Learning about Filipino food involves understanding the cultural history and geography of the Philippines.
Originating from various cultures but displaying regional characteristics, the food throughout the islands was prepared by Malay settlers, spiced by commercial relations with Chinese traders, stewed in three centuries of Spanish rule, and hamburgered by American colonial influence on the nation’s way of life.
The multiracial features of the Filipino — a Chinese-Malayan face, a Spanish name, and an American nickname — thus inform Filipino food, producing dishes of Eastern and Western extraction.
Bagoóng is an encompassing term for Philippine condiments made from fish or tiny shrimps that are salted and fermented for several weeks. The color varies from light pink to dark brown, the texture from firm to watery.
In general, the shrimps produce a firmer, more colorful paste, while bagoong made from fish is liquid and darker.
Many Filipinos are Christians who abstain from eating meat during Lent, especially during Holy Week. They turn to fish and vegetable dishes, and the more devout Catholics go on a completely liquid diet or fast.