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. ūüėé

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

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

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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 ūüėā

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?

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.¬† ūüėć

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.

Restaurant: Pipino

Francis and I have decided that our dates are going to be centered on food. Instead of visiting tourist spots or doing activities the place has to offer, we are going to scout its vegan food scene.

The first product of that mutual decision is this post.

We’ve planned this date since March – since we first learned of the free admission at the National Museum Planetarium – but things always came up on our chosen weekends. So we decided to take a leave from work BEFORE THE FREE ADMISSION ENDS. Anyway what’s one day compared to a serving of vegan karekare, right?

Pipino: Vegetarian Food by Pino, is found at Malingap St., Teacher’s Village, Diliman, Quezon City. It’s from the same group that owns Pino – a non-vegetarian restaurant – which is on the ground floor. Francis and I made the mistake of entering Pino instead and in horror saw animal bones being served. Pipino is on the second floor.

The place is small and cozy and is everything we imagine a vegan restaurant to be. The color scheme, the furniture, the decor – they’re all earthy. There’s no mistaking this is meant to be at least eco-friendly.

We had lemongrass pipino ginger cooler which was very refreshing after being under the hot Metro Manila sun. We loved the warming kick of the ginger, a welcome antidote to brainfreeze.

Next to be served is this pancit canton made of buckwheat noodles. Actually, I wasn’t impressed taste-wise. (Francis makes better pancit and I make better fried tofu. LOL.) The restaurant can use a little seasoning. But the lumpia was so delicious we ordered the trio plate.

Unfortunately, by the time they arrived we were full to our throats so we had them packed for take out instead. Of three variants, the one with the nori – sosy-fied lumpiang gulay – is the best.

The reason we chose Pipino to be the venue of our first food date is actually the karekare. It’s Francis’ favorite food so we were both excited when it arrived that we immediately dug in and forgot to take a picture. I, for one, missed the puso ng saging. The bagoong tasted like Lee Kum Kee garlic and black bean paste. The best thing is it inspired us to develop our own karekare recipe for the vegan restaurant I’m planning to open.

And of course, the highlight of our date: dessert! We had the halohalo. The ice cream was orgasmic (or at least we think because we haven’t had vegan ice cream before… and we haven’t had ice cream in a long time). We didn’t like the leche flan: it was depressing that it didn’t taste like the dairy version. My ultra high expectations for the leche flan were not met. Good thing Francis was impressed with the sweet potatoes and I loved the sweetened coconut and we agreed that overall, the owners should be proud of their summer offering. It was delicious.

Overall, Francis and I were much pleased with our first food date. Not only did we feel we were superheroic eating while saving the planet, we’re now inspired to finish the concept of the 100% vegan, 100% halal and 100% kosher restaurant that’s opening in San Jose City someday.

Thanks, Pipino! Now where’s our next delicious date going to be?
ūüėč

What to Eat at Cagayan de Oro

Truth is I’d rather this trip didn’t happen. There are still moments I wish I didn’t push through with the summer conference. Then maybe Inoo wouldn’t be sick, then he wouldn’t die. Or if it really was his time, at least I would be by his side. But I know that no matter how hard I wish I could turn back time and change everything, Cagayan de Oro happened. I also know that Inoo wouldn’t want to see me unhappy forever because of him – he has always done everything to make me happy.

Also, Cagayan de Oro had been good to my vegetarian belly that forgetting about it entirely is a disservice to the city. So here it goes: my vegetarian (mis) adventures in Cagayan de Oro!

Day 1: April 26, 2017

Since deciding to become vegetarian five years ago, I had become a traveling Girl Scout: I make it a point to do my research prior to the trip on vegetarian restaurants, health stores and markets, and I pack lots of emergency food that would last for days just in case. Just to illustrate how unprepared I was for this trip, I only had a family pack of Grower’s garlic and onion almonds, since I was confident I’d actually have food at the venue because I indicated in the registration that I’m “vegan”.

Unfortunately, there was no vegan food at the buffet. (Apparently there was an instruction to send me to the kitchen to plan my food but I wasn’t told about it until Day 2.) So when the conference started at about half past one, I was so HANGRY I almost cried.

Good thing I brought a box of Yogi Green Tea Kombucha – the best variant I’ve had so far – and I lasted until snack time where they served suman and a slice of mango. It actually came with hot chocolate but I refused it, naturally, since it had milk. (At this point I’d like to thank the waiters at Pearlmont Hotel for being honest and knowledgeable about what’s in their food.)

Before dinner, I went to Healthy Options at Centrio Mall to buy noodles, granola and hot choco mix.

Dinner was great. From Centrio I walked for about twenty minutes to Pilian Cafe at Centerpoint. Pilian Cafe is a small vegetarian restaurant that I found on my research.

