Students' LifeTestimonials, Success Stories & Galleries


Marinella Pagalan
Batch 1 Student

To the CIC school President, my fellow CIC Students, Parents, Faculty & Staff, a pleasant evening to everyone. I would admit that when Ma’am Eden asked me to speak in front of you, I was hesitant then. I don’t know what to say and whether you would like my speech or not. But on second thought, I realized that it would be an honor to share to you my story. For Fish Tinola, all you need to have is fresh fish, pechay, tomatoes, lemon grass, ginger, onion leaves, salt and pepper to taste.  This is the first recipe I learned and the first that I ever mastered.

I came from a family of good cooks and good eaters! They didn’t go to cooking school but I am proud and I can guarantee you’ll forget your name once you’ll get a taste of my grandmother’s Dinuguan, my aunt’s Sotanghon, my uncle’s Kinilaw, and of course, my mom’s Beef Caldereta. For every occasion, be assured that you’ll get to see and taste these four entrees in our table.

But more than the smiles and praises from our guests’ belly in every feast and occasion, it is so moving how family members gather to help out in the preparations. You should see and smell the tons of chopped onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes in our kitchen as opening ceremony to a grand parade of cooks each doing his /her own specialty! It is often crazy trying to follow them and jotting down notes in my mind just to get the recipe and keeping an eye to what they call as their “secret ingredient.” What is the secret ingredient? For some time this has puzzled me. I really do not know. But lately, I’ve come to realize their “secret ingredient.” And there’s only one – one secret ingredient to all. And it is not a well-calculated or a well-measured amount of teaspoons and cups of a rare plant gotten from a deserted island. But the right amount of togetherness and the right amount of love. Oftentimes, it is sitting together, the laughter and the stories of yesteryears. This is the secret ingredient –togetherness and love. It is this amount of togetherness and love each of us has given, shared in the preparation of the food that makes each food taste extraordinarily.

Growing up with four other siblings is really tough. I cannot imagine right now how we survived but yes, we did! The little money which my Father earns had to be juggled and well-budgeted. Belts had to be tightened. I remember very well, the envy I had with my classmates who would buy their snacks in the canteen. I would be left behind in the classroom with a pack of chocolate-flavored Lovely crackers if not a Marie Biscuit and ice-cold Fun-Chum or Milo . But looking back, I think I felt I am luckier or more fortunate not only because of the nutritional value at least of the snack I was eating but (again) the amount of time, care and love my mother gave in the preparation of my snack. It was after all TLC – done with tender loving care. Perhaps that was the reason why the snacks tasted better than what they are. Plus it did spare me of the trouble of lining up in the canteen.

Ever since, money was not that easy for us, I always remember my Father who would always say that the only thing he can give us is not wealth because practically we don't have it but the education we are getting from school. This actually gave me the perspective that I really have to study hard for my own future.

I really wanted to study Culinary Arts right after High School but because it is only offered in Manila and/ or Cebu and our finances cannot manage it, I had to let go of that and set aside that dream. Deep within, I know that with my Father’s advice coupled with that gift of a sense for taste, I can make something out of it – not now but some day.

And here now that some day begins, the opportunity has come. Studying culinary arts will not only fulfill a long-awaited dream but perhaps preserve a long tradition of extraordinary cooking. Preserving my family’s famed, Dinuguan, Sotanghon, Kinilaw and Beef Calderata or perhaps my very own Fish Tinola. Through culinary arts, I could hone my God-given gift and cooking skills in preserving that sense of togetherness and love that makes our food taste extraordinarily.

It is said that “living gives us a better understanding in life.”  I guess living with a lot of sacrifices, patience, love, care and gratitude for the last twenty-five years has equipped me of a better understanding of life. It has made me realize life’s secret ingredient. I thank my Father for teaching me the value of hard work and discipline, and to always live by these principles, to my Mother, a full-time mother you maybe but your job has always been one of the toughest since I could never repay you for the pure love and care you gave to me, to my siblings, now that were all grown up and may have little time for each other, you have always been there despite the struggles, triumphs, joys and disappointments, to my friends, for always being there in spite and despite of everything. And most of all I thank God. In behalf of my batch mates/schoolmates, I thank all the parents/guardians/sponsors/family and friends. You all are nature’s masterpiece.

Here’s to life’s secret ingredient and beginning of a realization of a dream. AMDG!