Filipino Table Etiquette Punished at Montreal School

by Joey deVilla on April 28, 2006

Those of you from the Philippines, Thailand or Singapore are familiar with the “spoon and fork” style of eating. The fork goes in the left hand, spoon in the right. The spoon can be used as a cutting implement, and the fork is used to push the food into the spoon which then goes in the mouth. It’s perfect for dishes served with sauces and rice.

(In some cases, the “fork and spoon” method could be perceived as snooty.)

I just got sent a link (thanks, Daejin!) to a story about a seven-year-old Montreal area boy who’s being punished for eating at school Filipino style:

Luc Cagadoc’s table behaviour is traditionally Filipino; he fills his spoon by pushing the food on his plate with a fork, his mother, Maria Theresa Gallardo, says.

But after being punished by his school’s lunch program monitor more than 10 times this year for his mealtime conduct — including his technique — the seven-year-old told Gallardo said last week that he was too embarrassed to eat his dinner.

When he eats with both a spoon and fork, instead of only one utensil, the Grade 2 student said the lunch monitor moves him to a table to sit by himself.

Upset over Luc’s story, Gallardo confronted the lunchtime caregiver the next day and on April 13, she telephoned the school’s principal, Normand Bergeron. His reaction brought her to tears, she says. “His response was shocking to me,” Gallardo, who moved to Montreal from the Philippines in 1999, told The Chronicle. “He said, ‘Madame, you are in Canada. Here in Canada you should eat the way Canadians eat.”

She disagrees with the lunch monitor’s approach to teaching children how to eat and says it is emotionally abusive to Luc. When she questioned Bergeron about punishing students for their table habits, she says he replied that, “If your son eats like a pig he has to go to another table because this is the way we do it and how we’re going to do it every time.”

What a bunch of sweethearts. This story is already being reported in the Philippines, on the ABS-CBN News (ABS-CBN is a Filipino TV channel) and the Manila Times.

I myself tend to use the etiquette that’s appropriate to the situation. I use the Filipino fork-and-spoon method at Sunday dinner with the family, the knife-and-fork method when dining with “The Man”, use my chopsticks as both eating and serving utensils at dim sum . Depending on the situation, I eat pizza with either a knife and fork or my hands. I think that Luc should learn a number of eating styles for all situations, but I don’t think that the fork-and-spoon method is so offensive that he should be punished for it.

To my mind, it’s another case of intolerance married to Quebec “for me but not for thee” cultural insecurity, where they whine about being Francophones drowning in an Anglophone sea, and then turn around and pull this kind of nonsense.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous April 28, 2006 at 10:49 am

Oh dear. I eat my dim sum with my hands!

I did go to a school where they monitored you at lunch time and, though I don’t remember ever being punished (I don’t know if there was no punishment or if I just did it correctly).

Is he going to a public school?

Anonymous April 28, 2006 at 6:50 pm

I also attended a school where lunchroom behavior was monitored. I am sure I sat at the solo table once or twice. After 25 years of raising children I can tell you it isn’t an unusual thing for elementary school children to act up at lunch.

To my mind, it’s another case of intolerance married to Quebec “for me but not for thee” cultural insecurity, where they whine about being Francophones drowning in an Anglophone sea, and then turn around and pull this kind of nonsense.

I don’t see that. Assuming the parent is correct — it is still the words of a single man. For all we know he isn’t a separatist.

Assuming it is a case of behavior problems — as the principal contends — then the case has been blown out of proportion.

I’m not going to assume either way since I have dealt both with lousy teachers and insincere parents. But in either case, this isn’t about separatism or cultural insecurity.

And I have to say I never have personally experienced any discrimination from francophones in Montreal.

Anonymous April 28, 2006 at 6:54 pm

“Eat like a pig”???

Boy that makes me mad. I find someone chewing with their mouth open far more offensive. While they’re at it, they should clamp down on people who lick their knives as well.

And there’s no mention of anyone at the school trying to constructively teach the kids on Canadian conventions for utensil use. Just “ewww, you’re disgusting”, coupled with mindless punishment. Way to run an educational institution, guys.

I agree with you in that one should try to adopt an eating style that’s appropriate to the situation, but the school’s response is way out of line.

Anonymous April 29, 2006 at 3:14 am

It is my opinion, that no one should be punished for his/her culture. I cannot relate to “acting up”, etc. — hey, its about kids, not criminals. And what’s more, that guy apparently learned it that way and it’s perfectly normal where he comes from.

