Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Hjayceelyn M. Quintana pointed out how synonymous the work is of diplomats and culinary industry people.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
Filipino cuisine is definitely more than the Pancit “for long life,” the colourful icy summer merienda (snacks)/dessert Halo-Halo, and the more popular Adobo-all of varying delectability for each Philippine region or province has its own concoction.
How about “Red Snapper Kilawin with Cornics & Fish Chicharon” and “Yellow Fin Tuna Light Tinapa with Coconut, Adlai, Crab Fat Jus and Fried Moringa,” the ingredients and cooking styles of which have been tried-and-tested for centuries by a people, commonly known to be carnivores, despite being inhabitants of an archipelago of 7,100 islands. Adlai (Job’s Tears/Pearl Barley) is the cream-coloured circular staple grain of the native tribes in the Cordillera Mountain Range in Northern Luzon as well as in Northern Mindanao, highly recommended for people with diabetics and among the huge sell-outs at the Marahuyo Boutique of the Bangkota (Coral Reef Philippine Pavilion) at Expo2020 Dubai. Tabon Tabon (Atuna Racemosa) is the clustered fruit of a 10-meter high tree and whose juice has been used to neutralize the “fishy taste and acidity of Kinilaw” (ceviche). Tinapa, consisting of brining, air drying and smoking, is among the ancient methods of food preservation.
Hands down to Hilton Yas Island Abu Dhabi executive chef John Buenaventura, 34, the innovative mind behind these seafood specialties. He demonstrated these before an international community of his own kind, other food & beverage (F&B) industry players, and guests at the 94th year of the May 30 to June 2 “World Chefs Congress & Expo” at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
With the Philippines being the “country-in-focus” and thus the “Taste of the Philippines” platform, the Filipino chef-entrepreneur with 17 years of international exposure, was among the 30 international speakers that included Nestle Professional-Food Global head Cornel Krummenacher and Global culinary consultant/entrepreneur/chef Eric Pateman who respectively spoke on “How Plant-Based Products Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions” and “Bridging Cultures and Building Communities Through Food: Indigenous Strategies.”
Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Hjayceelyn M. Quintana keynoted. In her “The Chefs and Culinary Designers as Ambassadors of Goodwill” speech, she pointed out how synonymous the work is of diplomats and culinary industry people. She stressed the magnitude of international events such as the Expo 2020 Dubai in the pursuit of fostering better understanding among nations through the soft approach of cultural diplomacy: “Some may actually wonder what an ambassador like me is doing in a global gathering of chefs. Let me say at the outset that I feel at home in your company today because the things that we do are in many ways very similar in nature. Chefs are like diplomats because they connect minds, bridge cultures, and mutual respect. Like ambassadors, chefs are keen to build relationships through their unique skills that show deep respect for cultural traditions.”
In associating cultural diplomacy with global gatherings, Quintana who arrived in Abu Dhabi in 2018, emphasized the weight of countrymen coming together for a cause such as the “huge opportunity to showcase Filipino food to the world.” She expressed gratefulness to Filfood, organized in May 2019 by a group of F&B Filipinos wanting to promote not only products but more importantly the art, palatability, sustainability and innovativeness of their own gastronomy. She thanked the Emirates Culinary Guild that helped FilFood and the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi trace the Filipino chefs across the UAE: “Our promotion of our national cuisine has always been sporadic and lacking in strategy…With Filfood taking the lead, we were able to develop a core group. It would soon become a great partnership…By the time the World Expo Dubai was about to begin in 2021, we were ready. Through research and determination, the Filfood team was able to curate a menu (using sustainable locally-sourced ingredients for lesser carbon footprint such as plant-based-burgers and nuggets, fresh coconuts, pineapples and sweet potatoes) that showcased the best of Filipino food at our (Bangkota). It was well-received throughout the Expo six-month run among the million plus people…By the time the Expo ended, the pavilion’s Mangrove Restaurant was named winner in the Casual Dining by the Expo Eats Awards. This was a remarkable feat considering the host of other high-quality restaurants at the Expo, making the competition very stiff…The Expo experience has given Filfood chefs continued confidence to keep making their imprint in Filipino classical dishes.”