On Saturday 27th of March 2021, the Slow Food Community of Negros Island, the Department of Tourism of the Philippines and Slow Food International launched an exciting new project focused on agrobiodiversity and cultural mapping and building public and stakeholder awareness of the provinces of Western Visayas.
This new project also gains inspiration from a very active six (6) months during Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, where the Slow Food Community for promoting and preserving traditional foods in Negros Island, Philippines, organised over 15 local events with a focus to raise awareness of local food biodiversity and culture in partnership with the Department of Tourism Region 6. They have taken measures to secure that they can continue this important work.
“Our Terra Madre activities this year made us realise how rich our culinary traditions are. We want to share it with the world and also make our fellow Filipinos appreciate what we have. Slow Food Travel will allow us to do this”, stated the President of the Slow Food Community, Ms Doreen (Reena) Gamboa. Reena continues by saying that, “talking to the farmers at the Pop-up Earth Markets will make consumers understand and realise how man and nature are connected and that this relationship must be nurtured. Learning that there are different produce available locally will lead the consumer to be curious about the connection between food and food producers, food sources and one’s culture. This is what we want to further develop with this new project, linking the local farmers and communities directly with the consumer, whether a local, a chef or a visitor to Western Visayas, shortening the supply chain and broadening the experience so both farmers and consumers benefit from that direct exchange.”
It was at the second Pop up Earth Market in Bacolod, organised by the Slow Food community, that they launched the new project that they will lead. The project is called “Food and Tourism for Rural Development in Western Visayas” with an objective to improve the understanding of local agrobiodiversity heritage and food system and how this capital can be linked to sustainable travel in Western Visayas.
“For the Department of Tourism in Western Visayas, Slow Food Travel is one of the new tourism products that we prioritize as a part of the region’s tourism rehab and recovery plan. We envision that opportunity to revitalize the local economy by promoting inclusive, innovative, sustainable, resilient and engaging tourism experiences through this collaboration”, states DoT Region 6, Chief Tourism Operations Officer, Cristina Mansinares.
Sufficiently robust and vibrant food systems, in fact, have the added benefit of generating essential income through the increase in national and international tourism. A vibrant food system will definitely act as an added incentive for international or domestic tourists. Domestic tourism is just as important as international tourism however as it enables and promotes a transfer of money from the cities to rural areas and from richer to more vulnerable areas nationally. The increased economic benefits associated to tourism are by no means limited to the direct actors of the food system but rather are shared amongst all the stakeholders in the area. This also serves as a potent incentive towards retaining rural livelihood models and helps to counteract the gradual displacement of people from rural to urban areas.
The nine-month project is to conclude with a feasibility study and road map to develop a Slow Food Travel for Western Visayas, including selected sites, based on high quality agrobiodiversity products and local gastronomic heritage will be provided.
To support the Slow Food Community in implementing the project, a Project Management Committee has been created and held its first meeting including representatives from the SF Community, Slow Food, the Department of Tourism Region 6 and the Department of Agriculture and the Central Philippines State University.
The Project Management Committee agreed that the co-operation and support of the university and government agencies would be critical for the success of the agrobiodiversity and cultural mapping and offered the Slow Food Community their full support. In short, the mapping is to identify the history, the stories, the gastronomic traditions, the artisanal flavours and the time-honoured practices that have been preserved by men and women whose identities and cultures have evolved over the centuries in Western Visayas.
This work has already started with the twenty-three (23) Ark of Taste products having been identified in Western Visayas, including the Batuan, the Darag chicken, Kadyos beans, Kamias, Luyang Dilaw, Tingib Visayan white corn to name a few. Each product is uniquely connected to communities and places with their own stories, traditional farming/fishing techniques or practices and traditional gastronomy.
Ramon Uy Jr mentions, “through our Terra Madre activities we have rediscovered how diverse our food and culture are and how rich our province is in agrobiodiversity. We are all very excited to show the world what we have to offer. Through this project we will be able to strengthen our position and the Slow Food network and hopefully someday realise our dream to become a Slow Food island.
It will be these discoveries and more that make Western Visayas a unique destination different from the other 7600 plus islands of the Philippines.