By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman
Published by Colors Integrated
Travel Media, Inc.
HUNGRY is the heart that yearns for an adventure, and so is the stomach that craves authentic fare. With the promise of fulfilling the pangs of these hungers comes the book called Food Holidays, a 195-page culinary guide-cum-travelogue-cum-recipe book that highlights the Philippines’s best tourist destinations and its (not so) secret heirloom dishes. The Philippines — its sights and its food — is still begging to be discovered, both by local and foreign visitors. This is what the book is for.
Published by the Colors Integrated Travel Media, Inc., the book was two years in the making and focuses on provinces that are already tourism-ready, meaning they are easily accessible. The compilation of essays has side notes including fares, suggested itineraries, and route guidelines.
The book is mainly intended for hungry travelers who want to have a memorable culinary journey. At the book launch on April 4 in Kawit, Cavite, the book’s publisher, writer and travel agent Clang M. Garcia, said she is open to compiling more destinations once they are more accessible.
Priced at P500 and available in all leading bookstores, the book provides heirloom recipes paired with stories of the regions, presented in five sections. “Divine Dining” has two essays, one that looks at the “confluence of culinary offerings” that make “Manila a veritable food paradise,” and one that describes Philippine history through a 10-course degustacion meal. “Culinary Day Tours” describes areas which one can visit in a day from the capital city, including Bulacan’s Malolos, and Pampanga up north, and Cavite and Quezon’s Villa Escudero down south. “Overnight Food Trips” range from a tour of Laguna, Quezon and Batangas, to sanctuaries for the body and soul. “Three Delicious Days” tackles longer trips — tours of Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Bukidnon in Mindanao; Negros, Guimaras and Iloilo, Siquijor, and Dumaguete in the Visayas; Ilocos Norte in Luzon, among many other stops. “The Philippine Cuisine in the Global Spotlight” is self-explanatory, focusing on restaurants and chefs bringing Pinoy cuisine abroad.
Ten writers contributed essays for the book: Marilen Fontanilla, Boboi Costas, Eugene Jamerlan, Ige Ramos, Cyrene Dela Rosa, Marianne Crandang, Anson Yu, Ruth Minerva Cruz, Roly Marcelino and Ivan Henares.
The book’s launch was held in Cavite because the province played a vital role during the Galleon Trade (1565-1815) — it was where the galleons were built and repaired. According to Cavite-born food historian Ryan Sebastian, the trade route in the Philippines included the Ilocos, Bicol, Cebu, Manila and Cavite. Yet, the food culture of Cavite has remained relatively under-celebrated, unlike the provinces of Pampanga, Bicol, Cebu, Negros and Iloilo.
Cavite and the rest of the Calabarzon region (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) are now being billed as culinary destinations.
“Food, restaurants and historical cuisines in the region could well play an important role in linking and looping together the destinations and attractions in the region,” said Department of Tourism IV-A Director Rebecca Labit, who told BusinessWorld that the Calabarzon region recorded 2.1 million same-day tourist arrivals and 3 million overnight tourist arrivals in 2015 (mostly Japanese, Koreans, Americans and Indians).
To highlight the province’s best food, the Culinary Generals and the Razor Chefs of Cavite — an organization of Cavite-based chefs, food businessmen and members of the academe — presented a feast for the journalists who attended the launch. The fiesta-like celebration highlighted the area’s best local dishes.
Founded by chef Christopher Carangian in 2008, the organization “advocates the revival of the food culture” in the province. Cavite is a culinary hot spot, he said. Thanks to the Galleon Trade, the province had access to spices and other ingredients from Spain, Mexico and China, which it went on to incorporate in its dishes.
A favorite during Christmastime is tamales, a localized version of the Mexican dish. While the Mexican tamale is made of a starchy, usually corn-based dough which is steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf, the Philippine version is made from ground peanuts and rice flour wrapped in slightly toasted banana leaves. Both versions are filled — with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables, or chilies for the Mexican tamale, and hard-boiled egg, slices of liempo (pork belly), or chicken breasts cooked adobo-style (stewed in vinegar), among other items, in the local version. It is sweet, salty and spicy all at the same time.
Another Cavite favorite is pancit pusit or pancit negra, a noodle dish made from sotanghon (vermicelli noodles) with squid ink, and garnished with siling labuyo (chili), kintsay (celery) and fried garlic. This noodle dish is a bit sweet and sour because of the squid ink.
Rivaling the Bicol Region’s Bicol Express, a dish of pork cooked in coconut milk and chilies, is Cavite’s own version called the ciento quince (115 in Spanish). Though not literally made with 115 pieces of sili (chili), Mr. Carangian said ciento quince is made with cocount milk, pork, langka (jackfruit) and an overdose of chili.
“It has more kick and spice than Bicol Express,” assured Mr. Carangian.
These are just some of the region’s best dishes you don’t want to miss when heading south or when grabbing a copy of the book.