My Yearly Experience of Being Vegan for a Week in the Philippines (2023 Edition)

Well, it’s that time of the year again when I spend an entire week foregoing any kind of meat-based products. I’ve been doing this for a good number of years for, well, no particular reason at all. I never do my week of veganism for any of the usual reasons, like activism, digestive cleansing, religious or health reasons. If you are, good on you. I frankly like the challenge it entails, especially since the Philippines hasn’t really been friendly to vegans for a long time. Times are changing, however, and it does feel much easier doing this than in previous years. But I’m getting ahead of myself a little.

There was a little interesting wrinkle this year as I was hoping to shed a pound or two. I have been lifting weights really hard lately and I’ve bulked up to a healthy 130 pounds now. That puts me right smack in the middle of what studies suggest is a normal BMI (Body Mass Index). However, I was hoping to shed a few layers of fat as well and, based on my previous experience with being vegan for a week, this could be a good starting off point to do so.

So, like with every other year, I did reserve an entire day of the previous week purchasing supplies. I bought a few staples, such as TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein), vegi soup mix, vegetable soup bouillon cubes and soy milk. I also had a hankering to try a few new ideas and I would need pasta for that, which I got in the form of angel hair spaghetti. Since I also wanted to keep up with my protein intake, I also got some soy protein powder and peanut butter.

Now, remember when I said it’s much easier to be vegan nowadays, even in places like the Philippines? That’s mainly because there are a lot more vegan options available here. A lot of restaurants are still slow on putting out vegan options but a few have been updating their menus to make some options available. What’s really surprising is there are frozen vegan items readily available in most supermarkets now. I actually found a package of Unmeat Burger patties at the supermarket down the street from where I live. That’s pretty convenient since I needed something quick to put together for my late night dinner meals. And, since each pack had two patties, I was covered for two nights.

I will have to say, like the commercial says, the Unmeat Burger patty was pretty tasty. It’s surprisingly good but I can’t say you won’t believe it’s not meat. Sure me, when cooked, it looks surprisingly close to what a regular beef burger looks like. However, it’s just missing just enough meat flavor to make you more than suspect it’s not real beef. Also, they’re very chewy. I will say that, if you’re willing to try the Unmeat Burger patty, I say go for it. It’s a good beef burger substitute but it’s still clearly a substitute for the real thing.

So, like with every year I go vegan, I meal prep most of my meals. The only exception would be breakfast because a vegan breakfast is pretty quick to put together. For the main meal, I would either make oatmeal or corn flakes with soy milk and have a soy protein shake for my drink. It’s that simple. Not exactly super filling but it was enough to satiate me until my next meal.

For my first lunch/early dinner meal (I wake up very late so, most of the time, my “lunch” takes place during most people’s dinner time), I made a general staple: vegan chili. This is really simple to put together and it’s something I make pretty much every year since it does taste very good. It’s essentially TVP that’s been rehydrated with a mixture of heated soy sauce and water to substitute for the meat. Then dice some onions and garlic, fry them up a little bit before adding in the rehydrated TVP with whatever spices you like. Once you mix that up, add some tomato sauce to give it a little more flavor. After the tomato sauce has been incorporated, turn off the heat then add some frozen green peas for some texture and color. It’s that easy.

It don’t look like much but it’s pretty good.

I also always accompany it with some vegi soup mix with some vegetable bouillon. Once again, this is super easy to put together if you have a slow cooker or a crock pot. You just have to put in a cup of the vegi soup mix with around three to four cups of water and a couple of the vegetable bouillon cubes. Then let the slow cooker to its magic. I did have to make this twice as I really do like the soup and I probably have more than one serving at a time.

Unfortunately, I did have some “failure” meals this year, which is something I didn’t like because, well, I still had to eat them throughout the week! Let’s start with my biggest one because, while it wasn’t terrible, it was the one I had to really stick to eating for most of the week as this was the one I made the most of. I had the idea of making something like Teriyaki Pasta noodles with TVP “meatballs.” The idea was sound on paper. It was just boiled angel hair spaghetti noodles mixed with a homemade teriyaki sauce. Then the “meatballs” were just the TVP rehydrated with the vegan bouillon cubes. It seemed so simple to make in my head but I made some blunders in the actual process of making them.

The biggest mistake was with the teriyaki sauce. Not because it didn’t taste good but because I made so little of it! For some dumb reason, I thought one singular cup of homemade teriyaki sauce would be enough for five servings of angel hair pasta. It was way less than I needed. Also, since I didn’t rinse the noodles like every chef tells you to do, this resulted in a lot of them sticking together while I was mixing them with the tiny amount of sauce I tried to use. To make matters worse, I was stupid enough to not add any seasoning to the TVP “meatballs,” leaving them pretty flavorless, despite rehydrating them with vegan broth.

Not all that appetizing to look at, huh?

I did salvage the Teriyaki Pasta with TVP “meatballs” a bit, though. I made some extra teriyaki sauce and I would drizzle several tablespoons over the pasta noodles. Then I had to vigorously mix the noodles with the sauce to both loosen them up as well as coat the pasta with the added teriyaki liquid. This would okay but the TVP “meatballs” weren’t fixable. They weren’t bad nor were they good. Remember: they were pretty flavorless.

The second “failure” was my second lunch/early dinner concoction. I wanted to try making an Asian inspired version of my regular vegan chili. So I added ginger and what I thought was a tiny bit more soy sauce to the TVP rehydration mix. I also wanted it to be a little bit more wet, which is why I also added a cup of the vegetable broth. Adding the broth was fine, I think. The issue was the added soy sauce as I put in too much! The resultant dish just tasted of soy sauce! It was almost sickening! I did try to cut out the intensity by adding the juice of a local citrus fruit in the Philippines called a kalamansi. It worked… kinda. The soy sauce was still overpowering but much more bearable.

Too much soy sauce is being generous!

Dessert and snacks were pretty easy as I could make a folded peanut butter sandwich anytime I was feeling a bit peckish. I also went to a baking goods store and got myself a bag of dried cranberries. This doubled as a thing for me to munch on while watching television as well as a neat way of adding some sweetness to my oatmeal. Double purpose!

Throughout the week, I was weighing myself to monitor if I was actually losing weight. And, for something like the first five days, I didn’t shed a pound. That seemed to track because, well, I never felt any debilitating hunger like I would usually feel during my weekly bouts with veganism. Like I said, I was unconsciously eating more than I did the previous years. This might account to why I ended my week of veganism at 128 pounds. I only shed those last two pounds on the last couple of days. That’s not a lot and it just could be water weight. So, yeah, it was a disappointing result overall.

I still will be doing this once again next year. I still generally have fun spending one week being meat free because of the challenge. However, I really should be a little more conscious on the food that I make next time because of the “failures” I had this time around. Maybe I’ll take it easy and just try out a bunch of frozen prepared vegan meats. Probably not but it’s nice to have a backup plan.

Have you tried being vegan even? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments section below!


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