food for soul

August 13, 2006 at 6:05 am (mirepoix)

– fire cooked lunch after a 5 mile hike through the pamulaklakin forest trail/binicticlan drive in olongapo.

fish, bamboo steamed rice, sinigang manok, fresh buko juice, sinigang broth

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http://www.bulatlat.com/news/2-23/2-23-teddy.html 

Doreen, The Revolutionary

We knew Doreen Fernandez as a respected and multi-awarded teacher, prolific writer, author and editor of many books, historian, journalist, literary critic and sought-after lecturer on food, theater and Philippine culture. But the gracious and ever-smiling Doreen as a radical and closet revolutionary? A supporter of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF)?

By TEDDY CASIÑO Bulatlat.com

We all knew Doreen Fernandez, the food critic. Her weekly column in the Inquirer served as an infallible guide for many of us looking for a good place to dine.

We also knew Doreen, the respected and multi-awarded teacher, prolific writer, author and editor of many books, historian, journalist, literary critic and sought-after lecturer on food, theater and Philippine culture.

But the gracious and ever-smiling Doreen as a radical and closet revolutionary? A supporter of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF)?

Well, why not?

Doreen Gamboa-Fernandez died of pneumonia last June 25 while vacationing in New York. She was 67. Her death came as a shock to many at home, especially her friends, students and fellow writers whom she had inspired and supported through the years.

Last Tuesday, it was the turn of Doreen’s “comrades” to give her a tribute.

Organized by the University of the Philippines Faculty of Arts and Letters and the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), the “Luksang Parangal” was held at the UP Faculty Center in Diliman and was attended by a hundred and so activists, professors, cultural workers, artists and writers.

UP Prof. Edru Abraham, who emceed that evening’s affair, opened the program by noting that many write-ups on Doreen failed to mention her activism. Thus, that night’s task of bringing to light this significant part of her life.

The entire evening was filled with the militant and nationalist music and rhetoric commonly associated with the Left, punctuated from time to time by Doreen’s words herself, written by her and read by one of the performers.

Describing her transformation from housewife and teacher to activist, she had this to say: “I came to the Ateneo in the ’70s a housewife — the kind who went to Inner Wheel Club meetings. The activists wondered what I was doing there — was I serious? I did receive some criticism for not being politicized at that time. I joined a few discussion groups, though it was mainly to learn since I was so ignorant. There were some friends who said, How can you sit there and do the burgis (elitist) things you do? So I said to them, Teach me. And they did.”

Martial law did not stop Doreen from pursuing her newfound activism. She involved herself in theater and founded the theater group Babaylan which dared to stage plays critical of the Marcos dictatorship.

She was also instrumental in organizing the Cultural Research Association of the Philippines which advocated studies on nationalist culture. Both organizations dared to challenge the repressive culture imposed by the fascist regime.

Again, in Doreen’s own words: “That was the time of political theater — our political theater was very advanced. Theater was a fighting weapon: you could say things in theater that you couldn’t in a novel.”

Even Doreen’s articles on food bore the stamp of her patriotism. She often wrote about food consumed by the common tao (person) — the worker, the peasant, the fisherman. She introduced her readers to their tastes and, in so doing, introduced them to values and ways of life of the ordinary Pinoy (Filipino).

“(W)ith politicalization came the idea that food doesn’t have to be the way it is in the best restaurants of Europe. One should put food in the context of the culture,” she once wrote.

Thus, Doreen wrote not only about food, but about the distinctly Filipino in food. She treated the subject with apt reverence. “Food punctuates Philippine life, is a touchstone to memory, a measure of relationships with nature and neighbors, and with the world,” she wrote in a yet unpublished essay.

Doreen herself loved to cook. Among those who enjoyed her cooking were members of the NDF and other underground personalities who frequented her house during those dangerous years till the late ’80s.

In a letter read during last Tuesday’s tribute, NDF’s Mela Castillo Zumel remembers Doreen as a warm and gentle lady comrade who welcomed to her home those who resisted the fascist terror. Among her most frequent visitors was then CPP secretary general Rafael Baylosis, who shared with the audience his group’s delight as Doreen always served them a minimum of five delicious viands per meal.

In one of the most poignant parts of the program, Mr. Baylosis narrated how touched he was when, during one of his clandestine visits to the Gamboa residence, Doreen asked his permission to clean his fresh bullet wound sustained in an encounter with government soldiers.

Doreen valued and nurtured her relationship with the revolutionary movement, taking on special tasks in the resistance movement against the Marcos dictatorship and helping out till the late ’90s.

She even took such small tasks as inputting into the computer Jose Maria Sison’s ten lectures delivered at the UP Asian Center from April to May 1986.

In 1999, Doreen helped prepare the menu for the NDF’s 25th anniversary celebration which was timed with the return to the Philippines of NDF leaders Luis Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma. She wanted to be sure the food served was in keeping with the nationalist and democratic aspirations of the revolutionary movement.

In a message read during the tribute, Coni Ledesma remembered spending an afternoon with Doreen last January, where she expressed keen interest in the NDF’s work, especially among overseas Filipinos. A few weeks before her death, she sent Coni several of her books on Philippine food and culture to help in the work among Filipino compatriots abroad.

Doreen was well respected as an intellectual, patriot and kind comrade by the progressive people’s movement. She was a sterling example of a transformed burgis, with her quiet but strong conviction for a Filipino culture that is at once democratic and liberative.

Her gentle presence will be sorely missed.

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