Kayla Itsines’ BBG 12-week Program Review + Tips for Beginners

Hi there! I finally got to post something again. I admit I had been lazy and uninspired to write. But here I am again, reporting for duty, sir!

So, anyway. I’m happy to report that I just finished Kayla Itsines’ 12-week BBG challenge last week. Yey, me! I still can’t believe that I was able to get over my fears and complete the entire challenge. I’d tell you all about this later.

I’d also like to report that I decided to redo the challenge instead of moving on to Week 13. This is because I’m still not that confident and I feel like I didn’t give my 100% to the workouts. Personally, I can’t leave things like that so I am starting over with Week 1 and giving it my all this time.

So, here goes my journey.

Flashback: Why I Started to Become Fit

When I was growing up in the province, the adults’ idea of “healthy” was being fat… or at least chubby. Since I was never the skinny kid, I got the malusog compliments and even won in two “healthy child” awards during Nutrition Month, where we were gauged by our physical appearance. So, at an early age, I thought that being skinny was a gauge of malnutrition.

Things started to change when I left the very provincial Occidental Mindoro and settled in Nueva Ecija for high school. I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that skinny is the measure of health here. Here, I first learned that I was overweight… and when you’re overweight, you get laughed at. I had always been this it-may-be-my-attitude-but-it’s-your-problem kind of teenager, though, so being laughed at during our annual physical check ups didn’t bother me.

But things turned worse in college. I met my first love and he would always tease me about my weight. I thought I wasn’t really that fat. I was just overweight but I was not obese. He teased me anyway. I would like to believe he didn’t mean to be rude and damage me forever, but in the end that’s what happened: I started to believe nobody would love me because I was fat. (I’m not blaming him. I take full responsibility for reacting to his words the way I did.)

Hence, my self-confidence was totally wrecked. I started to believe whatever I achieved in life would be secondary to my physical appearance. I envied the people who stayed skinny despite eating all that junk food. I even blamed my parents for my genes. Any reference to my weight literally made me cry. I abhorred having my pictures taken because I’d hate the way I looked in them anyway. I loathed shopping for clothes because the pretty dresses on the mannequins looked horrible on me… or didn’t come in my size.

When I started to earn, I became obsessed on weight loss products. There was a time I drank slimming coffee from China and I literally blacked out and palpitated I stopped drinking coffee all together. Then, I bought those expensive fat blockers which promised to allow me to eat my favorite lechon and made me just fatter in the process.

Then, I became vegetarian and banished all the weight like magic.

Here is the point where you ask, “Isn’t this supposed to be a review of Kayla’s BBG? I didn’t sign up for a lecture on the benefits of a plant-based diet!” Hahaha. Yes, I’d start in a bit. Just let me finish.

In short, I became skinny by eliminating animal products in my diet. In 2016, I completely eliminated eggs and dairy, too, and chose to pursue the vegan life.

Alas, contentment is far from me. I was skinny, but I realized that for a woman approaching her 30’s, skinny didn’t look healthy. I did enjoy when people thought I was younger – but not because I actually looked youthful, but because I was teenage-thin. I looked weak and sickly. I started wanting something else. I wanted to be like Doutzen Kroes: lean and strong.

I also began thinking that by looking unhealthy, I was not being a good poster girl for veganism. (Yes, I have this not-so-secret illusion of being veganism’s poster girl here in my city.) Instead of being able to promote the benefits of not eating animals, I’d turn people off because I looked sickly.

I stopped wanting to be skinny. I began to want to be fit and strong.

My BBG Journey

In December 2017, I downloaded the SWEAT app. I discovered it because of Hong Kong Youtube fitness icon Emi Wong, who started her fitness journey with Kayla Itsines’ BBG. I had just started exploring Instagram by then (ikr, late bloomer here), and I was intrigued by the #transformationphotos of #bbggirls and #kaylasarmy.

