December 24, 2006

Operation: Ilocano exposure

VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur—Balikbayan Roschellie Agatep Corr wants the Filipino cuisine to carve a niche in the international culinary market and she’s taking it off with the unique Ilocos taste as a culinary springboard to the world.

And since it is the season of family gatherings, Corr launched a two-day culinary event dubbed as “Mangan Tayon” (Let’s Eat) on December 8 to celebrate Ilocos Sur’s popular cuisine like bagnet, longganiza, pinakbet, dinakdakan, empanada and native delicacies like tinubong, calamay and bibingka.

The event gathered more than 30 food establishments at the historic Burgos Plaza and showcased various food creations that are unique in the Ilocos Region.

The festival featured famous Baguio chefs John Carlo Lachica, Aldrin Amat and Wilmur Kinomes who whipped up their version of longganiza tacos and bagnet-padas pizza.

Corr, who was born in Vigan City but regularly travels around the world, gripes that the Filipino cuisine is supposedly a disenfranchised entity compared to its other Asian counterparts.

Corr left the Philippines in 1974 and came back in 2000 when she took over her family’s real estate business. She had since expanded the family business to media production and serves as executive producer of a documentary program “Wake up Ilocos.”

“I have traveled extensively and I can’t find (walking the block) a visible Filipino cuisine. If I do find it, it’s off the beaten track. It is not as mainstream as Malaysian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian or Thai food,” Corr said.

That the Filipino cuisine seemed to be overlooked is largely due to lack of exposure and support, Corr observes.

“There’s no reason for it to be disenfranchised. The beauty of Ilocos cuisine is that there’s a lot of history behind it. It is very intimate and family-oriented,” she said.

“(Mangan Tayon) is just a springboard to promote Ilocos...I would use the most acceptable dimension which is food, which is eating,” she said.

Corr could not hide her disappointment when she failed to draw media exposure when she first introduced her food festival project last month in a Quezon City establishment.

She brought sample packages of Ilocos food products during the media briefing hoping to generate support from the Manila-based media.

“As impressive as the media turn out was, there has not been a single article written about the event from any of the reporters present that day,” Corr said.

“The beauty, heritage and tasteful variety of the Filipino cuisine have been unfairly compromised due to lack of support and attention. The lack of media exposure (from the briefing) regretfully validates this observation,” she added.

Through her own media production, Corr started embarking on what she described as “operation Pinoy exposure” to promote Ilocos Sur through its food and native products.

Her TV program documented the event and will be marketed internationally.

“I call this whole operation as operation Filipino exposure. It is about gaining respect. We are kind, sincere and beautiful. We just need to be lifted up. We’re not getting the support and chance. Everyday, what (people) are looking at is just how to survive. It’s unfair,” Corr said.

She got the support of Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson who provided the booths for the two-day festival and helped draw funding support from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

Singson showed up during the closing ceremonies and helped Chef Tristan Encarnacion, resident chef of GMA’s Unang Hirit, whip up their version of teriyaki bagnet, which is made of longganiza, ukoy (crispy shrimp snack) and empanada wrapper.

Cristina Arzadon, (PIA News Service-Ilocos)

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