Lugud Balen pampanga community kitchen Covid19

Lugud Balen, A Community Kitchen Amidst The Virus Crisis

Kapampangans have always been known as good cooks making it the culinary capital of the Philippines. One way of showing their Bayanihan amidst the virus crisis is by using their best asset which is cooking tasty meals. Hence, a kitchen community in Pampanga named Lugud Balen was formed after a group of Kapampangan chefs and cooks united to ensure that frontliners who serve to fight against coronavirus won’t get hungry. They are given with budget-friendly but tasty, healthy, and filling meals. They aim to make frontliners feel that amidst their effort and sacrifices there are people who care for them as well.

Lugud Balen Community kitchen
Lugud Balen Community kitchen
Image Courtesy: Lugud Balen

Meaning of Lugud Balen

Lugud Balen came from two words “lugud” which means love and “balen” meaning community. Putting it together means love for the community. Its name describes what the people behind the movement feel and do. The initiative is sustained by the love of community by continuing to share their resources and whatever they have no matter how little it may be to help their comrades.

Lugud Balen volunteer chef
Lugud Balen volunteer chef
Image courtesy Lugud Balen

The birth of Lugud Balen

To prevent the spread of COVID19, quarantine has been ordered in the country, hence, frontliners such as the medical staff had difficulty buying meals while on duty since restaurants and fast-food have temporarily closed down. Knowing the struggles of what the frontliners are experiencing, a group of restaurateurs, chefs, and home cooks united and risen to the challenge to aid this concern. Kapampangans want to provide hot and healthy packed meals to nourish frontliners daily for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. Through these appreciation meals, frontliners do not go hungry.

Health workers received Lugud Balen packed meals
Health workers received Lugud Balen packed meals
Image Courtesy of Lugud Balen

Although the food donation started with the purpose of feeding frontliners such as health workers and checkpoint personnel, it has extended to serve depressed communities as well. Whenever meals are delivered to their destinations, the group also sees some people who are asking for donations. Since they cannot ignore the communities that are also hungered by the quarantine caused by Covid-19, they also provided meals to orphanages and less privileged communities in Pampanga.

Lugud Balen shares food to police officers
Lugud Balen shares food to police officers
Image Courtesy of Lugud Balen

The volunteers

Lugud Balen started small but has gotten bigger over time as many ordinary people and organizations volunteered and participated. Lugud Balen is composed of chefs, home cooks, and 20 restaurateurs including Teaspoon Cafe, Toll House, Everybody’s Cafe, Village Chef, My Lola Nor’s Meryendahan, Ciocollo, and Grand Pallazo Royal, Cafe Munding, Taldawa, K Cafe and  Den Lim’s Kitchen, Lailen’s Pastries,  Dainty,  Kabsarap,  Yami Bulgogi, Ottie’s,  HD Catering and International Skills Training Academy. The group runs six kitchens located in the cities of Angeles, Mabalacat and San Fernando. To properly distribute the meals, they coordinate with hospitals, police stations, and checkpoints on how many meals they need. The cooks will then prepare individually packed meals and volunteer transporters will pick it up and deliver it to the frontliners for lunch and dinner. 

Lugud Balen chefs
Lugud Balen chef
Image Courtesy of Lugud Balen

The appreciation meals

The menus are based on what the group gets from the community. The Lugud Kitchen cooks use their creativity and resourcefulness in using fresh produce and ingredients donated by the community. Some of the dishes served are Filipino classics such as adobo malangi, kilayin, asado and pinakbet. Also, the plating of the meals is considered to make it presentable with bright colors of vegetables. Dessert is also included to ensure that each meal is complete. Each packed meal is intended to be appetizing, filling, nourishing, and satiating.

Lugud Balen medical staff recipients
Lugud Balen medical staff recipients
Image Courtesy of Lugud Balen

To send heartwarming messages of support and appreciation, personalized notes written by home cooks, donors, and students are included in every food pack.  Meanwhile, different kinds of bread are given to depressed communities and to those that they see asking for alms in the streets. These breads are donated by bakeshops who participated in the Lugud Bread. 

Lugud bread
Lugud bread
Image Courtesy of Lugud Balen

Lugud Balen Plants for Hope

With the community quarantine extended, Lugud Tanam (community farms of hope) has been formed. Lugud Balen partnered with schools, NGOs, military, local governments, and private groups in distributing seedlings of fast-growing vegetables. The group plants in designated agricultural areas and the harvests are sent to community markets and mobile kitchens. This advocacy aims to encourage and teach communities to grow their own food to be self-reliant and sustainable.

Lugud Tanam
Lugud Tanam
Image Courtesy of Lugud Balen

Beyond borders

Initially, the project was concentrated in Pampanga and covered almost all of the public and private hospitals in the province. Eventually, it extended to serve the neighboring province Tarlac as well.  It aims to spread the word to other provinces and regions that with community love and joint effort we become stronger. They hope that their practice will be emulated by other provinces to help all the frontliners and depressed areas.

Lugud Balen gives to side street people
Lugud Balen gives to side street individuals
Image Courtesy of Lugud Balen

Help sustain Lugud Balen kitchen 

Lugud Balen gives credit to donators as they claim that they can give because they enable them to give. They hope to encourage more people to partner with them in their pursuit of sustaining the community.

Lugud Bread volunteers
Lugud Bread volunteers
Image Courtesy of Lugud Balen

Anyone can help to keep Lugud Balen kitchens keep on serving. You can donate monetary or raw materiasl such as meat, vegetables, dry goods, rice, and seasonings. Non-food donations are also welcome. Food takeout containers, disposable utensils, food packaging, spoon, and fork, etc. are also needed in preparing the food. Any contribution will be much appreciated.

Lugud Balen also welcomes restaurant, bakery, and any food purveyors who want to partner with them. If you prefer to produce your own cooked meals to be donated, let them know so they can properly coordinate the deliveries. Meanwhile, if you are a transport provider, you can also volunteer by picking up the food packs or goods and deliver it. 

Lugud Balen message of appreciation and encouragement to frontliners
Lugud Balen message of appreciation and encouragement to frontliners
Image Courtesy of Lugud Balen

Lugud Balen finds fulfillment and gets motivated to keep on going when they see the faces of frontliners lit up when they open the lovingly prepared food packs . They are also astonished by the outpouring kindness of Cabalens (Kapampangans) and their commitment to serve despite difficult times.

For more details on how you can participate or donate in the Lugud Balen’s initiative, you can go to their Facebook page or email them at lugudbalen@gmail.com

Featured image courtesy: Unsplash

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