Food: Emotional, Political, and Powerful

Nonfiction by | April 14, 2019

Editor’s Note: This essay first appeared in

In 2006, my mother decided to open a small carinderia (local eatery) outside our home. It was a typical carinderia: of tight spaces; overwhelming nook and crannies; aromatic and powerful smoke from burning charcoal and wood; buzzing of customers eager to have their orders taken; and an orchestra of scents and sounds. Not only did Mama offer affordable meals but she contributed to the dietary diversity of over 100 households in our community. She whipped up amazing and tasty meals which she became famous for such as law-uy, a soothing vegetable soup with lemongrass and bits and pieces of fried fish and monggos, a filling mung bean soup with green, leafy vegetables.

My mother has always been a brave single parent in my eyes – resilient amidst poverty and strong in the face of a vicious cycle of pain. But my mother as an important actor in the food systems never came up. I have been a part of numerous global fora and have sunk my teeth on many advocacies, but it was in a recent forum which opened my heart and brain to many narratives within food systems.

I participated in the EAT Asia-Pacific Food Forum, a gathering of more than 500 food systems stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific region. The forum aimed at unpacking the challenges facing the Asia-Pacific food system as part of the overarching goal to transform the world’s food system. The forum was held in Jakarta thru the leadership of the EAT Foundation and the Indonesian Ministry of Health. It was an honor to be part of the forum representing the Philippine Coalition of Advocates for Nutrition Security or PhilCAN. The EAT Asia Pacific Forum served as a platform to discuss global food concerns, overwhelming as these may be, the format was personal, encouraging, and inspiring. Within two days, I tried to learn as much as I can, jotting down notes, taking images of the poignant slides, and personally linking the insights with my own reflection and experiences. I am sharing some of the connections here.

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