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D.O.T. reignites local food tourism as culinary trips reopen

Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo Puyat (center) officially opened the KAIN NA! 2021 festivities at Ayala MarQuee Mall in Angeles City. She was joined by (from Left) OI C-Regional Director Jovita A. Ganongan, DOT-CAR; Carolina D. Uy, DOT Region 3; Ms. Marites T. Castro, Chief, DOT Region 4A; Assistant Secretary Verna C. Buensuceso, DOT- Product and Market Development; Ms. Charmaine N. Bauzon, area head-North and Head of Ancillary Business, Ayala Malls, and Ms. Peachy G. Atendido, general manager, MarQuee Mall.

The local food tourism scene hopes to get back on its feet following the Department of Tourism’s (DOT) latest leg of KAIN NA! Food and Travel Festival in Angeles City, Pampanga, from June 11 to 13.

“With the theme ‘Food Tourism Reboot,’ KAIN NA! is aimed at giving support to food tourism stakeholders and provide the opportunities for them to jump-start their businesses amidst the ongoing pandemic,” Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said. It served as a junction of virtual food and gastronomic tourism discussion and an on-ground booth exhibition at Ayala MarQuee Mall.

Fresh farm produces are also displayed at a much lower price.

Over 20 booths were set-up during the three-day food and travel festival, with each promoting their notable food and farm tourism products. From the coffee and farm harvests in the Cordilleras and the coconut produce of the Calabarzon to the rich and delectable cacao and products of South Cotabato, mallgoers roved around the festival and learned from the rich narratives of local food products various regions have to offer.

There are also participating booths from Central Luzon included: Aleli’s Pastries; Apag Marangle/Cusina Manuela; Tollhouse; Sasmuan Local Products; Wil-Fel’s delicacies; Farmers Joy; Yamang Bukid Healthy Products; Grann Garden Shop; RV De Dios Food Manufacturing; Kaka Association Incorporation; My Lola Nor’s Meryendahan; and Florida-Lubao Organic Farmers Association.

Aside from the physical booths, these products can also be bought online with DOT’s online store www.kainnastore.com. Online shoppers can choose from hundreds of food products from specialty stores, Ayala partner merchants, slow food and food trip merchants from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Pampanga’s local food scene

Favorite pasalubong products are up for grabs in over 20 physical booths

The food festival also highlighted Pampanga as the culinary capital of the country with delectable dishes such as Pork sisig and the well-loved Pampanga’s Empanada served by local restaurants and humble eateries.

While food business owners in the province are not exempted from the challenges brought by the lockdown, they are confident that the food fest will kick-start the reopening of tourism and thus invite more people to come to their establishments.

For Manuela Cherry Tan, owner of Guagua-based restaurant Apag Marangle, the event re-introduces their Pampanga specialties to fellow Filipinos who are longing to travel and go on gastronomic adventures.

“We are happy that we are given the opportunity to bring in the best food options in our respective localities,” Tan said. “We hope that as we reopen tourism, people will also start visiting our places once again and taste our specialties that they missed throughout the quarantine.”

Tan admits that the challenges of the pandemic also affected their livelihood, with their restaurant closing down in its original branch. This has not stopped her from introducing other ways to continue serving Pampanga dishes to the locals.

To go with the tides of the pandemic, Tan shelved Apag Marangle for months and focused on her new venture Cusina Manuela which serves Pampanga empanada of distinct flavors and tastes—Humba Empanada, Excelente Empanada (ham and cheese), Pisto Empanada, Sisig Empananda, and Chicken Empanada.

When the DOT gave the green light to open restaurants with restrictions on capacity, Tan also opened Sapa by Apag Marangle, a street food galore offering al fresco dining.

Food products from different regions are showcased during the three-day event.

Food trips

In line with the food fest, DOT announced that culinary tours, food trips, and excursion packages are already developed by members of the Philippine Tour Operators Association Inc. (PHILTOA) and the food tourism consortium.

“With the help of the PHILTOA Food Tourism Consortium, let’s see what real places, stories, food, and people we can find as they offer slow food travel experiences amidst the picturesque mountains of Benguet and the culture and history-laden lowlands of Ilocos, La Union, Pampanga, and Bulacan,” Puyat noted.

DOT led food tourism validation caravans earlier this year, which enabled representatives of PHILTOA to visit the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Ilocos Region, and Central Luzon to experience new culinary activities and tourist attractions that they can incorporate in their tour packages.

The packages include day tours, overnight stays, and 3-day/2-night promos to culinary tourism destinations like Pampanga, Bulacan, Calabarzon, Baguio, Subic, Benguet, Mountain Province, La Union, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur.

Images courtesy of DOT OPAA and Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos
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