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Adding Cordillera culture into Baguio’s cullinary industry
by Harley F. Palangchao

IBALOY-INSPIRED MERIENDA -- Homegrown House of Yogurt Restaurant, owned by Christian couple Danny and Eunice Wong, offers Ibaloy-inspired merienda such as the “dokto” (sweet potato) that comes in various mouth-watering servings in a newly opened establishment along Marcos Highway. -- Harley F. Palangchao

Restaurants and food stalls are now in every nook and cranny of the central business district and outlying spots in Baguio, offering an array of dishes and food delights to satisfy the taste of both local and foreign visitors.

The flourishing of food establishments in the city despite the economic crisis proves the country's rich gastronomical culture and the Filipinos’ love for a diversity of dishes, such as the Cordillera-inspired culinary delights likely to be in the bucket list of visitors.

To further boost the city’s growing reputation as a culinary center north of Manila, leaders in the culinary and tourism industry have organized the Hotel and Restaurant Tourism (HRT) Week, the biggest annual event that aims to raise the bar for culinary and tourism excellence in the country.

Now on its 14th year, the HRT Week events presented by esteemed personalities in the culinary and tourism industry have put Baguio on the map of gastronomy by casting world-class Filipino talents and local dishes on the national and international stage.

To date, the annual HRT Week is the only culinary show of its kind, never been staged before by other groups in the country.

HRAB was also behind some of the highlights in culinary events such as the preparation of the longest raisin bread and longest longganisa; the serving of more than 15,000 cupcakes and the largest pizza; the Pasta Festival; Fried Rice Festival: Rice and Shine; and the Largest Wedding Cake.

Proof that food-oriented establishments are flourishing in Baguio is the volume of permits issued by City Hall’s Permits and Licensing Division reflecting a steady rise in recent years.

During a five-year period from 2014 to the second quarter of 2018, there has been an average increase of 500 to 1,000 business permits issued annually. Of the total, the number of restaurants has increased from 296 in 2014 to 337 in 2015 and to 364 in 2017.

In the first six months of this year, the Permits and Licensing Division has already renewed or issued new permits to 274 restaurants.

Included here are some of the favorite spots where families and friends gather for good food and good talk, mostly homegrown businesses that started small and just grew from sheer delight of returning customers.

From charity to social enterprise

Some of Baguio’s pride in the food industry are the yummy ube and strawberry jams, peanut brittle, lengua de gato, and alfajor cookies of Mountain Maid Training Center, more popularly known as “Good Shepherd” located at Barangay Gilbratar.

It was first established as a charity institution in 1952 to serve orphans of war, children at risk, and troubled teenagers. It was divine inspiration that Sr. Mary Carmel Medalla and her students started making strawberry jam in small volumes as part of the home economics and culinary training of the girls under the care of the center.

The idea of producing jams opened the possibility of earning decent money from whatever food was made instead of relying heavily on donations from supporters and charity to sustain the survival, education, and training of youngsters at the center.

Business was not the primary reason of the center in producing jams and other food products but rather, it was to develop the dignity and instill the value of work among the students by becoming self-supporting.

Today, the center has reaped many awards from government and private sectors for trailblazing the production of quality jams, aside from improving the center, the services and benefits it extends to student-workers, who are covered by PhilHealth and Pag-IBIG. The Social Security System has also awarded the center as a top employer for North Luzon Division – medium category.

From street fast food to House of Yogurt

What was once a simple fast food store at Km. 4 in La Trinidad, Benguet back in the 1980s is now a successful food establishment that has expanded from the valley to the center of the Summer Capital.

Spouses Danny and Eunice Wong, proprietors of Calajo Restaurant, shared that the fusion of Cordillera dishes, Filipino, and foreign-influenced cuisines is what customers from outside the Cordillera crave for when they visit Baguio or other places in the highlands.

After the successful opening of its restaurant at Km. 6, La Trinidad in 2012, Calajo Restaurant opened its first branch in Baguio in 2016 at the site of the former Mandarin Restaurant along Session, to cater to the growing number of customers lining up for their Cordilleran-inspired cuisines, especially the “tinuno” (grilled pork), a consistent best seller for three decades now since they first opened their small food stall in La Trinidad.

With business showing good prospects, the Wong couple expanded the business by opening the home-inspired House of Yogurt (HOY) Lovers along Marcos Highway, some three kilometers away from the central business district, this time offering recipes that are uniquely Benguet.

Noting the Filipinos’ love for French fries especially among children, Calajo has added locally produced sweet potato called “dokto” among Ibaloys of Benguet, in its menu.

“Instead of offering fries simmered in oil, we now offer sweet potatoes prepared in different recipes, which attract the curiosity of our customers who find it delicious,” said Eunice Wong.

She added that the famous Cordilleran delicacy called pinikpikan has also evolved over the years, and is now offered as sizzling pinikpikan with etag (salted pork).

To help small and medium scale entrepreneurs in various parts of the Cordillera sell their homemade products, HOY has dedicated a wide space on the first floor of the two-story restaurant for SMEs to sell their jam varieties, the famous vacuum-packed etag of Sagada, Mountain Province, woodcarvings of Ifugao folks, and other small products from small-scale entrepreneurs.

“Cordillera products are of high quality and they are sold easily especially if the products are well-presented through quality packaging,” Wong said.

