They say that we grow up eating the food of our culture. Those from Luzon, for example, will not likely know chicken piyanggang, just as people from Visayas and Mindanao will probably be unfamiliar with insarabasab. Food is a reflection of the ingredients available in our regions, of the traditional preparations passed from one generation to another, and of the innovations that shaped the texture, aroma, and flavor of our dishes over the years.
I am always excited to try local dishes other than the usual kare-kare or adobo, that is why I braved the rains and the traffic, and trooped to F1 Hotel Manila at the Bonifacio Global City for its Filipino food festival, Luzviminda.
The spread did not disappoint. F1 Hotel’s executive chef Angelo Timban and guest chefs AJ Reyes, owner of Privatus Private Dining, and Zhe Jacinto, chairperson of Culinary Team Pilipinas, prepared traditional Filipino dishes, some of which were given modern twists.
The buffet, in a nutshell, was a delicious tour of the country’s 7,107 islands.
From Luzon, there was insarabasab from Ilocos, served on a bed of red cabbage salad; pocherong baka; grilled Bicol express; bagoong padas; kinalas; dinuguang baboy ramo; adobong bone marrow; crispy bagbagis (pork intestines); and the Bahay Kubo salad consisting of singkamas, talong, sigarilyas, and mani.
Kinilaw na lobster headlined the dishes from Visayas, along with sinuglaw (a portmanteau of sinugba or grilled meat and kinilaw or raw meat); smoked corn salad with adlai; bagoong tahong; and kinilaw na Aklan oysters topped with lato (seaweed).
Tausug dishes chicken piyanggang, which is similar to the curry dishes of Malaysia and Singapore, and beef korma, which is a cross between kare-kare and beef curry, represented the country’s food basket, Mindanao.
“We wanted to prepare something different—one that would reflect the flavors of our culture that is truly timeless,” said Timban.
He added, “We have so much to offer as a nation. We only need to go back to our roots and rediscover the flavors that have long been prepared by the generations before us.”
And since cuisine, like culture, continues to evolve, F1’s dessert station offered a heady mix of innovative sweets, from the tamales blanca that used salted caramel popcorn as syrup, to the piaya with raspberry, kalabasa leche flan, brazo de ube, banana suman, Halo-Halo de Davao (with preserved durian), and guyabano cheesecake. In particular, the unassuming tamales, which was not as colorful as the other dessert options, was a delicious surprise—the blandness of the corn-based tamales contrasted wonderfully with the salty-sweet syrup.
Luzviminda, held once a year every June to mark the country’s Independence Day celebration, is now on its sixth edition. This brings to mind an article written by renowned historian Ambeth Ocampo, who said that Filipinos these days equate preserving heritage with saving a structure that is threatened by destruction or alteration.
“Contrary to popular belief, heritage is not just for the rich and educated; it also manifests itself in our daily lives on our palate. Nobody will argue that food is heritage, that food reflects our history and culture like no other and should be nurtured, preserved and protected with the same vigor that we lobby for buildings and, in the case of the Torre de Manila, the preservation of a vista or view of the Rizal monument,” said Ocampo.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if hotels across the country hold similar Filipino food festivals not just in June but all-year-round if only to keep our heritage, through food, alive?
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