Minimalist Me: Food

Buying groceries can be challenging for me because I have this mental checklist, a criteria that I base my decision on, before buying something. Ideally, it should be organic or natural, environment-friendly, locally produced, and has less packaging.

I always check the ingredients list. If I recognize most of the contents, none of those words you can barely read, then I’ll buy it. I used to eat a lot of junkfood but now, I mostly eat fruits and nuts for snacks! Occasionally, I buy sweets and pastries but I’m also trying to lessen my sugar intake (and the same goes with salt).

I remember a chef saying that you should train your tongue to eat real food. Kids hate veggies because early on, they get used to artificial food bathed in too much salt or sugar or flavoring. Once your tongue gets used to natural flavors, you’ll realize how, most of the time, the food being served is too salty or too sweet.

For me, minimalism in terms of food could also mean lesser meat and more plant-based diet. It is ranked as number four among climate change solutions. Reduced food waste is third in the list so no to food waste, please.

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Minimalism is about mindfulness. Being mindful about the food we put in our bodies is something we should strive for. We should change the mindset that eating healthy is a punishment or is a way of robbing yourself of the good stuff because it’s not.

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Musings on the ALGOA Organic Foundation Course

With people becoming more concerned of the state of the environment, who are also clamoring for safe and healthy food, the organic movement is slowly gaining attraction worldwide.

I got to learn more about the movement when I participated in the 2018 Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture (ALGOA) Organic Foundation Course. ALGOA is a project initiated by International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)- Asia.

This year, there were 27 participants from 12 countries namely Korea, India, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Bhutan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.

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The course participants with the LGU officials of Goesan  County (Photo from IFOAM-Asia).
Goesan County in Chungbuk Province, Korea was the perfect place to have the training program with its natural and beautiful environment. It is one of the birthplaces of organic farming in Korea. It is almost isolated that not so many Koreans themselves know of the place but it turns out that this could be an advantage for the preservation of nature and for organic agriculture to thrive.

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Goesan County, Chungbuk Province, Korea
During the Welcome Ceremony, the Mayor of Goesan said that he had three presents for us – the fresh air, organic food, and sticky corn. We, the participants gladly enjoyed these three.

Organic agriculture, as defined by IFOAM, is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems, and people. In its core are the principles of health, ecology, fairness, and care. These principles were evident when we talked to local farmers, visited farms, and went to Hansalim, a cooperative established by both producers and consumers. One farmer we talked to said that they provide safe and healthy food for consumers and in turn, the consumers ensure that the producers can continue to make a living through farming. It was truly inspiring to see this sense of community built on mutual trust. It was also equally inspiring to meet young farmers. Young people would not normally choose to go into farming and prefer to work in offices in the city but it’s amazing how these individuals chose a road less traveled, so to speak.

During the training, we learned about JADAM organic farming (low cost agriculture); biodynamic farming (farming that follows the rhythms and cycles of nature); Organic Guarantee Systems; value chain; innovations; and marketing methods among others. Our minds were fed and our bodies, too – with organic produce that is local, fresh, and diverse.

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Local, fresh, and diverse organic food.
To cap off the course, we attended the 4th ALGOA Summit, which brought together local governments and the private sector to discuss policies and ways to promote organic agriculture.

David Gould of IFOAM Organics International said that all of the Sustainable Development Goals can be linked to food. We must then realize the connections between healthy people, healthy food, and healthy farms. It’s still a long way to go for the organic movement to be truly embraced but through our collective efforts, we can work together towards a more sustainable future.

 

 

 

Diet for Climate: How your food choices can mitigate climate change

Climate change impacts food security which can lead to hunger.

This was stressed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Yeb Saño during the “Ship Ahoy: Diet for Climate” event on February 15, 2018 held onboard the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior Ship.

The said event aimed to promote eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat because a plant-based diet can mitigate climate change as it generates relatively low greenhouse gasses compared to the meat industry.

According to DOST Asst. Scientist Dr. Imelda Agdeppa of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, there is a problem of under and over nutrition as well as nutrient deficiency in the Philippines. This is due to the decrease in the intake of fruits and vegetables; and in contrast a slight increase of meat intake.

Greenpeace Food and Ecological Agriculture Campaigner Virginia Benosa-Llorin mentioned that in a commissioned survey, seven out of ten Filipinos are meat eaters with meat being tasty as one of the reasons why they prefer it over vegetables.

To demonstrate that food can be healthy and tasty at the same time, Rainbow Warrior Chef Daniel Bravo, Chef Giney Villar of Feliza Taverna Y Cafe, and TV personality Love Añover-Lianko showed how to prepare meatless recipes.

