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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Philippines wants to put southern Muslim region’s halal cuisine on global culinary map
MANILA: The Philippines wants to promote halal cuisine from Mindanao and put the island on the global culinary map, a tourism official said on Monday as efforts are underway to attract more Muslim travelers from around the globe to the region.
Tourism is a key sector of the economy for the Philippines, an archipelagic country known for its white sand beaches and beautiful diving spots, with the sector contributing nearly 13 percent, or about $44 billion, of the country’s gross domestic product in 2019.
After the global travel industry ground to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Manila expanded its tourism goals to revive the sector and began to position itself as a Muslim-friendly destination.
“We are promoting Filipino halal food, specifically Muslim Mindanao food, because we want more people to go to Mindanao,” Myra Paz Abubakar, the Department of Tourism undersecretary for Muslim affairs, told Arab News on Monday.
The southern island of Mindanao is one of the few regions with a sizeable Muslim population in the Philippines, a minority group that makes up around 6 percent of the country’s 110 million predominantly Catholic population. Many Muslim communities also reside in the Sulu archipelago and the central-western province of Palawan.
“Apart from world-class destinations, Mindanao also boasts of world-class cuisine that cannot be found anywhere else. World-class because it is built off of centuries upon centuries of Islamic history, evolving from family to family, generation to generation,” she said.
“Muslim Mindanao food is a celebration of the Filipino narrative, showcasing each and every vibrant color of Mindanao.”
The Department of Tourism hosted an event last week in Makati City to promote Mindanao cuisine, which was attended by envoys from various countries and served halal dishes made by Muslim chefs.
The menu included the kinilaw, a Philippine take on the ceviche consisting of scallops, sea urchin and Spanish mackerel, and dinilutan a seda, a grilled swordfish with coconut and lime dressing from Maguindanao province, among other delicacies from the region.
For some guests, the culinary introduction was impressive.
“It was amazing. I totally enjoyed the culinary delights, the flavors of Mindanao … I really felt as if I’m in Mindanao tasting the flavors,” Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Abdul Malik Melvin Castelino told reporters.
The Philippine Secretary of Tourism Christina Frasco encouraged travelers to explore Mindanao at the event, hoping that the meal had given people “more reasons to love the Philippines.”
She said: “May the culinary delights of Mindanao that mirror that region’s diverse, vibrant, and brimming with heritage, encourage all of you to … visit Mindanao and to savor Muslim Mindanao’s varied tourism offerings.”
The Department of Tourism’s Abubakar said her office will continue efforts to attract international Muslim travelers.
“As much as possible, we really would like to push for halal tourism,” she said. “It has always been my wish for the Middle East market … to come to the Philippines and visit us.”
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