By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

Food tourism

“Every country can be defined through their food … That’s the soul of a country “ -Quincy Jones

A couple of days ago, I had an opportunity to go to one of Taipei’s famous Michelin rated restaurants that specializes in various types of Taiwanese beef noodle soup. Located in one of the city’s food districts, Tian Xia San Jue offers one of the best versions of the classic Taiwanese meal.

While savoring their signature dish, I noticed that a lot of the patrons that night were mostly tourists that really went out of their way to find this place. It is a scene that is repeated in many restaurants in Taiwan. Other than visiting the normal tourism sites, people often come to Taiwan to try the cuisine. Night markets, hole in the wall food shops, and upscale restaurants are often filled with people from all over the world eager to try their favorite dish. Clearly, food is now a significant factor when visitors decide to come to Taiwan.

In recent years, local food and beverage are becoming the main motivating factors for travelers to visit various destinations all over the world. Spurred by streaming food shows like Somebody Feed Phil and food vloggers, people are now scouring the earth for that perfect food trip. This phenomenon has led to the development of gastronomy or food tourism.

Gastronomy tourism allows a country to promote its food and cuisine and in turn boost the local economy and even its agriculture. This environment and infrastructure for this kind of tourism is actually easier to develop. Also, the appeal for food is universal. Not everyone likes theme parks, beaches, museums and other tourist sites but almost everybody loves to eat.

Other than a driving factor for tourism, food can be a window to a destination’s culture and traditions. Ingredients and preparation for food often reflect rich backstories about the place. Take the Taiwanese beef noodle for example. It is said that this warm concoction of noodles (I like the thin ones), braised beef, onion and slow simmered broth evokes memories of home and family. It is a dish cooked in many ways. It has a rich history dating back from ancient times. Old timers in Taiwan can often tell their own stories about this dish.

Given the rising popularity of food tourism, our country should ramp up its marketing for Philippine food. During a meeting of the Private Sector Advisory Council’s Tourism Sector held in Malacañang last January, the participants stressed the need to really promote our native cuisine as one of the ways to further boost tourism. Unfortunately, the rise of foreign fast food and franchise restaurants even in the provinces are fast driving many of our native cuisine places out of business.

I have nothing against our fast food places. However, I find it sad that when some kids are asked by foreigners about their favorite Filipino food they inevitably point to a hamburger. Perhaps, it is time to make a community effort to really promote our food.

This is my oblique observation.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.