Angry about adobo

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

A seemingly innocuous press release issued on July 9 by the Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS) literally stirred the pot among Filipinos, especially those very fond of eating adobo. In that press release, the BPS announced it has created a technical committee which it tasked to develop the Philippine National Standards (PNS) on popular Filipino dishes such as adobo, sinigang, lechon and sisig. Among other tasks, the newly created committee will take “into consideration the variations in cooking techniques observed in all regions of the country.”

“Standardizing the basic cooking technique for Philippine adobo will help ordinary citizens, foodies, and food businesses determine and maintain the authentic Filipino adobo taste,” BPS Director Neil Catajay was quoted in this official press release of the agency. “With various cooking methods for Philippine adobo published online by food writers, bloggers, and vloggers,” the same press release cited to obviously justify the creation of this technical committee.

Thus, among the four mentioned popular Filipino dishes, adobo got singled out.

Because of this controversy, we just found out there is such an agency attached under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Due to the hullaballoo it triggered, DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez took the heat. To his credit, Lopez did not get out of the kitchen. Even burned by the wayward press release, the soft-spoken DTI Secretary reached out to radio and other media outfits to clarify the mis-impressions generated by the ensuing social media bashing.

“This is only consultation. This is not for standard. It is not mandatory. We encourage creativity, innovation, even with millions of recipes available, we all welcome that,” Lopez clarified. The BPS technical committee would simply come up with “baseline recipe” as a guide, Lopez pointed out. They would merely take into consideration variations in cooking techniques for Philippine dishes across different regions, he added.

“That is just, so that we would have a basic traditional recipe when you promote it abroad. For instance, there will be a Philippine adobo,” Lopez explained. In fact, Lopez disclosed, the agency consulted various Filipino chefs and cooks as part of “creative industry exports” that the government supports. As the country’s economy gradually re-opens amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the DTI Secretary admitted as a grave concern that other countries like Mexico has their own version of adobo.

Our Filipino adobo is usually stewed chicken, pork or a combination of both meats dipped and cooked in soy sauce and vinegar. The Mexican adobo, on the other hand, features a marinade made of chilies. Adobo means ‘sauce’ or ‘seasoning’ in Spanish. Our resident culinary expert Claude Tayag had a funny take in calling this controversy “The Adobo Riot: Much Ado About Nothing.” In his column “Turo-turo” at The STAR last Sunday, Tayag presented the side of the “well-respected” Filipino chefs consulted by the DTI.

This “adobo” controversy could have been avoided had the BPS or the DTI coordinated this initiative with the Department of Tourism (DOT) that has its own “Kain Na” global program promoting Philippine cuisine. DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat started the “Kain Na” in 2019 as food and travel festival banner program to sustain efforts to develop the Philippines as a center of food tourism and gastronomy.

“Initiatives to promote Philippine cuisine globally are always welcome. These help generate international awareness of the country’s food and gastronomy while sparking interest for travelers to visit our country and try authentic Filipino cuisine,” she cited. Currently, she disclosed, DOT regional offices adopted a “bottoms-up approach” in putting together a Food Tourism Roadmap in the conduct of this food tourism resource inventories of their key food tourism destinations in consultation with local government units concerned.

In 2019, adobo reportedly made it to the online global food map called “TasteAtlas” as one of the top 100 popular dishes in the world. Many Filipinos who have migrated abroad still cook and eat adobo. In California, you would sense you are in Daly City or passing through the so-called “little Manila” from the smell of adobo wafting in the air. There is even an annual “Adobo Festival” in Union City also in California. The festival observed every Sept. 1-2 features adobo cook-off competitions and selling different kinds of adobo by Filipino-Americans living all over the United States.

When BPS press release went viral the next day on social media, my nephews and nieces took us to a restaurant named “Angry Adobo” at the Westgate in Alabang, Muntinlupa City. It was early dinner treat to us their elders to mark our mother’s fourth death anniversary last July 10. It was our way to remember how we love to eat the adobo, even if left-over is reheated as the next day’s meal again. The reheated pork and chicken meat become even more loose and more juicy.

As I gathered from our early dinner hosts, “Angry Adobo” is owned and operated by celebrity couple Judy Ann Santos and Ryan Agoncillo. Displayed at the restaurant’s walls were the narratives of Ryan on how the couple’s “Angry Adobo” started. Ryan described his relations with Judy Ann, then as girlfriend, had the usual “lovers’ quarrels” usually marked by angry Judy Ann not talking to him.

While they were staying with relatives in Los Angeles City in California, Ryan narrated, he left Judy Ann to do all the cooking of the pork, chicken and other ingredients for a family gathering while he fell asleep after a long drive to buy the ingredients from grocery. When he woke up, he and Judy Ann got into another “lovers’ quarrel.” She went into her usual silent treatment on Ryan.

But this did not stop Ryan from eating a hot bowl of adobo on top of steamed rice that she prepared and left for him on the table. This inspired their “Angry Adobo” business venture.

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