May 31, 2018
POWER OF PEN 8: MINDANAO CULINARY CULTURE
The Power of Pen concluded its 8th installation last May 19, 2018 at the Ateneo De Davao University, inspiring individuals from all over Mindanao region to express their love for their cuisine through research and food writing.
Attended by food writers, bloggers, academicians, and culinary professionals, Power of Pen instigated a cultural conversation about the socio-‐historical narratives of Davao City and Mindanao, touching base also on tribal cuisine, research, and food writing.
Lolita Lacuesta, a Mansaka herself, chronicled the conditions of Davao before it was divided into different regions. In retrospect, she then discussed the journey to compiling and editing The Davao We Know, a collection of memoirs and essays about the reminiscent Davao City, which spoke about its history, social conditions, geographical situations, and stories that encompassed personal and collective experiences in Davao.
Michaela Fenix, a veteran food writer and columnist at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, joyfully shared her journey from being a teacher to finally becoming a food writer. To become thoroughly equipped with words, and armed with trustworthy facts, she encouraged writers to examine personal experiences (relying from one’s memory shared with family and friends), and embark on going out of one’s comfort zone to conduct research. Research, she mentions, is an integral part of one’s written work. We cannot simply rely on pompous terms and impressive culinary jargon to complete a credible and authentic work.
Dr. Macario Tiu, editor for Davao Cuisine: Recipes of the Ten Tribes of Davao, echoed the importance of research in his presentation of their journey writing and documenting the aforementioned book. While it takes thorough and concise documentation to record food preparations and food ways, he advises that it is also equally important to inquire of the cultural implications and meaning for the way they conduct their culinary activities. Through this, researchers also share the responsibility of preserving truths entrusted by our native groups, in correspondence to the noble duty of a writer to protect our identity through careful documentation of our history.
Chef Datu Shariff Pendatun III, imposed that in order to effectively express our historical background through writing, further to thorough research, we must also be able to look inwardly – through the intimacy of our experiences, recollections of what transpired in the past, and a continuous and conscious effort to record of what transpires until today. He also stressed that by being acquainted with our experiences, we are able to dig deeper meanings beyond the physiological activity of taking in a particular dish. We are able to trace its geographical origins, take into account its preparatory measures, and then fathom its significance in our story as a people. Chef Datu also shared from his gastronomical experiences, having been able to travel in Mindanao, and presented the resemblances of Moro cuisine in the various cities in our country, as well as its profound relationship to the community.
Margaux Salcedo, a food critic and a columnist at Philippine Daily Inquirer, encouraged writers with her professional instructions on feature writing and restaurant reviews. She began with stating that anyone can be a food writer, but she also delineates it to being a “good” food writer – which entails having the strong desire for learning, accepting of adventurous palate invitations, and having the integrity to write what is truthful and reliable. Additionally, Margaux Salcedo discussed guidelines for those who are inclined to writing restaurant reviews – ethical boundaries, terminologies in writing, and subject matter and factors to consider. She concluded with imparting the importance of food writers being “agents of social change”, being key players in the different social, ecological, political issues in our nation today.
Through a panel discussion, Power of Pen carried forward the discourse by welcoming inquiries from the participants. A question posed by a representative from Kids For Peace Foundation, a non-‐government organization in Cotabato City, inquired how they can write about food in the context of war. Chef Datu Shariff Pendatun III addressed this by saying that during war, identity is also greatly damaged, alongside physical structures, businesses, and various systems in the city. Since we recognize that food is closely linked to our identity, this also functions as a fuel to rebuild their history, and in turn, preserve their community.
As of to date, there are now eleven tribes identified by the local city tourism office of Davao City and there were five tribes who joined us with their leaders and twelve members each per tribe, these are : Tausug, Matigsalog, ata-‐Manobo, Tagabawa-‐ Bagobo, and the Ovu-‐Manuvu tribe. They all shared their vision to be able to properly record the tribe’s recipes and food ways and hope that one day, this vision will be represented in a cook book dedicated for Mindanao and the entire country for appreciation of their culture and cuisines.
The seminar was consequently followed by a workshop conducted by Michaela Fenix to evaluate the strengths and thrusts of the participants in application of what they have learned from the speakers. This resulted in awarding top three writers from the pool of participants, namely, Precy Tripoli (a freelance writer), Verna Luga (President of Davao Online Writers Association), and Arnold Cesar Romero (writer from Daily Palate News).
Power of Pen 8 concluded with an iftar celebration, courtesy of Department of Tourism headed by Regional Director Antonio Fernando Blanco and Tourism Operations Chief Zuhairah A. Abas, as a celebration of friendship, peace, and appreciation among Filipino food writers, cultural advocates, and enthusiasts.
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