As part of the Philippine Food Community, I would like to express my heartfelt condolences and prayers to the family of former President Benigno Aquino III.
There is no denying that it was during P-Noy that he was happily called that Filipino food really shone on the world stage thanks to the brilliant marketing moves of his tourism secretary, the late Mon Jimenez, not only through the slogan “It’s more fun in Philippines ”, but by bringing to the Philippines-Madrid Fusion.
It was under this leadership that selected Filipino chefs were given the opportunity to give lectures before and with the most acclaimed chefs and most respected members of the global food community.
It was also under this leadership that Filipino products in addition to dried mangoes suddenly became not only known but in demand by chefs worldwide – including our vinegar, taba ng talangka, adlai.
Through this marketing effort, the Philippines was no longer just the land of adobo and mango. Once on a day trip to Batangas, I saw Andoni Aduriz from Mugaritz, hailed as one of the world’s best chefs, enchanted by the simple bagoong.
At the launch of Madrid Fusion in 2015, President Aquino personally welcomed international chefs like Elena Arzak to Malacañang. This was a first. Imagine a president of a country that personally welcomes and feeds the world’s top chefs, who personally show them our lechon, kilawin, bringhe, taba ng talangka, prepared by the Philippines’ most respected chefs.
It was undoubtedly a most influential culinary exchange. It was really well thought out and performed with both class and fun (the night ended with no less than P-Noy gamely song, improvised with AMP Big Band).
But it was not just fun and easy-going. This resulted in increasing the credibility of Filipino chefs on the world stage. It increased the value of local Filipino products. It gave Filipino products, dishes and even chefs a nickname internationally.
While Filipino food was once ignored as just brown and maybe even boring, there was suddenly a great curiosity in the Philippines that was inspired by the fact that the world’s best chefs traveled all the way here just to taste our food and listen to our chefs.
All these thanks to P-Noy. No one can take that credit from him.
The way he put Filipino food on the global map was unprecedented. Putting Philippine cuisine in the international focus was a brilliant marketing move by Jimenez and chefs and the efforts of the entire food community, but without a supportive president, it would never have happened.
More importantly, without a president who understood the importance and impact of the support of the international community, Filipino food would not have the increased reception and greater understanding that the world community has for it today.
Over the decades, there has been an individual effort to make Filipino food shine: the late Nora Daza opened a well-received restaurant in France and in New York. Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan have consistently showcased Filipino food in New York through their restaurants, and various individual entrepreneurs and chefs have personally participated in global food exposures. Recently, new generation chefs have also promoted Filipino food abroad and made us proud, especially in the DC area.
But there is nothing like the government stepping in and supporting everything. And P-Noy gave it to us.
It was an exciting time to be part of the food community when P-Noy was president. These were wonderful times that even we – chefs, food writers, food historians, food entrepreneurs – got to know our own food products, food culture and food history better.
There is no denying that there was an unprecedented enthusiasm for food when he was president that has been unsurpassed until today.
For us in the food society, it is P-Noy’s legacy. Not only did he do well, the food world under the P-Noy administrator was nothing short of amazing.
So thank you, P-Noy, for that.
Rest in peace, Mr President. We will always be grateful. INQ
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