MGA Kuwentong Pagkain (MKP), condiments company Mama Sita’s annual storytelling contest focused on Filipino food heritage, garnered more than 350 entries by its Dec. 31 deadline last year. These entries come from a variety of countries – the USA, Sweden, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Malaysia, among others. The task of choosing the best stories in the essay, photo essay, and video categories now falls on panel of judges representing various academic and culinary disciplines.
The judges know the value of good storytelling and the importance of celebrating Filipino foodways in an increasingly globalized world. They are:
• Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, a renowned Filipino culinary historian, culture advocate, and author of numerous groundbreaking books on food literature such as Pigafetta’s Philippine Picnic (2021) and What Kids Should Know About Filipino Food which had a Teresita “Mama Sita” Reyes birth centennial edition in 2017.
• Rosario O. Lapus, Ph.D., a judge at the Palanca Literary Awards whose career focused on academic administration, teaching, research, and community service. She holds post graduate degrees in these disciplines from various local and international universities including Harvard University. She was president of Miriam College from 2010 to 2019, and previously Chairperson of the Consortium of Women’s Colleges in the Philippines.
• Michaela “Micky” Fenix, one of the most respected food writers in the country. She is the president of the Food Writers Association of the Philippines and chair of the Doreen Gamboa Fernandez Food Writing Award. Her book, Country Cooking: Philippine Regional Cuisines, won the National Book Award food category in 2014. She still writes and edits food books, was editor of Food Magazine and was a columnist in the Philippine Daily Inquirer for two decades.
• Ige Ramos, a multi-awarded book designer, food writer, visual artist, and ardent promoter of Philippine culinary heritage. He owns IRDS Books-Republic of Taste Food Network, a multidisciplinary platform for publishing, book design, research, comparative gastronomy, and public policy. His latest book, Dila at Bandila, was published in 2022.
• Nina Daza-Puyat, a celebrated home cook, author, and culinary advocate. She was editor-in-chief of Appetite, a food magazine, from 2011 to 2017. She has also authored several cookbooks including a revival of the classic Let’s Cook with Nora which was written by her late mother, culinary icon Nora Daza, and first published in 1965.
• Paolo Ven B. Paculan, an educator, historian, writer, and Filipino language teacher. He is the author of Florante at Laura: Kritikal at Interaktibong Edisyon, a second edition of which was published in 2017. In 2022, the Ateneo de Manila University Press published his Noli Me Tangere: Edisyong Panghayskul, a plain language translation designed for young readers. He has served as facilitator and resource person for the Mga Kuwentong Pagkain international webinars.
MKP, an initiative of the Mama Sita Foundation, began as a storytelling competition in 2012 with the purpose of building a reservoir of interesting food tales from the country’s various regions. After a decade it continues to promote narratives that enrich Philippine culinary heritage. It has become even more relevant now with the need for overseas Filipinos especially, the younger generation, to know and understand their roots through food and culture.
Most submissions focus on cherished family recipes, hometown culinary traditions, regional food folklore, and locally grown crops and spices.
To make room for more creativity and style in sharing food stories, separate categories were set up for essay, photo, and video formats, with each offering prizes up to ₱20,000 in cash. Winners for MKP 2022 will be announced in March.