Bamboo Queen shares her recipes for happiness 

    Entrepreneur, environmentalist and humanitarian Carolina “Kay” Gozon Jimenez is above all, a mother, wife and Bible adherent. Her qualities are celebrated in a book, “Recipes for Life: Hearty Servings for Joyful Living.” It is a compilation of anecdotes and tributes from family, friends and colleagues and her  nuggets of wisdom. Each chapter highlights the family’s favorite dishes.  

     Married to Menardo Jimenez Sr. one of the owners of GMA Network and sister of Felipe Gozon, the chairman and CEO,  Kay  is a quiet force in her own right. Her daughter Carmen Jimenez Ong, founder and CEO of Menarco Development Corporation, who spearheaded the book project, writes that the memoir shares her mother’s recipes for joyful living. The main ingredient is complete faith in God.

     When Kay was an economics student at the University of the Philippines, Jimenez, then an accountant, would drive 45 minutes daily to visit her house in Manila.  While pursuing her master’s degree in Applied Science, majoring in Economics at Montana State University, they continued their long-distance romance through sweet letters.

   The couple married in 1962. “Ask how long we’ve been married, I always reply, ‘60 heavenly years,’” she says.  Despite the contrasts in their personalities, the Jimenezes have maintained harmony by adjusting and accepting. “We are close-knit because we have God as Our Partner. We pray together. This makes it so easy in a relationship. Our goal is to have a happy Christian family and not to outdo each other.”

   Never having an idle moment, Kay had worked all her life. After a brief stint at Caltex Philippines, she worked as a technical assistant at Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ Department for Economic Research while parenting Menardo Jr., Joel and Laurie.  Jimenez asked her to resign from CB so she could focus on the growing children and the baby, Carmen.

   To keep busy, Kay, businesswoman Naty Imperial and American designer Eve Andrews formed Da Luz Enterprises, an export company specializing in fashionable bags using local materials. Their products were sold to Fendi, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s until the economy of their market, the United States, took a nosedive in 1989.  Kay says they maintained good relationships with their buyers because they  met their deliveries on time and met their clients’ expectations. Her company allowed their suppliers and sub-contractors to finish the bags at their pace.

    The Jimenezes have been imparting the value of enterprise and financial independence to their children and grandchildren.

    Today, Kay has been pursuing another passion, bamboo cultivation. In her youth, her family would stop over in San Miguel, Tarlac on the way to Baguio. They ate in a merienda place. facing the bamboo grove. “I loved the way the bamboos cast shadows which looked like lace. I liked the whisper of the breeze on their leaves so I dreamed of having a bamboo garden,” she recalls.  

On five hectares of land in Antipolo, given by her mother, she established Carolina Bamboo Garden in 2000.  The Ecosystems Research Development Bureau provided the seedlings and the training. The plantation, which has 45 unique species of bamboo, is located near a stream which waters the plants.

   Carolina Bamboo Garden started out as a hobby and has since become a venue for workshops and a future learning center, set up by the Agricultural Training Institute. It has likewise been a supplier for entrepreneurs who manufacture engineered wood and architectural projects, a museum for bamboo artifacts and an advocacy that provides livelihood and protects the ecology.

Hitesh Mehta, international consultant for ecological planning, refers to her as the “Bamboo Queen.” “Her drive to succeed is evident in her projects,” he writes.

    As a humanitarian, Kay was instrumental is forming a livelihood program, the Pig Dispersal Project wherein pastors of Conquest for Christ Foundation are given a pig instead of cash to breed. They earn from the sales of the piglets.

   Kay complements her insights on life with practical cooking tips.  For instance, she adds more flavor and nutrition to the nilaga (beef stew with vegetables) with squash. As a starting cook, she learned her lesson in never taking shortcuts  and buy the freshest innards for papaitan (beef bile, tripe and offal stew) and clean them thoroughly  to avoid the pungent smell.

 On a photo with an aproned Kay holding a ladle and adding ingredients, she sums up the essence of her memoir, “As in a thoughtfully prepared meal, life is more than just a sum of its parts. Trusting that God has a reason for everything, a purpose for each step and a perfect master plan guarantees a life of joy in the Lord—no matter the circumstances.”