Cebu’s ‘puso’ takes center stage at United Nations Gastronomy Tourism Forum

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Cebu’s ‘puso’ takes center stage at United Nations Gastronomy Tourism Forum

PUSO. The traditional Filipino hanging rice takes center stage with dignitaries and officials from the national government and the United Nations Tourism on Wednesday, June 26.

Department of Tourism - Philippines

Puso, also known as 'hanging rice,' is cooked by boiling rice in a woven pouch crafted from palm leaves

CEBU, Philippines – Cebu’s iconic puso or “hanging rice” took the spotlight from a plethora of Filipino delicacies at the first United Nations (UN) Tourism Regional Forum on Gastronomy in Asia and the Pacific in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu on Wednesday, June 26.

Puso, also known as “hanging rice,” is cooked by boiling rice in a woven pouch crafted from palm leaves.

Known for its intricate preparation method and cultural significance, puso has become a symbol of Cebu’s rich culinary heritage, cherished both locally and globally.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Christina Frasco said during a press conference that there is a need to promote Cebu’s puso, alongside other renowned dishes such as lechon, chorizo, and ngohiong, to attract global attention. 

“We are focused on ensuring that the craft of puso making doesn’t die down and continues to gain attention from the world,” Frasco told the media.

Frasco added that the Cebu provincial government has been conducting various livelihood programs and support initiatives for puso makers and vendors to help preserve the puso as a “food heritage.”

Gastronomic destination

The DOT said that the event aims to make the Philippines a gastronomic destination and a platform for collaboration for international culinary experts.

UN Tourism Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili pointed out that the Philippines is the first to hold such an event, adding that among their criteria in choosing the host country include its demographics and prioritization of gastronomy tourism.

Frasco also asserted that the government has been doubling its efforts to address the country’s food security issues. Data from the Social Weather Stations (SWS) in the third quarter of 2023 show almost 1 in 10 families experienced involuntary hunger.

“We are in constant collaboration with our partners on the grounds as well as supporting our community based organization to reduce poverty incidence especially in our emerging and lesser known destination,” Frasco said. 

Best practices

Chef Vicky Cheng, a UN Tourism Ambassador for Gastronomy Tourism, encouraged members of the culinary community to value the local elements that set their food apart.

“To promote anything, it must be done naturally. It needs to be something you love,” Cheng said during a talk.

At his restaurant in Hong Kong, Cheng shared that he incorporated the use of the 24 Solar System, a traditional Chinese calendar system, which he claimed helped determine their menus by the season.

Cheng added that he also makes use of local brands like Wing Lee Wai, a 140-year-old business that offers premium Chinese liquors, as a way to pay homage to homemade food producers.

“If we don’t celebrate it in the restaurant, our younger generation will never know about it,” the chef said.

In another talk, UN Tourism Ambassador Chef Margarita Forés asserted that the youth must be included in the promotion of gastronomy tourism. 

The chef used the example of Cordillera rice which garnered renewed interest after members of the culinary community pushed to increase its demand.

“The next generation did not want to plant rice anymore…that’s why the chefs really pushed for Cordillera rice and it became [in demand] again. The sons of the farmers who had second thoughts then became interested in planting rice once more,” Forés said. – With reports from John Sitchon/

Ian Peter Guanzon is a Rappler intern from the University of the Philippines in Cebu.

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