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MRP Building, Mola Corner Pasong Tirad Streets, Brgy La Paz, Makati City

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American-owned US bar gets flak for using ‘Barkada’ in their name

Filipinos all over the world are seemingly divided over a recent cultural appropriation issue on social media. In Washington DC, USA four Americans named their newly opened bar as Barkada Wine Bar, in reference to the Tagalog term for a group of friends.

A Filipina based in Washington DC recently posted on Facebook a photo of the bar owners and had this to say: “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 Philippines?”


She goes on to say that the term ‘Barkada’ is a casual word that doesn’t suit a fancy restaurant such as theirs, and that their menu even offers a lot of wines from Spain—the country that colonized the Philippines for more than 300 years.

“Absolutely WILD that in our current social climate, you still think this is okay. Just because you think the Asian stereotype is that we stay silent and go along our way, doesn’t mean that’s the case now,” she adds.

The post went viral and people in the comments section have mixed reactions about it.

“Wow! I understand that the word is not patented or for Filipino-use only but I would love if they would pay homage to Filipino culture somehow at their business, but to just use the word with no context or pretext? It seems culturally insensitive,” notes one comment.

“I don’t expect much from some privileged white bro to know any better, but it is maddening that not ONE of these seemingly respected news outlets caught wind that it’s not okay to culturally appropriate. It continues to demonstrate the lack of diverse voices in journalism. Do better,” says another, referring to the news outlets that featured the Barkada Wine Bar in their sites recently.


On the other end of the spectrum, there are those that think the use of the word was okay and that the fuss about it is not warranted.

“Is it cultural appropriation that we as Filipinos have taken Chinese food (lumpia and pancit canton), Lechon, and even “American” food like burgers, fried chicken, and fries and created Jollibee?

“I don’t see them disrespecting our culture in anyway. If anything, they think the word is so cool that they are willing to adopt it and share it with their clientele. This means more Americans will know what the word Barkada means. It may very well be the only time they get to hear such a word.

“To be clear, I have no interest in visiting this place (I don’t like bars of any kind) but there seems to be more cultural appreciation here as opposed to appropriation. If we want our culture to spread we cannot be so sensitive and easily offended by something as simple as a word being embraced by non-Filipinos,” says one person in the comments.

Because of the backlash the restaurant received on social media, the restaurant owners released a statement over Instagram.


“We hear you. We reached out to many people in the community to find a name that embodied a sense of friendship and bond between people. When we ventured outside of our own language to capture that sentiment, we missed the mark. We apologize to all we offended, and to our community we hope to serve. It was never our intention to appropriate or capitalize on the Filipino culture and we recognize we fell short in engaging more of the Filipino community. Our goal is to be a gathering place for friends in the neighborhood, and to become friends with those neighbors. We still hope to carry through the ideals of friendship, starting with our ability to listen. We are actively looking to change our identity and brand and engage in further dialogue with each of you. We look forward to hearing more of your thoughts, and how we can better capture the ideals with which we started this project. We will be donating proceeds from our opening to support the Filipino community as well. Barkada is a beautiful word with a deep meaning of friendship. We want to honor that, and you, as we move forward,” the statement said.

What do you think? Should they change their name or not? Tell us in the comments below!

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