I can still remember my first attempt on becoming a vegetarian.
The Failed Attempts, But Worth The Try
I was a high school fresh grad, and as a part of a small team of seniors who volunteered to finish our batch year book, I went to our empty school daily for several weeks to work with the group. We finished our assigned tasks every morning, and then go out of the campus by 12 noon. Having the first feel of spending money outside of school, I will have my lunch in the "fancy fast food" that I know of at that time: Kenny Rogers. They have this side sampler on their menu where I can pick three side dishes and get a free corn muffin on the side for only 70 Pesos. I will always get their mashed potatoes, corn and carrots, and then one random vegetable side dish available for the day. I ordered the same meal everyday during the whole duration of our yearbook project.
When I started college, I went back to eating sisig (a dish from chopped parts of a pig's snout and ears) and my favorite Friday's chicken fingers. I indulged in KFC's unlimited gravy, and split the bucket of chicken with my friends during our lunch breaks! I thought it's the end of my vegetarian phase. In my senior year, I felt a bit lost so I decided to join several school organizations to, as friends will always say, find myself again. One of the orgs I dedicated my time in was our university's yoga club.
I was so active in our club at that time, and even attended outside school events. Naalala ko yung food in this particular event, buffet pero lahat makakain ko coz vegetarian. :)
We had once a week hatha yoga sessions, and huge inter-school activities like World Yoga Day celebrations. Being surrounded by vegetarians who passionately talk about their lifestyle encouraged me to try it again. And so I decided to research more about going meatless while using our school's free internet at the library's computer room. With volume down, I watched PETA's extreme videos on how they slaughter pigs, treat huge cows like sardines in small pens, and inhumanely remove chicken beaks. It was the next level of morbid, so it became even more difficult for me to eat meat again.
As With Anything, You Have To Have Your Why
I am a vegetarian for more than a decade already. I have several reasons why I prefer a meatless diet, and every time I meet a new person who learns about this, I pick a different reason from my pool of answers just for kicks. Haha! Reason one is my university yoga club story, the easiest to spill is having food allergies.
Another story is how my dad, who was a vegetarian during my formative years, influenced me. I was around 10 years old when dad will pick me up from basketball practice to bring me to food places like Sanitarium and Varona, which are hole-in-the-wall vegetarian canteens he discovered while working as a roving salesman around old Manila (I wonder kung bukas padin tong mga to!). We will order barbecue made from soy, aroz ala cubana that's made of tofu. Even then, I knew I will eventually become a vegetarian because it's the right thing to do, and I had these thoughts at such a young age! But more than influences from people I look up to, I've always been a big animal lover.
Even post college, I find myself enrolling in a yoga class from time to time. Aside from physical wellness, it also helps me find my inner balance. I super miss it!
I was reminded of the perks of attending yoga classes when I was invited by Honestbee, an online concierge and delivery service, in the launch of the Organic, Fresh and Healthy category in their app. One of the activities during the event is a 30-minute yoga class in YogaHive.
It's Easier NOW!
If you want to try vegetarianism or just eat healthy, the best time to start is NOW. Imagine ordering your groceries or healthy eats online after your yoga class! Thank you Honestbee for making healthy living even more accessible and convenient. No excuses na talaga!
They even offer different meal delivery services, depending on your preference! I was hesitant to try these services because they are usually not available in Alabang, or hindi nila mahanap bahay ko haha! But I've been using Honestbee for a while now and sobrang okay talaga their delivery service, on time and very courteous riders.
Not An Instant Thing
I never ate fish and other seafoods ever since I can remember, I never got used to its stench. I guess this is one reason why it's easier for me to transition since I only have pork, beef, and chicken to let go of. I still eat eggs and dairies like butter and cheese, so I read up more about this and learned that vegetarianism has several categories. I fall under Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian, or people who don't eat meat and fish but still consume dairies and other animal by-products.
The process is not instant, but I eventually let go of meat one-by-one, day-by-day, week-by-week. As I always say to people asking for advice on vegetarianism, just do it one step at a time. I started with doing away with huge chunks of meat like steak, pork chop, or the beef my mom adds in our nilaga, which I can't chew on anymore. Then I became aware that some pasta dishes contain tiny ground meat, and even condiments like patis (fish sauce) have animal content. So I had to say good bye to those as well. It sounds difficult at first, but I was never too hard on myself. I allowed myself to go through the process of letting go and saying no to these animal products one by one, not all at once, and just be more selective and aware of what I take in. Slowly but surely, as long as I consistently do it every meal.
We also listened to healthy living talks with TimNutrition and my weightloss idol Marga Banaga during the event, nakaka inspire!
Here are just some of the healthy brands now available via Honestbee!
(May differ by location, just check the Organic, Fresh, & Healthy category in the app)
Oh So Healthy Chips
Green Giant Salad
Sugar Free Bakery
Kabilon Farms/Paradise Blends
If you ask me what changed since I started this lifestyle, well! I still get pimples, even though they say that eating less meat will clear the skin. I still get fat because I love my carbs! But what I do know is that I am a human attempting to live a cruelty-free life. It has this sense of personal fulfillment that I don't need to brag about but I am proud of about myself every single day. It's a small difference to the environment, but a huge impact on my everyday life as someone who wants to live a more compassionate being not only to fellow humans but to all living creatures. (Side Note: Sabi din sakin ni Marcelo na kasama ko sa Iloilo trip na masayahin daw ako dahil vegetarian daw ako, haha!)
