Juana Yupangco and Sara Black Join Forces to Teach Women the Power of Healthy Eating
Juana Manahan Yupangco’s Advocacy
Healthy eating advocate Juana Manahan Yupangco originally set out to promote good nutrition by incorporating plant-based dishes into her diet, using sustainably grown vegetables and fruits as the main ingredients. Making sure to walk the talk, the simple dishes Yupangco shares with the various communities through her regular Mesa Ni Misis visits are the very same ones she serves to her family at home. “I often take my kids with me to the places where I conduct my teaching seminars and I show them that the kids there are eating the same monggo that I serve them. At our house, pricey fruits and vegetables are more of a treat than the norm. Lettuce has been replaced with pechay, and when my parents come over and bring my kids grapes, these are considered a precious gift.”
Mesa ni Misis was designed to work with ingredients that people belonging to lower-income families could afford, basically working from the ground up. “I like to focus on working with these communities, because that’s where most help is needed. The cycle of poverty that continues also has a lot to do with health issues that are brought on or exacerbated by poor nutrition. I advocate the use of vegetables in the diet because these are available and don’t cost much. Preventing diseases like high cholesterol and high blood pressure through eating a healthy diet saves families from the high cost of medicines as well.” The recently launched program called Oplan Mesa ni Misis is a more comprehensive one that includes food demonstrations, the teaching of recipes, a gardening program by Down to Earth and a livelihood program called Soap for Hope, which is a collaboration with international hygiene company Diversey. The company conducts Make and Take workshops, where participants make soap for their own use.
Sara Black’s Mission
Setting out to promote nurturing of a different kind, wellness guru and beauty photographer Sara Black embarked on a personal journey of discovery after a cancer scare and a debilitating accident opened her eyes to alternative methods of healing. “I discovered that healing myself on the physical level was just the tip of the iceberg. I started getting into yoga, learning about alternative modes of healing and energy work. I went to India to study and as I was progressing, I found a whole new energy was taking hold of me, filling me up and making me want to give back.”
She founded Live Awake Philippines—a wellness community that organizes and hosts several activities where members can interact either online or at live events like the community meditation once a month. It holds live workshops where one can learn more about a specific facet of wellness—whether it's mindful eating, gut health, or sustainable parenting. There are also retreats, which are integrated ones that feature yoga and meditation.
The Power of Two
The recently concluded Mindful Eating Workshop in August dealt with these key questions: Where does your food come from and where was it grown? Was it flown here from abroad, or grown in Cavite? Black says, “We wanted to make people aware of their carbon footprint and that there’s also an energetic flow from the food that goes into your body—so any negative energy that your food passes through affects you. Food sprayed with toxins or pesticides would of course end up having a negative physical effect on you. Because there were so many who could not attend the workshop, we decided to film it and put it online. We work on stimulating interaction so that people can ask us questions. Our audience is so engaged and the people that have joined tell us that they’ve been looking for this type of program.”
Yupangco adds, “Locally, there was no online course quite like this one; and those from other countries can be expensive or not relatable to the audience here. This year, we implemented the 30-day Plant-Based Challenge. July was Nutrition Month, so it was the perfect opportunity for it. AMS Laboratories sponsored it, so they offered free blood tests to those who took the challenge and then the participants posted their progress online. We sent them menus and PDF recipes good for 30 days. Some people joined in groups with their friends and I told them I could be like their personal coach. They would share their experiences, like when they’d encounter mealtime challenges.”
The two women felt that penetrating various circles of influence is the way to get their message across. Yupangco posed a challenge to her family and household staff. “After a while, my yayas were being complimented at my kids’ school, because they saw positive changes resulting from their eating a plant-based diet.” When Juana’s friends voluntary signed up for the program, they in turn influenced others to give it a try.
A Singular Purpose
In retrospect, both are convinced that the lives they’ve led up to the present have been part of a grand plan. Yupangco learned to operate a food business for three years after graduating from college and then got into marketing and publishing, where she eventually crossed paths with Black. “For me,” Black shares, “the decades that I’ve had working as a visual artist have helped me communicate things with clarity.” Juana asserts, “I think I went through all those work experiences to prepare me in some way, for this.”
Synergized towards the same goals, the interactive platform Live Awake Philippines affords them the ability to provide daily encouragement, grounding of recipes and the sharing of knowledge and facts on the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Sustainable living is the thread that will run throughout the website. The tone is kept informal and relatable, with personal experiences and challenges shared. Black laments, “Generally, we are experiencing a lot of disconnection, because of the nature of how life is today. We live in a world of commerce where we are constantly engaged in the pursuit of wealth; and because of the deep state of disconnection, we are not living lives filled with joy. We want to try and get everyone back into a state of reconnection. It’s about the personal choice of everything we consume and not just what is on your plate.”
This month, Live Awake Philippines will host a Green Mama Workshop on sustainable parenting. As it’s important that there be some form of energy exchange in order for those who participate to attach value to the course, a fee is charged to cover administrative costs and to keep the programs running.
Black pronounces, “I’m just in a flow state all the time; I very often feel like I’m in the right place at the right time, because help always comes when I need it; and there’s so much abundance everywhere. My talents and gifts as a visual artist are finding their way into helping people understand and connect with wellness: to make it more engaging and interesting. I have so much positive energy inside that I feel there’s nothing else for me to do but share it with others.”
Manahan continues to “solidify” her knowledge in nutrition by studying and joining online courses and was recently awarded a scholarship to the University of Edinburgh for a Masters in Global Food Sustainability and Nutrition. “This will have such a great impact on building on the various Mesa ni Misis programs and is a clear confirmation that I am right where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m meant to be doing.”
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