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Gastronomical gains from the country’s food haven

Resized- Chicken inasalPork barbecue and chicken inasal

By Dom Galeon | Images by Melo Villareal

I have been to Iloilo more than any province in the Philippines in the past year—twice or thrice, I think. In all of the times I visited the once-named “Queen of the South,” the one thing that was always present, aside from meeting friends and making new ones, is food. One cannot stay in Iloilo without enjoying its culinary and gastronomic treats, from the batchoy and its many versions to the various other local delicacies that Ilonggos are proud of. And there is no shortage of them.

So how do you make sure that you get to try as much of Iloilo’s food finds in a short spell? You go to a street food market, and Chef Tibong Jardeleza has you covered.

Resized- Chef TibongChef Tibong Jardeleza

In 2019, Chef Tibong started the Iloilo Street Food Festival, in partnership with the regional office of the Department of Tourism, Robinsons Mall, and various F&B establishments as well as culinary schools in the city. While I missed the first of these street food festivals held sometime in the middle of 2019, I was fortunate enough to experience its second run in October.

To say that Ilonggos know their food is an understatement. Ilonggos know their food and they love it. Every stall in the second Iloilo Street Food Festival had something for everyone, from Ilonggo staples to fusion desserts to even a local version of milk tea. All were there for guests to enjoy, out in the open air of the Robinsons Mall parking lot, with local bands performing OPM and international pop classics. One night isn’t enough to try everything out, so our group went back for seconds on another night.

My latest trip to Iloilo, which is my last for 2019, was a gustatory escapade, just like any of my previous trips. But I was able to experience a couple of “firsts.” I was a judge in a cooking competition—my first time!—and I thought that was going to be easy but no. Each of the competing groups, which were all students from various schools in and around Iloilo, was really good. They all had to prepare a dish from Nora Daza’s Let’s Cook with Nora cookbook.

Featured image- A Year in IloiloIlonggo bibingka

Resized- Fresh catchIlonggo staples as fresh as they can get

Speaking of Nora, I was also fortunate to be present at the launch of the new edition of the famous cookbook, which siblings Nina Daza-Puyat, our very own food columnist, and Sandy Daza compiled and edited and then brought to Iloilo. I saw Nina get emotional whenever she met an Ilonggo who told her that she first learned to cook from her mom’s book. And there were a lot of them sharing similar stories: overseas Ilonggos longing for home-cooked Pinoy meals and first-time moms learning how to prepare meals for their husbands relied on Nora’s cookbook. With this new edition, published by Anvil and launched at the Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo, there will surely be a new generation of Pinoys learning to cook their first dish with Nora (and Nina) Daza.

RESIZED- Nina Daza PuyatOur very own food columnist Nina Daza-Puyat

Every time I experience the culinary delights of Iloilo, which, if I have to be honest, has largely been an excursion of discovery for my palate courtesy of Chef Tibong, I find myself wondering why I have not had the chance to do the same thing in other provinces. I also wonder if there is a “Chef Tibong” in other provinces, one who would champion the region’s cuisine and proudly put it out there for the rest of the Philippines and the world to see.

Surely there are many great chefs from the other parts of the country. With hope, 2020 might be my chance to meet them.

Manila Bulletin and Manila Bulletin Lifestyle are official partners of the Iloilo Street Food Festival.

Source: Manila Bulletin

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