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Earning distinction

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Congratulations to Iloilo City for having earned the distinction of being the first city in the Philippines to be included in the list of creative cities for gastronomy by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Our neighbor from across the Guimaras Strait was recognized among 54 others worldwide by the Creative Cities Network or UCCN, a flagship city program established by UNESCO in 2004.

In a statement, UNESCO said that “new cities were acknowledged for their strong commitment to harnessing culture and creativity as part of their development strategies and displaying innovative practices in human-centered urban planning.”

Iloilo City had thrown in its bid to be designated as UCCN’s creative city for gastronomy back in 2021, and announced it is the country’s official candidate in May 2023. Other creative cities for gastronomy were Battambang in Cambodia, Chaozhou in China, Fribourg in Switzerland, Gangneung in South Korea, Herakleion in Greece, and Nkongsamba in Cameroon.

Mayor Jerry Treñas said the recognition marked the city’s commitment to harnessing culture and creativity as part of its development strategies. “I share this award with the Ilonggos, like me, who love to cook our Ilonggo food. Now, we can be proud to say Ilonggo cuisine is taking the stage in the international gastronomy scene,” he said.

Treñas earlier said that the city has a rich culinary heritage, highlighting the unique flavors that make it a gastronomic haven. “From traditional favorites to innovative creations, our vibrant food scene reflects our commitment to culinary excellence,” he added.

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco praised Iloilo City, adding that the tourism department will launch the “Philippine Experience” program in Western Visayas this month.

As Negrenses rightfully congratulate Iloilo City on their momentous achievement, many will cannot help but be left wondering why we weren’t able to it instead. After all, being our usual competitive selves, we like to tell ourselves that our cuisine should be at par, if not better?

As we try to be happy and support the well-deserved accomplishment of our neighbor from across the strait, let us also take this opportunity for self-reflection, because if we did more than just huff and puff and tell ourselves that our cuisine is the best, we surely could have qualified for the same international distinction. The big difference was that the people of Iloilo put in the work to earn it from UNESCO, not just through their cuisine, but also by quantifying that it is actively harnessing culture and creativity as part of their development strategies and urban planning.

If we want our cuisine, tourism, culture, or any of the things that make us stand out to be distinguished in the international arena, and not just our minds, the public and private sector will have to work for it.*

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