Local chili brand Tuta ng KuChina has defended its controversial name after drawing criticisms from President Rodrigo Duterte’s supporters.
Decoding clever play on words in local lingo can be tricky, but here’s the breakdown: “tuta” means “puppy” while “kusina” translates to “kitchen.” When combined with the word “China,” the name means that someone is a lapdog of the Chinese government (“tuta ng China”). Duterte’s supporters quickly assumed that it was referring to the president, thanks to the appearance of his image on Tuta ng KuChina’s posters.
The owner of the chili brand explained in a post on Sunday that the name was really just inspired by his dog and his love for Chinese food.
“The dog’s name is Ram, he’s a dachshund-native dog hybrid,” the freelance graphic artist who wanted to be identified simply as Kurt told Coconuts Manila today over chat.
But apart from the statement that he posted online, Kurt said that the brand’s name drew the ire of Duterte supporters for its apparent clap back at the president—which is partly true. He said that Duterte’s non-confrontational stand on the issue of the West Philippine Sea, which Manila has claims to but has been encroached by Beijing in recent years, have led people to assume that the chili was referring to him. In addition, there’s the president’s silent support of Philippine offshore gaming corporations, which largely employ Chinese workers, whom Duterte said he has no plans of deporting from the Philippines even if they were here illegally.
“Then it just so happened that our neighbor’s dog gave birth to a litter of puppies while I was thinking up a food business name, so I thought, why not?” Kurt said in English and Filipino.
The Quezon City-based entrepreneur launched the barely-a-month-old business as a side gig to cope with the shortage of projects during the pandemic. He wanted to sell dimsum, but because of lower overhead costs, resorted to making chili instead.
“I created a logo, the bottle label, and a poster, shared it online and then it went viral,” he said.
A 120ml bottle of their chili garlic oil fetches for PHP90 (about US$2), which can be delivered at the buyer’s expense via Grab or Lalamove. Kurt said it’s safer that way.
“Some people have asked if they can pick up orders at my house, but I refused. I’m not sure if they’re [Duterte] supporters or fanatics, I don’t want them causing trouble on our street… I got a lot of private messages from rabid supporters of the administration who have been cursing at me for my product,” he said.
Despite criticisms, Kurt said he isn’t planning on changing his controversial brand name or design anytime soon.
“Maybe if [Duterte] is no longer sitting president I’d rename it to just ‘Tuta,’ and then I’d just resort to selling dog food, haha!” Kurt joked.
“The brand has gotten mixed reactions, some people find it entertaining. But I don’t think I’d change it. It’s a way for me to protest, too,” he added.