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Kamayan as applied through a boodle fight
Alternative nameskinamo, kinamut
Place of originPhilippines
Other informationSadya
A beach boodle fight in Baler, Aurora.
Men of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army are joined by civilians in a boodle fight.

Kamayan is a Filipino cultural term for the various occasions or contexts in which pagkakamay (Tagalog: "[eating] with the hands") is practiced,[1][2] including as part of communal feasting (called salu-salo in Tagalog).[3][4][5] Such feasts traditionally served the food on large leaves such as banana or breadfruit spread on a table, with the diners eating from their own plates.[6][7] The practice is also known as kinamot or kinamut in Visayan languages.[citation needed]

While kamayan started out as a common folkway before the arrival of European colonizers, its culturally significance has become elevated in the Philippines' postcolonial culture, since the practice of pagkakamay had been discouraged by the Philippines' Spanish and American colonizers.[8]

A separate[8][9] tradition which involves eating with the hands straight off the table is the boodle fight, a tradition of the Armed Forces of the Philippines originally practiced by Philippine Military Academy cadets,[10] and drawn from a similar tradition at the United States Military Academy West Point.[8] The intent is to build military camaraderie by getting military personnel to enjoy the same food together, regardless of rank.[10]

Among restaurants outside of the Philippines, however, the term "boodle fight" has often been conflated with "kamayan" and "salo-salo," and the terms tend to be used synonymously when marketing the Filipino food experience.[9][11][12]


The Tagalog term "kamayan" is formed from the root word kamay and the noun-forming suffix "-an" which indicates "collectivity, object, place, and instrument."[13] Both "pagkamay" and "kinamot" mean "[eating] with the hands", from the root words kamay and kamot, both meaning "hands".[14]

Meanwhile, "Salu-salo" means "feast" or "banquet", a reduplication of salo, "to eat together" or "to share food".

Kamayan and salu-salo

Kamayan also describes the traditional communal feasts or family meals, where rice and various colorful dishes are placed on banana leaves and eaten together. The banana leaves are washed and slightly wilted over open flames to bring out an oily sheen and then laid out on a long table.[6] In the Batanes Islands in the northern Philippines, large breadfruit (tipuho) leaves are used instead in a serving tradition called vunung or vunong.[7]

Method of pagkakamay

Pagkakamay describes the act of eating with the bare hands, which is the traditional pre-colonial method of eating in Filipino culture. This is done by forming a small mound of rice, adding a piece of the accompanying dish for flavor (the ulam), compressing it into a small pyramid with the fingers, lifting it to the mouth nestled in four cupped fingers, and then pushing it into the mouth with the thumb. The entire process only uses the fingers of one hand. It never uses the palms of the hands and the fingers also never enter the mouth. The other hand is not used and may instead be used to hold the plate or a drink.[5][15][16]

Social significance

Kamayan is an informal and intimate method of dining. It has a general atmosphere of sharing, and participants usually talk throughout the meal. It does not have the strict etiquette and rules of western dining, and the dishes served depend on what is available. Kamayan may be done in private family meals or in gatherings, parties, picnics, or fiestas.[4][14][6]


The practice of kamayan is pre-colonial. It has been described in by Antonio Pigafetta in the Magellan expedition, as well as by Spanish missionaries during the Spanish colonial period. While utensils like wooden spoons and ladles existed for serving and cooking in pre-colonial Filipino culture, they were not used for eating.[4][17][failed verification][18][failed verification]

The practice was tolerated during the Spanish period, but it was suppressed during the American colonial period when American dining etiquette and the use of spoons and forks were aggressively promoted.[19][20]

Kamayan became a particularly popular way of celebrating Filipino culture in the 1980s and 1990s, a fact reflected in the ubiquitous popularity of an upscale restaurant chain called "Kamayan."[21]

Boodle fight

A boodle fight is a meal that dispenses with cutlery and dishes.[22] Diners instead practice kamayan and eat straight off the table unlike typical instances of eating with the hands off individual plates.[23] The food is placed on top of a long banana leaf-lined trestle table and in the true military practice, diners do not sit in chairs but instead stand shoulder to shoulder in a line on both sides of the table.[24]

A senior officer or enlisted personnel then utters the traditional command for the boodle fight to begin:

"Ready on the left,
 Ready on the right,
 Commence boodle fight!"

