Hymns for Banaue

By Niña Elyca Ruiz, Contributor Significant efforts to conserve the Banaue Rice Terraces are music to our ears…sometimes literally. Recently, 20 composers were chosen to undergo a cultural immersion and fine-tune their music as part of the semi-final round of the very first Banaue International Music Composition Competition (BIMCC). Launched in November last year, the BIMCC was organized to honor the famed Banaue Rice Terraces and create awareness on the need to restore it to its natural charm. “Through music, we are sending a strong message to the public and the world about the beauty and culture of the Banaue Rice Terraces. At the same time, we hope to draw attention from Filipinos to help restore our World Heritage site, and the ecosystem that thrives in and around it,’ said BIMCC artistic director Chino Toledo. The composer-fellows hail from different parts of the globe. While there are Filipinos among the group, the rest come from as far as the countries in Europe, South America and the Middle East. When asked if being a Filipino sets a competitive advantage among other participants, local composer-fellow Jem Taraloc explained they are on equal footing, considering that all of them (Filipinos included) have never actually set foot at the Banaue Rice Terraces and have depended on research to create their musical pieces. The semi-finalists were provided with a variety of materials to aid them in their composition — from texts, to pictures, and videos to familiarize them with the Ifugao culture. In the meantime, the discovery of chants and rhythms in the province piqued the interest of foreign participants. Composer-fellows Alessandra Salvati of Italy and Theodore Broutzakis of Greece, for instance, both found it fascinating to blend their western musical influences with eastern sounds. “What we are here for is to look for the high quality of musical writing, and everyone in the group has achieved that. It’s Banaue (music) from different points of view,” underscored Toledo. The BIMCC is set to culminate with a symphonic concert on July 25 at the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, where an orchestra will perform the music of the 10 selected finalists of the competition. The top 10 finalists will be determined by an international panel of judges composed of renowned composers, musicians and academicians. Restoring the Banaue Rice Terraces The BIMCC is part of the initiatives of the Banaue Rice Terraces Restoration Project that aims to rehabilitate the innate beauty and cultural practices of this natural wonder. The project is spearheaded by a private organization, Universal Harvester Inc. (UHI), in partnership with the municipality of Banaue in the province of Ifugao. “We would like to create awareness on the plight of the Banaue Rice Terraces, as it is suffering from deterioration due to neglect and natural calamities. And with this, it needs to be rehabilitated to conserve its beauty and keep it on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list,” said Dr. Milagros Ong-How, president and chief executive officer of UHI. UHI is also calling for the advancement of Philippine agriculture by recognizing outstanding farmers in the country through its TOFARM advocacy. “Through these activities, not only are we unlocking potentials and boosting productivity, but also preserving our heritage as Filipinos,” Ong-How added. BIMCC’s winners will receive cash prizes from the competition’s organizers — US$12,000 for the grand champion and US$6,000 each for the two runners-up. The public can further support the Banaue Rice Terraces Restoration Project by purchasing donor seats on the grand finals night Visit to know more about BIMCC, and other ongoing efforts for the rehabilitation of the Banaue Rice Terraces.

