Long before “organic lifestyle” was a buzzword among environmentally conscious Pinoys of the 21st century, Mara Pardo de Tavera had been living it since the 1980s. She returned to the Philippines in 1986. Finding organic food in Manila proved difficult and she knew then that her life’s work would involve raising awareness of the organic lifestyle and how people’s diets impact the environment. Today, she is known as one of the country’s organic food and lifestyle experts. Her organic market in Legaspi Village continues to thrive since she first started it in 1993. “You are what you eat,” she says, as she forges on with her advocacy.
Call her a chip off the old block in a sense. Mara is the great-granddaughter of Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, a doctor and librarian and a good friend of Jose Rizal. Pardo de Tavera’s “obsessive love for our country despite the many odds he faced” resonates with Mara, who has inculcated her ancestor’s desire to find ways to “better educate and enlighten our people.” Mara’s efforts have brought together and boosted the exposure of small farmers who grow organic rice, fruits, vegetables and free-range chickens and fish from as far as the Mountain Province to Davao. “Seeing people accept my ideas and benefit from them; getting recognized for my achievements; seeing people get better because of changing their lifestyle to organic; seeing my family absorb the lifestyle and be better for it, these are all kaizen successes for me,” she says, referring to the Japanese term meaning “continuous improvement” in one’s lifestyle. She believes kaizen has become more imperative as Filipinos seem to be “sinking so deep in negativity.” “Each one of us has to detach from that and make internal changes to create wider waves of change in our world.”
(First published in Marie Claire, November 2008; Photo by Sara Black)