By Alex M. Eduque
My dear cousin Juana Manahan Yupangco dons many different hats. She is known as your typical multi-faceted modern-day woman – first and foremost a wife, a mother, a writer, an editor, style and lifestyle icon – you name it, she probably wears that hat. But what most often goes past at is the magnanimous heart this woman has, and her generous spirit so hungry to share her knowledge on affordable steps to attaining a healthy lifestyle, an opportunity for livelihood, and nutritious meals that don’t break the bank. If there’s one thing I’ve known about Juana, it’s that her determination, especially when she sets her mind and heart on something, can only yield great things. And this is exactly how Mesa ni Misis was born. In the words of the founder, “Mesa ni Misis is an organization that promotes health and nutrition on a budget.” Born as a platform with a primary purpose of creating, and sharing healthy affordable recipes, Juana’s aim is to show people that it is possible to live, and eat healthily, even on a budget, with limited funds, by educating them on making good food choices to nourish themselves and their families.
The recipes of Mesa ni Misis are pegged between P250 and P350 as their research has shown them that this is the average budget of a family per day for food. In addition, they make it a point to promote the use of local Philippine produce as it is not only more affordable, it is dense and full of nutrients. “The misis is the main decision maker when it comes to taking care of the home,” Juana says, and because of this, she wants to make sure that they are aware of the choices they are making for their family, and the wide array of options available within their reach. After going around various communities quite a bit, a staunch lack of awareness on living healthily seems to be strikingly apparent, which is a pity considering a lot of the most nutritious ingredients and elements for healthy living are very accessible to them.
This is the lack of education that Mesa ni Misis aims to address: “By educating communities of women to make better food choices, [we] hope to contribute to the overall health and wellness of their families. Mesa ni Misis promotes eating our local produce, which are really so rich in nutrients, but are not often eaten.” When breastfeeding her children years ago for example, Juana realized how much more nutritious our local leafy vegetables were, and how much more affordable they were compared to imported goods. In fact, if you think about it, it is the food that all of us grew up with such as langka, mangosteen, malunggay and singkamas that are being hailed as the new ‘superfoods’ worldwide.
Through Mesa ni Misis and by creating recipes that anyone can access, Juana hopes to be able to promote eating more of our native produce, as she is hopeful that this will in turn increase the demand from small farmers which will directly and positively impact them as well. In incorporating a lot of local fruit and vegetables, Mesa ni Misis also aims to be able to shift the mindset of people and show them creative and affordable ways of consuming and promoting local cooking. Her ultimate dream is to be able to see the likes of sari-sari stores and carinderias one day serving the recipes of Mesa ni Misis, providing healthier choices that will veer people away from processed foods.
In addition to spending a lot of time in the kitchen and local markets creating recipes for exchange, Juana also runs the “Soap for Hope” program of Diversey – an International hygiene company – through Mesa ni Misis. In this program, soaps are collected from Diversey’s partner hotels and channeled to Mesa ni Misis to run the program. Soap for Hope makes use of the collected soaps to make new soaps that communities can either use or sell. This goes hand in hand with Mesa ni Misis’ objective to teach mothers how to make soap for their family, and the importance of cleanliness, while providing an option for extra income.
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Mesa ni Misis is all about spreading the word to eat better, and they would love to visit your community to speak and demonstrate recipes! For more information on Mesa ni Misis, please visit their website at www.mesanimisis.com or send them a message on their Instagram account @mesanimisis.