Articles: The Joy of the Journey Call 'Linamnam' Leave Your jaguar (and Comfort Zone) Behind
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The Joy of the Journey

Called 'Linamnam'

Manila Bulletin
December 17, 2011, 12:16am

MANILA, Philippines — If there are two things that bring Filipinos together, it is the Christmas season — and the promise of a good meal.

Family reunions involve either the holidays, food, or both. And surely for any host or hostess, being lauded for the scrumptious feast they’ve prepared is a compliment of the highest order.

But in between the queso de bolas and the hamons, in the week between the noche buena and the media noche, has anybody ever wondered about the stories contained in every dish that we eat? Why do we eat the food that we do? And why do we eat it that way? It was these questions and more that foodie couple Claude Tayag and Mary Ann Quioc sought to answer in the book “Linamnam: Eating One’s Way Around the Philippines”.

A collaboration that took up the better part of four years, “Linamnam” is a food guidebook, designed by Ige Ramos, featuring over 200 recipes, descriptions and history  per region, phone numbers and addresses of restaurants, definitions of culinary terms, and chapters on different kinds of longanisa, okoy, pancit, tamales and popular homegrown bottled sauces .

“This little big book is not about my darling Mary Ann and me. It is about all of us, from whatever corner of the country we may come from.

After all, ours is an archipelago of 7,100 islands, and it is only natural we will have regional differences,” says Tayag. “The past four years or so, Mary Ann and I literally ate our way around the country in search of the proverbial Holy Grail and in this culinary travel guide book, not only do we hope to lead the reader to the best eats but we also want to show the whys and hows of what makes each dish unique and outstanding.”


Chronicling and studying the different cuisines of an archipelago made up more than 7,000 island is a dauntless task, and Quioc admits as much in her introduction to the book. Once her husband came up with the idea for “Linamnam” she admits to being unable to share his excitement about the project.

“My mind was racing, and I thought I would miss my work and home terribly. As he talked, I was computing the expenses and lost opportunities. And when he said we would spend for all our airfare, hotels, meals, as he did not want to compromise the integrity of the book, I almost fainted,” she relates. Obviously, the project pushed through despite Quioc apprehensions and misgivings. On trips all over the country, the couple would check out food joints recommended to them by fellow foodie friends, without any distinction between hole-in-the-wall karinderias and fancy restaurants.

This would often lead to disagreements between the couple, as Quioc would often worry about the state of their finances and the sanitation of the places they were eating in, while Tayag was more focused on the “joy of the journey”.

“There were days when we looked up to heaven and thanked God for bringing us together, and I cannot imagine another partner for myself. But there were also days when we wanted to crumple each others face,” shares Quioc.

But not only did the marriage stay intact, the couple also found the best places to eat anywhere in the archipelago. Tayag says that they also inadvertently went on an anthropological excursion as well, discovering what it is exactly that characterizes and defines the many cuisines to be found in the country’s regions.

“Along the way, we discovered the sheer variety and intricacies of our multi-layered cuisine, making it easier for the uninitiated and initiate to understand what makes the Filipino eat like he eats, and debunking the pronouncements of armchair pundits that Filipino cuisine is all dry, oily, and unappetizing,” he says.

The book certainly answers a lot of questions most Filipinos haven’t even thought to ask. For instance, as much as we always associate salpicao and steak ala pobre to Spain, Tayag says that he’s never found it in any other country but our own.

“It’s just like other dishes with foreign place names like lumpiang shanghai, pancit canton, chorizo bilbao, jave rice, and so many others, but are only found in the Philippines,” he says. “We may have borrowed the term adobo from the Spaniards, but that’s where the similarity ends.”


Tayag says even the book’s title is something native only to the Philippines, stating that there is no exact and perfect English equivalent to “malinamnam”. Add to that the country’s large population overseas, and it is only a matter of time before “malinamnam” becomes a global byword. And as Tayag reveals in the book’s introduction, even renowned writer and TV host Anthony Bourdain has admitted to having heard of it!

“During our interview with globetrotting chef Anthony Bourdain for his much-touted TV-show episode on the Philippines, shot on location, in part, in our house, Bale Dutung, last October 2008, he asked me how I would describe Filipino cuisine.

‘In a word,’ I said, ‘it is the linamnam. It’s like umami, a most convenient way to explain it.’

