As workers’ strike against ‘Heinz’ of the Philippines continues, local chef to fundraise with rice bowls

An ongoing workers’ strike in the Philippines will be the focal point of a fundraiser in Long Beach, Saturday, as local chef AC Boral serves up rice bowls and other traditional Filipino foods with a modern take.

The strike involving workers at NutriAsia—referred to as the “Heinz” of the Philippines—came to the city’s attention when two Long Beach residents were brutally arrested while documenting the picket line.

Long Beach community activists Eric Tandoc, a filmmaker and former homeless advisory board commissioner, and Hiyasmin Saturay were beaten and arrested last summer along with 17 other people.

The strike for better working conditions—including reclassifying employees currently considered contracted workers—continues, said Saturay.

Negotiations between management and the union representing the workers also continue, but Saturay said workers claim “they are constantly being harassed and surveilled” to the extent that some alleged receiving death threats.

On March 25, workers tried to rebuild a workers’ camp/picket line in a public area near the NutriAsia factory “to express their continuing demands for justice,” Saturay said.

On Saturday, March 30 Boral, who is known for his Rice & Shine pop-up brunches, and the Malaya Movement, which advocates for democracy in the Philippines, will host the fundraiser at The Hawk.

Boral said he decided to get involved because he has always supported shifting the conversation on Filipino food to healthier options, including lessening the public’s dependency on pre-packaged ingredients.

“Learning about the NutriAsia strike pushed me to take action by creating our own Rice & Shine versions of Banana Ketchup and Lechon Sauce, both products monopolized by NutriAsia,” Boral said. “I’m very excited to give Filipinos a new look at something they know well, as well as introduce these condiments to a wider audience.”

Money raised from this event will go to the NutriAsia Workers Union. Saturay said unions in the Philippines have little funding since they are worker-led and rely on donations to pay for transportation, materials and to support those who are in need after being fired.

The menu includes rice bowls with made-from-scratch Banana Ketchup and Lechon Sauce. There will also be Banana Ketchup barbecue ribs, Lechon Kawali, fried tofu Escabeche, fried egg, ube mochi waffles with ensaymada butter.

NutriAsia’s most popular products include the soy sauce-based Silver Swan, the UFC banana ketchup and vinegar Datu Puti. It exports products in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Seven out of its 16 U.S. distributors are based in Southern California, including Buena Park and the City of Industry.

The fundraiser will take place from 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday at The Hawk, 468 W. Anaheim St.

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Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor for the Long Beach Post. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015.