Colene Tan (Coco)
Co-Founder of Simple Roots
Freelance Kitchens & Restaurant Consultant
Name of Relief Drive/s:
Operation Sagip Dapdap – Philippine Army Reserve 1303-2 Battalion, 1303 CDC NCR RCDG, led by Capt. Sharon Reyes and LT Gabriel Ramos. 26 January 2020; 4-in-1 relief operations, combining a medical mission, relief goods distribution, animal feeding and mobile kitchen. I was in charge of organizing the mobile kitchen in partnership with ABS CBN’s Sagip Kapamilya mobile kitchen, Neil’s Kitchen in Alabang, Palm Grill, Shake Shack, Scuba Studio, various donors and volunteers. You can see more about this operation here
H2O for Taal; a water drive organized by Bel Castro and I. We aimed to collect used 5 gallon water containers to fill with water. The water was filled by our partner watering stations at Aqua Safe Water Filling Station Tondo and Crystal Clear Strata 100. Within 5 days we had collected 1445 gallons of water from various donors. That was enough to fill 10,902 x 500ml re-usable tumblers. By re-using large water containers over 21, 804 pcs of 250ml plastic bottles were NOT used and are NOT contributing to a landfill.
San Jose Bangon Kitchen led by a joint effort of CASADI-SMFI Toll Partners/SJWMPC/BONFAC/BEPCO/San Jose Business Club and volunteers from the community, Bukas Palad Foundation, Parish Youth Ministry, Coop and CASADI employees. These are all farming cooperatives and local community members in San Jose Batangas. I was invited by Harold Lu and Henry Sision who were the main organizers for this operation. I helped them set up the system needed to run a community kitchen, which would serve the nearby evacuation centers of San Jose and Ibaan. This is to assist existing community kitchens and make use of the relief donations they received. The goal is to train the community to be self-reliant and to have the basic cooking and kitchen skills for mass production, all while practicing safe food handling and proper hygiene. I was only there for a short time but the local community were fast learners and were able to quickly take over. The beauty of this was that we were also able to support the local farmers and cooperatives in the area as we made use of their vegetables and produce.
Three things you make sure you focus on in your work:
Communication – I always make sure to have clear communication with everyone involved. That includes setting intentions and expectation and making sure everyone is in alignment with our goals.
Organization – I also try to focus on organization in roles, responsibilities and tasks on hand.
Authenticity – Is what I’m doing authentic to my character and my purpose? Whether it be mission work or kitchen work, these values are something I find useful to focus on.
Top tip for your Hospitality colleagues:
Honesty and integrity is very important when dealing with colleagues, donors, sponsors, customers and employees. I try to be as transparent as possible. Especially when it comes to collecting donations and making sure everything is properly documented, and guaranteed that it goes to where it needs to.
Another tip is to have empathy and consideration for the people you are working with. I started cooking meals for various relief operations, back in 2011, in various locations. It all started with the thought of “How will these people open these canned goods and cook these meals in an evacuation center?” “How will people with dietary restrictions be able to eat properly and get the sustenance they need?” “How can we reduce the use of single use plastics and waste in these kinds of operations?” A simple thought or consideration can make a big difference in making someone feel ‘seen’, even in the midst of chaos. You can say the same when serving customers in a hotel or restaurant. All people want to feel is that they are seen and taken cared of.