It is not surprising when asking people what they know about Quezon Province and they answer just Pahiyas. But what’s amazing is that those who took the road with Kulinarya Tagala would tell stories they learned from Tina Decal about the legend of Sampaloc lake, Miracles of the Sto. Cristo de Burgos, timeless love stories from Sariaya’s grand old houses, the ritual of the Lambanog, and many more.
Thanks to Tina’s Kulinarya Tagala, the road going to her home province is more than just espasol and buko pie.
Traveler on Foot: Kulinarya Tagala is a success story. What inspired you come up with this culinary tour project?
Tina Decal: My children! I quit my job as a resort manager in Quezon Province late 1999. I need to be home in their growing years but needs to earn to help my husband bring my children to a good school, so I have to make a way to earn while being at home most of the time. It was also after my stint with the resort that I realized local and foreign tourist love my province of Quezon only summertime because of our beaches and the famous Pahiyas Festival. The entrepreneur in me came out and was inspired to design a food trip that will bring visitors to Quezon. Who can resist a food trip? Everybody loves and enjoy food.
Quezon is left behind in the tourism industry because of the stigma of a leftist group. However, I took it as a challenge and battled the “negative image” with a platable bait, FOOD! But through food, it is a showcase of the unique culture, tradition and history of province. It’s like putting Quezon “in a pot”.
Traveler on Foot: What problems did you encounter when you start doing the tour? What challenges do you encounter now?
Tina Decal: A lot! Even my kababayans were not too receptive of my idea. And the culinary tour needs local counterparts, especially dining areas like restaurants and even homes which will authentically show our dining culture. Some won’t even like to demonstrate because they feel guests might “only steal their recipes and secrets”. Plus, the attitude of most Filipinos that if it is your idea, then do it! When you get successful, then that’s the time we join you!
Remember, it takes time to snowball. I started doing my researches and working with prospective suppliers early 2000. This means from that time till late 2004, there was no run yet, no takers, no income for me!
You and I believe KULINARYA TAGALA is already a success story, the challenge is how to keep it going, add more excitement by researching for more good food and dining places that will give my guests the enthusiasm to always join me in my tours and recommend it to more people.
Traveler on Foot: You’ve led different kinds of people from student groups to corporate executives to appreciate the food and cultural heritage of Quezon and Laguna. Can you describe what is giving a tour like? Do you still get the jitters each time you face a new set of audience in your tours?
Tina Decal: Giving a tour for me means that I am SERVING MY COUNTRY IN MY OWN LITTLE WAY and GIVING BACK TO A PROVINCE where I came from!
I still do, of course because I only meet them on the tour day, but I help myself lessen the jitters by checking a little on my guests’ background. That means, are they Filipinos based in the Philippines, are they Balikbayans or are they foreigners and if so, from what country?
Traveler on Foot: What do you enjoy most about leading tours?
Tina Decal: I meet people from all walks of life and have helped me develop the kind of person I am now. Confident, sensitive and caring for others, PROUD OF MY COUNTRY and MY BEING FILIPINO!
Traveler on Foot: What is the most memorable feedback did you get from your audience?
Tina Decal: After running my very first San Isidro Festival Tour (Pahiyas-Mayohan-Agawan) in 2006 which took me working for almost 24 hours with 2 Tour Bus load and a Coaster, I woke up the following morning with a text message that goes,” MS. DECAL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR MAKING PROUD AS FILIPINOS”! This message came from a School director who took the tour with two of his American guests.
Traveler on Foot: What is most annoying for your while doing tours?
Tina Decal: My most annoying experience!!!!! AN EXPAT-PROFESSOR from a prestigious culinary school who lambasted our Filipino culture while I was so proud talking about it! Calling a gallery of Filipino antiques “just garbage and a warehouse”! It was a collection of 30 years, the gallery owners almost filed a case to declare her a “persona non-grata in their area”. But cool heads prevailed, she’s still lucky. But nevertheless, I sent the school a letter about my sentiments, I didn’t take it sitting down.
Traveler on Foot: A contributor to the success of Kulinarya Talaga is that is remained focus on rebranding and promoting the heritage of Quezon and Laguna. Aside from the places featured in the Kulinarya Tagala, name three of your favorite destinations in the country and why would you recommend them?
Tina Decal: BANAWE because it shows the ingenuity of the ethnic Filipino in building the huge terraces. Fantastic engineering ingenuity which I hope we can sustain for more generations to see. PALAWAN because its nature at its best! MANILA, of course despite of everything negative about it, it’s vibrant and full of life!
Traveler on Foot: If you’re not Tina Decal the tour facilitator for Kulinarya Tagala, you are Tina Decal the…
Tina Decal: Nothing more but, A WIFE AND A MOTHER, I love my family. They are my inspiration!
Traveler on Foot: The prestige brought by Kulinarya Tagala to your province, the positive reviews, TV appearances, and the on-going demands for your tour services, can you now say that this is what you want? What else do you want to achieve in life?
Tina Decal: I am happy where I am and what I am today. My only wish is that when I get too old for this I have passed the torch to someone deserving and who will nurture what I started. But while waiting for that “old age”, I will continue and try reaching out to other parts of Quezon province.
Traveler on Foot: Not too many regions in country have culinary and heritage tours. What is your message to those individuals who want to start something similar to Kulinarya Tagala in their own town or city?
Tina Decal: First, KNOW YOUR CITY OR PROVINCE AND LOVE IT FOR WHAT IT IS! It is hard to sell something you do not know and you do not love!
I want to inspire them to go ahead, you will never go wrong in a food trip! Everybody loves to eat, but most of all spice your food with culture, tradition and history! It adds more flavor to the trip, the rediscovery of culture is what makes it really worth taking. PATIENCE, DEDICATION and PASSION is what you need. If you have these, no obstacle will be hard to overcome.
Traveler on Foot: What message do you have to those who have joined your tours?
Tina Decal: Thanks for food tripping with me! All of them had contributed to the success of Kulinarya Tagala. KEEP RECOMMENDING so that many will enjoy the same experience they had with KULINARYA TAGALA!
Thanks a lot Glen! I enjoyed answering your questions! I do appreciate the gesture. I failed to mention that along the way I met people who are blessings in my life and you are one of those. KULINARYA TAGALA is here because GOD IS ALWAYS GOOD!
To learn more about Kulinarya Tagala, you can reach Tina Decal at 0927.563.09.89 or send her an email: firstname.lastname@example.org