The Filipino piece of shame

The Filipino piece of shame

When dining in a Filipino household, an unspoken virtue unique to it emerges, extending beyond Western table etiquette. At a Filipino table, a subtle drama unfolds over who gets to enjoy the last piece — whether it’s the final slice of pizza or the concluding piece of cake. Leaving it untouched is a cultural nod to the concept of sharing, a natural characteristic ingrained in Filipinos from an early age.

Cultural context

Returning to table decorum, this practice has long been a noticeable part of Filipino dining in most households. For Filipinos, subscribing to the mindset that someone might arrive late or be more famished than them is essential. It reflects the Filipino value of prioritizing communal enjoyment over personal indulgence.

“Philippine tradition passed down from our elders to our children regards the shame piece as something observed out of a sense of consideration for a guest who may be hungrier or one arriving late to a party. It will leave them with the thought that there will always be food for them,” said Cristina DC Pastor, editor of The FilAm online magazine, in an article.

The notion of the “piece of shame” often elicits laughter or a raised eyebrow from foreigners. However, in defense of the embarrassment associated with taking the last piece, it represents a beautiful aspect of Filipino culture — a sensitivity to timing and appropriateness that can be wisely applied in various situations.

Consideration

“Taking it means that you’re inconsiderate, you don’t share and that you don’t respect anyone else in the room. You perform this very very delicate Filipino ritual, where you ask everyone in the room if you may have permission to take the piece of shame. And you must do this at least 27 times,” said When in Manila on its TikTok video.

Taking the last bite is not inherently forbidden, but it’s important to ensure that everyone has had their share. Filipinos, guided by a cultural compass, feel compelled to check in on others as a profound respect for the shared experience. If all the checks on the list are complete, one can take the last bite — a guilt-free finale to the table drama.

While foreigners may find this practice unusual or unnecessary, it’s essential to approach cultural differences with an open mind. What may seem peculiar in one cultural context holds deep significance in another. This custom isn’t about imposing guilt but rather practicing kindness to ensure everyone’s needs are met before concluding the meal.

Embracing tradition

At the end of the day, cultural practices embody a set of values, and participation in these practices is voluntary. Some households may choose to modify or abandon this tradition due to changing lifestyles, globalization or individual preferences. These traditions offer individuals a choice to engage with or adapt according to their comfort and beliefs.

Despite being referred to as the “shame piece,” there’s no need for actual shame in embracing this practice. It’s not about what is diabolical or not in the table context — leaving the last piece or not — but about practicing consideration and self-contentment, values that still hold water for a lifetime.

So, when one shows up late at a Filipino party, expect that there will be a piece waiting for them. Isn’t that beautiful?

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