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May 5, 2019

WHY A FILIPINO FOOD MONTH?

Many of us have forgotten how to make food Filipino. Food historian Ige Ramos and food writer Nina Daza Puyat shared that insight in a video that was shown at the culmination of Filipino Food Month.

Chef Jam Melchor

It was fitting to have held the gala night at the historic hotel Manila Hotel, with its colorful history including its famous Tsokolate (hot chocolate), bibingka and Buko (young coconut) pie. At the Centennial Hall, food and drink purveyors sampled their Filipino favorites: from the ubiquitous lechon of General’s lechon which is standard fare any celebration to everyday fare from the regions like Kadyos Baboy Langka of Cibo di Marghi (by Asia’s Best female Chef Margarita Fores) and local favorites like Imus Longganisa of Chef Gene.

The Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement (PCHM) headed by the young indefatigable Chef Jam Melchor, achieved a milestone in culinary history by getting an Executive Order (EO) signed to proclaim April as Filipino Food Month. Thus, every April from hereon will focus on Filipino food, so youngsters may not forget what Pancit Habhab from Lucban is, what Pinunnog from Ifugao is, and what Adlai tastes like.

Sounds foreign? It may sound so until more restaurants and chefs  revive the use  or continue to use local recipes and local ingredients including heirloom ones like Kadyos (black eye peas), Bukel (white beans), Pinunnog (handmade sausage from Ifugao) which are all listed in the Slow Food’s compendium of endangered species called Ark of Taste.

Even local drinks like Tapuey (rice wine) were presented in hip recipes of cocktails by Proudly Promdi—young entrepreneurs who have taken the role of food revivers so we may taste our culture in food and drinks. There was coffee, of course, from Kape Isla—Bukidnon, Benguet and blends of both origins depending if you wanted to stay up until 2 am or peacefully sleep at 11 pm.

The regional specialties include Quezon’s banana heart recipe, Longganisang Lucban, a Cheesecake made with white carabao cheese and topped with Lipote (a kind of local berry), which was my favorite taken with a cup of Bukidnon coffee. Perfect end to a huge meal of tastings and samplings which was filling not only for the belly but for the soul. How wonderful to taste local fare done with much passion by young chefs and entrepreneurs who hinge their enterprises on local or Filipino food and the preservation of heirloom recipes.

There were the old favorites—established brands like Arce Dairy, Disteleria Limtuaco and Mama Sita who provided the expected buko sherbet, local mango and calamansi liqueur and sauces which add that Filipino taste to just about anything anywhere you may be in the world.

I am happy that even our baby (ECHOstore) was able to participate in the event, to let people try our Bukel with Pinunnog stew—a work of logistical challenges as the sausage comes from Ifugao, the beans from Nueva Vizcaya, the carrots from Benguet, and cilantro from Cavite. We endeavor to save these heirloom ingredients as part of our advocacy in pushing for Slow Food—sourcing ingredients from far and wide and giving our small farmers an outlet for their prized produce. Or making them convenient to use such as Batwan Powder from Negros for KBL, and Adlai from Isabela for chefs, homemakers and any foodie wanting to cook as well as help promote these native ingredients.

Filipino Food month is a great boost to cooks and chefs to think about making dishes Filipino. As Ige Ramos has said: “Rather than ask what Filipino food is, ask how food becomes Filipino.” Well said, Mr. Ramos.

 

 

Photos by Yvonne Policarpio and Chit Juan

 

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