Jollibee opened its first store in Europe last March 18 in the city Milan where over 200,000 Filipinos reside. During its opening, thousands of Pinoys lined up despite the cold weather just to satisfy their cravings. But the much anticipated arrival of the international fast food chain has both gained excitement from its patrons who expressed warm approval of the happy red bee and criticisms from the Italians who were confused of the hype and long queues.
An article published online by MilanoToday with the caption, “It is the most famous fast food in the Philippines. But, obviously, it must have a certain notoriety here, too. Almost a kilometer queue formed in the center of Milan” drew different reactions. One comment from an Italian went “Poi s'incazzano con l'infermiere del pronto soccorso se devono aspettare un po' ,magari con carenza di personale. Mi sembra di assistere alla fame in India. (Then they get angry with the first-aid nurse if they have to wait a while, maybe with a shortage of staff. I feel like watching hunger in India.)"
Italians value authenticity when it comes to their cuisine so much that some of them had to result to demeaning comments. "Salsa pomodoro e wurstel? Ma va' mettici anche la mozzarella e fatti una pizza,ma da Cracco. (Tomato sauce and hotdog? Go put the mozzarella and make a pizza but from Cracco.)"
Even before the opening a post which turned out to be a blog monetization scheme criticized how the fast food giant’s spaghetti meal is life-threatening and an insult to the Italian pasta since they only put red stuff on spaghetti, fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce or preserved sauce.
But Filipinos were quick to defend their all time favorite meal. There are differences in flavor and preparation of Filipino spaghetti and Italian pasta. The sweet-style default party spaghetti is an interesting take on the Italian classic dish.
“We are proud of our culture and no offensive comment can change that,” said Grace Padua.
“This is our cuisine, don’t call them spaghetti if you don’t want to, don’t call Hawaiian pizza a pizza, but this us, our tradition, some people may like it and other people may not,” added Gillian David a law student in Milan.
Jollibee Manager Glen Umali could only remark, “I’m confident that Italians are open-minded people and they would love to try new things more than what is usual. I know they will be happy and proud that their delicacy now has a different version which is being enjoyed by Filipinos all over the world."
Italian food blogger Claudio Burdi however said that it’s too quick to predict. Italians have been appreciative of other cuisines. Their curiosity to try different food and products has been noticeable with more than 50,000 ethnic restaurants in Italy. “I do not know if it is going to be appreciated here (Filipino spaghetti) as it has been in the rest of the world, for sure not as a pasta dish but maybe as a different plate. They could work here too as long as they are good. Moreover, I guess that Jollibee would propose a menu less sweet and flavoured in order to better please the Italian taste as beverage companies do for every different market," said Burdi.
Of course, Filipino food is so much more than ingredients and what Jollibee offers is related to the culture, tradition, and identity of Pinoys all over the world.
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Photographs by the author