Hapag Kainan: A sacred Space for Families

Ms. Monique BugnosenIf there is one area in our home that brings together all of us in the family at the same time, that is the dining room.  My family loves to eat, but specifically we love to eat together. An unspoken rule in our household is that we have to wait for everyone to arrive home before eating. I remember one night when I went home a little bit late and to my surprise I saw my family started dinner without me. Not only did I feel neglected, but it also made me skip eating dinner.

Hapag Kainan is a Filipino word for dining room or dining table. It is an important part in the Filipino household because this is where families get the chance to communicate with one another while enjoying their food. Due to the busy schedule each of us has, it is only during dinnertime that my family and I are able to sit down and talk about anything under the sun. Sometimes we talk about the news, other times we talk about the latest movies and tv shows both in the local and international scene. But most of the time, we talk about how our day went and compliment one another with what we achieved during the day.

Aside from day-to-day conversations we have during dinnertime, momentous occasions are most of the time celebrated at the dining table.  Be it as simple as passing an exam or getting hired for a job, or the more important occasion, such birthdays, or anniversaries, Filipino families will surely prepare for this momentous event.  Family, in this context, is not only your father, mother, or sibling, but also includes your extended family, your titos and titas (uncles, and aunts), pinsan(cousins) and even your next-door neighbor.

Regardless of what country or nation you are from, I believe that the best bonding activity for the family is through food. Whether it’s preparing the food, consuming the food, or cleaning up the dining room or dining table afterwards, these are simple ways that family members get to know each other and strengthen ties. As food supplies us with vital nutrients for living and sustenance, families supply each human being with the most basic and important values in society, such as faith, hope and love.  And more importantly they implant to each individual the meaning and significance of freedom and human dignity.

The great German philosopher Hegel gives us a social and philosophical view of the family as one of the three leading institutions in society, the other two being civil society and the state. As the primal social institution wherein the man is able to experience firsthand the state of living, family is basically where freedom and love first exist. Freedom in this perspective is flawed because this is the first time man interacts and forms relationships with other beings. But this flaw is compensated by the fact that the family is bound by love.  The love that the family conveys is not only physical nor emotional, it is also for the bigger part a spiritual bond that is difficult to break.

I am thankful to be part of a family that supports and understands each other. We may have different or opposing views on certain issues, but in moments when I need a shoulder to cry on, they’re the first ones to be there. The way I see life right now is because of the way my family has showed me what true selfless love is all about. And now that I’m part of the WYA family, my dinnertime with my own family has gotten a lot more special.

By Ms. Monique Bugnosen, A WYA Asia Pacific Intern.