ILOILO has been declared as the “Food Haven of the Philippines,” a new tagline that hopes to attract more markets for the culinary treasures of the metropolis.

Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, in recognizing the uniqueness of the Ilonggo flavors, said "Iloilo as a gastronomic hotspot, offers two of the country’s well-loved dishes -- the La Paz Batchoy and Pancit Molo."

The declaration was made through a City Council resolution authored by Councilor Rudolph Jeffrey Ganzon and which was approved unanimously.

Cuisine and culture champion Chef Rafael "Tibong" Jardeleza Jr., through his passion for cooking and knowledge, has sustained the holding of the now 8th Annual Western Visayas Tabu-an Ilonggo Heritage Cooking Competition since 2014.

This year’s “battle of the master chefs” of 10 teams will be staged at SM City Southpoint on November 26.

Why Iloilo is the country’s food haven?

"Because we are blessed with waters and land, so we have the freshest ingredients. We have a lot of endemic ingredients not only in the island of Panay but all over Visayas. Our food is simple and not so complex. We have an abundance of food; we have different kinds of food that you can ever imagine," Jardeleza said.

Ilonggo cuisine can boast of popular stew called KBL or Kadyos (dark purple beans or pigeon peas), Baboy (pork), Langka (young jackfruit) with batuan fruit as souring ingredient, and laswa, a medley of vegetables.

"In its concern to make the city a prime destination both for local and foreign tourists, declaring it as food haven could pave way for the realization of a sustainable tourism development," the resolution stated.

"This is timely as this will build up the city’s jumpstart of the economy," Ganzon said.

Prior to Covid-19 pandemic, Iloilo City was overflowing with events.

Jardeleza hosted the Flavors of Western Visayas, a two-day Ilonggo Heritage food congress that aims to showcase the culinary perspective through various prominent Filipino cuisine advocates.

Jardeleza also held the Sabores de Visayas, a gala dinner every April, with respected chefs and bakers invited to bring in the diverse flavors of Western Visayas. It showcased an array of sumptuous special dishes that are served during banquets and special occasions in every Ilonggo homes.

This year’s Sabores de Visayas has been turned into a benefit kitchen for 1,200 frontliners in answer to the call of the times.

Another famous crowd-drawer is the Ilonggo Night Market and Street Food Festival, a reinvention that showcased home cooks, carinderias and restaurants with some 100 food vendors and traders selling their specialty products during the festivity. (PR)