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A group of white friends named their bar “Barkada” and Fil-Ams were having none of it

A group of white friends named their bar “Barkada” and Fil-Ams were having none of it

Image from Facebook: Barkada Wine Bar

When good friends Sebastian Zutant, Nathan Fisher, Nick Guglietta, and Anthony Alig opened a natural wine bar in Washington D.C. and called it “Barkada,” they did so to embody “a sense of friendship of bond between people” in their establishment. 

Sadly, this isn’t the message that some Filipino-Americans abroad received.

As a response, members of the Fil-Am community accused the establishment of cultural appropriation for choosing a Filipino word as its name despite not employing any Filipino nor including any items in their menu that are distinctly from the Philippines. 

In a post that has garnered 2.9 thousand times since being posted, Jessica Millete let loose her thoughts on the bar’s name: 

“This is problematic on so many levels. Completely ignorant and of course, a PRIVILEGED thought-process. What makes you think it’s okay to take a word from another culture when you pay no respect or homage to the culture itself? No Filipino items on your menu, no Filipino flavors incorporated, no Filipino winemakers included, not even in your decor? No support going towards a non-profit benefiting Filipino Americans or back in [the] Philippines?

It’s apparent you didn’t do any kind of research. Barkada is a very casual word. Why are you applying it to your FANCY AESTHETIC OF A RESTAURANT? Filipinos drink BEER + LIQUOR AND EAT PULUTAN; not wine + cheese.

None

Not to mention, the Philippines was colonized by SPAIN and SO much of your wine menu is from there!”

Ernest Jay Apaga, a Filipino-American bartender working in the same area, also sounded off when interviewed about the matter by local journo, the Washington City Paper.

“This is a nuanced case of cultural appropriation where they’re only taking a word. It seems fine, they’re not wholly misrepresenting a culture with decorations that are cultural artifacts or bastardizing Filipino food. But if you’re following all this, you know that not all racism is saying the ‘N’ word or holding a Confederate flag. 

Some of it can be very small and innocuous, But at the same time, you’re still using it for profit and gain. It is now the name of your business. You have possession of it. The possession of that is the part that’s the most disheartening … It prevents me or another Filipino in the industry from moving forward and using that name in our own business and its full representation.”

The National Federation of Filipino American Associates addressed the name choice through a precisely worded statement posted on their website. They criticized not only the decision but also how various food media covered the opening, stating that they were “complicit” in the cultural appropriation by lacking any critical cognizance on the bar’s adopted name. 

To make the statement proactive, they proposed a handful of actionable steps to raise awareness on the inclusivity of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) in key positions where such decisions are either made or talked about in the media.

You can read their statement here: https://naffaa.org/cherishbarkada/

In response to the uproar, Barkada Wine Bar issued on Instagram an apology as well as a pledge to make amends:

On the other hand, there are also Fil-Ams who found nothing wrong with opting for a Filipino word for a bar run by Caucasian people. According to a few members of the community that spoke out in the viral post’s comment section, they welcome the act of borrowing the word and cherish its reason to bring people together and build new relationships.

Do you think Barkada Wine Bar should change its name, or is it okay to borrow a word from our vocabulary?

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