My healthy passions

Here’s a keeper, a recipe you must try, courtesy of one I knew simply and dearly, if much too shortly, as Lola Apyang. I am sharing it with you just as she gave it to me when I was yet a teenager studying college in Cebu, but fortified with more fiber. It is tasty and delicious, good with coffee or tea or milk or a dollop of cream cheese on top. How I even thought of tweaking an already good recipe is a story I will tell now, but before that allow me to fondly remember Lola Apyang and her brand of homey love.

Lola Apyang was actually my dad and his siblings’ yaya — a doting old woman whose eyes crinkled at the sides whenever she flashed her toothsome smile (something she always did), someone I never saw (and cannot ever imagine) in pants and/or with her long hair down. As a matter of fact, she always wore her hair up and back, pulled into a bun that never seemed to come off here and there. Lola Apyang was easily one of those who looked naturally ancient, although not in a scary way. There was just something very Old World about her, her ways, her daily outfit, which was a whole dress with a long skirt, not billowy but shaped loosely. It looked very much like a less formal version of the traditional baro at saya we see in history books that the likes of Gabriela Silang and Tandang Sora wore. She was the type who, if any of her inherited (I use that term loosely but truthfully here) children or grandchildren (namely my dad and his three siblings and all the children they were blessed with collectively) was ever bitten by a mosquito she would not stop until she caught it, running after it around the dining table, swatting and punishing it with merciless death, all for daring, even if ever so slightly, to get blood from any one of us. “Pangitaon tu nako ang lamok na ni paak nimo!” (I will look for that mosquito that bit you!), she would declare like a Katipunera.

I remember Lola Apyang most for three things: for indulging me in my fondness for pencils, for covering our backs with a mix of stampitas and dried leaves whenever we were burning with fever, and for the banana bread and Royal Tru Orange she would always bring for us as pasalubong.

Oh, how we all loved her banana bread. Her recipe, which was as homey as she was, was and still is my standard as far as banana breads go. Here it is:

Banana Bread

Ingredients:

1 2/3 cups sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

Preparation:

Combine all the above ingredients and sift together into the bowl:

2/3 cups margarine/butter

2/3 cups milk (1/3 evaporated plus 1/3 water)

1 1/2 cups mashed banana

2 large eggs

3 sachets of C-Lium powder

Add C-Lium to the mashed bananas.

Add butter/margarine to dry mixture; mix well.

Add half of mashed banana mixed with C-Lium; mix well.

Add half of milk; mix well.

Add rest of banana; mix well

Add two unbeaten eggs, mix well.

Add rest of milk.

Mix very well in one direction only.

Grease and flour bottom of loaf pan

Heat oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit; bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

I added C-Lium fiber because I felt it would be a nice detail in what was to be one of, if not, the nicest and most personal press launches I’ve ever had the pleasure to be part of. It wasn’t grand in scale, but it was grand in style: very personal, fluid, unpretentious. It felt very much like we were all just a bunch of friends enjoying lunch, stories and each other’s company together. We all sat across each other in a big square table, there were no mics, and conversation flowed freely. It felt like a celebration — it was a celebration, come to think of it, of two of the very things that matter most: health and life, and how these two complement one another.

Our sit-down menu was especially put together by Chef Jessie Sincioco of the new and pretty restaurant Enchante’ and included the following: lagundi iced tea (lagundi is the main ingredient of the best-selling Ascof); Chef Jessie’s ciabatta bread, whole wheat rolls and special dip; heart of palm salad in peppermint vinaigrette dressing served on organically grown alugbati; clear essence of free-range chicken with ampalaya and malunggay greens; baked white tilapia fillet in red miso sauce served with organic brown rice; mushroom risotto timbale and steamed vegetables in season; aloe vera jelly with fresh fruits;’ banana bread with C-Lium fiber; banaba, hot tea or coffee.

The menu is was actually a sneak peek at the many products that belong under the Pascual Lab blanket, and it highlighted how they have consciously and environmentally taken to growing their own herbs and plants (alugbati, banaba, lagundi, malunggay) offering the same as raw ingredients in natural remedies to common ailments. This is a great service to the consumers, especially now that we all seem to be going back to basics, to our roots, to all things natural.

I have been a Pascual Lab baby since 2006 and through the years, what started as a business relationship has blossomed into a friendship with its principals, most especially Mia Pascual, that I would very much like to not only continue enjoying but also keep for many, many years to come. Recently, I was asked to expand my role as a product endorser to encompass that of a brand ambassador.

