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The Many Food Capitals of the Philippines, Explained

Raising the flag with food.
by Pia Regalado
May 28, 2021
Photo/s: Shutterstock
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President Rodrigo Duterte recently signed a law declaring his hometown of Davao as the country's chocolate capital in recognition of the city's cacao farmers. It's a distinction bestowed by law (or reputation) to many other cities and regions that are know for that one specialty.

Divided by seas and language, Filipinos are united by their love of food, which is often a source of regional pride. It's linked to the pasalubong culture wherein travelers want loved ones to be part of their journey, at least through local specialties.

Reportr rounded up the many Filipino food favorites that are inextricably linked to the places that made them popular. Here are the country's food capitals"

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Tuguegarao City - Pancit Capital

This Cagayan city is home to its favorite Pancit Batil Patung, loaded with beef, monggo, chicharon and an egg on top. With hundreds of panciterias and other establishments in the province serving this delicacy, it earned the nickname "Pancit Capital of the Philippines."

La Trinidad - Strawberry Capital

Some tourists who visit the cool city of Baguio in north Luzon also drop by La Trinidad for its strawberry farm, where guests can pick fresh berries or buy jams and jelly. Strawberry is everywhere from ice cream to taho.

Benguet - Salad Capital

Fresh fruits and vegetables grow in this province located in the Cordillera Administrative Region, one of the main sources of fresh produce in the country.

Isabela - Corn Capital

Known for its golden produce, Ilagan City in Isabela is dubbed the Corn Hub of the Philippines. The Bacao Festival (English: Corn Festival) is celebrated in Isabela every March to honor the fruitful harvest.

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Dagupan City - Bangus Capital

Dagupan City in Pangasinan is best known for its tasty milkfish, earning it the title "Bangus Capital of the Philippines." The province celebrates its thriving aquaculture with the Bangus festival, held every April.

Nueva Ecija - Rice Capital

It's never just rice in the country's major producer of the staple. True Novo Ecijanos can distinguish the variety and the freshness of rice just by smelling it as it cooks in the pot -- from pricey Milagrosa to more mass market Sinandomeng and Dinorado.

Angeles City - Sisig Capital

The ultimate beer chow in the Philippines is the high-cholesterol sisig: all the good parts of a pig's head (snout, ears, cheeks) in one dish. In Angeles City, Aling Lucing is the Sisig Queen. It's so tasty, even celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain can't get enough of it.

Sta. Maria, Bulacan - Chicharon Capital

Chicharon, or crispy pork rinds, can be eaten by itself with vinegar or as toppings to a monggo dish and in Sta. Maria, Bulacan, chicharon is life. It even holds a chicharon festival to promote its chicharon industry. (Carcar in Cebu is also known for its crackling chicharon.)

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Cainta - Bibingka Capital

Folks say Cainta is made of two words that urges you to eat: "kain" and "tayo" (English: "Let's eat.") and one of its precious offering is the rice cake bibingka. Aling Kika's special bibingka is similar to the rice cake biko, but sweetened with coconut jam or latik on top.

Laguna - Buko Pie Capital

Tourists should not leave Laguna without its staple pasalubong: buko pie. Although many claim to be the original buko pie maker, one shop literally calls itself "The Original Buko Pie Bakeshop." Other pie shops, like Lety's or Colette's, also battle for the title of best buko pie.

Batangas - Bulalo and Pancit Lomi Capital

Tagaytay City offers more than scenic views of the Taal Volcano -- it is also home of the best bulalo, or beef shank with bone marrow soup. Pancit lomi, which has thick egg noodles in gooey soup, originated in Lipa, Batangas.

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Cavite and Batangas - Coffee Capital

Coffee lovers from Manila can drive down south to Amadeo, Cavite, called the coffee town of the Philippines where thousands of land hectares produce coffee beans, or to Batangas, world famous for its Baraco coffee made from Liberica beans.

Bicol - Laing and Other Spicy Foods

Foodies who love heat in their food are teased to be from Bicol, where many delicacies are cooked with gata or coconut cream and lots of chili, like laing or Bicol Express.

VISAYAS

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Negros Occidental - Sugar Capital

Negros Occidental, also called Sugarlandia for its cane plantations, is the destination for dessert lovers. In its capital city of Bacolod, almost every corner houses a bakeshop -- such as Bob's, Felicia's or Calea -- or treats stores like Bongbong's for its piaya and barquillos, a testament to its sweet reputation.

Iloilo - Batchoy Capital

Feel the warmth of the Ilonggos with every slurp of the famous pork-based noodle soup Batchoy, made with sliced pork meat and innards. It is served all over the city, and even in its neighbor Negros.

Capiz - Seafood Capital

From prawns to crabs to mussels to fish, Capiz has it all, earning it the title "Seafood Capital of the Philippines." It boasts a vibrant fishing industry, which means seafood is available all year round.

Guimaras - Mango Capital

The sweetest mangoes in the Philippines call Guimaras its home. Despite high demand for fresh mangoes from the province, its also yields other tasty treats, such as dried mango strips and jams. It also holds the Manggahan Festival to celebrate its golden produce.

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Cebu - Lechon Capital

The most popular celebratory food in the Philippines is lechon, and no place does it better than Cebu. Even Bourdain called the roasted pig delicacy "the best pig ever."

MINDANAO

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Davao City - Chocolate and Durian Capital

Home to the renowned Malagos chocolate, Davao City is officially the chocolate capital of the Philippines following President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration. The president, a Davao native, also branded the entire region as the cacao capital for being the biggest cacao producer.

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Davao is also home to another sweet (albeit smelly) produce: durian. The stinky, thorny "king of fruits" is a must-try for tourists and locals.

Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat - Halo-halo Capital

This municipality in Sultan Kudarat knows how to chill the right way -- with the Pinoy favorite halo-halo. The tasty treat made of several sweet ingredients such as nata de coco, banana, sweet monggo, gulaman, langka topped with ice, milk, and sometimes ice cream and ube is made more special in Esperanza, where residents hold a halo-halo festival during April.

General Santos City - Tuna Capital

General Santos City is home to many Filipino greats: boxer turned senator Manny Pacquiao, Miss Universe Philippines 2011 Shamcey Supsup-Lee, and high-quality tuna. The city south of Mindanao is near tuna-rich waters and tons of fish land at its ports. Six of the country's eight tuna canning plants are located here, making the Philippines one of the largest manufacturer of canned and produced tuna in Asia.

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