pagkain (as food, and also sustenance)

I’ve just returned to Toronto from a week in beautiful Prince Edward County, holed up in an off grid cabin along Adolphus Reach in the town of Picton. I tease my boyfriend that he has now turned me into a wine snob – three of the last five days have been spent cycling along the county’s wine route, hopping off our bikes every few kilometres to sample an incredible array of reds and whites, falling deep in love with the crisp finish of County Cider’s delicious apple ciders and the diversity among local winemakers’ Pinot Grigio wines, produced from grape varietals that thrive in this region of Southern Ontario.

Just before we left for this trip, Iain and I attended NextDayBetter Toronto, followed by the first seating of Yana Gilbuena’s SALO Series pop-up dinner at The Depanneur. Eating with our hands, kamayan-style, we enjoyed bringhe (a Philippine version of paella) made with black rice and topped with milky, head-and-tail-on shrimp, plump baby squid and a halved century egg; oxtail sisig, bursting with the unctuousness of stewed, sauteed oxtail in soy sauce and aromatics, shredded and so savoury with a hint of capsaicin from chopped finger chilies; slices of balimbing, known in North America as carambola or starfruit, dusted with sea salt; kalderetang itik, or duck stew; callos, a dish composed of beef tripe simmered in a sweet pepper, chorizo and chickpea-laden tomato stew, bursting with umami in every bite paired with a piquant olive relish; and for dessert, Yana’s mais con hielo inspired turon, with freshly shucked kernels of sweet Ontario corn.

The last week has gone by in a blur of delicious food and drink!

Despite the gustatory excitement and vacay fun of the last 7 days, however, I find myself sitting here still feeling like there’s something I need to do. Today I read a blog post from Gelaine Santiago of, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at last week’s NextDayBetter event.

Perhaps it’s a bit of a siren call that I desire, along with many others I’ve met through NextDayBetter, to learn more about ourselves by understanding the challenges and opportunities faced by the Filipino diaspora worldwide.

“What I learned more than anything that night is the beauty and power of storytelling,” Gelaine shares. “And more importantly, of vulnerability. By being open about our fears and hopes and dreams, we unconsciously allow others to do the same.”

After meeting Yana, Carl of MeriendaTO and the food presenters at NextDayBetter Toronto, I’m encouraged to continue research on regional Filipino food and its history, in the little ways I can.

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