Taste of Manila takes off without a hitch

Community News & Features Aug 24, 2018 at 4:26 pm

CrowdBy Irish Mae Silvestre
The Philippine Reporter

The music onstage was blaring, while a group of men and women line danced to Black Eyed Peas’ ‘I Gotta Feeling.’ Children squealed from bouncing castles as a Ferris wheel spun lazily on its axis. People shielded their eyes from the afternoon sun and vendors tended to their chicken and pork barbecues sizzling on the grill and peppering the air with smoke and the unmistakable scent of summer.

(2 Photos: HG)

(2 Photos: HG)

According to organizers, this year’s Taste of Manila (ToM) drew between 200,000 to 300,000 visitors.

And it’s an event that almost didn’t happen.

The Filipino community was shocked when organizers announced in July that the annual street festival would be cancelled this year. Citing losses, high overhead and increasing cost of services as the reason for their decision, it seemed like the future of the event was shaky.

But, soon after that announcement, organizers stated that the two-day festival was officially back on – just mere weeks ahead of the weekend of August 18 to 19. Meetings were held between organizers, the mayor and city officials to help rescue the event, with officials urging division heads of services such as Toronto Paramedic Services, TTC and Toronto Police Service to lower their fees. Organizers worked continuously to make the event possible by securing performers, vendors and corporate sponsors in the last minute.

ROLLY Mangante (3rd from left) with Councillor James Pasternak (in blue shirt) and other public officials and co-organizers.  (Photo provided)

ROLLY Mangante (3rd from left) with Councillor James Pasternak (in blue shirt) and other public officials and co-organizers. (Photo provided)

A Group Effort

No one was more relieved than Rolly Mangante, ToM Founder.

“If you can imagine, we decided [to host the event] two weeks before the day of the festival,” he said. “Day and night our vendors and groups worked to complete the event.”

He added that the organization coordinated with vendors, sponsors and services such as waste management. “It was hard to organize but we did it,” he said.

Unfortunately, due to the cancellation, Mangante said they were unable to woo other sponsors back within the brief time frame. “It’s hard to encourage [sponsors] to come back because there was no more time for preparations,” he said.
When it comes to the organization’s money woes, he said that the city did not provide funding “but they cut some of the payables.”

Toronto Councillor James Pasternak of Ward 10-York Centre, who was instrumental in the discussions, emphasized the significance of the community in his speech. “I highlighted the great contributions of the Filipino community to the city of Toronto and Canada in cuisine, music, arts and business,” he said. “Obviously, there was a little bit of confusion earlier this month [but] everyone was very happy and relieved that it did take place. It just seemed like a wonderful event, it really left a positive feeling.”

Mayor John Tory, who was also key in trying to bring back the festival, was at the event to greet organizers and visitors.

In addition to being well-organized Pasternak said that visitors knew to leave their cars at home. He shared the stage with ToM organizers and also unveiled a new mural in the Bathurst and Wilson bridge. He described the mural by artists Nick Sweetman, Vizsla Bacon and Willy Wales as the result of “great input from the community [and] reflective of the cultural diversity in the area.”

Mayor John Tory at Taste of Manila.  (Photo provided)

Mayor John Tory at Taste of Manila. (Photo provided)

Positive Feedback

Confusion aside, vendors had nothing but praise for organizers.

Ruffy Cadiz, owner of La Isla restaurant on Bathurst Street, has been part of the festival almost every year. “This year, it was very slow in the beginning so we thought, okay, nobody’s coming so it looks like there was not enough advertising,” he said. “But it’s good now.”

Adding variety to a diverse array of Filipino street food, Cadiz said that his most popular menu item is the Ilocos empanada, which is stuffed with mung beans, papaya and sausage. “Nobody’s doing it here yet so many of the people from the Ilocos region especially are very familiar with the food so it’s very, very nice,” he said.

Vendor Nathan Ticsay with fresh chicharon (Photo: Irish Silvestre)

Vendor Nathan Ticsay with fresh chicharon (Photo: Irish Silvestre)

A few stalls away is festival newbie Nathan Ticsay, whose menu highlighted dishes from Pampanga such as asado, sisig Kapampangan and tidtad (dinuguan in Kapampangan). “The most popular ones are the chicharron, dinuguan and the barbecue,” he said, while seasoning a massive bowl of chicharron.

Karla Perry, who sells grilled corn, is a festival veteran. She said she was disappointed when the event was initially cancelled. “[But] if you [take part] all the time, they’ll reserve a spot for you so you are their priority,” she said.

As for the changes she’s seen over time, Perry said that she’s seen significant improvements each year. “I see now that it’s cleaner, before there was garbage everywhere,” she said. “People probably learned. The set-up is better, too. Before, vendors were in the middle [of the street] and there was no way to walk around but now it’s more open in the middle.”

Indeed the new layout leaves most of the street open for foot traffic with stalls and other facilities lined up along the west side of Bathurst Street. Waste management was noticeably more efficient with garbage cans set out in the middle of the street and cleared continuously throughout the event.

“The crowds were excited,” said Pasternak. “It’s wonderful to walk up and down Bathurst and see tens of thousands of people with their families enjoying themselves [and] the music and entertainment. I give credit to organizers for making it a big success.”



Visitors line dancing

Visitors line dancing

Barbecues on a stick were a popular treat

Barbecues on a stick were a popular treat


LECHON at Kabalen’s stall

LECHON at Kabalen’s stall



One of the stalls selling grilled corn



Vendor Karla Perry

Vendor Karla Perry








13 Photos: Irish Silvestre


2 Photos: HG

2 Photos: HG