Madrid, here we come!
TURO-TURO - Claude Tayag (The Philippine Star) - January 29, 2015 - 12:00am

This is the decade of Philippine cuisine, and one man could be credited for launching it with a big bang: Tourism  Secretary Ramon J. Jimenez Jr. He’s the one responsible for bringing Madrid Fusion Manila,  the Spanish gastronomic summit here, the first ever in Asia.

Manila’s culinary world is abuzz with excitement for the forthcoming Madrid Fusión Manila 2015 slated from April 24-26 at the SMX Convention Center, Pasay City. No stone will be left unturned in preparation for what could be the greatest gastronomic event in our history as a nation.

This will be preceded by a large Philippine delegation from the government, media (including this writer) and private sectors attending the main Madrid Fusión 2015 conference at the Spanish capital next week, from Feb. 2-4. Not only will Madrid Fusión Manila 2015 be formally launched there, but also two of our kababayan chefs will showcase the wonders of our cuisine.

If we have been collectively griping in the past about why Philippine cuisine hasn’t taken off internationally, this could be the singular event that could propel us to new stratospheric heights, surpassing all our Asian neighbors that have long passed their prime.

I recall an interview by Carlo Tadiar (Metro Home, June-August 2008) with American author of Eat My Globe and Cutthroat Kitchen judge Simon Majumbar declaring: “I underestimated just how delicious Filipino food is. I can only say that I think it is one of the few undiscovered culinary treasures left in the world (italics mine), and if the people of the Philippines attacked the marketing of their food with the same gusto that they apply to eating it, it could be the next culinary sensation.”

Our time has finally come! This is the decade of Philippine cuisine, and one man could be credited for launching it with a big bang: Tourism Secretary Ramon J. Jimenez Jr. He’s the one responsible for bringing this Spanish gastronomic summit to Manila, the first ever in Asia.

“Madrid Fusion Manila is an event that will challenge our food artisans to bring out the best in their craft and start a crusade to make Manila the center of culinary excellence in this region,” said Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. “ The whole concept of Madrid Fusion Manila is to get  the best in culinary arts to come to Manila to share their knowledge, and learn  from our own Philippine chefs at the same time. Not only are we excited to learn about modern techniques, Madrid Fusion Manila will revolutionize the people’s outlook on culinary arts in the Philippines. “

A seed was planted in his mind when chef Margarita Forés proposed to him way back in 2013 that he send a delegation to participate in Madrid Fusión. To chef Margarita’s surprise, not only is the good secretary sending a delegation to this year’s summit in Spain, he’s bringing the summit to the country! This is a major PR coup for the country, not just coinciding with the DOT’s “Visit the Philippines” campaign this year, but at the same time celebrating 333 years of shared history with Spain.

I have attended the Madrid Fusión (in Madrid) twice in the past. It is dubbed as one of the most prestigious gatherings of the world’s culinary titans since its inception in 2003. This annual three-day event is a virtual marketplace of food and wine from all over the world, of cutting-edge ideas and concepts on the latest ingredients, cooking techniques, gadgets, and actual cooking demonstrations of traditional and experimental cuisines by celebrity chefs from all over.

In 2011, I witnessed chef Ferran Adria of El Bulli (then the numero uno restaurant in the world) first announce to a stunned crowd that he was to close it permanently in a few months’ time, and transform it into a foundation and culinary school. I remember vividly I was green with envy of other Asian countries like Singapore, Japan and Korea, which had no shared colonial past with Spain but were featured nonetheless. And it was the same feeling I had in 2013, somewhat dejected over this bypass again. I strongly felt we had a big “K” (karapatan, or right), more than any other Asian country, to be there. Until…

DOT market development group OIC Verna Covar-Buensuceso is working on this milestone project with the Tourism Promotions Board. In one of several brainstorming meetings between her team and the private sector, including Filipino and Spanish chefs living in Manila, tour operators and the media, Covar-Buensuceso could not stress enough how important this momentous event will be.

