Rizal’s tinola atbp.

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star

After two years, more than 20 stops, hundreds of recipes, and memorable foodie experiences, SM and PeopleAsia have compiled the best of Philippine regional cuisine in a book, My City, My SM, My Cuisine.

The book was launched recently at the SM Aura amid food stations groaning with regional delights and the presence of gourmets, celebrity chefs and foodies alike.

But the book’s story began much, much earlier.

As the SM mall chain grew, and grew, Tessie Sy-Coson saw how eating, as much as “malling” was a favorite pastime of Filipinos.

“As we opened more stores and malls around the Philippines, we discovered how food plays an organic role in Filipino lifestyles — how it delights, brings people together, and becomes a catalyst for cultural exchange,” she says.

The Sy family saw how SM’s in-store Café Elysee and Food Court in SM Makati became gathering places for families, friends, and business colleagues.

And as more SM stores were opened around the country, Tessie, vice chairman of SM Investments, realized “the richness and diversity of our regional cuisine from the Cordillera Highlands to the plains of Central Luzon, from the Visayan shorelines to the orchards in Mindanao.”

Thus, was born the idea for an SM cookbook that would sizzle with recipes from around the archipelago.

“An offshoot of the original My City, My SM campaign, which highlights tourism, My City, My SM, My Cuisine is SM’s way of paying tribute to the culture and cuisine of our host cities that welcomed us with open arms,” Tessie says.

Adds SM vice president Millie Dizon: “Faith, Food, and Family converge at SM, a family-oriented mall and dining destination that was among the first to hold Sunday Masses and build chapels for its shoppers. It is a place where one can Eat, Love, Pray.”

* * *

With the unwavering focus of Millie Dizon, the ingredients for My Cuisine were put together, flavored with style and creativity, seasoned with meticulous research and voila! It was presented to the public last week, a savory melange of regional culinary treasures — from Jose Rizal’s favorite tinola, to Claude Tayag’s heirloom recipes, to the Aboitizes of Cebu’s kitchen gems.

The idea to come up with a cookbook jelled for Millie on a trip to Baguio with Metropolitan Museum trustee Cora Alvina for a joint event SM had with the museum. Food was the topic almost throughout the trip, and when they reached the City of Pines, Millie thought of asking Cora if she could join the project.

“Cora had years earlier worked with my aunt Gilda Cordero Fernando on two groundbreaking books — The Culinary History of the Philippines and Food and Life — and had done much research on Filipino cuisine,” Millie says.

SM’s regional team started their research, touching base with families and foodies in their cities. What they unearthed was a treasure trove of recipes and culinary gems.

“The idea for My City, My SM, My Cuisine to have a special focus on heirloom recipes came about with the realization that we no longer could savor some of the family specialties we enjoyed as children. Many of these recipes were not written, and with our grandparents and family cooks gone, these somehow were not passed on to a generation that spent little time or had little interest in the kitchen,” Millie explains.

SM approached prominent families from each city — the Lijaucos and Tiongcos of Santa Rosa, the Pastors and the Montenegros of Batangas, the Lazatins of Pampanga, the Aquinos and Yaps of Tarlac, the Escuderos of San Pablo, the Gordons of Olongapo, the Remullas of Cavite, the Gastons and Puentevellas of Bacolod, the Aboitizes of Cebu — and “were amazed how they opened their homes to us, sharing their prized recipes as well as heartwarming stories in the process.”

Also in the community spirit was the cookfest, where participants vied for the best signature recipes — one entrée and one dessert — from each city. This drew a wide range of contestants — students, family cooks, homemakers, even chefs from leading hotels and restaurants. Our board of judges was equally impressive — foodies like Micky Fenix, former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor, cheese maker Olive Puentespina, Marco Polo Davao executive chef Ed Tuazon, and filmmaker Brillante Mendoza.


SM partnered with PeopleAsia in order to bring these special recipes from the kitchens of heroes and gourmets to yours. The recipes featured in the book are easy to execute but are definitely not boring.

With colorful artwork that reminds you of homey kitchens, and photos of the dishes themselves to entice you, the book is a visual treat as well.

Food is literally a gut issue. It connects people in a unique way, in a tasteful way, in a way that is enjoyable and delightful. When all else fails, try adobo to connect this diverse archipelago.

As the indefatigable Millie Dizon tells the book’s readers, “The table is set.”

Dig in!


(My City, My SM, and My Cuisine is available at SM Kultura stores in SM Aura Premier, Megamall, SM Makati and Mall of Asia.)


Tinolang Manok sa Kalabasa




• 2 tsp. lard

• 1 pc. red onion, sliced

• 6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

• 1 medium-sized ginger, peeled, sliced and crushed

• 1 whole native chicken, boiled and cut into single-serve pieces

• 2 cups chicken broth (pre-boil chicken for about 20 minutes in medium fire, then drain)

• Fish sauce to taste

• 1 pc. siling haba

• 1 medium, unripe papaya, peeled and cubed (sayote is an alternative)

• 1/4 kilo kalabasa, peeled and cubed

• Dahon ng sili (chili leaves)



1. Sauté the ginger, garlic and onions in the lard.

2. When the flesh of the onion has turned translucent, add the chicken and brown lightly.

3. Add the chicken broth and fish sauce. Bring to a boil (or until the chicken becomes tender).

4. Add the papaya and squash. When these become tender, add the siling haba and the dahon ng sili. Bring to a boil and serve piping hot.


*For more soup, add water and season as needed.

(You may e-mail me at [email protected].)

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