A Struggle for a Standard



Last week, I raised the lack of policing on the policies on health protocols. As if taunting me, I experienced the policing that I was looking for these past days. (Talk about getting what you ask for.) We went to a mall food court, and bought fruit juice, fries and siomai for afternoon dine-in snack. Then, as we were feasting on those fried sliced potatoes and wrapped meat, one of the mall staff asked one of us to transfer to another table in compliance to “one per table rule”. (To be fair, the mall employee was appropriately polite.) He further added that a city hall employee was doing some “audit” and the mall has to follow the rules. A few days later, we had another dine-in afternoon snack in the other large mall; this time with spicy noodles and fried flour coated boiled eggs. In similar fashion, the food court guard asked us to sit on separate tables. Praise the policing of the protocols. But this just got me wondering. In more than one year of this sort of circumstances and throughout that span of time, I have dined in here and there across the city, when it was worse, and less worse and far worse again, this has been probably the first time that I have encountered an exercise of authority to distance during dining. At least, there is consistency in the two big malls.


Coincidentally, I finally was able to dine-in for my lunch at my usual carenderia since this latest MECQ declaration. Mind you, there were three of us sharing a small round table, with the police station just across the road. For all I know, the cops must have been taking their lunch on the other tables. As far as we know, there has been no change in community quarantine classification. So, what changed with the rules? The way I understood it, this carenderia closed for dine-in services in compliance to MECQ regulations. Now, the way I see it, since other businesses are not complying with the rules and no one’s blowing the whistle on this acts of non-compliance, the carenderia ladies may have decided that they open shop regardless of the so-called rules. They must have thought to themselves, “To heck with that, let the diners in for our own survival”. At least, in this situation, the small scale entrepreneurs get to earn a living.


But if a few weeks ago, we had dined in one table in the mall food courts, and now, we couldn’t. About the same time, a few weeks ago, the carenderia closed down in respect of MECQ, and now, they’re open with MECQ still going on, does not that make you wonder where we stand on our standards?


Doesn’t Covid-19 infection occur both in food shops with air conditioning and those without?


There have been talks that DTI is pushing for setting a standard recipe for adobo, sinigang, lechon and sisig. Actually, this is not a new issue, some years ago, there had been groups that have advocated for a standard recipe for the Filipino adobo. This time, they decided to throw in sinigang, lechon and sisig into the mix. With all due respect to them, there really are some groups of people who are seriously bothered that the taste of adobo (and almost all Filipino dishes for that matter) vary in every province of the country. “The DTI Bureau of Philippine Standards Director Neil P. Catajay said that developing Filipino dish standards will create a “distinguished Filipino food culture while establishing the common ground for food businesses.” (https://www.bworldonline.com ) Once again, I express my highest respects to our food experts. But is not Filipino food culture already “distinguished”? Filipino food is sour and salty, oily, fatty and garlicky, and not as spicy as our Southeast Asian neighbors’. Foreigners do not confuse Filipino food with Indonesian food or Thai food. I believe that Filipino food culture is distinguished enough without the standards. Our common ground is our culture which could not be standardized.


Now, there are these talks about abolishing the board exams including bar exams – the exams that qualify lawyers in our country. Oh, the idea comes from Labor Secretary Silvestre Belo III. He reportedly assumes that the baccalaureate degrees are already sufficient and the licensure examinations are just additional unnecessary burdens (probably to works, since I suppose he’s speaking for the promotion of labor and employment).


What’s with us? We have different standards for food courts and carenderias. There are moves to standardize adobo and to destandardize professional practice. Where do we stand on the standards?


“Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people.” Isaiah 62:10