A dirty kitchen is so common in the Philippines, you can pretty much argue that a Filipino household isn't complete without one. Although they're mostly found in the provinces (the countryside), it's still an essential for your typical city-dwelling families.

Dirty Kitchens: A Filipino’s Multi-Purpose Paradise

by Ewemiz C. Insigne

Imagine hearing a friend or colleague proudly proclaim "I love dirty kitchens! I even have my own!"

Before you immediately go all out in lecturing them about the importance of hygiene and cleaning routines, take a moment to ask them if they're Filipino (or Kuwaiti, Buhraini, or West-Asian) — because if they say yes, chances are that their "dirty kitchen" isn't literally a dirty kitchen — instead, it's a smaller and messier kitchen, usually built outside the main house, and is considered an extension of the ever-tiny Filipino houses. It's where all the dirty work comes into play: mass cooking (when there's a fiesta in your barangay or if your relatives from the U.S. are coming to visit), broiling some meat or barbecue, washing tons of pots and pans; heck — even laundry! It's the be-all-end-all of multi-purpose rooms.

A dirty kitchen is so common in the Philippines, you can pretty much argue that a Filipino household isn't complete without one. Although they're mostly found in the provinces (the countryside), it's still an essential for your typical city-dwelling families. You'll find your Filipina mom in here about 80% of the time, cooking and cleaning and cooking some more. Your dad will come briefly to store some of his tools as a cousin of yours rummages through the Balikbayan boxes to look for her old toy bear from when she was three. Almost always, you’ll find Filipinos with some close memory associated with their dirty kitchen: whether it be cooking some chicken adobo with their parents or cutting their anak’s hair.

Photos of dirty kitchens; often comprised with a sink and a lot of clutter.

Left photo credit: Kirsten Dianne Delmo; right photo credit: Ewemiz Insigne.

COOKING IN THE DIRTY KITCHEN

It's a pretty hot place in the Philippines, and it's not exactly pleasant to have smoke everywhere inside your house when it's as humid and warm as it is. This is one of the primary reasons why people prefer to cook things that often produces a lot of smoke, or broil in the dirty kitchen. A lot of Filipino houses (specifically those that aren’t well-off) aren’t ventilated properly, and more often than not, the house is just going to be filled with, if any, one or two small air-conditioners hidden away in rooms while the rest of the house is plagued with small and large electric fans. Because of this, the vapor and smoke coming from cooking inside can sometimes stick around longer than it should. In order to avoid all of those problems, Filipinos just cook outside where the fumes don’t have to stick around anywhere.

CLEANING THE DIRTY KITCHEN

There's also the notion of cleaning: while a dirty kitchen should be relatively clean, it’s normally a lot dirtier in comparison with the main kitchen, so having stains on the sink and a mess of a cabinet is pretty forgivable. There's no pressure on having to keep it spotless, since it's usually a "backstage" of sorts, often accessed by those who need to cook or wash dishes. Clutter is often just piled up in organized stacks: there’s a pile of old balikbayan boxes that hold toys from years past; a few shoe racks of old shoes that are too worn out to be recognized; maybe old books whose pages are torn and inks too faded to be read. This is where a lot of Filipinos often just dump things either too sentimental or too broken to be given away.

LAUNDRY IN THE DIRTY KITCHEN

Another big problem about Filipino households is that their houses or properties are small. There’s no expansive backyard or front yard to hang out all our laundry clothes; heck, you’ll probably find some households hang their laundries on the rails of their windows, sometimes inside the house. There’s not enough space inside for a laundry room; a lot of houses and apartments have to make do with the space they have, which is why you’ll often see a washing machine or a bunch of labadors or palanggana stacked at the side somewhere in the dirty kitchen. This is also where you’ll find the laundry wires, where everything is left to dry: towels, baby clothes, polos, etc. That being said, a dirty kitchen is basically an essential to a Filipino household, and a nice addition if you really want to make do with what small space you have. There are tons of things you can do in the extension, and really, it’s up to you and your family to make the most out of it. Be it playing outside with your anak, washing the dishes with ‘inay or ‘tay, or barbecuing something for your kaibigan at kapamilya, beautiful memories can be made in the humblest of places when you’re with beautiful people.


 

Glossary of Filipino Terms

(in order of first appearance within the article)

Barangay – officially considered the smallest local government of the Philippines; can also be considered as a ‘village’ or ‘neighborhood.’

Balikbayan boxes – literal translation: “boxes that return to the country”; these boxes are often one of the most looked-forward to of any event in a Filipino’s life when they have a close relative (usually a tita, or aunt) that brings a box full of stuff (books, clothes, food, etc.) from where they work/live, which is usually either in the Middle East or the U.S.

Anak – child.

Chicken adobo - the national food of the Filipinos, truly iconic to the Filipino cuisine.

Labadors/palangganas - basins, can be either big or small; usually used to wash clothes.

