The Department of Tourism (DOT) has collaborated with the 114th Independence Day celebration Inter-agency Committee and the Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines (HRAP) to prep up a food festival in observance of the June 12 historical event.
This is in line with the commitment of the various government agencies and private companies to drum up the significance of the celebration that commemorates the declaration of the Philippines’ independence from Spain in 1898.
Consequently, this historical event gave birth to the Constitutional Convention or Malolos Convention, thus, establishing the First Philippine Republic – the foundation of the Philippine government.
As the DOT’s function is to promote tourism in the country, not only will it feature beautiful places where tourists can rest and satisfy their hungry stomachs; the tourists can also learn some historical facts while feasting on dishes being showcased by the participating hotels and restaurants.
The food festival, dubbed as “Kulinarya Kalayaan Festival”, kicks off today (June 10) and runs until June 20.
DOT has received the support of 10 hotels and seven restaurants in the country’s key cities which will feature delectable dishes that are truly Filipino – some of which were favorites of Dr. Jose Rizal and other prominent and important figures in Philippine history books.
The participating hotels are Bayview Park Hotel, Century Park Hotel, The Bellevue Hotels and Resorts, Makati Shangrila Hotel, Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila, Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao, Golden Orchid Hotel (Zamboanga City), AIM Conference Center Manila, Waterfront Manila Pavilion Hotel and Casino, and The Heritage Hotel Manila.
While the restaurants are Illustrado Restaurant, Harbor View Restaurant, Cravings Group of Companies (Casa Roces), Serye Café Restaurant, LJC Restaurants, Bacolod Chicken Inasal and Tamayo’s Catering and Restaurant.
According to vivacious Sous Chef John Philip Gomez of Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila, the management gave him the rules set by the festival organizers and then the freedom to present the menu.
Gomez said that he read books, did some research, and even tried to read Dr. Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere again amidst difficulty in the Filipino language. “I found out that this guy (Rizal) is amazing. He was what a food blogger should be – he wrote well, spoke well and ate well. This is a guy with the Filipinos in his mind. He is an icon for me. So when I had to this (Rizalian menu), I said ‘I had to do this right’,” Gomez stressed.
Among the food Rizal liked were Laguna cheese, anchovies, tinola and monggo, Gomez said. The chef beamed that it brings him so much honor to be doing the Rizalian presentation on his dishes. He wanted to come up with a menu combination showcasing what Rizal liked in real-life and his fictional character. He also included other dishes which are “hyped” like his escabeche – cooked in his own standard. “I’m really proud of what I’ve presented. I’m happy with that,” Gomez averred.
Meanwhile, Chef Rudy dela Passion of the Century Park Hotel, said he and his team were preparing “a diverse gastronomic journey” for their guests. Aside from Rizal’s favorites and other local dishes, they would offer dishes that originated from the countries where Rizal had stayed.
Among them are Lengua Estofado from Spain (where Rizal practised his medical career and wrote his first essay), Fish Cordon Bleu from France (where Rizal served as an ophthalmologist and honed his skills in music), Sunday Roast from England (where Rizal co-founded the Asociacion Hispano Filipino), Sauerbraten from Germany (where Rizal came up with his Noli Me Tangere novel), Chinese Dimsum from Hongkong (where Rizal began to be recognized as an excellent eye surgeon), and Belgian Meatballs from Belgium (where Rizal finished his second novel, El Filibusterismo).
On the other hand, Ilustrado general manager Bea Pimentel said that the management had tapped the expertise of a Malolos-based artist, historian and food expert, Dez Bautista, in the preparation of a menu inspired by the inauguration of the first Philippine Republic. This, Pimentel said, was also the restaurant’s tribute to the Malolos culinary heritage.
Dez Bautista belongs to the Bautista clan who owns an ancestral house in Malolos which has become a famous historical landmark. The house, considered a present-time neoclassical masterpiece, was built in 1855 and was reconstructed in 1877.
“Ilustrado Restaurant is a staunch supporter of preserving our Filipino-Spanish past not just through its excellence in providing culture-rich fine dining experience but through its continued efforts to discover and bridge links in the arts, history and tradition of the past to the discerning taste of Filipinos today,” Pimentel said.
The restaurant, located in Manila’s walled city, Intramuros, was named after an elite class of educated and well-travelled Filipinos during the Spanish era.
Pimentel said that they would present a unique menu “highlighting the well-preserved and traditionally-rich Spanish-Filipino dishes that delighted the palates of the very Filipinos that established and celebrated the Philippines’ first republic.”