Meet the next-gen champions

New opportunities await children both in academics and in sports as they go back to school. While it may not always be easy to balance the two, both are necessary for the holistic development of kids. More than just the physical wellness and academic performance of a child, it is crucial to undergo powerful, character-forming activities like sports, which teach them life values they can take until adulthood. Milo, a longtime partner of parents in energizing passions, nourishing ambitions and imparting values through sports, introduces three of its next-generation talents who are not only champions on the court, but also admirable student-athletes in school. They are young karate champion Raymond Akira Sanvictores, rising volleyball star Pia Abbu and MVP cager Enzo Competente. Get to know the freshest talents who now join the likes of Chris Tiu, Alyssa Valdez and Japoy Lizardo in inspiring the country’s next generation of champions. Raymond Akira Sanvictores: Karate kid Nine-year-old Raymond “Momo” Akira Sanvictores may often be smaller compared to his mat opponents, but there’s no doubting the heart of the young karate champion. A little over two years into the sport, Momo has been bagging silver and bronze medals in multiple tournaments across Asia, one in Singapore and one in Malaysia. The blue-belter got into karate because he wanted to be “stronger and more confident” in every session and looks up to his coach/sensei Richard Lim because of his high-level skill and way of teaching. Milo has been a big part of Momo’s journey ever since he started karate. He’s enrolled in the summer sports clinics organized by AAK Philippines on top of his usual weekday trainings. “I drink Milo every day, most especially before my trainings and competitions,” shared Momo. Born to a Filipino father and a Japanese mother, this promising martial artist also makes sure his discipline is applied in school. His parents both tutor him in his studies, with his mom helping him out in his favorite subject, mathematics. This little warrior still deals with the nervousness and intimidation of facing bigger, older and more experienced opponents, but says, “My coach and parents always cheer me up and encourage me when I get scared. Coach says I’m faster and my speed can beat my opponent.” He adds, “Karate has taught me to be more confident and believe in myself. It also teaches me how to overcome challenges with teamwork. Respect is also very important. I learn to respect my teachers, sensei and teammates.” Pia Abbu: Visayan ‘volleybelle’ A 15-year-old native of Cagayan de Oro, Pia Abbu has set her sights on soaring to greater heights in volleyball. Who would have thought that her casual “laru-laro lang” beginnings in the sport would lead to a scholarship and multiple regional and national tournaments, the biggest of them being the Palarong Pambansa? Pia’s first sport was actually taekwondo. She was doing well, and eventually discovered the joys of volleyball as a team sport when she was in grade 6. Playing within a team was something that brought her greater joy and more meaningful motivation as an athlete. Her idols on the court include Milo champion and volleyball superstar Alyssa Valdez. Beyond her athletic talents, Pia is a good example of a well-rounded student-athlete. She participated in the Miss Milo 2017 pageant where she translated the confidence gained on the court to a new stage and is a consistent honor student and scholar. “Sports helped boost my self-confidence, especially when we joined different tournaments around the country, and also in my school work. I was shy before but volleyball helped develop my leadership skills,” Pia says. The teen athlete aims to bring her younger teammates, whom she treats as her sisters, to tournaments outside the region and around the country so they may share the same experience that molded her into a young champion. Renzo Competente: Star player Another proud product of the BEST Center partnership is 13-year-old MVP basketball player Renzo Competente of La Salle Greenhills, who is the MVP from the 2017 Milo SBP Passerelle tournament. Picking up the sport when he was six years old while playing with his brothers, Renzo has since gone on to win numerous championships and rack up several individual awards to add to his already impressive athletic resume. “For me, it is important to be ready for every game. Milo helps give me energy so I can give my best to my team. When we win, I am ecstatic and that is what I enjoy most about basketball,” shares Enzo. Enzo looks up to the likes of basketball superstars like Kyrie Irving for his flashy moves yet humble demeanor, and Kiefer Ravena for his selfless teamplay and impressive skillset. Despite his busier training schedules and games, Renzo sees to it he allots enough time to catch up on his studies and maintain his athletic scholarship. He credits his parents as his main source of inspiration and motivation in exceling both in sports and school. The cager has bigger ambitions in the coming years, starting with getting the opportunity to play for a good collegiate team, hopefully going pro, and ultimately playing for the country in the highest level of basketball. Milo and BEST Center have helped me in many ways. I learned about teamwork, hard work and how not to give up when you are having a difficult time or losing the game. One has to be positive and stay humble, says the inspiring basketball star. The future is bright for the next generation of student-athletes with Momo, Pia and Renzo leading the way, and Milo strengthening its commitment to building a nation of champions. For more information on Milo Philippines, log on to the official website ( or the MiloILO Philippines Facebook page ( Follow Milo on Twitter (@MiloPH) and Instagram (@MiloPhilippines).

Be savvy with sushi

Eating a particular dish the proper way enhances the experience and shows appreciation to chefs who prepare them. One eats wings with their hands; slurping soup shows how much a diner enjoys the dish. In Japanese cuisine where sushi reigns supreme, there are dos and don’ts as to how to enjoy this delicacy the best possible way. Watami Grill and Sushi Bar gives a lowdown on how to be sushi-savvy and other tidbits that can make your Japanese dining experience pleasurable. Traditionally, the proper way to eat a sushi is by picking up a piece with your thumb and middle finger. Unlike the sashimi which is eaten using chopsticks, sushi is usually eaten by hand so as not to ruin the form and offend the chef who handcrafted it. It is, however, generally accepted nowadays to use chopsticks when eating sushi. Apply a hint of soy sauce, fish-down. Remember, the rice and soy should not touch. When eating it, the sushi should also be upside-down, with the fish (and not the rice) touching your tongue so you get the full flavor and freshness of the fish. Sushi should also be eaten in one bite. To cut it in half is considered rude to the chef who painstakingly made it for you. Mixing wasabi with soy sauce is a no-no. Instead, take your chopsticks and put the smallest amount needed on top of the fish. Adding too much wasabi would only hide the natural taste of the food. To determine if the sushi is fresh, always be mindful of the smell, taste, and texture. The flesh of the fish should be shiny and translucent and not dull-looking, moldy, or slimy and should be reddish-pink in color. The rice should be white and the nori, crispy. Check the texture when you pick it up with your hands. It should get back to shape when you pinch or poke it. And does it have to smell like the ocean? No, it’s supposed to be odorless. Watami has a good reputation of serving a variety of sushi and sashimi that are delicately handcrafted and served fresh upon order. Try their Angel Roll, Ebi Salmon Roll, California Maki and Super Deluxe Sushi. But Japanese cuisine is more than sushi, there are other dishes that just as flavorful. Watami has a few tips on how to be a discerning diner: • When dining in a Japanese restaurant, look for one with a seasoned Japanese chef or kitchen staff. Also, it is important to check if there are Japanese expats dining in the restaurant to know that it serves dishes with the same quality as they do in Japan. In the Philippines, Watami has a Japanese chef-consultant and is frequented by Japanese guests for its delicious food. • There are three elements visible in every dish served: balance, seasonality, and empty space. A dish is considered well-arranged if it feels “peaceful” to look at. Plates are rarely fully covered—30% is considered the minimum amount of space to leave empty. This concept of minimalism is called ma and is the “space between things” that is teeming with possibilities. • Finally, a good Japanese restaurant should have an extensive menu. Aside from fresh sashimi, sushi and tempura, it should include other quintessential Japanese dishes such as ramen, pork and chicken katsu, aburi and yakitori. It should serve tea, sake and Souchu plus fruits, light cookies (or manju) or matcha-based goodies as desserts. Watami serves well-loved Japanese dishes from sushi, sashimi, sukiyaki, hot pots, ramen, to assorted salmon, seafood fare, salads, pork and beef stone pot dishes, ramen, aburi and katsu at affordable prices. And like in Japan, guests are given the utmost in customer care to ensure that each visit is a delightful one. Watami branches are located at SM Mall of Asia, Shangri-La Plaza, Uptown BGC and Greenbelt 2. Check out and follow FB and IG: WatamiPH

