Why José Rizal Would’ve Loved Madrid Fusión Manila

The presenters, organizers and sponsors toasting to Madrid Fusión Manila during the pre-event Press Conference.

The presenters, organizers and sponsors toasting to Madrid Fusión Manila during the pre-event Press Conference.

Last April, the Philippines successfully hosted the second edition of Madrid Fusión Manila, which was held from 7-9 April 2016 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City. Attended not only by the perfumed set who can afford the ticket, both the Gastronomy Congress and the Trade Expo attracted a bevy of young culinary arts students, experts in history and culture, entrepreneurs and restaurateurs, growers and food producers, writers, diplomats and purveyors of good taste not only from the Philippines but also from abroad. There were more attendees and participants this year as compared to the first edition.

Jordi Butrón, presenter and purveyor of the EspaiSucre method, holding up a fruit during the Farmers Market Tour facilitated by Asia's Best Female Chef, Ms. Margarita Forés at their family-owned wet market in Cubao.

Jordi Butrón, presenter andurveyor of the EspaiSucre method, holding up a fruit during the Farmers Market Tour facilitated by Ms. Margarita Forés at their family-owned wet market in Cubao.

Chef Fernando Perez Arellano getting his helping of kangkong with bagging during the breakfast hosted by the Araneta Group. I remember how this breakfast featured some of the best breakfast dishes of our cuisine. From quesong puti to chocolate to beef tapa, there were lots to choose from!

Chef Fernando Perez Arellano getting his helping of kangkong with bagoong during the breakfast hosted by the Araneta Group. I remember how this breakfast featured some of the best breakfast dishes of our cuisine. From quesong puti to chocolate to beef tapa, there were lots to choose from!

This year's edition celebrates the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade's role in the exchange of ingredients through the centuries.

This year’s edition celebrates the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade’s role in the exchange of ingredients through the centuries.

What makes Madrid Fusión Manila so important for the author of this article to suggest that even the Philippine national hero himself would’ve enjoyed it? Simple: it placed premium on the Filipino’s talent. And because the event is a profound expression of Philippine-Spanish friendship, all the more would the “First Filipino” have relished the success of what is wrongly perceived as solely a high-brow food event.

With Ms. Margarita Araneta Forés, dubbed by the 50 World's Best as Asia's Best Female Chef. This humble but talented lady repeated last year's tour of Farmer's Market, Metro Manila's biggest wet market that brings in a myriad of fresh ingredients for city dwellers to purchase good seafood, vegetables, meats, etc within reasonable prices.

With Ms. Margarita Araneta Forés, dubbed by the 50 World’s Best as Asia’s Best Female Chef. This talented lady repeated last year’s tour of Farmer’s Market, Metro Manila’s biggest wet market that brings in a myriad of fresh ingredients for city dwellers to purchase good seafood, vegetables, meats, etc within reasonable prices. She was dubbed as the “mother” of Madrid Fusion Manila as she helped convince the right persons of bringing Madrid Fusión to Manila about two years ago

The chef presenters posing for a photo opportunity during the pre-event press conference.

The chef presenters posing for a photo opportunity during the pre-event press conference.

Being part of last year and this year’s team of communicators for the event, this writer can’t help but underscore the historical-cultural relevance of Madrid Fusión Manila. True, it is a product of the post-modern gastronomy of Spaniards (simplistically generalized as “molecular”) but with its edition in Manila, it also takes on the role of being a platform for goodwill and celebration for the two cultures, and for this year, three: Mexico’s. With a theme that commemorates the 450th anniversary of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade, this year’s Madrid Fusión Manila reminded the participants and those who followed the event that much of today’s modern cuisines were influenced by the flow of ingredients during the 250-year old maritime activity, which many acknowledge as the precursor of globalization. By emphasizing the role the Philippines played in this exchange of goods might have made Rizal proud.

The chef behind San Pellegrino's best restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca, Joan Roca during the Chefs' Hour at Madrid Fusión Manila. My favorite part of his talk was when he shared how grateful he was for the values his parents instilled in them: a sense of SACRIFICE, hard-work, hospitality and the need to be authentic and real.

The chef behind San Pellegrino’s best restaurant, El Celler de Can Roca, Joan Roca during the Chefs’ Hour at Madrid Fusión Manila. My favorite part of his talk was when he shared how grateful he was for the values his parents instilled in them: a sense of SACRIFICE, hard-work, hospitality and the need to be authentic and real.