When the idea was first presented to me, in a heartbeat I said yes. The Pascual Lab tagline, “Passion for Health, Love for Life,” says it all and is right in step with what I believe in, as far as living is concerned. Of late, the world has compromised on a lot of things, so quality of life should not be one of them. One of my favorite birthday greetings reads “May you be blessed with good health, and the gift of family and friends to enjoy that with, may you be blessed with all that truly matters.”

Health is wealth, and I’m sure you all agree with me when I say that we realize this truth more and more as we add years to our life, as our world grows bigger, literally and figuratively, and as time goes by (to quote the famous song).

For the past three years or so I have been blessed to witness on a more personal level the core values of the company as it shines through its leaders and movers. I’ve joined them on an outreach with Habitat for Humanity in Baseco, I’ve toured the plant, I’ve seen firsthand the working conditions of the employees, and I’ve seen the kind of environment they are exposed to.

Once, Mia casually mentioned that she painted the wall of the lobby of their building yellow because she wanted the employees, and most everyone else for that matter, to be instantly cheered up when they enter the premises to face the workday. That has stuck with me, maybe because that is so me also, and that snippet in our conversation — something she must have promptly forgotten about already — is something I remember quite fondly. I read more into it that just making a random wall pretty. I read it as a boss wanting to make her employees happy, and it got me thinking that if she can pay attention to and care enough about the little details then shouldn’t the bigger companies do the same, on a larger scale?

I like that about Pascual Lab. I like that they take care of their people. If you do not know it yet, they also do their part in involving their employees in outreach activities, thus fostering, no matter how subliminally, social responsibility. They patronize locally grown herbs by farmers in the neighboring communities, which they use for their phytomedicines, thus providing these farmers with a source of income. We all know how essential work is for personal empowerment as well as for a better life. I like helping people, but I do not believe dole-outs are very healthy. You do what you must when you can with what you can to help those in need. But there is integrity when you know that the food that is on the table is a fruit of your hard work. It validates a lot of things. In that sense, they are instilling the right values.

I admire so much how they do not underestimate the importance of quality time spent with family. At Pascual Lab, weekends are weekends; a day off is a day off. In short, they are not slaves to their profession, and they do not expect their employees to be, either. There is equality there, there is service, there is passion for life. Like my father always says, no amount of success at work can compensate for failure in the home. Always, there has to be a balance. Pascual Lab has, for over 60 years now, and even in light of how speedy the world already is, beautifully managed that. They are definitely on to something good, and they are doing it right. I am very happy to be part of that.

On an even more personal (maybe you can even call it sentimental) level, this was a very easy decision to make — a no-brainer actually, because, having grown up in the province, I am, and I will always be, a probinsyana through and through. That is the funny thing about growing up: the more things change the more they stay the same. For the most part I have had a homemade and handmade life — everything was very basic, very organic, very raw. For cuts and scrapes my lola would ask the yaya to boil guava leaves and we would bathe in that. When we had a bout with the flu, we would be asked to sleep on our tummies and a liniment would be rubbed on our limbs and back, after which some dried leaves would be spread here and there. Whatever they were, it worked. And no, I do not know any quack doctors. I’m sharing this with you if only to emphasize the fact that where I’m from, going natural was the first option, always. That being part of my history, I was not exactly surprised when I realized that I had become a great big fan of the wonderful natural products that Pascual Lab has quite a number of. My day has been dotted with Pascual Lab products for many years now. I start always with their Oracare toothpaste and mouthwash; the latter I even bring everywhere with me because I find it is indispensable. I take Poten-cee and Immuvit before my first meal and with my meals I take C-Lium capsules. The recommended dose is five capsules in the morning and five in the evening but doubling that works best for me. In between I take lots and lots of water. C-Lium, I find, helps manage my weight. There is a powder version but I like the capsules better. I like using the powder version to fortify bread, cake, and cookie recipes to make them healthier. I am experimenting with oatmeal cookies now. In addition to that I also take my regular shot of wheatgrass. Whenever anyone in our household starts coughing, Ascof is the first remedy we turn to. I have given bottles of it to our friends and workers who have kids besieged with asthma and it never fails to provide relief. Even in our travels I always bring several bottles with me.

The beauty of this partnership is, the more I know about the company, the more I find reasons to like it. I always feel that it is such a blessing when a company believes in me enough to ask me to represent them, in whatever way, big or small. But to find that that company shares so much of what I inherently believe in, as an individual, as a member of the community, as a mother, wife and daughter, that just doubles the joy and more than just affirms how right it was to have said yes in the first place. I have been taught to always trust my instincts and this bigger relationship with Pascual Lab is a decision that really does feel right for the heart. I hope soon enough you find that out, too. Because with them, I know we all can be exposed to that kind of joy that comes from having, as Pascual Lab says in is tagline: “A Passion for Health, (and) Love for Life.”

 

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