Congratulation to Tourism Secretary Mon Jimenez on the successful launch of the new tourism tagline for the Philippines, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines!” Both mainstream and social media were abuzz about the launch. My favorite of all the twists and spreads on the slogan is the one of a lechon (spit-roasted pig) lying still, with the tagline, “Planking. It’s More Fun in the Philippines!”
Side and snide comments notwithstanding, the beauty of the campaign is that it establishes a sense of pride and has every Filipino thinking how our country trumps even Disneyland as the happiest place on Earth!
In terms of eating, we can boast that at any point of the archipelago, there is something mouthwatering to come to the Philippines for. Here are a few favorites from north to south:
Ilocos. ABS-CBN journalist Niña Corpuz, who hails from Ilocos Norte, loves Ilocos pinakbet: “We use smaller fresh produce typical of the north. It’s blanched very quickly to retain the crispness, then cooked using Ilocano bagoong (not alamang). The highlight is that it is topped off with crispy bagnet (twice deep-fried pork belly or sides)!
“My personal favorite is the Batac empanada: deep fried, orange, salty from the pork, chewy from the fried egg.”
Pampanga. Pampangeño food expert Claude Tayag’s “No. 1 for Fun” dish is inihaw na hito, burong hipon and mustasa, which is eaten as a set: Cover bits of the fish with the slightly salty burong hipon and wrap with the bitter mustard leaves, a great combination of salty and bitter!
Foodie Spanky Enriquez’s “No. 1 for Fun” list overflows: Mila’s tocino barbecue and crunchy sisig (sizzling pigs head/ears) in Angeles, camaru (field crickets cooked in soy sauce) in Everybody’s Café in San Fernando, the original Razon’s halo-halo (a shaved ice dessert) in Guagua and 1930s- style ensaimadas from Homemade Treasures in Porac!
Bulacan. Chef Jessie Sincioco, who hails from Angat, highly recommends halabos na talangkang buhay. She said it’s “best eaten with freshly cooked Milagrosa rice and calamansi-patis na sawsawan.”
Enderun Colleges’ Tricia Tensuan, whose roots are from Polo, praises her Lola Anday’s chicken kinulob: “Native chicken is slow-cooked in the traditional palayok with pork stomach, vegetables and aromatics. It comes with rich liver and calamansi sauce.”
My “No. 1 for Bulacan Fun” is Obet’s chicharon from Sta. Maria: thick, crunchy, salty pork rind the size of a toddler’s fist, packed with what they call “full back fat.”
Batangas and Laguna. Alya Honasan’s “No. 1 for Fun” involves “driving home from Anilao to eat tawilis (a freshwater sardine) with a mountain of rice in Rose and Grace. Meanwhile, Cereno, who advocates tourism for Laguna, votes for ensaladang pako (fresh fern leaves) with kesong puti (carabao cheese).
Bicol. Beth Romualdez raves about the Bicol dish Bicol Express, a kind of pork stew in coconut milk: “This is a dish that will surely tease the palate and, added as a condiment to the table, can turn an ordinary dish into something tasty and appetizing.”
Cebu. Cebu Rep. Cutie del Mar’s “No. 1 for Fun” dish is Cebu lechon de leche: “It is so tasty we Cebuanos never have sauce.” And from the first lady of Liloan, Christina Garcia-Frasco, more specialties: “From Liloan, definitely the fresh talaba (oysters) and kinilaw na sunlutan (sea cucumber) sold at the Liloan Municipal Plaza.”
Leyte. Christina Dragon-Locsin, who hosted a meal for me aboard their boat in the middle of a lake in Ormoc, believes the Philippines should capitalize on seafood. Her “No. 1 for Fun” is “assorted fresh seafood in Ormoc where it’s either grilled or steamed, with lato (fresh seaweed) salad, rice and ice cold beer. All served on the beach, a sandbar or on a floating raft at the lake.”
Iloilo can boast of the best mangoes in the world (Guimaras). Bacolod, Negros Occidental, Rep. Albee Benitez recommends Aida’s chicken inasal and apan-apan. In Dumaguete, look for curacha or the “sea roach,” a specialty of a restaurant called Lab-as, best cooked in the restaurant’s homemade hot sauce.
In Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro’s Kagay-anon restaurant serves ostrich salpicao and the sour sinuglaw, a mixture of sinugba (grilled pork) and tuna kinilaw.
Meanwhile, Amina Rasul recommends a specialty from Sulu called kurma, a chicken, pork or beef curry dish with peanut butter whose “sauce is so delicious, you have to soak it up with rice or bread.”
And from all over the country: tsokolate, champorado, taho, Roxas’ diwal, Puerto Princesa’s fresh lobster, the list goes on and on and on.
Kaya huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan! Let’s make this the year of exploring our own country’s flavors because with regard to eating…it’s more fun the Philippines!
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