Jollibee: A Reflection of Our Fast-Food Selves

Categories: Chain Reactions
Edwin Goei
Jollibee in Cerritos
With the announcement that Jollibee is slated to replace Chris & Pitts in Anaheim came a few xenophobic comments, not just here, but on other blogs. The irony, of course, is that Jollibee is more American than Filipino.

Take a gander at the menu and it's as if you're looking at a hyper-realized collection of our own fast-food diet. Here you can chase your burgers with not only fries, but golden-battered drumsticks of fried chicken and plump hot dogs. Jollibee is nothing if not an echo of our own culture reflected back to us in a Filipino-accented fast-food feedback loop.
Edwin Goei

I went back to the Jollibee in Cerritos recently to get breakfast (more on that later), and saw a wide-screen TV directly above the registers continuously playing a slickly-produced marketing video that wouldn't be out of place wedged between American prime time sitcoms.

These are the same kind of slow-motion close-up shots American fast-food companies have been using on us for years. Fried chicken pieces splash-land in gravy. Steam plumes seductively rise up from a mound of spaghetti. Dew-freckled tomatoes slowly being sliced. And there's that mascot, a cartoon bumblebee dressed in the same color scheme as Ronald McDonald: red, gold and white.

None of this is by accident. During its infancy, its founder looked upon our fast food brands (McDonald's, KFC, et al) and studied them, learned from them, then repeated the formula back home. It has since become the biggest food company in the Philippines and actually bested both McDonald's and KFC on their home turf.

In fact, Jollibee became so big, it gobbled up just about every other competitor in the Philippines, including Red Ribbon, a bakery I regard as slightly better than that other Filipino giant, Goldilocks. Red Ribbon will be part of the Jollibee store in Anaheim, most likely operating out of the same counter as they already do in Chino.

Edwin Goei
Red Ribbon Bakery in Cerritos

So what's good to eat there? At Red Ribbon, the thing to get is any cake that contains the word "mango". The smallest is the mango roll, made of the same chiffon cake they use for the bigger floor models, rolled up into a log that sandwich layers of mango-laced frosting. Its sweetness comes more from the fruit than the sugar. Graduates of this mango roll, or should I say addicts, can move on to the sheet cake version, which can feed an entire office. Other cakes straddle familiar turf of chocolate this and Black Forest that. And then there are those that feature macapuno (young coconut) and ube (purple yam)

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