Thursday, June 7, 2018

A Taste of the Philippines at Islas Pinas

Savor the rich and vibrant local flavors from all 7,107 islands in one plate, all in one place. Welcome to Islas Pinas...

Discover, explore and experience the Philippines with a fresh palate and perspective at the Islas Pinas Filipino Food and Heritage Park located at the new DoubleDragon Plaza. The impressive project is an inspired collaboration based on a shared vision between the DoubleDragon Group and Margarita Fores, one of the country's premier culinary figures and Asia's Best Female Chef for 2016. It's heritage tourism with a flavorful spin. Read on for a sneak peek at the newest dining destination by the bay...

The massive 2,500 square meter indoor park recreates the diversity and unique flavors of all 7,107 islands in one captivating space. Islas Pinas is a Filipino Food and Heritage Park designed to proudly showcase the Filipino experience from its rich flavors, vibrant culture, and iconic landmarks.

The unique indoor Filipino Food and Heritage Park, the first of its kind in the country, is designed with specific zones and themes to recreate the full Filipino experience. After entering the card-activated turnstile, guests pass through the Vernacular Zone greeted by a full-sized Bahay Kubo, the first of many iconic Filipino images that continue to define who we are. The indoor park weaves in these Filipino icons in a seamless and modern execution, adding to the overall experience.  

And just like the folk song, the Bahay Kubo is surrounded by garden-fresh produce from all over the country. The bountiful harvests reflects our agrarian heritage and one of the foundations of our rich culinary traditions. The wooden crates are filled to the brim with local produce adding a rustic charm to Islas Pinas.

Right next to the Bahay Kubo, green and brown mound-shaped stools with tables recreate the Chocolate Hills while the Heritage Zone features a representation of Vigan's Calle Crisologo. Beside the Panulak Station where beverages are served, guests can view a stylized replica of the Banaue Rice Terraces

Further down Islas Pinas, guests can choose to dine at The Balangay with its distinct sails at the Ocean Zone. At the Ocean Zone or Pampang, guests can enjoy the day's freshest catch and cooked to their preference. Designed for the social media savvy generation, you'll never run out of spots for that perfect selfie or Instagram post.

With five major zones, one area suddenly becomes all too familiar. The local urban street vibe is recreated with a steel pedestrian overpass (L) that serves as an additional seating area with an elevated view of the indoor park. But no street scene is complete without the iconic neighborhood sari-sari store (R)  with its bright red signage.

What can be more iconic than the King of the Road? The Sarao Jeepney is prominently displayed at the Urban Zone of Islas Pinas for that ultimate expression of Filipino creativity. 

And this is where you'll find popular Filipino Street Food at the aptly-named Tusok-Tusok with its colorful street carts. Set up with live charcoal grills, the fragrant aroma of freshly-grilled skewered meats and seafood triggers your appetite...

There's just nothing quite like skewered  meat on a charcoal grill. The park then becomes a sensory experience, drawing you closer to the charcoal grills. But there's a queue forming up, so don't cut in and stay in line. And you can't blame them. Pork Barbecue with its lightly sweet and smoky glaze...

...and even Isaw or grilled chicken intestines are just too tempting to pass up. And that's just for starters. And here's what's literally cool about dining at Islas Pinas, you can enjoy your favorite street food in total air-conditioned comfort.

That day at the wittingly-named Tusok-Tusok Station, freshly grilled seafood (L) and a whole roasted Lechon (R) were served to complete a festive Filipino feast. This was, without a doubt, one of the popular stops at Islas Pinas Filipino Food and Heritage Park.

But there's more, so much more. At the Tusok-Tusok Station, diners can find other Filipino Street Food staples including the popular Fishballs (L) drizzled with a sweet and spicy sauce and Kwek-Kwek (R) or fried quail eggs with that distinctive orange tint.
With enough seating to accommodate well over 700 diners, there's enough room in the expansive space for everyone so bring the entire gang. And if you need to get a bearing on the layout of Islas Pinas, no worries. The friendly staff and security at Islas Pinas is ready to assist you. 

Inside Islas Pinas, visitors can also shop at the Gift Shop (L) for souvenirs and local handicrafts. Then, a large crowd gathered at the entrance of a provincial church replica, as Balut and Taho street vendors served their treats. It's little touches like these that make Islas Pinas special.

A comforting cup of warm Taho, silky tofu topped with tapioca pearls and liberally drizzled with sweet syrup, just takes you back to the carefree summer days of childhood.

Performers clad in traditional costumes then assembled near the stage, ready for their performance. Apart from the wide array of regional culinary offerings, Islas Pinas will also feature modern and traditional cultural performances as well as games for a taste of a Filipino celebration. 

Guests were entertained by cultural performances on the stage beside the Banaue Rice Terraces which served as amphitheater seating for a better view of the show. Live entertainment is just one of many attractions at Islas Pinas Filipino Food and Heritage Park.  

As more guests arrived, the staff garbed in traditional attire made sure you had a warm welcome. Issa Litton (R), the host for the day's festivities, then formally opened the program by introducing the key drivers of the project, starting with the DoubleDragon Group's Chief Investment Officer...

