By NESTOR U. TORRE / INQUIRER.NET
We’ve been watching Anthony Bourdain’s “cooking and eating” shows on TV for years, but his special telecast last month blew us away. It was an unabashed tribute, love fest and feast for Filipinos that finally explained and revealed why, when he comes to town to do TV features on our cuisine, they have a special throb, feel and fervor to them. No, Bourdain isn’t Filipino, Fil-Am or Fil-whatever, it turns out that his TV show’s director was brought up by an OFW Filipino nanny—so well and lovingly that, decades later, the grateful guy is still singing her praises—and also extolling the nation and culture that, warts and all, amazingly produced her. This was brought out recently in a special telecast of Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” show that was a sight for sore eyes and a uniquely felt viewing treat. What made it truly memorable wasn’t just the love and gratitude it richly and deeply expressed, but also the fact that it acknowledged our negative traits and issues, as well. That, in fact, was its main, insightful point—that people like the OFW nanny may come from a “damaged” culture, but she and some of her countrymen were also wonderfully loving, caring and sharing human beings who have made a big difference in their foreign wards and “surrogate children’s” lives. Bourdain’s special love fest set its tribute in the context of Christmas in the Philippines, which starts on Sept. 1 and ends on Feb. 17! This was a brilliant move, because our extended and “exaggerated” love for Christmas and what it represents is unique. Other contextual motifs that the special telecast insightfully singled out were our devotion to family—and, dovetailing nicely into Bourdain’s show’s cooking culture, to eating and feasting. The production was able to trace the OFW nanny’s whereabouts in the byways and alleyways of Manila, and effectively showed viewers why she had made such a strong and indelible impact on the show’s director when he was a child under her loving care and tutelage. The long feature on her moved viewers with its insightful focus on the bittersweet irony of the fact that, even as she was so admirably and memorably taking such great care of her ward in the United States, her own children in Manila had to grow up without a mother! Bourdain’s loving tribute to the OFW yaya in particular and Filipinos in general was full of other memorable interactions and images, as well as yummy street food and haute cuisine that showed how important good food is to our lives and relationships. Most unusual and striking of all was an extended shot of a traffic enforcer, bearded and costumed as Santa Claus, directing traffic in the rain, huffing and puffing and dancing with great flair, fun and showmanship! Bourdain’s show was so memorable that the Department of Tourism should make arrangements for it to be shown on our airlines’ flights, soonest. If it doesn’t entice and delight prospective tourists to visit the country and get to know Filipinos as Bourdain and his show’s director have lovingly revealed them to be, nothing else will!