In the last days of March, the lugaw controversy happened, in which a barangay tanod prevented a food delivery boy from delivering the savory porridge, alleging that the beloved Filipino comfort food was not an essential, thus breaking lockdown rules. The whole nation immediately came to the boy’s and lugaw’s defense, and the hashtag “#lugawisessential” became trending for several days. The incident, which further exposed widespread incompetence in the country, proved to be serendipitous as it became a way to educate people on the lugaw’s cultural significance and to usher in the Filipino Food Month in April.
Filipino Food Month or Buwan ng Kalutong Filipino is one of the newest celebrations in the country, being declared only on 13 April 2018 via Presidential Proclamation 469. The first celebration in 2019 was spearheaded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), together with the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement and Department of Agriculture.
The following year, the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdowns prevented many events from being held but it surprisingly became an important moment for food culture as many people, restricted in their homes, turned to cooking and shared their efforts on social media. This year, the celebration is pushing through via online platforms led by the same three agencies.
The theme, “Iba’t Ibang Luto, Pinoy ang Puso” (Different dishes but all with Filipino heart), underscores the diversity of culinary traditions and dishes in the country, being made up of many ethnic groups but all contributing to the Filipino identity. The events are largely made of webinars, exhibits and contests.
A major project is “Philippines on a Plate,” a series of online talks that streams live on Tuesdays and Thursdays of April on the Facebook page of the Filipino Food Month. It gathers farmers, culinary historians, chefs and experts from the local food industry to talk about local foods and their promotion. Sapin-sapin, buko (young coconut), vegetables, pansit, vinegar and Muslim Mindanao cuisine are some of the topics for discussion.
DA also has a webinar series on meat processing focusing on alternative protein; the pinuneg; Ilocano products such as tupig and puto; pansit; burong Kapampangan; tapang Taal; bibingkang lalaki; pinakbet; Western Visayas cuisine; adlai; T’boli cuisine; palagsing and other unaw-based foods; and indigenous vegetables.
There will be an exhibit on culinary heritage in the form of postings on social media. Based on Clang Garcia’s The Unsung Culinary Heritage of the Philippines (2020), it highlights five dishes from the three island cluster — Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The featured dishes are binungor (Kalinga), pipian (Mexico, Pampanga), talabobo (Naic, Cavite), pinayti (San Pablo City, Laguna) and minanok (Santa Cruz, Laguna) from Luzon; kilaw na sikwa (Barugo, Leyte), tamalos (Catbalogan, Samar), inubaran nga manok, sarsa sa uyang (Romblon) and nilibasan nga buriringbobo (Cadiz, Negros Occidental) from the Visayas; and satti (Sulu archipelago), sinina a kambing (Maguindanao), urang piyaren, pudsan a uyap (Maguindanao) and nilutlot (Bagobo Manobo ethnic group) from Mindanao.
A comic strips, “Pinakbet Adventures of Pina,” tackles Filipino food commodities and standards and can be viewed online from 12 to 16 April.
Contests include Cuisinema Kusinema, a short film competition; a pinakbet photo contest; and the My Gulay online poster-making contest.
Other events include “Pagkaing Filipino Susi sa Turismo: The Quest to Promote Filipino Food in the World” on 15 April and the Manila Food Festival, which will focus on regional cuisine and agricultural produce, from 21 to 25 April.
Events and activities are also lined up in different parts of the country such as seminars, trade fairs and sales, and cooking contests and demos in Koronadal City, South Cotabato; San Fernando City, Pampanga; Iloilo; Tuguegarao City, Cagayan; Cagayan de Oro City; Naga City; Tacloban City, Leyte; Pili, Camarines Sur; Davao City; and San Fernando City, La Union.
Also, Sabores de Visayas will held at the Iloilo Convention Center in Iloilo City on 9 April; Hikay: Cebu Food and Wine Festival from 9 to 28 April; and Mangan Taku: Celebrating Cordilleran Cuisine in Baguio City from 27 April to 2 May.
International celebrations, mostly in the form of promotional activities, will be held in Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Australia.
Despite the pandemic, April promises to be a sumptuous time, full of flavors.