Responsible dining in the Philippines

Published October 14, 2021, 3:30 PM

by Jules Vivas

Today, sustainability is at the forefront of everything. The Philippine national government, for one, has enacted several laws to address environmental issues. There’s the Clean Air Act 1999, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act 2000, Clean Water Act 2004, Biofuels Act 2006, and Renewable Energy Act 2008. Meanwhile, local government units are doing a good job in creating healthier and more livable cities through sustainable modes of transport as well as by devoting more green spaces for the public.

The food industry, however, lags behind in the world of sustainability. A study published in the New Scientist reveals that the food sector is behind all other trades when it comes to environmental performance. Be that as it may, in the Philippines, there are a few restaurants, chefs, and brands that try to implement strategies toward responsible dining.

Here are some of the initiatives that help the Filipino food scene promote social equity and grow more sustainable.

The Slow Food Movement

One commendable thing in the Philippines is how the slow food movement is flourishing. With our wealth in indigenous products, homegrown ingredients are becoming more in demand. But what is the slow food movement? This food revolution of sorts began in the ’80s, going against fast food. Its primary purpose is to defend regional traditions, gastronomic pleasure, and a slow pace of life. Over the years, the network of foodies have evolved to embrace a comprehensive approach to acknowledging stout connections among plate, planet, people, politics, and culture.

Millions of people all over 160 different countries participate in the movement. Here, the non-profit organization Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement (PCHM), the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of Tourism (DOT) among others support it. There is also chapters of the Slow Food Movement in several provinces, and a group called the Slow Food Youth network.

The impact is impressive. Indigenous products, from grass-fed cattle to free-range chicken and pork, heirloom, miniature vegetables, and other local produce, are now increasingly being used in Filipino kitchens, whether at home or at restaurants. This not only preserves culinary heritage but uplifts the Philippine economy too.

Some of the popular advocates include DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, PCHM president Chef Jam Melchor, food historian Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, and restaurateur, author Chef Beth Romualdez.

Foraging

For a significant amount of time man has walked the earth, we have been hunting and gathering food unrestricted from various ecosystems. Foraging by definition is free, and just about anyone can do it—with the right training and research, of course. There are several Pinoy chefs and restaurateurs who love foraged food items.

In the local culinary scene, two resounding chefs whom I personally know forage are the liquid chef Kalel Demetrio and Linamnam chef Don Baldosano.

“I first heard of foraging at an event called ‘Cook it raw’ wherein chefs would go to random places to forage and cook. I thought if they were doing that in different places then it must be possible in our country as well,” says Don. “Especially since we already have this culture of gathering herbal medicines, and some people living in the provinces rely on foraging to gather ingredients for their food.”

Don also emphasizes how foraging allows us to understand our land and terroir better. It can help us discover ingredients that are often overlooked as just weeds. “One benefit of foraging is that it can give us this connection to nature that we have already lost in this day and age,” the young restaurateur explains. “It also makes us better understand where our food comes from.”

Done correctly, eating wild is a reliable way to eat sustainably. It allows urban communities access to ingredients of high nutritional value, quality, and taste. Hyperlocal ingredients stand out mainly because regular consumers are unfamiliar with them.

The act reminds us of our dependence upon nature, thereby creating a sense of responsibility toward the land. This environmental consciousness is vital in our era of toxic practices, uncontrollable species extinction, and climate change.

Sustainability starts with us. Proper etiquette dictates that we empty our plates before leaving the table.

Plastic Neutrality

After carbon-neutrality, now is the time for plastic neutrality. Being plastic neutral means that for every plastic produced, a measured equivalent of its waste is recovered and removed from the environment through recycling or waste management efforts.

The estimated number of plastic particles floating in the world’s oceans is estimated at 269,000 tons. A horror story, it amounts to five trillion pieces of plastic polluting our oceans.

Only a handful of brands in the Philippines have adopted plastic-neutrality. Among the noted companies are Century Pacific Brands and NutriAsia with the latter recently joining the initiative.

AGAINST PLASTIC WASTE Clockwise from top left: Host Will Devaughn, Nutri Asia broad culinary marketing group head Mario Mendoza, corporate marketing and communications head James Lim, chief marketing officer of Nutri Asia Ampy Rio, chief operating officer and president of Nutri Asia Angie Flaminiano, and impact director of PCX Ilusion Farias

The leading condiments manufacturer and distributor has recently partnered with Plastic Credit Exchange (PCX) for its Datu Puti line to achieve plastic neutrality. The move is not only vital to reducing the impact plastic has on the environment, but also provides the iconic brand the opportunity to inspire Filipinos to make more sustainable lifestyle choices through the products they support.

“This entails offsetting 100 percent of our plastic footprint from nature and transforming it to an alternative source of energy for creating cement and other products. This is a more sustainable way of managing our plastic waste, contributing much help in making our country a cleaner, greener place to live in,” says the chief operating officer and president of NutriAsia Angie Flaminiano at a press conference earlier this month.

“The problem of plastic waste is a concern we simply cannot take on alone. We congratulate NutriAsia on their important decision and milestone of achieving plastic neutrality with Datu Puti, and we at PCX are happy that the company has chosen to partner with us and take up this noble advocacy,” says Nanette Medved-Po, founder of PCX.

“We are going beyond flavor to forge a better, greener future for the Philippines through our plastic neutrality certification in partnership with Plastic Credit Exchange (PCX),” says NutriAsia broad culinary marketing group head Mario Mendoza. “Our presence in Filipino households all over the world puts us in a great position to help lead the conversations about sustainability.”

Consumer Etiquette

MORTAL SIN No matter how you look at it, food waste is wrong

Sustainability starts with us. Proper etiquette dictates that we empty our plates before leaving the table. This custom was handed down from the generations who lived through the Great Depression and two World Wars when food and money were scarce.

At present, data from the World Wildlife Fund–Philippines shows that roughly 2,175 tons of food scraps in Metro Manila are thrown in the garbage daily. This amount of food waste is criminal, considering how 16 percent of the country is starving.

Some solutions to this predicament are by planning your meals right, having your excess food as take-out, avoiding buying more than what you can eat, refurbishing leftovers, and even offering your spare food to persons living on the street.

 
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