“Fresh” is the operative word here. Fresh seafood. As in just plucked out of the sea a moment ago and cooked before your very eyes. Freshly slaughtered suckling pig roasting in a pit of hot coals. Fresh vegetables. Harvested just a few steps away. Some garnish the seafood; some are processed for salads and side dishes. Fresh fruit. A local picks them off the bushes, shrubs or trees and ably adds these to the growing menu.
We are going to have a fiesta. In these parts, fiesta is a vital component of celebrating life. What seems like a growing cacophony of food preparation activity is actually an orderly exercise in merrymaking. It is the lifeblood and the tradition of these islands.
These are the Philippine islands. Home to a warm and hospitable Filipino people. And if there is anything Filipinos love to do, it is to eat well. Compared to many other nationalities worldwide, Filipinos share the peculiar reputation of celebrating the small and big events of their lives with food. To them, food is indispensable as a means of merrymaking. It seems well entrenched in the national psyche that good food; processed and handled and served well, is every homemakers status symbol. It is a widely held belief that a self-respecting Filipino will go to great lengths to transform the humblest of food into something special at the dinner table.
Native cuisine is often an eclectic mix of Chinese, Spanish, American, and local food reflecting influences from their neighbors, colonizers, and trading partners. The staple food is rice, fish, and vegetables, but pork and chicken is also popular. Each region of the Philippines is justifiably proud of its local specialties which take advantage of the dazzling range of fruits, vegetables, fish, and meats available. But let us focus on Bohol’s restaurants and its unique seafood festival.
Scenic and historical Bohol Island is a popular tourist destination located among the cluster of Visayan Islands in south-central Philippines. It is home to some spectacular dive sites that attract international divers who very often take up long-term residence here. Add to this the seasonal tourist, the resident mix-blood whose ancestors traded with or colonized the islanders, the local migrants, and the islanders themselves, and you get a picture of a Bohol island which is peopled by a merry mix of nationalities, all of whom have their own food tastes and preferences. This gives rise to a clientele for a wide variety of restaurants in Bohol which cater to every need, want and budget.
Yet most Bohol restaurants are no different from that which is typical to the Philippines or from similarly situated tourist destinations throughout the world. Even the mildly unique restaurant structures that are set partly on land and partly on the shallows of the beach are typical in many coastal tourist destinations. Fresh catch may be the operative word here, but that is true in most all quality restaurants throughout the world.
But what is unique to Bohol restaurants is the sheer variety of fresh catch and the price for which they can be had. A recent World Bank publication and the United Nations Development Program have cited a good number of marine resources scientists who claim that the Philippines is at the center of the world’s marine fish biodiversity. That study rings most true in Bohol which is situated at the center of the Philippine islands. The sheer variety of fresh catch at near bargain prices. This allows for a seafood festival unique to Bohol restaurants.