Whether they’re rooted in religion or in culture, Philippine fiestas have one thing in common—the abundance of food! No wonder the country celebrates hundreds of them all over the archipelago each year.
While the fiesta menu depends on where the fiesta is being held (expect strawberry-inspired in Baguio’s Panagbenga Flower Festival, Lucban longganisa in Quezon Province’s Pahiyas Festival, and ripe mangoes at Guimaras, Iloilo’s Manggahan Festival), there are also the staple treats that complete the Filipino fiesta experience.
My Pope identifies three dishes that are givens of any Filipino fiesta:
What’s a fiesta without lechon (roast pig)? Described by many as the centerpiece of any celebration, lechon—its crispy-crunchy red-brown skin and juicy, tender meat—is a given of gatherings big and small. An influence of our Spanish colonizers (the name itself comes from the Spanish word for milk), lechon is wood or charcoal-roasted and prepared several ways. The two most popular are Lechon Luzon, (which is seasoned with salt and pepper and best enjoyed with a gravy-like lechon sauce) and Lechon Cebu, a pig stuffed with herbs and spices and roasted over charcoal with coconut husks.
Another fiesta must-eat, pancit are stir-fried noodles topped with chunks of meat, seafood, veggies, hard-boiled egg, sauce, herbs, and other ingredients, making it a meal in itself. Chinese in origin, pancit has about as many variants as there are provinces in the Philippines. Popular ones include pancit bihon (rice vermicelli cooked with meat and veggies), pancit canton (noodles prepared chow mein style), pancit lomi (thick egg noodles served in a soup), pancit Malabon (which gets its orange color from achuete), and pancit sotanghon (made with glass or cellophane noodles).
Yet another fiesta favorite, fruit salad provides a sweet ending to a savory meal. One of the easiest desserts to prepare, it involves mixing canned fruit cocktail, condensed milk, and cream. For Pinoys, this means adding local tropical fruits like bananas and coconut (either shredded or nata de coco style). However way you prepare it, make sure to serve it cold!