Baguio City

Paella à la Cordillera shines at Baguio’s farmers, fisherfolk celebration

Mia Magdalena Fokno

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Paella à la Cordillera shines at Baguio’s farmers, fisherfolk celebration

CONCERTED COOKING. Chefs help each other in cooking a flavorful rice dish in a 12-foot paellera in Baguio City. Mia Magdalena Fokno/Rappler

Mia Magdalena Fokno/Rappler

Prepared in a 12-foot paellera, the culinary masterpiece served an estimated 800 to 1,000 attendees, offering them a taste of the authentic flavors of the Cordilleras

BAGUIO, Philippines – The Melvin Jones Football Grounds in Baguio turned into a culinary and cultural hub on Thursday, May 30, as the city celebrated Farmers’ and Fisherfolk’s Month. 

The star of the celebration was the flavorful rice meal Paella à la Cordillera, a unique dish featuring indigenous Cordilleran ingredients such as heirloom rice, highland vegetables, kini-ing (smoked meat), etag (cured pork), pinunog (smoked meat sausage), and pinuneg (blood sausage). 

Prepared in a massive 12-foot paellera, the culinary masterpiece served an estimated 800 to 1,000 attendees, offering them a taste of the authentic flavors of the Cordilleras.

Gypsy Baguio head chef Waya Araos Wijangco, who spearheaded the paella project, emphasized the importance of connecting chefs and restaurant owners directly with local farmers. 

CORDILLERA FLAVOR. The flavorful rice dish Paella à la Cordillera, featuring indigenous Cordilleran ingredients, in Baguio City. Mia Magdalena Fokno/Rappler

“When you buy directly from the farmers, you ensure they receive a fair share for their labor. Moreover, we started this because we understood that when you buy in Balintawak, for every P100 you spend, only P10 goes to the farmer. So we hope that projects like this will help people understand that we need to give farmers more for their labor, for their efforts, and we want to increase the number of farmers because our food security depends on it,” Wijangco said.

Dr. Arlene Sagayo, technical director for research and regulations at the Department of Agriculture (DA) in the Cordillera, said the event was in line with a 1989 presidential proclamation which recognizes May as National Farmers and Fisherfolk Month. 

“Our goal is to create a farm-to-table experience that promotes indigenous products and connects the culinary community with the farmers who grow our food,” Sagayo said.

Baguio Councilor Maximo Edwin Jr., the city’s indigenous peoples mandatory representative, paid local farmers and fisherfolk a tribute. “Our heritage is deeply rooted in the fields and waters that surround us. By supporting our farmers, we preserve the values that have sustained us for generations,” he said.

Kalinga Governor James Edduba, who came for the event, said promoting unique grains that grow only in the Cordillera would accelerate the economies of indigenous Filipino communities and expand awareness about the region’s shared culture. 

Chong-ak, he said, is a staple crop grown in his hometown of Pasil, and has been a certified organic food. It is among Kalinga’s unoy (traditional) varieties that the DA’s heirloom rice project is trying to preserve.

Rice for many Cordillera families, like the tinawon, which means “once a year,” planted by Ifugao farmers on the centuries-old rice terraces, is tied to their ritual culture, according to Ronald Calde, Cordillera director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, in a recorded message.

CELEBRATE. Chefs and Department of Agriculture representatives pose for the cameras during the Farmers’ and Fisherfolk’s Month celebration in Baguio. Mia Magdalena Fokno/Rappler

Daniel Atayde, DA assistant secretary for logistics, said the Cordillera’s food growers “are the backbone of the food system” and are essential to the region’s economy as well as the nation’s food security.

The celebration also included an Agri-Serbisyo Fair, crop grafting and marcotting demonstrations, fish deboning and smoking workshops, an animal fun show, and vaccinations against rabies and parvo. The Kadiwa showcase allowed local farmers to sell their produce directly to the public, promoting sustainable and equitable agricultural practices. –

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