Just a bit of background first. BBG stands for Bikini Body Guide – a fitness program and community created by Aussies Kayla Itsines and Toby Pearce. BBG started out as two books of two circuits of two sets of four 7-minute resistance workouts. (That was a tongue-twister!) The books covered Weeks 1-12 and Weeks 13-24. Soon, the books became part of the SWEAT app, available on Google Play and the App Store. The app also includes a meal guide. (It has vegan but I didn’t follow it.)

By the way, SWEAT is a paid app. I preferred the one-year subscription, which set me back with $115 (almost PhP6,000.00). Some would say paying the subscription was not worth it since you can just watch free workout videos on Youtube. But I’m the type of person who loses interest easily, and having paid for the program forces me to continue, since I want to get the most out of the money I paid.

Because I was never a #fitnessgirl even in my school days*, I began my BBG journey with two rounds of the four-week pre-training. You can read about my pre-training journey here. I did the beginner’s program twice because I thought I wasn’t ready yet for the 12-week challenge.

After Week 4 of my second round, I’ve decided to move on to the 12-week challenge. I wasn’t strong yet. I still struggled with my burpees, push ups, sit ups and jump lunges. But I knew I was stronger than I had been. Plus, I started to enjoy waking up early and start my day with an intense workout. After all, exercise releases endorphins, so I felt that my days were happier and I had more energy.

The program was a never ending struggle. In the beginning, I can’t do standard push ups yet, so discovering that I had to do mountain climbers with push ups was frustrating. Then, I found myself doing standard push ups, but before I can celebrate, burpees with push ups and raised push ups were being demanded of my unfit body. I also have a hate-hate-relationship with jump lunges that I want it removed from the program entirely. Lol. By the way, jump lunges exist in the program almost every week. How cruel, right?

But as the weeks progressed and the workouts became harder and more complicated, I found myself looking forward to every new week. I’m continually surprised at the things that my body can do and my endurance. I realized I love donning my workout clothes and I even have more sport bras than regular ones now. Haha!

By Week 8, people started noticing slight changes in my body. My boss even asked me if I worked out because my body was looking “sexy” – to which I happily said yes. Francis also noticed my not-so-jiggly arms anymore. As for me, I’m loving my arms and thighs, and I can see the subtlest signs of abs when I wake up in the morning. Lol.

Now, I’m not going to lie and post all raves about BBG here. After all, this is not a paid ad. Lol. But my BBG Journey is not all pleasant. There were times when I doubted myself because I can’t see the awesome transformations of other BBG girls happening to me. Some of them saw an incredible transformation in weeks’ time. Every now and then, Kayla would share transformation photos of others who are in her program and I’d ask myself, “What am I doing wrong?” Also, I have this bad habit of lurking over some people’s Instagrams and when they post their gains and mine do not measure up, I’d hate myself and sulk. No, I don’t blame the program, Instagram or Kayla, but all these #gains posts pour negativity over me.

The best thing is Kayla would post motivation messages on her account. She would constantly reminded us, her girls, not to compare our progresses with others. Everybody is different and every body is different. My journey is unique.

Right now, I’m on my Arms and Abs day of Week 1 (second round). I’m also incorporating HIIT workouts by my ever-favorite Emi Wong on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays (just because I discovered that my body isn’t really in good terms with LIIS, which makes me sleepy and lethargic afterwards).

All in all, my 12-week BBG challenge journey was an awesome experience. Would I continue? Of course! After all, I paid for it. Lol. More importantly though, BBG 1.0 is a great way to kick start one’s fitness lifestyle, just like it did Emi Wong’s.

