Arts & Leisure

An increasingly rare taste of home

Posted on May 19, 2016

FAVORITES from a Filipino home are the stars of a food festival called Culinaria Filipina in the Diamond Hotel’s Corniche restaurant running from May 19 to 29, prepared by no less than chefs Myrna Segismundo and Jill Sandique.

Ms. Segismundo is an advocate of Filipino food and is the author of several books on Filipino cuisine. She presented the country’s cuisine at Madrid Fusion in Spain in 2015, as well as speaking at the gastronomic congress’s Philippine leg that same year. Meanwhile, Ms. Sandique is the Lead Trainer and Program Director of the United States Department of Agriculture Council of Chefs, and, according to a release, has earned the distinction of earning the highest grades at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School.

Things to look forward to are a salad made of kesong puti (fresh carabao milk cheese), cherry tomatoes, and pako (fern), as well as local-style pork barbecue and chicken inasal (chicken barbecue), and a prime roast beef Tagalog. Meats such as lamb are dressed up with native ingredients such as a calamansi-guava glaze. Ms. Sandique, in charge of desserts, came up with a Dulce de Leche Cheesecake, as well as a Dark Chocolate Panna Cotta made with single origin chocolate from the award-winning Malagos chocolatiers of Davao, among other things.

For a preview lunch last week, guests were served beef kaldereta (beef stewed in tomato sauce) and pastel del pollo (chicken baked with a cream sauce). The dishes tasted familiar and homey, exactly as they would have been prepared at home. With the tension between the ubiquity of the dishes and the grand setting of where it was served, Ms. Segismundo explained the logic and necessity of having to promote Filipino cuisine in a hotel in the nation’s capital. “I guess we’ve gotten a little bit too preoccupied with the other cuisines -- that I have nothing against -- but then again, if we want to answer that oft-repeated question of our attempt to be on the map, somebody’s got to do this.”

Philippine hotels have a steady stream of foreign guests thanks to a booming tourism industry, so the Diamond Hotel’s promotion for this month makes a lovely and loving introduction to Filipino cuisine. However, another target of the food festival are city-dwellers who are blasé about and yet unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine. “I always feel that the most important component of our... culinary heritage, at least, starts with the family. You are what you eat.”

“But if you started with a young family... of parents who both work, who never grew up in a family where their mothers, and fathers, or uncles, and grandparents, had a very deeply rooted culinary traditions, then chances are, hindi masarap iyong pagkain nila (their food won’t be delicious).”

She added: “And chances are, they grew up not eating well; not knowing how to eat... and that gets passed on to the kids.”

“Especially with... the present lifestyle now, and our penchant for all things foreign... why do you think [am I] being asked to do a Filipino food festival?” she said.

The promotion, running from May 19 to 29, costs P2,288 per person. There will be a raffle where two diners will win a two-night stay in Baguio for two with a minimum purchase of P5,000 at the buffet. For reservations, call 528-3000 ext. 1121. -- J.L. Garcia