Starweek Magazine

Learning more about our country

- Lydia Castillo - The Philippine Star

Recently, we found another way to familiarize the Filipinos with their country – a series of cookbooks by the SM Group, that explores our regional cuisines alongside details on topography and vignettes of customs and traditions.

There are more than 7,000 islands comprising the Philippines. As scattered as they are surrounded by bodies of water,  it is impossible to know, much less visit all of them. There are history books and other means to learn more about our country. Recently, we found another way to  familiarize the Filipinos with their country – a series of cookbooks by the SM Group, that explores our regional cuisines alongside details on topography and vignettes of customs and traditions.

 Cookbooks are among the best source of information. In the words of Tessie Sy Coson, “Cuisine is part of our culture and there is still much to be discovered and celebrated about these regional flavors.” The huge task of collating everything fell on the shoulders of Millie Dizon, who with her team scoured the country for family heirloom recipes and modern-day home cooking. They were hugely successful and the most recent of the series is “The Best of the World (ours), Gourmand”.

 Filipino cuisine must have evolved from the traditional community and family celebrations where food was always the main attraction. Even our heroes must have taken time out from their noble endeavours to enjoy meals of their own favorite food. The late food doyen Mila Enriquez told us that tinolang manok was Rizal’s favorite dish. A new twist to this (from the SM cookbook) recalls a scene from his “Noli Me Tangere” where Crisostomo Ibarra asked his family to serve the bony part to the Dominican friars, his guests, as a form of insult. Whatever, tinola often finds itself on most Filipino tables and has gone through many innovations. We in Biñan, Laguna serve it with a dip of patis, calamansi and crushed chicken liver.

Marcelo del Pilar, also known as Plaridel, a liberal writer, is another celebrated Filipino. Per his great grandchild Sylvia Santos de Pineda, he was fastidious about his favorite, pochero. He wanted meat and vegetables in separate containers – sign of  an artistic person who could have become a good food stylist. In our own kitchen, we lay out the meat in harmony with the vegetables, the greens (beans and cabbage) and the orange carrots in an alternating array – picture-perfect!

A surprise account is that of Pangasinan in the north. Its name means “Land of Salt” and is the biggest supplier of salt in the country. Everybody knows of Dagupan bangus. We were once among the guests at a Bangus Festival where we were amazed at how this fish is harvested. It was a sight to behold, all those silvery creatures jumping off and into the pond waters. But this province has more than that. It has enough food  festivals to cover the whole year, in various towns. These are the patupat (made with panocha, palm sugar),  puto, mango and bamboo, sugpo and malaga, longaniza, pandan and tupig festivals. Cebu, of course has the lechon, Batangas the adobo sa dilao, Bicol, the calderetang kambing plus the legendary Bicol Express. For Mindanao, Davao was tapped for their fruits, the most prominent of which are mangoes and the uniquely smelling durian, which is made into several kinds of sweets. Manobo cuisine includes the talombo rice, cooked and  served in bamboo plus main dishes normally wrapped in leaves, while the  Maranao spicy cuisine generally uses curry-type spices, bagoong, and chilli pepper. The  SM team really did a comprehensive food tour of the country and this is a very commendable endeavor.  


E-mail me at [email protected].

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