Cebu City, Philippines—Acclaimed Filipino director Erik Matti got the support from fellow filmmaker Joey Javier Reyes after the former’s stand on Netflix’s Street Food Asia, which highlights Cebu’s food culture, sparked an online debate.
“I agree with Erik Matti. The Cebu episode of Netflix’s STREET FOOD is an EPIC FAIL,” Reyes said in a Facebook post on Monday evening, April 29, 2019.
“Whereas other Asian countries highlighted the celebration of food as a way of life, the Philippine segment showed food as an act of survival against poverty. Excuse me, CEBUANOS are far above that.”
Based on a comment he replied to one of his Facebook friends, Reyes felt insulted as to how the narrative was into poverty porn and predictable melodrama.
“Where was the context of the Cebuanos as a people?” he said.
Reyes is the man behind films such as “My Bebe Love: #KiligPaMore” , “No Boyfriend Since Birth”, “Till My Heartache Ends” , and “Kasal, Kasali, and Kasalo.”
Earlier on Monday afternoon, Matti, also in a Facebook post, said the Cebu episode “borders on poverty porn.”
“The dishes except for lechon are food that are not really a staple of Filipinos. All the other Asian countries had their classic world-renowned street food while we had…bizarre,” he said in the Facebook post.
“Bad research. There are hundreds of original Filipino street food and they chose to show an esoteric eel dish and a goddamn Chinese fried vegetable lumpia,” he ended his Facebook post.
Matti clarified his remarks on “borders on poverty porn” through his Twitter account.
“I said the EPISODE is poverty porn. It’s a term used in films where the filmmakers highlight the drama of a poor man’s story to get a sad reaction from the viewers. I did not use poverty porn to describe Cebu or Cebuanos,” he said.
Nilarang bakasi (stewed eel) is a popular food in the town of Cordova, Cebu. Fishing is one of the main sources of livelihood in the town.
The episode shows how Florencia “Entoy” Escabas, the owner of Mang Entoy’s Bakasihan, started the stewed eel business in 2012, and how they survived an oil spill in 2013 because of the collision of two vessels along Lauis Ledge in Talisay City.
Matti’s took to Twitter to explain his stand on the stewed eel issue. He said he never said it isn’t good.
Matti also explained that he did not say that Cebu food is not good.
“I love Cebu food,” he said.
For him, the nilarang bakasi is just not identifiably regarded as a quintessential Filipino street food that can represent Filipino food to the world.
“The question I wanted to ask was: given all street food in Cebu and the entire Philippines, is the eel bakasi the best and most important street food to showcase from our country to the world? Chinese lumpia as another street food entry in the episode,” he continued his tweet.
Matti said he eats eel but not the nilarang way of cooking. For him, eel is good whether “paksiw” style or with coconut milk.
“But is bakasi the best street food to represent the country among the many kinds we have? Yes, I love Cebu food and Cebu food is not bizarre,” he said.
Matti mentioned that Ilocano fried empanada is much more truly Filipino.
“I was really hoping that we at least have chosen something widely regarded by most Filipinos and Cebuanos too as the street food that can represent us,” he added.
Matti defended himself saying that he is not pushing the idea that a Manila food should be featured in the show. He identified himself as Ilonggo.
“Cebu lechon is one of the best in the country. But I don’t think it would hurt to choose a generally regarded Filipino street food to best represent our country to the rest of the world,” he said.
Matti helmed popular films like “On The Job”, “Honor Thy Father”, “Seklusyon”, and “BuyBust.” He is also the director of the upcoming horror film, “Kuwaresma” top-billed by Megastar Sharon Cuneta. /bmjo