The name "boodle fight" likely[speculation?] originated from the term "boodle", which is American military slang for contraband sweets[25] such as cake, candy and ice cream. A "boodle fight" is a party in which boodle fare is served.[26] The term may have also been derived from "kit and caboodle"; caboodle is further derived from boodle or booty.[27]

A growing number of Filipino restaurants are serving meals boodle fight-style. In commercial contexts, the dishes in a boodle fight are arranged equidistantly throughout the table to ensure everyone has equal access. Rice are typically plain steamed white rice that is not too mushy, sinangag (garlic rice), or rice cooked in coconut leaves (puso). Typical dishes aside from rice, includes inihaw (barbecues, including lechon, whole roasted pork), lumpia, fried meats (like crispy pata), tocino (cured pork), tapa, longganisa (sausages), pancit (noodles), boiled eggs or salted eggs, seafood, dried fish, and blanched, fresh, or stir-fried vegetables. These are provided with a variety of sawsawan (dipping sauces), calamansi, bagoong, as well as pickled vegetables (atchara). Desserts are also included, like ripe or unripe Philippine mangoes, pineapples, watermelons, papaya, young coconut, leche flan, and various kakanin (rice cakes). Drinks are usually fruit juices, beer, wine, or softdrinks. As a rule, soups and stews are not included.[6][5][28][29][30]

See also


  1. ^ Cordero-Fernando, Gilda. 1976. The Culinary Culture of the Philippines. Manila, Philippines: Bancom Audiovision Corporation.
  2. ^ Doreen G. Fernandez, “Food and the Filipino,” in Philippine World-View, Virgilio G. Enriquez, ed. (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1986), pp. 20–44
  3. ^ "The practice of kamayan and how it fosters Pinoy pride". Rappler. 11 December 2018. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Makalintal, Bettina (20 January 2018). "With A Show Of Hands, Filipino-American Chefs Rekindle Kamayan Feasts". NPR. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Abbey, Francis (18 November 2019). "Love and pork - The Filipino feast you eat with your hands". WUSA9. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d Mendiola, Idge (8 July 2019). "How to Create a Boodle Fight: A Guide to This Easy but Festive Way of Entertaining". Esquire. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  7. ^ a b "The Ivatan Cuisine: Must-Try Batanes Dishes". The Girl Behind The Pen. Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  8. ^ a b c Bender, D. E., & De Leon, A. (2018). Everybody was boodle fighting: military histories, culinary tourism, and diasporic dining. Food, Culture & Society, 21(1), 25–41.
  9. ^ a b Yap, Liz. "A Seat at the Table". Out of Print. Archived from the original on 2021-04-10. Retrieved 2024-04-07.
  10. ^ a b "Kadayawan's Boodle Fight by Park Inn". SunStar. 23 August 2015.
  11. ^ Marcaida, Joana Joyce (26 August 2015). "The boodle fight". Retrieved 16 June 2017.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "What is a Boodle Fight? - Ang Sarap". Ang Sarap (A Tagalog word for "It's Delicious"). 2015-05-21. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  13. ^ "Appendix:Tagalog affixes". 16 April 2024.
  14. ^ a b Sogn, Jamie (9 August 2017). "Filipino Kamayan Dining from the San Fernando Valley to the Mission". KCET. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  15. ^ "Kamayan - Eat Using Your Hands Culture". Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  16. ^ "Use Your Hands: Traditional Filipino Way of Eating". Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  17. ^ Kohnen, Norbert; Kohnen, Petra (1986). Igorot: Traditional Ways of Life and Healing Among Philippine Mountain Tribes. SDK Systemdruck Köln GmbH.
  18. ^ Limos, Mario Alvaro (11 March 2021). "These Precolonial Filipino Words Recorded by Pigafetta Are Still Used Today". Esquire. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  19. ^ Ting, Jasmine P. (4 January 2019). "Cooking for the Kamayan". Saveur. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  20. ^ Greaves, Vanessa (29 September 2020). "Getting in Touch Through Kamayan, the Ultimate Filipino Feast". allrecipes. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Boorman, Charley (2009). Right To The Edge: Sydney To Tokyo By Any Means: The Road to the End of the Earth. Hachette. ISBN 978-0748113156.
  23. ^ Lowry, Dave (6 January 2016). "Hand-to-Mouth Combat: Experiencing a Kamayan Dinner at Hiro Asian Kitchen". Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  24. ^ Dumdum Jr., Simeon (10 June 2012). "The boodle fight". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 19 March 2008.
  25. ^ Dolph, Edward Arthur (1942). "Sound off!" Soldier Songs from the Revolution to World War II. Farrar & Rinehart. p. 579.
  26. ^ Dickson, Paul (2014). War Slang: American Fighting Words & Phrases Since the Civil War. Courier Corporation. p. 132. ISBN 978-0486797168.
  27. ^ "Whole kit and kaboodle". World Wide Words. April 10, 1999. Retrieved May 16, 2012.
  28. ^ "Cebu's 'puso'". SunStar Philippines. 19 May 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  29. ^ Chavez-Bush, Leigh. "Kamayan: These epic Filipino feasts feature lavish spreads and forego utensils". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  30. ^ "How To Prepare A Boodle Fight At Home, a.k.a. "Kamayan Feast" on Banana Leaves". Jeanelleats. Retrieved 22 August 2021.