Filipino culture

What Does Kamayan Mean

Nidhi Nangia
By Nidhi Nangia. June 28, 2017
What Does Kamayan Mean

While Philippines is a developed country now, and most people there have started using fork, knife and spoon to eat their meals, their traditional way of eating food is the Kamayan. Basically, it means ‘eating with hands’. While utensils are a common thing these days, they still sometimes eat with hands to celebrate certain occasions, to enjoy holidays, or to venerate their cultural richness. Read this oneHOWTO article to find out more about what does kamayan mean.

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  1. Common guidelines for Kamayan
  2. Etiquettes while Hosting or attending a Kamayan
  3. Having fun at Kamayan
  4. Importance of Kamayan in Filipino culture

Common guidelines for Kamayan

Kamayan basically describes the act of ‘eating by hand’, but in general, a traditional meal is served on banana leaves. Although the variety of things you can eat with this method is not limited,generally fried and grilled dishes along with rice are easily eaten without utensils. Serving a stew or soup on a banana leaf can be messy, but you can find other ways of serving them without utensils. Some basic rules of Kamayan are:

  1. While getting ready for Kamayan, it is a must to wash your hands. This is a tradition, but perhaps more importantly due to hygiene reasons
  2. You are mostly expected to eat with a single hand, and you have to keep your second hand unsoiled so that you can drink in between
  3. When eating food, pinch the food using your fingers, make a clump and hold it in your fingertips. Don’t allow the clump to settle on your palm. While holding the clump in your fingertips, use your thumb to push it into your mouth

In Philippines, you will find different people from varying backgrounds practicing Kamayan in different ways. While some people have been eating this way since their childhood, others tried it for the first time in their adult age. The basic idea is to honor a tradition and define the cultural identity of the country.

Etiquettes while Hosting or attending a Kamayan

If you are a guest in a traditional house in Philippines, they would love to serve you food. They will not stop giving you food unless you are full. It is a tradition to leave a little food in the serving utensil, which is a sign that food is left and everyone is full. It is a shame for a Filipino household if it runs out of food. To keep their guests fed, they will even borrow some food from their neighbors. They also have a tradition to pack some leftover food with you when you leave. If you host a Kamayan, do not forget to pack some leftover food with your guests as well.

What Does Kamayan Mean - Etiquettes while Hosting or attending a Kamayan

Having fun at Kamayan

Kamayans are common occurrences that Filipino families enjoy at special occasions, events, weddings, celebrations and get-togethers. Whenever it’s time to enjoy some great time with friends and relatives, they organize Kamayan and eat their meal together. The tables are full not only with food, but also with gossips, jokes, laughs and talks about memories. Traditionally, it aims at bringing people together and taking a leap back into traditions.

Importance of Kamayan in Filipino culture

When the Spanish entered the Philippines, they saw Kamayan as barbaric and unsanitary, and they introduced their own customs to the locals. Although the Spanish have left the land for over two centuries, the western mentality is still lingering in the country. But people have started realizing the importance of their traditions and more families have started eating Kamayans for their meals. It is a great way to bring everyone together, and have some enjoyable time at least once in a while. Eating Kamayan is a learning experience in itself. It teaches you great lesson in sanitation and environmentalism. It is a great way to appreciate your parents’ upbringing, to eat like your ancestors, and to stay connected to your traditions and homeland. Eating Kamayan is also seen as a way to celebrate freedom from centuries of oppression under Spanish rule. You get a chance to reconnect with the country’s culture and introduce it to new friends and guests.

What Does Kamayan Mean - Importance of Kamayan in Filipino culture
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