Sabores de Visayas inspires Ilonggos to give back

Published June 11, 2021, 1:00 PM

by Tara Yap

Individual and corporate donations keep the soup kitchen-styled feast of Iloilo staples going and going for the benefit of frontliners

Photos by Ray Tabafunda

COMFORT FOOD One of the dishes served in the program is Deco’s La Paz batchoy

The sixth annual Sabores de Visayas might not have been the scheduled gala dinner at the Beaux-Arts mansion of Nelly Garden, but it did not lose its luster as it found its own silver lining by inspiring Ilonggos to give back to frontliners while Iloilo City is struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Chef Rafael Jardeleza Jr., more popularly known as Chef Tibong, has been able to transform Sabores de Visayas into a communal endeavor serving warm meals to more than 1,600 frontline workers for the city’s COVID-19 vaccination program. There have been four installments so far—and counting, with pledges and donations still coming in.

“It’s a joy cooking for the frontliners.  It is an act of love in thanksgiving to the heroic efforts of our frontliners in these trying times,” says Chef Tibong.

In Sabores de Visayas Gives Back, Chef Tibong has been overseeing a team of guest chefs— Ariel Castañeda Jr., John Marie Chavez, Karl Hibionada, Rey Parreño, and Frances Aimee Tiu—since May 31 at the Iloilo Convention Center and Central Philippine University (CPU), the two vaccination sites in Iloilo City.  The team Chef Tibong calls “Kusinero Ilonggos” also has help from cooks and volunteers.

The Kusinero Ilonggos prepare dishes such as La Paz batchoy or pancit Molo—two of Iloilo’s quintessential Ilonggo soups. Then there’s the famous chicken inasal of Fort San Pedro Drive-In, lechon kawali, fish balls of Mama Dra, ribs in tausi sauce, pork chop, and glutinous delicacies such as sinakol and suman latik.

For Chef Tibong, Sabores de Visayas Gives Back is still an avenue to sustain his life-long advocacy to promote and preserve the heritage cuisine of Iloilo and the rest of Western Visayas to visitors.

“I have always believed that Iloilo and Western Visayas can be the country’s food haven. But this time, let us make our frontliners as our guests,” Chef Tibong reiterates.

Sabores de Visayas Gives Back is also an avenue to promote local restaurants or pop-ups, which have been struggling since the pandemic began last year.

While the first three stints of the community kitchen was in partnership with the Western Visayas regional office of the Department of Tourism (DOT-Region 6), the fourth stint of Sabores de Visayas Gives Back at CPU on June 8 was purely funded by Ilonggos, non-Ilonggos, and even companies.

KUSINERO ILONGGOS Sabores de Visayas volunteer chefs are each given a certificate of recognition for their participation

Among those who have made it happen were Jackie Tinsay, Cristiana Tinsay, Lolita Wong, Marissa Segovia, Tess Braga, Marichel Teves-Magalona, Kristin Rojo Yap, Rosie Jardeleza, Tim Siason, Jen Legaspi, John and Chingky Rolida, Tess Dulalia, Sarah Opolencia-Peña, Pane Rosales, Pangging Rosales, Carla Ledesma, Nonoy Lao, Tzietel Parero, Rhod Tecson, Natalie Lim, Nancy Javero, Leandro Julian Cordova, Nene Layson, Jay Kapunan, Dr. Angeline Cordero, Dr. Aileen Montero, and Dr. Emily Jardeleza.

‘It’s a joy cooking for the frontliners.  It is an act of love in thanksgiving to the heroic efforts of our frontliners in these trying times.’

Companies and non-government organizations including Samsung, OPPO, Gyzer, Deco’s La Paz Batchoy, Quota Club of Iloilo City, and MeliCor Home Care LLC in San Francisco, California, US also pitched in.

With the success of the four different community kitchens, there may be a fifth and sixth stints of Sabores de Visayas Gives Back as more Ilonggos are pledging to support Chef Tibong and his Kusinero Ilonggos.

Indeed, Sabores de Visayas Gives Back is a testament that public-private partnerships (PPPs) can uplift our spirit in tough times with warm meals for those on the frontline of our battles, whatever it is we are battling against.