The official poster of the 7th Annual Las Pinas Food Festival in the theme: Harvest of Our Garden Meals.
The 7th Annual Las Pinas Food Festival was held virtually last 29 April 2020, a tradition organized by the city of Las Pinas to celebrate the colorful culture of the city through healthy living and homegrown food. This initiative by Sen. Cynthia Villar, together with Congw. Camille Villar, aims to promote the importance of urban farming and nutrition, especially now that we are facing a global health crisis. Although the COVID virus is not a nutritional issue, children and adults with low immunity and nutritional or vitamin deficiencies are more susceptible to acquiring the virus mentioned, as well as other diseases.
This event is truly a silver lining amidst the gloomy situation that the country is in. To boost morale in the community, the 20 barangays of Las Pinas – including that of Portofino Heights Alabang: Barangay Almanza Dos – were encouraged to showcase their cooking talents and urban farming skills in a cooking competition and an urban gardening competition respectively. The cooking competition was, of course, judged by chefs and food industry professionals.
For the Villars, education is the key to progress. Hence, public schools of the city also participated in an inter-school urban gardening competition, educating the children on public health and the many benefits of eating their vegetables. Through this festival, the Las Pinas citizens were able to enjoyably showcase their strengths, talents, and the beautiful culture that the city is known for.
Scallion Fritata dish, expertly cooked and prepared by Las Pinas City Barangay Manuyo Uno.
You’d be surprised at the creativity and ingenuity of the barangay cooking competition representatives, as they came up with mouth-watering yet healthy dishes from the produce of their barangay’s urban gardening efforts.
Awarding of Las Pinas Barangay Talon Dos, literally jumping for joy, for winning best dish in the inter-Barangay cooking competition. Sen. Cynthia Villar and Congw. Camille Villar were virtually present to congratulate each and every winner.
Winners and participants of these competitions were awarded essentials such as five thousand worth of grocery packs, complete urban gardening sets, as well as cash prizes to further enhance the quality of living in Las Pinas. The citizens were also provided with educational materials and shown informational presentations on health, proper diets, and COVID measures. After all, as the old adage goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
With everyone’s safety in mind, the festival was composed of pocket competitions that were isolated to involve only the participants and judges. Therefore, most of the virtual commencement was pre-recorded, but the awarding was live, showing the joy and pride of the barangay and school representatives as they won via Zoom. Truly, it was a joyful moment for the people of Las Pinas City.
The Villar Sipag Way
Social responsibility is the guiding principle of the Villar SIPAG, a non-stock, non-profit organization established in 1995. Since its inception, Villar SIPAG has initiated, implemented, and supported various projects aimed at improving the quality of life of the Filipino people.
One of Villar SIPAG’s earliest programs was ‘Pagtatanim Para Sa Kinabukasan’, a tree-planting program, to create urban forests in open spaces of subdivisions, residential communities, and schools. Over the years, its advocacies and beneficiaries have expanded and diversified in order to reach more people and sectors of society. These include the poor and underprivileged, overseas Filipino workers and their families, the youth, women, the church, and the environment, among others.
Being a social institute for poverty alleviation and governance, Villar Sipag has advocated urban farming for years. Urban farming does not only help beautify the local environment but also provides a self-sustaining source of nutrition and livelihood for people of the community. With the national government restrictions in place and market values unstable, it is of utmost importance that Filipinos adopt urban farming and incorporate it into their everyday lifestyles, as well as educate the youth about its environmental and health benefits.
A source of livelihood that provides meals for the family every day, is better than just one meal today.
The Maginhawa Community Pantry during its early days. Photo courtesy of Ana Patricia Non.
Hosts of Community Pantries are Modern Day Heroes
Community pantries are now a trending charitable effort and deserve all the hype it has garnered this pandemic. From a mere stall that provided free grocery items to the needy in Maginhawa street, Ana Patricia Non inspired a movement that continues to help thousands of people today. One by one, community pantries were set up; and even celebrities were moved to the point where they organized community pantries themselves. Notable for this, and many of her philanthropic endeavors is former Darna actress and model Angel Locsin.
Ana Patricia Non owns and runs a small furniture refurbishing business that employed workers severely affected by the pandemic — construction workers turned woodworkers and jeepney drivers turned delivery men. Within 24 hours, Non’s post had gone viral across all social media platforms and hundreds of Filipinos were requesting for more information on how they could help further this initiative. She reported in a recent Facebook post that, as of 2 May 2020, there are 1,067 community pantries active nationwide. Read her complete update on these community efforts here.
During this time of need and waiting for resources and vaccines, the Filipino qualities of being makabayan shine through as we, as a community, collectively exert effort in helping our fellow brothers and sisters survive another day. Together with this, is the importance of a self-sustaining way of life. As we help each other, let us also do our best to help ourselves. It is with collective effort, combined with education on sustainable living, that will help us through the most difficult times. The Filipino spirit is, after all, known for being strong and resilient, yet full of warmth. And if food is the best way to experience the culture, then sharing it is the best way to keep culture alive.