Tagay! Flavors of the Philippines: the Calabarzon Experience

Lambanog of Lakan Distillery
LAMBANOG. These modern lambanog bottles by Lakan exemplify the growing trend of the liquor onto younger markets, and not just for the ‘oldies.’

THE SOUTHERN Tagalog Region, (Region IV-A), which comprises the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon, is one of the most significant culinary centers of the Philippines,  not only because of the breadth and width of food choices inherently from this area, but also because of its significant contribution to Philippine heritage cuisine.

CALABARZON can proudly claim to be the cradle of noble cuisines, from our region comes most of the food that our heroes, Jose Rizal, Emilio Aguinaldo, and Apolinario Mabini,  among others,  partook of and enjoyed. Calabarzon offers food tourism to complement cultural and heritage tourism,’’ says Department of Tourism Regional Director for Region IV-A Rebecca Villanueva-Labit.

Of late, slowly but on point, Calabarzon is emerging as a food destination , much like Pampanga or the Ilocos region. Labit says more and more, the people of Calabarzon, including food and hospitality entrepreneurs, are seeing culinary as a major come-on for people to visit

Adobo sa Dilaw
ADOBO SA DILAW. A unique Batangueño dish cooked like your ordinary adobo, but, instead of laurel and soy sauce, turmeric, other spices, and carrot shreds are used.

Because of its proximity to the national capital, CALABARZON has seen steady industrial growth and urbanization in recent years. But the local culture is still very much alive. Historical landmarks, monuments, old churches, and shrines dot the region’s landscape. CALABARZON is also rich in cultural traditions. Laguna is known for embroidery, wood carving, and papier-mâché (locally known as taka). Quezon has harvest festivals and flamboyantly decorated houses. Rizal has artisan villages and art galleries. In 2014, Calabarzon hit the 10 million mark in terms of daytime tourist arrivals, accounting for about 46 percent of the country’s daytime visitor arrivals.

“We are the region of heroes and food historians are seriously looking into, reviewing, investigating  these heritage food which we are rediscovering more and more and now sharing to other people,’’ Labit adds.

Buko pie
BUKO PIE. While this dessert is common throughout the Philippines, its origins can be traced to Quezon—a region abundant with coconuts.

Carrying on this commitment to take the region to a higher level as far as food tourism is concerned, DOT Region 4A once again participates in Flavours of the Philippines, a DOT initiative in celebration of April as National Food Month, which is also a co-located event of the famed Madrid Fusion 2016.

Last year’s participation inspired Calabarzon to showcase more of the region’s food treasures.

“Our chefs, our food entrepreneurs, our hotel and restaurant industry are all the more inspired this year because they have proven that our region has a lot to show to the world in terms of unique delicacies and culinary delights,’’ enthuses Labit.

The coffees of Cavite
DRINK FOR THE SOUL. Different variants of coffee can be found in Tagaytay, a city of Cavite.

To highlight the region’s unique cuisines, 10 select culinary destinations and dishes will be showcased as part of the Calabarzon Experience in this year’s Flavors of the Philippines. Each of them represents not only the distinctiveness of the food of the region, but also the culture, the tradition, and the interesting story behind every recipe, every preparation, every dish.

  • MINALUTO at Balaw Balaw in Angono, Rizal. The Balaw Balaw Specialty Restaurant is known for its exotic dishes including cow’s ball soup, beetle larvae in coconut milk, monitor lizard, and frogs in wine. But it is most famous for minaluto, a type of specialty paella consisting of lechon kawali, fried chicken, crispy squid, fish, salted eggs, broiled and fried veggies, and choice rice (sticky, binagoongan, garlic, seafood, black, and plain).