The place was actually packed when I arrived. I was pleasantly surprised to know that there’s a market for vegetarian food at CDO. ¬†Because it’s just my second time at a vegetarian restaurant (the first was at Ima’s at Puerto Princesa in 2013), I ordered a lot for one: cucumber shake, fried vegemeat with mushroom gravy, and Veggie Glow rice bowl.


Needless to say, I finished everything. See 4th photo.

Day 2: April 27, 2017

Day 2 was a lot better. The organizers finally realized I hadn’t eaten so I was sent to the kitchen for the very specific instructions for cooking my food. I came up with this:


So by lunch I had a family size serving of chopsuey – which I have to say is really delicious – that I shared with another vegetarian at the conference. For dinner, I had a huge plate of tossed salad which I honestly didn’t enjoy because I’m not really a salad person. Anyway, apologies for forgetting to take pictures of the food because I was too excited to devour their veganized food. I’d just post this instead:
I inserted being vegan with the group activity (linked data or how to connect “Ariana Grande” and “rice”) and got applauded for my genius. Lol.

Day 3: April 28, 2017

I received the news of Inoo’s illness on Day 3 so it was such a particularly hard day. Since my fruit plate didn’t get delivered, I ate Annie Chun’s udon bowl from Healthy Options for breakfast – which was scrumptious, if you’re wondering – and this vegan fig bar I accidentally found at 7 Eleven. Why don’t they have in all their branches?

For lunch, I had another family-size platter of sotanghon guisado. Again, I failed to take a picture – because I was distracted about Inoo. But I swear the chef at Pearlmont Hotel did a great job.

For dinner, despite not feeling hungry at all, I returned to Pilian Cafe and had carrot juice, sisig (which I learned was not vegan too late and it made me guilty that I found it really delicious), brown rice and fried sweet potatoes.

Nevertheless, I tried to enjoy my dinner in between praying that God spared Inoo.

I also bought pasalubong from Pilian Cafe: their guilt-free chicharon and Mookie. Because of Inoo’s illness I didn’t have the chance to look around for vegetarian pasalubong as I usually do. But no regrets: my Inoo is more important.

Day 4: April 29, 2017

Pineapple juice, Fig Bar and Soon vegan ramyun from 7 Eleven was all I ate. ¬†(And it was brunch.) I was not hungry. I was sad. ¬†Inoo died. But…

In another circumstance, I guess being vegetarian in CDO would have been a better experience. Unfortunately I couldn’t be “in the moment” at the time.

So maybe next time.

After all the nice lady at Pilian said I should bring my Significant Other next time. Let’s see. If he wants. And if Cagayan de Oro isn’t traumatic anymore.

What to Take Home from Ilocos Region?

If I wasn’t fasting in preparation for Easter Sunday, I’d say Ilocos starved me. ¬†The menus of roadside eateries and higher-end restaurants were laden with dead animals – it made me sad they didn’t observe Lent – and animal byproducts. ¬†Truth is the only proper meal I had during the three-day, two-night retreat with the family was a cup of plain unpolished rice, atsara (pickled papaya), four slices of cucumber, soy sauce with vinegar, and lemongrass tea. ¬†(Special thanks to Pannzian Beach.)

But what did I expect?  Ilocos Region takes pride in its love for bagnet (deep fried pork belly) Рwhich is bad for animals and bad for you, by the way.  Luckily, I found vegetarian pasalubong to take back to Nueva Ecija.

Here they are:

  1. Chichacorn.  The quintessential product of Ilocos Region, chichacorn is always your safest bet for meat-free (though not necessarily healthy) pasalubong.  It can be found in practically every souvenir store.  It comes in different variants, some of which are not vegetarian. Choose garlic, spicy, and sweet and spicy to be safe.
  2. Namnama’s Garlic Camote Chips.¬† Namnama has various fried chips but most of them had honey. ¬†I was lucky to find this variant at Marsha’s and it features mountain-grown sweet potatoes, garlic, and vegetable oil as its only ingredients.
  3. Sukang Iloko.¬† Ilocos is also known for its vinegar. ¬†Cormelfoods (available at Marsha’s) follows century-old tradition and makes theirs from sugarcane juice and dried leaves, bark, and seeds of samak, a medicinal plant. ¬†You can also buy spicy variants at Tiongson’s at Calle Crisologo in Vigan.
  4. Tablea.¬† Chocolate-e? ¬†Chocolate-a? ¬†Being a self-confessed chocolate addict, I’m really happy that there seems to be no shortage of chocolate in places I’ve visited in the past six months (Davao, Cebu, Tuguegarao, and Ilocos). ¬†Their tablea comes in the form of chocolate balls or discs.
  5. Aling Presing’s Taro Chips.¬† With native taro, vegetable oil, garlic and salt as its ingredients, ¬†taro chips are a gem amidst the animal- and animal byproduct-laden spread of pasalubong at a souvenir shop beside Paoay Church.

