How Filipino drink­ing habits have in­flu­enced our life­style



I’m yet again greeted by the reg­u­lar group of tam­bays out­side the near­est con­ve­nience store. The usual sus­pects are gath­ered around the ta­ble with lo­cal brandy, tak­ing shots from a sin­gle cup. I’d po­litely say no with some ex­cuse and the un­der­stand­ing that, cul­tur­ally, the of­fer is also made with some ex­pec­ta­tion of a de­cline. This time, I said yes and a mad scram­ble to free up space for me en­sues.

There was no oc­ca­sion. It was just what they do. Nightly, mind you. I sat lis­ten­ing to an­i­mated ex­changes of anec­dotes from their daily lives. The mun­dane made mo­men­tous. Brag­gado­cio and booze. I sat in si­lence, smil­ing ear-to-ear in ac­knowl­edg­ment of their stories, sip­ping from the cup on my turn. It was just good to be alive I guess.


“Filipinos drink to bond with friends af­ter work, party on a week­end, or dur­ing cel­e­bra­tions. Most of us don’t drink alone,” says Dun­stan Dy, ac­count man­ager of Moët Hen­nessy Philip­pines, Inc. The West­ern ar­che­typal drink­ing im­age of a lone fig­ure hunched over a bar is al­ways joined by a mot­ley crew around these parts, each one play­ing both the lead char­ac­ter and sup­port­ing role in these over­lap­ping plots. Pi­noys drink with and for friends. He notes, “Drink­ing is part of Filipino cul­ture. It’s present in ev­ery gath­er­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to Dy, cit­ing Euromon­i­, Filipinos mostly drink beer. He ex­plains, “Al­though trends show it was re­cently on a slight de­cline due to the avail­abil­ity of new ready-to-drink bot­tled cock­tails and low-priced do­mes­tic spir­its.” Ce­buano restau­ra­teur and chef Jan Ro­driguez of restau­rants bars Ila­puti and The Week­end adds, “Most drink ice-cold cheap beer and liquor mixed with juice or soda to mask the fla­vor.”

He con­tin­ues that the de­cline of com­mer­cial beer con­sump­tion is a re­sult of the pop­u­la­tion hav­ing learned to un­der­stand qual­ity over quan­tity. Craft beers have taken a bite, al­though small, but sig­nif­i­cant enough that the macro-brew­eries are chang­ing strate­gies to com­pete with their own “craft” of­fer­ings. Craft cock­tails have gained a cult fol­low­ing na­tion­wide as well. The gen­eral pub­lic has learned to ap­pre­ci­ate the crafts­man­ship in con­coct­ing fla­vors us­ing qual­ity spir­its.

The av­er­age Filipino is first in­tro­duced to al­co­hol quite early with the pro­fu­sion of TV ads mak­ing their way in be­tween car­toon shows. Then there’s the ma­cho cul­ture push­ing use (and even abuse), in­sist­ing that one who wouldn’t or couldn’t drink is bor­ing, so­cially in­ept, or sim­ply “not man enough.” Peer pres­sure then be­comes the con­ve­nient scape­goat. Even our ini­ti­a­tions into the drink seem so­cial.

Dy started drink­ing in col­lege. “My friends usu­ally in­vite me dur­ing week­ends at first then some­times af­ter our elec­tive class,” he re­calls.

For his part, Ro­driguez started ear­lier with beer in high school. He de­clares, “I love the fla­vor of beer. It was Pale Pilsen.” In­deed, he drinks for the sheer plea­sure of it. “I’m not into sweets. Drink­ing is my dessert or ap­pe­tizer,” he says.

In­ter­est­ingly enough, group bev­er­age man­ager of Py­lon Hospi­tal­ity Inc. (ABV, Prisma) Ken­neth Ban­di­vas was in­tro­duced to drink­ing at an even younger age of 10 when his par­ents had him try tequila and beer to al­low him to ex­pe­ri­ence and un­der­stand al­co­hol’s ef­fects.