Tips for Beginners

For all those who wish to start with BBG, here are some of my tips to begin your own fitness journey:

  1. Get apparel you enjoy working out on. I love sports bras and yoga pants. Even if you’re working out at home, it’s more motivating if you’re channeling sporty vibes.
  2. Designate a specific space where you will workout ALL THE TIME. I forgot where I got this tip but the point is have a space that will remind you to workout each time you see it. Mine is this small rectangular space between my bed and dresser.
  3. Have your water bottle within easy reach. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
  4. Having said that, replenish those lost electrolytes by taking a teaspoon of sea salt with water after your workout.
  5. Get enough sleep! This is an absolute necessity, regardless of what program you follow. Your muscles have to recover. Currently, I get seven hours a night, but my target is nine.
  6. In the end, any workout program will not work without proper nutrition. BBG has a built-in meal plan, which I don’t follow, but I still make sure to eat clean and check my calories and macros. I’m fortunate to be vegan, cooking my own food, and following a whole foods, plant-based diet, so eating clean isn’t hard for me.
  7. Having said that, don’t stress over dieting. Don’t be overly obsessed with your calories and macros. Make sure you enjoy your food or else you’d start to think healthy eating is a burden and unnecessary suffering.
  8. You don’t have to buy special equipment. I have two 9-pound dumb bells for all the workouts that involved lifting (including squat and press, step ups, and crab walks). If you don’t have any, you can use filled up water bottles, or none at all. IT’S OKAY TO MODIFY.
  9. Listen to your body. If you can’t do the specified workouts, find alternatives. There are always modifications. Personally, I still find jump lunges hard, and I modify spider push ups and raised push ups.
  10. Probably counter intuitively and she might hate me, I don’t recommend following Kayla on social media. Or at least I limit myself to the motivational posts. The reposted transformation photos cause me distress and make me second-guess myself, so I’m learning to avoid seeing them. Don’t compare your progress with others. EVERY BODY IS DIFFERENT.
  11. And finally, have a positive mindset over exercise. Psyche yourself that exercise is not a chore, or a burden, but a beautiful gift you are giving to yourself and to the world. After all, by keeping yourself healthy, you contribute to a healthy world. Through another app (Fabulous), I created this mantra that I tell myself before I start exercising: “Discipline is my asset. My discipline is for myself, for the planet, and for the animals.” Repeating my purpose keeps me motivated to continue despite the struggles.

So, there goes my BBG 12-week challenge journey! If you’re a fellow #bbggirl or a fitness newbie, you can comment on this post to share your journey and struggles. Stay healthy and strong!


Add-ons:

*My chosen PE’s in college were PE 1 (lecture), walking, duck pin bowling, and cheer leading (which involved nothing but learning the cheers and arm movements and cheering for our basketball team). In high school, I pretended I had asthma to skip volleyball.

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Restaurant: Juicesabel

I say Francis and I succeeded in our very short Singapore food trip last weekend. And the crazy couple that we are, as if spending all that hard-earned moolah to eat vegan in a foreign country was not enough, we decided to drop by another vegan restaurant the minute we landed back on Philippine soil.

This time, it’s Juicesabel.

Juicesabel is a small 100% vegan restaurant located at (the rather scary) The Collective at Malugay St., Makati City – an around 20-minute Uber ride from NAIA T1. Honestly, once we got there, Francis and I were suddenly unsure if we wanted to eat there, given the location. It was what Francis called “artsy” but – call me a snob or an illiterate – I saw no art amongst the vandalism. (And the yellow goo dripping down a pillar would have made me run instantly if I had breakfast that day.) By the way, what limited knowledge I have on art I learned from undergrad so.

Going back. Juicesabel. As a constantly hungry vegan, I always research about restaurants. Juicesabel, I first heard about on Manila Vegans. Their specialty, if I’m right, is cold-pressed juices, but they’re also quite known for their burgers.

We choice Juicesabel because the other choices (Green Bar and The Vegetarian Kitchen) were too expensive for this #TeamKuripot.

Juicesabel is a tiny restaurant with four tables. There’s a stairway but we’re not sure where it led. We didn’t ask.

It was nice that when we came in, there was already three people. Two of them were having a conversation about veganism in the Philippines. Soon, three more entered and the small space became crowded and cozy at the same time.

