I am lucky to have come of age where "local" was a way of life. In Hawai'i, ʻāina is land. Nurturing the land is to mālama ʻāina. I remember those who continued traditional practices - from pounding poi, to gathering limu, to fishing - as practicing daily acts of resistance. It seemed to challenge the privatization of land, the toxic industries destroying aquifers, the influx of imported foods. Witnessing the struggles of people in their own homeland humbled and inspired me to understand my Filipino roots. I wondered, what is our way to mālama ʻāina? What is that relationship when in another's homeland?
So when I heard of Gigi Miranda's workshops on healing through food and land-based practice, I couldn't wait to hear more. Based in O'ahu, this Pinay sister generously shared stories from her path and on choosing to go "ʻāinatarian" (note: coined by Faith Pascua, a young Ilokana poet/student and her ipo (sweetheart) Noa Helelā, a young Kānaka Maoli poet/student).
KK: What inspired you to connect to food and healing? Do you relate your Pin@y roots to your food work and if so, how?
GM: Itʻs who I am, how I was raised and how I live. I reconnected to my roots and continued my ancestral traditions. Seeing my father die at 59 years old from heart disease, diabetes and a host of other conditions as well as my own healing journey, it was not only food but a healing from the disconnection from our ancestral lands, in our practice and way of life.
The drastic changes, demands, and stress of trying to raise our family of seven kids, incorporation into a Western diet and lifestyle, and a loss of our culture, was detrimental to his and our family life. So many of us have loved ones suffering from heart disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension and other conditions.
Connecting to Pin@y roots is in my culture, language and traditions. I was raised growing our own food, fishing from the ocean and preparing our own meats as my ancestors have done for thousands of years.
KK: What's a dish or ingredient you identify with?
GM: Munggo guisa and fried fish, my Nanayʻs roots. Pinakbet, my Tatayʻs roots. Fresh pounded paiʻai by my Kānaka sista farmer friends. Fresh niyog/niu/coconut (my maternal ancestors roots) that I love making into healing ʻĀinatarian foods!
KK: What do you see as crucial issues - and opportunities - around food facing Pin@ys, Asian/Americans, Pacific Islanders, and all communities today?
There is just one, food relationships. It is in our relationships in our food and how we make our food choices and practices in our familial understanding and relationship to the land that affect ours, our communityʻs and ʻāinaʻs health, no matter who or we are. It is not only about food. itʻs about our culture and way of life.
In Hawaiʻi, Hawaiians and Filipinos have some of the highest health rates of chronic illnesses. The traditional belief and practice of mālama ʻāina (taking care of the land) that sustained Kānaka Maoli for 2,000 years has changed over foreign contact and with current U.S. occupation to a Military Industrial Complex.
Land rights and access for Kānaka Maoli and sustainable land practices for Hawai‘i’s settler population remain a determining factor of health girded in historical struggles and colonial relationships. It is the direct impact on the health and livelihoods of the indigenous and settler populations. The main economic unit of the ʻohana that cared for their ili in their ahupuaʻa and okana has changed. It is now the main economies of militarism, tourism and GMO companies that are the toxic landscape in the health, livelihood and culture of the people, ʻāina and our food.
The State of Hawaiʻi imports 80-90% of its food. There is less than 3,000 acres of certified organic farmland, while the military occupies an estimated 245,000 acres, GMO companies own or lease an estimated 40-60,000 acres spraying over 70 different chemicals daily with development always a threat to our ʻāina.
Certain ethnic groups with noted health disparities are employed in service jobs and supporting the State of Hawaiiʻs infrastructure. The price of a median home is $450,000, average rent has doubled in the last 20 years while 37% of the homeless are of Kānaka Maoli ethnicity and 39% of the prison population.
Yet slowly but surely communities are reconnecting, healing the land and themselves. The sovereignty movement grows in our food, our land, our communities and consciousness. Shifts to more sustainable, local living economies and efforts to mālama ʻāina in preventing further “health” impacting development or expansion happens in every thought, every moment and every day as kupaʻāina.
Visit Gigi's Facebook page: Whole Plant Based Cooking and Living