    MINALUTO. Rizal’s unique paella valenciana is an all-in-one feast.
  • KARE-KARE AND GINATAANG ADOBO at Air Summit in Tayabas, Quezon. The airline-themed restaurant is fast catching the attention of local and international tourists alike. The restaurant is an actual airplane which the owners bought in 2014 and refurbished into a full-service dining establishiment. But more than the unique theme, Air Summit boasts of its kare-kare and ginataan adobo, cooked the traditional Quezon Province way – stewed oxtail and vegetables with a thick, savory peanut sauce; and a rich adobo flavored with coconut milk.
  • GINATAANG KUHOL and PILIPIT at Kamayan sa Palaisdaan in Tayabas, Quezon. A popular tourist destination featuring floating nipa huts above a pond, this resort-hotel puts forward its ginataang kuhol, snails cooked in ferns and coconut milk; and pilipit, a fried pastry made with squash rather than flour, coated with melted brown sugar, and served on a banana leaf.
  • PANCIT BUKO at Villa Escudero in San Pablo City, Laguna. The coconut plantation, a pioneer in eco-tourism, integrates a living heritage community with a resort that allows guests to experience the charms of living in the countryside. Most famous for its lunch experience by the waterfalls, Villa Escudero offers its specialty, Pancit Buko. This unique dish features shredded young coconut as the “noodles,” garnished with a medley of vegetables, chicken, and shrimps. The resort also serves their house-made buko pie with halayang ube.
  • COFFEE at Gourmet’s Café in Tagaytay City, Cavite. Gourmet’s is a purveyor of the country’s finest coffee selection: arabica beans from Benguet and Bukidnon, liberica or ‘barako’ from Batangas, and robusta from Cavite, Mindoro, Mindanao, and Palawan. Their warehouse then sorts the finest beans for the roasting process, roasting up to 120 tons a month for their signature coffee blends. Each cup ensures the finest and purest flavors of freshly-ground and roasted coffee for the true connoisseur.
  • KULAWONG PUSO NG SAGING at Sulyap Gallery, San Pablo City, Laguna. One of the heritage gems of San Pablo City is a two-storey Spanish Colonial House transported from Kabang, Quezon and painstakingly pieced together to form the bed and breakfast. The in-house specialty Kulawong Puso ng Saging is a Laguna heirloom made of banana hearts cooked in coconut milk. The grated coconut is grilled before extracting the milk, giving it a smoky flavor.
Kulawong Puso ng Saging
  • LAMBANOG TAGAYAN RITUAL in Quezon Province. All across Quezon province, coconut vodka Lambanog is the cornerstone of every celebration. For the tagayan (drinking) ritual, groups gather around the host (“tangero” or “tangera”) who leads the toast and fills the glass to pass around the group, who take turns drinking from the glass. Upon returning to the host, the glass is filled for the next round, where the host proclaims “Naay Po” (“Here’s my drink to offer.”), to which the hearty response is “Pakinabangan po” (“Enjoy and make good use of it.”)
Indigenous wines - Bignay, yacon, and guyabano
INDIGENOUS WINES. Other species of Tagalog liquor.
  • ORGANIC SALADS AND HEALTHY DRINKS at Costales Farms in Majayjay, Laguna. Costales Nature Farms, known for its organic hog raising, farming, and produce, is one of the leading agri-tourist spots in CALABARZON. Enjoy a crisp green salad with fresh organic produce grown right at the farm, and refreshing drinks juiced from the farm’s bountiful produce.
  • BURRITO-OMELETTE FUSION at Summit Ridge Hotel, Tagaytay City, Cavite. A premiere hotel with a majestic view of the Taal volcano, presents a unique burrito omelette fusion, and a host of new desserts reflecting the flavors of the region.
  • BUKO PIE. Calabarzon’s staple, the coconut, plays an important and influential role in shaping its various provincial cuisines. The Buko Pie has become common in all parts of the country, but its origins are traced back to Quezon, the coconut capital of the country, where the lambanog and the coconut wine also originated from. Buko pie, traditionally made with thick strips of young coconut and custard laid over a flaky crust, will be showcased at the Calabarzon experience to establish it as a Calabarzon original.

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