of the bagoong – that’s absolutely spicy. Next is the ubiquitous chili sauce. It’s so popular that this Japanese restaurant at Mega Bekasi Mall recommended it as dipping sauce for my ebi tempura –tempura sauce was an alien concept to the waiter and his manager. *rolls eyes*

Fish sauce, on the other hand, is commonplace in the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. I can’t say I’ve seen a bottle of it at the canteen of Global Prestasi National Plus School.

Which sauce tickles your taste buds?


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