Bulalo kitchens pause as Taal spoils Tagaytay's tourist draws

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 14 2020 04:30 PM | Updated as of Jan 14 2020 08:44 PM

TAGAYTAY CITY -- George Tolentino is keeping his bulalo (beef marrow soup) restaurant closed until Taal volcano stops rumbling, fearing volcanic ash and the prospect of further eruptions will be bad for business.

What was once the main attraction that brings foodies and weekenders to this highland city is now the biggest pain for entrepreneurs, as ash from Sunday's eruption blanketed resorts and cliffside restaurants and cafes.

Tolentino is worried that ash would make the leafy vegetables in the bulalo soup unhealthy for his patrons. His shop was closed on Monday, along with many others on the city's main highway.

"Ayoko muna mamili kasi hindi tayo sure sa mga chemical lalo na yung mga isda kasi baka delikado," he said.

(I don't want to shop for ingredients yet because we are not sure if these are contaminated with chemicals, especially the fish from Taal lake.)

Located in a picturesque lake of the same name, Taal volcano is located in Calabarzon, an industrial hub a few hours drive south of the capital that is home to factories, car-assembly plants and export zones.

A prolonged disruption to business could pose a "temporary speed bump" to growth that is recovering from a spending slowdown last year, ING Bank economist Nicholas Mapa said.

The "unwelcome" eruption, with its current effect, is not enough to derail economic growth, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said it was "bordering on speculative" to assess the economic impact of the eruption.



Several vegetable and poultry farms were covered in sulfuric ashes, which could trigger health hazards when inhaled by humans and animals, according to authorities.

Some fast food restaurants also failed to open a day after the eruption as their entrances and view decks were cloaked in grime and mud.

Eliserio Gomez, who has been tending to a chicken rotisserie here for 6 years, said the eruption halved sales. He now sells 10 chickens daily from 20.

"Wala pa pong advice sa amin kung isasara na muna namin (We were not advised whether or not we should close)," Gomez said. 

Customers are asking about the safety of his food, he said.

There are some 285 restaurants, 64 road-side eateries and 56 hotels in Tagaytay, government data showed. Aside from bulalo, it is also famous for pineapples and tawilis, an endangered sardine.

Authorities are working to clear roads of volcanic ash, said Tagaytay City Administrator Gregorio Monreal. 

Officials are also checking water quality in the Kaybubutong spring where 30 percent of Tagaytay's water is sourced, he said in a phone interview.

While tourists are discouraged from traveling to areas near the Taal volcano, they are not prohibited from visiting Tagaytay, former Tagaytay mayor and now Senator Francis Tolentino told reporters.

"Kailangan maayos namin ito agad... malaking epekto nito sa pangkabuhayan," he said.

(We need to fix this quick... the impact on livelihood is big.)