Expo 2015 and Filipino Food: An Opportunity Slowly Slipping Away

A lot has already been said recently about Filipino food and how the world reacts to it, so I won’t be covering much of that issue here. What matters I suppose is that, in spite of what foreigners think of our local delicacies, we have an opportunity to show the world that our food has the potential to become the best of what it can be, if we only knew how to exploit such a potential.

As a matter of fact, within the coming year (2015), a huge opportunity to showcase what Filipino food can be has been slowly building itself up, away from the glamour-ridden immediacy of the Philippine worldview. However, with what I’ve been seeing so far, even that opportunity is slipping away.

The Universal Exposition, more popularly known as Expo, is set to be held in the city of Milan in Italy this 2015, from 1 May to 31 October. The six-month Exposition’s theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” Timely, given the state of our 7-billion strong human population. As of this writing, 147 nations have pledged to join and present to the world their own ways on how to feed the planet. For some reason, despite its vast natural resources, the Philippines is not one of these 147 nations.

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Detractors would claim that the country still has more than a year at this point to sign up and represent. Given how the Expo is on par with the Olympic Games in presenting a nation on a global level, having the Philippines sign up late (or even not at all) would personally be a huge embarrassment. Many of the 147 nations that have so far committed to participate in Expo 2015 signed up as early as 2011. If indeed Filipino food is palatable and unique as many claim, wouldn’t it be reasonable to sign on at the earliest possible time for a global stage that specifically showcases food?

The Philippines’ participation in previous Expos could be said to be sort of okay at best; the Philippine pavilion in the previous Expo in Shanghai (2010) resembled a silver bayong, or handmade bag, which I thought didn’t quite exude the overall theme of being in a “Better City, Better Life.” Compared to those of other national pavilions, the Philippine pavilion was easily overlooked. Back in 1970, however, the Philippine pavilion in Osaka’s Expo was one of the most spectacular based on its sweeping architecture and imposing sail-like shape:


Since then the country’s pavilions (along with our participation) have become less imposing. Those of other countries with less economic clout on the other hand have become more impressive and memorable, leaving a visual imprint on visitors the best of what a culture can show. The Philippines couldn’t apparently even host a minor Expo; citing economic constraints, Manila withdrew its right to host after it won the bidding to host the 2002 Expo.

Digression aside, is the Philippines capable of presenting the best of its delicacies to the world in an appropriate time and place? Expo 2015 in Milan is waiting; and yet here we are, a supposed East Asian powerhouse of biodiversity, unable to get over the butthurt of foreigners reacting to our food. There has never been a better time and venue to prove that Filipinos are capable of improving the quality of its food, if only we were to at least sign up. Now.

By the way, both Vietnam and Thailand, supposedly economic equals to the Philippines, are now busy constructing their Expo pavilions.



Malaysia already has a full documentation of how their pavilion would present food sustainability, and even Cambodia already had a similar concept ready as early as 2012. Our ASEAN neighbors are more than willing to showcase in Expo 2015 how they could sustain our planet’s food supply, despite their own unique culinary preferences. So, Philippines, is your food worthy of international admiration? Prove it by joining Expo 2015. No excuses.

(Expo 1970 Philippine Pavilion photo courtesy of designKULTUR. Expo 2015 Vietnam Pavilion photo courtesy of Inhabitat. Expo Milano 2015 on Facebook hosts the photo of Expo 2015 Thailand Pavilion.)

25 Replies to “Expo 2015 and Filipino Food: An Opportunity Slowly Slipping Away”

  1. Here are the major complaints against Filipino foods.
    1. Many of them have too much sugar (bread, mayonnaise and spaghetti for instance)
    2.The meat has a lot of the trash parts still in it, gristle and connective tissue and bone.
    It is left out to reach room temperature rather than being served hot.
    3. Pork (lechon) is not cooked long enough
    4. Beef is overcooked
    5. Hot dogs NEVER belong in spaghetti

