BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon (The Freeman) - November 24, 2020 - 12:00am

Patronize the city’s own delicacies whenever you serve snacks during official activities. This is the directive to city government departments by an ordinance recently passed by the Mandaue City Council, as announced by City Councilor Joel Seno in his Facebook page this week. According to Seno, this is in line with Mayor Jonas C. Cortes’ direction to preserve their identity as a people and promote their own culture. This is a laudable measure.

Whenever we talk about Mandaue delicacies, we never fail to mention bibingka, masareal (also known as maryal), and tagaktak. Councilor Seno’s announcement, thus, struck a chord in my memory because I spent some childhood years in Doña Rosario Village in Basak, Mandaue, where Didang’s Delicious Masareal is still located to this day.

Masareal is a sweet and nutty rectangular bar made from a mixture of finely-ground boiled peanuts, sugar, and water, and wrapped in plain white paper. The best ones were those freshly made, so we took note of the time Didang’s served a fresh batch.

As regards the bibingka, the best one I tasted was indeed in Mandaue. That was many years ago when my father brought me along with him to watch a cock derby at a cockpit in Mandaue. Today, because my hometown is Catmon, I source the finest bibingka from Catmon artisans. Where there is smoke along the roadside at the national highway in Catmon, that’s where you can find this delicacy.

But while writing a volume on the history of Catmon, I learned that Mandauehanons, who married into Catmon families and established residence in the town, were actually the ones who brought the Mandaue bibingka to Catmon. So there you go, the finest bibingka is still the Mandaue bibingka, including those you find in Catmon.

On a bigger picture, this renewed focus on promoting local delicacies is part of a current major drive to stimulate the local economy amid the deep economic slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is called “localism,” where in the case of Cebu we embark on a campaign to promote the consumption of our own goods and services. We see that in the current efforts of the Cebu provincial government to promote local tourism. Then there is the ordinance in Mandaue that supports its artisanal food industry. Prior to that, the city government’s Mandaue Investment Program Action Center launched in August the Choose Mandaue Brand Campaign 2020.

Research firm Kantar has noted a surge in “localism” around the world, driven by the COVID-19 crisis. Around two-thirds of consumers, Kantar said, now prefer to buy goods and services from their own country or locality. In Cebu, we also saw this trend with the emergence of home-based food businesses that have established frontline online shops using social media.

This is an opportune time to strengthen our local products and services because as we see the end of this pandemic crisis hopefully early next year, Cebu will be in a better position to take advantage of the surge of pent-up consumer demand coming from other places.

Aside from promotion of local businesses, I hope this ‘localism’ will also lead to more programs to help our local artisans and entrepreneurs improve their packaging, branding, marketing, and other value-added strategies that will make our products world-class.

This is the time to look into the welfare of small and medium, home-grown, and community-based enterprises. These are the kinds of businesses that usually link with small farmers whose crops and food products can be turned into shelf-stable and value-added goods. Localism is linked to inclusive economic growth.

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