Since 2012, Yadunath Prabhu and Gaurangi Didi from the Philippines have been distributing prasadam to thousands of underprivileged Filipinos. As an offering to Srila Gurudeva for his Centennial, they are now inspired to increase the scale and reach of this wonderful initiative!
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa:Danḍavat praṇāms Yadunātha Prabhu and Gaurāṅgi Didi. Jaya Śrīla Gurudeva
Yadunātha Dāsa: Hare Kṛṣṇa. Danḍavat praṇāms. Jaya Śrīla Gurudeva
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa: We heard about your prasādam feeding program from Syamarani Didi and Vasanti Didi. Could you tell us something more about it?
Yadunātha Dāsa: Besides practicing bhakti sincerely, Śrīla Gurudeva wanted us to be good citizens as well. Here in the Philippines, the government is very appreciative if you do something for the under privileged. So we thought that prasadam distribution will be a good means to distribute Kṛṣṇa consciousness to the people of Philippines.
So in 2012, by the inspiration of our beloved gurudeva, Bhakti Yoga Society Feeding Program was formed by myself and my wife Gaurāṅgi Dasi with the goal to feed the underprivileged hungry people and victims of natural calamities in and around the Philippines, with pure vegetarian food sanctified offered to Lord Krishna.
Bhakti Yoga Society Feeding Program is an official food distribution program owned and organized by [BYSI] Bhakti Yoga Society Inc; our company is also registered and recognized by the government.
Our ideology is to engage those who have more than what they need to share their fortune with those are bereft of basic food requirements. So this feeding program runs based on the kind donations received from our patrons and sponsors. We promote this extensively through Facebook and we have got amazing response so far.
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa: That is so exciting. I am curious what all you actually serve out?
Yadunātha Dāsa: We serve a range of delicious and nutritious preparations that appeal to the locals- rice mixed with vegetable viand, boiled beans with coconut milk, doughnut bread stick with macaroni soup, veggy burgers, panchit noodles, champorado chocolate porridge, sweet ginatang mango, ginatang maiz, maha blanca among others.
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa: How often do you do these feeding programs in a month?
Yadunātha Dāsa: It all depends on our sponsors. As and when we get the sponsorships, we organize these feeding programs. The good part is that sometimes the sponsors also accompany the team, so that they get the satisfaction to witness their efforts bearing fruit. Typically, we average about four feeding programs a month.
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa: Do you aspire to increase its frequency?
Yadunātha Dāsa: Why not. If more donors come forward, we can do it more often.
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa: Do you only go to the slums for distribution or you also go to the schools and the malls?
Yadunātha Dāsa: We also distribute food in the schools on the request of their sponsors.
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa: Can you tell us something about your set-up? How big is your kitchen? What is the strength of the staff?
Yadunātha Dāsa:We have a humble setup with a 320 square feet kitchen assisted by 10-15 staff members and some volunteers. We bring in more volunteers as and when the need arises.
The team is very dedicated and driven for the cause and they wish to make this initiative even more impressive by increasing the scale of operation and reach by spreading more awareness about the program and channelizing effective fund raising.
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa: We also heard you have a Vegetarian Diners Club? Can you tell us more about that?
Yadunātha Dāsa: The objective behind the Vegetarian Diners Club is to create awareness in the society that they can enjoy healthy and delicious food at a reasonable price without the unnecessary consumption of innocent animals.
Vegetarian Diners Club is targeted at the upper class – we deliver packed lunch prasadam [fixed menu] to homes and offices during the weekdays, and on the weekends, we organize a buffet spread. We make a range of delicacies every day inspired from the different cuisines like Chinese, Indian, Italian, Pilipino, Mexican and even vegan options.
Although externally it may come across as a commercial set-up, this project was conceived with the purpose of also preaching to the upper class of Philippines besides providing us with some means of sustenance.
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa: Food [prasāda] has a universal appeal and it is one of the easiest ways to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
Yadunātha Dāsa: Certainly. And out here the people have two misconceptions – a) that vegetarian is expensive and b) vegetarian is not tasty.
So we have been successful to an extent to clear away these misconceptions. All those who have honored prasadam with us, have been our repeat customers as well as our brand ambassadors.
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa: Śrīla Prabhupāda always wanted vegetarian restaurants serving sumptuous prasadam as a part of the strategy to attract more and more conditioned souls.
Yadunātha Dāsa: Yes, it is a very effective model for preaching. But out here we do not run a restaurant per se. We run a successful weekend buffet and during the weekdays we take only orders for pre-decided packed lunches. Because we also want to do our sadhana. Śrīla Gurudeva told us just work enough so that we can maintain ourselves and get time to focus on our sadhana. He told us not to over endeavor.
We get the opportunity to preach to some of our loyal customers who come over for the weekend buffet. We have a book counter here as well. And our this initiative is very popular. We promote it as guilt-free food. No killing involved.
Check Yadunatha Prabhu’s interview with a local TV channel on their successful weekend buffet concept – Vegetarian Dinner Club. Click the Link Here - ANC Green Living with VDC
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa: Very encouraging. So what are your plans for the centennial?
Yadunātha Dāsa: I intend to pay a visit to India and meet with Sripada Premananda Prabhu. I will request him, if he can send some brahmacharis to take up the preaching here. Kṛṣṇa Kārunya Prabhu is a Pilipino and the locals also like and regard those who are from the West. So if the western devotees come, they can attract a lot.
Our preaching centre out here is quite big, around 6500 square feet. We can easily accommodate 10 more devotees. We can provide them with a traveling sankirtana vehicle. Radha Kanta prabhu from Bhakti Projects (California) has also been very supportive. So some of the initiatives can be funded that way. We can do a complete program – preaching, sankirtana, book distribution and prasadam distribution. There is immense scope out here.
I think these are our plans for the centennial. To increase the preaching as an offering to Śrīla Gurudeva.
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa: You can also check with Syamarani Didi about their book sponsorship program. This way you can give out copies of our books to your Vegetarian Diner Club clientele and other important guests. This would open up a lot of preaching opportunities.
Thank youYadunātha prabhu and Gaurāṅgi Didi for your valuable time. You have been busy overseeing all the cooking in the Kitchen while also sparing some time to talk to me. And didi you are the main architect behind all those delicious recipes, wonderful!
Yadunātha Dāsa: It is a Sunday and we have another sponsor today. In case of no sponsors, we do a Sunday feast.
Ambaṛīśa Dāsa: Very dynamic, I must say. On that note, I take your leave. I hope and pray that your wonderful plans for increasing the preaching bear fruit and that we are all able to spread Śrīla Gurudeva’s glories far and wide in the honor of his upcoming Centennial. Thank you again. Dandavat pranams.