    1. That reminded me of something i saw on internet a while ago – reproduced below

      ” The filipino gourmet
      1.You put hot dogs in your spaghetti.
      2.You consider dilis the Filipino equivalent of french fries.
      3.You think that eating chocolate rice pudding and dried fish is a great morning meal.
      4.You order things like tapsilog, or tocilog at restaurants.
      5.You instinctively grab a toothpick after a meal.
      6.You dip bread in your morning coffee.
      7.You refer to seasonings and all other forms of MSG as “Ajinomoto.”
      8.Your cupboards are full of corned beef, hash, spam, and Vienna Sausages.
      9.”Goldilocks” means more to you than just a character in a fairy tale.
      10.You appreciate a fresh pot of rice.
      11.Your baon is usually something over rice.
      12.You bring baon to work everyday.
      13.Your neighbors complain about the smell of tuyo on Sunday mornings.
      14.You eat rice for breakfast.
      15.You use your fingers to measure the water when cooking rice.
      16.You wash and re-use plastic utensils and Styrofoam cups.
      17.You have a supply of frozen lumpia in the freezer.
      18.You have an ice-shaver for making halo-halo.
      19.Your tablecloths have tell-tale “tuyo circles” on them
      20.You eat purple yam-flavored ice cream.
      21.You gotta have a bottle of Julran handy.
      22.You fry Spam and hot dogs and eat them with rice.
      23.You think half-hatch duck eggs are a delicacy.
      24.You know that chocolate meat “isn’t really made with chocolate”
      25. You dream of porky the pig – or if perverted, porking the pig”

      Source – internet

  2. It has been almost ten years since I gave up all pork for health reasons. You don’t realize how much pork Pinoys ingest in their everyday existence until you do something like that and realize how much eating you are excluded from. Besides how many times are you eating pork and someone says have more , it’s good for you?

  3. If you love to travel; you can sample the foods of different countries.
    I have found that each country, has a unique way to prepare and cook its food. Germans are known for their sausages. Italians for their Pastas (spaghettis), with lot of cheese and olive oil, on their food. Mexicans are known for their chilis…(“sili, “siling labuyo”). French is known for their escargots (edible snails). Chinese for their stir fries. British for their organic spices. Japanese for their Susi. Spanish for their lechon de leche.
    Wine goes with each kind of food. One kind for vegetables…another kind for meat…another kind for fish…I love French cuisine. I love their wines…I love also Danish pastries…

    Philippine food are a blend of Spanish and Chinese cooking.
    You can cook these food, just by going to your computer search engine. If you cannot afford to travel. Ingridient; ways for prepare and cook these foods, are available in Google Search….Don’t be a bigot. Sample foods, from every country. They bring unique taste and beauty of their own.

  4. The Philippine Pavilion for Expo 2005, in Aichi, Japan; and Expo 2008, in Zaragoza, Spain, won the Gold Prize. The former goes with the theme of coconuts being a versatile resource, while the other goes with aquatic life.

    Maybe the Philippines has a shot – if whoever organizes our entry pushes the envelope in making, at least, a note-worthy concept and design.

  5. We have many Architechs or Architechtural Students…concept designers. Maybe the concept design can be fururistic/modern facade that will blend with inner dwsign native to our country…

  6. ‘Put your food where your mouth is’

    Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, traditional filipino cuisine has a limited appeal to many international travellers ( a review of tripadvisor/lonelyplanet etc would confirm that) – and the country is generally not a great inspiration to chefs, unlike thai, vietnamese, chinese, and obviously japanese, but I agree the issue is not to have a meaningless p!ssing contest, but to apply the principle – ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’, and to develop the industry as appropriate, highlight excellence where it exists, take advantage of opportunities, create dishes which excite, and strive to improve at all levels, as many other countries have done over recent years to great effect/benefit.

    The question is whether the philippines has the will to improve and adapt, particularly in the mid price range, which tends to be where most tourists focus, or whether filipinos are too blinkered to do anything about it, too ‘proud’ to even acknowledge/recognise the problem, and also whether the apathy of the department of tourism simply continues to both miss out over time on the possibilities of increased business/jobs/tourism, or to act as a contributory change agent within the culinary/food sector, which obviously extends beyond restaurants alone, to the whole supply chain.

    Mon dieu! – the philippines is not even a member of The World Travel and Food Association ( WTFA). This is what happens when you put incompetents in charge of tourism. They really have no clue about the industry, or customer needs, are not businessmen, and certainly do not have the creativity to come up with new initiatives, or maybe, as i suspect, they just don’t really care, are devoid of passion for the job and are purely interested in their own personal gain.
    So, no surprise that Expo 2015 is another missed opportunity.

    The country needs a different approach to attract tourists than a lacklustre advertising campaign. Mon jiminez is a simple advertising guy and is too insular and inexperienced for the job, and certainly not a strategic thinker by all accounts.

    The philippines also has the worlds worst airport food throughout the country – run no doubt by san miguel subsidiary, and the food courts in malls – a dog’s dinner!

    Countries such as australia and ireland used food as one of the central strands in their tourism promotion last year which proved very successful, and culinary tourism is now becoming a major segment in its own right. Whilst the philippines cannot currently compete at that level, it can over time at least improve, learn, develop, and take action.

