Flavours of the Orient: the Filipino Culinary Heritage
“Filipino food reflects the culture of the Filipinos,” said Barbara Delos Reyes. Filipino families, she said, are fond of having a mix of various dishes on one dining table and it reflects the hospitality of the Filipinos and the culture of close family ties. “When we eat in our homes, we are always together. Even in the past, Filipino families would sleep in the sala together. Even in public transport, right? And you don’t see these abroad. I think it’s so reflective of our food. If you eat nilagang baka, the meat, the vegetables, and soup are there. When Filipinos eat in parties all the varieties of dishes are there like adobo, kare-kare, sinigang,” she added.
Delos Reyes also mentioned that the country should promote its own cuisine because the Philippine culinary culture is internationally competitive, together with the arts and architecture. Barbara’s and Ilustrado both served the Kings and Queens of Spain and other officials and dignitaries of various countries and have been lauded for their excellent dishes and impeccable ambience. “We should let the Philippines’ cultural diversity be put on the spotlight through our cuisine. The adobo, for example, has a lot of variants that are as many as the country’s regions. No one can claim originality. No one can say which is the best one. But it is this very diversity, which we can promote,” Bea Pimentel-Aquino said. “Food from different regions represents who they are not only in their stature in the society but signify religion and beliefs as well,” the chef Carlo Santiago of Bayleaf Hotel Intramuros said.
Maintaining the Filipino heritage poses a challenge for the Intramuros restaurants as the Manila dining scene is catching up with modern technology. Delos Reyes admitted that she finds technology quite intimidating but it does not bother her too much because after all, tourists and locals alike go to Intramuros to get a taste of Filipino culture. “Whether it’s online, through our database system or traditional media marketing, we ensure that our history and culture are at the core. Not only because Ilustrado is attached to these but also because it is integrated into the very fabric of our being. Ilustrado is synonymous to culture and history and every Filipino must be made aware of it,” Aquino said.
Keeping the Filipino culture alive through these restaurants is a challenge as longevity in the restaurant industry especially in this theme is difficult to achieve. “We position our restaurants as venues or places where we could showcase not only our culinary background as a country but also our history in general. We want our guests to enjoy our restaurants and appreciate how the modern feel in our hotel blends quite well with history,” Vitug said. For Delos Reyes, keeping the momentum takes hard work and clear vision for the restaurant. “You have to have your expectations and you can’t fall short of it.”
Besides good food and ambience, Delos Reyes would like Barbara’s to be remembered as a place of happy memories and the same applies with other heritage restaurants. With positive outlooks and warm smiles, the Filipinos take pride in having these dining places that make guests feel at home, happy, and satisfied simply by having a taste of the rich Filipino culture. Find out more about these heritage restaurants in Philippine Tatler Dining's Intramuros restaurants picks.