Because I still can’t get over the to die for rice from the Indian vegetarian restaurant in Singapore, I was in the mood for more rice. Normally, I’d keep to pasta or salad, but I ordered the mushroom tofu sisig with vegan egg, which came in with red rice and a side salad. Francis ordered the burger steak.

Eveything was yummy, especially the egg yolk, which tasted like the real thing! Huhuhu. My poor boyfriend has a certain distrust in food that tastes and feels like animals. For me, though, the sisig needed a littlr kick.

But what really took our hearts was the vegan lechon sauce that accompanied the burger steak. The burgers themselves tasted like okoy (or squash fritters) with a dash of cumin. (My palate is starting to remember Indian flavors. Hahaha.) But the sauce was the real deal. It was like every Filipino’s favorite Mang Tomas – sans the cruelty!

We also had mocha and red velvet frappe. Unfortunately, were too excited to take pictures before devouring them. But wth. My red velvet sent me to vegan heaven.

We also had burgers and fries for take out. Francis had the double patty cheese burger (which he said was awesome but I won’t know because he ate it at home) while I had the smoky BBQ (which was also the burger steak patty, huhuhu).

All of this for the surprisingly low price of PhP1,000. Now that’s something. 😎

I left a fully satisfied vegan woman… who’s also 10 pounds heavier.

P.S. Pets are allowed in Juicesabel. Plus plus plus.

Foodtripping Singapore

It’s our first anniversary month!  To sort of celebrate this, Francis and I did two things for the first time: 1) we traveled abroad, and 2) we traveled abroad together. Our first stop (among hopefully a gazillion more stops)? Singapore!

He’s too tired to wake up for the obligatory pre-check in photo 😂

Why Singapore? Our first reason is it was on sale on Jetstar when we booked last July pa. Second, it’s in Southeast Asia so it’s Visa-free. And we found out there were a lot of vegan and vegetarian food there. (Although not as many as Thailand, of course – Thailand’s heaven.)

Touchdown!

The moment is we stepped out of the plane, I was 100% sure that I was going to fall in love with this Singapore. Changi Airport is beautifulllll. (I’m a city woman, you know. Shopping is my happiness.)

And I suck at fake walk shots.

Since we’re both amateurs at this, Francis and I actually got lost on the way to immigration and ended up in the Sanrio display.

Not a Hello Kitty fan but swings are my weakness.

Anyway, soon we found our way to immigration. The first thing we did was get the 2-day tourist pass for approximately Php630 (SGD26, with SGD10 refundable upon return). This is truly every tourist’s magic key to the country. It gives you free rides on the incredible MRT and the public buses.

Please don’t mind my nail. I forgot. Hahaha.

From Changi Airport, we headed to our hostel in Little India to check-in our things (which we weren’t a lot). Then we set forth onto our first mission: our first meal of the day.

Meal 1: Pizza and Ice Cream (Dinner)

Having done our research beforehand, this pizza guy and ice cream girl decided to go to Brownice, a 100% vegan restaurant at Sin ming Centre. It pegs itself as an Italian vegan ice cream and kitchen.

Forgive us for choosing Western first. But February 9 is apparently world pizza day!  We’d hoped to show the omni pizza houses that vegan pizza can beat them anytime.  Hahahaha.  Plus, I read that the ice cream at Brownice is really nice.

Burrata

As I expected, Francis almost spat out the pizza on his first bite. Unlike me, he isn’t amazed with our food tasting like meat. But soon, he began enjoying it.  Because what’s not to enjoy?  The soy ham really did taste like ham… or at least as I remember, since I haven’t had ham since 2012.  It also has sundried tomatoes, which I really love in pizzas.

Since I’m an ice cream woman, we also had the ice cream. I got strawberry (the recommendation of the kind lady who led us to the store when we got lost) and Francis had the earl grey. Mine was seriously the best strawberry ice cream in the world – including non-vegan variants. But Francis’ was the best ice cream ever.

