CRITICAL MASS ATTRACTION IN THE PHILIPPINES

I promised myself this wasn’t going to be another food blog… But then again being vegan is not really about the food; that’s just a major PLUS…
Here I am in the Philippines teaching Jivamukti Yoga to the beautiful people at Bliss Yoga Manila and Greenhills. I’m a guest of the directors, Monique Borja and Roland De la Cruz and in all seriousness, a few weeks ago I emailed them with the urgent question ‘Will i starve?’ You see, the Philippines – though abundant in a variety of tropical fruits, vegetables, rice and other grains – has a very meat-centred diet. The last time I was here, fourteen years ago, I very nearly DID starve; if only for the amount of beer I consumed to balance it all out.
Roland and Monique assured me that this time I would NOT starve. Ten days, six vegan restaurants, two organic markets, a big health food store and a whole bunch of new friends later, I look back and laugh at my concern…
The moment I landed, I was taken to the Salcedio Saturday markets. I blame the long flight for making me consume two mushroom burgers, three cookies, an entire coconut and three different juice iceblocks (adorably, they call them ‘popsicles’ here) in the time it takes a beginner yoga student to roll out their mat. Then I met Nancy, the ONLY Jivamukti Yoga teacher in all of the Philippines. Being a Jivamukti Yoga teacher, she also doubles as a walking vegan travel guide to her home city. Isn’t it interesting she teaches at Bliss? We joked that two Jivamukti teachers in the Philippines was ‘critical mass’ and when Nancy said ‘I can’t WAIT for you to meet all my vegan friends’ I joked that she would have to find some vegan friends first.
Didn’t take long. The following day, after class, we met Nancy’s friend, Jason, a photographer and animal activist (well, we ALL are) and there we were having a combination of lunch/dinner (linner) at Doctor Tam’s, a famous Seventh Day Adventist vegan restaurant. The menu was extensive, but seeing as I never really got into Filo food, we thought we would have only Filipino dishes. My favourite was the ‘mercado’ which is a rich tomato stew, in this case made with gluten instead of beef. The avocado ice kream was also a winner, which is most probably why Nancy had three.
A few days later, a rumour surfaced that Marie, the Philippines premiere vegan chef and nutrition coach, had a SPARE (!) chocolate peanut butter pie. Of course, Marie is one of Nancy’s close friends, so if the rumours were true, then Nancy would do her best to provide proof. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that when Marie arrived at Bliss, I hugged and kissed her but addressed the PIE when I said ‘Oh God I am so glad to meet you’. I cried when I bit into what was essentially a pimped-out Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. And now my eyes are glistening looking back on that landmark moment.
I thought things couldn’t get any better but when Marie invited us to a complimentary four-course vegan cooking class at her home, I knew I hit the motherlode. Marie trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City and interned in the very best vegan restaurants in said city, including Pure Food and Wine. So she KNOWS her vegan gourmet.
We laughed so much and I learned a great deal on the day we created pepperoni (pepper-foney) pizza, potato sage pizza with two cheeZes, tofu cheatball pasta with marinara sauce and black sesame ice dream with vanilla cake (all made FROM SCRATCH) but the main thing I learned on this special day was that we must always have faith: faith in humanity’s ability to change for the better one delectable morsel at a time. It’s a wonderful approach and so much better than worrying if you’re going to starve.

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