The Philippines has a rich culinary heritage that deserves to be preserved and recognized in the international scene.
However, today, many aspects of Filipino cuisine and culture are disappearing and are no longer practiced or consumed.
In order to keep them, identifying and understanding food and culture is vital. How can we accomplish this? One is to communicate with the culture bearers or those who practice and pass down cultural values, traits, and knowledge within their communities.
More important than simply knowing Filipino cuisine and the food culture of various regions is promoting it both in and out of the country.
Gastrodiplomacy and tourism are two powerful tools that can help protect and promote Filipino food and culinary traditions.
This is what Clang Garcia, a Philippine culinary heritage explorer and TV host, spoke about in the second episode of the KainCon webinar series, which is part of the Filipino Food Month (FFM) festivities.
Initiatives of neighboring countries
During the webinar, Garcia shared an example of how Thailand launched a gastronomy branding for their food industry called "Thailand: Kitchen of the World."
“It’s meant to put the cuisines of Thailand to the world, but more than that, they pushed gastronomy branding to create a demand for their agricultural produce,” Garcia said.
A part of Thailand’s efforts in promoting the Thai food industry is allocating a budget for international ventures.
“If you are an entrepreneur and you want to put up a Thai restaurant in different parts of the world, they will finance you, provided that you conform to the uniformity of the ingredients, hygiene, precautions, look, and branding,” says Garcia.
These restaurants become an avenue for foreign entrepreneurs and customers to be more familiar with Thai cuisine without having to travel to its origin.
In some ways, it piques the diners’ interest to explore not just Thai food, but also the country’s destinations and culture.
This is where tourism promotion comes in.
Thailand has millions of international travelers, and according to Garcia, most of them go there for food and culture. Traveling is not complete without keepsakes, so the Thai government also made beautifully-packaged products available for tourists.
“That‘s the beauty of gastronomy, diplomacy, and tourism. If you have the government with you, working side by side with you, then it becomes a very powerful and organized campaign.”
Budget, government alignment, and private sectors are three necessities for the implementation of such gastrodiplomacy campaigns.
Following Thailand's lead, South Korea also launched the "Kimchi Diplomacy" campaign to promote their cuisine and culture. They began producing and publicizing Korean movies, stars, music, and more.
“They just have to follow the same example. Suddenly, Korean restaurants are dominating different parts of the world.”
Seeing the efforts of these two countries, Garcia explained, “If you present the traditions , there will be a sense of appreciation. If you start sponsoring international food and travel shows above it, then it will create curiosity among viewers. They would want to go where you’ve featured kimchi and learn the process, and meet the people they see on the screen.”
Embracing Filipino culinary heritage
In our case, events like Filipino Food Month give every region in the Philippines a reason to celebrate our culinary heritage, which is expected to develop in time, says Garcia.
When it comes to preserving and promoting Filipino cuisine and culture through gastronomy and tourism, Garcia remains optimistic, adding, “We can do so much more collectively.”
Traveling locally and supporting local businesses is one way we can help, especially in the midst of the epidemic.
As a local tourism champion, Garcia says, “Sustainability has never been more relevant than now. We have to take care of our environment because it defines us as a people and as a destination. If we lose that, who are we going to be? Who are you as a Filipino?”
The KainCon or Kain Conference webinar series covers a variety of themes and features local food industry champions. It goes live online every Tuesday and Thursday from April 7-28, 2022.
KainCon also includes cookfest and culinary films that aim to raise awareness of preserving Filipino heritage and traditions. This event is led by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement (PCHM), and Slow Food Youth Network Philippines (SFYN).
Watch KainCon Session 2 here