We spent SGD24 for our dinner and Patti was a happy woman.

We were too tired to do more walking so we returned straight to the hostel after dinner.

Meal 2: Two Indian Breakfasts

Ananda Bhavan Restaurant

The next morning, we set forth to make our very short Singapore experience a fruitful one.  We started by looking for Ananda Bhavan, a vegetarian restaurant at Serangoon St., which was just walking distance from our place. We passed by this pretty flower elephants by the intersection.

Then we walked on to our destination. According to our research, the oldest Indian vegetarian restaurant in Singapore would be open by 7 a.m. and it was.

Unfortunately for us, it was very early so they didn’t yet have rice meals yet. So, we helped ourselves with what was available: samosas and something that looked like a corndog but had a huge chili inside… but not after a difficult convo with the cashier whose English we can’t quite understand. Haha.

The samosa was yumminess. It was the second samosa I had in my entire life and now I know what it’s supposed to taste like. Heaven! I’m officially in love with vegan Indian food.

The chili corndog was not delicious at all. In fact we left our leftovers at the Chinatown hawker center later.

Anyways, it was so cheap. Two delicious samosas and three not delicious chili corn dogs just cost us SGD4.

Komala Vilas

Being itinerary-less, we were surprised to discover that the Little India we were looking for was just a few steps away.  Personally, I’m excited to explore Little India and find that iconic colorful house where America’s Next Top Model once held a photoshoot.  I especially loved the colorful buildings.  Then, we found this by accident:

and of course we cannot pass up the chance to have another breakfast.

The helpful cashier/manager showed us which of the items were vegan.  Envious of an Indian man eating there, Francis was determined to try the paper dosai.

Which, like many Indian dishes, was supposed to be eaten by hand.

And OMG. I thought I make decent curry but this is curry. It was heavenly. The spices were just perfect.  Of the three dipping sauces, my favorite is the tomato-based one on the left.  The flavors were so subtle yet so yummy.  Francis loved the curry in the middle.

Francis would soon declare that this was his favorite amongst everything we ate.

After our satisfying paper dosai breakfast at Komala Vilas, we walked around to check out the heritage walk and look for the iconic colorful house I mentioned before.

Finding this, coupled by my delicious hearty breakfast, my day was officially done.

In-between Meal?

But that’s crazy. We only had a few more hours left at Singapore and we’re not wasting them. We rode the MRT to Chinatown, hoping to find vegan noodles.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any.  And honestly, we were getting dizzy and sick with the sights and smells of dead ducks everywhere that we immediately left after a mug of sugarcane juice at the hawker center.

We headed straight to Marina Bay to have the obligatory Merlion shot.

We also had our short stint at Jubilee Walk but we were so hungry by then.

Meal 3: The Chicken Rice

Then, the highlight of my weekend: my faux chicken rice experience.

From Raffles Place, we rode an STS bus to Ang Mo Kio. The bus itself wouldn’t be driving to Avenue 10, where the hawker center we were looking for was. But the kind and cool bus driver – he said I’m a cute girl, hahahaha – asked us where we were going and said he was going to drop us off at Avenue 1 where we would ride Bus 45. It was a very long drive and I fell asleep one quarter of the way.

Then finally, 33 Vegetarian Food.

I seriously won’t leave Singapore without having chicken rice.  Along with laksa, sambal, and nasi lemak, chicken rice is a quintessential Singaporean dish I’d always been curious about.

And the long, boring ride was sooooo worth it.  I almost cried as I savored the poached faux chicken.  You really don’t have to miss your favorite food once you go vegan.  (But we’re more WFPB vegans so faux meat is just an occasional treat.)

By the end of the meal, Francis and I were so full.  My biggest regret is I didn’t get to eat vegan laksa… but someday I will.  Maybe next year?  Hahaha.

Two sets of chicken rice was for SGD15.60.

We shopped for pasalubong at a nearby store before going home.