Unlimited dim sum, anyone?

Pork siomai, hakaw loaded with shrimp filling, those tiny siopao-like dumplings called xiao long bao that burst with flavorful soup in the mouth, and of late pork buns with their flaky crust filled with a generous helping and barbecued pork… No real Chinese meal is ever complete without them. We love dim sum so much that we order them for appetizer every time we dine in a Chinese restaurant. Dim sum comes in different forms — meat, seafood, chicken, vegetables — and is steamed or fried. The bite-sized treats are usually served in fours, in bamboo steamer baskets, which are sometimes not enough, especially if we’re dining out in groups. Now, there are places where dim sum lovers can have unlimited dim sum for a reasonable price, one of which happens to be Shang Palace at Makati Shangri-La Hotel. Dim sum lovers enjoy dining at Shang Palace because of the quality of its dim sum and the wide variety of dim sum to choose from. It also offers Dim Sum Plus, which treats diners to unlimited dim sum for P1,094 net. Makati Shangri-La is now taking its Dim Sum Plus a notch higher by holding an exclusive four-day Dim Sum Plus voucher sale that will allow diners to enjoy their unlimited dim sum for only P868 net per person. The Dim Sum Plus sale will take place from July 28 to 31, and patrons who get to purchase vouchers during the four-day sale may use their vouchers from July 31 to September 30. With Dim Sum Plus, diners get to enjoy unlimited dim sum at Shang Palace during lunch, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Mondays to Saturdays. The restaurant offers a wide selection of dim sum, including its specialties, such as steamed crystal skin shrimp dumplings, Shanghai xiao long bao, barbecued pork pie, deep-fried taro puffs with diced scallops, and pan-fried turnip cake with XO sauce. Shang Palace’s steamed crystal skin shrimp dumplings, better known as hakaw, are bigger than the usual shrimp dumplings and the filling is pure shrimp, no pork fat extenders. Shanghai xiao long bao treats the palate to a sensory experience, as it is a moist meat dumpling with soup inside. It is supposed to be enjoyed in one mouthful. Pop it into the mouth, take a bite, let the soup burst in the mouth and then enjoy the meaty biteful. Barbecued pork pie is still all the rage, with Chinese restaurants enjoying good sales not only on dine-in but also on take-outs. Shang Palace’s version is one of the best, with flaky skin encasing a luscious barbecued pork filling. Similarly, Shang Palace’s deep-fried taro puffs with diced scallops is a cut above the rest. It is a visual wonder as it is a gastronomical treat. It is a work of art, seeing how the thin threads of taro are spun around the ball of filling and deep-fried to a purplish gold and fluffy crisp. The key is exact timing, temperature and technique. It is more commonly known as fried carrot cake (particularly in Singapore, where carrot is regarded as white radish) or fried radish cake, but at Shang Palace, it simply goes by the name pan-fried turnip cake with XO sauce. Apart from being visually appetizing, this version is uniquely exciting because it has a nice spicy kick to it when taken with the XO sauce. Other dim sum items to choose from include steamed pork dumplings with fish roe, spinach dumplings stuffed with shrimps, steamed black bean sauce, steamed chicken feet with spicy black bean sauce, deep-fried spring rolls, steamed barbecued pork rice rolls, steamed beef balls, and deep-fried ham shui kok stuffed with minced pork and chicken. What’s more: Vegetarians would also love Makati Shangri-La Hotel’s Dim Sum Plus because there are vegetarian dim sum choices as well, such as steamed vegetarian dumpling “chiu chow” style, deep-fried vegetable spring roll, lohon style steamed rice roll with assorted mixed vegetables, and pan-fried bean curd roll with mixed vegetables. The name Dim Sum Plus can be misleading, although in a good way, because its name suggests solely dim sum for lunch. Instead, Dim Sum Plus includes unlimited appetizers and a choice of one soup, one rice, noodles or congee, one main course, and one dessert. Consider this lineup of menu choices that diners can enjoy: Sichuan-style hot and sour soup, yang chow fried rice with diced honey pork and shrimps, Fujian stir-fried noodles, hot prawn salad, sweet and sour pork, deep-fried lapu-lapu fillet with sweet corn sauce, and chilled mango purée with sago and diced mango. Shang Palace’s Chinese chef Ben Lam strongly recommends hot prawn salad and sautéed scallops with asparagus in XO sauce. The Dim Sum Plus lunch winds down with three of the most popular Chinese dessert selections — chilled mango purée with sago and diced mango, almond soya jelly with lychee, and deep-fried stuffed sesame balls with lotus paste.