Conveniently located near the international airport and commercial and business districts of the metro, Islas Pinas is perfect for international guests and visitors. Part of a bigger plan within the DD Meridian Park development, Islas Pinas is the cornerstone of the DoubleDragon Group's heritage tourism advocacy. "DoubleDragon has always believed in embarking on projects with relevance. We believe Islas Pinas will be a landmark in the country, and will showcase the diversity not only of our cuisine and handicrafts but also our landscape and architecture brought about by the rich heritage and culture of the country," explained DoubleDragon's Chief Investment Officer Hannah Yulo.

At the helm of the project is one of the metro's noted culinary pioneers and Asia's Best Female Chef for 2016, Margarita Fores. A passionate and long-time advocate of Filipino cuisine, the unique Islas Pinas collaboration with the Double Dragon Group was a timely opportunity to bring a shared vision to life and bring Filipino food to the global stage. "I give my thanks to then Undersecretary of Agriculture, now Secretary of Tourism Berna R. Puyat, for putting me together with the Double Dragon Group, who was looking for someone to operate this amazing Islas Pinas project about half a year ago. This fast-tracked such a blessed opportunity to continue pushing my biggest advocacy - that of helping to promote the best of our country - our cuisine, ingredients, artisan producers, and home cooks from Batanes to Jolo - in the best way I can!"

The successful collaboration is a good sign for even bigger and better things yet to come. The promotion of tourism, and culinary tourism in particular, has been identified as a key priority. Islas Pinas is a step in that direction.

Guest were then invited to a walking tour of the spacious indoor park, with each region just a few steps away. From the classic Spanish-inspired architecture of Vigan's Calle Crisologo to the urban maze of the modern metro, visitors get a feel and pulse of country's vibrant culture in an entertaining walk. 

That short walk can build a serious appetite, so why not start with a traditional Filipino breakfast? At Sinag, all-day breakfast favorites are offered including crispy Danggit... 

...and a wide selection of local sausages from different regions like Vigan Longganisa from up north with its bold garlic notes...

...the popular Negrense Chorizong Hubad from down south...

...and the sweet Cebu Longganisa. Can't decide? Make it easy on yourself and have a piece of everything.

Other breakfast favorites include Pork Tocino or sweet cured pork that's just perfect with garlic fried rice...

...and Daing na Bangus

Down south, breakfast usually begins with a hearty bowl of noodles. In Iloilo, it's the classic La Paz Batchoy for that perfect start.

Tender beef and pork, offals, and crunchy pork cracklings with soft yet firm noodles in a flavorful broth, just can't get better than that.   

Named after the woven basket, Bilao offers comforting noodle dishes like Pancit Malabon, a hearty dish with seafood and salted duck eggs with noodles draped in a rich shrimp-based sauce...

...and Batil Patung, a regional noodle dish from Cagayan Valley with sauteed meat, bean sprouts and egg. The name is loosely translated to mean "beat the egg and place on top," so each serving includes a topping of egg. Each region has their own signature noodle dish, from up north to down south, and Islas Pinas will be featuring many of these dishes.  

Regional savory dishes are showcased at Alamat, where diners can sample local flavors like the Ilonggo KBL, or Kadyos, Baboy, Langka, a comforting and filling soup with pork, pigeon beans and jackfruit...

...the Guinataang Tambo, a thick stew with seafood and bamboo shoots simmered in coconut milk and fresh chili...

...and the spicy Laing from Bicol made with taro leaves cooked in coconut milk, shrimp paste, and fresh chili for that soothing heat. Local produce dictates the regional cuisine, and it's interesting to see how it all plays out from province to province. And you can experience this rich diversity all in one place.

Blessed with bountiful marine resources, Cebu and Davao's Sinuglaw combines grilled pork belly with the local fish ceviche or kinilaw in one dish. The clean flavors of the fresh fish and savory richness of the grilled pork are completed by the sharp notes of chili for balanced flavors.

Southeast Asian influences also enriched the local palate, with Rendang as a mainstream favorite from the south.

The simplicity of Inihaw na Hipon, or grilled prawns, just works all the time with its briny sweetness capped by subtle smoky hints.

Take a nostalgic journey back in time at Panaderya where old favorites from the local neighborhood bakery are revived, from the colorful Pan de Ube, fresh baked rolls filled with sweet purple yam... the indulgent Spanish-inspired Ensaymada (L), a soft brioche topped generous amounts of butter, sugar, and three cheeses and the naughty Kalihim (R) with its bold red filling. And all it takes is one bite to take you back. Perfect with a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

For dessert, diners can enjoy a variety of local rice cakes or kakanin, like Maja Blanca (L) made with creamy coconut milk. Or go back to Panaderya for another nostalgic neighborhood bakery classic, the smooth and rich Egg Pie (R) with its soft custard filling.

At Panulak, you can wash it all down with a variety of refreshing beverages or Samalamig, iced drinks with different flavors. Sago't Gulaman, Mais con Hielo, or Halo-Halo, take your pick. It's all here at Islas Pinas Filipino Food and Heritage Park. 

 And it just doesn't get fresher than this. Chilled and not too sweet, perfect for the summer heat.

They say the best way to know a culture is to experience the local cuisine. From up north to down south, savor the flavors of all 7,107 islands, one plate at a time, in one place.

Innovative, novel, immersive and authentic, Islas Pinas is a fresh new and flavorful take on the Filipino experience. Rediscover the Islas Pinas Filipino Food and Heritage Park by Margarita Fores.

Islas Pilipinas is located at the DoubleDragon Plaza, DD Meridian Park, Macapagal Avenue corner EDSA Extension, Bay Area, Pasay City, Metro Manila.

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