AGOO, La Union: The Dinengdeng Festival of Festivals will be held on Monday (May 1) in Cases Boulevard here as the main attraction of the town’s annual fiesta from April 30 to May 6.
Dinengdeng, one of the most popular of Ilocano dishes, will be cooked in a big clay pot with 101 competitors creating their best version as they vie for rewards.
Mayor Stefanie Ann Eriguel said the idea for the competition was to highlight this Ilocano dish that is highly nutritious and most economical.
“During the festival, vegetable farmers can expect to sell more of their crops as the mixture of vegetables is very affordable and usually comes from our own backyard making them always readily available,” Eriguel said, adding that the festival will also help promote the town’s vegetable industry.
The most common ingredients of Dinegdeng are eggplants, bitter gourd or ampalaya fruit and leaves; squash fruit, flowers and tops; saluyot (jute), okra, patola, string beans tops or paltong and the string beans fruit; unripe papaya, banana heart, bamboo shoots, and upo (bottle gourd).
One version of Dinengdeng – a big favorite among Ilocanos – is the Buridibod, a mixture of sweet potatoes, the fragrant legume patani, bungon (birch flower himbaba), the leaf and fruit of malunggay (moringa), samping-samping (butterfly pea, bataw (hyacinth bean) and sigarilyas (winged seguidillas bean).
But the ingredient common to all Dinengdeng recipes is bagoong or fermented fish paste. And to add more flavor, the dish is also topped with rice field mushrooms or broiled milkfish, tuna steak or scad fish.
The town decided to hold the annual Dinengdeng festival because the ingredients of the dish are abundant in the province. It is supported by the local government unit leaders and La Union 2nd Dist. Rep. Sandra Eriguel and former Mayor and Rep. Franny Eriguel, who prioritized providing enough water supply for irrigation and household use in partnership with private developers.
This year, the festival will showcase 101 different recipes for Dinengdeng prepared by the different restaurants and barangay (villages). Last year, a cookbook featuring the different recipes was printed after the contest.
This year, festival organizers enjoin the different villages and the community to come together to celebrate this simple dish “that is symbolic of our culture as an Ilocano people,” the mayor said.
Other La Union municipalities were also invited to this Festival of Festivals in Agoo to present their own signature street-dances such as Bauang with its Baggak; Naguilian’s Basi; San Gabriel’s Buyboy; Bacnotan’s Diro; San Fernando City’s Pindangan and Pugo’s Tinugbo.
Eriguel also said the festival is a collective effort to showcase the vibrance of La Union’s heritage and culture, in which a dish that is inherently Ilocano, a very simple preparation involving simple ingredients, is presented in many interesting ways.
In a related event, 16 participants will vie for cash prizes in the Banca or fishing boat Race and another 16 participants will compete in the stock race category from the coastal villages of San Julian West, San Julian Norte, Balawarte, San Isidro, San Manuel Sur, Santa Rita West, Santa Rita Sur and Santa Rita Central.