Stop and listen

By Ditas P. Bermudez, Contributor “What does your past sound like?” “Papa, please stop at the nearest ‘CR,’” says the 21-year-old Mining Engineering fresh graduate to the man behind the wheels, just a decibel higher than a whisper. The family is just 40 minutes’ drive away from their destination. Everyone in the car perks up from varying degrees of drowsiness. “Look for the nearest Jollibee,” commands Environmental Engineer mom. “Use the restroom, but don’t buy food from that place,” adamantly declares 18-year-old Food Technology student and second eldest daughter. “Are we getting lunch there, too?” asks the day’s designated driver. “One kilometer away is a gasoline station that claims to have clean restrooms,” calmly announces one of the two family friends on the trip, eyes still on smart phone. “It doesn’t have to be Jollibee, does it?” civil engineer dad tentatively mutters to no one in particular. An almost inaudible sigh is heard and then a remark, “It’s just because it is highly unlikely to find any other place with a decent CR out here.” All too soon, the car pulls up at the parking space right next to the purported ‘clean CR.’ And before anything else could be said about what just happened, the SUV turns left at the sign that reads “Pundaquit.” The mother hen of the group sagely decides, “Lunch first before the tour.” No one disagrees, so after the requisite admission sign-up and other transactions, menus printed on bamboo paddles are passed around after tables are rearranged to accommodate the family plus two friends. A cacophony of noises ensues as the nearly-frazzled server tries to answer queries about whether “cheese pizza” and “cheese pizza overload” means the latter has varied types of cheese toppings or that the “overload” just means it has more cheese; about which pasta dish is crustaceans-free; and much later, after 12-year-old daughter (the youngest in the brood and obviously everyone’s favorite) passes her “leftover” sisig to daddy, whether it is all right to order just half a cup of rice. All of this is nearly drowned by the tuning of violins spilling out of the Ramon Corpus Hall ground floor entrance; the incessant ringing of a bell calling out to the nearest available waiter; and the steady, if a bit above white noise level, drone of Backstage Café’s air-conditioning unit. World Listening Day By the time the World Listening Day (WLD) 2018 event in CASA (Center for the Arts in San Antonio) San Miguel opened with an introduction by writer/poet Franchesca Casauay, the group has had its fill of exercise in listening, albeit unintentionally. Presented by the 26th CASA San Miguel Season in cooperation with Japan Foundation Manila, the collaboration among sound artist Teresa Barrozo, vocalist and cross-media artist Ami Yamasaki and the Pundaquit Virtuosi opened a world of possibilities for reflecting on the questions posed by WLD 2018. Themed “Future Listening,” which, according to Barrozo, “calls for reimagining a personal and universal future through listening,” WLD 2018 participants are “encouraged to examine their hopes, dreams, ambitions and fears for the future and reflect on the question, ‘What does your future sound like?’” Similar to events planned across the globe, the CASA San Miguel activity had members of the Pundaquit Virtuosi take part in “imagining sonic possible worlds and the future of acoustic ecology” through sound walks and field recordings that they shared with invited guests to the curated sound presentation last 15 July. “Future Listening,” according WLD 2018 organizers, ultimately aims to engage the world in opening its ears to the present and in acknowledging the immense capacity of the act of listening in shaping our collective future. Guide questions posed are: What does your past sound like? What does your present sound like? Which sounds do you wish to retain? Which sounds do you wish never to hear again? Which sounds do you consider as toxic waste? How does silence and noise sound in your future? Which sounds have gone silent? Can you still hear? Sound of silence The challenge thrown to the audience at CASA San Miguel last Sunday created quite a stir even as curiosity and uncertainty mixed, leaving a certain sense of feeling unsettled long after the improv performance showing teens fiddling with or plucking strings, flicking violin bows and knocking on the body’s lower bout as counterpoints to Yamasaki’s primal vocals. The 18-year-old in the group would later on comment: “At first I was surprised, then amused, then toward the end, got scared as the lights went off. It felt and sounded real…it overwhelmed me with emotions…” To which another member of the group added, “…but it’s curious how, while our senses were heightened at what seemed like ‘curated chaos,’ we yearned for a semblance of order and harmony, to which our minds and hearts naturally gravitate. That’s why I was glad there was a request to the violinists to do an encore of what they were playing outside the concert hall—which, unbeknown to the audience, was really part of the entire program, in the first place.” The youngest in the group couldn’t help but say, “Totoo nga (It’s true)…we have forgotten how to listen. And it is one of the things we should know how to do well. And, listening to silence is part of that.” *Thousands of people from six continents have taken part in World Listening Day every 18 July (with related events around this date) since its inception in 2010. World Listening Day 2018 Philippines will have a digital album launch of online album featuring tracks reflecting on the theme “Future Listening” from selected Filipino participants on 18 July, 7 p.m., at the Suthira B. Zalamea Lobby of ARETÉ, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. There will also be live performances by Teresa Barrozo, Franchesca Casauay, Joee Mejias, Pauline Vicencio-Despi, Ami Yamasaki and Yuko Nexus.