Last Supper: The Most Delicious Rice Meal Ever

We went back to the hostel for a quick rest before dinner, since we decided to head back to Changi Airport before 9:30 pm to return our passes and refund our SGD10. We decided to have our last dinner at Ananda Bhavan because Francis still hasn’t moved on from wanting that dinner set meal he’d missed at breakfast.

But before that, a quick stop at a nearby mall’s foodcourt to have taho and would you believe it? Vegan pan de coco!

You don’t know how I feel. Soft bread stuffed with coconut is my favorite bread and I haven’t had it in years.

So anyway, Francis bought the dinner set and I had two sweets from Ananda Bhavan. Sorry to say we were too overwhelmed by the size of the dinner set (apparently enough for four people of our appetite) to take a photo. But it was delicious! Francis liked the spicy curry with squash while I loved the eggplant one with the peanuts. (If my research skills are as good as I think they are, it’s called “baghare baingan.”) And their rice is so soft and fluffy.

I think I gained 10 pounds after this trip.

Back Home

Our flight home is at 6:25 in the morning. I know right? Anyway, our Changi experience was so tiring and a bit frustrating, not because Changi is frustrating but because we were super sleepy. Good thing we found beds at the snooze lounge and got some sleep. We even got a free foot massage through the massage chairs.

Thoughts

  1. I love Changi Airport! I haven’t been to many airports but the restrooms alone are enough to convince me this is indeed the best airport in the world.
  2. Singapore is hot – even hotter than where I live. But the heat isn’t painful on the skin.
  3. I’d go back for the chicken rice. And by then I’d make sure to eat laksa.
  4. I’m obsessed with Indian food now.
  5. Singapore is a vegan-friendly country.

Well, that’s my long narrative of our Singapore trip. It’s more like a food trip, isn’t it?

Now every February, you’ll be my Valentine

It’s our first anniversary month. Last year, I posted a list of things I love about you on my blog. I still love all those things but of course things change in the course of one year. So… why do I love you?

1. You sacrificed your obsession with cheese for the animals, for the Earth, and for the greater good of all mankind.

2. You’re loyal to the things you believe in. Even if that means you will not shake hands with the mayor. Or sneer at other frats. Or go into arguments with anti-Catholics. Once you even spat out the mock tapa I cooked because you thought it was for real.

3. You can make fresh coconut milk using your hands. I can only imagine the endless possibilities in homemade plant milk career

4. You have this enchanting public speaking voice that turns my knees to vegan jelly all the time.

5. You put God first… just almost everytime, because on some days we oversleep.

6. You’re so adorable when you show appreciation for yummy food.

7. You’re my type of funny.

8. You don’t shy away from correcting my mistakes, but only do so in private.

9. You think highly of your mom, which is always very important.

10. You cook better vegan kaldereta than astigvegan. And you don’t use boullion. Hahaha.

11. You’ve seen my Sleeping Ugly before yet you still chose to love me.

There’s still a lot more, you know. Don’t think for one second this is all. But I’ll reserve the other elevens for the next gazillion anniversaries we’re spending together.

I love you.

Recipe: Pinakbet (Ilocano)

When I was younger, I can’t see myself using a stainless steel stacked food carrier.  From where I was, the lowly workers used them for lunch and I thought using one would make me look like them.  I’m really loving my stainless steel tiffin food carrier.  It carries a lot of food and occupies little horizontal space.  I’ve been using it for two weeks now and it’s not un-cool at all!  You know what’s not cool?  Thinking lowly of manual workers.

Anyway, Francis is at Angeles City, Pampanga from yesterday up to Saturday so I’m having lunch by myself.  Huhuhu.  It’s getting kind of lonely eating alone, but I promised him I will eat, so here I am.

