Bacolod Inasal Festival 2023, a ‘smoking’ success
DESPITE the threat of monsoon rains and a close shave with one super-typhoon, I flew to Bacolod with the eagerness of reconnecting with a long-lost friend post-pandemic. This beloved city has helped me in my early years as a novice photographer, when my first experience of Masskara Festival in 2007 propelled me into festival photography, and published my works and travels to airline magazines, newspapers and publications.
I frequented Bacolod several times since then... more Masskara Fest, as a guest speaker for provincial tourism officers’ workshop, and when Cebu Pacific launched its Davao-Bacolod flights and Juan for Fun trips. Whenever I am here though, I beeline for Manokan Country, a long row of food stalls, for my chicken inasal and talaba cravings.
Bacolod Tourism Office sent an invitation from Mayor Abelardo Alfredo “Albee” Benitez to a media group to enjoy a three-day festivity on May 26-28 called Bacolod Inasal Festival which underwent a long hiatus from the pandemic. The group included me from Mindanao, Paulo Gee Santos of CLTV36 News Pampanga, Edison Gonzales of The Manila Times, Christopher Navarro of SunStar Pampanga, travel blogger Melo Villareal (Out of Town Blog), Ma. Ria Flor De Fiesta of Pampanga News Now, Ma. Stella Arnaldo of Business Mirror, and Andrea Buan and John Rae Lapuz of Luzon International Premier Airport Development Corporation (LIPAD), the operator and manager of the Clark International Airport.
From the opening day to its last grill showcase, Bacolod Inasal Festival concluded in a peaceful and orderly celebration backed up by almost 600 officers deployed from the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO), Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Coast Guard, Bacolod Traffic Authority and the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.
The three-day festivities hosted nightly food experiences, markets, sugbahan and entertainment in different locations.
Kickoff at the North Capitol Road on day one included beer tasting and pairing with different brews, inasal cook-off, and local guest chefs’ chicken inasal renditions, among others.
The second day featured a Barangay Inasal Cook-Off at the Manokan Country and SM City Bacolod and live cooking demonstration of GMA celebrity chef Jose Sarasola at Ayala Malls Capitol Central.
The Chicken Inasal Awards was held at the SM Atrium to give recognition to the pioneers of this iconic tasty dish as well as announce winners in different categories.
Coast-to-Coast Award went to renowned actor and businessman Joel Torres' JT's Manukan Grille (there’s a franchise in Davao) and Chicken Deli Food Corporation. Tourist's Choice and Vlogger's Choice awards went to the famous Aida's Chicken Barbecue Grill. Three Pioneer Awards were presented by Mayor Albee Benitez to honor Bernadette's Chicken Inasal House, Nena’s 1 Chicken Inasal Restaurant and Velez Grill House. Nena’s Rose Chicken Inasal got the Local’s Choice Award, Bacolod Chicken House Resto Bar for Family's Choice Award, and Galpad’s Inasal for Inasal Sang Masa Award. Other awardees were Barangay Cook-Off winners and Best Chicken Inasal vlog winners - Xhieng Macalalag (champion), Tia Lacson (1st runner up) and Uaekabayan Souq (2nd).
Bacolod Inasal Festival culminated in a record attempt of a 320-meter long grilling station that stretches across well-lighted streets, with three thousand chicken barbecues, and participation of 68 inasal vendors under white tents at Megaworld’s The Upper East on Sunday, May 28. Officials, media, locals and VIP guests from all over joined in on savoring the delicious meals at its closing ceremony. Headrush Multimedia was the organizer of the festival.
Inasal packed meals were earlier distributed to 1,600 beneficiaries, including charitable institutions Home for the Aged, the Boys and Girls Home and the Social Development Center.
Apart from acknowledging the chicken inasal as a cultural property of Bacolod (an SP ordinance was passed this year), the young festival aims to establish awareness of the city and region’s unique Filipino grilled chicken signature dish long praised and now included in the 50 Best Chicken Dishes in the World (4.6 out of 5 rating from TasteAtlas). This event also aims to boost the city’s economy and draw more visitors in future annual celebrations.
Meanwhile, City Tourism’s dynamic team pampered the media with diverse food experiences and a culture hub walking tour which included El Ideal, 18th Street Pala Pala, Bob’s, Art District, Magikland, Lanai by Fresh Start, Slow Food Ark of Taste and a Silay tour, Aboy’s, and Felicia’s late night sweets. Our stay in Park Inn By Radisson Bacolod was wonderful with its quick connecting entrance to SM Bacolod.
Many thanks to former DOT VI RD now consultant Cristina Mansinares, Senior Tourism Operations Officer Jeskah Madayag, Care and Liana for taking care of us, and lively regional tour guides Virna Tan and Raymond Alunan of the Provincial Tourism Office. Good to see old friends again like fellow former TV talent Carmela Gamboa now of PIO, and retired tourism officer Butch Gerasmo, among others.
(Jojie Alcantara is a long-time columnist of SunStar Davao, writes for travel publications, blogs, travels and gives photography workshops around the country. Proudly writing for SunStar Davao for over two decades, in this nest she has grown to become an avid traveler and photographer. Email email@example.com or visit kodakerdabawenya.com.)