5th tupig cook-off highlights Ilocos Norte’s “Paskua Mi Ditoy”

LAOAG CITY – Highlighting its “Paskua Mi Ditoy” (Pasko Namin Dito) Christmas tourism brand, the provincial government of Ilocos Norte held the annual Solid North Tupig Cook-Off in front of the Paoay Church on December 21.

This year’s competition was divided into three categories: non-professional and school, professional, and local government unit (LGU).

The Divine Word College of Laoag bagged first place in the non-professional and school category. Adams National High School and Sarrat National High School took second and third place, respectively.

In the professional category, Marie Joy Sarrat Tupig Pride garnered first place; Irene’s Native Delicacies placed second; the Adams Kusina Group, third place; and Berlin’s Tupig Special, fourth place.

Laoag City emerged as champion in the LGU category, followed by the Municipality of San Nicolas at second place and the Municipality of Adams at third place.

The panel of judges was composed of culinary and hospitality experts: Eric Asuncion, Chef Grace Abigail Sy, and Richard Bumanglag.

Entries were judged based on taste, packaging, consumer appeal, sanitation, and overall presentation.

The event started in 2009 through the Provincial Tourism Office to strengthen the market for tupig and preserve Ilocano heritage.

On its fifth year, the cook-off aimed to establish Ilocos Norte as a food destination in the country in line with the trend of using culture as a livelihood in the province.

Tupig is a native rice cake cooked over a coal fire and traditionally seasoned with coconut gratins, molasses, and butter. It is served in rectangular pieces, each wrapped in banana leaf.

Cook-off participants explored using coconut meat, roasted peanuts, cheese, jackfruit, and even gamet (Ilocos black seaweed), innovating this classic holiday dish.

Governor Imee Marcos described tupig as a Christmas staple for Ilocanos and a tradition that must be upheld, saying, “‘pag may tupig na, alam natin na Pasko na.”

Though originally a holiday dessert, tupig has become a year-round snack and pasalubong for visitors to the province. In addition, it serves as a source of livelihood among Ilocano women. –Mizpah Grace G. Castro, PGIN-CMO