Seeding for good nutrition

“Volunteers teach students to plant vegetable gardens.” With 20 percent of Filipinos living below the poverty line, health and nutrition continue to be a major concern in the Philippines. According to a recent study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), the current chronic malnutrition rate among Filipino children aged zero to two is at 26.2 percent, the highest in 10 years. To date, a significant number of children continue to go to bed hungry and eat less than three meals a day. Committed to addressing the state of malnutrition in the Philippines, Republic Cement launched Project Harvest, a holistic sustainability initiative in support of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Gulayaan Sa Paaralan program. Project Harvest, short for Health Advancement through Recycling and Vegetable Garden Enrichment for Sustainable Transformation, aims to address malnutrition through innovative farming solutions in selected schools within its host communities in Batangas, Teresa, Bulacan, Cebu and Iligan. “Project Harvest is another step we are taking to build stronger kids for a stronger republic. We are more than happy to support the Department of Education as we share the same vision of a country with healthier children,” said Nabil Francis, president of Republic Cement Services, Inc. Apart from the Kusina ng Kalinga, a socially responsible program in partnership with Gawad Kalinga that aims to nourish wasted children in carefully-selected adopted schools in a period of six months, the project is another phase in Republic Cement’s fight against malnutrition in the country. DepEd’s Gulayaan sa Paaralan, program is a school-based vegetable gardening initiative that started in 2007. It was initially started to support their school-based feeding programs with the goal of nourishing severely wasted schoolchildren. The produce from the vegetable gardens are then used to make daily nutritious meals for schoolchildren. Also in line with the Department of Health’s established theme for Nutrition Month this July, “Ugaliing magtanim, Sapat na nutrisyon aanihin!,” Project Harvest is a fitting initiative that encourages and enables selected schools to engage in backyard planting. Planting seeds Volunteers from Republic Cement dedicate their spare time to educate their host communities and maintain these school-based vegetable gardens. “There is nothing like volunteering to warm the heart. As a working mom, I feel privileged to work for a company that gives us employees the opportunity to help children become healthier and stronger. We are more than happy to spend a few hours doing gardening and cleaning, knowing that these simple acts could have an impact on a child’s life,” said Gina Ceniza, mom of three and community relations manager of Republic Cement’s Batangas Plant. The company’s employees, contractors, teachers and even parents flocked to the schools to clean the plots of land and set-up the vegetable gardens using recyclable materials. Volunteers were assigned tasks such as waste segregation, plastic bottle preparation and soil cultivation. They also transformed empty plastic bottles into plant holders for the vegetable gardens, filling these up with soil and vegetable seeds. As an additional innovation to the vegetable garden, Republic Cement is also installing a rainwater catchment system to collect rainwater during heavy downpours, which can then be used for watering the garden. Not only does this ensure stable water supply for the garden, it is also anticipated to reduce operational expenses for the school by having water available for secondary uses, i.e. cleaning. Project Harvest is launched in line with DepEd’s nationwide initiative called Brigada Eskwela that activates parents, local businesses, teachers, students, non-government organizations and members of the community to volunteer for the maintenance and clean-up of public elementary and secondary schools. The said project is being implemented in 14 schools within Republic Cement’s host communities nationwide. “By ensuring the health and nutrition of our children, we are also ensuring that our youth will be strong enough to lead our country in the future,” concluded Francis.

