Bernardo M. Villegas
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Gastronomical Tourism

          The Spanish economy is now in crisis mainly because of the collapse of the real estate sector and the construction industry.  It may take time for these two drivers of growth to recover.  From what I experience in Spain during my two-year stay as a Visiting Professor at the IESE Business School in 2007 to 2008, three sectors that can survive the ongoing crisis are the three of the four F's that I have singled out as the sunrise industries in a consumer-oriented economy:  Food, Fashion and Fun.  The fourth F, Furniture or Furnishings, may have to take a back seat because demand for this consumer durable is highly correlated with demand for housing, which is the hardest hit by the recession in Spain.

          Spanish fashion goods like Zara and Mango are now globally traded.  Madrid and Barcelona continue to be fashion capitals of Europe.  Fun, which is basically tourism and entertainment, continues to be a buoyant sector in sunny Spain, especially now that prices have become more reasonable.  Northern Europeans cannot resist the allures of the beaches, climate and culture of Spain.  There are still many more foreign tourists in the country than Spaniards in any given year.  The item that is the object of this article, however, is food.  Spanish food and wine are even more irresistible than sand and sun.  A reading of the trimestral publication of the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) will give Secretary Ramon Jimenez of the Department of Tourism and his staff some more ideas about how to stress the truth "that it is more fun in the Philippines."  Concretely, it is more fun to dine in the Philippines. The ideas contained here are found in the January-April 2012 issue of Spain Gourmetour.

          There is no question that one of the major legacies of Spanish gastronomy in the Philippines is the so-called "turron."  From the original turron made of almonds, we learned to make turron made of cashew, pili, and peanuts.  In its original form turron (Spanish nougat) is the heart and soul of the Spanish Christmas season.  It is a delicacy that has existed in places like Jijona in the province of Alicante and neighboring Valencia.  It is typically made from honey, sugar and almonds and shaped into large rectangular tablets.  Through modern marketing, it has gone beyond the Christmas season and is sold all year round all over the world.  As described in the magazine Gourmetour, "the exact origins of turron are unknown.  It was most likely introduced by the Moors, whose gastronomy included many sweets made with almonds and honey.  Nowadays, turron might be made with a variety of toasted nuts, such as almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts and walnuts  or incorporate things like candied fruit, chocolate, caramelized yema (egg yolk) marzipan, liquor, and sesame seeds, among others.  Its texture can be hard, soft, crunchy, crumbly or creamy, and even the shapes and sizes of certain formats are evolving from the traditional rectangular tablets or round tortas to new smaller portions."

          Turron is only one example of a delicacy that attracts people to Spain.  We know of the paella from Valencia, cuchinillo (roast piglet) in Burgos, jamon jabugo in Andalucia, crema catalana in Catalunya and many other regional delicacies.  This should inspire our tourism people to package more versions of the Viaje del Sol that Patis Tesoro developed in Southern Tagalog on the basis of restaurants that offer different specialties in the provinces of Laguna, Rizal, Batangas and Cavite.  This route has also evolved into a cultural treat to the tourists (especially the domestic ones) who are introduced to various historical monuments like Catholic churches, cottage industries (as in Paete for woodcarving and Lumban for barong tagalog) and natural wonders like the rapids of Pagsanjan and the seven lakes of San Pablo City.

          The same approach of gastronomical tourism can be developed in Central Luzon, especially in many towns of Pampanga and Bulacan, two provinces that are well known for Filipino cuisine.  In fact, Bulacan has a thriving food processing industry that produces the so-called Tatak Bulaqueno brands of a variety of sweets, snack foods, and beverages unique to the province. Cebu has its lechon, chicharron, dried mangoes and other gastronomical delights as Western Visayas (Iloilo and Negros Occidental) has all types of unique seafood products (like diwal) and baked goods (like the piyaya).  In the Ilocos region, there are the famous bagnet and pinakbet, among others.  In my home province, Batangas, there are bulalo and the cafe barako.  I am sure that an exhaustive listing of gourmet products from other regions (such as Bicol, Leyte and Samar) can be crafted by travel agencies and other tourism bodies that can focus on "gastronomical tourism" in the Philippines.  To parallel the "Viaje del Sol" concept developed by Patis Tesoro and company, a Spanish phrase can also be used to describe the route of gourmet attractions: "Viaje de las Comidas." For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.