For today’s lunch, I had pinakbet – a vegetable dish from Northern Philippines.  It is traditionally made with an array of local vegetables, bagoong (fermented fish paste) and some fried or roasted pig or fish.  When I stopped eating animals, I thought I will never get to recreate this quintessential Ilocano dish but today I proved to myself that I’m so wrong.  (Yes, Francis’ mom still makes the best vegan pinakbet but mine is totally different.)

Here the ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 handful of sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 handful of ampalaya (bitter gourd), the small variety (not the long ones)
  • 1 bunch okra, cut in half
  • 1 cup small, round eggplant, stalk and top part removed then partially cut horizontally and vertically to form a cross (do not cut all the way)
  • 3 green siling panigang
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 sheet nori, torn
  • 1 tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup oyster mushrooms
  • 1 cup water

The procedure:

  1. Mix together everything in a pot, the first ingredient on the bottom and the last ingredient on top.  Cover.
  2. Cook over low heat for about 30-45 minutes until everything is overcooked and mushy.
  3. Enjoy!

It’s so incredible how the simple addition of the nori sheet changed the whole dish.  It tastes so fishy it feels like a crime.  But it’s vegan, promise!

Pinakbet is a very forgiving dish.  Papa said you only need bagoong, ampalaya and tomatoes to make pinakbet, so don’t fret if you’re missing something.

Also, it’s meant to be overcooked and mushy.  Yeah, you kill the enzymes… but it’s pinakbet.

Tara, kain!

The Delicious World of Compassion: VegFest Pilipinas 2017

November is a great month.  Francis turned twenty-five, reducing our age gap to four years.  It’s National Reading Month, and I’m probably the luckiest librarian in the Philippines right now, since no other than THE Vice President of the Philippines, Ma’am Leni Robredo, was our celebrity reader at the Library Hub.  It’s also apparently vegan month, and that’s why VegFest happened.

Yes, VegFest.  Vegan Festival.  Because the world is going vegan.

Francis and I were so excited to join the gathering for veganism, which ran last November 18-19 at Eastwood, Libis, Quezon City and last November 25-26 at the Lucky China Town Mall in Manila.  We joined the first day at Eastwood and we had a blast.

This is the view from the entrance.  When we arrived at around 9:30 a.m. (I know right? VegFest would officially start at 10 a.m.), some merchants weren’t open yet but there were already lots of people.

We came all the way from Nueva Ecija – which was a five-hour drive – and by the time we arrived we were really hungry.  And for the first time since 2012, I wasn’t worried about not having anything to eat.  Francis bought me this tofu sisig on a bed of red rice from Green Light Veg.  He had the curry.  Admittedly, we felt that the food needed a little more seasoning, and he commented my curry was better.  But we figured it must be pegged as healthy, so who’s complaining?  We had rice for breakfast, what a pleasant way to start the day!

I also bought eight jars of Jack’s Produce vegan sardines from the next stall, Lokalitea.  😍

For dessert, we headed straight to SuperScoops!  I was really excited to have my first vegan ice cream – courtesy of my vegan brother Joey who unfortunately couldn’t be with us – and I wasn’t disappointed at all.

I had the matcha (my favorite) and Francis had coffee (his favorite).  Look at him.  We were both very satisfied.

Then, we joined the talk we signed up for, Zero Waste Life with Bea Crisostomo of Ritual.  It was the most inspiring talk I’ve heard, honestly.  Far long before we met, Francis had considered himself an environmentalist, and dreams of living off-grid with as little carbon footprint.  The talk gave us ideas about our own living and the food business we’re planning to put up.

Then, we met Astig Vegan, my vegan heroine RG Enriquez.  I can’t even describe my happiness.

I wouldn’t miss this chance for a photo op.

Honestly, we didn’t sign up for her demo, but we were already there and I reallllly wanted to see her.  She made her veganized kaldereta – a spicy Filipino stew originally made of beef, carrots, potatoes and tomatoes.  It was so delicious!

(A week later, Francis would make his grandmother’s kaldereta for our date – sans the no beef cubes – and sorry, RG!  His was better.  Is it because of the love?)

