Food is the thing that the Filipinos must be proud of. As some foreigners say about the Philippines is that the food tastes great. Filipino food, although some are from the colonizers, are truly delicious. In fact, a Filipino can never live without it. As a website say, “To the Filipinos, food is important as it is an integral part of local art and culture as well as communal existence2.” For food, Merlinda Bobis somewhat approached the Filipinos her story in the language of food and love; hence she wrote Banana Heart Summer.
Banana Heart Summer is the first book I’ve ever read that talks about food. 49 different foods with different tastes were synthesized in her book. My fellow readers reacted this way, “Ayoko kong ituloy ang pagbabasa… Nakakagutom (I don’t want to continue my reading… It makes me go hungry).” As for me, it is really very tempting and mouth-watering. It is as if it is a food for the thought, for the soul, and for the body, too.
This book talks about Nenita a.k.a. Nining. She is a young domestic helper of Señorita VV (Violeta Valenzuela). Nenita tells us all the things she experienced, as if her life is the life of the neighborhood which many things happen. It is from the Anastasio Guerrero a.k.a Calcium Man’s adventures with Nenita in selling of his ware to Agualita, the stillborn youngest sibling, being played and loved by her siblings. The neighborhood was situated between a church and a volcano, in which this is situated in Bicol.
Bicol, as we all know, was famous of its Bicol Express. As a tool, food was made to be a symbol of Nenita’s story of her and her neighborhood. For example, the eloping of Tiya Viring, a sari-sari store owner, and Juanito Guwapito, the son of Tiya Maring which is the mortal opponent of Tiya Viring in the business, makes Tiya Maring fuming and raging. As Nenita told the story, she said that Bicolanas are hot in bed. So the writer relates it to Bicol Express so that the story will be a lot easier to understand.
In relation to food as symbolism, food is also the center of the story. The idol of Nentita, which is Nana Dora, was making snacks for everyone in the neighborhood. Even Mrs. Alano is making her cooking as a refuge for her unfaithful husband. Also, Nenita is also the cook of the family in which she is always commended by the Valenzuelas.
Food, as used in the novel, also was used for stating love. In the chapter entitled Biko, a just right sweetness, Nenita expresses his emotion on Ralph McKenna, the American friend of Dr. Valenzuela, as she saw him for the first time. She served biko in him and the American commended her, as well as she liked the American.
Another thing in food is that it is the tool for the story to get its denouement, or the conclusion of the story. The goal of Nenita was to make her mother love her. As for it, Nenita worked as a domestic helper to make her mother, her unemployed father and her five siblings to eat rice instead of rice gruel and so that to prevent esophagus lengthening. But at the end, she might not have achieved her goal on being a domestic helper, but she has gotten her mother’s love for her and made her happy. As the novel stated:
“You’ll be good, won’t you. Nning?” She kept her eyes closed, as if she had looked at me enough. “They’ll be good to you there, very good… to my firstborn.” Then she stretched out an arm to be washed.3
Chapter 41: Escabeche: sweet and sour; p. 209 ¶3 sentence 1. Banana Hesrt Summer
Filipino Food. Food. 2004. Marimari,com. 28 Oct 2006. . <>http://www.marimari.com/cONteNt/philippines/food/main.html>
Chapter 49: Pinuso: becoming a heart; p. 251 ¶10. Banana Hesrt Summer