Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Museo Pambata's Bahay Kubo & Getting Narra to Eat Vegetables

The new bahay kubo of the Kalikasan exhibit. 

In a world of brilliant branding, the humble sitaw and kalabasa will have a hard time competing with nuggets and fries in winning the affection of picky young eaters.  But with documentaries like "Supersize Me" instilling awareness of the dangers of fast food among parents, there is a strong desire to raise kids right and teach them healthy habits like eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Every bit of reinforcement helps, and I am so happy to find helpful exhibits in Museo Pambata that can make it easier for me to introduce Narra to a variety of local produce.

Match the veggies. Note: the last museum-goers who played
this matching game got some of the veggies wrong. The luya,
bawang, linga, and sibuyas are misplaced in this photo.
I should have fixed it before taking the picture!

One of their new exhibits which opened just two weeks ago, displays a nipa hut or bahay kubo with a matching game featuring various vegetables from the classic folk song entitled Bahay Kubo. The names of the vegetables enumerated in the folk song are listed on child height boards with hooks, and children and parents have to guess which vegetables correspond with which names.   We were singing the song as we explored the exhibit, and I took a photo so I could continue to point out to Narra the different veggies even at home. I plan to cross out the things we eat until we complete the whole picture. This way, we can have a goal of trying out different local veggies and meal time can be an adventure.

The Fruit and Vegetable Store. Narra's favorite.

Narra also spent a lot of time on what seems to me to be her favorite exhibit, the Fruit and Vegetable Store. On our last visit, she loved playing with the weighing scale, and she wanted to return to the same spot to do the same things.  I picked out an eggplant and asked her what it was, and she said "it's a purple banana". Ok, ok, I found that funny. It's good to know she's not color blind. But it seems I still have a lot to teach her.  We'll have more many more trips to this museum until she knows all her fruits and veggies, and many other things besides. I also want her to understand that food does not appear by magic, so she can respect the process behind cultivation, and ultimately respect nature as our source of food. I thought this was something children would naturally, intuitively know! But apparently, it is something that needs to be taught and explained, especially in an age of processed and packaged food where the golden arches of McDonalds is an "organic" part of their urban landscape.

The bamboo cart by the bahay kubo. 2nd floor.

I feel a little sad for urban kids today, whose everyday lives seem to be so disengaged from nature. I want Narra to appreciate how plants grow on soil, how farmers sow seeds, and harvest vegetables in carts, out on the field. I want her to understand how much work goes into what she eats so she learns to value every grain of rice. As Narra sat on a bamboo cart, I pointed to the murals on the walls and made her imagine fields full of crops under the heat of the sun, singing the folk song "Magtanim ay di biro" (roughly translated: planting is no joke). 

The newly opened Herb Garden.

Museo Pambata also  just opened an Herb Garden, which is inviting physically and conceptually. While some of the museum's exhibits refer to nature on a grand scale - with topics like rain forests, mangrove forests, rice fields and oceans - the herb garden reminds us that nature is everywhere, even in a pot sitting on your porch. If only all homes became greener, not just in conserving energy and disposing of waste responsibly, but also in greening the metropolis through homegrown plants.  I am inspired to act!

Narra putting veggies on her plate.

After our museum visit, I bought Bahay Kubo veggies: Kalabasa, Sitaw, and Sigarillas. Our cook Chie added her Bicolana touch to the veggies and cooked them in coconut cream, or gata.  Before lunch, I showed Narra the Bahay Kubo photo from the museum, and told her what we were going to eat. At lunch, I asked her to pick out which one was the kalabasa, and the sitaw and so on...yes, it's my devious way of getting her to put veggies on her plate all by herself, without resorting to coercion or rewards. She liked the kalabasa and the sigarillas, but she spit out the sitaw. 2 out of 3 - not bad!  I have plans of taking this a step further in the future, imagine if we can grow our own vegetables in our garden! Imagine if she can pick or harvest her own food! I am excited at the prospect!

I find going to Museo Pambata an interactive experience even long after the museum visit. It stirs my mind as a mother and stimulates my kids. I want Narra and Guijo to grow up reflecting on their lives as they live it. To me, that's what my visits to this particular museum will be for. It's a way to allow us, as a Filipino family in Manila, to make sense of who we are and how we live - a lesson manifested even in the simple act of teaching our kids what to eat.

Related Posts:

Narra's Star on Museo Pambata's Christmas Tree

Museo Pambata Part 1: Introducing Kids to Philippine Architecture

Museo Pambata Part 2: Encouraging Kids to be Writers and Artists

Museo Pambata Part 3: Introducing Kids to Theater, Dance, and Music

Museo Pambata Part 4: Exposing Kids to Entrepreneurship

Museo Pambata Part 5: Instilling Environmental Awareness Early On


  1. Nikki! Narra and Guijo will benefit much if you home school them. You're a pretty good teacher! :)

  2. Thanks for your kind words Jenn. One of Oliver's friends have home-schooled kids and that got us curious. We'll look into it, but we're already thinking about what schools to send our kids too in the future as well! And also, I plan to go back to work soon, so maybe I won't have the chance to dedicate as much time with my kids (sniff, sniff). I am seizing the opportunity now, while I have the time though.