Boodle Fight!

“Ready on the left,
 Ready on the right,
 Commence boodle fight!”

Being born in a family where my maternal grandfather served the Philippine Military for decades and experienced the hardship of battle during the Vietnam War, my mother would always emphasize to us that food is sacred and we should always be present during mealtime or else we won’t get any food to eat.

Our grandfather would always tell us how they would end up sleeping in caves in the jungles and rain forests of Vietnam and they would eat ferns and shells they would find inside the cave.

I still vividly remember the time when I wasn’t able to come to our house for lunch at 12 noon because I went to the mountains to get some wild fruits, I arrived with no viand left. I was in tears while eating cold rice and salt. From then on, I promised myself not to be late every mealtime.

What my mother would always tell us and practice in our house is what we call the Boodle Fight which started from the Philippine Military Academy. We always eat in bare hands (kamayan), without the use of spoons and fork.

What is a Boodle Fight?

They said that it is a style of eating that originated from the Filipino Military. Boodle sometimes spelled “Budol”, is a term used by military cadets referring to “Food” and “Fight” associates itself as a “Free for all eating battle”.

It is a symbol of camaraderie, brotherhood and equality. It’s salient features include eating with hands (kamayan), on standing position and as fast as you can or you could be left with nothing to eat.

The food is placed on top of a long banana leaf and in the true military practice, diners do not sit in chairs but instead stand shoulder to shoulder in a line on both sides of the table.

The “fight” in the name refers to the act of grabbing and eating as much as the soldier can before others grab them, otherwise you won’t have any.  Remember this is served to very hungry men so if you’re slow you will definitely run out of food.

In theory, plates and utensils weren’t used due to soldiers needing to remain quiet and undetected from enemy soldiers. During the wars, most Boodle Fights took place in the dark and using your hands was the most logical thing to do.

Nowadays, you’ll find this tradition being done during fiestas and family celebrations.

What dishes to serve?

You can find variety of vegetables, fruits, meats and seafoods during the Boodle Fight.

Roasted vegetables like Okra and Talong, slice fresh tomatoes and salted eggs.  Dishes like fried dried fish like tuyo and danggit are quite common. 

Breakfast meats are also popular like longanisa and pork tapa but the favorite ones are the charcoal grilled seafoods and meats. Some also add deep fried items like lumpia or ground pork wrapped in lumpia wrapper, fried fish, fried chicken then to top it all up, rice and noodles are also served as a carbohydrate source.

Fruits are also served as a balancer to the salty and oily viands.  Fruits such as pineapples, mangoes and papaya are very common. 

I know from experience that eating with your clean bare hands make the food taste better. In the Philippines, it’s customary that we pack our foods using banana leaves as it has an added aroma to the food.

What I like best in Boodle Fight is the experience of intimacy with your loved-ones and the sheer joy of sharing delicious foods with them.

I’d like to always uphold camaraderie, brotherhood and equality epitomized in the Boodle Fight. Whatever it is that we face, the good will always surface in time. Whatever hard the decision to be true and side with the good, it’s always better to sacrifice for the benefit of the many others.

In this time when social media is a powerful tool, it is always best to validate the facts and never be fooled by fake news.  

Published by Maria Cristina Gino Baroso

Education advocate and travel lover

106 thoughts on “Boodle Fight!

  1. This is very interesting, about the boodle fights, thanks for sharing the background to help understand the history behind it.
    Many traditional meals in India are eaten on fresh Banana leaves, and some preparation of fish steaks is done by wrapping the fish in banana leaves before cooking, it did infuse s beautiful flavour into the food. And eating with clean bare hands is a delight for those who know, I too think it helps to savor your food a lot more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahahah, there’s so much to do in the office in preparation for a massive campaign on home based learning set up as we move the opening to October 5, the preparations for the National Teachers’ Day celebration, my studies… and many more… hahahah… can’t finish all them at the same time… 🙂 🙂 🙂 Thanks God I found the time today. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, there’s so much to do in the education sector as we’re always on the spotlight nowadays. 🙂 I’m working to reach more of our last mile schools and their learners and find how they’re coping up with this ‘new normal’. Someday, I’ll share some photos of our programs working with our partners here in the Philippines.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. It reminded me of Indian way of eating food with bare hands….food tastes better & it bring us close to food & family….love is the common factor. Didn’t know the term “boodle fight”….very interesting post 😊

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re very welcome. I think both the tradition have things in common. That’s how Indians treat the guests as well. “Mehmaan Bhagwan ke barabar”…..meaning guest is treated as God….with same respect 😊….thx for your sharing, it reminded me of all this instantly. You’re quite expressive the way you write….that’s quite a blessing in itself 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved this post. It reminded me of meals when my five kids were growing up. We used knives, forks, and spoons, which could be dangerous at times. Everyone ate fast. If you were late, you missed out because all the food woulod be gone.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is amazing! My kids are now adults but when they lived at home we always ate the evening meal together. It was a sacred family time. Thank you for introducing me to the boodle fight and the way of life that went with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve eaten this way in Thailand when with my Thai friends in their homes but rather than standing we sit on the floor in a relaxed position, usually cross-legged, and reach in and take what we want. There is usually a plate provided for everyone and one for bones! As you say, it lends more an air of camaraderie and intimacy and there is no doubt but that eating with hands enhances the taste. The spread you photographed looks very enticing. I could feel the saliva glands spring into action as I looked at it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh, I have never seen or know about Boodle Fight! I’ve visited Manila before and love the local food, its very tasty. Thank you for sharing your culture, it is very interesting to know about this. Food is always one of the thing that makes people closer to each other and warms the heart. Best wishes from Borneo. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Magno-normalise din lahat. Tiis-tiis lang. Trend talaga ng pandemic ang may surges at medyo matagal bago mawala. Prayers lang talaga para sa lahat, na magkaro’n ng solusyon para makabalik lahat sa paghahanap-buhay at may makain, at ‘di magkasakit. 🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Our culture is similar to yours. We consider food as God and we take pleasure in eating food with bare hands. I am an Indian. And, I think more people should realize that people around the world are practising more or less similar culture. Can I share your blog on my instagram story and Facebook? I will tag you in it too.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Loved this post the cuisine looks simply delectable! And the boodle-fight is something interesting to know. Your mother is right to emphasize that food is sacred and the family must eat together. In my country too we eat with our hands like kamayan but not for formal meals.
    Cheers and regards.

    Liked by 1 person

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