In Filipino culture, fertilized duck embryo, called balut, is a delicacy. It’s also the subject of a popular eating contest at the 19th annual Pistahan Festival in San Francisco this weekend.
Presented by the all-volunteer Filipino American Arts Exposition, the Filipino culture and cuisine celebration, and parade, will be held at Yerba Buena Gardens on Saturday and Sunday.
On Sunday, about 10 volunteers from the public will compete to see who can gorge on balut the fastest.
“Eating a baby duck is like watching ‘Fear Factor,’” says Joaquin Aragones, registration manager of the Pistahan parade. “Not a lot of people can eat an embryo because it’s gross.”
In another Pistahan competition Sunday, chefs will face off preparing adobo, a saucy pork dish. The adobo cook-off has two categories: traditional and fusion.
The free festival, which drew 70,000 visitors in 2011, was started 19 years ago when the Moscone Center and Yerba Buena Gardens complex were under construction, displacing many Filipino-Americans who lived in the South of Market neighborhood. For the Filipino community, Pistahan events represent their reclaiming of the area.
Entertainment on two stages and pavilions featuring interactive activities focused on creativity, culinary heritage, health, dance and play make up this year’s lineup.
The theme is “Bridging Cultures and Communities,” celebrating the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th anniversary and its strong connection to the Filipino community.
Stories about Inocencio Asuelo — the Filipino chauffeur who drove the first private car across the bridge when it opened in 1937 — and Vicente Dizon Alvarez, who won the Golden Gate Exposition’s International Art competition at Treasure Island in 1939, are among those being told at the heritage pavilion.
“Pistahan connects Filipino subcommunities and is a link for mainstream audiences to discover Filipino art, heritage, culture and cuisine,” says Al Perez, president of FAAE.
On Saturday, the Pistahan Parade, with nearly 100 contingents, kicks off the festival. It begins at 11 a.m. on Beale Street, goes down Market Street, and ends at Folsom and Third streets.
The grand marshals are Cheesa Laureta, a contestant on “The Voice ”; comedian Joey Guila; Ali Ewoldt, who appeared on Broadway in “Les Miserables”; singer Meleana Brown from TV’s “Duets”; and Jose Antonio Vargas, an undocumented Filipino-American journalist who wrote a Time magazine cover story about his experiences trying to gain legal status in America.
On Sunday, Vargas, an advocate for the Dream Act, which helps people brought to the U.S. illegally as children gain residency, will be in a booth available to speak to other “dreamers.”