Inay/Tay - shortened forms of Nanay and Tatay; Mother and Father.

Kaibigan at kapamilya - friends and family.

# # #

Dirty Kitchens: A Filipino’s Multi-Purpose Paradise

by Ewemiz C. Insigne

Imagine narinig mo sa kaibigan mo o colleague na nagsabing,: “I love dirty kitchens! I even have one!”

Bago mo silang lecturan ng hygiene at cleaning routines, tanungin mo muna sila kung sila ba ay Filipino, (o Kuwaiti, Buhraini, o West-Asian) – because if they say yes, chances are ang “dirty kitchen” nila ay di literal na dirty kitchen. Instead, ito ay maliit at maraming kalat na kusina. Nakatayo ito sa labas ng main house at isang extension na maliit na bahay ng mga Filipino. Dito ginaganap ang karamihan na gawain sa kusina, tulad ng mass cooking (kung may fiesta sa barangay), broiling some meat or barbecue, paghugas ng malalaking pots and pans – kahit sa paglalaba! It’s the be-all-end-all of multi-purpose rooms.

Ang dirty kitchen ay common sa Pilipinas. You can pretty much argue that a Filipino household ay hindi kumpleto kung wala ito. Although makikita ito mostly sa mga provinces, it is an essential for your typical city-dwelling families din. A typical Filipina mom ay makikita mo palagi sa dirty kitchen, about 80% of her time is spent sa pagluluto, paglilinis at pagluluto ulit. Itinatago ni tatay ang kanyang mga tools dito, kasama ng mga balikbayan boxes kung saan ang laman ay mga old toys ng cousin mo from when she was three. Almost always, you’ll find Filipinos na ma associate nila ang kanilang memories sa kanilang dirty kitchen: whether nagluluto ng chicken adobo, o nagputol ng buhok.

Photos of dirty kitchens; often comprised with a sink and a lot of clutter.

Left photo credit: Kirsten Dianne Delmo; right photo credit: Ewemiz Insigne.

COOKING IN THE DIRTY KITCHEN

Mainit sa Pilipinas, and it’s not exactly pleasant to have smoke everywhere sa loob ng bahay mo when it’s as humid and warm as it is. Ito ang isang rason kung bakit ang Filipinos prefer na magluto sa dirty kitchen kung maraming smoke, o nag-iihaw. Karamihan ng mga bahay (lalo na yung mga di naman masyado mayaman) are not ventilated properly, and more often than not, ang bahay ay may, kung meron man, isa o dalawang air conditioners lang, at ang ibang rooms ay may malaking electric fan. Dahil dito, and vapor at smoke na nagmumula sa pagluluto can stick around longer than it should. Para maka-avoid ng problemang ito, Filipinos just cook sa labas, where the fumes don’t have to stick around anywhere.

CLEANING IN THE DIRTY KITCHEN

Nandiyan rin yung notion sa paglilinis. While ang dirty kitchen should be relatively malinis, it’s normally a lot messier in comparison with the main kitchen, kahit magkaroon ng stains sa sink o mess sa cabinet ay okay lang. Walang pressure to keep it spotless, since nasa likod naman ito ng bahay, parang “backstage,” often accessed by those na magluluto o maghuhugas ng pinggan. Clutter is often just piled up in organized stacks: nandiyan yung mga balikbayan boxes na may laman ng toys from years’ past; mga shoeracks of old shoes; at mga lumang libro. Dito tinatago ng mga Pilipino ang mga bagay na may sentimental value sa kanila, o mga patapon.

LAUNDRY IN THE DIRTY KTICHEN

Isa pang problema about Filipino households ay ang maliliit na bahay at properties. Walang malawak na backyard or front yard para ma-isampay ang nilabhan na damit; heck, you’ll probably find some households hang their laundries sa kanilang mga bintana, minsan sa loob ng bahay. Walang space para sa laundry room; a lot of houses and apartments have to make do with the space they have, kaya makikita mo ang washing machine o a bunch of labadors o palanggana sa loob ng dirty kitchen. Makikita mo rin ang laundtry wires para ma dry ang mga towels, baby clothes, polos, etc.

That being said, ang dirty kitchen ay essential to a Filipino household, and a nice addition if you really want to make do with the small space you have. Marami kayong magagawa sa extension place ninyo, and really, it’s up to you and your family kung ano pa ang mga ito. Maaring gawin ang paglalaro with your anak, paghuhugas ng pinggan kasama si ‘inay o ‘tay, o mag-barbecue kasama ang mga kaibigan at kapamilya; beautiful memories can be made in the humblest of places when you’re with beautiful people.

# # #

Photo of Ewemiz Insigne

About the Author

Ewemiz Insigne draws and writes! Visit her at https://ko-fi.com/ewecandraw and https://www.instagram.com/ewec...!

Read more posts from Ewemiz