The month-long celebration of Filipino food and culinary heritage was launched at the Manila Metropolitan Theatre last Tuesday, championing the theme, “Pagkaing Sariling Atin, Mahalin at Pagyamanin.”
As per the Proclamation No. 469 s. 2018, April is declared “Filipino Food Month” or “Buwan ng Kalutong Filipino” and must be celebrated annually in order to highlight the importance of Filipino food and to revive its heritage.
The celebration of this year’s Filipino Food Month is spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture (DA), the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and the Department of Tourism (DOT) in cooperation with the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement (PCHM).
A program was held to formally open the Filipino Food Month to its month-long activities and festivities. As per tradition, the event was opened with the Philippine Anthem performed by the Jose Rizal University (JRU) Chorale and the Sariaya Community Rondalla.
It was followed by an inspirational message from Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda delivered by the Deputy Secretary of the Senate of the Philippines, Atty. Arnel Jose Bañas. Opening speeches were then delivered by representatives of the various stakeholders of Filipino Food Month, namely, NCCA Chair Victorino Mapa Manalo, DOT Undersecretary Myra Paz Valderrosa-Abubakar, and PCHM founder and chef Jose Antonio Miguel Melchor.
The President of the Philippines and Secretary of Agriculture, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., also welcomed this year’s Filipino Food Month through a video message.
The esteemed guests and stakeholders of the opening event then went up to the stage for a ceremonial toast to formally commence the Filipino Food Month of 2023 and to begin a month of enrichment of local cuisine, academic discussions of Filipino gastronomy, celebrations of culinary heritage, and thanksgiving to the country’s hard workers in the food industry.
After a grand performance from the JRU Chorale and Sariaya Community Rondalla, a press conference was held to discuss the current issues of Filipino food.
The panel for the press conference was NCCA Director Oscar Casaysay, DOT Undersecretary Valderrosa-Abubakar, DA Undersecretary Zamzamin Ampatuan, and PCHM founder Jam Melchor.
The conference discussed the plans to promote farm tourism in the country, the importance of education of culinary heritage and history, and actions that can address the issue of malnutrition among children.
Filipino food education has been repeatedly emphasized throughout the conference. There was a question on why there weren’t enough resources covering Filipino culinary heritage, and how difficult it was to acquire them. Melchor answered that there are books that have been written highlighting Filipino food and its history, however, it still has to be brought to the public. Moreover, the problem is that even if it is made public, the public isn’t aware of it.
“Through avenues like [the] Filipino Food Month, all of these we want to showcase,” Melchor said in Tagalog. He mentions that for the first time ever, one of the activities of Filipino Food Month will be an academic conference for different studies conducted tackling Filipino food from all regions that will serve as an exchange of ideas and enrichment of culinary knowledge.
The panel was asked how Filipino food could be promoted and highlighted beyond the month dedicated to it, especially for students taking up culinary studies or related courses. It was also mentioned that students don’t seem to engage in reading, and would rather rely on short-form content like TikTok.
NCCA Director Casaysay said in Tagalog, “Education should be a continuous process. It should be experiential.” He continued to say that schools and organizations should visit regions where Philippine cuisine was truly alive.
“There are a lot of challenges, one of which is social media,” Casaysay acknowledged. “However, maybe we can use that [avenue], social media. That’s one challenge, [but] from the aspect of the agency of NCCA, we are doing as much as possible. We are going there. We are migrating to that platform, and we hope to encourage everyone to join us.”
The press conference and opening program of 2023’s Filipino Food Month was closed by DA Undersecretary Ampatuan. Before his closing remarks, he mentioned the importance of Filipino street food. He said that Filipino street food must be improved in quality, sanitation, and presentation, and that it should be improved because it is the entry point of tourists to Filipino cuisine. He encouraged everyone to support Filipino street food and that it will enhance our knowledge and awareness on the importance of our local cuisine.
Ampatuan then ends the program with the words, “It’s Filipino Food Month, I hope everyone else share his (sic) own contribution [on] how we can make our country proud of its own; proud of Philippine food.”
Photos courtesy of Jazz Quiambao