Farmer’s Daughter: An Ibaloy-inspired homegrown resto

Not to be outdone in Baguio’s rich culinary industry is homegrown Farmer’s Daughter, the restaurant with the longest list of Cordilleran dishes in its menu.

Housed in a modernized Ibaloy hut along Long-long-Tam-awan Road, Farmer’s Daughter offers the all-time Cordilleran fave dish pinikpikan, a soup-based chicken dish prepared with salted or smoked pork. They also serve the pinuneg or the Cordilleran-inspired sausage made out of pig’s blood.

The homegrown resto also offers kinuday, the Benguet version of smoked pork or chicken, which is tastier when mixed with onions and bell pepper.

GOOD SHEPHERD PRODUCTS -- Visit to Baguio will not be complete without a side trip to the Mountain Maid Training Center for its “Good Shepherd” products which is widely patronized by people from all walks of life. -- Harley F. Palangchao

Good Taste Restaurant: Chinese-inspired food with a Baguio blend

Travel to Baguio would not likewise be complete without dropping by at Good Taste, the biggest 24/7 restaurant along Otek Street that can accommodate close to 400 persons at any given time.

The atmosphere at Good Taste is always lively as people from all walks of life patiently wait for their turn to get a table for a sumptuous, affordable, and fresh meal at a budget-friendly price. 

The restaurant started along Rajah Matanda Street near the Dangwa Terminal before it opened its huge branch near the heart of Baguio at Otek Street. Today, it is a top choice for many occasions such as birthdays, victory parties, wedding receptions, and similar events that can feed a huge group at an affordable price. So far, no other restaurant in other urban areas north of Manila offers the same generous servings at such affordable prices.

With the vibrancy of the food industry in the Summer Capital, there is no doubt that Baguio is not only a creative city for crafts but also a potential candidate for a creative city on gastronomy.

Serving local, turning global

According to Chinese author Cheng Xiaomin in his article “City of Gastronomy” of Unesco Creative Cities Network: From International Criteria to Local Practice, the “City of Gastronomy” is the typical creative city type which is combined most closely with the local features. The regional food culture all over the world is rich and colorful based on the differences in geography, climate, history and cultural traditions and the gourmet become more and more important elements to highlight the characteristics of cities in the food globalization with the more and more frequent and wide activities of tourism and trade.”

The author added that when dealing with gastronomy as a creative and aesthetic activity, gastronomical culture is derived from people’s day-to-day dietary habits and rituals. It can also be viewed as a creative product of aesthetics.

There’s truth to this statement, as HRAB President Anthony de Leon once said on the occasion of the HRT Week, that the annual event manifests that the culinary and tourism industry in Baguio and the rest of the Cordillera region have already leveled up and are prepared to face the challenges of the fastest growing industries in the country today.

As de Leon once said, those in the food, accommodation, and tourism industry are always being challenged to continuously raise their standards, change the norm, and leave their comfort zones, innovate ways to enhance the tourist and guest experience, while making tourism development sustainable and inclusive, albeit globally competitive.

Baguio’s food industry has been taking such challenge seriously throughout the decades with enterprising individuals and establishments making the industry more vibrant by integrating the rich Cordillera culture and way of life into food preparations lovingly served on their tables.

CHEFS WARS -- The annual staging of the Hotel Restaurant and Tourism Week organized by the Hotel Restaurant Association of Baguio is putting this city in the world map of culinary with experts and students from all over the country converging in Baguio to showcase their talents in various activities such as the food showdown. -- Harley F. Palangchao

Other news
:: The school’s role in shaping young talents
:: Baguio City moving beyond 109 through culture and creativity
:: Designing a creative city for Baguio’s crafts industry
:: Preserving the Ibaloy culture through School of Living Traditions
:: Literature thrives in a city above the clouds
:: What is a Baguio film: A docu in the making
:: Woodcarvers, weavers, & Baguio’s crafts industry
:: Steering policies to sustain Baguio as a creative city
:: Creative Baguio title slips prospects into the creative community’s mind
:: Baguio’s folk and country sounds

PWU Baguio
Technical Education & Skills Development Authority – CAR
University of Baguio

Baguio Central University
Baguio Country Club
Benguet Electric Cooperative Inc.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – CAR
Congressman Ronald M. Cosalan
Department of Health – CAR
John Hay Management Corporation
National Grid Corporation of the Philippines
New Media Services
Pag–IBIG Fund
Pines City Colleges
Sangguniang Panlungsod

Assumption Medical Diagnostic Center
Baguio Center Mall
Baguio Water District
Choobi Choobi
Congressman Mark O. Go
Councilor Leandro B. Yangot Jr.
Curamed Pharmacy
Department of Environment and Natural Resources – CAR
Department of Public Works and Highways – CAR
Department of Science and Technology
Fabulo Beauty and Image Salon
Far East Pacific Commercial
Filipino–Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon, Inc.
Ganza & Solibao Restaurants
Gen. Benjie B. Magalong
GMS Technology
Governor Crescencio C. Pacalso
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan
Mayor Romeo K. Salda
Mother Earth Deli Basket
Nagomi Spa
Narda’s / Sunflower Ridge
Northern Luzon School for the Visually Impaired, Inc.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Montessori, Inc.
Philex Mining Corporation
Police Regional Office – CAR
Regional Development Council – CAR and National Economic and Development Authority – CAR
Regional Tripartate Wages and Productivity Board – CAR
SN Aboitiz
Tony Boy Tabora
Veterans Bank


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