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AdoboAid was the brainchild of Maida Pineda, a blogger, whose call to help raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan was posted on Facebook. The idea was to cook adobo, gather friends for dinner and pass the hat around for donations. Better yet, for Filipinos – wherever they are in the world – to host those adobo dinners at the same time, on the same day, November 23. Imagine the Philippine diaspora – more than 10 million Filipinos living abroad – watching helplessly as news coverage of the worst typhoon disaster of the century unfold on tv. Herself a Filipino expatriate, blogger Maida Pineda knew exactly how it felt to be away from home and wanting to help. Well, here was a way Filipinos living abroad could reach out and share in the on-going disaster relief efforts…”one adobo dinner at a time”.

I thought it was a brilliant idea, one that would surely appeal to that uniquely Filipino character in us. Didn’t we always love a party, turning even a People Power revolution into one? Didn’t we rather be jovial than angry or somber, even as we took on the most menial of jobs in even the most inhospitable country? And didn’t we all have that weekend, that birthday, that town fiesta, that Christmas holiday we always looked forward to as a time to gather with friends and family? And wasn’t food always in the centre of these gatherings? If we had been described as a resilient nation – with photos of smiling kids against a backdrop of devastation as proof – this must be our secret.

Which is why adobo made so much sense. A “resilient dish” was how Maida Pineda described our national dish. Adobo’s main ingredient is vinegar, which keeps it from spoiling, even without refrigeration. It can be kept for days, tasting even better the longer it stays in the fridge.

If there’s a dish we can truly call our own, it’s adobo. It predates the arrival of the Spanish on Philippine shores, perhaps even the earlier days of trading with the Chinese. The Spanish called it adobo, after a Mexican dish, although there were hardly any similarities between the two. The Philippine adobo is a much simpler and austere dish: meat – usually pork – braised in vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, cooked for 1-2 hours over low fire. The addition of soy sauce is, clearly, a Chinese influence. There are also as many variations of adobo as there are regions in the country, such as adobo sa gata (coconut milk) in Southern Luzon. In the Visayas, they prefer their adobo dry, with a little oil. In Pampanga, where my mother hails from, the adobo is braised and then fried, which is the way I like my adobo done. Vegetables make very good adobo, too: adobong kangkong (swamp cabbage) and adobong sitaw (long beans). In fact, every Filipino family boasts of its own adobo recipe – innumerable tweaks to an immutable dish.

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Footnote: AdoboAid Toronto served 50 plates of Adobo, with rice and a side of homemade achara (pickled green papaya, carrots, green bell pepper, raisins and ginger).  It raised $1750 in donations from friends and neighbours. The donations were forwarded to GlobalMedic, a Canadian organization which responds to disasters with a Rescue Unit, Water Purification Unit and Emergency Medical Unit, so badly needed in the typhoon-devastated areas. Since GlobalMedic is a qualified charity organization, the Canadian government will match the donation, dollar for dollar, thus bringing the total donation of AdoboAidTO to $3,500!

Maraming salamat!

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