Saturday, October 14, 2017

Harana organized to celebrate birth centennial of Filipino food icon Mama Sita

Mama Sita's children celebrate her birthday with choir and rondalla.

By Nancy T. Lu

Celebrated recently in a nostalgic atmosphere of love and joy was the birth centennial of the Filipino culinary icon Teresita “Mama Sita” Reyes. A serenade or harana both romantic and patriotic in spirit fanned reminiscences of the halcyon days of the older generation. 

Teeresita "Mama Sita" Reyes
Full appreciation of the Filipino cultural heritage seemed the intention of the event’s organizers. The Andres Bonifacio Concert Choir under Jerry Dadap and the RTU Tunog Rizalia Rondalia under Lino Mangandi came together at the UP Film Center in Diliman last September 29 to bring back the heartfelt kundiman era of a distant past.

Baby boomers and those even older watched and enjoyed the gently flowing singing which sparked flashbacks of a period of traditional courtship songs in Philippine music history.  Folk songs like “Sa Kabukiran” in the program captured in vivid detail the idyllic countryside settings immortalized in Fernando Amorsolo’s rustic paintings.  

Wasn’t Ruben Tagalog the kundiman king who warmed listeners’ hearts with his soothing rendition of “Ang Dalagang Pilipina” in days long gone? Didn’t soprano Sylvia La Torre flirtatiously sweep through the high notes of “Ako’y Kampupot” and leave her audience breathless many years ago? Young vocalists this time stepped into the limelight to perform these beautiful music compositions to the delight of the young and the old alike.

Jerry Dadap and Romy Vitug 

Songs like Constancio de Guzman’s “Bayan Ko,” Francisco Santiago’s “Pilipinas Kong Mahal,” and Jerry Dadap’s “Awit ng Pagkakaisa” stirred nationalistic fervor and pride. Dadap was even commissioned to compose “Mama Sita March: Awit ng Pagkain” for the occasion.

The Reyes family gathers around a dinner table in an old photograph.
Photographs from old family albums shown during the program highlighted an outstanding Filipino mother who taught her children Filipino values like love and nurture of family as well as care for fellow countrymen. She cooked enthusiastically for her children savory native dishes. When Mama Sita had the chance to travel abroad, she observed how overseas Filipinos missed  cooking the familiar and flavorful recipes of their homeland due to the difficulty of buying the needed ingredients. 

Over the years, the family of Mama Sita has undertaken to develop, launch and market successfully a whole range of mixes, sauces, condiments and spices to facilitate the cooking of well-loved Filipino food especially abroad. The list of products keeps building up. Mama Sita has emerged a brand name associated with lutong Pinoy or Filipino way of cooking.

A pair from Malolos, Bulacan – hometown of the Reyes clan – stepped forward to engage in what seemed like balagtasan on the topic of Mama Sita as exemplary mother, cook and Filipina. Before the night was over, 92-year-old writer Virginia R. Moreno waxed poetic about Filipina  achiever Mama Sita’s success in promoting  Philippine cuisine and good nutrition. Her cookbooks, she pointed out, have found their way to famous national libraries in London and Paris.

Clara Lapus

The Mama Sita Foundation led by Clara Lapus, the 4th of 11 Reyes children. planned and made the memorable harana happen. The award-winning cinematographer Romy Vitug documented the event.


Virginia R. Moreno

 Invitations to the event suggested a Filipiniana-inspired dress code. The men wore their barongs and the women showed up in kimonas and even ternos. Two paper-mache giants known as  higantes welcomed guests to a merienda of pancit bihon and champorado. The chicharon and chips dipped in vinegar of different kinds proved irresistible.  Guests finally headed home humming harana songs in their minds.                                                         

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