How to Make (and Enjoy) a Backyard Boodle Fight


by Lizette Barretto-Gueco | |

“Let’s have a boodle fight!” My sis in law to be, Jen, suggests.

“A what?” I ask incredulously.

“You know, a boodle fight? All kinds of food on top of banana leaves and eating with your hands?” She explains, as if to a 5 year old. “It’s really a lot of fun! I do it all the time back home when I invite my friends over.”

“Ooohhhh!” I say, as I get what she meant. “Is that what it’s called these days? I didn’t know it was called anything. Game!”

Boodle fight is a Philippine military term for mess hall eating. Banana leaves are used as covering for any surface that can be used as a table.  Food is laid out in piles and soldiers, officers and enlisted men alike eat together as a sign of camaraderie, brotherhood and equality.  The “fight” part refers to slugging it out against each other and grabbing food before it runs out.  Each man for himself, survival of the fittest kind of thing. If you don’t grab the food while it’s there, then you go hungry.

Somehow, this military term is now the popular name to this style of eating.  You learn something new everyday.

I remember as a child doing this with my family during picnics at the beach. So much food laid out on top of banana leaves. Rice was piled high, green mangoes and bagoong and all kinds of “inihaw” (grilled) stuff in front of us.  Seafood too. Crabs, shrimps and fish.  Sometimes there was pansit. To a child like me, it was quite overwhelming to see all that food presented in a chaotic manner. My mom was very strict and anal about food presentation and our food always had to look pretty and at its appetizing best.  But at the same time, it excited me that we could forget about the code of conduct we had to live by when eating at home. It was free for all with no holds barred. So attack, we did with gusto! My siblings and I would scoop up the rice with our hands, grab the liempo, peel the shrimp, shove it into our little mouths and lick our fingers. Then repeat. I would every so often steal a quick glance at my mom, in case she was watching disapprovingly, but she was oblivious to our caveman antics and was happily eating away with her hands, same way we were, as if the manners she imposed on us never existed.

So my siblings and I traveled down memory lane and we boodle fought as Jen requested. My daughter Mikee’s American friend, Nick, who is a chef, happened to be visiting and it was a novelty for him to be introduced to this very Filipino way of entertaining, banquet style. We had crabs and shrimps, liempo, lumpiang Shanghai, grilled eggplant, tomatoes, Indian mangoes, lato and bagoong. Plus fruit salad and brownies for dessert.  Cold San Miguel beer and Coke rounded up our whole meal. Nick helped set up the table in the garden and laid the banana leaves. My brother EJ, with Nick’s help, manned the grill. Jen arranged the food on the banana leaves and we were all set to eat with our hands. Awkward at first, but once we got the hang of it, even my 9 year old daughter Martine, turned pro by evening’s end. Since it was dinner outdoors, we had the soft glow of the moonlight and candles on the table.  With the wonderful breeze, that we in Alabang are so blessed to enjoy even during the hot summer days, it was an evening to remember and to repeat in the near future.

For a successful boodle fight, here a few helpful tips:

  • Have a big group. The more the merrier. A minimum of 8 people would yield the best results
  • Have food that’s easy to eat with your hands especially little hands so the younger participants may enjoy it too. No soup please.
  • As much as possible, do it outdoors so you’re not worrying about making a mess in your dining room.
  • Jen suggests to wrap the table with cling wrap before putting the banana leaves on top of it for easy clean up after. Just peel off the plastic and wrap everything with the banana leaves and it goes straight into the garbage bag.
  • Stick to a Filipino or Asian menu so it feels authentic.  Funny to be eating burger and fries on banana leaves even if you are using your hands. It just doesn’t feel right.
  • Use all of your fingers, not just 2, the way my sister Karen does. Oh so daintily like holding a teacup! It’s more efficient using all 10 digits.

There are really no rules! It’s free for all, remember? So you can disregard everything I’ve listed above. Or not.  Or you can make it up as you go along. That’s the fun of it!

So good luck and have a merry boodle fight!

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About the Author

Lizette Barretto-Gueco
Lizette Barretto-Gueco

Lizette Barretto Gueco is a regular columnist at  She writes about her life’s passions which are family, home, food, relationships and how they fit in perfectly in her scheme of things and in the circle of life.

Lizette is now a busy home based mom after working in marketing and the travel industry for some time. She also ventured into jewelry design while she was a partner at a prestigious jewelry store at Greenbelt 5. Aside from juggling family schedules and managing the home, she also finds time to bake and sell her sweet offerings from her home as well as indulge in her other hobbies like jewelry making and arts and crafts.  She is an amateur filmmaker, traveler, foodie, dreamer and lover of life.

Lizette is a graduate of AB Communication arts from the Ateneo de Manila University.  You can email her at