Food, film, Canada, Korea, and Filipinos

FUSION Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines Peter MacArthur as he welcomed guests to the event

To celebrate 155 years of Canadian Confederation and its milestones in the Philippines, the embassy of Canada recently hosted a dinner for over 350 people at Conrad Manila, inspired by the country’s indigenous culinary culture. The event gathered government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, Canadians and Filipinos in the food business, and friends of the embassy.

“The Canada-Philippines relationship is strong and getting stronger,” said Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines Peter MacArthur. Indeed, there was much to celebrate and among the long list is the 36th year of Canada’s bilateral development cooperation with the Philippines. 

The dinner was also quite symbolic of the two countries’ thriving relationship. “There’s a fusion cocktail especially designed for this dinner,” the ambassador shared. “You've got strawberries from Benguet, calamansi juice, and you’ve got Canadian gin. It shows up red and white, like the color of our flag. That’s kind of an example of this in a cocktail—how you try and bring the two together.”

Conrad Manila’s executive chef Warren Brown collaborated with James McFarland, executive chef at the University of Saskatchewan, on the menu. Filipino culinary students from state universities assisted the chefs in preparing the dinner. Each of the four courses showcased their talents as well as ingredients coming from Canada. 

FOOD SECURITY Kathleen Donohue, vice president of the international affairs branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

A true stand out was the maple-cured Canadian steelhead salmon. Garnished with picked blueberries, micro greens, mustard citrus vinaigrette and purple potato crisps, it’s a party in one’s mouth, the acid cutting through the raw fish as their flavors blend seamlessly with a hint of sweetness.

Kathleen Donohue, vice president of the international affairs branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), also graced tbe event. “One of the reasons I’m here is in fact to explore the opportunities and what we can do to try to encourage more business engagement and I would say two ways,” she said. “There’s just been a bit of an uptick in terms of Filipino exports into Canada—ripe coconut, dried mangoes, pineapple—and so I do think that there’s also an opportunity there to deepen that.”

Donohue added that Canada is highly interested in helping achieve food security worldwide. This prompted the ambassador to share an interesting story about Filipino farmers in Benguet who were given a chance to travel to Canada’s Prince Edward Island. 

There, they learned how Canada grows its seed potatoes, which are bigger and have less starch, making them attractive to the market. “Within one year, the yield grew by 27 percent and the secretary of Agriculture at the time was so impressed she ordered more,” the ambassador said. “Farmers get more from the marketplace. That’s one of our objectives—not only to increase your domestic production of food, but also to make sure that farmers get a fair deal.”

“This is fusion. Canadian genetics with Filipino products produced by Filipino farmers,” the ambassador added.

It’s been 73 years since the Philippines and Canada established diplomatic relations and 50 years since they opened a full-service embassy in Manila. 

Korean directors in Manila for film Fest

KOREAN FILM FEST OPENS From left: Dir. Im Young-A of the Korean Cultural Center, Lee Woojung (Snowball, 2021), and Hong Wonchan (Deliver Us From Evil, 2020)

One thing a lot of people missed during the last two years is the cinema. As theaters reopen, film festivals are also making a comeback. The Korean Cultural Center (KCC), for instance, is holding its first live screenings in two years this week. The films are free to watch at selected SM Cinema branches. 

Following the opening ceremony on Aug. 10 at SM Aura, the public has been treated to screenings all weekend of seven of Korea’s recent top-billing films. 

‘There’s just been a bit of an uptick in terms of Filipino exports into Canada—ripe coconut, dried mangoes, pineapple. I do think there’s also an opportunity to deepen that.’

The festival was opened by the action film Deliver Us from Evil, one of Korea’s most successful movies in the last two years as it was seen by four million people in cinemas despite the pandemic. Its director, Hong Wonchan, graced the event along with director Lee Woojung who is behind the film Snowball.

At the press conference, Hong shared that the international success of the Korean film industry had given them a great platform to share their culture. He admits that when they write the stories and create the films, it’s not about winning the international audience over but rather, what aspect of their culture can they share and how the audience may perceive it.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL Hong Wonchan (left), who wrote and directed the festival's opening film, answers questions from participants

Deliver Us from Evil was the perfect film to open the festival with themes that are familiar to the Filipino audience. With revenge, family ties, and lots of action-packed scenes, it’s rather violent but with a gripping storyline. 

The visual aspect of the film is also quite a treat with Hong sharing that he wanted to replicate the particular hues a country had while they were filming scenes set in Thailand, Japan, and Korea.

A personal favorite in the lineup is Escape from Mogadishu, which tells the story of North and South Korean diplomats and their competitive efforts to be accepted into the United Nations in the late 1980s and early 1990s followed by the outbreak of the Somali civil war. Based on real events, the movie also shows cooperation between diplomats from the two Koreas as they try to escape the country at war. 

The Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) also organized a forum where the two Korean directors got to share their process and the challenges they would encounter while making films. Filipino filmmakers were present to learn a thing or two from the exchange between these two filmakers about the film industry in their country.

Follow the Korean Cultural Center’s official Instagram account (@kccphil.