Country Cooking

A great Christmas gift–a calendar celebrating women who grow and gather our food


CASA Filipino roast beef special

Christmas is a time of hurlyburly shopping and razzle dazzle decor. It’s the shopping that stresses; early on, the exercise for me extended to Christmas Eve.

Later, much wiser, I did my shopping year-round, each receiver identified only just before the great day.

This year, however, many gifts have been treasures discovered from the multitude of titles in bargain bookstores. Some are so new that one wonders why they’ve ended up in second-hand places.

But I have an alternative gift that I was fortunate enough to have been a part of. This is a calendar celebrating food heroes, a project of Oxfam and Stephanie Zubiri.

Oxfam is a group of organizations that works to alleviate poverty and injustice. It was originally founded to offer solutions to famine in the 1940s.

The heroes are women who grow and gather our food; still, for each of them, it remains a struggle to earn and keep one’s family together. Some of these heroes were there when the calendar was launched, and their stories kept us in stitches because even if they were talking about how difficult life has been for them, they always saw something humorous in their situation.

My participation and that of chefs Jay Gamboa, Myrna Segismundo, Fern Aracama, Claude Tayag, Him Uy de Baron, Roland and Jackie Laudico, Zubiri in the project was to give a recipe each for some of the products that these women gather.

THE FOOD Heroes Calendar of Oxfam

I chose what needed no cooking and left the stovetop recipes to the chefs invited. It was seaweed, my favorite salad ingredient. I shared what I usually have at home—lato or ar-arosep, grape-like and tasting of the sea, strewn with aromatic toasted coconut on top.

Nanay Alda from Hinatuan, Surigao de Sur, is the celebrated seaweed farmer who plants and harvests with her husband and two sons, then also prepares dinner and looks after the household.

Buying the Food Heroes Calendar will help the many rural women, our culinary heroes, who farm and fish and who make sure we have good food on our tables. (Call Oxfam at 9294470 for orders.)

Sushi chef

A gift can be an invitation to dine with you in places you would recommend.  One of mine is Kotono, a Japanese restaurant at Makati Cinema Square.

SEAWEED farmer Ka Alda of Surigao del Sur

The chef is Ozamu Onodera, who trained and worked as sushi chef in Tokyo. When asked why he chose to locate himself in a place with a lot of competition from Japanese restaurants in the nearby Little Tokyo and the peripheral areas around, chef Onodera said that he is confident that his clientele, mostly Japanese, will keep coming.

One evidence of that is his special menu written in Japanese. Before Kotono, Onodera had a restaurant, a sushikatsu in Quezon City, for many years,

Sushi is the undeclared specialty and his experience has made him choose imported squid, for instance, over the local supply, because the imported squid is oilier, an important factor when doing sashimi or teppanyaki. But because Japanese restaurants in the country don’t specialize in certain cooking (i.e. tempura, sukiyaki) the chef has had to offer more than just sushi.

Try his yosenabe, a hot pot of seafood. It should be a filling and bracing hot meal, if only we can just get rid of this humid weather that is so un-December.

LATO or ar-arosep salad

Other recommendation

My other recommendation will surely please balikbayan friends. This is Casa Filipino on Scout Torillos in Quezon City, thankfully so near where I live that I don’t have to brave the traffic that always happens during the holiday season.

CHEF Ozamu Onodera

As the name suggests, Filipino food is aplenty, like pancit and lumpia.

But the buffet offers more than just one special food, the kind one has during fiestas. There is always Cebu lechon, I was told. And some days roast beef and chili crab are available.

The homey feel is due to the fact that the place was a home before it was turned into a restaurant. And it has moved on from the time a “celebrity chef” was a consultant when the place opened.

The current chef has done a good job; he knows his stuff even without the “celebrity” tag attached to his name.

SQUID teppanyaki of Kotono restaurant

Casa Filipino is one of the many restaurants that have sprouted around the country serving our cuisine. Some have stayed with the traditional, while others give dishes a trendier twist. What has thankfully been avoided by many of them is fusion. That should be a good reason to celebrate.