    The first step is to take a step back, and apply critical analysis, without fear or favour, and listen to ‘customers’. The second step is to do something, rather than endless trips/seminars/meetings etc. There is no such thing as a free lunch – except in DoT where it is seen as a perk of the job.

    But back to the essence. I have been to a number of culinary schools in the philippines, and many produce excellent trainee chefs, but the point which immediately comes to mind is that the training is heavily, sometimes exclusively, geared towards cooking international food from the outset, and few, if any, train people to be restauranteurs. Many of the chefs learn by ‘rote’, rather than experimentation, so that the mechanics may be there, but often the passion isn’t.

    I fully understand that the courses are geared towards the student chefs going on to cruise ships, working abroad, or in international hotels, however from the perspective of national food it leaves filipino cuisine languishing as an also ran in global terms, since there are few chefs who not only champion national cuisine, but more importantly who do not have the creativity to develop it. That in itself is self incrimination, and a vote of no confidence.

    In the UK it took two brothers from france – albert and michel roux – to change the palate of the whole nation and its attitude towards food. Now a whole brigade of english chefs such as gordon ramsay who was trained by albert, marco pierre white, jamie oliver, and arguably the worlds best chef and master of molecular cuisine – heston blumenthal -, have taken up the baton, and continue on the quest for excellence and innovation, which has a ripple effect at all levels.
    The philippines needs serious chefs if it is to be taken seriously, and should consider a new style of filipino fusion cuisine, traditional dishes de-constructed etc., and peoples passion for food needs to be re-invigorated. Sustainable produce, farm branded/sourced products, healthy options, garden restaurants, tasting menus, wine pairings, gluten-free are just some of tge global trends and is tgerefore part of tge mindset which tourists bring with them.

    And irrespective of market segment/price point, the over-riding principle is that standards must improve across all facets of food production, nutrition, hygiene etc. for the benefit of all.

    Dining out is always about the total experience, even more so for tourists/holidaymaker – quality, presentation, service, decor/environment, value etc.
    And any chef worth his salt will tell you that you are only as good as your next meal, and that each service starts with a clean slate, but must end with delighted customers. There is no excuse, or room, for mediocrity, whatever part someone plays in a restaurant – executive or sous chef, waitress, or dishwasher.

    Food/customer tastes change over time and how dishes can be in vogue one year, but out of fashion the next, and new trends change the fundamentals, such as ‘farm to table’ becoming more popular, recipes becoming healthier, fusion cuisine catering for new demands, and the constant search for new ingredients/combinations. Travellers and diners want new experiences, but will not sacrifice quality. Less is more – good taste and less waste.
    And organic – more delicious , highly nutricious – less suspicious.

    Most of the best restaurants in the philippines are run by foreign chefs, and the best hotels managed by foreign GM’s. That is a black mark on the industry as a whole, but even where the food is good, the wine selection is appalling, and the country must also move away from buying cheap ‘bin ends’, be more selective/knowledgeable, and again from a business point of view start to educate and encourage potential customers.

    Apart from a clear strategy, a co-ordinated structure, and stakeholder involvement, there are a myriad of practical initiatives which could be examined/undertaken, ( even at a regional level, exempt from the inertia and bureaucracy of DoT) – e.g.
    using jeepney adapted/designed food/travel trucks in selected tourist areas/events, home and abroad ( expo 2015!),
    co-operative marketing on a regional basis ( food passports – a cooks tour),
    angel investors ( food sector),
    DTI advice/support for current/new restaurants ( ‘success on a plate’ ),
    free iphone/android app for tourists ( IT students to develop),
    culinary school students guest at local hotels/restaurants,
    pop-up restaurants,
    culinary tours/cooking lessons,
    local cooking competitions in malls, restaurants to sell more local produce ( i.e deli),
    Tapas/tapas style
    New filipino sauce – ‘7107’ sauce
    restaurants to market souvenir food items, food art/posters etc
    farmers markets,
    local press to run regional restaurant of year competitions ( multiple categories),
    start up finance packages,
    short term training at restaurants abroad/partnerships,
    development/farming of new crops/foods, the great filipino menu ( the best of the best) – tv programme/contest with the winners of each course eventually serving the complete menu once at a major international event/dinner/ASEAN meeting etc
    visiting/guest chefs etc, etc.

    The list, and opportunities, are endless, but the challenges also daunting. Kitchen nightmares on a national scale. The ingredients for success – diversity, quality, creativity, a love of cooking, respect for the ingredients, a passion for excellence, the desire to delight customers, and an inquiring mind which is eager to learn and innovate.

    Must go. Time, tide, and a souffle wait for no man.

