THE Mama Sita Foundation recently awarded the winners of its Mga Kuwentong Pagkain, a story writing contest with food as the central and compelling theme. Now on its second year, it was launched in 2013 in an effort to continue Teresita ‘Mama Sita’ Reyes’ practice of food writing and to add to the already rich literature on Filipino food apart from helping to record the evolution of the Filipino culinary culture in recent years.
Taking the top prize was 16-year-old student Mignon Frances Dumanjog, whose entry, Dalawang Mangkok na Arroz Caldo, tells of a friendship that has survived time and space because of a common love for the filling flavors of Arroz Caldo. Taking second place was Marichu Ramos, who wrote about the painstaking way a woman and her family gains from the richness of the sea by producing salt from the Zambales sea in her entry, Harvesting the Sea. Rhodora Constantino’s 80th Birthday, a touching tribute to a mother who has fostered togetherness and bravely faced poverty through her culinary specialty, Adobo sa Kamatis, emerged in third place.
The winners were selected by a distinguished panel of judges composed of author, TV host and self-proclaimed “Adobo Queen” Nancy Reyes-Lumen, Dean of the UP Diliman College of Home Economics Dr. Aurorita Roldan, head of Ateneo de Manila’s Cultural Heritage Studies Program Dr. Fernando Zialcita, and Kaloob Philippine Music and Dance Ministry founder and director Dr. Ed Lapiz.
The awarding rites took place at Adarna Food & Culture in Quezon City, which saw the performance of an interactive poetry or tula by a group of children from Malolos, Bulacan, headed by Bong Enriquez, with script written by former Mga Kuwentong Pagkain winner Nely Azada. The program opened on a joyful note, with a short story-telling session with Mama Sita’s son-in-law and true-blue Batangueño Rico Lardizabal, who recalled the story of how he wooed his future wife Rosie Reyes and his in-laws through their stomachs. Batangas’ lanzones, Balayan Lechon, cacao and kapeng barako helped him get their thumbs-up.
Lardizabal’s amusing account whetted everyone’s appetite on Batangueño food, which was the focus of the whole affair. The program proceeded with opening remarks from Dr. Zialcita and his students enthusiastically discussing their Batangas adventures and findings.
Highlight of the celebration was a feast of Batangueño specialties for lunch, as prepared by Chef Giney Villar of Adarna Food & Culture. Starters included Adobo sa Dilao, chicken and pork chunks braised in turmeric, vinegar, garlic and spices, and innovatively served rolled in fresh spring roll wrappers with lettuce like lumpiang sariwa; and Cora’s Salad, chunks of roasted eggplant, okra, tomatoes, onion, mango, salted duck eggs a la Nasugbu, tossed in vinaigrette with bagoong from Café Central, Nasugbu.
Then came the main dishes served with hot, steamed rice — Fried Tawilis, Taal’s wonder fish seasoned with salt, fried to a crisp, and served with a fresh tomato-coriander salsa and Mama Sita’s All Natural Spiced Tuba Vinegar; Sinaing na Tulingan, a Batangas classic of tulingan fish wrapped in banana leaves with dried kalamias and pork fat, cooked in a traditional clay pot, and served with its own patis; Lechon with Liver Sauce and Tomato-Balayan Bagoong Salsa, roast pork featured in the annual Parada ng mga Lechon of Balayan, Batangas; and Kalderetang Baka, Batangas beef smoked and braised in Mama Sita’s Tomato Sauce with carrots, bell pepper and potatoes cooked the Batangueño way.
Capping the meal was a dessert of Buñuelos with Tablea Dip, which are light buttery puffs rolled in butter and sugar, best enjoyed with a drizzle of chocolate syrup from another Balayan-based brand, Cacao Filipina.