filipino vegetarian

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?


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.

How I Turned Vegan: a Love Story

Update: I turned vegan!

Once upon a time, there lived a girl who loved eating animals so much that every time there was no animal on the table, she got sick.  That girl was me.

If Lola were alive today, she possibly will find it hard to reconcile this young woman with her grandchild who got fevers at the idea of eating vegetables.  Truth is, me, too.  Although I’ve only been a vegetarian for four years, it seems my omnivorous life had been a long, forgotten time ago.  This is my story.

Not Love at First Sight

Truth is I hadn’t heard of the word “vegetarian” until second year college.  I became friends with a friend’s sister.  At that time she was considering becoming vegetarian for the animals.  I, on the other hand, was struggling over my weight.

It was just wrong timing, since I was then enrolled in an Envi Sci course and my professor – the Philippines’ prince of whale sharks – had just lectured us about how humans were not designed to be herbivores.  Plus, he said, if the whole world went vegetarian, we have to convert land that are not fit to be agricultural to agricultural land.  We will compete with the natural environment of other animals.  In the end, it will be bad for the planet.  Something like that.  After an overnight heated text debate, we stopped being friends.  (Hi, Erika!)

Hey, We Meet Again

I thought I won that stint with Erika.

Then, in third year, I had a classmate who was a vegetarian and I thought she was so cool.  She didn’t make a big deal over her eating preferences; neither was she judgmental in any way.  She didn’t even explain why she was vegetarian.  She would just say it’s just the way things are.  She just let us be while she enjoyed her animal-free fares.

I didn’t think about it then, but now I believe that’s when I began thinking about vegetarianism.  In my subconscious mind, I might have decided I’d do the same someday, too.  But for a different reason: I envied Madel because she’s so pretty and skinny.

For All the Wrong Reasons

Years rolled by and so did I.  Soon, after bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and boxes of chocolate milk, I turned into a barrel girl.  At one point, I was 65 kgs (circa 2011).  At 4’11, I loathed myself.  I tried going to the gym but after about three months I realized I’m not a gym girl.  (Actually, even now.)

Then, somewhere along the line, I heard on TV that beef is worse than pork for people trying to lose weight, since beef fat is practically invisible.  I decided to make myself my own guinea pig, so I completely cut off beef from my diet.  That meant saying a tearful goodbye to my favorite pinapaitan.  (There’s an urban legend circulating around my family that I used to eat half a kilogram of pinapaitan back in elementary days.)  But after half a year of staying away from beef, Cheetos, and Chuckie – I lost weight.

That’s when I realized, it’s not gym.  It’s food.  If I want to lose weight, I’d have to cut down on the bad things that make me fat.

So I decided to go vegetarian.  I told Papa I won’t eat animals anymore.  It lasted for about two days because when Saturday came, Papa made the most delicious sinigang na pata (soured pork leg) and said: “This is what you’re going to miss.”

And I told vegetarianism, “I’m sorry.  It’s not gonna work.”

Could We Start Again, Please?

Then, on the afternoon of Holy Wednesday 2012, I went home and found my Inoo missing.  I looked everywhere but he wasn’t anywhere.  I could hear him frantically barking and I followed the sound of his voice to our neighbor’s house.

Our neighbor who was a known drug addict.  I knew for a fact he killed his dog one night.

Enveloped in fear for my son’s life, I called and called on him for a whole hour.  I knew he was there; I could see him from behind the curtains.  But for reasons we both know, he wouldn’t come out.

I grew desperate and threatened I’d call the police.  He let Inoo out.

Inoo finished two basins of water.  Then, he jumped on me, wrapping his front legs around my neck and I saw it in his eyes: fear.

That’s the exact moment I realized for the first time non-human animals can feel.

Then in my mind I saw cows, chickens, pigs, fish, goats and all the other animals I’ve eaten staring at me with the same fear I saw in Inoo’s eyes.

I cried.  I couldn’t eat anymore.  I was stricken with so much guilt that I knew I had to do something about it.  I needed peace of my mind.  So I went to a Protestant Lent service with my sister.

And everything was in its perfect place.  That day, the reading was from Prophet Daniel.  Angel, my sister, leaned over and whispered, “He’s vegetarian.”

