Abu Dhabi: Filipino expatriates flocked to the Pistang Pinoy (Filipino feast) in celebration of the 114th Philippine Independence Day in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, three days ahead of the celebrations back home.
The Philippines commemorates its independence from Spain’s colonial rule every June 12.
The three-day cultural event at the Sheraton hotel, called Filipino Fun, Food, and Fibre Exhibit, was organised by the Bayanihan Council, the umbrella group of Filipinos in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. It is part of the month-long independence day celebrations in the emirate.
Mabuhay Rondalla, a group of Filipinos who play stringed instruments such as the banduria and rondalla, serenaded everyone with traditional music. A collection of works by Filipino painters provided the perfect backdrop.
“This is how you come to a barrio [town] in a fiesta [feast] — music and fun, which is what the Philippines is all about,” said Grace Princesa, Philippine ambassador to the UAE.
And not to leave out the sense of touch and taste, Princesa directed everyone’s attention to the main part of the exhibit — the abaca fibre, which is intrinsically Filipino and is exported to countries worldwide, including the UAE.
“The abaca, or Manila hemp, is the strongest natural fibre in the world,” Princesa said.
“And they say it represents the Filipino. I thought we should only feature what’s the best in the Philippines, what is organic in the Philippines.”
Princesa turned and told the crowd: “Filipinos, remember: we are the abaca — strong, resilient, exceptional.”
No Filipino celebration would be complete without the authentic food served at the Flavours restaurant.
Celebrity chefs from the Philippines were flown into Abu Dhabi to prepare the special dishes as part of the first Filipino Food Festival in the UAE.
“Often, Filipinos have this misconception that Filipino food won’t sell or won’t appeal to others,” celebrity chef Sharwin Tee told Gulf News.
“I don’t think any of that is true. Filipino food when presented properly, cooked properly is at par with the world.”
Sheraton general manager J. Thomas van Opstal said: “This is just the first time but we’re doing this and we would like to hopefully expand it.
“We would like to do this as a yearly event to showcase more items from the Philippines because there’s a lot of things that people are not aware of produced in the Philippines.”
For next year, organisers are already planning to invite the Malacanang chef, who prepares the food at the official residence of the Philippine president.