I’ve put a link to this post as well as a short translation / interpretation on our portal about nutrition (it’s German).

Anonymous May 3, 2006 at 11:18 pm

How then would the child drink his soup? With his palm?

To equate using both spoon and fork with a pig-like eating is exaggerated and abusive. Do pigs in Quebec use spoon and fork? Now, that is an exceptional ability.

Anyway, I believe, since we are just on the use of either fork or spoon in eating, that it is civilized for Quebecers to use fork in eating their French fries. Eating fries with bare fingers is absolutely uncivilized.

Ang labo mga pare!

Anonymous May 4, 2006 at 12:17 pm

wow, that story has me steamed like a dumpling. That defiant lack of political correctness and pur laine bullshit does a real disservice to separatism as a humanistic movement.

Whether its the “ethnics with money” comment or the woman who showed up in blackface to a halloween party I attended, there are moments in quebec that just make me cringe.

Poor kid. Sounds like my parents’ stories from Vancouver the 50’s.

Anonymous May 5, 2006 at 2:22 pm

punished for “eating technique”

this kinda avoids the “Not disciplining the School Bullies” issue

i guess they’ll do what ever it takes to veer our attention away from that one

Anonymous May 6, 2006 at 5:50 pm

I spent 7 weeks in Manila opening a calll center a few years ago. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and now I am an expert at cutting meat up with a spoon!

I also have a 7 yr old child, and my heart goes out to him and his mother. It saddens me that ppl like the principal and lunch monitor are so ignorant. To segregate this child for not being like them is absurd.

These are the ppl we send our children to learn from. They could have used this as a wonderful learning experience for other children to learn about other cultures. But instead it was turned into a racist experience.

al December 26, 2007 at 3:44 am

I grew up in Montreal in the 50’s thru the 70’s. Even then, the Francophone separatistic morons were beginning to show their true colours…which smack somewhat of repression and totalitarianism – all perpetrated in the name of “pur laine” or social and cultural purification of the French language and culture (so-called).

To me, this is a perfect example of a total moron running that school and dealing with this child. Quebec is a part of Canada where the rest of Canadians have conveniently overlooked numerous offenses against basic civil rights of language and even the right to proper service from government, if you are an Anglophone. What else is new in la Belle Province!!

Cobra Commander November 24, 2009 at 10:23 pm

I’m part flip. I grew up around flips. I don’t know if I use fork and spoon style, I never though about it. I probably do when I eat chinese food, I love to scoop all the rice up. I don’t eat rice with a fork, I find it stupid, it always falls off. If I eat my snickers bar with a fork and knife (How could we forget Seinfeld?), who has the right to say it’s wrong? Some times I eat pizza with a fork and knife, other times i slam it in my mouth with my hands. Depends on my mood (and laziness).

I never realized that other than being amazing housekeepers (I stereotype my own, I’m allowed) people actually had something against filipinos. This is an example of how a small minded person or group of persons can try and assert power where there is no power to be given. Grasping at straws as it were. There is no real ‘table manner’ police so why not take control of that…

I never felt so close to my community in 33 years as I do now. I’ve somewhat loathed my heritage after being a spoiled 13 year old west island boy going to Manilla and Cebu for the first times and seeing how my family lived. This situation incites such rage inside me that a helpless young boy was picked on by an advocate of manipulation and prejudice. Who said Nazi’s where dead?

Manipulation occurs when the boy is told to be a certain way: “Canadian”. What the hell does that mean? Don’t tell me South Park got it right! There is nothing that differenciates Canadians from one another? That is just as bad as saying “All those Americans are gun crazy rednecks”. No they are not, most of my blood family lives there, they don’t own guns.

Prejudice occurs when the boy is shunned and embarassed at not ‘being normal’. It’s horrible to pick on a child, we have laws that protect them from that…I thought. Why would his “table manners” cause such a stir? Was the lunch monitor having a good day?

I’ve always stayed out of politics, it’s wrong and no one is ever right. I’ve always kept my debates in seedy bars with less intelligent people than me, but that’s probably the french quebecor in me, because that’s my other half. I’m french quebecor and filipino.

This situation has made me choose sides and I can’t believe that I have to live with a French last name for the rest of my life. I’ve always hated it, and now I know why.

I just hope when I go to the states to visit my family, I don’t become “Mr. Random Check” in the security line and asked to eat some rice and sauce with a choice of fork, knife and spoon because God help me if this becomes the norm.

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