Prepared on a paellera that measures 10 ft. in diameter, the paella gigante kicked-off Flavors of the Philippines, a run up to Madrid Fusión Manila. More about the Festival de la Paella Gigante here:https://cucharatenedor.wordpress.com/tag/festival-dela-paella-gigante/

Prepared on a paellera that measures 10 ft. in diameter, the paella gigante kicked-off Flavors of the Philippines, a run up to Madrid Fusión Manila. More about the Festival de la Paella Gigante here:https://cucharatenedor.wordpress.com/tag/festival-dela-paella-gigante/

Similar to like last year, Madrid Fusión Manila was part of the activities organized by the Department of Tourism’s “Philippine Food Month” (April) [as usual, we don’t know if the so-called food month will be retained in this new administration…it could be totally scrapped or moved to another month]. The other major food event that took place last April was the World Street Food Congress, obviously more accessible to the different social strata in Philippine society.

With Tita Mielle Esteban ofArum Estrategias Internacionalizacion, S.L who handles Madrid Fusión (the original one in Madrid)

With Tita Mielle Esteban ofArum Estrategias Internacionalizacion, S.L who handles Madrid Fusión (the original one in Madrid)

Leading up to Madrid Fusión Manila were several activities that served as prelude to the gastronomy gathering. First, there was the Paella Gigante event held in Greenbelt 3 as a charity event organized by the Sociedad Española de Beneficencia. It was on a hot summer day when that paella gigante was prepared and boy was it amazing that despite the sheer size of the paellera, the paella itself tasted, smelled and felt exquisite. The chefs who executed the endeavor were from LTB Philippines.

With friends Nicole and Francis at the Tapas Night affair organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain

With friends Nicole and Francis at the Tapas Night affair organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain

After paella gigante, food enthusiasts, writers, members of the Filipino-Spanish community and the diplomatic circle were treated by the Embajada de España to a Tapas Night at Greensun, the venue turning into a virtual culinary tour of España. At the center stage, of course, were the jamon (cinco jotas) and cava. It was a beautiful evening, and I can still remember the smell of perfume, cheese and jamon all mixed in one enclosed space.

Jamon cinco jota cut into paper-thin slices by a FILIPINO master cortador!

Jamon cinco jota cut into paper-thin slices by a FILIPINO master cortador!

The Mesa Redonda portion was an enriching feature of this year's Madrid Fusión Manila.

The Mesa Redonda portion was an enriching feature of this year’s Madrid Fusión Manila.

This year’s version of Madrid Fusión Manila also introduced a handful of new features, namely: the opening of the congress with a highly informative, scholarly presentation by historian and archivist Don Antonio Sanchez de Mora of the Archivo General de Las Indias in Sevilla; the twice-a-day Chefs’ Hour, which were intimate press-conferences for the chefs and the media and; a round table discussion among select chefs, which was moderated by Chef José “Chele” Gonzalez, a presenter in last year’s congress and David Celdran, who has proven to be the perfect host for the event. On the last day, Joan Roca, the chef behind one of the world’s best restaurants, El Celler de Can Roca, surprised the gastronomy congress participants when he showed to an audience his team’s newest movie for the very first time.

With my mentor, Dr. Fernando Nakpil Ziálcita, esteemed cultural anthropologist and Hispanist.

With my mentor, Dr. Fernando Nakpil Ziálcita, esteemed cultural anthropologist and Hispanist.

With Ms. Jin Pérez, famous food writer and blogger. I follow her Instagram with much interest.

With Ms. Jin Pérez, famous food writer and blogger. I follow her Instagram with much interest.

Rizal would’ve beamed with pride at the sight of his fellow Filipinos co-presenting on a stage with chefs dubbed by the international community as some of the very best and brightest. They did not only impress; they also shared their philosophies, techniques and recipes to participants and media observers who were curious as to where Filipino chefs are taking Philippine cuisine. This writer admits that last year’s set of Filipino presenters were more stellar and presented far more captivating demonstrations than those this year. Likewise, this author believes that there are many more seasoned but not so-famous Filipino cooks who could’ve better represented Philippine gastronomy. Just like last year, tongues were wagging why he/she was there or why he/she wielded so much influence while some who have been in the industry for so long were veritably snubbed. Nevertheless, this year’s set still showcased great talent. Standing out was Romy Dorotan and Amy Besa’s highly-informative and insightful portion featuring tamales.