Chef Daniel said that whatever is good for you is good for the environment as he presented his version of ceviche or kinilaw using mung beans (mongo) as the main ingredient. He called the dish “fruits of the earth” and described it as a nutritional symbiotic ecosystem.

Chef Giney encouraged the eating of raw, “living” food; to be familiar with the food that we eat; and to eat local. She created a fruit chocolate dip made from tablea, fried and green pinipig, and muscovado.

Meanwhile, Love Añover, as a mother, stressed the importance of making healthy food attractive for kids and teaching them how to eat and prepare healthy dishes. She came up with a salad dressing using honey, mustard, calamansi, pepper, and salt.

“Ship Ahoy: Diet for Climate” was part of the Greenpeace Southeast Asia Philippine Leg Rainbow Warrior Ship Tour. The tour will be highlighting the real impacts of climate change in the country and, at the same time, celebrate solutions towards climate resilience and resistance.

 

Hating on Veggies

Why do kids hate vegetables so much?

Chef Giney Villar said it’s because they’re not really exposed to it. Busy parents resort to easy to prepare processed food and convenient takeaways. The influence of fastfood advertising doesn’t help. I remember attending a baby’s christening celebration held at a fastfood chain. Children learn early on that unhealthy food is the best for them.

To promote healthy and sustainable eating among parents and school children, demonstrate healthy and sustainable ways of cooking food for children, and come up with simple doable list of activities for children and their parents on how they can eat healthy and help in climate change mitigation with their food choices, #IAmHampasLupa Ecological Agriculture Movement together with Greenpeace organized the “Healthy Eats and Treats School Caravan” at West Fairview Elementary School on February 3, 2018.

Part of the event was a cooking demo by Chef Giney who introduced how to prepare tasty tofu patties. Just mix ground tofu, a little flour, grated carrots, chopped onions and onion leaves, plus salt to taste. Then it’s ready for frying. Chef Giney likewise showed how to make spaghetti sauce out of real ingredients – a mix of tomato paste, eggplant, carrots, onion, garlic, salt, sugar, and oil. Really, this aversion towards veggies can be prevented if we try to be a little more creative with our cooking.

 

 

During the school caravan, I asked the participating students about their favorite fruit and vegetable. Their answer, apple and squash. The most hated veggie, as expected, is ampalaya (bitter gourd). All of a sudden, a group of kids started chanting “chicken joy.” We had fish and pinakbet (Filipino vegetable dish) for lunch and I noticed not a lot of the kids finished the pinakbet. These say a lot about the current generation’s eating habit.

It’s not too late, though. As Chef Giney said, we can actually train our taste buds. Our tongues are so used to artificial food with high salt and high sugar content but we can start lessening our intake of these and slowly transition to healthier more plant-based diet. We do this for the sake of our bodies and the planet.

Advocating for ecological agriculture and mindful consumption

Last year, I was inspired to learn about the positive side of technology in Rappler’s Innovation + Social Good event. This year, I got to actively participate in the Social Good Summit (SGS) as I was able to share the campaign of #IAmHampasLupa.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video:

Rappler also wrote about our story here. Thank you, Rappler!

The SGS with the theme, “#HackSociety 2017: Innovate with purpose, leave no one behind,” focused on media and democracy; environment and climate change; peace, governance, and local development; and public health and well-being. It featured innovative solutions to society’s real life problems. It was also an opportunity for different groups to showcase the projects and the work that they do contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Speaking of SDGs, The 2030 Project organized “LEADERS Unite 2017: #OurGoals.” This is a youth initiative committed to supporting the attainment of the United Nation’s 17 SDGs Agenda by 2030. For this activity, I was invited as a Youth Champion for SDG#12: Responsible Consumption and Production where I discussed how our consumption behavior can contribute to climate change.

Both of these events were a reaffirmation of how this generation, branded as indifferent millennials, is actually doing its part to solve the problems of the world. So despite all the negativity these days, it’s nice to know that there are still a lot of good things happening around us.

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Legazpi Weekend Getaway

“How can something so beautiful turn out to be destructive at the same time?”

This was what came to mind when I first saw a glimpse of Mayon Volcano as the plane descended at the Legazpi Airport. The volcano, completely visible except for a small patch of clouds covering the top, took my breath away.

According to Wikipedia, Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines erupting over 51 times in the past 400 years. The most destructive eruption was in 1814 that buried the town of Cagsawa. Aside from volcanic eruptions, Albay is also frequented by typhoons. But the province is a model for disaster resilience and zero casualty for their impressive disaster preparedness efforts.

