MANILA — For a tourism official, Philippine food culture prominence relies not only on its talented chefs but also on its natural ingredients used to create dishes and products which make the country worth a visit.
“From a tourism standpoint, these (ingredients) are an outstanding feature of the Philippines,” Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. told reporters in the sidelines of the opening on Friday of the Madrid Fusion Manila 2015 which will run until Sunday (April 26) at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
Madrid Fusion Manila has been easily described as the biggest gastronomical event in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia as it gathers both local and foreign chefs in one roof to discuss and learn more about food.
The event, which was first organized in Spain, also brings together the world’s leading food and beverage companies and their products from ingredients, food service equipment to fresh and processed foods up for selling, and even tasting.
More than 1,000 delegates from 15 countries have confirmed their attendance to the event which will include a Trade Exhibition with 88 exhibitors, and 165 booths of which 30 are from Spain.
The event consists of three components, namely: the Gastronomy Congress and the Trade Exhibition, and the Flavors of the Philippines Festival, which is happening simultaneously in Manila and other parts of the country.
While Jimenez said that Madrid Fusion Manila is not directly designed to build tourist traffic, he stressed that the event is a necessary step towards completing the Filipino image as food is a great part of the country’s culture.
“It is an important move to complete the Filipino image around the world as a tourist-friendly, travel-worthy destination because more and more people travel for food experience and Manila is one of the great, undiscovered, underrated food trips in Southeast Asia,” the DOT chief said.
“(Through Madrid Fusion) they’re realizing for the first time that the Filipino palette is just as sophisticated as theirs,” he added, referring to countries which have already established a name in the growing culinary scene.
Jimenez noted that the “calamansi” is the best example of a proudly-Filipino ingredient which has gained the attention of many international chefs for its unique qualities.
“The calamansi is about to be the most celebrated lemon in the world,” he said, quipping that Madrid Fusion is like a “coming out party” for the sour, green fruit.
“The trend of modern gastronomy is for natural, organic, indigenous and original and that’s like describing the calamansi,” Jimenez added.
It’s a long way down the road, but the DOT chief said that events such as Madrid Fusion Manila (which falls under the major events for Visit the Philippines Year 2015), serve as a stepping stone to introduce calamansi as a standard for restaurants around the world.
Jimenez, meanwhile, said that the DOT is also staging the event as a subtle way to convince reviewers to consider rating Manila with the Michelin Star status — the hallmark of fine dining quality and restaurants.
“(We are) not yet Michelin star-rated but we will be someday — that’s our next project. We will try to convince them that they should be rating Manila. This (Madrid Fusion) is a very important part of that,” Jimenez said.