Last year was a breakthrough year for the Ang Sariling Atin (ASA) which would lead the way to preserving not only the culinary heritage of the Philippines but will seek to re-discover the true palate of the Filipinos. Below is the overview of the Institute and what we seek to achieve. Since I am mostly based here in NYC, I will also be doing activities around the US to bring the food issues we raise here to the Filipino community and the greater American public because the future of our health and well being is at stake. We hope to engage many of you in the many rewards of re-learning our food, our regional flavours and our true palate that has been eroded during the last two decades of fast food and MSG-laden packaged mixes. Amy Besa
Ang Sariling Atin (ASA) Culinary Heritage Institute
(Food That Was Always Ours)
“If we want to preserve our culinary heritage, we must cook and eat those dishes that were served by our mothers and grandmothers when home cooking was our primary source of sustenance. It is not enough to document them and keep them in archives. We must bring these dishes, along with their cooking methods and cooking equipment, back to our table. We must re-awaken our thirst to learn to cook with the palayok, with banana leaves and the bamboo tubes savoring the flavor of our alugbati, saluyot and malunggay. Otherwise, not only will our culinary heritage disappear, but our identity as Filipinos will be lost along with the health and vitality of our nation.” Amy Besa
What is the Ang Sariling Atin (ASA) Culinary Heritage Institute?
The Ang Sariling Atin (ASA) Culinary Heritage Institute is a non-stock , nonprofit corporation registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the Philippines. It was founded and established by Amy Besa, a New York-based restaurateur with 16 years of restaurant management experience. Ms. Besa, along with her husband, Chef Romy Dorotan, have authored the award-winning international book, Memories of Philippine Kitchens (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2006, NYC), which showcased heirloom recipes from several regions in the Philippines and contemporary Filipino recipes from their New York based restaurant. A new and revised edition of the book will be released May 2012.
Preservation of our Culinary Heritage through Research
The native cuisine proved itself strong and resistant to “fraternization” with the foreign invaders. The original dishes have retained their ingredients, cooking methods and spirit. Foreign dishes have been Filipinized, but Philippine dishes have not been Sinicized or Hispanized. The cultural interaction has been one of borrowing whole dishes, then adapting and indigenizing them, rather than borrowing elements to impose on native dishes. The result is a cuisine enriched rather than bastardized, its integrity kept, its dynamism that of judicious response to change.
Doreen G. Fernandez:
Culture Ingested: Notes on the Indigenization of Philippine Food
The ASA aims to build knowledge on Philippine culinary heritage and inform about the Filipino palate through the documentation and preservation of family heirloom recipes, old cooking techniques and traditional cooking equipment.
We are developing a scientifically based research methodology to gather data on flavors of the different regions of the country and with the help of academicians, will write a book on Discovering the Filipino Palate: the food, flavor preferences and meals of the Filipino people.
The Benefits of Preserving Our Culinary Heritage
1. Preserving a fast disappearing part of Filipino life that is culturally important and making it accessible for future generations.
- If we don’t eat it, we lose it. The Philippines houses a complex culinary heritage. Filipinos however are in a crisis identifying what is theirs.
- Filipino food is getting commercial and artificial. The Filipino food landscape is vibrant. We do not want to lose its value to commercially produced flavoring pastes and powders, mass produced traditional foods and other culinary deskilling and convenience products.
- Food is a tool of empowerment for people. Our regional based cuisine is getting more popular but remains understudied. The benefits of a deeper understanding of the Filipino palate go a long way whether this deals with identity, arts or in business.
2. Healthier diets for today and tomorrow.
- Diverse diets should be part of healthy lifestyles. A healthy diet is based on a diversity of fruits, vegetables and animal protein found locally. Despite the bounty of our islands and seas, Filipinos don’t have much access to fresh, nutritious and diverse foods.
- Poor people don’t have to have bad meals. Almost a third of the Filipino population is poor. Poverty contributes to the slow disappearance of local flavours and cuisines as people desperately rely on cheap instant and processed food to satiate hunger.
- The country needs a healthy, productive and well-educated workforce. What the country has is the double burden of malnutrition which is rather more damaging to the economy. While we are rehabilitating millions of undernourished children we are also nursing a significant number of adults with non-communicable lifestyle diseases as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
3. A return to an environmentally responsible way of nourishing ourselves.
- Nature nurtures but we have to give back. We believe that the future of our well-being depends on responsible stewardship of the earth and our environment. We need to start integrating as many sustainable sources of food into the diets of Filipinos in every region of the country.
- We need to reconnect to food. Food is sacred and must be treated with respect and so should those hands that raise them be supported. The promotion of sustainable agriculture and the preservation of heritage food and heirloom crops may make us once more look at food as more than a source of sustenance and nourishment.
Call to Action: Community Kitchens
ASA champions the building of community kitchens all over the country as a way of empowering people to accomplish the following goals:
Protect and promote local indigenous ingredients and dishes through their revival and continued use
- raise the quality of life through livelihood projects
- improve people’s health through diverse diets and proper food preparation ; and
- create sustainable communities through practical and green foodways .
The ASA will share its knowledge of the culinary arts, food preparation and nutrition with different types of communities (both rural and urban) while documenting the different local flavours and cooking practices to preserve the Filipino palate for future generations to enjoy.
The ASA also aims to learn best practices from its partner organizations and stakeholders in the local community. We will partner with:
Local Government Units/Organizations and Universities in setting up/organizing the kitchens and mobilizing the communities
- Culinary institutions and organizations to provide their students opportunities of culinary immersion as they collaborate with local cooks to set up community kitchens.
