Before we go calling for another boycott or persona non grata declaration on the Malaysian chef that pulled the rag from under us on the CNN online poll of world’s best dishes, let’s find Master Shifu’s inner peace in figures pointing to Asia’s “most connected” countries.
So CNN released the results of its online poll on “Which destination has the world’s best food?” Philippines is second on that list. Taiwan is first. And Malaysia…sixth.
And because obviously results, much more CNN, don’t lie, it created some ruckus when popular Malaysian chef Wan commented in a media interview that Filipino food is among the worst in Asia. “The Philippines is known to have the worst food in Asia, ask any chef and they will tell you I am right,” he was quoted saying in the Free Malaysia Today. Apparently, chef Wan went waiving his bitter gourd, rinsing that bitter taste of the results with some bold salt for his own.
I don’t blame chef Wan. His palate is loyal to Malay cuisine. And he’s a food guru, a force to be reckoned with who’s instrumental in promoting Malaysia in food tourism. But chef Wan could have used a pinch of prudence. He could have set aside his spiciest attack by commenting instead that Malaysian cuisine should have been at the top — period. Saying publicly that “Philippines is known to have the worst food in Asia…” was a bullet let loose to ricochet.
Filipinos naturally didn’t take this lightly. Many unleashed their rage on the Internet. After Facebook was filled with shares of the CNN article, and media hopping on its news value, and the article going viral around the globe, someone had the guts to rain on our parade. Boo! Foul! Shame! Or so we react.
I’m a Filipino. I love Filipino food. Take me anywhere outside the country and my heart will beat for Filipino food. My blood is made thick with the spices that define the flavors of that national dish adobo. I can even be that figurative lechon that CNN writes to be a mainstay in Filipino feasts.
But just because I am, and am proud to be one, doesn’t mean I can’t reason with some sense. In the same way that the adobo is cooked differently across the Philippines, how one appreciates our food may not always be consistent with the high regard we have for it.
Without disputing how Filipino cuisine is Top 2 world’s best, it might help to reflect a bit on what drives online polls. The CNN article is based on an online poll. How it was conducted, I have no idea. But one thing I know about online polls: they ride on the Internet, the popularity of social media.
Where is the Philippines in terms of social media? Where is Malaysia?
On the website of Go-Globe, the Asia Pacific region is said to account for 52.5 per cent of the world’s social media users. That’s a lot. The same website lists the Top 10 countries that are heavily connected to social media. The list is broken into two: one for Facebook, one for Twitter. In Facebook, the Top 4 are Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Philippines. Except for Indonesia, where 96 per cent of its population are connected to Facebook, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines are all at 94 per cent. In Twitter, Indonesia is still at the top with 84 per cent. The Philippines is Top 3 with 67 per cent, Malaysia comes two slots lower with 59 per cent, and India climbs up to second spot with 67 per cent, discplacing Vietnam to seventh spot with 37 per cent.
In all these figures, the Philippines ranks No. 1 in terms of hours per day spent on social media. An average Filipino, according to Go-Globe, spends around 4 hours per day on social media (Facebook and Twitter alone), followed by Thailand and Malaysia at 3.42 hours. This gives us an idea of connectivity and access, and the extent to which Filipinos can rock the world in social media.
The results of this survey by Go-Globe might put in perspective how results of online polls can be influenced by the volume of people per country having access to the Internet and social media. While I agree that statistics has a way of proving the accuracy of online polls, never mind if you only have a handful sample, I argue that polls only reflect the preference or sentiment of a given segment within that circle of reach over a given time.
Before we let our emotions consume us, let’s all understand how access works. Who knows, if all of the world’s population voted, China, India and the U.S. would likely steal the top spots.