By Emme Rose S. Santiagudo

WITH Western Visayas considered a possible focus of food tourism, the Department of Tourism (DoT) is now gearing up to promote the region’s farms as possible destinations.

During his visit in Iloilo City Friday for the fifth and last leg of “Kain Na! Culinary and Travel Festival,” Edwin R. Enrile, Tourism Undersecretary for legal and special concerns, said the food and farm products of Panay are varied and usually fresh from the farm or the sea.

“When you think about Western Visayas and Iloilo you always think about two things why people come here — the cuisine and the culture. You have the freshest ingredients, seafood, and all that,” Mr. Enrile said in an interview Friday.

Mr. Enrile attended the opening program of the three-day “Kain Na! Culinary and Travel Festival” at The Shops at Atria, Ayala Malls in Mandurriao, Iloilo City Friday.

“Kain Na,” which featured local ingredients and dishes prepared by the region’s chefs, cultural performances, farm tourism presentations, and the region’s produce, is the centerpiece of the DoT’s culinary tourism efforts.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Trenas and his son Miguel, a chef, also participated in the event via a cooking demonstration of an Ilonggo heirloom recipe, Lengua Escarlata.

“We are promoting Iloilo as a food tourism destination, as a place where we will find heritage recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation,” he said.

Mr. Enrile said the DoT in partnership with Ayala Malls and the Department of Agriculture organized the fifth and last leg of this year’s Kain Na! in Iloilo because of its promising food products.

“Iloilo has a variety of food available. ‘Yung sinasabi nga naming culinary tourism (what we call culinary tourism) is all about the local cuisine, local product, from farm to table. So kung magaganda rin nga ang produkto ng mga farm products (superior produce) will be reflected in the cuisine,” he said.

With the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project Stage II (JRMP II) project in Calinog, Iloilo now operating comes the potential for further agricultural development, Mr. Enrile said.

“Agriculture is really big here in Iloilo especially with the Jalaur Dam. That’s why for next year sabi namin magiging focus namin (we determined that our focus was) to promote farm tourism here in Iloilo and in Panay Island,” Mr. Enrile said.

He said the importance of the country’s culinary heritage is becoming apparent since Filipino cuisine is growing in prestige.

“It really reflects our own identity and I think more and more now na-appreciate na sa mundo ang (the world is appreciating) Filipino cuisine,” he said.