DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/16 March) – Ninety kilometers from the heart of the city, beside the slopes of Barangay Buda, sits an artisan gourmet café.
But this café is unlike any other gourmet shops in the city proper; the entire compound will soon become a home for the indigenous peoples, more particularly the children.
Managed by Italian missionary Fr. Franco Uras, the Bosco Center for Hope for Integral Development for Lumad Youth and Children offers a variety of homemade gourmet products, which have been processed using organically-grown ingredients.
Uras, who belongs to the Salesians of Don Bosco, sells his products, such as pasta sauces and homemade breads, to raise money for his program for the lumad children and youth.
His products include Vegetarian Pasta Sauce in Soya Oil, Vegetarian Tuna Sauce in Corn Oil, Pesto Classic (Italian) in Olive Oil, Herbed Mushroom Sauce in Corn Oil, Sundried Tomatoes in Soya Oil and Herbed Mushroom Sauce in Corn Oil. Each bottle costs between P205 and P385.
Uras doesn’t use any artificial flavoring or preservatives for his sauces, just herbs and vegetables.
“I have some herbs that others do not have and I also have my own formula, and that is my secret,” Uras, who has been in the Philippines for 48 years, intimated.
Asked why he went into gourmet making, the 68-year old priest replied: “Because I need money for the Lumad children, I need to raise money to help the less fortunate.”
Aside from the assorted sauces, the café also serves pizza for at least P150, tomato and onion bread, both for P25 each. Uras glazes his pizza with herbs and organically-grown spices from his backyard garden.
The café, which opens from 6a.m. until 7p.m., is located right beside the arc of the of the Department of Public Works and Highways, which is also the marker for the boundary between Davao City and Kitaotao, Bukidnon.
But the center is not just a mere café; the Italian missionary is now preparing the six-hectare property to cater to Lumad children who are studying in a nearby elementary school.
Starting May, Uras said, the children will be gathered in the center to assess their needs for the next school year.
But the children will not be staying in the center, the missionary clarified. “We will provide two snacks and a lunch. Then they will go home in the afternoon. Maybe after a year, that’s the time when we will require them to live in the center,” said Uras, adding he needs at least P500,000 a year to sustain their needs.
To raise the amount, the priest said he and his German friend Wolfgang Csato, a doctor by profession, will host a benefit dinner for the Lumad children on March 22 at Coffee for Health café in Catalunan Pequeño, about three kilometers away from Ulas junction.
Csato, who specializes in pain and trauma treatment, is a hobbyist cook married to a Filipina. “Like Padre Franco, I also love cooking. And I’m helping him in this benefit dinner for the Lumad children,” said the doctor who is also the President of the European Association for Pain Treatment.
For P350, Csato and Uras will serve authentic Italian and German cuisines. “But of course they can also donate cash for the children,” the priest said in Bisaya.
Aside from the benefit dinner, the German doctor will also help in fund-raising back in Europe for Uras’ project in Buda.
Moreover, Uras said he is accepting donations in kind for the Lumad children such as basic hygiene kits (toothbrush, toothpaste and soap), rice, corn, mongo beans, dried or fresh fish, canned goods, clothing, board games paraphernalia and even equipment for different ball games.
Meanwhile, Uras said he never had any formal culinary training , adding it was just his hobby that pushed him into creating his own recipes.
But as an Italian, he said, it could be natural for them to love cooking. “I’m the youngest in our family and I never washed the dishes when I was a boy,” he quipped.
He recalled having learned cooking when he was already in the Philippines.
Aside from cooking, Uras also made his own beverages out of the available ingredients in his backyard. He said he has already fermented 17 kinds of wine.
“Before, preparing gourmet was just my hobby. But now, it is no longer a simple hobby because I need money for the less fortunate,” said Uras, who had served as executive director of Boys’ Town, a rehabilitation center for street boys in the city, from 1998 to 2003 before moving to Buda. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)