BY ELLA MARIE MERCADO
Popular YouTuber Basel Manadil, also known as The Hungry Syrian Wanderer, shared why he decided to acquire a Filipino citizenship.
“It’s not like I intended, like, ‘I wanted to be a Filipino,’ or ‘I want to be whatever.’ It just came to me naturally,” he said in an interview with Toni Gonzaga.
“Unintentionally, I became like a Filipino,” he added, especially even after turning down the opportunity to reunite with his family abroad.
Basel arrived in the Philippines nine years ago to escape the civil war in Syria. He revealed that he experienced culture shock primarily with the country’s cuisine.
“I’m used to sandwiches and bread, a lot of bread,” he shared, whereas in the Philippines, “kanin is life.”
Another reason is that he doesn’t eat pork and it got so bad that for a time, he lived on biscuits and soft drinks from the sari-sari store.
His first taste of Filipino food was the chicken broth Tinola.
“I love it until now. That’s my number one. Many people, they think chicken adobo, but they are always wrong,” he joked.
The 27-year-old fell even more in love with the country as he travelled to its many islands, his favorite being Palawan. At the same time, he started taking videos of his surroundings, intending to share them with his family abroad.
“Many rich Middle Easterns, they don’t know the beautiful side of the Philippines… and when I saw it, I wanted to show it also to other people,” he mused.
Soon after, he was encouraged to upload his videos on YouTube where he gained support and followers who asked for more content.
Years afterwards, he was able to establish a restaurant of his own in the Philippines called YOLO Retro Diner, which now has two branches. He has hired over 40 Filipino employees for his business with the goal of empowering the less fortunate.
His content would eventually include his numerous donation drives and acts of service towards Filipinos.