Manila festival to focus on local F&B industry


FILIPINO food has been having a moment in the United States and a few other countries in the West, a development long predicted by food critic Andrew Zimmerman and the late chef and travel feature host Anthony Bourdain.

But international travelers are still not visiting the Philippines for its cuisine. According to a survey commissioned by the Department of Tourism (DOT) in 2021, the Philippines ranks poorly in food exploration/cooking classes compared to its other Southeast Asian neighbors. Malaysia and Singapore ranked the highest in this category. (See, “They won’t visit PHL for history and culture,” in the BusinessMirror, May 26, 2023.)

Organizers of The Manila Food and Wine Festival, launched on July 14, hope to change that. Co-organizer Spanky Hizon Enriquez said in his opening remarks at the Westin Sonata Manila ballroom on Friday that the festival “hopes to position the Philippines as a center for food and culinary tourism in Asia.” The festival, originally to conclude on July 27, has been extended to “mid-August as  more restaurants want to participate,” he told the BusinessMirror.

F&B valued at P108.4B

The Manila festival, he added, was patterned after the recent Cebu Food and Wine Festival, and will have interations in other provinces. “The goal is to create a clear and conscious effort to come up with elevated events that will strengthen the world class ambitions of restaurants/hotels, and inspire the rest to do the same,” he said.

Enriquez, who is also founder of the Restaurant Owners of the Philippines, stressed, “We survived the gauntlet of the pandemic, and these events will serve to sustain the momentum of recovery of the food and beverage industry, particularly the restaurants. We were all set to have a ‘Golden Age’ in 2020 until Covid hit. Now is the time to bring that to fruition.”

About 32 percent of the 5.35-million workforce in the country’s tourism industry are accounted for by hotels and restaurants, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. The same data also showed the tourism direct gross value added of the F&B-serving industry reached P108.36 billion in 2022, though this was still 41 percent off the prepandemic level of P183.4 billion.

Prioritizing food events

Speaking at the launch, OIC-Undersecretary for Tourism Development Verna Buensuceso said: “We at the Department of Tourism, through our National Tourism Development Plan 2023-2028, prioritize projects like this to highlight the country’s unique narrative and cultural offerings. And part of what makes a Filipino distinct is the food we prepare, eat and serve. With a rich blend of Spanish, American, Chinese, Indian and Malay influences, Filipino food has won the hearts of people from all over the world and has even received recognition from international food connoisseurs.”

She said the agency was “committed to sustaining this momentum throughout the year, making the Manila Food & Wine Festival not just an event, but a catalyst for continuous growth and progress in our food and wine industry.”

Among the special guest merchants and innovators from the F&B industry at the launch were: Luisita Rum, Sebastian’s Ice Cream, Esguerra Kurobota, Destileria Limtuaco, Karabella Dairy, Macaron Macaron, and Mooncakes by the Hungry Chef, etc. There will also be collaborations between many of the country’s popular chefs in separate dining events in Tagaytay, Antipolo, and hotel restaurants in Makati and Manila. For more information and updates on events, The Manila Food & Wine Festival is on Facebook.