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Country Cooking

Davao native wins grand prize in food writing competition

By: - Columnist
/ 06:48 PM January 01, 2014

The Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Award 2013 has three major winners, while three entries garnered honorable mention.

Grand-prize winner is Lolita Lacuesta for her essay “Ata Rice.” The Ata is a tribe of Mindanao, a dark-skinned people because of the mixture of Aeta and Malay, according to the National Commission on Indigenous People. Lacuesta wrote about the upland aromatic rice that her father received from his Ata friends in their Davao hometown, how the variety was planted and harvested, and what the rice meant to her family.


Lacuesta won honorable mention last year. She retired from teaching at the Ateneo de Manila and the University of the Philippines, but continues to write.

Second prize went to Jun Belen who resides in California. His essay, “The Ritual of Cooking Rice,” describes how his mother cooked rice, the various steps that lead to what Doreen Gamboa Fernandez describes as the “Filipinos’ deepest comfort food.” Belen was also a 2012 honorable mention winner. His Jun-blog was finalist for Best Culinary Blog at the 2013 International Association of Culinary Professionals.


Ruby T. Cariño won third place for “The Odyssey,” a compelling narrative on how rice started from China and spread throughout Asia and the world. She writes regularly on food for Sunstar Baguio. Her daughter, Linda, wrote how her mother considers rice “sacred, a gift from the god of the heavens, the earth, the kitchen.”

Elmer Nocheseda this year won his second honorable mention for his essay, “The Invention of Happiness,” which is about fermented rice and its “various forms,” a subject that he laments has not been given enough attention in food literature. His first honorable mention was in 2009. He is best known as the author of two books—the multi-awarded “Palaspas” and “Pateros,” both about his hometown.

Wilson Lee Flores garnered an honorable mention for his piece “Every Grain of Rice is Life.” The essay was an education on the different Hokien rice dishes his mother used to cook, the names and what those contained. But the piece is also about how rice dishes were stretched to feed his mother’s poor family in 1930s Quanzhou, Fujian province in China. Flores is a business columnist of the Philippine Star and a three-time Palanca award winner.

Gio Mangaya-ay was given an honorable mention for “No, this isn’t Paella,” a sort of recipe of his Zamboanga family’s paella. It is like all adaptations of Spanish dishes, an aunt’s own version that the author describes as more local and accessible… It might as well be blasphemous.” Mangaya-ay is a registered nurse who is now a culinary student and has a blog, “The Hungry Giant,” where he writes and photographs his forays into cooking.

The winners will receive cash prizes and books from Anvil Publishing.

E-mail the author at

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TAGS: Ata Rice, contest, Davao, Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Award, Lifestyle
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