Erik Matti presents ‘inclusive’ story about PH through food in HBO Asia show


Posted at Oct 23 2019 05:31 PM

Erik Matti is one of the featured directors in the HBO Asia series “Food Lore.” Handout

MANILA – Erik Matti has learned to be careful about what he posts on social media, months after he was criticized for his scathing remarks about a show that featured Filipino street food.

On Wednesday, the celebrated director took the opportunity to apologize, saying it was “arrogant and rude” of him to say “something as controversial as that.”

It can be recalled that Matti previously slammed an episode of Netflix’s “Street Food” about the Philippines for “bad research.”

“I think that was a mistake,” he said during the press conference for the upcoming HBO Asia series “Food Lore,” where he is one of the featured directors. “I always make mistakes on social media, and I thought that the people reading [my posts] are just my friends and people who understand me.”

“At that point, we already had a story for this,” Matti revealed, referring to the episode on “Food Lore” that he directed. “It was thoughtless of me to be posting about another food show and I never realized until I remembered, ‘Oh my God, I’m also doing a food story.’ It was arrogant and rude for me to be commenting on another series.”

“I was just commenting as a fan of food shows, and I didn’t know na ganun ‘yung kapupuntahan nun, and I’m sorry for that. I’ve since learned. I only post dogs now,” he said in jest. 

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Speaking with ABS-CBN News after the press conference, Matti explained his controversial remarks about the “Street Food” episode, which showcased the culinary offerings of Cebu province.

He stressed that he “wasn’t criticizing the food that was there,” but the way the episode on the Philippines bordered on “poverty porn.”

“Ang naging view nila sa Philippines is about poverty, squalor. We’re more than that, I think,” he said. “We know how to enjoy, we have a good life despite [poverty].”

Despite his good intentions, Matti acknowledged his mistake, saying it was “not better worded to clarify my thoughts.”


Titled “Island of Dreams,” the Philippine episode of “Food Lore” tells the story of Nieves (Angeli Bayani), who leaves her husband (Yul Servo) and children to work as a domestic helper in Manila.


Matti said that through the show, he wanted to present an “inclusive” story of Filipino life through food.

“We probably had 40 dishes that I wanted to feature. Why a lot of dishes? I don’t want to be regionalistic, that’s one… the ‘Island of Dreams’ can feel like any island in the Philippines. We wanted this to be very Filipino rather than just Ilonggo. Of course we shot it in Negros, pero we are not saying it’s in Negros. We’re saying it’s any other island in the Philippines,” he said. 

“Same with the food that we chose,” the director went on. “We chose a cross-section of the best that we can have of our regional cuisine… We have kare-kare, we have inasal, we have all sorts of dishes just so everyone feels that the show is inclusive. Kasi tayo, ‘yan ang problema, we’re kind of watak-watak as a country… I’ve always dreamed of showcasing Ilonggo food but for this one I thought, I shouldn’t. I should be inclusive of all the other dishes that we have.”

Matti hopes that through “Island of Dreams,” Filipinos will be inspired to aim higher and strive for greatness, noting it has become the norm in the country to “settle.”

“Inasmuch as this episode is about food, this episode is also about filmmaking in Philippine context, and also everything about our country. Our country has stopped being ambitious or figuring out the best… When you go to a place like Hong Kong, there’s a guy who just does noodles for 80 years and he has figured out down to the last centimeter, and down to the last ounce of flour, what’s the best chew of a noodle. Tayo, we always settle, we don’t go for perfection even if we can never get there,” he said.

“Parang ganun siya, a lot of people would like to settle and here’s Angeli (the actress who portrayed the lead character in the episode), she wants to see things, is curious about finding out things. We have all these ideas, good ones. We do good work, but we always settle for something because there’s not enough money, there’s not enough resources, there’s not enough time for research. And we just equated it to food. That sometimes, food is just survival [but we can do something to make it taste better],” he added.

“Island of Dreams” will make its world debut at the Tokyo International Film Festival, along with the Vietnamese episode of “Food Lore” titled “He Serves Fish, She Eats Flower.”

It will then be shown on HBO and HBO GO starting November 3, 10 p.m.