E-mail the author at

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • rosaddiaq

    For several hundred thousand years, human ( millions of years if you include our hominid ancestors ) families lived as hunter-gatherers. It was the woman, the mother who collect up to 80% of the family’s food. The men went hunting but it was difficult to catch wild animals before the invention of tools. At about 10, 12,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice-age, women discovered agriculture ( simultaneously in the Middle East and China ). They invented the plow and because men were stronger, they pulled it. Thus, the first animal domesticated was man, not cows nor dogs. That is the biggest mistake of women really ( not for believing to a talking snake ). It was all downhill for them. Men took over families, produced more food, had more time and invented religion to further subjugate women ( there is a God the Father, God the Son, but no God the Mother ). Hopefully, societies are now moving towards gender equality, more women are in the labor force, some have become leaders of companies and nations. In the not too distant future, ours will be a matriarchal society again. Cheers for women heroes. Where can I get the calendar? Perfect gift for my mother and eldest sister.

    • ian martinez

      Your points, for me, just seem to be excuses for female choices of staying in safety while others (males) did the work, males are 2% bigger and stronger, not 10 times, but women did little hunting, maybe because their yapyapping would scare away the prey, so nothing to eat, end of human species :-)

  • ian martinez

    For several hundred thousand years, women have stayed at home while men have gone hunting, Dirty Dangerous Difficult work while the females CHOSE to stay in total safety at home. men died, were maimed in work, females never are. females stayed at home looking after their kids and developped strong social and VERY strong chatting yap yap skills.occasionally women claim they want to work as “their right”, for men it has always been an OBLIGATION not a right, many men would also like a lazy easy life chatting to their friends in safey. When did you EVER see a woman saving lives during floods, typhoons, landslips, men are slightly taller and stronger, but even big strong women NEVER HELP OUT, being a victim or a saver is determined by your genital type.

    since ancient time, men have done nearly all the work, created an easier and easier life for females. discovered all the inventions that have liberated females from hardwork in the home and which allowed them the choice to do paid work . men invented contraception for females, making female lives easier with fewer children. Almost all the world was created by men, all the work done by men. When females did work, they CHOSE not gender equal jobs, no they CHOSE the easy, cushy office jobs where you press buttons and chat to your mates. Men are EXPECTED to work for females, females look for a man to sacrifice himself for her.

    Why have there been do few female scientists, inventors, poets throughout history? Females CHOOSE to have an easy life, expect males to work for them, provide for them,.

    If you look at stores in Philippines, most are targetted at females, men do nearly all the work but females spend most of the momey (and this spending of money is GROWING) , WHO has the power, the ones earning or the spenders of the money?

    But, sisters, men are getting tired of our disposability, we are beginning to ask WHY males are never celebrated like in this calendar, why we are just EXPECTED to provide, but we are beginning to understand, and stand up for our RIGHTS too, and females will lose out in a big way

    • rosaddiaq

       The role of women in hunter-gatherer pre-historic societies is mentioned in Will and Ariel Durant’s Story of Civilization Vol.1, p. 43. Modern hunter-gatherers like the Hadza of Tanzania are well studied ( google for Hewlett-Hadza, there is a PDF copy of the study ). Up to now, it is still the women who contribute much of the family’s food. In fact, men are known to share meat with other men than to their children. Jared Diamond has an essay in Discover ( 1987, The “Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. You can google this for an ecopy ), explaining why the development of agriculture led to “gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse of our existence.”

      • ian martinez

        There may be a few tribes where females gather and grow some crops, but even those tribes, the males will hunt for meat and build the houses, in every society, men do the 3D jobs, Dirty, Dangerous, Difficult, women stay in safety, it has ALWAYS been that way and always WILL.
        I know of not one single mother-father family where the women is the single provider except out of desperation, men are EXPECTED to be the provider, OR ELSE.Governments will jail men who do not keep females.
        Fathers naturally think of women and children AS WELL AS THEMSELVES, it is our natural instincts to protect and provide. It is an obligation, to feminists it is all just “benevolent sexism” but of course female obligations are “MALE PATRIARCHAL opression”.
        We are EXPECTED to be disposable and sacrifice ourselves as taxpayers, soldiers etc, i will leave it up to readers to decide if they believe your pdf documents about Tanzanian tribes, or not.
        Matriarchal societies have always failed, in the west where social security allowed a matriarchal underclass to develop. it has created severe social problems of feral children, lack of discipline, no male role models because of feminist hate laws male teachers are also scarce.

