By ANGELO G. GARCIA
For Pinoys, Filipino cuisine is worth celebrating. Food is an important part of any culture and this is true to our very own identity. And it’s high time to celebrate it, all month long and every year.
“The food we eat makes us as what we are today as Filipinos. We have to be proud of this therefore we have to celebrate,” National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) executive director Rico Pableo, Jr. simply put it.
NCCA together with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement (PCHM) are heading the historical celebration. The agencies launched the month-long celebration at the Manila Hotel’s Cafe Ilang-Ilang. The festivity included a series of events around the country following the theme “Ang Sarap: Piyesta ng Pagkaing Pilipino.”
April is National Food Month and it’s official. President Rodridgo Duterte signed Presidential Proclamation no. 469 as Filipino Food Month last year. And this year, the whole Philippines celebrated it for the first time.
“Just like our beautiful old songs, antique houses, and folk dances, our longstanding culinary traditions need to be celebrated and preserved as well, especially since many of our heirloom products and practices are slowly disappearing in the face of globalization of food culture,” explained PCHM president chef Jam Melchor.
PCHM is an organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Philippine cuisine. And is the agency responsible for the creation of National Food Month, through the help of DA and NCCA.
The line-up of activities is not limited to food fairs and tastings but rather also focusing on education and awareness. One such event is the Sinag: Tracing Emilio Aguinaldo’s Food Palate Exhibit, which opened last April 1 at Museo de Lasalle, De La Salle University-Dasmarinas in Cavite. There was also TienDa, an event that highlighted local produce by Filipino farmers and this is organized by the agriculture agency. There was also the World Disco Soup Day Manila, which was all about slow food in the Philippines and The Filipino Food Connection, a Filipino food writing workshop.
“I also realized that we need to do more to educate and inform ordinary Filipinos about how rich and full of potential Philippine gastronomy is. After all, Filipino food is never just pang-tawid gutom (just to satiate hunger). Never. It is our soul, it is our identity. May this national celebration be a reminder to every Filipino that we should value our food and thank the hands of the farmers and fisher folks who feed us every day. May it also be a reminder that we need to invest in the right physical and cultural infrastructure to preserve the Filipino food culture,” Chef Jam said.
A food festival is not complete without the food fairs and some of the events, among others, include the Namnamin Food Festival Pampanga held at the Pampanga State Agricultural University last April 6; Pista sa Guevarra’s Celebration of Filipino Food Flavors, which will be until April 30 at Guevarra’s restaurant in San Juan City; and Republic of Taste: A Gastronomic Journey in South Luzon at SM City Rosario in Cavite, which is open until today.
Since this is the first year of celebrations, all the organizing agencies are making sure to bring more to the table in the future— even diving deeper into the rich Filipino food culture.
“It is this history, tradition, and passion that need to be embraced and shared. The Philippines has all the right ingredients to become a truly international gastronomic destination, so long as we can cultivate a homegrown cultural appetite, global taste buds will soon follow,” he added.
Note: A version of this article first appeared in Manila Bulletin Lifestyle.