While the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) attempts to develop standard recipes for native dishes for the sake of international promotion, an estimated 4.2 million Filipino families do not have enough to eat based on the recent SWS survey. The reality is that millions of Filipinos would not even be able to afford the ingredients of “standard adobo.” While food insecurity has plagued the country for decades, the ongoing pandemic and recession have made national hunger more glaring than ever. Food prices soar while people struggle to scrape by.
We cannot sweep under the rug that many poor families are experiencing severe hunger; that the frontliners of our national food production — farmers, peasant women, agricultural workers, and fisherfolk — are struggling and starving without financial aid; that the kitchen resourcefulness and creativity we champion has in many cases been borne out of scarcity; that the food we buy, make and eat has always been political.
The state inflicts violence on Filipino bodies in many ways and worsening hunger is among the most systemic. Amihan with Rural Women Advocates and Gantala Press recently launched a cookbook entitled “Lutong Gipit: Mga Recipe sa Panahon ng Krisis” where peasant women share the recipes that feed their families as they struggle to make ends meet. It takes a toll on many of them as mothers to not have enough to feed their children. Lockdown has caused their livelihoods to suffer and without the government cash aid and production subsidy that they have been waiting for for more than a year, they will continue to languish. The peasant women who attempt to speak out and demand the support they are due are instead silenced, intimidated, harassed, red-tagged, arrested and even killed.
How the international community eats our food should be a non-problem in the face of a national food crisis. And yet the DTI’s agenda is a small reflection of how much the state prioritizes international interests in our food production over the needs of its people, from the enforcement of neoliberal trade policies that kill local food industries, to allowing foreign ownership and development of potential agricultural land, to the Duterte administration’s inaction on China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
We are in the middle of a health crisis and hunger is one of the widespread health threats to Filipino bodies today. The calls for financial aid, free land distribution, rural development and the prioritization of national food security are more urgent than ever.