Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas in the Philippines: Keso de Gallo at My City of Birth

Filipinos are very sentimental about celebrations. What makes celebrations special, aside from the candid and bonding moments with family and friends, is the preparation and variety of food served in Christmas parties and, especially, during the Noche Buena.

Taking from Eden's Misa De Gallo 2009 celebration of 9 mornings with 9 Filipino festive dishes, earlier this year Eden has launched the Sarap ng Pasko 100 Days of Christmas inviting 100 towns to come up with 100 unique recipes. This places the Philippines on top of having the longest Christmas celebration ever! A nationwide vote made way for the top 9 dishes to be shared with the community in a Keso de Gallo feast.

This unique celebration brings Filipino culinary creativity and food tourism to the next level. Ms Anna Sapitan, Kraft Eden's Senior Brand Manager, shares that she is very happy that the event "unified the nation as a whole and made the Philippines proud with this campaign."

Every Filipino family knows how meticulous food preparation gets for Christmas Eve dinner. For some, the celebration starts a few days early as guests arrive from other cities/regions or overseas. This year our family is staying home to celebrate our Christmas dinner together.

I started the day early with a visit to my hometown: Mandaluyong City. Two years ago my family and I went to Policarpio Street to see the enchanting holiday display of the neighborhood. My son enjoyed looking at the house adorned with different versions of Santa Claus. This year, I returned to visit the memorable San Felipe Neri Church.

After Simbang Gabi, churchgoers were greeted by the live broadcast of Umagang Kay Ganda at the Church grounds. As part of Eden's Keso de Gallo celebration, the last of 9 winning entries to the Sarap ng Pasko contest was awarded. Ms Gloria Sevilla, who came up with the recipe, won the 9th place with Trio Cheese Delight.

The recipe is a healthy and unique alternative to the usual Turon we see in almost every local community. It is made richer with vegetables and added with cheese as an additional source of calcium. My son will definitely like this!

Nayon ng Kabataan kids and staff
Ms Sevilla, being a Mandaluyong resident, chose the beneficiaries for the feeding program: 12 families and 130 children from the Nayon ng Kabataan (NK). NK is an orphanage where exploited, abandoned, and neglected children, 7 to 17 years, are brought by the DSWD. According to Ms Eva Lawas, NK's center head, the facility currently houses 160 children who were mostly aged 11 to 14 years old. Ms Lawas was thankful for having the children partake in this festive event. She further encourages others to share a few hours with the children. This means a lot to the kids. They were surprised to be part of the Umagang Kay Ganda live broadcast here at the San Felipe Neri grounds.

NK kids with their Kraft giveaways

Alex Tacderas, Kraft Category Marketing Manager, gives insight on Kraft's future plan for next year's Christmas celebration. He says they may have a different twist "depending on what meaningful need we see next year." They were "more importantly moved by the community spirit" when they visited the different towns who participated in the contest. "We were touched by people we do not even know who were giving help in terms of performers, venue, and food. This is more than we were looking for." The winners coordinated with charitable institutions to identify beneficiaries for the Keso de Gallo feast, which served as a feeding program.

I have always enjoyed spending time with kids. Once again, this was an enlightening experience to see the simple joys of children. I hope that even after Christmas, more will share their blessings to our kababayans. Let's help each other grow and together be enriched with God's bounty. Merry Christmas!



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