Amy Besa and Romy Doorman's highly-informative and almost scholarly presentation on tamales was my favorite of all the Filipino presentations.

Amy Besa and Romy Doorman’s highly-informative and almost scholarly presentation on tamales was my favorite of all the Filipino presentations.

Chef Miko Aspiras' innovative polvoron wasn't only beautiful to the eyes; it tasted wonderful! Actually, you'd be hard bent to categorically define how it tastes because it is packed with flavor.

Chef Miko Aspiras’ innovative polvoron wasn’t only beautiful to the eyes; it tasted wonderful! Actually, you’d be hard bent to categorically define how it tastes because it is packed with flavor.

With ChefVirgilio Martínez Vélez, the Peruvian chef who spoke on the"Colors of the Amazonia", a fantastic play of colors that showcased the many colors of seeds in the world renowned rain forest while one of his appetizers allows his diners to seemingly eat barks, stems and flowers from the natural wonder.

With ChefVirgilio Martínez Vélez, the Peruvian chef who spoke on the”Colors of the Amazonia”, a fantastic play of colors that showcased the many colors of seeds in the world renowned rain forest while one of his appetizers allows his diners to seemingly eat barks, stems and flowers from the natural wonder.

The excitement and learning didn’t end within the enclosed walls of the congress. In fact, they extended, and were heightened, at the much-anticipated Regional Lunches, jointly curated by the Department of Tourism, the Department of Agriculture (through the indefatigable Undersecretary Berna Romulo Puyat) and Alicia Colby Sy, Editor-in-Chief of Town and Country. The chefs who participated gave their all, the expansive lunches proving the variety and richness of our regions. The best, perhaps for this author, was the Luzon fare followed by the Mindanao lunch. It was a big question among many why the Visayan Regional Lunch was such a disappointment when the Visayas as a region is known for its amazing gastronomic heritage.

Ms. Dedet dela Fuente's Pepita's Lechon section was the crowd favorite. You don't need a college degree to know why.

Ms. Dedet dela Fuente’s Pepita’s Lechon section was the crowd favorite. You don’t need a college degree to know why.

Rich man's lechon: decorated with gold leaf and stuffed with a decadent truffle rice.

Rich man’s lechon: decorated with gold leaf and stuffed with a decadent truffle rice.

In his day and age, Rizal and his fellow ilustrados tried their best to prove to Spaniards and to other Europeans that Filipinos deserved equality precisely because they can compete or even prove to be better than their colonial masters. By excelling in different fields, most notably in the arts, the ilustrados pounced on every opportunity to demand respect and adulation. One can only imagine if there was a Filipino ilustrado during their time who could have used cuisine as his sword. Perhaps, we could’ve have gained independence at a much faster pace if someone made his reformist agenda through the tummies of the colonizers. Forgive my whimsical assertion but yes, the Filipino and his techniques can prove that the Philippines is a world-class destination, a country inhabited by talented cooks and blessed with a wonderful variety of local (and imported, through centuries of trading) ingredients.

A different take on the lowly salted egg (itlog na pula)

A different take on the lowly salted egg (itlog na pula)

Perhaps the signature Madrid Fusión Manila dish: kinilaw.

Perhaps the signature Madrid Fusión Manila dish: kinilaw.

Pata Negros has a sharp flavor profile, very similar to European hams.

Pata Negros has a sharp flavor profile, very similar to European hams.

Let us hope that the next Madrid Fusión Manila will push through. Perhaps, instead of the calamansi, Davao’s durian can take next year’s center stage.

Madrid Fusión Manila, a celebration of human talent, something José Rizal would have wanted to participate in.

Madrid Fusión Manila, a celebration of human talent, something José Rizal would have wanted to participate in. It was a joint effort of the Philippines’ Department of Tourism, Tourism Promotions Board, Department of Agriculture, Arum Estrategias, and so many private restaurateurs, food producers, the media, etc.

About hechoayer

Things made yesterday still influence us until today. Things made today will influence us tomorrow. Things of the essence such as faith, culture, food, music and values should never disappear nor eroded by the times. Instead, these must be recorded, lived and shared. Something made yesterday - hecho ayer - can be tomorrow's saving grace. Never ignore the past.
This entry was posted in COMIDA FILIPINA, LA VIDA FILIPINA, Rizal and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Why José Rizal Would’ve Loved Madrid Fusión Manila

  1. hi! here’s hoping you invest in a good camera or camera phone. it will go well with your articles🙂

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