Mga Kuwentong Pagkain annual storytelling announces winners

 Mga Kuwentong Pagkain annual storytelling announces winners

ESSAYS and a video on childhood traditions were among the winners of this year’s Mga Kuwentong Pagkain (MKP), the annual storytelling contest launched a decade ago by the Mama Sita Foundation.

For its essay category, the plum prize — dubbed the Pinilakang Palayok award — went to “Chasing Ginilo” submitted by Edelwisa Roman Gonzaga, 49, of Moses Lake, Washington, USA. The essay pays homage to the writer’s idyllic childhood in Bataan where her whole family busied themselves making ginilo, a refreshing melee of sweet potatoes, gelatin, and rice crispies swimming in coconut milk and shaved ice, the perfect antidote to humid afternoons. Now raising her own family in the West Coast, Ms. Gonzada relives these cherished memories by making ginilo with her children despite the limited ingredients available to them. Ginilo, she said, is “liquid nostalgia.”

“A Soulmate of Flavors” by Ian Ocampo Flora takes the essay category’s Sorpresang Sangkap award. This essay, penned by a millennial, puts front and center his lovable granduncle who believes that some ingredients are fated to be together, harking to a Kampampangan culinary philosophy that jealously guards the integrity of flavor combinations. The highlighted dish, Tausing Ema, which consists of mud crabs and black bean or tausi sauce boasts of a magical partnership never to be messed with.

The last of the essay category awardees is Jacqueline Dechavez-Brady who took home the Lakbay-Lasa Award for her work titled “Nourishment and Love: A Filipino-American’s Understanding.” Currently residing in Michigan, USA, this Filipino-American recounts her journey towards understanding her late uncle’s love language: food. Her Uncle Oscar was the family’s designated cook who took care of their lavish buffet spread every Sunday. He painstakingly explained each Filipino dish to the young Jacqueline, shaping her palate as well as her heart. Now 34, Ms. Dechavez-Brady finally appreciates the love and care that went into every food tray and snack that her uncle prepared. She carries on his acts of service by cooking up a storm for family and friends In Detroit, where the Fil-Am community is strong and vibrant, with hordes of people to feed in a constant stream of parties and events.

The overall winner of the visual narrative category is Roel Anthony Wagan, a student and freelancer. In a heartwarming video titled Ang Sinigang ni Lola Emma, Mr. Wagan narrates how a sour soup dish made from a small silver fish known as ayungin, an endemic species abundant in Laguna de Bay, has sustained the family through generations. His grandfather would fish at the break of dawn while his grandmother Emma made fish stock flavored with ripe guavas picked from their backyard. Fresh vegetables from the neighborhood were added to this comforting dish that fed the entire household. Soon after they began selling steaming bowls of Sinigang na Ayungin to the community, a household business that thrived well enough to hang several diplomas and graduation photos on the walls of their humble ancestral home.

MKP, an annual storytelling contest focused on Filipino food heritage, garnered more than 350 entries last year. The four winners were selected by a panel of judges representing various academic and culinary disciplines: culinary historian Felice Prudente Sta. Maria; Harvard alumna and former President of Miriam College, Dr. Rosario Lapus; food writer and columnist Michaela Fenix; multi-awarded book designer and writer Ige Ramos; home cook, author, and culinary advocate Nina Daza-Puyat; and Filipino language teacher and author Paolo Ven Paculan.

MKP, an initiative of the Mama Sita Foundation, began as a storytelling competition in 2012 with the objective of celebrating Philippine culinary heritage by collecting narratives that made it meaningful and relevant. The initiative has become an advocacy, especially among diasporic communities where there is a need to understand the Filipino identity through food.

Most submissions focus on cherished family recipes, hometown culinary traditions, regional food folklore, and locally grown crops and spices. To make room for more creativity and style in sharing food stories, separate categories were set up for essay, photo and video formats, with each offering prizes up to ₱20,000 in cash.