The Philippines’ five flavors & the bayanihan spirit

At the Palacios Congresos Municipal de Madrid, a Philippine booth will be strategically set up by the entrance. It will showcase the best of Philippine produce, co-curated by the indefatigable Dept. of Agriculture Usec. Berna Romulo-Puyat. The products chosen are based on the five flavors of our cuisine: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and “linamnam” (yumminess, or umami in Japanese). She will be bringing to the Spanish capital the bulk of our trade items: Destileria Limtuaco’s Manille Liqueur de Calamansi (whose raw material is from Oriental Mindoro) and Liqueur de Dalandan (Quezon); ripe and green mangoes from Guimaras; suha or pomelo and coconut sugar from Cotabato; pili nuts from Bicol; muscovado (handcrafted raw sugar) and batuan fruit from Negros Occidental; coffee from the slopes of Kanlaon volcano; kasuy (anacardo in Spanish) from Palawan and Cordillera heirloom rice; and adlay grain from Bukidnon.

To represent the sweet flavor, Covar-Buensuceso tasked me to collate Pampango delicacies that are believed to be of Spanish origin, or at least those that bear Spanish names. From the top of my head, I handily named Sta. Rita’s turrones de casuy (after turrónes de Alicante), Mexico town’s Atching Lillian Borromeo’s sanikulas (San Nicolas cookies), Angeles City’s pride, Rosing’s yemas with caramelized sugar (from the nuns of Avila, Spain), Magalang’s pastillas de leche (made of carabao’s milk, no less), and Porac’s heirloom ensaimadas (after Mallorca, Spain) by Chona Ayson.

I lost no time contacting my kabalen (province mate), DOT Region 3 director Ronnie Tiotuico, to sponsor the items. The next day, he called me in a puffing voice from Rosing’s store confirming if he got my list right. He apparently was going around Pampanga doing the shopping himself. Dakal salamat, my kabalen, for this gallant effort, saving the day for me. And what would Chistmas be without the parol or lantern (after the Spanish farol), traditionally made of all-white papel de Japon (Japanese paper). Angeles City’s Kuliat Foundation took care of this. 

The bayanihan spirit of kindred souls came to the fore with siblings J and Malu Gamboa of Milky Way Restaurant sending gallons of atchara made with green papaya, labanos (radish) and ampalaya (bitter gourd), burong mangga (pickled green mango); taba ng talangka (crab fat) and garlic-sautéed dulong (pygmy goby fish) for that linamnam factor.

Margaux Salcedo is sending a box of Nana Meng’s Tsokolate tableas for that thick, bitter chocolate eh beverage mentioned in Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere. Her co-Bulakeña Rheeza Hernandez tapped the generosity of Nanay Luz Ocampo for her famous pabalat or Japanese paper pastillas wrappers, now made by her daughter Naty Ocampo-Castro. Though they have ready-made generic pabalat, Naty was kind enough to custom-make “Manila-Madrid” and “Filipinas-España” motifs.

Why kinilaw in Madrid?

Chefs Myrna Segismundo and Margarita Forés are presenting together, discussing kinilaw within the allotted 30-minute slot. Myrna shared how the Madrid Fusion organizers chose kinilaw. When they were here in Manila last September 2014, she served them kinilaw and they fell in love with it, and asked that it be presented in Madrid.

“I think kinilaw is a great introduction to our cuisine because it is unique to us,” she said. “This will also be a chance to highlight the sourness in our cuisine.”

Each will be using the ingredients indigenous to their respective provinces. Chef Myrna will be doing a Batangas-style kinilaw, using ingredients found in her landlocked province like calamansi, green mango, avocado and bagoong Balayan (salt-fermented fish paste), with Spanish shellfish, shrimps and oysters. Chef Margarita, on the other hand, will do a Bacolod-style kinilaw using the bounties of the Visayan seas, batuan fruit, coconut vinegar (tuba) and Bacolod’s sugar, with Spanish sea bass. To complete the LuzViMinda triad (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao), a third version will be sinuglaw, Cagayan de Oro’s iconic dish, in which grilled pork (sinugba nga baboy) is mixed with the fish. Sua (Mindanao’s lime) and tabon-tabon will also be brought — the hallmarks of a Mindanao kinilaw.

Aside from the cooking demo, the super duo will each prepare dinners at different venues: chef Myrna at the 19th-century Hotel Orfila on Feb.3, while chef Margarita will serve dinner at the highly acclaimed Goya Restaurant of the Hotel Ritz Madrid on Feb. 4.

We wish you all the best of luck. Vaya con dios! And don’t forget to bring home the bacon, or should I say, the jamon bellota (wink, wink).

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For details on Madrid Fusion in Spain, visit For details on Madrid Fusion Manila, visit Photos CLAUDE TAYAG





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