Words by Lori Dumaligan
It’s true that there are some things in this world that we can’t wrap our heads around—like the fact that there won’t be any Game of Thrones episodes to look forward to anymore. To this day, my parent’s still haven’t accepted that I don’t eat meat.
Since moving to Manila, I’ve always found it awkward to introduce myself to new people because I’m scared that we won’t have anything in common. And the fact that I’m pescatarian tops the cake. I find it really hard to explain what it is and why, which makes it all the more awkward. In simple terms, a pescatarian is someone who does not eat meat but does eat fish and eggs.
But I’ve taken on the challenge of finding places to eat, how to eat out with friends, and overcoming several frustrations in the metro. This isn’t meant to be a cautionary tale, but if you’re thinking about switching to this lifestyle, here are 7 things people almost always ask or say to you when you’re a pescatarian in Manila, and the struggles that go along with it.
7. “But why?”
To almost every person you meet, you will have to explain why you’re a pescatarian. For me, I had a traumatic experience seeing and hearing a pig being slaughtered at three years old during the funeral of our next-door neighbor. My family tells me that I cried and didn’t want to eat meat for several days. I remember crying and I remember being afraid of the agonizing screams of the pig.
But because it’s socially acceptable to eat meat, I continued eating it until I was old enough to understand that I can choose to stop. I was about 15-16 then. So, it’s been around three years now.
When I tell my new friends about this, they say that it must be so hard. It is. When first settling in the metro, I quickly realized that pork and chicken are everywhere. So, I quickly had to think and find out what can I eat especially since I live in a dorm where I can’t cook. It would be alright if I cooked my own food but that was my first challenge. It wasn’t homesickness but finding where and what to eat!
6. “Can you eat anything here?”
Another thing that can be a bummer as a pescatarian is that it’s hard to eat out with friends and family. When you’re at the mall, you can’t just choose a restaurant that looks good. You must come prepared to stroll around for a while looking at menus or scrolling through Google to find restaurants that are pesca-friendly. It can be a hassle for the others though, so you’ll always need to double check with them.
On the bright side, you get to know who your true friends are and who your most supportive family member. These are the people who will always have your back by making sure you can eat something at a restaurant without even having to remind them!
5. “Let’s go Samgyup?”
Some say that denying meat is like giving up on one of the joys of life. Well, to each their own. There is no true sacrifice as a pescatarian than when you live beside a Korean barbecue place and your friends like eating there. And you know you can’t just go when you can only watch them eat. It feels like you’re taking the fun out of it.
It doesn’t have to be Samygyup, though. It also feels the same for burgers or other meaty Pinoy comfort foods.
Because the worst thing is that you feel left out when everyone’s having fun with their sinfully delicious Chicken Joy and there’s no tuna pie with fries to make you feel included.
4. “Do you want a steak/chicken/sisig?”
Despite making it clear and explaining several times, your friends will still keep forgetting your eating habits. Can’t blame them of course, so you gotta be on your toes even when you’re ordering take-out or stocking the fridge. This can become a pet peeve but just take your time; not everyone will remember their keys. So, just remind them with a kinder, less sarcastic tone without making a face.
3. “Wait, you’re vegan right?”
Having to remind everyone that no, you are not vegetarian or vegan is also another spiel you need to memorize. In conversations or anywhere at all where you have to order for a big group, this is something you’ll need to constantly clarify because it shows you can still eat fish and eggs and they can still hang out with you.
Or, you know, just be prepared by bringing a loaf of bread because free food doesn’t always mean free food for you.
2. “Eat meat. You need protein!”
This may or may not surprise, but people will still tell you to eat meat. Especially your family. Especially your mom who is highly concerned about your calorie intake.
1. “How do you eat the same thing every day?”
And finally, you’ll often hear this: “I feel bad for you. What and how do you eat? How do you eat the same thing every day?”
Truth be told, there isn’t a lot of variety of food to eat because there are not much restaurants in Manila that are veggie or pesca-friendly. But at the end of the day, it’s not that bad!
You get used to it and you remind yourself that this was your choice. And you find what food works for you and you figure out how to change it up once in a while.
So should you or should you not be a pescatarian in Manila? That’s up to you. But you should definitely try it out.
Have you ever thought of giving up meat? Let us know what you think in the comments!