        But men are beginning to put THEMSELVES first, think about their OWN wellbeing finally. Instead of being disposable human doings and success objects. Women just haven’t got what it takes to get to the top, they will always want to change the working environment to suit THEM and put their interests above work, for the “right” to work.This all creates more and more extra problems and work for the ones who are OBLIGATED to work, the DISPOSABLE males, of course.

        I must say, Roseaddiaq, your comment about males sharing food with other males first as borderline abuse and hate. Not enough to flag as inappropriate, but almost. MEN ARE NO LONGER WILLING TO BE ABUSED LIKE BEFORE, roseaddiaq

      • rosaddiaq

         Ok let the readers decide. Food sharing among hunter-gatherers Hadza men is from observations by the anthropologists who conducted the study, not my opinion. Btw, you misspelled my username, it is rosaddiaq and I am male.

      • ian martinez

        feminists use very very devious techniques, pretending to be male on numerous occasions due to their lack of coherent, logical debate.
        IF you are male, i must say that your pandering to females will never ever succeed, in reality women want the patriarchs, the success objects. They want an easy life, someone else working and THEM spending. I must ask, why are you posting things against yourself, if you are a man?
        99% of people growing and cultivating food are male, but the females are higlighted, as usual, males are minimised, we have built the world, both physical and political, created an easy life fir everyone, females included, it is men who SHOULD be feted not the tiny tiny minority of women who perform useful tasks

  • cleoan

    “..since ancient time, men have done nearly all the work, created an easier and easier life for females. discovered all the inventions that have liberated females from hardwork in the home and which ..” Do you think men invented all those things you are referring to with the intention of liberating women?  I dont think so.

    I can see your point and i, myself, dislike women who are sitting pretty waiting for their monthly allowance. But do you think it’s the women’s fault that our society is like that? Do you think women want to be considered the weaker sex? Women make do of the small role (relevance?) that the patriarchal society affords them. And by the way the “easyy cushy office jobs” you’re talking about are equally populated by both sexes. Ok maybe mostly women but there are qualifications that women possess that employers are speficially looking for those easy cushy office jobs.

    As to your question “… WHY males are never celebrated like in this calendar”.. You are celebrated in every alcoholic drink calendar…

    • ian martinez

      I have already answered all your points, it is woman’s personal CHOICES that result in their situation, they CHOOSE easy study courses, easy lowpaid jobs because they EXPECT to get a man to pay for them and, yes, those inventions made female lives easier.

      Males do not have many choices in life, females do. we are expected to work for females, it is an OBLIGATION. Feminists consider female obligations to be “male opression”. It is all about rights, obligations, personal responsibilities and accountibilities.
      women have been given equal rights for NOTHING, extra rights without any extra responsibilities, but men have had many rights taken away but WE STILL HAVE THE SAME OLD RESPONSIBILITIES.

      My point about a calendar celebrating food harvesting is that males do most of that, but as usual, the females are highlighted,it is called GYNOCENTRICITY in english, putting women first, female privilege.

      Your point about alcoholic drinks is slightly abusive, but a typical female thing to say, sooner or later females will ALWYS resort to abuse or personal attacks, i don’t know which alcoholic drinks calendars you have been looking at, but the ones I have seen have sexy ladies on them. sexy ladies are important for females, Female elevated status in the world is due to one thing, male sex drive, without this females would be slaves or even worse, food. there is already a steak called skirt steak and filet mignon.

      But men are beginning to realise that they must stop sacrificing themselves and start to put THEMSELVES first and stop paying and pandering to women.

      • cleoan

        I dont know how you were raised and where you were raised but in our planet, even the tiniest of organism has responsibilities and accountabilities and rights and obligations to the community they belong to. If that’s how u see things i really wonder how you relate to the women in your life (your mother, sisters, cousins, classmates, officemates, etc.). I pity you man. But then again it’s your life what do i care.

        Sent via Samsung Galaxy Note 2

      • ian martinez

        Ah the old personal attack as I predicted, very typical.
        Females frequently resort to shaming tactics, personal attacks and abuse. They are not used to men standing up for themselves.
        Men ALWAYS think of what is best for EVERYONE, men, women and children.
        Why are there so few calendars about us, the gender who bought, built the fields, done most of the agricultural research, most of the labor, marketing, selling. Men are the superheros, giving much more than we receive

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks



latest videos