Helping parents meet infants’ nutritional needs

You are your child’s first and most important role model. Eat the food you want your child to eat and show that you like it. Parents need good knowledge to ensure adequate and balanced nutrition for their kids, especially in infancy (birth to two years). During this dynamic phase which is marked by rapid development, a sufficient amount and appropriate composition of nutrients are crucial for growth and functional outcomes in terms of cognition, immune response, metabolic programming of long-term-health, and well-being. Given this need, the Nestlé Nutrition Institute (NNI), an organization with the goal of fostering Science for Better Nutrition, recently held the 91st International NNI Workshop in the Philippines titled “Nurturing a Healthy Generation of Children: Research Gaps and Opportunities.” With the objectives of exploring early eating behavior and taste development, and understanding what children eat, the workshop provided professionals with scientific updates as well as clinical and practical exchanges with globally recognized experts and colleagues from different countries. Topics included emerging research on early feeding behavior, dietary intakes, and health outcomes. The most recent findings of national surveys on the nutritional intakes of children in various countries were presented at the workshop. In the Philippines, a study by the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) on food consumed by infants and toddlers aged 6-35 months demonstrated that the intake of fat and many micronutrients in Filipino children are markedly inadequate. DOST-FNRI was represented by Dr. Imelda Agdeppa, assistant scientist and officer-in-charge of the Nutrition Assessment and Monitoring Division. The study concluded that the shortfalls in nutrient intakes can be largely explained by the fact that refined rice was the major source of many key nutrients, while nutrient-dense foods such as milk, fruits, and vegetables only played a little role in the diet. Meanwhile, Prof. Andrea Maier-Nöth, managing director of Eat-Health-Pleasure GmbH in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland spoke on findings on the early development of food preferences and healthy eating habits in infants. She explained that children have many taste buds and are born with the ability to taste, smell and discriminate among a variety of foods; and to learn to like and enjoy a variety of foods that are pleasurable and healthy. Furthermore, food pleasure can be learned early and through guidance. What to do Breastfeed if possible, since breast milk carries flavors from the mother’s diet that encourage later acceptance of a variety of foods. Give a mix of infant cereals, vegetables and fruits first after milk (start at six months). Train baby’s taste early to accept vegetables and fruit which can be bitter and sour. Try to feed your baby a variety of vegetables and healthy baby snacks with different flavors and textures daily; at about seven months give healthy finger foods to chew on (different shapes, faces of veggies). Make healthy foods pleasurable via food pairing, cooking together, experiencing ingredients, gaining knowledge about healthy foods, eating and enjoying together, growing veggies and eating them. You are your child’s first and most important role model! Eat the food you want your child to eat and show that you like it. What not to do Don’t give up after only two to three tries. If your baby does not accept a new food, offer it on at least eight occasions between foods that he likes. Exposing infants early to the taste of commonly rejected foods, such as vegetables, is a powerful strategy to increase food preference, beyond food neophobia or the pickiness phase. Don’t try to force your infant to eat, but do make sure he takes at least a tiny taste at each meal. Some infants hardly eat any of an initially disliked vegetable for 5 – 6 days and then suddenly they start to eat and enjoy it. Don’t panic! Be patient and calm if your child rejects a food. Fussy children do grow out of it. Don’t put disliked food on the plate next to liked food and expect your child to eat them all. With respect to allergy and early food variety, according to Prof. Maier-Nöth, high food diversity during complementary feeding might actually be beneficial in preventing food allergy. The period between birth to two years offers a one-time opportunity to shape food preferences and habits that will have an important impact on a child’s growth and health. It is an opportunity that parents need to recognize and invest in.

Choosing organic

Organic fruits and vegetables have consistently been shown to have lower presence of pesticide residue. “Breastfeeding mothers can influence the supply and quality of fatty acids for their infants by eating a diet with organic dairy,” said Dr. Lukas Rist, lead author of a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, in an article published in 2007 at the Organic Consumers Association website. The same article said a diet in which 90 percent or more are organic dairy and meat products is “correlated with measurably higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA),” a type of fat that is “believed to have anti-carcinogenic, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-diabetoc and immune-enhancing effects, as well as a favorable influence on body fat composition.” CLA is also good for immune system development among newborns, it added. Given such findings on the benefits of a “clean” diet, Filipinos would likely make the healthy choice. Choosing organic used to be difficult because of lack of availability, but this is slowly changing. Recently, Healthy Options, the leading all-natural products retailer in the Philippines, sparked greater conversation for sustainable farming and clean eating, reminding consumers that “our choices define our future.” Healthy Options has long partnered with sustainable companies that consumers can trust, those committed to providing sustainably, fairly produced products that benefit the environment, farmers and consumers. It has also shown big support for small farmers. The company has long enjoined people to take a closer look at the real impact food production has on the planet. The organic food industry has been growing steadily for several years, but reports in recent years of food risks have pushed organic farming into the spotlight. Organic fruits and vegetables have consistently been shown to have lower presence of pesticide residue. At Healthy Options, there are natural product finds and organic produce sourced from local farmers who grow fruits and vegetables healthful for consumers and are mindful of workers and surrounding communities. Locally grown Those local farms that Healthy Options has partnered with treat animals with respect -- all animals have access to the outdoors and free-range forage, along with plenty of space to move around freely. When consumers support companies offering locally or regionally grown foodstuff, they help ensure that small farms stay in business for the long haul and bring to market fresh foods. Locally grown or sustainably farmed produce has retained nutrients, emerging fresher and containing less pesticides that non-local produce needs in order to make it through long transport and delivery time. Buying locally grown produce supports the farms that grew them and the communities that surround them. In so doing, the consumer also makes the greener choice. Healthy Options’ all-natural chicken, eggs and pork come from livestock raised in an all-natural environment. Partner-farms adhere to practices that safeguard animals’ health and well-being. The animals are fed with organic vegetables, wholesome grains, wild insects and bugs. Healthy Options has renewed its commitment to giving customers better choices for a better life. Its show of support to small organic farmers, and to healthy, humane sustainable farming started years back. Its stores bear ‘Food With Conscience’ and ‘Sustainably Sourced’ signages, along with an immense variety of organic and natural foods and products in various categories. Indeed, it has maintained a consistently high level of quality and excitement that has elevated grocery shopping from a chore into an adventure. Many of Healthy Options’ suppliers generate less waste and protect the land, as well as consumers’ health. Sustainable farms produce crops and raise animals without relying on toxic chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified seeds. It veers away from practices that degrade soil, water, or other natural resources. Making sustainable food choices has significant implications for the health of the planet – upon which human health is largely reliant. Buy sustainable food items and spread the word about its benefits – improved health, protection of the environment, practices carried out are humane to farm animals, and fair treatment to workers provided. Sustainability can occur on different fronts, including aiming for minimal to zero waste. Through the years, Healthy Options helmed by Romy Sia has highlighted its `Love Food, Hate Waste’ initiative, well aware that food is a valuable resource that must be consumed responsibly. For news updates and current thrusts, visit