He grasped it right away. ‘Can you say the word again?’ Bourdain requested.

‘Linamnam,’ I said.

‘Strange,’ he replied, ‘my two–year–old daughter Ariane says ‘Namnam’ whenever she’s fed something she likes.’ He paused for a few seconds and concluded, ‘Now I get it. She has a Filipina nanny!’” Tayag writes.

Whatever our differences, says Tayag, we can always rely on our food to bring us together.

“Having traveled all the way around the Philippines, we could safely conclude that our country is this, not only one of the most beautiful countries in the world by virtue of its natural resources, it is also endowed with one of the warmest, most hospitable, and happiest people on the planet, having one of the most linamnam food there is. Our four-year long journey made us discover the richness of the cuisine from the Philippines. With all our regional differences, it is our love for food that binds us together,” he ends.

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Leave Your Jaguar (and Comfort Zone) Behind

By Mary Ann Tayag
The Philippine Star
December 15, 2011

 MANILA, Philippines - I want to eat in a karinderia, but I don’t know how,” a fine lady who goes around in a chauffeur-driven Jaguar said to me.

“First advice, leave your shining white Jaguar with me,” I said in jest.

We were in Bale Dutung (our home in Pampanga) and were talking about Claude’s and my book, Linamnam, which was in its printing stage at that time. She came with a power couple in the business industry and the husband in his 70s asked me if our karinderias in the Philippines are safe as he, too, wants to try. That is when I realized our book Linamnam can be for every Filipino, of all ages, all statuses and tastes. It’s a perfect Christmas gift for those who have everything, I thought. My eyes must have twinkled at the idea.

Linamnam, described as “a roadmap to flavor” by STAR writer Joy Subido, was finally launched last Dec. 1 at the Podium. I almost did not go to the launch after Claude told me I would share the stage with him, Teddy Boy Locsin, Micky Fenix and Spanky Enriquez as emcee. I am very shy, painfully shy, actually. But dahil ginusto ng aking butihing asawa at dahil sa lalim ng pagmamahal ko sa kanya, I put aside my shyness that evening. The turnout of people and the number of books sold that evening was so phenomenal that I had to pinch my face twice just to remind myself we were not John Lloyd and Sarah Geronimo in a blockbuster movie. Though surely hubby looks much better than Lloydie (am excused as a wifey). But unlike a movie with a maximum two-week run, Linamnam will be in National Book Stores and Powerbooks for as long as there is a demand from the public. 

And unlike a movie production, Linamnam took us close to four years to finish. We traveled extensively from Ilocos Norte to Davao City, discovering great dishes along the way. For some we got leads from fellow foodies, some we accidentally stumbled upon as we often got lost, and some we just stopped when we saw boiling cauldrons, like how we discovered goto in Batangas. With the sheer diversity and variety of Philippine cuisine, Claude decided early on that the featured food should be homegrown and available to the public in restaurants (not places with restricted entry, like exclusive clubs). From karinderias to holes in the wall to fine-dining finds, we tried it all, including food that is store-bought or can be ordered from homes. We were always on the road and always eating.

And, like any couple working together, we went through a lot of emotions while doing this book. While we were out to discover new food, we “rediscovered” one another. Like, between food and myself, there is a possibility he will choose food. Yes, there were days when we looked up to heaven and thanked God for bringing us together, and I cannot imagine another partner for myself, not even handy Indiana Jones, on our challenging out-of-town trips. But there were days when we wanted to crumple each other’s faces when we were tired, lost, or running out of cash — all made worse by the fact that we couldn’t agree on a particular dish. And when we finally did agree on the food, we couldn’t agree on how to write about it! We are two people of very different tastes, backgrounds, and orientations. Claude learned and has a passion for cooking from his devoted mother, while I learned how to savor delectable dishes from my foodie grandmother, who never cooked. I love to track down our expenses, which he abhors. Claude often loses his voice (literally), so you can tell who argues, or at least tries to argue, more. The arguing must be a very effective exercise as we managed to stay within our weight limit despite all the eating.

