seeing the soul in food

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” -  J. R. R. Tolkien

A smiling hefty man in a checkered polo shirt held his hands out for us to shake. After an hour and a half of car travel to the edge of Davao City in Buda, Marilog District, he greeted and welcomed mi familia  and some friends into the Bosco Organic Farming Training Centre for Indigenous Youth.  Fr. Franco Urras, a Salesian priest, lead us into the organic herb garden and a dining table to have lunch al fresco. We took a quick look at the garden while he instructed his staff to prepare lunch for us.  He excused himself as he wasn’t feeling well but encouraged us to enjoy the place. 

We ventured into the herb farm, indulging in the sight , texture and aroma of the herbs grown in make-shift pots and converted tyres. The sweet scent of basilico and the aromatic rosemary filled was relaxing for me. Some of the herbs were new for me but I still enjoyed looking at them.  
A few snaps of the place, plants and people before I was called to eat the piping hot pizza, sun-dried tomato-herb bread with tuna-olive spread… Delish! The garden salad came dressed with olive-oil, vinegar and sun-dried tomatoes. It was served in a platter good for 8 and we were only 6… Wooah!

organic salad
ton load of pasta

Fr. Franco came out and asked if it was okay for us to wait for 10 minutes as they were still preparing the other dishes.. “What? There’s more?” I told myself. I was full and yet the pasta platter of spaghetti coated with tomato sauce, herbs, sun dried tomatoes topped with parmesan cheese was begging to be eaten. Two other plates came. One was paella valenciana  with chicken liver tid-bits. The other, I thought was beef.  it wasn’t. What it was is glutinous rice sweetened with brown sugar (locally known as biko) and topped  with (and here is where it simply works) coco sugar brittle!  Where will I put these?” I wondered. But one thing I am glad about was that I wasn’t on my fast that day. Because it was a bloomin’ feast!!! (and yes I partook of the biko… two servings in fact. ; ) ) It was all gooood! And besides there is always room for dessert, methinks. 

classic 3 cup stove top percolator
The pot of special davao coffee espresso was finally served. The aroma and bitter taste truly made the luncheon complete. The beans were grown, roasted and ground by a religious order of sisters.  My wife and I brought along almond roca and nougat candy. We thought of giving Fr. Franco for him to enjoy with his coffee. He was delighted!

We settled and enjoyed the cool 26C weather as Fr. Franco tells us about the five year program he developed for the Indigenous People (IP). Nomadic in nature, the IP youth are taught knowledge and skills in agriculture, in what father hopes to, develop and sustain themselves in their ancestral lands through farming. It’s difficult but he is hopeful given the support of the people and visitors of the centre.

We bought the tuna spread , sun dried tomatoes and herbs. Rosemary, celery and parsley plants, we took away with us and hopefully we can grow them in the lowlands. 

Fr. Franco called us and showed us how to use the herbs in more ways than just cooking. He got a long stalk of parsley and nibbled starting from the stalk and chewed his way towards the leaves. After eating it, he said that parsley is good way to freshen the breath after eating garlic, onions and even durian! 

the gourmet goodies
the author and padre franco urras, sdb
There are many articles on Padre Ninno’s Gourmet Products and the food. I wanted to write about my exposure and I saw beyond the food  and the herb gardens. What I saw is a dedicated, passionate and driven advocate even after 7 years of work. His heart is ablaze!  

We bade farewell and promised to be back with friends to help support his advocacy through food, He promised to whip us up a better Italian menu if we call ahead. We hugged and said Grazie e arrivederci!
How to get there:  go up to Marilog district after  the famous Seagull Mountain. The Center is just literally after the “Thank you for visiting Davao City” sign.  There is a driveway that leads to some structures or screened green houses.

seeing the soul in food photo album


expressions of impressions

hand of hope
“Love is not patronizing and charity isn't about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same -- with charity you give love, so don't just give money but reach out your hand instead  - Mother Teresa, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa

Dra. Mae gratefully receiving the donation
from Bobong Cutiongco
Last October 21, I was blessed to be part of a team of wonderful people from GRoUP Singapore (GRaduates of UP), Bobong Cutiongco, Joni Ferrier and Joyce Gicanal. 

Documenting their tour of  Southern Phils. Medical Center (SPMC) & turnover of the donation from GRoUP, Espesyal Pinoy, and Triskelion Singapore to the Kids of Hope in the SPMC was an amazing experience for me. 
What moved me were 1st: the stories of Dra. Mae Dolando on the fortunate current condition of the cancer patients from the hospital’s private supporters compared to years before. 2nd: on how slowly but surely her dream of improving the lives of the children and teen-agers living with cancer is coming. 3rd: the children, their doting parents and relatives.  

Dra. Mae
Dra. Mae is the lead paediatric oncologist at Davao Medical Centre who is also the project leader of the funding programme to improve survival rates of children with cancer. She is one of the founding members of Kids of Hope. Not an easy task but her passion to make a difference in the lives of the children, parents, team and supporters propels her.

from left: Joyce Gicanal, Joni Ferrier
and Bobong Cutiongco

Yes, there is still a lot of funding and volunteer work that needs to be done but through collaboration with different supporters, we will get there faster. Kids of Hope is an information education project of the Davao Children’s cancer Fund Inc. Do contact them 

House of Hope
Southern Philippines Medical Center Cmpd
Bajada, Davao City, PHIL
Telefax: (+63)(82)305-9390
Email: admin@kidsofhope.net

Album 1 and 2 on the documentation shoot of the entire GRoUP and their interaction with Dra. Mae, the children, parents in the SPMC pedriatic specialty ward, and the House of Hope. I wanted to capture were expressions of impressions.