The spirit of Seoul

Although beer has been gaining popularity in recent years, soju remains the drink of choice for most Koreans because of its availability and relatively cheaper price. Everything I know about the Korean drinking culture I learned from going on hoesik while staying in Seoul, the capital of Korea, a few years back. If you watch Korean dramas, you would probably notice scenes in which office employees would head to a dinner place to eat, have a beer, then move to another place for round two with soju, and end at a noraebang (Korean karaoke room) for other alcoholic drinks. That’s hoesik for you. Hoesik literally means “dinner with co-workers,” but for the most part it is an eating and drinking party involving rounds of alcohol at different venues. The Korean drinking culture reflects the country’s social structure, traditions and lifestyle. Most foreigners are quite hesitant to join hoesik, especially if they see how strong drinkers Koreans are and how the so-called drinking party goes on through the night. During my first hoesik with my Korean and foreign journalist friends, everyone had to fill a beer glass to the brim, drop a shot of soju and down it in one go. And that was just the beginning. Imagine doing this every week! It would surely make foreigners find excuses to bow out. But once a person understands the meaning behind it, appreciation kicks in. You see, drinking in Korea is more than just chugging bottles after bottles of alcohol. Drinking is a way to get to know someone. Offering someone a glass of maekju (beer) or a shot of soju is like an invitation to open up. Going to hoesik involves learning the Korean drinking etiquette. The Korean society is quite strict when it comes to drinking manners. This is why parents would really spend time teaching their children who have come of age how to drink. Drinking manners How one pours and receives drinks are important. Hierarchy also plays a big role in drinking. Koreans usually identify the “higher” person in the relationship — someone older or someone with a higher position — and defer to them accordingly. When a younger person gives a drink an older person, s/he has to offer it respectfully, with two hands holding the bottle. Raising the glass or pouring alcohol with one hand signifies that that someone has seniority. When receiving drinks from a much older person, hold the glass with two hands — the right hand holding the glass, the left hand supporting the glass bottom — and bow the head slightly, saying, “Gamsahamnida (Thank you).” After receiving the drinks, hit the bottle and put it down. If a senior person is pouring, don’t drink yet until someone has poured the senior a shot. When all the glasses are full, raise your glass, say “Geonbae!” and drink. It is customary to drink the first drink in one shot. While chugging the shot, turn your body away from the elder person, and cover your mouth and glass with one hand. It is rude to have an empty glass. When it is already empty, the drinker should hand the glass back to the person who poured the drink for him/her. In exchange, the drinker would pour him/her a shot. Refusing a drink is considered rude, unless you have absolute and airtight reason. Saying “I don’t like soju” won’t cut it; you need a better excuse than that. You can either accept the drink and discreetly get rid of it, or use the Black Knight or Black Rose. As the name suggests, the Black Knight is someone who can come to your rescue and drink it for you. Using this alternative resort also means that that person can get a wish from you. The leading spirit Although beer has been gaining popularity in recent years, soju remains the drink of choice for most Koreans because of its availability and relatively cheaper price. Statistics show that more than three billion bottles were consumed in South Korea in 2004, with one person drinking an average of 13.7 shots per week. In 2006, an average Korean approximately consumed 90 bottles of soju in a year. Soju, which means “burned liquor,” traces its roots to the Goryeo dynasty. After the Mongol invasions in the 13th century, the Yuan introduced the technique of distilling arak, which they learned from the Persians, to the Korean Peninsula. They set up distilleries around Gaegyeong. When the Yuan Mongols established their logistics base in Andong, it also became the center of home-brewed liquor. To make soju, the winemaker would crush and mix the dried grains with water. Then, the mixture would be filtered and fermented for 15 days. The aged liquor would then be boiled in a sot (cauldron), topped with soju gori, a two-storied distilling apparatus with a pipe. The result would be a clear, colorless alcoholic beverage with about 16 to 53 percent alcohol by volume. Traditionally, soju is made from rice, wheat and barley. However, during the Korean