The “Philippine Harvest” is back, this time with more flavors from culinary destinations such as Cebu, Davao, Negros Occidental, and Bicol, ongoing until tomorrow, June 17, at Central Square Mall, Bonifacio High Street Central, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.
Now on its 8th edition, “Philippine Harvest” is the brainchild of the new Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat whose aim is to introduce distinct flavors from different regions of the country in one accessible destination.
Puyat—a self-confessed food aficionado—and her team personally curated 40 local food exhibitors for this gastronomic food fair.
“Food is my first love, and first love never dies… The best way to promote the country is through food, and the best way to understand a culture is via food,” Puyat told the Inquirer. “Whenever you go to a place you don’t only want to see the sights but you also want to know, ‘Saan ba masarap dyan?’ Culinary tourism is part of promoting the country.”
Philippine food has been getting international recognition, with the likes of Purple Yam in Brooklyn or Tito Rad’s Grill in Queens getting full feature writeups in the New York Times.
Puyat said that when 2012 Veuve Clicquot awardee for World’s Best Female Chef Elena Arzak visited the country three years ago, she brought back to Spain some local pili nuts. Spain’s Joan Roca, one time best chef in the world, was blown away by our calamansi.
“Everybody was surprised that I was still promoting food,” Puyat said. “How can I not? We have the best food. We have different kinds of lechon or pancit every place you go. That’s the way to attract people to go to places.”
Aside from beaches, churches, cultural tourism, and heritage tourism, Puyat said she will also be actively promoting farm and food tourism. Farms across the Philippines are already getting DOT-accreditation for tourism, where tourists are not only given a peek into the everyday lives of farmers but get also to participate in harvesting, making fertilizers, etc.
Puyat said her office will be pushing for alternative tourism, one that will promote eco-tourism and responsible tourists.
“Everyone is fearful they will become another Boracay so they are now more conscious and they are policing themselves. They know the legal and environmental laws,” she said. “I’m a glass-half-full kind of person. Boracay opened our eyes–we need sustainable tourism.”
“We are thankful to the DOT, and to Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, for the continued trust in the SSI Group to be an avenue to promote farm tourism and indigenous Philippine products,” said SSI president Anton Huang. “Through your tutelage we have given local farmers and Pinoy ‘agripreneurs’ a channel to showcase the Philippines’ finest flavors and ingredients.”
Here are our top finds at the fair:
Down to Earth
Grass-fed beef, free-range pork black heritage, grass-fed lamb, biodynamic vegetables grown on living soil sans chemicals or pesticides, grass-fed dairy, native free-range poultry—if you’re looking to get healthier, this is a good place to start. Located on the ground floor, with biodynamic farmer Nicolo Aberasturi manning the shop, Down to Earth is introducing dried hibiscus or labog, supposedly good for those with hypertension.
From its farm in Sta. Rosa, Nueva Ecija, they offer locally made organic chocolates at 65, 70, 80, and 100 percent pure cacao bar. Their products go through minimal processing and use two ingredients at most —whole cacao and coconut nectar—to retain the natural health benefits of cacao. The beans are sourced from upland farmers and indigenous tribes in Aurora, Bicol, and Bulacan. They also have dehydrated organic herbs and spices, such as cayenne pepper and dill powder, processed at lower temperatures to preserve its nutrients.
Natural honey sourced from multifloral bees, sunflower bees, and the native stingless bee—all unprocessed and never heated. The native stingless bee is the most potent in terms of nutrients, we learned, but it’s also the only one that tastes a little sour. Its modest, 1-hectare farm is located in San Jose, Batangas, where they also offer farm tours, swarm removal/colony rescue, colony relocation, and beekeeping workshops.
When Typhoon “Yolanda” struck Cebu in 2013, some Gawad Kalinga volunteers decided to stay on and help the fisherfolk get back on their feet. That’s when Balangay’s Best was born, producing uncooked dried fish called Darling Danggit, Mommy Dilis, and Papa Pusit. They are also introducing at the fair a danggit trail mix, a healthy mix of danggit with dried mango, nuts, sesame seeds, and cinnamon.
They offer 100-percent organic coconut water—no added sugar, water or preservatives. Kajuayan, pronounced kawayan, is an amalgam of Kaya ni Juan Yan. They bottle their products fresh at their Mandaluyong bottling factory, but they source the coconuts in Quezon. One bottle is P50, and you get a rebate if you return the bottle. They deliver in Metro Manila chilled fresh coconut water in glass bottles, produced on the day of delivery, straight to your doorsteps. They also offer yacon super fruit and organic bamboo chicken eggs.
Forest Wood Garden Natural Farming
The makers of San Pablo’s famous Pansit Kalabuko made of kalabasa, kabute, and buko “noodles.” They pan-fry the pancit mixed with squash, papaya, kangkong, talbos ng kamote, spinach, and mushroom. The 3.5-hectare farm is located far from the town market. The story goes that one day the farmer wanted to cook pancit for his wife but couldn’t go to the town fast enough, so instead he made use of what he had at the farm and made a pancit “para sa love ko.” Pansit Kalabuko was born. They also offer farm tours.
Call 09175822832 or 09399387202.
Sebastian’s Ice Cream
Its bestsellers are Sapin Sapin Bicol Style ice cream with queso toppings, Champorado and Dilis (the candied version of dilis), and Mango and Bagoong (the bagoong made from the late chef Ed Quimson’s recipe). Owner and head sorbetero Ian Carandang founded the company 14 years ago. He started with “safe” flavors, like mango and sans rival before introducing bolder flavors later on.
If you must drink, go Pinoy all the way. This company, the oldest distillery in the country, offers a wide range of special Philippine craft spirits. Among its notable products are the multiawarded Paradise Rum Liqueur, made from Philippine mango and premium aged rum; Amadeo Coffee Liqueur named after the coffee capital of the Philippines blending four kinds of coffee—robusta, arabica, excelsa, liberica (barako); and Manille Liqueur de Calamansi, made using calamansi rinds for a zesty, intense citrus aroma. They deliver.
It’s cholesterol-free, high in dietary fiber, and high in protein. The oyster mushrooms are deep-fried and baked, and sprinkled with salt and flavors. Oyster mushrooms are sourced from Cavite, and come in six flavors: Peri Peri, Original, Garlic, Chili, Beef Tapa, and Hickory BBQ.
Casa del Formaggio, All Natural Negros Artisan Cheese
Italian cheeses made in Bacolod City. One of its bestsellers is the burrata, with an outer shell made of thin mozzarella and cream and stringy mozzarella bits on the inside. They also have mozzarella fior di latte, made from fresh cow’s milk. High in butterfat and made from fresh cow’s milk is the mild stracchino or crescenza with soft creamy texture, excellent as a dip or spread. Among their clients are Blackbird, Sala Bistro, Grace Park, Cibo, Green Pastures.
Also worth mentioning are the ripe, sweet mangoes from Guimaras, one of the sweetest in the world. Sample silvanas from Dumaguete, now in a new package; an assortment of longanisa sourced from different provinces at Juan Longanisa; or try the iced coffee mixed with rice milk from the award-winning barista of El Union.
Grab healthy, cold-pressed, 100 percent natural juices at Summer Farms, explore your heat tolerance with chili sauces from Bad Boy Tikboy (the Black Bitch has activated charcoal in it), or buy organic produce at reasonable prices at Teraoka Family Farm.