For the first time in the 18 years of the Doreen Gamboa Fernandez (DGF) Food Writing Award, two entries from the same person were given the top prizes for 2019.
Subject of the entries was “fish.”
Jennifer Fergesen, a Filipino-American food journalist, won first and third places for her essays, “Migratory Species—The Filipina Fish Processors of Faroe Islands” and “Dalagang Bukid: The Mountain Maiden of the Seas,” respectively.
Fergesen was able to go to Faroe Island—“an archipelago belonging to the Kingdom of Denmark”—through a grant from the University of California, Davis, where she graduated last June with an MA in Creative Writing.
Through GoFundMe, an online fundraising platform, she was also able to report on Filipinos who had opened restaurants and cafés in Hungary, Georgia, Iceland and Greenland.
Her stories have received the Migration Advocacy and Media Award from the Commission for Filipinos Overseas and the Plaridel Award from the Philippine-American Press Club. Her stories can be found in her site globalcarinderia.com.
Fergesen’s “Dalagang Bukid” essay was based on her research when she was in Capiz to help in the rehabilitation efforts as a result of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.”
Locals told her that the name of the fish comes from the red-tinged clothing of the indigenous people who live in the mountains known as the Panay Bukidnon. In the old days, the mountain dwellers practiced binukot, which means keeping girls hidden at home doing “needlework and memorizing ballads.” Then “at 13 or 14, she was married off for the highest bride price.”
Second prize went to Marie Joy Rosal Sumagaysay for “Sirup and the Sea Breeze,” about a carinderia in northern Iloilo and the dish the place is known for, linabog, which is cooking in coconut milk with turmeric of sirup or snake mackerel.
Her essay also discusses the ways of cooking the different fish to be found in Panay and the revival of Sea Breeze, the restaurant that cooks the special dish.
Sumagaysay teaches at the Miagao campus of the University of the Philippines Visayas and has an MA in Art History from University of the Philippines Diliman.
There were three honorable mention winners.
Edelwina Gonzaga sent her essay from Washington state where she resides with her husband, a pastor of the United Methodist Church.
Her essay’s title, “The Ichtus in Talibubu,” seems strange until one remembers that ichtus is the early Christian symbol of fish to represent Jesus Christ, and that talibubu is what ayungin (silver perch) is called in Taytay, where her husband hails from; it is cooked with “coconut milk, slivers of ginger, green chilies, a little soy sauce and a drop of vinegar,” then finished with alagaw (Premna odorata) leaves.
Because ayungin has become scarce, tilapia is now used and she gives the history of how tilapia came to the country and flourished.
Gonzaga has written a book, “Hallowed Tables” (New Day Publishers) a compilation of recipes of women who, like her, are married to United Methodist pastors.
Samuel Evardone’s essay “Sarciadong Aquarium” wrote about his family’s carinderia (eatery) in Tondo where different fishes are cooked and leftover fried fish end up as sarciado that he describes as “a tomato-based sauce with beaten eggs.”
Evardone is communications manager of Okada Manila. A communications arts graduate of the University of Santo Tomas, he is working toward an MFA degree in creative writing at La Salle.
Rosy Mina’s “What’s in a Name? When Philippine Fishes Go by Reduplications” is about repetition of a word for names of people and fish, said to disclose our Austronesian roots. Consider: hasa-hasa, lapu-lapu and maya-maya. She doesn’t stop there, however, because she also gives the other regional nonreduplication names of the fish.
Mina is a freelance writer who works with the public relations and communications office of the Film Development Council of the Philippines. She also likes making milk tea and bento boxes.
The 2019 DGF winners were supposed to be awarded at the Toque and Texts second edition, “Alah Eh.” The event of the Food Writers of the Philippines was going to showcase cooking by chefs and food curators from Batangas. Because of the Taal Volcano eruption, the event was reset to April.