of Ceramics & Culture

Filipino Table Culture and the Unhurried Life

Afternoon-long Sunday lunches with the family. It may have started with the grandparents, in your youth.

In the Philippines, usually it’s after Mass, so you’re dressed in your Sunday’s best.

Sitting up like there’s a knife on your back or books under your elbows, it starts off quite stiff.

But you look over to the head of the table, and your Lolo gives you a little wink. Then you know that there’ll be ice cream waiting at the end of the meal.

But the end comes much later, close to dusk. Sometimes lunch will spill unto an early dinner.

Sobremesa, with the adults gossiping and grazing on peanuts and fruits. Maybe supper is just soup before you go on home.

But that is home, too.

Over the years, you would move out of the children’s table — and a new generation of kids replace you. Juice boxes turn to sparkling grape juice, until finally it’s a bottle of beer or a glass of wine.

One day, it’s the first time to bring a girlfriend to meet your parents. A couple of years later, they meet another.

These days, the idea of gathering with family and friends seem like a distant memory. The good ol’ days or a dreaded weekly chore that you’re surprised to feel you miss.

In the slow uncertainty of pandemic living, suddenly the few things that do remain certain are the tedium and the routine. You wake up, make coffee, and glance at the pile of unwashed dishes in the sink. You wash your face, shake off the sleep, and put on a decent shirt while keeping your pajamas on. Then you’re ready for work as you sit in the living room, the screen of your laptop open. In your peripheral, the dirty dishes and a defrosting chunk of meat that will be your lunch — and dinner — wait on the kitchen counter. Day-long days and even longer nights.

It takes a practice of — what exactly is it? Mindfulness? Gratefulness? Kicking the can down the road until you can no longer stop yourself from screaming at the void? — to appreciate this sudden change of pace. The turn of events that make your finish line the place where you started. Or just the place where you happen to be right now.

This is the pursuit of meaning behind these ceramics. This is the reality that this attempt at culture is trying to define and aspire to transform into quality of life.