Circumnavigation of Faith and Food


CULINARY MAP Festival in the Serin Mall in Tagaytay promotes food from different regions.

Last week Filipinos saw shine on the world stage, standing for justice, leadership, peace and creativity.

Maria Ressa received her Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. While the title of the award says peace, their acceptance of the award meant justice for journalists everywhere who refuse to be shut down or shut down.

In Israel, Marian Rivera is a judge for the Miss Universe competition. Although this has traditionally been referred to as a beauty pageant, I think this platform evolved to represent the empowerment and leadership of women.

In Bahrain, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, presided over the consecration of the new Cathedral of Our Lady of Arabia on December 10th. While he is the face of faith, I like to think that he was the face of peace at this event as a home of Christians was celebrated in a predominantly Muslim country.

In Paris, head chef Myke “Tatung” Sarthou received not just one, but two Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. “Simpol The Cookbook” won in two categories: Celebrity Chef – World and Simple Recipes at Home. Although it is a “Simpol” cookbook, it represents the creativity of Filipinos in the culinary field, a new spectrum of flavors that world gourmets and foodies can discover and enjoy.

We have come a long way as Filipinos since we were “discovered” by Ferdinand Magellan and this first crew who really became our first publicists and promoters in the world. As the theme of 500 Years of Christianity is, we are now the ones to shine our light around the world after the Philippines is a destination of mission. And also in different areas!

I gave a lecture on this for the Ministry of Tourism on Friday. Under the title “The Circumnavigation of Faith and Food” this was for the Kain Na: Traveling Flavors Expo by State Secretary Verna Buensuceso. Here are some excerpts:

Search for spices

Some of you may know that this year, 2021, will mark 500 years since the arrival of the Spanish explorers in the Philippines under the leadership of Ferdinand Magellan, whose expedition landed on the Philippine coast on March 16, 1521. Magellan was actually a Portuguese naval officer, but when King Manuel I of Portugal refused to support his plan to reach the Maluku, or Spice Islands, by sailing west around the American continent. He suggested this instead to King Charles I of Spain, who accepted it. King Charles I appointed Magellan commander of the Order of Santiago, one of the highest military ranks in the Spanish Empire, and in 1518 he was appointed Admiral of the Spanish Fleet and command of the Armada de Molucca expedition that served over South America to the Spice Islands and acquires exclusive “European rights” to spices.

Magellan’s expedition consisted of five ships and 265 men. Magellan, as you may know, was killed in the Battle of Mactan in Cebu in April 1521, but one ship – the historic Victoria – made it back to Spain, on its way back, commanded by Juan Sebastian Elcano, and was the first to succeed the World circumnavigated the world.

The first thing that struck me from my readings is that this conquest was also a creative suggestion for better access to commodities, i.e. finding an alternative route to the Spice Islands known for nutmeg and cloves, which aroused interest in Europe. This is probably why Antonio Pigafetta, the chronicler who documented everything about the Magellan Expedition, so carefully noted every agricultural product they encountered.

The first baker

With Magellan there was a priest named Fr. Pedro Valderrama, chaplain of the expedition. I mention this because the introduction of faith and food in the Philippines are very closely related. It was he who introduced the Eucharist to the natives at the first Easter Sunday mass in Mazawa or Limasawa.

I asked myself: Was there bread on the islands before the Spaniards came?

Let’s take a look at the Pigafetta Chronicles:

March 18, 1521.… “We saw a boat with nine men in it coming towards us”, who presented: “Fish, a jug of palm wine, which they call uraca [i.e., arrack], Figs more than a palm long [i.e., bananas], and others that were smaller and more tender, and two coconuts (sic). At that time they had nothing else, but gave us signs with their hands that they would bring umay or rice and coconuts and many other foods within four days. “

On Good Friday the king came and gave “three porcelain jugs covered with leaves and filled with raw rice, two very large orades”. … “The king brought in a plate of pork and a large jug of wine. We drank a cup of wine with every bite. “” Two large china bowls were brought in, one with rice and the other with pork and sauce. “

There was no talk of bread, but of the Eucharistic celebration on Easter Sunday:

“When the body of our Lord was exalted, they stayed on their knees and worshiped him with clasped hands. The ships fired all their artillery at once as the body of Christ was raised after the signal was given from the shore with muskets. After the mass was over, some of our men took communion. “

I interviewed the priests of Limasawa in the Archdiocese of Maasin as we were celebrating 500 years of Christianity and asked how Fr Valderrama made sure that they still have the Eucharist after two years on the boat?

Ms. Mark Vincent Salang in Limasawa replied that, as we know, it didn’t necessarily have to be the host, but unleavened bread baked on site.

We don’t know if this art of bread making was passed down to the natives in Homonhon, Limasawa, or Cebu, where the Magellan’s expedition passed by, but it makes sense that the pandemic should be the closest thing to Portuguese bread in its form, Pao Alentejano with natural yeast prepared and with a slightly sour aftertaste. It also makes sense that another similar bread can be found in Mexico called bolillos, likely a result of the Manila galleon.

Galleon trade

Elcanos successful circumnavigation of the world back to Spain paved the way for another expedition in 1556, this time under King Philip II. Led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, this expedition landed on the island of Cebu on February 13, 1565. He also established settlements in Leyte, Camiguin, and Bohol; with Martin de Goiti they found the islands of Panay and Mindoro. Later, in 1570, they arrived in Manila. In fact, it was Legazpi who ordered the construction of the walled city of Intramuros in 1571, making it the seat of the colonial government and the capital of the islands.

An Augustinian monk, Fray Andres de Urdaneta, accompanied Legazpi and planned an eastern route across the Pacific Ocean, from the Philippines to Acapulco, which was later used as the Manila galleon trade route for more than 200 years. They recorded foods from Spain, including salted pork, salted beef, some Spanish oil and wine, rice, and mung beans (a local pulse). We heard about cocoa from Mexico, while we exported Asian fish such as dalag as well as coconut wine and coconut vinegar (tuba).

Eggs and Santa Claus

Later other orders arrived in the Philippines: the Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits, and the Recollects. With these orders came the building of Spanish churches. Fun fact: These churches are based on food, especially protein, which workers used as an emulsifier in concrete to make the churches “more durable”. A type of mortar known as argamasa was made from the egg white.

Even Manila Cathedral, according to records, was sealed not only with bricks, but also with a layer of lime and duck eggs in 1780. It was common knowledge that eggs combined with lime, sand, water, and a few other ingredients would make mortars.

The women quickly realized that a lot of egg yolks were being wasted and began developing recipes to use them. This is how delicacies such as Leche Flan, Tocino del Cielo and Yema were created.

Another famous delicacy that uses egg yolks is the Panecillos de San Nicholas, also known as Pan San Nicolas or Saniculas – religious biscuits shaped in the image of Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, an Augustinian Recoleto known by his blessed, bread soaked in water had the gift of healing. The Church and Monastery of San Nicolas de Tolentino in Bagumbayan, later relocated to Intramuros, was the seat of the Augustinian Order until it was badly damaged by American bombing in 1945 during the Battle of Manila in World War II. It was here that they began the Augustinian custom of blessing and distributing the St. also many interesting recipes from the Spanish. This was surely a great blessing of the circumnavigation of not only belief but also food! And as a Filipino, I am so proud that our Kababayans radiate the Filipino brand of light and love to the world. Mabuhay!

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