The aroma of different eggplant dishes and desserts, colorful costumes of street dancers, and the usual hospitality of this town greeted residents and visitors to the Talong (eggplant) Festival 2024 on Friday.
The municipal government ditched the Pinakbet sa Kawa (a dish of different vegetables sautéed in fish sauce in a large flat pot) and focused the cook fest on the town’s main agricultural product, the eggplant.
The competition was free-style, with 25 entries from each of the town’s villages cooked at the venue.
The first prize was awarded to Barangay Unzad’s Rice Cake Eggplant, followed by the Fried Stuffed Eggplant Glazed with Yakiniku Sauce of Barangay Lipay, and the Royale Bibingkang Talong of barangay Amanperez.
This year’s celebration is the 16th since it was launched in 2006 as a marketing strategy to sell the town as the main producer of eggplant and other vegetables in Northern Luzon.
The festival, which is part of Villasis’ nine-day town fiesta, was made simpler this year due to budget constraints but its essence is still the same –to celebrate the good harvest of the farmers last year, Mayor Nonato Abrenica said.
“There was something missing, we do not have the Pinakbet sa Kawa and the concert in the evening. But I’m happy and content because all the activities were held in order and our townmates from the villages went to the town proper to watch,” he said in Filipino, as he vowed for a grander festival next year and to start planning for it earlier.
Abrenica said he is grateful that the local farmers did not experience problems such as pests, among others.
He, however, declined to give data on the total eggplant production and income in 2023, saying they are still consolidating the data.
Councilor Crisanto Balila affirmed what the mayor said regarding the market of the town’s eggplant production.
He said eggplant farmers usually plant twice a year during the dry season, and plant other vegetables like okra, chili and tomato, as well as corn and rice in between.
While the majority of the vegetables are transported to Metro Manila, the farmers also bring their produce to the town’s bagsakan market which sells produce at wholesale price, and the nearby Urdaneta City Bagsakan Market. (PNA)