  7. If ever Philippines joins this, I hope they won’t present dishes like dinuguan, papaitan, pinakbet and bopis. These are mediocre dishes at best and it takes an acquired taste to like them. No matter how much you try, there will never be a gourmet version of them.

    1. To be more specific, Expo 2015 is more focused on how a nation can feed its people by by improving (or at least without compromising) the quality of its food. Like I said, Expo 2015 is the perfect opportunity for Filipinos to prove that they can do better with what they already have.

  8. problem with the food is PESO’s, not enough of them and the quality suffers.
    The answer to the question is undoubtedly:YES.

  9. Well that is the perfect venue to place those butthurt’s so–called ‘Pinoy Pride’! Our food is great,then show it at the Expo 2015! The annoying thing with some butthurt Filipinos, they’re so easy to get angry at anyone who criticizes them, no matter how objective and unbiased the opinions of those people. And when the right time comes for them to prove that those people are wrong they wither and shut-up on a corner and cry foul and use social media together with their ass-kissers army to defend them. Daym, pathetic, another one of those government’s ‘last two minutes’ shots eh?

  10. I just read that one of my all time top 10 chefs is opening/going into partnership with a culinary school in taguig – alain ducasse – surprising to me, but a great boost and opportunity for aspiring chefs in the philippines – if any of them stay here after training!
    His restaurant – jules verne – in/up the eiffel tower in paris is a wonder to behold/enjoy.

  11. Couldn’t resist thinking about my top 10 chefs from all the michelin restaurants i have been to. it has been a life-long pursuit of pleasure/hobby.

    Roger verge – cuisine de soleil – moulin de mougins – a stunning restaurant in a beautiful village high above Nice, south of france. My introduction as a child to the good life.

    Albert roux – the godfather of french cuisine in UK – le gavroche, ( the Queens favourite restaurant) – and a dynasty of chefs – brother michel and his also his son michel – more 3 michelin stars at the waterside, bray, which is next to

    Heston blumenthal – the fat duck – worlds best restaurant/chef – willy wonka of the kitchen. Be amazed.

    Marco pierre white – my old shooting buddy, and youngest ever 3 star michelin chef. Pompous and bombastic, but a heart of gold.
    Many a happy day, and drunken night. Trained gordon ramsay. Mmmm.

    Alain ducasse – the disciple of roger verge. A legend.

    Raymond blanc – classic french in an english manor house – perfect combination. Le manoir aux quatre saisons, in a tiny village – great milton near oxford. Another good reason to study at oxford.

    Thomas keller – the french laundry – good chefs/restaurants exist in the US, but am not a fan of napa valley wine. ( special mention – sunday buffet at the plaza new york – central park – enough food to feed a nation, but such a great setting)

    ‘Las vegas’ – a lot of celebrity chefs, and great food, but not the right setting/clientele. Worth it once for the experience.

    My father – (not a chef, but a bon vivand, who taught me/exposed me to excellence/quality/style from a very young age as he and i travelled the world, and as i have always done since – over 80 countries and counting)

    The thousands of other great chefs who strive every day to produce great dishes and happy customers

    Regrettably i have never eaten, yet, at ferran adria’s el bulli, barcelona – but hopefully will when/if it re-opens. I think he is currently planning an academy in new york. ( schools/acadamies are all the rage as chefs seek to leave a legacy and spend less time actually cooking – and more in tv studios/endorsements – not good), but he is a culinary and creative genius. Shame more people cannot taste his food. Re-open!!

    1. You know what’s funny about this? Someone else here on these comments sections claims to have traveled around the world tasting other countries’ food, and yet can’t make a list like yours.

      So much for his “KETCHUP SPAGHETTI IS TEH BEST!!11~!” spiel.

      1. My top 10 of restaurants ( mainly french) which i have visited in philippines.

        La vetta – CDO – Small, modern, french cuisine. A real surprise/find in cdo ( ?swiss/austrian masterchef married filipina from cdo, hence location). Truly Excellent.

        Cafe 1771 – ortigas. My favourite of the 3, but all high standard – sentro 1771, chateau 1771

        Champetre – bonifacio – a very nice small traditional french restaurant/bistro tucked away from the main drag

        Casa vallejo – baguio – nice renovation of historic building. Food ok. arts/jazz events – with nice little bookshop attached ( cafe by the ruins, also worth a visit – i even bought their filipino cookbook)

        Claudes – davao – the archetypal/irrepressible frenchman (but 30+years in philippines) also in a renovated historic house – his daughter was on the apprentice asia, but her restaurant soon closed!
        ( davao also has the expensive japanese influenced, the white house – excellent desserts, and another great restoration – no expense spared. great potential but can lack atmosphere)

        Sofitel – manila – champagne sunday buffet – a treat and a bargain (all the champagne you can drink). ask for the french champagne which they tend to hold back/hide under the counter. Swim before lunch, not after!

