April 20, 2024

I was reading Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh, and got this, “A man without appetite has no appetite for life.” My 75-year-old mom who has a peculiar craving for fried pig liver every after getting sick attests to this, she always says food nourishes life. “It brings back my reng-av or vigor” Mom will say in our dialect in Sadanga.
I then noticed our family members at home, they choose their food as if they discover what strengthens their reng-av’s. My sister Vangie for instance likes seafood like shrimp during the rainy season, and my sister Eli who is an ultra-marathon runner has a strict diet of boiled kamote and saba. And of course, my brother Junior who hangovers after drinking alcohol will look for a bunch of leafy amti and eat it for breakfast.
When I was writing fiction stories for Philippine Graphics Reader, I was at Igorot Charm Café at Tam-awan. I was fond of their brewed coffee and Chilean empanada. The food and the company Ate Wamz and Kuya Mario set the mood and inspired me to write stories about our locality. Then, when I went to our hometown in Sadanga, I was interested in what food is abundant in our place that keeps our tribe strong and shapes our bodies. There was abundant meat, sweet potato, legumes, and quality rice which is a staple food for us Igorots. Yet there was sugar cane wine, fermented cassava, of course, coffee, and fruits too that balanced our gastronomic intake. I asked myself, is eating the same survival food of my ancestors also lengthen my life expectancy here on earth? If I choose an active lifestyle similar to theirs and settle for simple tastebuds, do I hope for a quality life?
Yet, the modern lifestyle plagued with too much exposure to technology, stressful and toxic workplaces, mental health problems, and pricy commodities somehow limits us to have quality lifestyles. The reason I resigned from a private school despite a good salary and intelligent students was because of the poor food supply I got around their campus- there were so many fast-food chains. The school is right in the middle of the city, and noise and air pollution are a constant threat to the peaceful life I was aiming for. How could I reach at least 30 fruitful years of service in this institution if this is the kind of environment I am in?
I appreciate the school I’m currently teaching now because of the wide playgrounds and green spaces that allow their students to enjoy. Sports and physical exercises happen from simple walking and jogging around the oval. It would greatly improve mental health, inspire learning, and lower stress among students. Not all have the privilege to choose a quality of life for themselves. But one has the responsibility to take care of the life entrusted to our body. Food inspires and heals – we are connected to the earth and its biosystems, if we want to improve our lifestyle, we can start by appreciating the food that heals us, advocate the food that allowed our ancestors to survive, and re-think the kind of food that will allow our children to extend their life for the next generation.