New Friend: Umiinom ka ba?
Me: Oo naman! Vegetarian naman ang beer diba? 😜
It's not all fine and dandy, though. I also had several negative incidents living as a vegetarian in a country that loves their lechon (roasted pig). I am used to weird stares from fast food servers who will raise their brows whenever I ask them not to put chicharon or to kindly just take out the bacon from my sandwich. They'll warn me with "Same price padin po yan ha?!" ("It's still going to be charged the same price okay?") or "Hindi na po yan kasing sarap!" ("It won't taste as good!"), but I've learned to just nod, pay for my food, and laugh it off. I'm too hungry to explain, hehe!
I also heard the lines "Kawawa ka naman!" ("I pity you!") and "Ano pang kinakain mo?" ("What do you eat?") too many times, but I also don't feel bad about them anymore! One line that I've already memorized how to answer is "Edi nagagalit ka pag kumakain kami ng meat sa harap mo?" ("So you get mad whenever we eat meat in front of you?"). I will just say that I am the only vegetarian in our household, but it doesn't make me love my family less.
Ate trying the must-eat Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap in Berlin, while I had the vegetarian version:
"Don't worry about me!" I hate making people I'm with feel hassled just because I am a vegetarian, but one of the ways I felt real love was when friends check out the menu first if I have anything to eat before we enter a resto. Pag events naman, si Pax yun tipong friend na hindi naman vegetarian pero pag biglang nakita niyang panay meat ang food mag aask na yan: "Wala bang gulay dito?!" Haha!
Maswerte ako sa friends ko huhuhu I love you guys!
Some people think that I eat like a goat, but reality check! I actually eat A LOT and not just grass and greens! Haha! So what do I eat? I always say that the taste of the food is in its sauce, so I never felt deprived. I just scout for meatless alternatives and make sure they have the sauce. Like for siomai (dumplings), I go to Rustan's East Cafe in Makati for their vegetarian siomai with soy sauce, kalamansi, and chili!
Favorite Places When I Eat Out
(To be updated)
1) Chowking Tofu (Plain) + Rice + Kang Kong (Request for no bagoong) + Chili Sauce
2) Karinderiya Meal: SiLog (Sinangag + Fried Egg), Tortang Talong (Double check if no meat), or Pansit Canton (hehe)
3) Plain Lugaw + Add tofu, chili sauce, soy sauce
4) Fresh lumpia in food court (around Php 50 only!) then order rice somewhere else
1) Taco Bell's Bean Burrito and Cheesy Fiesta Potato
2) Mongolian places - since you can choose what you put in your bowl
3) Lots of QC indie restos - favorite is Vegetarian Kitchen!
1) Mexicali (Vegetarian Burrito, Cheese Enchilada, Cheese Quesadillas)
2) Halal Brothers (Falafel over rice + side order of hummus, extra veggies)
3) Green Pasture's Vegetarian Burger (still the best for me)
4) Ganso Shabuway's all veggies shabu shabu (includes unli rice)
5) North Park's broccoli flower and fried beancurd skin
Since I always eat out with friends, I also discovered so many dishes that I can eat even in non-vegetarian restaurants. Yabu has a refillable plate that you can't find in their menu (rice, soup, cabbage salad, fruits), so I order that sans the katsu and just pick a random side dish as my ulam.
Being a vegetarian can also be quite expensive, since most of my orders are side dishes and not set meals. Although don't worry, I think it's a bit easier now to become a vegetarian compared to when I started more than a decade ago since more organic and health conscious restaurants are now opening here in Manila. Again, must-have apps for me are Happy Cow and Honestbee!
I love traveling and discovering that there are more vegetarian friendly places all over the world. My favorites are Myanmar and Berlin. The most difficult most prob are Korea and Japan -- but they are also countries with convenience stores and coffee shops in every corner so I am good, mabubuhay ako hehe.
Meatless burger in a veg resto in Myanmar:
My Ate's vs My Plate in a resto in Berlin. Sobrang dami nila mag lagay gulay, and the meat alternative tastes so good!
I love buying fresh fruits in convenience stores abroad, and eating them back in the guest house!
I also found a good influence group aka my Iloilo travel buddies! Sobrang humaling sila ngayon sa juicing, and they share their recipes sa groups namin kaya nakaka hawa talaga! Hello Seph, Marcelo, Brian, and Trice, pahiram muna ng pics a haha!
I bought my ingredients like frozen strawberries, boxes of almond milk, and other fruits and veggies at S&R and Shopwise via Honestbee!
Now that it's 2019, going cruelty-free goes beyond what we eat. It's another transition for me as I become more and more aware that even beauty products like skincare and makeup that I use everyday at home may have animal content or caused harm in production through animal testings. It's another ball game for me that I need to study, decide on, and eventually practice. The intent is there, so I will--like a decade ago--just take things one step at a time.
Special thanks to Honestbee for having me and reinforcing my 2019 goal of a healthier lifestyle even as a practicing vegetarian! You can download honestbee app via Google Play or Apple App Store, and have your groceries and meals delivered straight to your doorstep!