Guest Post: Gluten-Free in the Philippines

When I put out my request for guest travel posts, I got an interesting email from a woman named Jessica in the Philippines. I have to be honest and say that the Philippines wasn’t really on my travel radar, although I am sure it is a beautiful country. Here is an edited copy of Jessica’s post about eating gluten-free in the Philippines. Please remember, these are Jessica’s opinions and experiences so I cannot vouch for this information. 

Photo from Wow Philippines

Gluten-free in the Philippines

In the Philippines, the government recognizes the importance of having readily available gluten-free foods in the local market that will cater to the needs of both the locals and the international tourists. In fact, a handful of congressmen has taken the initiative to ensure that the gluten-free foods sold in the country adhere to international standards. Through the “Gluten-Free Labeling Standard Act,” gluten-free food sellers and distributors are required to limit the gluten contents of their food products in accordance with the standards of Codex Alimentarius, an international organization handled by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)of the United Nations.

[Ed. Note: I could not find any updated information about the Philippine Congress House Bill 03345. The most recent information is from 2007. If anyone has updated information about the Philippine GF Labeling Standard Act, I would love to read it!]

Furthermore, the Philippines is naturally abundant in gluten-free foods, making it a convenient place for people under the gluten-free diet to live and travel in. The local cuisine itself already offers a wide array of choices from delicious appetizers to mouth-watering desserts. Some of the more popular gluten-free local dishes are lumpia (a local adaptation of spring rolls), pancit (rice noodles)[Ed. Note: Use GF rice noodles and GF soy sauce], and desserts like champorado (chocolate rice porridge), puto (steamed rice muffins) [Ed. Note: be sure to use GF rice flour!], and biko (rice cake).

Specialty stores in different malls across the country also sell gluten-free foods. A popular destination among those under the gluten-free diet is the Healthy Options store, which sells gluten-free cakes, cereals, and other delicacies. Local markets and groceries also sell a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. As an archipelago, the country is surrounded by expansive bodies of water that provide it with a regular and steady supply of different kinds of seafoods such as fishes, shells, shrimps, crabs, etc, which are commonly sold in the local wet markets.

Having celiac disease and being under a gluten-free diet does not necessarily entail a person to sacrifice his gastronomic experience. The modern market offers a wide variety of alternative choices for everyone. As for travelers under the gluten-free diet, you might want to consider the Philippines as your next destination for leisure and vacation. Blessed with abundant natural resources and beautiful tourist spots, you will surely have a wonderful time with friends and family without having to worry about your next gluten-free meal!

About the Author
Jessica Francisco is a cheerful 25-year-old with an odd sense of fun. The least of her broad range of hobbies include swimming, hiking and listening to the music of Michael Jackson. Jessica is also one of the editors of the Luke Roxas blog site.

8 thoughts on “Guest Post: Gluten-Free in the Philippines”

  1. I agree that the Philippines has a lot of gluten-free foods to offer. I would like to point out however that the “lumpia” wrapper could be made from wheat flour, which is the typical ingredient, therefore not gluten-free. There are of course various forms and types of “lumpia” or spring rolls, and the gluten-free version would be made from rice, which is more like the Vietnamese version.

  2. Hello! I will be spending the upcoming summer in Manila and am gluten free. The trickiest part I anticipate will be the hidden ingredients such as soy sauce. Are restaurants typically good at understanding gluten allergies? I’m excited about the trip but an nervous about staying healthy! Any specific suggestions would be helpful! Thanks 🙂

  3. Although GF ingredients are abundant there, so is soy sauce which is used in most restaurant food. It may or may not be GF, and you can’t rely on the label, or on wait staff to know. So if you can’t shop for and prepare your own meals the choices are much more limited. But the GF options are very tasty! These include garlic peanuts, longganisa (breakfast sausage), bangus (milkfish), plain rice, garlic rice, and sinigang (meat, seafood or vegetables in broth). Meat dishes may be simmered in tomatoes (chicken Afritada), or vinegar and peppers (paksiw), or roasted over hot charcoal or wood (inihaw) – but ALWAYS ask about soy sauce. Warning: “vegetable” dishes are usually cooked with meat bits and soy sauce. Fresh calamansi and mango fruits and juices are awesome, as are the bananas. Halo halo is a huge and wonderful dessert, best shared.

  4. I have a GF granddaughter coming for a visit so I have been spending a lot of time at the supermarket reading labels. Many ingredient labels include an allergen warning list not only for what is in the product but also what else is manufactured at the facility to warn of cross contamination risk. Here are some things to be cautious about: Sinigang (the soup mentioned in another post) is GF only if it is made from tamarind extract that is GF. Knorr and others make flavoring mixes for sinigang and most of those have flour in them. It is simple to make the extract from fresh tamarind, which is available at the market. I am experimenting with “rice paper” from Vietnam. It is similar to lumpia wrapper but made of rice not wheat flour. I’ll let you know if rice paper holds up to frying and steaming and is a sub for lumpia wrapper in siomai and lumpia shanghai. After searching for wheat free soy sauce, a GF person told me Puti brand does not list wheat and she had eaten it and it doesn’t bother her. I have been warned that noodles made of non-wheat flours are readily available but there can be wheat contamination during production due to flour being used on surfaces as dust. The person who told me recommended rinsing all noodles. Not sure I want to risk not rinsing well enough.
    Can anyone recommend a noodle they have used that truly is GF?

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