EACH of us has a food story to tell. It’s either about a favorite food from our childhood years and why it became our favorite, or about a new place we have discovered that has a unique food story that’s just dying to be told, or about a family relationship or friendship that’s deeply rooted on a particular food. And every year, Mama Sita Foundation encourages everyone to recall that special food story and share it by joining the annual Mga Kuwentong Pagkain food writing competition.
This year is no different. Mama Sita Foundation launched this year’s Mga Kuwentong Pagkain contest over a sumptuous themed dinner held at Alab Filipino Cuisine in Tomas Morato, Quezon City. But just as in the previous year’s the grand launch highlighted a particular regional cuisine in the country. This time around, it highlighted the cuisine of Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Dubbed Puerto Princesa’s Cuisine: A Creative Encounter, the event once again featured Dr. Fernando Zialcita, director, Cultural Heritage Studies Program, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ateneo de Manila University. Dr. Zialcita’s Introduction to Cultural Heritage class put together a presentation on the different culinary cultures that can be found in Puerto Princesa and appreciated by the rest of the country.
The three students who gave their presentations after in-depth research were Paolo Vergara on Puerto Princesa’s Diverse Culinary Heritage, Cheska Mallillin on The Tagbanuas and Their Forest Honey, and Juan Lorenzo Armovit on Palawan Craft Beers: Getting High on Honey.
Vergara spoke about the three different cultural and culinary heritage or traditions present in Puerto Princesa today: 1) The Tagbanuas, who are close to nature, and whose food revolves around whatever nature brings them, including Ubod ng Yantok (rattan); 2) Cuyuno Island, which has very organic souring agents for their Sinigang, and where Kinilaw and Laoya are main staples; and 3) Vietnamese food, because of the settlement there of Vietnamese refugees, whose Pho, Chao-Long and Banh Mi has become integrated into Puerto Princesa cuisine.
Mallillin emphasized the Tagbanuas’ close affinity with the forest, how they practice horticulture and harvest rice and sweet potato, and what rituals they observe when harvesting honey from the forest.
Armovit talked about the small-scale production of craft beer in Palawan done by the Palaweño Craft Brewery and how they incorporate forest honey into their different variants of beer.
Afterwards, Alab’s Chef Myke ‘Tatung’ Sarthou served everyone a simple menu of Puerto Princesa cuisine. His first course was a unique Do-It-Yourself Kinilaw. His staff laid out spreads of fresh oysters, shrimps, squid, tuna, and an assortment of seaweeds, as well as small bowls of condiments like minced garlic, fresh coconut cream, fish sauce, calamansi, siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili), siling pansigang (finger chili), and julienned raw mango. Also on the table was a vinegar bar, which consisted of Mama Sita’s assorted bottled vinegars. Everyone had fun mixing condiments and vinegars for his/her own kinilaw (ceviche).
Next came Laoya, a Puerto Princesa soup dish of boiled pork hocks with stringbeans, raw jackfruit, onion and lemongrass, seasoned with salt, and simmered for three hours. It was served with chopped up Chicken Inato and pusô rice.
For dessert, it was a combination of Tocino del Cielo (egg yolk and honey custard, topped with toasted Palawan cashew) and Puto Maya (sticky rice balls cooked in coconut milk and ginger).
Then everyone had a taste of Ayahay Craft Beers from Palaweño Brewery.
After the sumptuous dinner, focus shifted back to the Mga Kuwentong Pagkain food writing contest, which Mama Sita Foundation president Clara Lapus and information officer Cecille Nepomuceno-Gamat emphasized is open to anyone who has an interesting food story to tell in the form of a written essay, a video or a poem. Essays must have a maximum word count of 2,000 words, while video submissions must have a maximum running time of 10 minutes and poems must have a maximum of 300 words.
Participants, they said, may submit in three categories—Heritage Category (stories on historic dishes an food preparation, traditions and rituals focusing on food or family heirloom recipes), Regional/Local Category (stories on regional or local cuisine, which includes local dishes or delicacies, artisanal specialties, food customs and rituals, exotic native ingredients or food preparation methods), and Personal Experience Category (intimate non-fictional food stories that showcase interpersonal relationships, journeys and catharses).
Criteria for judging are Content and Significance to Philippine Cuisine (40%), Presentation (25%), Originality (25%) and Over-all Impact (10%). Grand prize winners of each category will receive a cash prize of Php10,000.
Deadline for the submission of entries is December 10, 2015. To join, download an entry form at www.msita.com/mga-kuwentong-pagkain/, fill it up and submit to email@example.com.