Benny Blanco spat out Jollibee food in a viral post, angering many in the Filipino community: ‘Blatant disgust and disrespect’

For many Filipinos, Jollibee is more than just a fast food restaurant — it’s a celebration of their identity and culture. Filipino immigrants have spoken at length about how the popular chain is heavily tied to childhood memories and offers comfort for those in its diaspora. That’s why music producer Benny Blanco’s now-viral reaction to trying food from the chain — and spitting it out — has elicited such strong reactions from the community.

On Feb. 29, Blanco (@itsbennyblanco) took to TikTok to share his first time trying Jollibee. Blanco prefaces the video by saying that he grew up eating Filipino food because his stepmom is from the Philippines. He then tries the adobo rice and fried chicken — known as Chickenjoy — before getting to the spaghetti. Filipino-style spaghetti is a sweet spin on traditional Italian spaghetti and is notably topped with hot dogs and grated cheese.

“All right, this s*** smells like f***ing vomit. “What the f***? Let me get a fork,” he says before taking a bite of the spaghetti and immediately spitting it back out. “Wait. I feel like that just ruined my night.”

A representative for Blanco did not immediately respond to Yahoo News’s request for comment.

Blanco’s video, which has more than 6.7 million views and 29,000 comments, has drawn backlash from TikTok users, many of whom are of Filipino descent. These creators are calling out Blanco’s “disrespect” of Jollibee and note that having a Filipino stepmom does not make his reaction permissible. Some creators have even brought Selena Gomez, his girlfriend, into the conversation. “Okay I don’t get it selena,” one user wrote in the comments.

The 35-year-old music producer posted another video in which he again tries Filipino food, this time with a more positive response, though many have noted that the damage had already been done.

Jollibee was founded in 1975 in Manila, Philippines. The chain currently has more than 6,800 restaurants across 33 countries from the United States to the United Kingdom. Its eponymous mascot, a bee in a red suit with a chef’s hat, is believed to encapsulate core Filipino values and represent “Filipino optimism.”

‘Blatantly and intentionally’ showing disrespect

Noreen Dimacuha (@r33nberger), a Filipino American creator on TikTok, addressed Blanco’s reaction in a video of her own, noting that Jollibee is “deeply embedded in Filipino culture.”

“Jollibee’s tagline is ‘Bida Ang Saya.’ It basically means ‘joy comes first when you’re at Jollibee.’ It’s one of the only places where we get to forget about the struggles,” she says. “Our version of spaghetti is deeply rooted [in] the fact that poverty is high in the Philippines.”

A recent Philippine Statistics Authority report revealed that in the first half of 2023, 22.4% or 25.24 million people were living in poverty in the Philippines, a country with an estimated population of 118 million. A family of five on average, according to the report, requires a minimum of 13,797 Philippine pesos, or $246 a month, to meet minimum food requirements.

“A lot of Filipino families make do [with] whatever they have available. …That spaghetti symbolizes a very distinct Filipino trait that we will rise out of a struggle,” Dimacuha added.

In a follow-up video, Dimacuha also points out “exactly where [Blanco] went wrong.”

“Benny Blanco made a conscious effort to violate the cultural significance Jollibee holds for us Filipinos — most especially Filipinos who are overseas and consider Jollibee as the closest thing they have to home,” Dimacuha, who lives in Philadelphia, told Yahoo News. “I wasn’t even gonna make a video about it because he’s just another foreigner rage-baiting the Filipino community, but the fact that he was actively pressing the record button while spitting food out and making sure he was on the frame as he was overemphasizing his ‘disgust’ after tasting our food did it for me. He had the chance to reflect on whether or not the video will offend Filipinos and he actively decided on posting it.”

‘That’s your opinion. That’s your right’

John Dela Cruz, known as Nurse John (@nurse.johnn) on TikTok, is a Filipino Canadian registered nurse and creator in Montreal. Dela Cruz, who has 6 million TikTok followers, has also weighed in on the discourse surrounding Blanco’s review and is asking that people “don’t hate on him” in a video that’s since been deleted in the U.S. (The video is still available in Canada.)

“To Benny Blanco. …That’s your opinion. That’s your right. But I think what people are seeing is the blatant disgust and disrespect that you showed [toward] the food that we love,” Dela Cruz says. “[Jollibee] is something that we are looking for, as immigrants who [don’t] live in the Philippines anymore, to feel [closer to] home. Does it feel completely [like] home? No. But does it give a sense of home? Yes.”

Dela Cruz has since seen Blanco’s follow-up video and believes the music producer’s reaction to trying Filipino food was “more respectful” the second time around.

“I think he learned and reflected [on] what other people were saying in the first video he made, and I think he [has] the right to redeem himself,” Dela Cruz told Yahoo News. “I believe we can all make mistakes. …Being more considerate and sensitive of others if it [is] something that holds a deep meaning [to them] should always [be a] practice.”

Check Also

NBCUniversal’s Donna Langley on AI: ‘We’ve got to get the ethics of it right’

Artificial intelligence is “exciting,” but guardrails must be put in place to protect labor, intellectual …