Arriving so early in the morning, I got to walk around Legazpi, also known as the “New Albay,” which is reminiscent of a quiet, sleepy town but contrasted by a cluster of malls in the area. It was around 6 AM and all the shops were closed and most activities were centered in the market nearby. For me, Old Albay District had more charm with its old structures, quaint cafes, and hip and modern restaurants.

As a first timer in the place, having a perfect view of Mt. Mayon was the goal. For this attempt, we went to Daraga Church, Cagsawa Ruins, and Camalig (where Japanese war tunnels and the chocolate hills of Albay are located). Too bad, the volcano was not at all sociable and hid behind a veil of clouds the whole time.

Despite, this, we comforted ourselves with Albay’s one of a kind culinary offerings – traditional Bicolano dishes from Waway’s Restaurant which used to be a turo-turo (eatery); Bicolano fusion options from the famous Small Talk Café; and sili (chili) ice-cream from 1st Colonial Grill which also offers other interesting flavors like kalamansi (lime), malunggay (moringa), and tinutong na bigas (burnt rice).

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The following day, we got lucky as Mayon finally displayed a full view of it’s perfect cone, its unbelievably symmetrical conical shape. What better way to enjoy Mayon but through an ATV tour with Your Brother Travel & Tours. For someone who doesn’t drive and can’t even ride a bicycle for the life of me, riding the ATV was a lot of fun as we threaded through rocky slopes, a river, and long and winding roads.

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Legazpi is definitely a must-visit place. You get to go sightseeing and do fun activities, you’ll enjoy the food that will surely satisfy your palate, and you’ll revel in Mayon’s grandeur. How about that for a quick weekend getaway.

Live to Eat and Eat to Live Long

It may not be obvious but I love to eat. However, participating in the Food for Life campaigns of Greenpeace and being a part of #IAmHampasLupa, a group advocating mindful consumption, made me put more effort into choosing the food that I eat. After all, “You are what you eat.”

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“…This is the tenderloin for the sophisticated restaurants. The Mexicans love the feet. I know. Go figure! We all love the face and the anus, as American as apple pie! Hot dogs. It’s all edible. All edible, except the squeal.” -Nancy Mirando, Okja

I watched Food, Inc. (2008), Super Size Me (2004), Okja (2017), and other documentaries, films, and Youtube videos related to food. I also read articles and books, and participated in advocacy events that further discussed the topic. I know, it seemed like I was brainwashing myself but aren’t we supposed to be concerned about stuff that goes into our bodies? Well, from all these so-called “indoctrination,” I came up with the following (obvious) conclusions:

  1. We have a broken food system. We are disconnected to nature, to the food that we eat; that we don’t know how it’s produced and where it comes from.
  2. Processed food is bad news. But we know that already.
  3. Corporations, as always, are in control of the food available in the market.
  4. We don’t know the long-term effects of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) but we’re probably eating them every day.
  5. We eat more meat and less fruits and vegetables leading to health problems.

In an ideal world, you would be growing and cooking your own food. You would be buying local produce and would constantly check the label of products you buy. You wouldn’t be wasting food. Who does that, anyway. Did you know that it’s the third best way of cutting greenhouse gases? And you would eat more fruits and veggies because aside from its health benefits, it can curb greenhouse gas emissions, too.

So what’s stopping us from eating healthy? Let’s start from home. Busy parents have no time to cook and resort to the convenience of fast food takeaways and processed food. Kids get used to eating junk early on. And then these big corporations which don’t really care about your wellbeing offer the “best-tasting” food in the planet, with the demand further fueled by these #hugot-inspired advertisements. Witty as they appear to be, sometimes how corporations take advantage of values, relationships, and emotions as marketing ploy can be disturbing.

If you live in the city, the readily available options you have are of course fast food and processed food yet again. Organic choices may not be that affordable to many but that begs the question, “How much value do you actually put on your food and yourself?”

Another eating habit issue is this notion that meat is normal, necessary, natural, and nice which drives us to consume more meat with less or no veggies at all. A 2003 World Health Report, however, estimates that 1.7 million deaths worldwide is due to low consumption of fruits and vegetables. You don’t have to be a vegan or a vegetarian but health experts encourage a more plant-based diet for a healthier you.

Climate change and the environment, and animal welfare may not faze you in terms of your diet but if you want to live long, that should motivate you to give more thought to what you’re eating. Quite literally, it’s a matter of life and death.