After the service, I ate my last animal meal: it was my mother’s pork adobo.

The Honeymoon Phase

I was vegetarian for the animals and I was in love.  It was a miracle I could say no to my parents’ scrumptious cooking without batting an eyelash.

On the first two weeks, I was surviving on nothing but peanut butter sandwich.  Then, I kept in touch with Madel (see above) and she taught me a couple of tofu recipes.  Then, I scoured for recipes from the Internet.  I was able to recreate delicious vegetable curry, a few veganized Filipino favorites from the awesome site Astig Vegan, and some of Chloe Coscarelli’s perfect desserts.  I easily went on fruit cleanses with crazy results.  Soon, Angel joined me and we started on this happy journey together.  In 2013, Angel and I attended a seminar in Puerto Princesa, Palawan and ate at our first vegetarian restaurant: Ima’s Vegetarian Restaurant.  Neither of us craved for the food we were used to; after all, we felt we could veganize everything.  Everything was awesome.

We felt great.  We felt we were doing something good for the planet.  And without it being our motivation, we beautifully lost weight.

The Test

Then, Angel developed mastitis.  Our eldest sister, the nurse, suspected soy.  From then on, she was prohibited from soy milk and tofu and beans.  She was forced to eat “normal” food.  No matter how I try convincing my family that soy isn’t the cause – since how come it didn’t have a bad effect on me? – I was alone again.

Still, I persevered.  Even though my family thought I caused Angel’s mastitis – she’s okay now, by the way, and she’s back to being an omnivore – I didn’t abandon my eating principles.

Suddenly, because I was alone, everything was harder than it was before.  I realized my friends from work weren’t inviting me when they ate out or in parties because I wouldn’t eat what they would.  In 2014, I went to Iloilo and was helpless in the hands of my relatives who fed me lots of fish.  Then in 2015, I was faced with different circumstances that forced me to eat animals: at Church, I felt guilty because the food came from the generosity of the poor; at my new job in the Schools Division Office, I had to become a member of the family.

Then, I fell for a man.


He was everything I wasn’t looking for: the cigarette, the drinking, the cursing, the tattoos.  And he loved to eat… everything.  He loved meat.  But I thought that he was the one.

One morning, as I prepped myself, Mama said I’m going to be hard to love because I’m high maintenance.

And my friends at the office said I’m going to be a pain in the ass to take on dates because looking for a place to eat would be a challenge.

So, I tried to eat like a “normal” person.  I started eating regular cakes and ice cream.  I ate a bit of fish and chicken every now and then.  (I guess it’s a good thing it turned out I’m allergic to chicken.)  Eggs became a semi-regular breakfast fare.  (I’m allergic to it, too, but I have to honest that I loved omelette again.)  I ate marshmallows, gelatin, and regular chocolates.

So I gave up my principles.

But he didn’t take me.

Instead of going back on my way, I self-destructed.  In heartbreak I drowned myself in regular cakes and ice cream and chocolate.  I wrapped myself in cheese.  I healed my broken heart with chicken soup.

I felt miserable.  For my broken heart.  Not for the animals.

And Now We’re Starting Over Again

If it’s for health or fitness reasons, going vegetarian is impossible.  For it, in my case, to be easy, it has to come from somewhere beyond wellness.  The first time, the trigger moment was Inoo’s fear and the discovery about Prophet Daniel.  This time, it is something that seems to have nothing to do with vegetarianism at all: the fact that the Philippine nation has gone sick.

Yes.  This is about the 6,000 killings happening in less than six months.

What’s happening in the Philippines now is appalling.  An average of 30 people are killed every day.  And what’s most appalling is the widespread support and tolerance of these inhuman acts.  There are even some sick minds cheering this savagery.

I mentioned earlier that this seems to have nothing to do with vegetarianism, but truth is it has everything to do with eating animals.  Our blatant disregard for the life of non-human animals is not at all different to this support and tolerance for bloodshed.

How miserable that it has to take 6,000 deaths to make me realize that every form of life is important.  Even non-human animals.  Even suspected criminals.

I’ve not eaten any animal or animal byproduct for sixteen days now.  And you know what?  This time, with my new realizations, I feel strong.