A lot of people ask me how we are able to sell a 320-page, full-color book at a magazine price, especially with Alya Honasan as editor and much-awarded book designer Ige Ramos on the team. Well, it was because of an answered novena to the Sacred Heart, an inspirational speech from my tourism advocate sister-in-law, Carmen Tayag McTavish, a well-worded letter by Claude and 12 sponsors (out of the 14 we solicited) who believe in us and in our project, put together. (By the way so as not to compromise the integrity of the book, we did not get any restaurant sponsors.) From the initial P850 quotation from the publisher, it is now P250 a copy. At that price, it will surely get into the hands of many people, from teenagers to med reps to families on holiday as we have envisioned it from the beginning.

Through this column, I would like to thank our generous sponsors: the Department of Tourism; Clark International Airport Incorporation; Manila North Tollways Corporation (NLEX and SCTEX); Angeles City Tourism Office; BPI Express Credit; Arts, Culture and Tourism Office of Pampanga; PLDT; Petron Gasul; Unilever Food Solutions Sooo Pinoy; Vector Portable GPS; SM Malls and San Miguel Purefoods Great Food Solutions. Together we shall help tourism in the country.

Also to our dear friends and idols in the food industry: Cabalen, the LJC Group of Companies, Aristocrat, Sentro, Milky Way and Via Mare, thank you so much for sending malinamnam food to the launch. And to all those who came to the launch, we are truly grateful and moved. After the launch, I thought we could rest and even take a short trip just eat, sleep and have a massage. Little did I know that Linamnam would open many doors for more work for us. But as they say, “It ain’t work if you enjoy it.” So I guess this is already holiday time for us.

I urge our kababayans to leave your Jaguars behind and go out of your comfort zone and take Linamnam with you. Don’t leave home without it. Someone bought five copies because he has five cars. I say that is amusing but wise. Go and discover our delicious culinary treasures. Foreign tourists will come and appreciate our food only if we do.  Mabuhay ang Pinoy food.

The following was Teddyboy Locsin’s introduction during the book launch: “I first heard of Claude Tayag at an exhibition of his watercolors, where I overheard one person say, ‘Ano ba yan?’ Another answered, ‘Clouds, di ba pangalan niya Cloud Tayag?’

‘Ah, self-portrait.’

“If you have read Claude’s introduction to this wonderful book, whose virtues I cannot begin to extol, let alone exhaust in the telling, there is, contrary to his contention, an exact and perfect English equivalent to malinamnam. And that is ‘yummy.’ And if it is malinamnam na malinamnam, the equivalent is ‘yuuuummeeee.’ From which the Japanese, when they finally learned to cook their food and kill the bacteria, derived ‘umami.’

“But no, the taste of great food is in no way comparable to what Claude Tayag crudely describes as ‘orgasmic,’ which I would rather call the lower delight, whose universal expression is ‘aaaahhhhhh,’ followed by a cigarette.

“Although Claude made sure that his introduction followed Mary Ann’s so he would have the last word, I would stop with hers, especially after Claude described them both as ‘porcine lovers.’ Hay, Mary Ann, why do you put up with him? Excuse me, but there is a whale of a difference between a porcine lover and a lover of pork, as there is between the lissome Mary Ann and the corpulent Miss Piggy, who Claude probably had in mind when he wrote that.

“Having planted that seed of separation between Claude and Mary Ann, let me say that I would share Claude’s adventurous spirit with regard to good food wherever it happens to be found, if I was not held back by Mary Ann’s squeamishness about the location and condition of viands. There is no way that dirt augments culinary delight. What it does is compound the price of a dish by the cost of post-prandial medical attention.

“Nothing is good to eat that isn’t nice to look at and smell, and that includes the surroundings. A dirty toilet bespeaks a dirty kitchen and a dirty kitchen, dirty cooks — and typhoid.

“While we can trust Claude to ferret out the best places to eat in our country as much as a hairy three-fingered creature with a twisted tail will always find truffles, we are safer with his choices because Mary Ann’s finicky fine taste will certify to their sanitation.

“If there is one book you must take along wherever you go in this country, this is it. Claude has let his tongue do the traveling here, and the tasting. We have only to let our finger pick the right one in the right place among all his fine choices.

“Buy it, don’t borrow it; it is a Christmas gift that keeps giving. Browse through it, pause and savor. It is better than eating any of the food the authors so vividly describe because there are no calories in reading, no bloated feeling from over-indulgence in the imagination. Thank you.

“I guess I won’t get a free lechon served 10 ways after this. Oh, it’s just five.”

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