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Friday, 25 February 2011

Filipinos: Snack or Insult?!?

….and the 25th Anniversary of the greatest People Power Revolution in history….

Filipinos Header

A couple of months back, being passed round various “Facebook walls” of Filipino friends of mine, was a short story on some European cookies going by the name of Filipinos. The question was posed regarding the appropriateness of calling a snack food by the name of a nation’s peoples. None of my friends were personally offended by the notion but reading into the history of these cookies did amaze me somewhat.


It seems back in 1999 then Philippine Congressman Heherson Alvarez, claimed that the name of the cookie was offensive due to the apparent reference to their colour, "dark outside and white inside". His resolution stated "These food items could be appropriately called by any other label, but the manufacturers have chosen our racial identity, and they are now making money out of these food items." On August 26, 1999 then Philippine president Joseph Estrada called the brand "an insult". So the government of the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest with the government of Spain, the European Commission, and then manufacturer Nabisco Iberia. Wow……


President "cookie" Estrada Former President Joseph Estrada

Now lets look into these snacks a little more. The Philippine National Historical Institute has stated that they believe the history of these round cookies with a hole in the centre is linked to the “Rosquillo”, a traditional snack made in Iloilo and Negros. There are other claims they originated in the Liloan area of Cebu, where they have an annual Rosquillo Festival, however since the National Historic Institute has them coming from Iloilo and Negros, I’ll run with that. The twist to the commercially produced variety is that they are dipped in chocolate. And herein lies the apparent controversy, some say, that by calling these cookies Filipinos there is an analogy to Filipinos being dark on the outside, yet striving to be more “white” on the inside…… These kind of food analogies are not new. In the 1990’s British born Jamaican Reggae Deejay Macka B sang about black Jamaican Yuppies in the UK being nothing more than a Chocolate Bounty, black on the outside but white they want to be.


Macka B once sang “Black on the outside but white you want to be, just like a chocolate Bounty”
But surely we are taking this too seriously. It would appear to me to be more a tribute, a sign of respect more than anything else. Even Market Man, writer of highly recommended Filipino food blog Market Manila touched on this subject back in June 2006, and although he did state “I still don’t know whether to be offended or bemused” he did seem to take it a bit lighter than the government of 1999. Worth noting that the then foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon was rather reluctant to be involved. Siazon had reportedly said "he saw nothing wrong with the use of 'Filipinos' as a brand name, noting Austrians do not complain that small sausages are called 'Vienna sausages.' Exactly! Do citizens of Berlin get upset that they gave the name to the Berliner pastry? What about the Danish and the Danish Pastry? Or Cubans becoming the generic name for all cigars from that country? Would someone like the Philippine’s national hero, the great Jose Rizal if he were alive today seriously be offended by a biscuit named after his people?
So what do they taste like, that is the question? One of the things I love about the modern globalised world we live in is that national boundaries are mere lines on a map with tools such as the mighty internet at our disposal. Tapping into my own global network it didn’t take long to track down someone in Europe to rapidly dispatch some Filipinos over to me (and big thanks to those involved in sending those cookies my way). Well they are ok, they are as good as a factory made chocolate dipped biscuit can be, but I don’t think they are worth getting into international disputes over…….
DSC_0959 Filipinos, fresh off the boat
DSC_0960 Historically rooted to the Rosquillo, but dipped in chocolate

As I write this, nations in North Africa and the Middle East are in the middle of major people’s revolutions against their tyrannical governments. Some like Libya have delivered bloodshed, and others like Egypt have shown the world the power of non violent people power. These current ongoing revolutions have been dubbed the Facebook or Twitter Revolutions, with their messages driven by the power of the internet and social media. We should take this time to remember, in a time long before social media, that one of the great people power revolutions, peaceful non-violent uprisings, originated in the Philippines. February 25th 2011 marks the 25th Anniversary of the Peoples Power Revolution in the Philippines that toppled President Marcos in 1986. Ordinary everyday people braved facing Marcos’ tanks and artillery, bringing food and drinks to support troops that deserted the government to support the revolution. The power of the people facing off against their own people manning the tanks and guns of the regime shone through then, just as it did recently in Egypt. So on the 25th Anniversary of this remarkable event, should we worry that a tasty popular snack takes the name of a nation’s people? A nation’s people who have regularly shown their strength and resilience, through such events as the People Power Revolution, the inspiration that is still liberating peoples of the world today.



The power of the internet, the power of the people, the power of the biscuit?

the Philippines





  1. My boyfriend is traveling in Morocco right now and told me he had tried a McFlurry Filipinos at a McDonald's there. I searched it up, found out it was the name of a snack, felt kind of confused about it, and that led me here. Thanks for the really great read!

  2. Hollyedejer - I'm exactly the same! I tried the Filipino McFlurry in Morocco and was wondering what the 'Filipino' bit was all about! It was a nice McFlurry though :D

  3. These cookies are delicious! I am Filipina and I don't take offense to the name. I brought some home to Seattle as my Filipino friends wanted them.


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