LIFE IN THE PLATEAU: Starting the change in a meal

By Walter I. Balane

On the road to a resort in Lianga, Surigao del Sur one early evening last year, our Grassroots Documentation and Reporting Training Team talked about the application of science in the food that we eat. It was a humorous but “meaty” chatter. The usual one you get into inside the vehicle while heavy rains slow your trip down.

A check on the timepiece showed dinner should go ahead before check in. We talked about the chicken in the fast food chains. We talked about the poultry products in our breakfast table. Then the conversation extended to the synthetics of food preparation in the world of fast food chains and how they alter way of life and relationships.

Fast food vs. slow food.  Old vs. new ways to prepare food.

We even also talked about that World Toilet Summit in Beijing (yeah, that’s for real (laugh!) but that would probably be another story)

Just a week before, I sat next to a Vegan. That’s how people who live on plant-based diet are called, y’know. So I had some inputs to make in the car ‘conversation’: that natural diet is a healthier choice.

Arrived at the resort safe and sound and later, dinner was served. To my shock and amusement, there on the dinner table, is the immortal fried chicken.Whew! While most of us skipped it at least, as the main course, I found it really funny. The caterer later on told us they failed to follow the agreed food requirements.

We usually have nice conversations on health and diet; very nice, that we often do not see them in our own decisions and actions. The simple reflection I got during the chatter was quiet an awakening. If I want to correct what for me were unhealthy food decisions, I should rather start it on my dining table.

Back in Malaybalay, I wanted to bring the reflection closer to home. I immediately shared about the advantages of this diet choice. I felt it was welcomed, in the light homecoming conversation. But I realized it’s not going to be easy -when you are not the only one deciding in the kitchen, the market day, and the budget. There will always be complications on your desire to initiate or explore a healthier diet.

This thing about science, technology and food is quite a sensitive topic at any home. We bow to preferences, as well as differences. Also, there is lesser time to prepare food and for others, not being able to afford hiring a house help.

I realized that even at home, it requires mass-based, proper and open consultations with everyone concerned. It requires education about diet and health, among other things.
We even need rules on how to talk about it (why and how are we going to change the menu that has been our choice through time?) We need information and communication. We need not only one-sided information dissemination. We need to listen to one another. (Now this sounds like the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front already.)
Anyway, we also cannot miss out on the environment or the market.

The poultry industry, despite the talk of unhealthy hybrid/synthetic-based production (millions of eggs in how many days?) is in reality, a multi-million industry. If you look at trimming it down you are looking at cutting on the feeds sector, and eventually the corn industry for example. That’s about your neighbor. Our neighbor. From my window in Kalasungay, I can smell what for me was odor but others might be aroma of livelihood: poultry farms in neighboring Patpat village.

What I thought are micro-personal choices and basic human rights will have bearing on the world economy! Likewise, the choices we make in our kitchens are affected by the
choices offered by the market. It’s an economic structure embedded, if not imposed, into our meal!

I remembered a colleague expressed his potent view over that dinner in Lianga: “That’s why most of us often get sick” and “that’s why doctors and hospitals are making money.” Who is winning if we are losing? Such a formidable foe I supposed. I missed the forum organized by pro-organic farming groups last year in Bukidnon State University where Bt Talong took center stage. It should have been a venue for critical information.

We all need to look at these options. Science does wonders, too. I think what we must remember is that “modern” doesn’t always mean healthy. That’s why I still wanted to offer my two-cents worth in the big cloud and inter-galactic movement for change. I start going natural and fry-free food for breakfast, at least. I hope it will snowball into something more significant.(The folks at home, unfortunately, were not so hot on this move at all.) But like the ripple effect, it is my hope that something will start from the smaller twists.

Maybe if we change what we eat for meals at home, we help change the landscape of our farms and plantations.

(The author is a community journalist from Malaybalay City. Life in the Plateau is a weekly take on life in our beloved home province. This piece was first published in the author’s blog on Mindanao ( You may email reactions to


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