‘NO ONE LEFT BEHIND’: Mayor vows inclusivity in gastronomy efforts

Food ventures of all sizes, including street vendors, are part of Iloilo City’s effort to bolster its status as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. (Mariela Angella Oladive photo)

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas on Monday assured that the city’s food ventures, regardless of size, will be incorporated into its initiatives as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Creative City of Gastronomy.

The city’s Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) Center will host a ‘Festival of Food’ in April, celebrating its designation by UNESCO in November last year.

The festival aims to establish the city as the culinary hub of the Philippines and will showcase both traditional and contemporary Ilonggo dishes by prominent and emerging local chefs.

Additionally, City Councilor Rex Marcus Sarabia has proposed an ordinance to establish the Iloilo City Gastronomy and Food Industry Development Council.

This council, pending approval, will consist of city government departments and private sector members involved in the food industry, set to oversee and maintain industry standards across the city’s food value chain.

In his regular press conference, Mayor Treñas highlighted the role of gastronomy in driving tourism and affirmed the city’s dedication to promoting its culinary offerings despite potential challenges in water and energy supplies.

The city has plans to implement ‘food carts’ supported by the national government and to create night-time street food markets akin to those found in other countries, targeting small-scale food vendors such as carinderias and mobile vendors.

“[The food carts] will be for the fishballs, for the fried chicken, [and] all of the streetfood. We will also come up with a plan where, like Taiwan or Singapore, there will be one road where all street food will be served. You can eat iwi, isaw, with beer, etc. We will not leave anyone behind,” the mayor said.

Iloilo City joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a City of Gastronomy on October 31, 2023, following a bid that highlighted local culinary traditions, food festivals tied to cultural events, and strict food safety practices.

As part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Iloilo City commits to exchanging best practices, fostering partnerships that enhance creativity and cultural industries, encouraging cultural engagement, and incorporating culture into urban development strategies.

The city’s pledge also aligns with the United Nations’ objectives, particularly the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.