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Resilient Chef: Pauline Lagdameo



TEACHING is in her blood.

In these uncertain times, I asked some friends how they are coping in their respective professions. But not just to limit ourselves with examples of their recent experiences with the pandemic, I asked them to look back further on those times when they faced challenges or just plain issues that needed to be threshed out, and how they got out of the messy situation or just plain difficulty and rose from them better and stronger, even more ready to face the future and what it had to offer them.

One such example of a strong and determined career woman is Pauline Lagdameo, a cancer survivor. She is a daughter of my dear friend, Chingay Diaz Lagdameo, who is one of the pillars of the performing arts community.

Pauline loves to teach. She believes in sharing her skills and knowledge with others.  She taught formally for 10-plus years, and even later when she worked as a corporate chef, she trained the foodservice teams she worked with as well as their clients.

“This, to me, is the most enduring part of my career,” says Pauline, “as I am very proud to see so many of my former students succeed in their chosen career paths. A lot of them are even more successful than I and I am very proud of each one of them.”

Family of educators

Pauline comes from a line of educators, her mother Chingay being the former Dean of the Assumption College (among other things), and her grandfather, the late Pompeyo Diaz, once the Solicitor General of the Philipines, a law professor at the Ateneo Law School. Her brother John, whom I met in Palawan, still teaches today at the Ateneo.

While it was not her dream to become a teacher, it was as though she was a duck taking to water, as  “I never saw it as a problem when I did decide to get into teaching,” she confides.

But then she still looked at it a challenge because “teaching goes beyond just imparting one’s skills and knowledge. It will always mean imparting something of yourself, as well. In culinary school, it involved moulding my students to become not only good chefs but good persons and leaders, as well.  One’s values should always be reflected in everything one says or does.  I try to make sure that my students/trainees see the values I uphold as a person, while keeping hopeful they will be able to learn some of these as well.  Values such as professionalism, determination, perseverance and honesty are some of the examples I always try to impart to them.  Another value that is important is humility. I always used to tell them that I may be the teacher but that I also may learn from them.”

PAULINE Lagdameo and mom Chingay Diaz Lagdameo.

Online business

With the pandemic changing everyone’s life, Pauline has started to focus on her online baking business which she started before Christmas of 2019.

As to facing uncertainty, she says, “I had to learn how to market my business through social media (from something as simple as designing a post, to analyzing and interpreting marketing data available – FB, IG data). I’m still a beginner and have a long way to go on this.

A graduate of Assumption College, both in elementary and high school, and the Ateneo de Manila where she took up BA Communications, Pauline attended the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont, USA, where she acquired her Associate›s Degree in Occupational Studies majoring in Culinary Arts.

According to Pauline, “the values and beliefs that my family have instilled in me, what I have learned from my friends, mentors and colleagues , and my life experiences, both the successes and the challenges, such as my career path and my being a cancer survivor, have shaped me to become the person I am today.

“I learned from my parents and my teachers that hard work, perseverance and honesty are the core of becoming successful. Believe in yourself and never give up. Success may not always mean huge financial success, but when you are passionate about what you do and have inner peace that this is your path in life, then that is true success. Most importantly, have faith in God. He will never give you anything you cannot handle,” she emphasizes.

ITALIAN Sausage and Cheese Loaf.

Overcoming cancer

“I have never forgotten what one of my culinary teachers said,” recalls Pauline. “The day that you believe that you are the best is the day that you will start to go down. Be humble, keep learning and never forget where you have come from. If you acknowledge that there is always someone better than you, you will never stop growing and improving.’”

From 2015 to 2018, Pauline operated a coffee shop but she had to close because “I could not handle it due to my day job, which involved a lot of traveling.  I could have looked at it as a sign of failure and given up the idea of opening my own business, but I did not.  What I have done is learn from my mistakes then and I now have my online baking business.”

I asked Pauline how resilient she is. Her reply: “I risked starting my own business after having gone through cancer. I cannot measure the extent of my resiliency but especially after overcoming cancer, I would say that I am very resilient.

How she survived her challenges tells us it could be done. “I try to be positive and look at the possible ways to overcome these challenges.  I also try to make sure to find time for myself to do the things that I enjoy doing to lessen the stress.  Another important thing for me is to acknowledge when I cannot do things on my own and ask for help. Most importantly though, is to always pray.

Her message to young people: “Believe in yourself and never give up. Success may not always mean huge financial success, but when you are passionate about what you do and have inner peace that this is your path in life, then that is true success. Most importantly, have faith in God. He will never give you anything you cannot handle.”