The human heart was—and remains—a mystery to me. But I’m learning. I have to. —Anthony Bourdain

What is your food limit? A post about maya horrors and other things

In a country where deep fried chicken intestines are an afternoon snack, and fetal duck egg a midnight treat, the line for a Filipino’s food limit really can veer to the far left.

For example, this really hairy balut. You can see the pores!

I’ve been thinking about this since last week, when I reached my food limit when visiting my godfather in his apartment in Marikina. This is what happened:

He asked us if we’ve ever had maya, and we said, “the bird?” and he said yes, the one you find everywhere here.

For reference, this is a maya:

(image from:

So we said no, we made friends with a few since they’re all over the yard at home, but no, we don’t eat it. He then goes on to tell us that every year when he comes over to visit, his uncle catches a whole bunch of mayas from a rice field to cook in adobo. He then prods us to try it, then proceeds to take a microwaveable container out of his fridge so we could see it. At this point, my mother and sister were recoiling in horror, my dad was furiously shaking his head no and was saying he couldn’t do it, and me, morbidly curious was considering it, and asked to see how it looked.

Boy, did I regret looking. Mayas are teeny tiny birds, and I saw a couple dozen in that small microwaveable container with their heads intact, their beaks taken off, and with huge eyes staring at me, their heads oddly darker than the rest of their small, straight in death bodies, with the sadly familiar scent of adobo around them. I couldn’t do it. I promptly thanked my Ninong and told him that I couldn’t, but he should have the rest and enjoy them (he likes them a lot).

I’m sure if I grew up with it like he did, I wouldn’t blink an eye and just start chomping down, but those teeny birds still haunt me. It also got me thinking how far I’d go to satisfy the inner extreme foodie that I hoped I would be, but I think I’ve set my limits:

1. No animals I’ve known as pets. No dogs, rabbits or cats. I’ve heard so much about the benefits and deliciousness of all three meats (Dog warms the blood, rabbits delicious in stews, cats amazing in adobo) but I will not, to my values and morality, eat animals I loved as pets.

2. I’d probably say no to something with a face. I’ve said no to two things with faces. Cooked pawikan and the mayas. The faces really bother me. Even if it’s something that I eat everyday like chicken, I’d think twice if I saw something staring at me. I balk at fried chicken in a few Chinese places that include the head, I think twice at goat head. The only heads I’m not iffy about are pig and fish.

3. No to anything someone has gone bodily in before. Nothing prechewed, predigested, stepped on to crush in (yes, wine). I have issues with these things and I’d prolly say no.

Anyone else tried maya?

Also, what are your personal no-nos when it comes to food?

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