Friday, February 19, 2016

Immaculate Conception Academy kicks off celebration of 80-year milestone

By Nancy T. Lu

Eight decades – a time span longer than a lifetime for many Filipinos even today -  have not come and gone that easily. The Immaculate Conception Academy (ICA) of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (MIC) has every reason to celebrate this year an 80-year track record of educating and evangelizing at least three generations.

Sister Irene Ferrer, the incumbent directress of ICA Greenhills, traced the beginning of the first-ever Tsinoy Catholic school in Metro Manila to a second floor room above a hardware store on San Fernando Street in Binondo, Manila, in 1936. The school started with only 40 students. She shared ICA’s history during the 80th founding anniversary launching program at the Greenhills campus last February 4.

“Faith, Excellence and Thanksgiving” has been adopted as the theme of the year-long series of activities to mark the ICA milestone.

Sister Delia Tetreault, who is lovingly honored on February 4 every year, was the Canadian foundress of the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. She started the congregation in Montreal, Canada, in 1902. Guangzhou, China, became the first mission of the group in 1909.
The MIC nuns found their missionary calling in Manila first at the Chinese General Hospital upon the invitation of Dr. Jose Tee Han Kee, the grandfather of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee and the hospital’s director. Later, families in Chinatown asked them to educate their children.

ICA first opened its door as the Immaculate Conception Anglo-Chinese School in 1936, admitting both boys and girls in the beginning. The campus moved six times over the years because of the growing school enrollment. From San Fernando Street, it relocated to Benavidez Street first and then to C.M. Recto (former Azcarraga) and on to Tayuman and later Narra before taking over a site (now the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) on General Luna in Intramuros and finally ending up in Greenhills, San Juan.

Over the years, students of the exclusive girls' school have been prepared academically as well as in the experience of Christ to live and serve this world, said Sister Irene Ferrer.

Many ICA graduates who are exemplary achievers in diverse fields have been a source of pride to their alma mater. They have moved on, celebrating a meaningful life of thanksgiving through their generosity in different ways.

Sister Delia B. Regidor, the first Filipina to be named MIC General Superior, arrived from Montreal to participate in the celebration of ICA’s milestone.

San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez and Vice Mayor Francis Zamora led the VIPs who attended the Mass offered by Father Aristotle C. Dy S.J., president of Xavier School and member of the ICA board of trustees. It must be recalled that Father Jean Desautels S,J. of Xavier School was the one who invited ICA to build a campus next door in 1960. 

Prominent guests also included Felicidad Sy, wife of taipan Henry Sy, and outstanding daughter and ICA alumna Teresita Sy Coson.
The Henry Sy Foundation made a substantial donation for the construction of a new high school building.

The blessing of the Sister Teresita Canivel MIC Sports Center took place also on February 4. The late MIC nun dedicated 42 years of her life tirelessly to building and improving ICA. Sister Dina Ang, who has retired, worked very closely with her. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Galing Bulacan brings out cooking talent of the province's students and potential professional chefs

By Nancy T. Lu

Sons and daughters of Bulacan aspiring to pursue a culinary career stepped forward to be counted at the Galing Bulacan Cooking Contest in front of the Bulacan Provincial Capitol Gym in Malolos last January 29. The late Teresita "Mama Sita" Reyes, a Malolena and an icon when it comes to flavorful mixes and sauces in authentic Philippine cuisine, must have smiled with approval from above on seeing a promising younger generation show flair and talent for cooking.

Fourteen teams of would-be chefs, all students with ages ranging from 14 to 18, came from different places in Bulacan, including Bustos, Baliuag, Calumpit, Plaridel, San Rafael, Pulilan, Bulakan, Paombong and Malolos, to compete and to learn from the critiques and evaluations of the very experienced and professional chef judges.The Mama Sita Foundation and the Bulacan Provincial Government through the PHACTO Tourism Division made the project possible.

The contestants and their all-out supporters were privileged to hear in what seemed like an open-air cooking school some truly useful pointers and meaningful advice directly from chefs like Sau del Rosario, Richard Ramos, and Nancy Reyes Lumen.

Despite the not-too-ideal setup of the cooking area, the well-prepared contestants carried out their tasks smoothly within sight of their coaches, thereby earning positive remarks from  the judges for their culinary performance.One team was thrilled to be finally told that they were, in fact, worth hiring for a restaurant.

The contestants' chosen ingredients were the first to call attention that beautiful morning. The interesting display of a potted basil plant on one table prompted though a judge to express hope that leaves would not just be plucked and introduced on a dish without washing. Meanwhile fresh aratiles fruits required by one recipe fanned nostalgic memories of childhood days spent playing in a backyard dominated by a fruit-bearing tree.LGBT awareness even in cooking was noted in the entry of Team Bulacan State University - Inipit na Baklang Alimango sa Caramba ni Mama.The crustacean's gender was said to see to the preferable consistency, taste and texture of the aligue.

Sau del Rosario, a French-trained celebrity chef who is the culinary director of The Cravings Group,  openly said that he would like to see the contestants wow him with their use of the Mama Sita products. A surprise to him was the inclusion of a dessert recipe using Mama Sita distilled cane vinegar in the competition.  This Triple Coated Kesong Puti dish (top photo) whipped up by the team from Bustos went on to emerge the grand champion. All other included recipes like the runner-up entries of Beef with Banana Bud and Waterleaf in Oyster Sauce - a  pasta dish - of Team Baliuag  University and Stuffed Prawn with Mama Sita's Oyster and Barbecue Sauces with Quinoa of Team Centro Escolar University of Malolos were main courses.

Richard Ramos, whose years of working with Eurest in California, USA, taught him to be passionate and innovative about food, shared his culinary expectations. This scion of the family behind Eurobake - famous for inipit and ensaymada - sought to find balance in the food presentation. He pointed out a lack of carbohydrate on a plate sometimes. He also wanted to see color in the food presentation to satisfy a need to visually whet appetite. He likewise had an eye for height in the food on a plate.

The stories which the contestants told for the day often highlighted the influence of mothers who were traditional homemakers known to cook lovingly for their families. The judges naturally hoped to discover Bulacan's culinary heritage through the contest participants  and to find out how old recipes had evolved in modern times.

The judges, including this writer, followed the visual feasting on the food with actual tasting. Taste, texture and aroma were given 40 percent  in the judging. Preparation and cooking skills took 25 percent while presentation and appetite appeal got another 25 percent. Ten percent went to overall impact.

Sau del Rosario urged all the teams to promptly present the food - each dish a labor of love and a work of art - when newly cooked in order to earn higher points in the judges' score sheets.

Nancy Reyes Lumen, famous food researcher and chef with the reputation of Adobo Queen, remarked that the joy in the eyes of a cook somehow got carried over to the dish he or she worked on. Her random suggestions worthy of note included letting achuete do the special coloring of the rice to go with Team Plaridel's Milkfish Longanisa. She questioned the presence of a whole pitcher of aligue sauce when a small serving already there sufficed in Team Bulakan's entry of Crab Stuffed Prawn in Aligue Sauce.

Clara Lapus, president of the Mama Sita Foundation, shared her advocacy in protecting the environment at the cooking event. She reminded the students not to pollute the river so as to preserve the natural food bounty there and to keep the shrimps used in a delicious dish, for example, safe for the dining table..