Filipino Community in Washington D.C. Demands “Barkada” Restaurant to Change Its Name Due to Cultural Appropriation

The word means "group of friends" in Tagalog.

  • The word “barkada” means “group of friends” in Tagalog, the primary language in the Philippines.
  • They argued that the restaurant is watering down the significance of the term in Filipino culture.
  • Filipinos who find nothing wrong with it are rallying behind the restaurant to not change its name.

An American-owned wine bar named Barkada became the target of criticisms from the Filipino community, demanding the owners to change the name of the establishment because of supposed cultural appropriation.

The word “barkada” means “group of friends” in Tagalog, the primary language in the Philippines. Those who called out for the name change argued that the restaurant is watering down the significance of the term in Filipino culture and also because the establishment is not serving Filipino food or drinks.

According to a statement from the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) Capital Region, “Barkada has a rich and meaningful history in the Filipino community. Today, it refers to your circle of friends, but its roots can be traced back to Spanish colonization of the Philippines. Barkada is derived from the Spanish word barcada, meaning ‘boatload.’”

They clarified that although the term originally referred to “boatloads of Filipino prisoners shipped away from their homes by boat,” they stressed that it was from “these trying circumstances, our ancestors formed bonds that would help them survive colonization, imprisonment, and enslavement.”

The group added that watering down of the word “barkada” down to “a totally cool word,” which was how the wine bar described it in their website, strips the word of its resonance as “a symbol of Filipino resilience.”

The owners – Sebastian Zutant, Nick Guglietta, Nate Fisher and Anthony Aligo – said they identified with the word “barkada” and that “it also helped that ‘bar’ is in the word.”

The restaurant’s Instagram posts were initially flooded by demands to change its name. Because of the clamor, the owners responded via posts on its website and Instagram account.

“We’re changing the name. 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,” they said.

They apologized for all they offended and said that it was never their intention to “appropriate or capitalize on the Filipino culture and we recognize we fell short in engaging more of the Filipino community.”

But when word got out of the establishment’s dilemma, Filipinos all over the world who don’t see a problem with the name being used expressed their support for the restaurant, telling them NOT to change the name.

Some Filipinos even pointed out that the word “barkada” originated from the Spanish word “barcada,” so it means Filipinos have no right to scream cultural appropriation on this instance.

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