TARLAC’S 142ND ANNIVERSARY FETE FEATURES FOOD FEST, AGRI-TRADE FAIR
The OPAG had a permanent 465-square meter crop demonstration section constructed as part of the agriexhibits, which ABC used for its Edible Landscape demo. The exhibit featured vegetables like upland kangkong, lettuce, pechay, arugula, mizuna, and celery, and various culinary herbs like basil, mint, oregano, coriander, and dill. The celebrations also offered a four-day Food Festival and five days of an Agri-Trade Fair where most of the province’s 17 municipalities and its capital city exhibited and sold their products at their respective booths, THE CENTRAL LUZON province of Tarlac recently celebrated the 142nd anniversary of its founding at Ma. Cristina Park at the grounds of the Provincial Capitol in the capital city of Tarlac. The Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG) and vegetable seed and crop care company Allied Botanical Corporation (ABC) partnered in presenting the celebration’s agricultural aspect, Tarlac being predominantly agricultural. Tarlac’s principal crops are rice and sugarcane. It ranks next to Negros Occidental Province in Region 6 (Western Visayas), the nation’s sugar capital, as the crop’s producer. But the province is also emerging as the leading producer of white and yellow corn in Central Luzon. Coconuts and vegetables are also becoming major commercial crops. Fruit trees abound in Western Tarlac, which has a hilly to mountainous topography. The towns of Capas, San Clemente and Camiling have mountains, while all of Mayantoc and San Jose municipalities are mountainous.
Through the OPAG, ABC is a major supporter of the provincial government’s food production programs, with its focus on boosting the production of vegetables, especially the green leafy ones and the pinakbet varieties and other short-term crops, for augmenting the incomes of rice farmers and the nutritional intake of the local people. The province’s leading vegetable producers are Capas, La Paz, Tarlac City, Paniqui, San Jose, and Victoria. All the other towns also produce quantities of fruits, vegetables, livestock, and fish from aquaculture in ponds, waterways, lakes, and reservoirs, because the province is landlocked by Pampanga on the south, Nueva Ecija on the east, Pangasinan on the north, and Zambales on the west.
OPAG-ABC used the Ma. Cristina Park gazebo beside the crop demo section where the Edible Landscape exhibit was as the gathering place for the farmers and other visitors to the agri-exhibits. The OPAG displayed bananas, mango, papaya, white corn, sweet potato, and singkamas produced by Tarlac’s farmers, while ABC displayed lettuce and watermelons, packets of vegetable, herb, watermelon, and sweet corn seeds, and crop care products, of which many visitors availed themselves.
An ABC technical services staff member assisted by the company’s agronomists for Central Luzon prepared lettucesalad tomato offerings topped with ripe mango slices from fruits supplied by the OPAG, and two kinds of salad dressing. The fresh salad was a hit among the visitors during the first two days of the food fest. On the second day, the OPAG and ABC had as special guests the candidates of the Mutya ng Lalawigan Pageant, who happily partook of the fresh salads.
The Agri-Trade Fair, which showcases the best products of the province, is one of the strategies that the provincial government has adopted to make Tarlac a contender in drawing investments in agriculture, commerce, and tourism, and to encourage more Tarlaqueños to engage in agribusiness.
In the Agri-Trade Fair, the municipal booths sold vegetables like squash, sitao, ampalaya, eggplant, okra, hot and pansigang pepper, and tomatoes; fruits like mango, papaya and banana; and root crops such as camote, singkamas, ginger, and onions. Other booths offered processed products such as rice cakes, banana chips, camote chips, ube chips, muscovado, squash and malunggay noodles, smoked fish, salted duck eggs, pork chicharon, and even organic native pig lechon.
On the first day of the Food Festival, there was a culinary competition among the food preparers from nine towns and Tarlac City who cooked up innovative freshwater fish-andvegetable-herb-and-fruit viands for a panel of six food experts who stood as the contest judges. The contestant localities had to prepare their viands with only tilapia, dalag, and hito as their main ingredient. A side contest for the Pampango favorite condiment called buro or balao-balao was also held.
In the tilapia category, Anao town took first prize while Gerona and Tarlac City won second and third, respectively. Gerona ran off with the first prize while Victoria and La Paz settled for the second and third prizes, respectively, for the dalag category. In the hito category, Pura municipality won the first prize, with Tarlac City and Gerona copping the second and third places, respectively. The first prize winners received cash prizes of R5,000 each, second placers R3,000, and third prize winners R2,000.
In the buro contest, the winners were Gerona (first prize), Tarlac City (second), and La Paz (third).
The culinary competition among the province’s localities continued up to the food fest’s last day, giving the celebrants the opportunity to taste the various innovative gastronomic preparations of the participating towns and city. A major television channel’s popular morning program even featured the competition’s winners and their dishes.
Tarlac has fine cooking to offer because it is the “Melting Pot of Central Luzon.” The cooks and eating places of the province offer some of the best cuisines from the ancestral places of its settlers from the provinces of Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Pangasinan and the Ilocos region. The most multi-cultural of the Central Luzon provinces because of its mixture of settlers— including the Chinese—has resulted in a wide array of viands, appetizers, and delicacies being available, from the simple but mouth-watering pinakbet of the Ilocanos, the sisig of the Kapampangans, the chicharon bagnet and inuruban rice cakes of Camiling, and the kinalting buko of Victoria and Gerona, to the offerings on the menus of restaurants in the province.
The celebration’s theme was “Ganda at Galing—Natural Tarlac.” Tarlac is Central Luzon’s ‘youngest’ province because it was the last to be established under the Spanish Colonial Administration, which carved it out on May 28,1873 from the upper northern part of Pampanga and southern Pangasinan. Tarlac was thus originally a part of those two provinces.
The provincial observance of its 142nd year of founding included a Provincial Road Cycling Championship, a sportsfest for Capitol employees, cultural and variety shows, an Asenso sa Negosyo Tarlac Conference, and the Mutya ng Lalawigan beauty pageant. – TONY A. RODRIGUEZ