You might have heard that former Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who was appointed cardinal-bishop by Pope Francis and had to reside in Rome, quietly flew back to the Philippines earlier this month. He failed to avoid headlines, however, when the government-required swab testing upon arrival here showed he was positive for the new coronavirus.
Currently part of the powerful Roman Curia at the Vatican as head of the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples, news of his test results were revealed not by Philippine reporters but by the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, who said in a statement, “Cardinal Tagle actually tested positive for COVID-19 with a pharyngeal swab carried out yesterday on his arrival in Manila (although he) does not have any symptoms and will remain in mandatory self-quarantine in the Philippines, where he is located.”
Thankfully, updates from those in touch with him is that while he is in self-isolation, he is in good spirits and while he thanks those who have offered prayers for him, he asks to include others who are likewise suffering from COVID-19.
His Eminence must have been really homesick to have insisted on coming home.
This was evident when he started cooking Imus delicacies at the Pontificio Collegio Filippino, a college for diocesan priests from the Philippines studying at pontifical universities in Rome. Student-priests would do a Facebook Live of him cooking their lunch, videos of which can still be found on the Pontificio Collegio Filippino YouTube and Facebook pages.
I personally couldn’t believe it when he started cooking because he already has so much work.
Aside from heading the congregation of the Roman Curia for evangelization, Cardinal Tagle is also head of Caritas Internationalis, which has been especially busy at this time, with its programs all over the world to help people cope with the financial and socioeconomic difficulties that are sometimes worse than the health crisis.
He also heads the Catholic Biblical Federation. He would also regularly preside over the Sunday mass of the Pontificio Collegio Filippino.
On top of all that is a cooking show. Amazingly, before coming home, he completed a few episodes all showcasing specialties of his hometown of Imus, Cavite.
In the first episode, he cooked pancit pusit, which uses squid and squid ink for flavor. As Cardinal Tagle explained, the recipe uses bihon or sotanghon (he used sotanghon for his demo).
He first sauteed garlic, onions and ginger, poured the squid ink, added vinegar, salt and pepper, then added the noodles, just adding a little water. The cardinal-chef also noted others liked to add chili to this recipe while others would add bay leaves.
In the second episode, he cooked adobong Imus, using the recipe of his mother, Mila Gokim Tagle. Instead of soy sauce, the chicken and pork were slow-cooked in vinegar, annatto oil. Bay leaves, salt and pepper were added.
In the third episode, he cooked lutong palaka, a true signature of Caviteño cuisine, which uses edible frog or what is known in Tagalog as palakang bukid (although they used chicken as they could not source frog). It’s a kind of frog’s legs stew that also makes use of the usual suspects—garlic, onion, tomato, ginger and achuete oil—but uses fish sauce for saltiness, peanut butter for sweetness, and then beans (sigarilyas and patani) for texture.
Ambassador of Filipino food
In one of those many tributes for him late last year before he left the Philippines for Rome, Cardinal Tagle said, “I will now be an OFW (overseas Filipino worker).”
While he technically isn’t, I hope that he does inspire other OFWs to also be ambassadors of Filipino food while they are abroad.
Imagine if all our OFWs could showcase our local delicacies, that would be one great global campaign for Filipino food, all while helping cure homesickness.
Cardinal Tagle must have gotten so homesick cooking all that Imus food, he had to fly home. I can’t blame him, though. There is really no place—and taste—like home.
More from the author at margauxlicious.com. Follow @margauxsalcedo on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.
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