War, with the diminishing supply, distilling liquor using rice was banned. Hence, the soju producers found alternative ingredients such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and tapioca and mixed them with flavorings and sweeteners, resulting in diluted soju with lower alcohol content. Even when the ban was lifted in the late 1990s, most producers have stick to the alternative starches. By the 2000s, soju began to dominate the global alcohol market, with Jinro leading the pack, followed by Chum Churum and Good Day. All three made it to the Top 100 Global Spirits Brands in 2016. Since its launch in 1924, Jinro has been consistently named the number one soju brand in Korea and has played an important role in establishing and evolving Korean drinking culture. Currently, Jinro soju holds more than 50 percent of the Korean market share. Globally, Jinro has been the world’s best-selling soju for 12 consecutive years, with over 71 million cases sold. In 2016, its Chamisul soju reached the one trillion won (US$882 million) sale mark, with 1.7 billion bottles sold since it was launched in 1998. Make it light With Jinro’s superb taste and quality, pushed by the Hallyu phenomenon, the spirit of Korea has reached Philippine shores. More and more Filipinos appreciate Korean drinks, especially with the renaissance of Hallyu in the Philippines. And this is a trend that Hite Jinro Company wants to capitalize on by introducing a new variant exclusively for the Philippine market. Drinking is an integral part of Korean culture. “Based on our market survey, the Filipino people like to drink, but they don’t want to get drunk immediately. They want to have fun and enjoy their time with friends and family. So, they prefer drinks that are light and easy to consumer. This is the reason we are launching Jinro Light,” shared Jinro’s representative Jason Yoon during its public launch held at Dulo MNL, located in Poblacion, Makati City, recently. He explained that the new soju variant is an extension of Jinro 24. It is part of their effort to further expand into the vast Southeast Asian market. In 2017, a big chunk of soju sales, amounting to US$8.8 million, came from Southeast Asian countries. That was about 180 percent growth from 2015. Unlike regular soju, Jinro Light only has a 17 percent alcohol content, which gives a refreshing kick but is mild enough for an extended drinking experience. “With Jinro Light, the Filipino people can try a new drinking culture. Aside from expanding our brand and offering more options, we want to show the Filipino people the Korean way of drinking,” said Yoon. He explained that the Filipino and Korean drinking cultures are quite different from each other. “In Korea, we drink soju with food. But in the Philippines, when you have dinner, you just have dinner. Then, you drink afterwards. We like to drink our soju straight, but most Filipinos want to drink it as cocktails, slushies or with beer.” Your drink menu While there is no right or wrong way to enjoy soju, there are Korean drinking traditions that prevail. There’s the so-maek, a combination of soju and maekju (beer). Fill a mug with beer, then pour in some soju, stir and drink. Another thing to try is the poktanju or bomb drink. Drop a shot glass of soju into a pint of beer and chug it down. This is quite similar to the Japanese sake bomb. One of my favorite mixes is the yogurt soju. Mix soju, Yakult and Chilsung cider (you can substitute this with Sprite). You can also try the cojinganmaek, which is a good combination of soju, cola and beer. Stack a shot of soju and a shot of cola inside a cup of beer, and you’ll have a unique drinking experience. Do you like Melona, the Korean ice cream? You can mix it with soju and cider for that creamy booze. Need a little perk-me-up? Combine soju, Gatorade and Red Bull (or any energy drink) for that energizing drink. Love coffee? Bring them on. The combination of soju and coffee reminds us of Irish coffee. Like something fruity? Mix your favorite fruit juice with soju. It is like your typical Screwdriver, only you would been using soju instead of vodka. Impress your drinking buddies with subak soju. Get a whole subak (watermelon), cut it in half and start scrapping its fruit from the shell. Pour soju, add some ice, then blend well. Now, you have the perfect party drink. What’s drinking without some anju (small bites) Koreans match their alcohol with certain food. For beer, there’s chicken. This combination is popularly known as chi-maek. Makgeoli (rice wine) is usually paired with jeon (Korean savory pancake). For soju, drink it with samgyeopsal (grilled meat). But the clean taste profile of soju, it can also been paired with our pulutan choices such as sisig, crispy pata and what have you. Whatever your preference is, just raise your glass and bottoms up.
Scroll to top