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Locals outraged by Azul’s trademarking of “tuslob buwa”

The “friendly reminder” from Azul that Tuslob Buwa as a phrase or logo is exclusively owned by them drew flak from Facebook users.

Source: Azul's Facebook page

On March 3, Azul released a statement on their Facebook page that “Tuslob Buwa” is now their registered trademark through the Intellectual Property of the Philippines. This sparked an outrage among netizens, and many local personalities have expressed their frustration as well.

Why the negative reaction

The “friendly reminder” from Azul that Tuslob Buwa as a phrase or logo is exclusively owned by them drew flak from Facebook users.

This is because the trademark meant that any unauthorized use of the word, phrase or logo is against the law. Tuslob buwa is an old dish that has existed for decades and has become a staple in Cebuano culture, much like the signature Cebuano lechon. Such claim from company to copyright a term that predates them is deemed audacious by locals and is said to be a capitalist move that is offensive to the culture and history of Cebuano people.

Origins of tuslob buwa

Tuslob-buwa is a popular dish among the masses in Cebu City where customers dip ‘puso’ or hanging rice on a wok full of boiling stew of gravy made of pork brain and liver. The phrase literally translates to “dip in bubbles”. 

Tuslob-buwa first made its rounds as early the 50’s in Barangay Pasil and Suba as a business venture for poor families before it made its way to Netlix’s Street Food in 2019, which put it on the global map.

To cook tuslob buwa, garlic and onions are sautéed along with chilli in a heated wok. Mashed brains and sliced liver are then over it and stirred until it turns into a bubbling, gravy-like form. Customers who are usually laborers working in the market or students making do with their measly allowance would then dip the fist-sized puso that costs Php3 onto the wok.

A common image of tuslob buwa as a microcosm of Cebuano culture is a vendor wheeling around their makeshift carts with a beach umbrella and equipped with their cooking paraphernalia and a clump of hanging rice swinging along the motion in the streets of underprivileged communities.

Several modern restaurants over the years have begun offering  elevated versions of tuslob buwa, a then poor men’s meal, in Cebu City as well as in Mandaue City. As opposed to communal woks, customers can now be served an exclusive one for them. And instead of standing while eating the dish, customers are provided with their own tables and chairs where they can cook and eat tuslob buwa on their own.

What is Azul

Azul is one of the popular eateries in Cebu that offer tuslob buwa. It gained international attention after being featured on Netflix’s Street Food Asia. Azul is owned by Ian Lim Sekong, who as of late has apologized to Barangay Suba and Pasil for the copyrighting of tuslob buwa.

Actions taken against Azul

The officials of Barangay Suba and Barangay Pasil planned to take legal actions against Azul Cebu after the said restaurant registered the word “Tuslob Buwa” in the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines. They have communed with Cebu City Councilor Eduardo Rama, who after receiving their complaints reached out to Sekong and asked him to transfer the legal rights of tuslob buwa to the two barangays.

“Even if they have registered it, we cannot deny the fact that it originally came from us,” said Joel Sable, the barangay captain of Suba.

They withdrew their initial plan to file a case after the concession to turn the trademark over to their barangays was made. 

Sekong, on the other hand, has issued a public apology and said he only wanted the term to be owned by a Cebuano. He said he took action after several tuslob buwa restaurants have begun sprouting in other areas in the Philippines.

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