The Pinoy vegan’s essential guide to surviving the holidays
There’s something oxymoronic about being Pinoy and being vegan, especially around the holiday season.
Having been vegetarian for more than a decade – and finally, a full-pledged, card-holding vegan, I’ve seen the pained looks on my family and friends’s faces come Christmastime, as they try to magically whip up something that doesn’t contain chicken, pork, beef, lamb, fish, crustaceans, eggs, dairy, honey – and yet somehow, fulfills my macronutrient demands (high protein, complex carbs, and preferably non-saturated fat) and doesn’t get me running to the toilet, or worse, the emergency room.
(A vegan enjoying noche buena with his committedly non-vegan family: now that is Christmas miracle.)
Of course, you’d have the odd group or two who’d think little of your ethical decisions (or in their opinion, delusions) in life – serving you the saddest-looking salad mankind has ever invented: lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, swimming in balsamic vinaigrette (which is likely fake anyway, since the real stuff is not only expensive, but also hard to get.)
Also: they’re probably judging you as they serve this depressing dish, which shouldn’t be that bothering, considering you, the token vegan of the group, are probably judging them too, albeit silently, as you politely fork that lettuce around your plate, wondering if Lent came a bit earlier this year.
Don’t fret: you don’t have to shun every non-vegan person (or as we say in vegan circles, the carnists) out of your life. Not only is that impractical, but it also our moral obligation to surround ourselves with people who are in perpetual state of disbelief that animals are not the only sources of protein.
Below, I list down some tips on how vegans can survive the holidays:
Be ready to B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Baon)
Pretty obvious – but very solid advice.
Sometimes, coming out as a vegan is comparable to the experience of coming out as gay: your family gets shocked at first, and perhaps they might doubt it too. There’s definitely a lot of confusion. But once they get used to it, they take it as something that you just are.
The easiest way to make this transition palatable (ha, see what I did there) is to make it convenient for them to accommodate your ethical choice.
Yes, you can politely refuse that piece of Lechon
My tita used to always scoff that I was acting like a brat by not eating the lechon they served come Christmas season. Perhaps she remembered that chubby little boy years back who would wolf down pork chops as if heart disease and obesity were mere adult myths, much like Santa Claus was for children.
“No tita, I just don’t think it’s right to eat animals,” I would then say, politely declining.
Take note: politeness is the key, especially during these occasions. Explain if you must, but never judge... aloud.
I have to say: it takes tremendous courage to stand up to our titas, who would often bully us in ways our own mothers can’t. Had it been my mother, I would’ve easily said, “I refuse to eat anything that was kicking and screaming before it was butchered to death”, or “Did you know the burnt human flesh smells like lechon? Nom.” With my tita, that cheekiness meant being served a helping of my own ass.
That has since changed. Now, not only does she no longer think of her pamangkin as my mom’s undesirable offspring, she actually goes out of her way to prepare tofu dishes.
Granted, she still puts oyster sauce (which I’m allergic to) by mistake every now and then, but I am grateful for her effort (anaphylactic shock be damned.)
I guess the fear of age-related diseases has finally gotten into her. Or perhaps, her heart has also opened to the realization that animals aren’t exactly looking forward to the idea of being slaughtered, que se joda na sabihin mo pang sila ang magiging star ng noche buena.
Surprise: There’s probably vegan food already served at the Christmas table
Even without bringing your own food, you’d be surprised how there’s a lot of things you can eat during noche buena.
Puto bumbong? Vegan. (Skip the butter and go straight for the muscovado sugar.)
Kutsinta? Definitely vegan.
That sliced bread might be vegan (just make sure it doesn’t contain eggs, milk, or whey).
Spaghetti aglio e olio? Vegan.
San Miguel Beer? Alcoholics rejoice – it’s vegan.
And for your hangover the next day: coffee with sugar (hold the milk, unless it’s soy milk) is vegan, too (If you prefer the fizzy Berocca drink instead, that’s vegan too).
So go ahead and enjoy the festivities this season: be merry, gain weight, and let your veganism be the best gift you can give the animals and the planet the whole year round. – Rappler.com
Evan Tan is a communications professional and tech entrepreneur. He is a co-founder and the chief marketing officer of the country's pioneering online tax filing and payment website Taxumo, and is also the Philippine marketing manager of the world's largest gay social app, Blued. Aside from these, he is the Vice Chair for Industry and Business of LGBT nonprofit organization The Philippine LGBT Chamber of Commerce. He ocassionally blogs at www.writerinmanila.com.