DOT intensifies promotion of halal food, South as Asian culinary spot

November 22, 2023 People's Tonight 599 views

FOREIGN Ambassadors and representatives of foreign missions had a taste of the amazing dishes from Mindanao as the Department of Tourism (DOT) intensifies the promotion of halal food as well as market the Southern Philippines as a culinary destination in Asia.

On Tuesday night, the DOT hosted the Bismillah: An Evening of Faith, Love, and the Flavors of Mindanao at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City where international diplomats get to taste some of the best halal food offerings in the region prepared by Chef Datu Shariff Pendatum, Chef Miguel Cabel Moreno and Chef Jam Melchor, Founder of Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement.

The foreign guests, many of whom are from Muslim countries had their fill of the best “flavors of Mindanao” starting from scallop, sea urchin and spanish mackerel Kinilaw (Muslim Mindanao), beef shoulder soup Pisawawan a Sapi (Lanao), grilled chicken in burnt coconut sauce Piyanggang manuk (Sulu), grilled swordfish with coconut and lime dressing Dinilutan a Seda (Mmaguindanao), prawn coconut meat saute Piyaren a Udang (Lanao), and the choice of Davao turmeric infused rice Sinagapuna, Tausug style roasted coconut rice Bubuk, and Pandan scented white rice. For dessert, the chefs prepared Davao’s Malagos Dark chocolate, coconut milk, durian ice cream, saba (banana) and mango compote, dehydrated pineapple and coconut dacqoise.

In her keynote speech, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said the initiative serves as a “launchpad” and allow international tourists, through their embassies, to see Mindanao as an emerging culinary destination in Asia.

“We hope that by now you have found it in your heart the convincing truth that Mindanao is truly a food lovers’ paradise and at par with our Southeast Asian neighbors of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and southern Thailand with whom our Muslim brothers in Mindanao are culturally linked to,” she said.

“This gastronomic event illustrates our shift as well as expanded focus and emphasis that the Marcos administration is giving to a multi-dimensional portfolio for tourism, that is to include our heritage, our culture, and especially our flavors,” she explained.

After the dinner, Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Dato’ Abdul Malik Melvin Castelino bin Anthony cited the potential of Mindanao flavors to attract tourists from his country.

“It was amazing. I totally enjoy the flavors of Mindanao. The culture and the food of Mindanao have so much to offer to the world in terms of how Philippines can become an important destination, especially for the halal tourism sector,” he said in an interview.

“You have a large Muslim population, you have different beaches, the food in Mindanao is similar to what we have in Malaysia and so all these factors, of course, the inclusion of more Muslim-friendly hotels and restaurants will make the halal tourism program in Philippines a success.”

The Ambassador said Mindanao is not in their travel advisory explaining “we look at Mindanao now in terms of the security situation as safe.”

“I myself have been to Mindanao twice, (I’ve) been recently to Cotabato, things are safe,” he added.

He likewise cited a Philippine National Police report that the situation in the region is “safe and is open for visit by foreign tourists”.

Pakistan Ambassador to the Philippines Imtiaz Ahmad Kazi was impressed by the variety of Mindanao Halal food and expressed interest to forge cooperation with the Philippines to further promote halal foods and boost two-way tourism.

“I’m from Pakistan, we also use spices and rice but this was a wonderful experience — the food with burnt coconut (Piyanggang Manuk), the way they have cooked rice, the way they have cooked bone marrow of beef and chicken, and the variety of seafood, I’m impressed that it was all halal,” he said.

“We being Muslims we always like halal, it’s a growing industry and Philippines has great potential (for it),” he added.

Meanwhile, Netherlands Ambassador to the Philippines Marielle Geraedts, on her official X account, formerly Twitter, posted “Love the Philippines. A wonderful evening with the spectacular flavors of Mindanao, the Philippines’ most Southern island. Time to travel there!”She also included photos of the dishes served.

DOT Undersecretary Myra Paz Valderrosa-Abubakar said Mindanao had been preparing to welcome foreign and local tourists for a long time.

“Matagal nang pinaghahandaan ng Mindanao (ang turismo) at ngayon ready na at kaya ng Mindanao kahit sinong turista pa ang pumunta sa Mindanao, ” she said.

The DOT targets nationals from Muslim-dominated countries such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East market like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, among others, as well as the more than six million Muslim Filipinos across the country.

“Actually isa sa mga issues lang natin ngayon is ‘yong air connectivity natin,” she explained.

On security issues, Frasco assured it remains as a foundation for Mindanao tourism development citing the DOT’s agreements with the Department of National Defense and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Philippine National Police Security Operations Division Chief Police Col. Crisaleo Tolentino reported to foreign diplomats that due to the whole of nation approach to attain sustainable peace, Northern Mindanao and Davao regions are now insurgency-free and are under low terrorism threat.

This, he explained was because of the declining number of terror groups due to sustained and focused military operations resulting in mass surrender and withdrawal of support to the extremists.
The Secretary revealed the DOT has been discussing with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to convince foreign countries to reconsider downgrading their security alert level for Mindanao.

Frasco said “admittedly, there are advisories that have not yet been updated to the current situation and present-day statistics.”

“Our hope is that by continuing this information education campaign about the peace and order situation in Mindanao and the readiness for tourism, our embassies would be able to relay this to their principal governments and that these travel advisories will be upgraded,” she added.