Updated: Aug 30
Text by Rebecca Torres
Images by Marizel Arambulo
From left: Roots & Wings Rachel Hansen, Becky Torres and Marizel Arambulo
Where do you treat a balikbayan like Rachel Hansen, founder, publisher and first editor-in-chief of Roots & Wings (Rawmags) who came all the way from Sweden for a visit here in the Philippines?
It was a rainy last Saturday of July when Marizel Arambulo and I, volunteer Social Entrepreneurship Team of Rawmags, met Rachel for the first time in person. Rachel is one of the sponsors of Rawmags Social Entrepreneurship Projects, who generously provided financial support for the rehabilitation of typhoon victims in Siargao and the funding of the education of high school students from indigenous tribes in the Laura Vicuña Training Center in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
The homey Fely J’s Kitchen,* a Filipino Restaurant in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig Metro Manila, was our meeting place over lunch. We savoured crispy swahe (shrimps) for appetizer and heaping hot sinigang na boneless bangus (milkfish) with nontraditional souring agent of green almost ripe bayabas (guavas), hearty seafood kare kare with bagoong and rice topped with dilis (dried fish) aptly called ‘Diliscious Rice’ for our main dishes.
Rachel shared how Roots & Wings started in 2009, with her youngest daughter, Jenny, then 18 year old Communications student at the University of Stockholm. The mother and daughter tandem conceptualized a Filipino magazine covering what Filipinos in Europe (Euro-Filipinos) would be interested to know about the culture, people and places in the Philippines, Filipino events and experiences in Europe. The first issue of Roots & Wings featured the Blanco family headed by Jose “Pitok” Blanco, modern and contemporary artist known for his folk art, Philippine regional scene painting from Angono, Rizal and Scott Tuason, an award winning underwater photographer.
Almost every year prior to the pandemic in 2020, Rachel visited the Philippines, at times staying as long as six (6) months. She has been involved in outreach programs in the Philippines, such as the medical missions of Lingkod Timog (Serving the South) in Davao, Compostela Valley and Tawi Tawi. She also lent support for the Home for Girls in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija; Bahay Tuluyan in Malate, Manila and Bahay Kanlungan in Quezon City.
After ten (10) years of publishing the bimonthly Roots and Wings magazine, the editorship of the Filipino-European online magazine was turned over in 2019 to Elizabeth (Betsy) von Atzigen.
Rachel in turn asked Marizel and myself how we got to be involved in Roots and Wings. Both of us shared that we are bankers by profession. Since October 2020, we both tried out creative writing by submitting articles and photos to Rawmag’s Reader Engagement. Because of our business/ banking background, Betsy solicited our support to plan the launch of Rawmags’ Social Entrepreneurship Program last February 2022, coinciding with the magazine’s 12th anniversary.
By this time, we were ready for dessert, we chose Sikreto ni Maria Clara, a creamy ice cream with macapuno bits and hidden underneath was Maria Clara’s secret…husshh!! relish the sweet and juicy slices of ripe Philippine mango and suman (rice cake)!
We discussed Rawmags Social Entrepreneurship Program’s urgent need for more engagement and sponsorship coming from Euro-Filipinos. Ideas were floated such as tapping on Filipino communities through the Philippine Embassies and Consular Offices in European countries and as well as organising fund raising events. Rachel pointed out that “there is so much basic need waiting to be met in the Philippines. One need not look very far. But of course, education must be prioritised - school supplies, school uniforms, tuition fees that the poor cannot afford.”
As a popular Filipino hospitality tradition, Marizel and I gifted Rachel with a Filipiniana scarf which “feels like angora wool” according to her and a recycled native bag from Kultura.** Rachel in turn gave us Swiss chocolates, a rosary from a trip to Israel and scented jasmine and almond bars of soap from Italy.
It felt like we knew each other from years ago, even though it was our first meet up. The conversation with Rachel on Rawmags’ Social Entrepreneurship was indeed fruitful. Marizel and I are encouraged with Rachel’s enthusiasm over a variety of ideas on how the newly launched Social Entrepreneurship Program can gain momentum in garnering more active participation from Euro-Filipinos to support needy kababayans in the Philippines.
*Fely J Kitchen Restaurant is located at the 2nd floor of the Uptown Mall, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila, Philippines
** Kultura is located in various SM Malls in the Philippines