We’re told that this is the first and most important meal of the day. Very often, we skip it and eat our first meal at midday, which shows what little importance we give to breaking the fast of the previous 8-10 hours.
Agahan, derived from umaga (morning), is the Filipino word for breakfast. Another word for it is almusal, probably derived from almuerzo, which is a second breakfast in Spain.
The two words are used interchangeably in the Philippines, but the difference is evident in Spain, where breakfast happens twice in the morning. An early breakfast of hot coffee or chocolate, with lots of milk and sugar, plus a piece of bread, is common in Spain. Folks generally carry a small package containing a sandwich or biscuits, to be eaten at almuerzo (between 10 and 11 A.M.), thus sustaining them until lunch, which happens around 2 P.M.
A Filipino agahan / almusal might consist of coffee or chocolate, plus a bakery product called pan de sal, with butter or margarine, jam, or a slice of fried meatloaf. Another option is rice accompanied by fried egg plus fish or tocino (cured pork). Still others might choose a bowl of arroz caldo, a rice soup with pieces of chicken or beef tripe.
Truth to tell, many Filipinos do take a snack or light meal at mid-morning, but it is identified separately from breakfast. It’s called meryenda, after the Spanish merienda. The Filipino meryenda is repeated in mid-afternoon, to tide one over between lunch and supper.
Since Spain has its almuerzo in mid-morning, their merienda generally refers to the light meal taken in mid-afternoon.