FOR its 16th year, the Doreen Gamboa Fernandez (DGF) Food Writing Awards tackled bagoong, the smelly, salty, fermented fish paste that is a staple on Filipino tables, achieving such a status that Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero, defended it.
This year the awarding was held on Oct. 27, the second day of the National Food Showdown at Eton Centris in Quezon City.
The top prize for this year was given to Raymund Aquino Macapagal for his essay, “Is This The Bagoong of The Mountains.” Meanwhile, three writers were tied for second place in this year’s awards: Ginny Villar for her essay “The Taste of Resurrection: Pamawaran Bagoong,” Grace Celeste T. Subido for “Bagoong and Conscentious Consumption,” and Rebecca Torres for “Alaskan Salmon Bagoong, Unexpectedly.”
The Doreen Gamboa Fernandez awards were established to reward aspiring food writers, as per one of its founders, chef Myrna Segismundo, who was one of the famed food writer’s charges. Ms. Fernandez, who taught in the Ateneo de Manila University, passed away in 2002, leaving behind a legacy of food-related writing, with a focus on discipline and research which is still relevant today.
This year, the responsibility of choosing a winner fell on the lap of the Food Writers Association of the Philippines, of which food columnist and author Michaela “Micky” Fenix is President, while serving as Chair of the Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Awards. “It’s not that difficult,” she said, on choosing a winner. “If you read it, and you like it because it appeals to you, and gives you so much information.” It’s also a plus to have some obscure knowledge up your sleeve: Mr. Macapagal, while being praised for his writing style by Ms. Fenix, says that it was an advantage for his essay to feature something quite unknown, even to her: a bagoong made of pork.
While writing and cooking are completely different disciplines, in these examples, the two complement each other. Speaking about how food writing is important for the discipline of cooking, Ms. Fenix said, “It’s a way to preserve your culture and traditions. It’s also a way to present the food to other people: your own people, and then internationally; to explain to them what that is. We spread our culture that way.” — J.L. Garcia