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Short Note on Jollibee.

Barbara’s been writing about Jollibee lately, so I thought I’d respond via the blog. Jollibee is indeed owned/founded by a Chinese Filipino. Interesting, though, that she kind of equates it with colonial mimicry: Jollibee stared down the McDonald’s onslaught in the mid-80s with an advertising campaign that was “nationalistic” in thrust — that Jollibee was the real Filipino fastfood. (McDo was seen fairly early on as emblematic of American identity — and the coolness factor was such that the beautiful people, at least in the early 80s, would be hanging out at McDo for their pre-clubbing snacks.) In any case, the nationalistic ad campaign struck a nerve, and to this day Jollibee has been trouncing McDo in terms of market share. (It also helped that it offered greasy chicken and pansit palabok and that its spaghetti was a little sweeter, just the way Filipinos like it.)

So yeah — the fast-food franchise model may have been derived from McDonald’s, but there was a very conscious effort to portray the fastfood (and its corporate identity) as Filipino. Maybe not “a stronghold of heritage, a monument of Filipino victory” as they unironically describe it on their website, but still…

Happy knows more about this; maybe he can respond.

9 replies on “Short Note on Jollibee.”

Sunny – I see your point. The nationalistic thrust, however, I think is true of Jollibee in the Philippines. Truly, they beat that Pinoy taste image to a pulp.

However, I invite you to stop by one of their branches nearby (try Daly City or the one by Moscone) and see if this still holds true. I haven’t been to any Jollibee since I’ve moved here to New York. But the last time I was in there — most of the burgers we’ve grown to love because of their Pinoy taste (ala Tropical Hut) are gone. Instead, they’ve developed menu items which I think are meant to compete with McDo and Burger King specialty burgers (Quarter Pounders, Whopper, etc). I tried those varieties and alas, bland city! What the crap, I said. Why would they do this? They excited Pinoys in the Bay Area by arriving with the stuff we loved back home only to switch on us and go ala McDo and Burger King. My guess is that they want to reach a broader audience. Ka-ching indeed! You see long lines of office workers and conference attendees lining up at Moscone to get their hands on the crispy fried chicken (which is STILL yummy)and those McDo-ized burgers.

I haven’t read Barbara’s stuff and am responding to YOUR note. Sige. Romeo.

funny thing is

you go to an indian restaurant and eat chiken curry..

go to a chinese restaurant and eat beef with oyster sauce..

go to vietnamese restaurant and eat pho..

go to mexican restaurant and eat burito..

go to jollibee and eat hamburger.

mabuhay ang pilipino!

Jollibee and McDonalds

Carrying on with my brother’s observations, I agree that there was a conscious effort to portray Jollibee as Filipino: that was obviously what spurred interest in it in the first place. (First of all, both businesses operating in the Philippines…

so as per my visit to jollibee on 4th and howard, sf last nite: i wonder why anyone would really wanna order a burger there? especially when they have pancit palabok and arroz caldo meals. i still don’t think i’d call jollibee “nationalist.” i still think i can draw out the metaphor for diaspora and jollibee!!

Romeo: I actually haven’t had a Jollibee burger in a long, long time — no reason, really, because I go straight for the ChickenJoy or, more likely, the pansit palabok. Mmm.

Ibalik: their “wormburgers” (this was when they were the victim of a horrible urban legend / disinformation campaign) probably aren’t the point, but I see what you mean.

Barbara: I wouldn’t call Jollibee “nationalistic” either — my brother and I used to call it “Jollibag” — but it was certainly the corporate identity that they adopted.

[“Libag” means “body dirt” in Tagalog, for all you non-Tagalog speakers, which is not to be confused with “banil” or the obscene “kupal,” other forms of body dirt. “Tutuli,” “muta,” “kulangot,” “singa” and “tinga” probably count as “body dirt” in the Mary Douglas conception of dirt as “matter out of place,” in the sense that they transgress the body’s internal/external boundaries.]

Romeo: I actually haven’t had a Jollibee burger in a long, long time — no reason, really, because I go straight for the ChickenJoy or, more likely, the pansit palabok. Mmm.

Ibalik: their “wormburgers” (this was when they were the victim of a horrible urban legend / disinformation campaign) probably aren’t the point, but I see what you mean.

Barbara: I wouldn’t call Jollibee “nationalistic” either — my brother and I used to call it “Jollibag” — but it was certainly the corporate identity that they adopted.

[“Libag” means “body dirt” in Tagalog, for all you non-Tagalog speakers, which is not to be confused with “banil” or the obscene “kupal,” other forms of body dirt. “Tutuli,” “muta,” “kulangot,” “singa” and “tinga” probably count as “body dirt” in the Mary Douglas conception of dirt as “matter out of place,” in the sense that they transgress the body’s internal/external boundaries.]

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