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A Love Letter to the Kapampangan Taste

By Euwan Mosuela

“The true magic of history lies in connections. The true magic of history lies in its relevance.”

These words by Ambeth Ocampo set the tone of warmth and nostalgic appreciation for food and cooking at the 1st International Conference on Kapampangan Cuisine and Food Tourism at Holy Angel University (HAU) on March 21.

In partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry Pampanga (DTI-Pamp) and hosted by the Center for Kapampangan Studies (CKS), the 2-day conference featured historians and scholars, chefs, and heritage experts, all talking about the inherent love of food that Kapampangans are known for.

“The event was conceived as a celebration of Kapampangan Cuisine and to proclaim its goodness, uniqueness, and its originality,” said CKS Director Robert Tantingco. “But we shall do this not at the expense of the cuisines of other regions and provinces.”

‘A Culinary Heartland’
Tantingco added: “We do not reject “culinary capital” because that would be ungrateful to those who use it to describe us, but we wholeheartedly embrace culinary heartland because that term compels us to look at our Kapampangan cuisine in a different light.”

Throughout the event, the guest speakers talked of the history of and the relevance of Kapampangan cuisine.

One such guest, Chef Claude Tayag, went on about the history of Kapampangan crops and livestock and their relationship with Spanish Trade during the early days of the Castellan Occupation, which was a point of pride for the Pampangos of the era.

Similarly, Augusto “Toto” Gonzales went into the history of “haute cuisine” of the Kapampangan upperclass during the Spanish era, referring to many Spanish, French, and other European dishes as having inspired much of the Kapampangan cuisine.

Taste of the Kapampangan
A Trade Fair was also organized as part of the conference, in collaboration with DTI-Pamp, featuring all 20 Kapampangan municipalities alongside Angeles City.

Each municipality is known for specific food, like Sasmuan with their sweets or Arayat with their chilli oil and mulberry jam. The municipalities and cities all were equipped with their own stalls to showcase their goods,.

As both the plenary session and the Trade Fair took place, there was also a live cooking demonstration at HAU.

History in the Making
One such speaker at the event, Clang Garcia, a member of the World Food Travel Association, detailed the importance of recording our dishes—from the traditional to the personal, as a means for tourism.

“Gastronomy Tourism,” she said, “is a journey to the soul of food, geography, culture, and history of a destination through immersive experiences.”

When discussing sharing cuisine, Chef Tayag said, “Ang pagkain na walang kwento ay walang kwenta” (Food without a story is without purpose).

Being that it is the first event of its nature, attendees hope for similar conferences to be held in other regions in order to explore their culinary heritage and expand it as a tourist attraction in itself.