- International proponents of sustainable agriculture, heirloom crops and recipes
ASA Community Kitchen Pilot Project
We are presently working on a pilot project to build a community kitchen at the Marina Wellness Clinic in Dauin, outside Dumaguete, Negros Oriental with the Nutrition and Dietetics Department of Silliman University. The kitchen design will make use of skilled artisans and craftsmen and their knowledge of local indigenous materials to build an effective system of collection and reuse of rainwater, develop fuel efficient stoves and ovens and other technological developments to create a replicable prototype of a green and eco-friendly kitchen. We will be exchanging lessons on local cuisine and proper food preparation and sanitation with country cooks and other cooking apprentices (i.e., mothers, public school teachers, health and nutrition workers).
National Filipino Food Conference in Manila is proposed for March 2013 to provide culinary professionals and other sectors of society an overview of our culinary heritage and how it is intertwined with the state of human and environmental health in the country. The conference will report on the status of our community kitchen projects and identify future strategies for the ASA to reach its goals. It is further proposed that the results of this conference be presented in another conference in New York City to be hosted by the Asian/ Pacific/ American Institute of New York University sometime October 2013. The ASA views this opportunity for dual conferences an effective way to bring our efforts and concerns in line with those of the international community.
Books/ Videos/ TV shows – as we gather our research data on our culinary heritage, we will be making our findings available to both scholars and the public through smaller publications (regional food books, monographs on heirloom dishes or ingredients, family recipe cookbooks, etc) and cooking shows through video to be released on the web or through television shows.
Archiving / New Media Presence – we intend to digitize our research so that the data can be accessed by scholars, researchers and the inquiring public through our website/database.
Who We Are
Amy Besa, President of the Ang Sariling Atin Culinary Heritage Institute, is presently based in New York City and uses her present restaurant, Purple Yam, as a platform to promote Filipino food abroad. Her husband, Chef Romy Dorotan, along with the restaurant, have been the subject of many positive reviews and feature articles in US publications.
Melanie Narciso, Assistant Professor, Institute of Human Nutrition and Food, College of Human Ecology, University of the Philippines, Los Baños. She travels around the Philippines to document the diets and food practices of Filipinos as a part of locally and internationally funded nutrition researches. Her latest research involves the participatory development of recipes among mothers utilizing locally available techniques and ingredients in Camarines Sur, Zamboanga and Iloilo.
Anabelle Abaya, Founder of the Conflict Resolution Group Foundation, Inc., a non-profit, non-stock organization dedicated to promoting non-adversarial processes of conflict resolution. She is the former presidential adviser on the peace process in the Philippines under President Gloria M. Arroyo.
Lyn Besa-Gamboa, President, Negros Cultural Foundation. She has spearheaded many efforts to preserve not only historical homes in Bacolod and Silay, Negros Occidental, but also the kalan-unon and native dishes of the region.
Neal Oshima, an award winning photographer for many food books published both in and outside the Philippines. He is the photographer of Memories of Philippine Kitchens.
Community Kitchen Committee (for the Marina Clinic in Dauin, Negros Oriental)
Dr. Edgardo Rodriguez, Dean of the College of Business, Enderun Colleges. A native of Dumaguete and a graduate of Silliman University, he will lead a team of Enderun students in developing a business plan to build a sustainable community kitchen and develop livelihood projects for barangays in Dauin.
Edi Sian is a businessman with extensive experience in international microfinance and microenterprise investing. His role with the ASA is to develop local social enterprises that focus on using market solutions to solve societal problems.
Erwin Lizarondo – Professor, College of Business, Enderun Colleges. He is mentoring a group of culinary students from Enderun (aka the Kawali Kings) in developing modules to teach basic culinary skills along with sanitation and safety codes to mothers to improve the health and nutrition of their children and families. They will also develop marketable recipes for a livelihood program within these communities.
Dr. Michael Tan, Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines Diliman. He will lead a group of researchers in developing a sound methodology documenting the flavours of the locality and in implementing the research aspect of the community kitchen project.
Board of Advisors: (partial list)
Ma. Dolores Romualdez-Colayco, Founding Member, Culinary Historians of the Philippines (CHOP)
Yvette Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief, Town and Country Philippines
Tom Bascon, Chef
Bea Misa, owner, Ritual
Nana Ozaeta, Editor-in-Chief, Food Magazine
Carla Pacis, Professor, De La Salle University
Ige Ramos, Editor-in-Chief, Sans Rival magalogue for Rustan’s supermarket
Tricia Tensuan, Vice-President for admissions and external relations, Enderun Colleges
Ramon Uy Jr (Chin Chin), Co-Founder, Fresh Start Organics / President, ONOPRA (Organik na Negros! Organic Producers and Retailers Association)
JJ Yulo, Founder. Choreographer. GRO. Pinoy Eats World
Tanya Yuson, Film and TV Producer/Director
Jack Tchen, Founding Director, Asian Pacific American Institute, New York University
Patrick Martins, co-Founder, Heritage Foods USA, founder of Slow Food USA
Alex Orquiza, Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, The Johns Hopkins University
Adlai Amor, Silliman University Alumni Association; Bread for the World, DC
Alice Flores Mercado, Silliman University Alumni Association
Regina Lim, Associate Lecturer and Researcher, Department of Planning and Urban Design Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment, Oxford Brookes University
For more information about the ASA, please contact Amy Besa at firstname.lastname@example.org