By Maya M. Padillo, Correspondent

DAVAO CITY — The World Food Travel Association defines food tourism as “the act of traveling for a taste of place in order to get a sense of place.”

The non-profit organization, with a community of over 50,000 across 139 countries, says in its site that it adopted this term in place of “culinary tourism” back in 2012 because their research indicated that the word “culinary” “gave a misleading impression” and was rather perceived as “elitist.”

“Food Tourism includes the full range of experiences, from food carts and street vendors, to the locals-only (gastro) pubs, dramatic wineries, or one-of-a-kind restaurants. There is something for everyone in the food tourism industry,” the association says.

The Philippine tourism industry recognizes this important sector and the link between food and tourism for bringing benefits to local communities.

“This relation significantly manifests how each platform contributes to the tourism industry and even in community development. Generally, tourism serves as an economic driver that provides livelihood for everyone,” said Department of Tourism-Davao (DoT-11) Regional Director Tanya R. Tan.

In an interview during the Davao stop of the “Malling is More Fun in the Philippines” nationwide campaign of the DoT and SM shopping malls, Ms. Tan said part of what they are promoting is how local food tells the stories of the communities.

“Big companies nowadays are one in heart and voice with the DoT in spreading fun and excitement across different experiences possible for everyone… Aside from malling, the real fun experience in the country is through satisfying the palate with mixes of flavors and filling the stomachs with gastronomic innovations,” she said.

One of the main activities during the event was the “Flavors of Mindanao,” which Ms. Tan said showcased “the culinary heritage of Mindanao through the different cuisines rooted in the different areas on the island.”

Among the food served up for tasting were balut lumpia (a spring roll filled with fertilized duck egg), chili-flavored chocolates, Malagos cheeses, durian tarts and puffs, adlai champorado with candied dilis (a sweet chocolate rice porridge — adlai subbing for the rice — with candied anchovies), tuna tartare, seafood satti (skewers), and crispy bangus (milkfish) with adobong kangkong (swang cabbanged stewed in vinegar and soy sauce).

These were prepared by participating restaurants and hotels, namely Top One Grill and Hotpot, Blue Post Group, Marco Polo Davao, The Fat Cow, the Malagos Farm House, and Park Inn by Radisson Davao.

A cook-off featuring five of Davao’s up-and-coming chefs was also held as well as a food fair.

Ms. Tan said food and tourism should translate to generating income for the communities and contribute to the local economy.

“This is the idea behind SM’s partnership campaign with the Department of Tourism… This campaign ups the fun, food and festivity,” said Lester R. Tantoco, SM Lanang Premier’s mall manager.

“It (SM malls nationwide) continues to serve as a venue for meaningful experiences in shopping, dining, leisure, and entertainment. We are excited for Malling Is More Fun in The Philippines to unfold in the coming months,” he added.