MANILA, Philippines—Dr. Jose Rizal’s serious side has always been at the fore. The national hero’s writings helped in the Philippines’ liberation in 1898 from Spain’s imperialism, tyranny and cultural suppression. He is the author of El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere.He wrote letters to his family that were collected, preserved, and published by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) under the titles “One Hundred Letters of José Rizal to his Parents, Brothers, Sisters, Relatives” in 1959 and “Reminiscences and Travels of José Rizal” in 1977.
But since it’s Rizal’s 151st birthday on June 19, featuring his favorite dishes could be more delightfully appropriate for a celebration.
Knowing these dishes would make us understand how he was like as an ordinary person. His writings were very much instrumental as they reveal those dishes that he craved for.
Thus, the “Kulinarya Kalayaan” food festival, which has been running from June 10 until June 20, has the theme called “Rizalian” menu. The management of participating hotels and restaurants read books and researched, particularly about Rizal’s favorite dishes and came up with their own versions, highlighted with a twist.
Examples of the food that Rizal craved for were Laguna cheese, mangoes, anchovies, tinola and monggo soup that Rizal repeatedly requested in his letters to his family while he was in exile in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte from 1892 to 1896.
Chef Rudy dela Passion of Century Park Hotel said that he and his culinary team prepared “a diverse gastronomic journey” for their guests. He presented to the media his unique version of five dishes such as the Monggo soup with “tinapa” (smoked fish) meat. Aside from Rizal’s favorites and other local dishes, they are also offering Mussel Mariniere from France (mussels sautéed in white wine, onion, celery, leeks, and butter); Cocido from Spain (boiled chicken, beef, bacon, sausage and vegetables); and Hong Kong (crispy) Fried Noodles.
Apparently, these dishes originated from the countries where Rizal had traveled. Passion said there were still other dishes he included to connect with Rizal’s works abroad. Among them are Lengua Estofado from Spain (where Rizal practised his medical career and wrote his first essay), Fish Cordon Bleu from France (where Rizal served as an ophthalmologist and honed his skills in music), Sunday Roast from England (where Rizal co-founded the Asociacion Hispano Filipino), Sauerbraten from Germany (where Rizal came up with his Noli Me Tangerenovel), Chinese Dimsum from Hongkong (where Rizal began to be recognized as an excellent eye surgeon),and Belgian Meatballs from Belgium (where Rizal finished his second novel, El Filibusterismo).
Philippe Bartholomi, the hotel’s General Manager, said that they have allotted a great deal to prepare for the food festival. “We brainstormed quite a long time to try to do something different. So we thought that going around the world with Jose Rizal was really a good way of having something special on the menu,” he said.
According to Eric Beza, the hotel’s Public Relation Assistant, they learned that the other participating hotels and restaurants presented dishes from the country’s regions. “We’re the only hotel featuring dishes from the different places, those from the travels of Dr. Jose Rizal,” he said, adding that the hotel usually prepare theme buffets: Chinese on Mondays, Filipino on Tuesdays, International on Wednesdays, Asian on Thursdays, Seafood on Fridays, Mediterranean on Saturdays, and Filipino Family Fiestas on Sundays.
Meanwhile, Sous Chef John Philip Gomez of Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila, beamed that it brings him so much honor to be doing the Rizalian presentation of his dishes. He wanted to come up with a menu combination showcasing what Rizal liked in real life and as his fictional character in his novels. Gomez also included other dishes like his “escabeche,” cooked in his own standard.
“I found out that this guy (Rizal) is amazing. He was what a food blogger should be—he wrote well, spoke well, and ate well. This is a guy with the Filipinos in his mind. He is an icon for me. So when I had to this (Rizalian menu), I said ‘I had to do this right’,” Gomez said.
The “Kulinarya Kalayaan” food festival is a joint undertaking of the Department of Tourism (DOT), the 114th Independence Day celebration Inter-agency Committee and the Hotel and Restaurant Association of the Philippines (HRAP).
As the DOT’s function is to promote tourism in the country, not only will it feature beautiful places where tourists can rest and satisfy their hungry tummies, they can also learn some historical facts while feasting on dishes being showcased by the participating hotels and restaurants.
DOT has received the support of 10 hotels and seven restaurants in the country’s key cities. These are Bayview Park Hotel, Century Park Hotel, The Bellevue Hotels and Resorts, Makati Shangrila Hotel, Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila, Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao, Golden Orchid Hotel (Zamboanga City), AIM Conference Center Manila, Waterfront Manila Pavilion Hotel and Casino, and The Heritage Hotel Manila; Illustrado Restaurant, Harbor View Restaurant, Cravings Group of Companies (Casa Roces), Serye Café Restaurant, LJC Restaurants (Café Adriatico), Bacolod Chicken Inasal and Tamayo’s Catering and Restaurant. (PNA)