Celebration at A J Kalinga Center

On 10 November we made another visit to the Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center, where we have volunteered several times already, helping with their program for feeding the unsheltered.

a crowded sidewalk with people and carts of possessions

On this trip, we were in the company of our collaborator (Jazmin Llana), her assistant (Trisha Concepcion) and our project videographer (Lance Yu). All these folks were part of a reconnaissance trip we made to Kalinga a month ago. We did not create a blog about that visit since it was so intimately tied to planning for this one.  However, Lance made a short video that you can see embedded below or at this link.

On that visit, we did participate in the feeding activities, as well as presenting aprons as gifts to all the workers. On arrival for this last trip, we were pleased to see that everyone was wearing our aprons, many of which showed signs of wear, suggesting that they were used often and not just to please us.

Lance and Trricia in Walang Gutom aprons, looking at the camera; Tricia holding an audio recorder.
Lance and Tricia at Kalinga

Since we last wrote, our videographer Lance has graduated from De La Salle and secured a position as a business reporter at the Rappler, the Filipino progressive press outlet whose director Maria Ressa received a Nobel Prize last year. Trisha is in the final weeks of writing her undergraduate thesis about alternative art spaces in the Philippines.

Nicole and Shannen behind a counter with towels and small cups of soap on it.

We were also accompanied by three volunteers who are undergraduates from De La Salle University. Joanne Arac (Nicole) is a fourth year civil engineering major. Shannen Abad (Shane) is a fourth year chemical engineering major. Margarita Cudiamat (Agot) is a second year student in communication arts and advertising management. All expressed their desire to re-engage with outreach, recalling positive prior experiences.  All proved hard workers and excellent interviewers.

Richie, holding audio recorder, seated at a table with a man who has paused eating to talk with her.

Also joining our team was Dr. Anne Richie Balgos (Richie), a colleague of Jazmin’s in the Department of Literature, who exercised her prodigious skills as an ethnographer. John Campos (Rhod) was part of the reconnaissance team but was not able to make it at the last minute due to an exam, but we still want to recognize his participation and recruitment efforts through the De La Salle Ambassadors program.

a Kalinga worker in a face mask gesturing at his Walang Gutom apron

Many who work at this feeding program are graduates of the residential program at Bahay Kalinga that we wrote about in this blog.  We have now worked with them on four occasions and are happy to have so many familiar faces when we arrive.  The team for the day included chefs Ritchie and JR, as well as Aris, Dayan, Jonathan, Jovert, JP, Jun, Maribi, Rudolph and Volter. 

Jun holding a very young child who's looking away from the camera
Jun, it turns out, has lived more than half his life in Minneapolis.

Our goal for this visit was to distribute gifts to the beneficiaries of the meals program and to record some video interviews.  We posed two questions in our interviews.  The first was imaginative, inviting recipients to share a favorite meal–what would they eat if they could eat anything.  The second asked for a story or memory about being hungry.  The two questions were part of our effort to consider possibilities for agency and imagination within the context of hunger action.

Tricia with audio recorder and Lance with iphone interview a man seated with a plate of food on a table with a red table cloth and a bamboo stalk in a small vase

The recordings were all made in Filipino (and some other Philippine languages) so at this point we have only second-hand knowledge of what was said. Once we are home, we plan to create transcripts and review the audio quality before deciding on next steps, which could be anything from multi-monitor installation to reflective writing.  However, we continue to believe that the primary value of the interview process lies in the listening rather than in re-presentation. 

the crew assemlinb brown paper gift bags which are laid out across a long counter

We created small gift bags which were distributed to everyone who ate a meal that day (267 in all) regardless of whether or not they participated in the interview. These were distributed as beneficiaries were about to leave, allowing us an opportunity for language practice.

Michael handing a gift bag to an older woman

Natapos ka na ba?  Have you finished?
Kumain ka na ba?  Have you finished?
Regalo para sayo.  A gift for you.
Ingat ka.  Take care.
Walang anuman.  You’re welcome.

a gift bag and its contents: a tangerine, a cookie in a cellophane wrapper, and a twin pack of coffee powder labled "Kopiko"

The bag contained three treats. We included fresh ponkan (tangerines) as anything fresh is rare in feeding programs. Purple Yam bakery donated lemon piping cookies, adding a touch of elegance that invoked Massimo Bottura’s Refettorios (fine dining for the disadvantaged). Finally, packets of Kopiko–a three-in-one coffee, milk, and sugar mix–were included at the suggestion of Kalinga management, as these are known to be valued by their clients and help stave off hunger on the days when meals are not offered.

boxes of the cookies, tied with a purple ribbon

Throughout the day the members of our group rotated roles, taking turns at conducting interviews and distributing gifts but also at serving meals or handing out soap and towels.  We had requests we could not fill for clothing, masks, and sanitary napkins–all items that are sometimes available at the center but not that day–and would make it a point to bring some of each to our next visit. We won’t be able to return but our Manila-based collaborators plan to sustain a connection.

Jazmin looking into the camera while ladling food from a chafing dish into a white bowl

The meal served that day included pork sinigang, green bean adobo, and fried eggplant. The links will take you to recipes adapted for use by cooks outside the Philippines.  These are the instructions that Kalinga follows:


To boiling water, add ginger, onion, tomato, and pork. 
Cook until the pork is tender.
Then add radish, eggplant, kangkong (water spinach), okra, and tamarind.


Marinate the pork overnight in soy sauce, garlic, Knorr liquid seasoning, oyster sauce, kalamansi, patis, and brown sugar. Saute garlic and onion. Add the pork and all of its marinade.
Season with soy sauce, sugar, peppercorns, and bay leaf.
Add already cooked green beans and vinegar.

We are incredibly grateful to the team at Kalinga for accommodating us, with a special recognition to Brother Jorem and director Tessam Castillo. They run a tight ship and yet were very accommodating to our interventions.

Laurie Beth and Michael by the doorway holding a cookie box

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