        Cork wine room – boracay – a small oasis of hospitality.

        The goose station – bonifacio – chef pengson. Well regarded and innovative, ( molecular cuisine and degustation menu), but i reserve judgement. Maybe overated, or maybe i just went on an off-night, or maybe spoilt by heston blumenthal’s standards.

        The banana leaf – a small chain, ( only tried 1), but kudos for a good formula ( mixed asian), good value, and pretty good food. (Mesa also does well)

        (Antonios – still to try, but looking forward soon to ‘the culinary pride of the philippines)

        Bon appetit

    2. Announced today
      “The best 100 restaurants in the world
      revealed – and Heston Blumenthal gets
      mentioned twice!”
      Daily mail

      Bravo heston, and the Fat Duck.
      See you when i am back next month.


      Good to see le gavroche, le manoir aux quatre saisons, and the waterside also riding high, and naturally, alain ducasse.

      Congrats to all.

  12. i don’t think thailand economic is equals to philipines thailand is better i when to thailand for one time there are have everything we don’t have like beautiful road and railway skyscraper most of them are rich now no poor people 98% no slum since 2012 GDP is 11600$ per capita everything in thailand is go forward but philipines is stuck in same thing in my opinion

    1. I’m surprised that some Filipinos seem to think their country is on par with (or even better than) Thailand, India and other Asian countries that actually deserve the label ‘developing.’

      All those countries were probably on an even footing a few years ago, but while they are improving the Philippines has remained at square one, or perhaps minus one.

  13. I can’t believe Philippines haven’t signed up yet!

    I really hope they will still join this global Expo and showcase the many products Philippines should be proud of. …not much in the gastronomy, but the vast range of products the filipino land can produce.

    It’s a great opportunity to share with other countries technology, innovation, culture, traditions and creativity related to food.

    Let’s go Philippines… let’s feed our minds!

  14. PH will officially NOT be joining Expo 2015. THIS SUCKS!

    And for all the wrong reasons, I might add:



    “The next party is the Milan Expo 2015 (1 May-31 October); but we won’t be there.

    “PENNY WISE, POUND FOOLISH? The Milan Mayor’s office said we didn’t sign up; and CITEM confirmed that killjoys in the Aquino administration decided not to participate because of budgetary reasons.”

    Welp, it only proves that when an opportunity for showcasing what’s good about the Philippines presents itself, the Aquinos would always put a damper on the party.

  15. I am reluctant to criticise Filipino cuisine, it is your country, your culture, it’s what you grew up with and know. However, I have to agree that the food here is BLAND and UNHEALTHY. There is no doubt that in SE Asia, it is the least flavoursome in a region that elsewhere explodes with flavours and excitement. Filipino food knows nothing of spices that exist in all the other nearby countries…for god sake I can’t even buy coriander here, a staple of all other SE Asian dishes.I don’t know why this is the case, it must go back a long way and who do we blame? the Spanish, the Americans, the isolation of the Philippine islands, I wish I knew. Perhaps I can back this up with the fact that so few Filipino restaurants exist overseas…..I am Australian and eaten in literally hundreds of restaurants in Sydney and never once have I ever come across, let alone tried Filipino food there….they just don’t exist. Sorry to say that even the restaurants here that claim to be Indian, Vietnamese, Thai are all a pale example of the real thing.

    By the way ‘Libertas’ are you Filipino and living in the Philippines? If so, how do you survive the food here?

  16. FILIPINOS HATE FILIPINO FOOD .. 2nd generation Filipinos do not like FILIPINO DISHes.

    My Pinay GF took me to a Filipino restaurant in Florida to New Jersey and in Brooklyn. WHAT I NOTICED THERE ARE NO 2nd GENERATION FILIPINOS THERE TO EAT !!! It holds true, too, in AUSTRALIA to ZIMBABWE !!! No 2nd Generation Filipinos go to their restaurants to eat !!!


    Why are the 2nd Generation Filipinos not eating Filipino dishes and NOT SPEAKING AND UNDERSTANDING THEIR NATIVE LANGUAGES? WHY?

    I HAVE THE answers but not telling fans for now.

    So, If you are a Filipino in Sydney wanting to hit on Filipino men&women of 2nd Generation do not go to Filipino restaurants because you cannot find any. And if you already have one do not bring him or her to Filipino restaurants.

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