So there. ¬†Hard, but it turns out it’s not completely impossible to find vegetarian food in bagnet country. ¬†I just hope I can say the same for a proper sit down meal.

The Vegetarian (Han Kang)

Saturday, March 25, 3-something in the afternoon. ¬†I don’t know what’s gone into him. ¬†(I’m lying now. ¬†I do. ¬†Peace.)

Boy Scout: Let’s watch “Beauty and the Beast” tomorrow. ¬†If we wait until next weekend (as originally planned), it mightn’t be showing anymore.

Girl Scout: Okay.

But this isn’t about Beauty and the Beast¬†and our mutual admiration of Emma Watson’s breasts. ¬†This is about¬†The Vegetarian – the book, not the librarian who happens to be a vegetarian, not the librarian’s man who happens to be one as well.¬† This is about the three-part novella that tackles the subjugation of women and the power of a single act of rebellion to disturb the status quo. ¬†(Or at least that’s how I found it.)

I had been longing to read¬†The Vegetarian¬†since I first saw it on the shelves of National Book Store in SM Cabanatuan last year – mainly because of the title and a bit because it posed itself as a horror story – but somehow I was always hesitant to buy it. ¬†(Always didn’t have enough money. ¬†There’s another book in my priority list. ¬†And I haven’t heard of Han Kang before so I’m not sure about her style.) ¬†I’ve been into Paulo Coelho lately, if you haven’t noticed, and to read another author¬†might disturb the smooth flow. ¬†But I don’t know. ¬†With Boy Scout beside me after our first movie date I pushed all hesitations aside and decided if I didn’t get this one last copy I will regret it for the rest of my life. ¬†(Note to Boy Scout: pretend you did not read this.)

And regret it I would have because The Vegetarian hit me on multiple levels.

(Spoiler alert!)

First, of course, the obvious: the protagonist is a vegetarian.

Told through the third person omniscient eyes of her husband Mr. Cheong (“The Vegetarian”), her brother-in-law (“Mongolian Mark”), and her sister In-hye (“Flaming Trees”), The Vegetarian¬†is the story of Yeong-hye, a housewife in Seoul, who, because of her series of bloody nightmares involving cruelty, made the decision to stop eating animals and animal byproducts.

Second, the violent reactions over the decision.

Having been a vegetarian for five years – and the only one in my family at that – I relate to the violent reactions of the people around Yeong-hye on her conscious decision to renounce meat. ¬†Unlike her, I didn’t get force fed by parents, but I remember them trying to taunt me with my former favorites:¬†siningang na pata ng baboy¬†(soured pork leg stew),¬†relyenong bangus¬†(flaked and stuffed milkfish), pancit,¬†Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, double dutch ice cream. ¬†I remember talks about nutrition and the insults hurled at me for being ugly. ¬†I remember reciting this to their faces as my mantra: “I would rather die than not be vegetarian.”

Third, Yeong-hye’s suicide.

Yeong-hye’s attempt to kill herself reminded me of how I chose to cut myself from people who force me out of my principles. ¬†Amidst years of frustration over their trying to push their eating choices on me, I have decided that one day I will move out and there will be no corpse in my kitchen. ¬†(The sad reason I don’t call myself vegan.) ¬†This could well be my act of rebellion. ¬†And I realized that an act of rebellion, no matter how small, is¬†liberating to the spirit.

Fourth, how Yeong-hye realized it isn’t the food.

I loved the novella’s second part “Mongolian Mark” primarily because this ended Yeong-hye’s sufferings. ¬†Here, she discovers something inside her that stopped the nightmares and she became truly happy and truly free.

And fifth, Yeong-hye’s words, “Why, is it such a bad thing to die?”

I remember on our first date, on the way home, on his motorcycle, in between huge trucks and through a dangerous winding road, I said something to that sort to Boy Scout and he stopped me. ¬†I understood. ¬†Death is a repulsive topic for many people. ¬†But truth is, I’m not afraid of death. ¬†You see, I could be with Jesus. ¬†And when I decay, I will become one with the earth. ¬†Then, I will have a more meaningful role:¬†being part of the continuation of life. ¬†Isn’t that¬†beautiful?

In the end, I realized that¬†The Vegetarian is not the horror gore story I first thought it was. ¬†It isn’t even about vegetarianism. ¬†Instead, it is liberation.

Probably it is because I consider myself a feminist (a girly feminist at that), I saw The Vegetarian as a social protest.  In the beginning of this piece I said this is a novella of subjugation of women and the power of an act of rebellion to disturb the status quo.

It is.  And it is empowering.