Anthony Bourdain — cook, writer, traveler, adventure-seeker and all-around good guy — ended his life on Friday, leaving the whole world stunned and wondering why. At the time of his death — an apparent suicide, according to a CNN report — Bourdain was shooting episodes in France for his widely popular TV series on food and exotic places.
Who would have thought he was a troubled soul capable of taking his own life when, all the while, he seemed like the happiest guy on earth? And who wouldn’t be if you were him? He traveled everywhere, stuffed himself with the best-tasting food, received royal treatment in most places, and got paid for it. If that wasn’t enough, he was also considered the rock star of the culinary world.
If reports were true that he hanged himself in his hotel room, it’s hard to imagine the kind of demons that haunted him and the sheer weight of loneliness he must have been carrying on his back.
The whole world, unfortunately, came to know of his inner struggles when it was too late. Bourdain is the latest to fall victim to the silent killer known as depression, a condition that drives seemingly normal, healthy and happy-looking people to extreme emotional breakdowns until they ultimately lose the desire to go on with life.
The irony of depression is that it doesn’t confine itself to the usual victims in the popular imagination — those troubled, dysfunctional personality types. It can easily bring down the highly successful as well, and those who are cheerful-looking from the outside.
Bourdain earned himself a special place in the hearts of many Filipinos because of his genuine love for this country, and the exuberant way he expressed it every time he partook of local food. When he came to Cebu to try its famous native lechon, Bourdain was completely blown away with one bite, and he proclaimed it the best in the world right then and there.
In many interviews, he spoke highly of the Philippines, and seemed to have brought upon himself the job as the country’s unofficial pitchman, deflecting the negative publicity the Philippines gets from time to time.
Another memorable moment was when Bourdain joined a very conservative Filipino family for dinner in Iloilo. Everybody was prim and proper at the dinner table, and oh so painfully shy. The occasion took on the ambiance of something akin to a religious ceremony by Tibetan monks.
Bourdain was speaking in whispers the whole time, describing how great the food was while self-consciously minding his table manners. It was such an awkward moment that you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the guy. But Bourdain acquitted himself well with his admirable display of good old-fashioned respect for his hosts.
His love affair with the Philippines is a testament to the old adage about finding a way to someone’s heart through the stomach.
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Adel Abillar is a private law practitioner with a small office in Quezon City where, he says, “I alternate between being boss and messenger.”
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