Then, we had Indulge’s pizzas for lunch.  Francis is the cheese-person between us, so he was really looking forward to this moment.

We also had corned beet burgers but I forgot the merchant.  Unfortunately, we agreed the burger was too bland for our tastebuds.  Do vegan people have a problem with seasoning?  Hahaha.

I got chia seeds from The Vegan Grocer for Joey and a hoodie from Treeshirts for myself.  And also this box of peanut butter cookie goodness from Earth Desserts.  (Sorry for forgetting to take a photo of the actual cookies – I totally forgot – but I swear they’re delicious.)

The only negative thing I can say is I found the venue too upper class.  Miss Bea Crisostomo’s inspiring message resonates in my head right now: we have to roll this out to the masa or else the majority of the people will think that veganism is just “kaartehan” (caprice?) of the privileged, English-speaking crowd.  Because it’s not, but the masa should see that.  We should not alienate them.

All in all, VegFest was really a wonderful experience.  We got to see fellow vegans, learn new things about the causes we are passionate about, eat yummy food, be inspired, and most of all see for ourselves the fact that we’re not alone, because that’s how we feel sometimes.  In fact, wr will be going to the next VegFests again until eternity.  Would we still be going together?  Sana.  Forever.

Recipe: Slow-cooked Tangway (Taro Stalks) in Spicy Coconut Milk

My love affair with laing started with the Star Cinema movie Kailangan Kita.  I was so in love with the movie that laing became my favorite food in the world, Bicol became my dream residence, and I considered myself an uragon (slang for feisty).  In college, we had this activity for a course called “Suroy-suroy, Lalolalorar, at Vochok” where we showcased the culture of the sixteen regions of the Philippines, and I swear I was a fixture of Region V, eating their dried taro leaves stewed in coconut milk.  When I became vegan and first stumbled upon Astig Vegan, her version of laing was the first (and I think the only) recipe I’ve tried.

Now, I’m not really good at copying recipes.  I’m just a regular visual learner.  That may be the reason for my five years’ worth of unsuccessful laing cookery.

Luckily, I saw a segment on a livelihood program that featured Bicol.  In it, they demo-ed how to cook pinangat – another taro dish that is apparently the same as laing except that the leaves used are fresh.  And when I made it, voila!  It’s like I was transported back to my Kailangan Kita-watching childhood.

I swear: it’s the best thing I’ve ever made.  (Pa-humble naman ng konti, siyempre.)

Being a sweet tooth, I love how the chili perfectly complements the natural sweetness of the coconut milk.  The taro stalks – which I just recently learned is called tangway – are so succulent.  My brother, who I’ve already featured in an earlier post, said it’s napakasarap (so delicious).  You’d definitely need LOTS of brown rice.  And a longer workout the next day.

Here it is.  I hope you’d love it as much as I do.

Slow-cooked Tangway in Spicy Coconut Milk (Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 kg fresh tangway, cut into two-inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh kakang gata (coconut milk, first press) + 1 cup gata, second press
  • 1 head Taiwan garlic, peeled
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh ginger, chopped
  • 4 red chilies (or depending on your tolerance and preference)
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper

Procedures:

  1. In a blender, blitz together the coconut milk (first press), garlic, onion, ginger, two chilies, sea salt and ground black pepper until smooth.
  2. Pour the mixture into a deep pot.
  3. Toss in the tangway and the remaining chiliand pour in the remaining coconut milk.
  4. Cook uncovered over medium heat until it simmers, then turn the heat to the lowest setting and cover.  DO NOT STIR.  Not even once.
  5. Let cook for 1-1/2 hours.
  6. Enjoy hot with rice.

Delicious.  I’m so excited for everybody to try it.

Tell me if you do and how you like it, okay?

XOXO

Patti

P.S. I think the same should work for dried taro leaves to make laing.  I could also use the same mixture for ginataang gulay.  I’d try one of these days and I’d tell you when I’m successful.