As with the fer­ments, tastes get bet­ter and more re­fined with age. Ro­driguez drinks only qual­ity beers—no ad­juncts—and qual­ity spir­its. He states, “I love Bal­ve­nie Dou­ble Wood, Glen­goyne cask strength, High­land Park 18, Turn­ing Wheels IPA, and sev­eral US

Dy thinks that Filipinos should drink finer spir­its and wines. Ro­driguez, on the other hand, be­lieves that there is never that one drink for ev­ery­one. “What one drinks de­pends

on one’s com­pany, mood, and oc­ca­sion.”

brands for craft beers. For gin, Nordes with qual­ity tonic wa­ter and a good Old Fash­ioned.” As Dy car­ries the brands, he drinks these, too, on top of Glen­morangie, Belvedere, and Hen­nessy VS. “And Moet, of course,” he adds. Mean­while, the Di­a­geo Re­serve World Class 2015 champ Ban­di­vas no longer does buck­ets and end­less shots. Wan­ton ex­cess is re­placed by so­phis­ti­cated ca­dence, al­ways start­ing with ef­fer­ves­cent or sour cock­tails such as a whiskey sour be­fore pro­ceed­ing to an Old Fash­ioned or a ne­groni.

Then again, they all agree on the ne­ces­sity of pu­lu­tan— with Ban­di­vas mak­ing a case for gas­tric bal­ance. Food pair­ings are now also done with vir­tu­ally all kinds of drinks as an in­creas­ing num­ber of din­ers lean to­wards such gas­tro­nomic experiences. Ro­driguez as­serts, though, that with craft beers, high qual­ity whiskies, and gin, pu­lu­tan can be skipped since these drinks can stand on their own.

Dy thinks that Filipinos should drink finer spir­its and wines. Ro­driguez, on the other hand, be­lieves that there is never that one drink for ev­ery­one. “What one drinks de­pends on one’s com­pany, mood, and oc­ca­sion. Our drink­ing cul­ture is what it is but there is al­ways the op­por­tu­nity when peo­ple come in my bar to share my knowl­edge on drink­ing, which is more of ap­pre­ci­a­tion than in­tox­i­ca­tion,” he ob­serves.

As a per­son work­ing in the in­dus­try, Ban­di­vas en­cour­ages clients to al­ways try some­thing new. He says, “I know there would al­ways be beer drinkers and hard drinkers. Filipinos should at least try cock­tails.” He points out that higher price points may be a push­back but that it’s all about the tai­lored ex­pe­ri­ence made by the bar­tenders.

Given that their busi­nesses thrive on more con­sump­tion, Dy thinks that more should be done to ed­u­cate con­sumers to drink re­spon­si­bly as drunk driv­ing is one of the ma­jor causes of road ac­ci­dents in the Philip­pines. Ban­di­vas takes the more proac­tive route by re­fus­ing to serve cus­tomers who have had one too many and even book­ing them a ride home. He says, “I would rather be thanked the next day rather than re­gret­ting not hav­ing done any­thing.”

Ice, melty as it was, was run­ning low; each fol­low­ing shot get­ting more wa­tery and the ba­con-fla­vored junk food on its last few crumbs. I took more than an hour from my usual five-minute mid­night mission. Eyes heavy with sleep and in­so­bri­ety, I sat in si­lence smil­ing ear-to-ear, sip­ping from the cup on my last turn. There was no oc­ca­sion cel­e­brated. It was just what they do. Nightly, mind you. And, boy, did it feel good to be alive.

(This page) Jan Ro­driguez of Ila­puti restaurant; skew­ered snacks from Tam­bai (Op­po­site page) A typ­i­cal drink­ing ses­sion usu­ally hap­pens at night af­ter work. Peo­ple hang out­side over bot­tles of beer or liquor and var­i­ous kinds of pu­lu­tan.

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