Philippine School Embraces
Meatless Monday

December 9th, 2013

2A month after Typhoon Haiyan’s devastating impact, much of the Philippines is still recovering. But in the province of Bulacan, a 30-mile drive from Manila, one unique school has cause to celebrate. 

The Sophia School, a co-ed institution established in 1995, just marked its second year of Meatless Monday participation. The school was founded by husband-and-wife team Lorenzo and Marie Ann Abacan, a psychologist and nutritionist, respectively. Merging their acquired expertise, the Abacans sought to develop an educational program that emphasized the development of both mind and body. Marie Ann elaborated:

“Sophia School’s curriculum is basically guided by the philosophy of holism, which views its individual student as a ‘whole person’ who is composed of body, mind, and soul. …[The school]  provides its students not only [with the] teaching of academics but also various activities that can improve every aspect of them.”

Recently honored with the Outstanding Healthy Lifestyle Award by the Department of Health, Sophia School’s adoption of Meatless Monday was inspired, in part, by Dr. Custer DeoCaris, who introduced the program to the country several years ago. It also serves as a response to a study published in 2008 by the Philippine Department of Science and Technology, which raised the specter of an alarming national health crisis: Filipinos, it found, disproportionately suffer from childhood malnutrition and adult obesity. 1 in 4 are already hypertensive, and 7 million are afflicted with diabetes, making the Philippines one of the world’s top ten epicenters of the disease.

The Abacans determined that one prescription for these social ills was Meatless Monday, and students have embraced the initiative with gusto. As Marie Ann explains, it’s easy to instill a sense of commitment when you speak candidly about the reasons and goals. “The students accepted the program easily because they understand what they are doing,” she said. “They were given an orientation about the campaign and how it impacts their health and environment. They also encourage their family members to support the campaign at home.”

Some student and staff recipe favorites include Garden Salads with Mango Dressing, Veggie Fish in Sweet and Sour Sauce, and a vegetarian alternative to traditional sisig, a regional delicacy made of diced pig ears, bits of brain tissue and chopped skin.