Department of Tourism supports Iloilo bid for ‘Creative City of Gastronomy’ recognition from UNESCO

La Paz Batchoy, a prominent noodle soup dish from La Paz, Iloilo City, composed of savory meat stock, pork organs, and chicharon, among others. I DOT Photo

The Department of Tourism (DOT) is supporting the bid of the Iloilo City government to be designated Creative City of Gastronomy by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Creative Cities Network 2021.

The Creative City tag will be part of the campaign to boost tourism, create environments that foster innovation, and creativity as key drivers for a more sustainable and inclusive development.

“Iloilo, as a gastronomic hotspot, offers two of the country’s well-loved dishes–the La Paz Batchoy and Pancit Molo. We are giving our full support to Iloilo for this initiative. We believe that it is high time for the city to join the prestigious UNESCO-recognized cities, especially now that we are exploring strategies to hasten the revival of the sector,” Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said.

The City of Gastronomy project is part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network, the umbrella project launched in 2004 covering seven creative fields – Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Literature, Media Arts, Music, and Gastronomy.

Pancit Molo, a traditional dumpling soup that originated in Molo, Iloilo City. I DOT Photo

Currently, the UNESCO project has listed a total of 36 Cities of Gastronomy all over the world. If selected, Iloilo will be the first Philippine city to make it to the list.

In support of this initiative, the DOT Western Visayas extended its assistance to the Megaworld Museums and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) for a three-pronged program focusing on Ilonggo heirloom dishes called “Timplada: The Art of Ilonggo Cuisine.”

This will include a series of virtual educational programs titled “Merienda Talks” from August to December 2021 to provide a more profound knowledge of Ilonggo ingredients and cooking.

The opening of the Timplada exhibition is scheduled on Aug. 21, which will be followed by Ark of Taste Talk by Reena Gamboa highlighting Food and Tourism for Rural Development in Western Visayas on Aug. 28; and Pangyam-is Talk by Gilbert Marin as a component of the Western Visayas Sugar Trail on Oct. 9.

The art exhibition will tell Ilonggo food stories through the eyes of 10 Iloilo-based artists and in collaboration with ten local food establishments. The art pieces will be showcased at the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art (ILOMOCA) starting Aug. 21.

An Ilonggo food map will also be drawn and printed for both local and international audiences to highlight the food trail.

“This initiative from our regional office is a big boost to promote culinary as a tourism product. We are hoping that through the activities lined up for this bid, we will get the nod of the UN organization,” the tourism chief added.

Even before the pandemic, the DOT Western Visayas had been actively creating projects and activities that would push for Iloilo City to be a world-class gastronomy hub.

Some of the activities conducted are Kaon Na ‘Ta Food and Travel Festival; Iloilo Dinagyang Hawkers Food Festival; Iloilo Batchoy Festival; Flavors of Western Visayas; Tabu-an Ilonggo Heritage Cooking Competition; and the annual Sabores de Visayas.

In 2019, the DOT also led the launching of the Philippine Cookbook Photoshoot with Korean-American chef Chistina Sunae and World Food Expo, the biggest food show in the Philippines. The city was also chosen as one of DOT’s “Chefs’ Food Trip Project destinations,” a culinary immersion of US-based Filipino-American chefs to promote the Ilonggo food culture.

Despite the pandemic, the Department initiated projects like the reinvention of Filipino culinary to adapt to the food industry trends and challenges in the new normal, Tabu-an Cooking Competition, Slow Food Travel, and exploring the potentials of farm tourism destinations.

This year, it successfully partnered with the Department of Agriculture (DA) to demonstrate heritage dishes for the Filipino Food Month Celebration.

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