With all the unprecedented changes and struggle it brought, the pandemic has indeed led us to lessons and discoveries. For Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin star Jef Gaitan, it includes learning new skills like cooking, gardening, and knowing how to trust herself during uncertainties.
Jef believed she was fine and not stressed out at home, until she developed food intolerance which the doctor identified as a stress-related condition. She then realized how the situation affects her feelings, thus it manifests in the health and body. The unpleasant experience caused Jef to be cautious of her food consumption and stick to a special vegan diet she had seven years ago.
On the bright side, this inspired her to learn how to cook instead of relying on food delivery. The challenge, though, is to create a meal that’s healthy and delicious minus the ingredients she’s allergic to.
The kitchen expertise also comes in handy since she’s living solo. She’s a strong, independent woman. But at times, eating alone and having no one to taste her home-cooked meals make her sentimental.
Cooking has also become her ultimate stress-reliever. She even makes the tastiest food when she’s depressed. Jef makes sure that her cooking is done with love and is well thought of. She counts the calories and picks the right ingredients based on her nutritional needs.
With this, if she musters enough confidence, she would like to put up a food business that caters to a customer’s specific diet. Her friends and even Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin director Avel Sunpongco, are persuading her to. But Jef still needs a little more encouragement.
Apart from cooking, Jef has also tried her hands at gardening when she went home to her family in Tagaytay City. She tried to grow her favorite papaya fruit, and it was a test of patience. She became impatient waiting for the plant to grow, thus she really doesn’t call herself a legit ‘plantita.’
The quarantine also forced her to DIY a lot such as in grooming her pets and in her self-care spa habits. We have our different ways of facing the pandemic and Jef acknowledges that fact. But in her case, she’d rather be cooped up inside the house than risk her safety, and mental peace, by going out. “Itong time na ‘to, you could only trust yourself kasi ikaw lang nakakakita at nakakakilala kung paano mo alagaan ang sarili mo,” she added.
The pandemic only proved that everybody is equal. Each is facing their own kinds of fears and uncertainties and adjustment. On the bright side, this also means that you are not alone in your struggles. Somewhere, there’s someone who can relate with your personal battles.
As Jef added, survival all boils down to keeping ourselves and our families safe. She stressed the importance of research and abiding with the health protocols. Above all, nothing is more powerful than prayers.
Jef pleaded the viewers to take the virus seriously. “Okay lang naman to live your life kung gusto mo nang maging normal at hindi mo na talaga kaya to stay in. Pero ‘yun na kasi yung pinakamatutulong natin, to as much as possible, stay in. Only you can protect yourself. The government and the people around you can only do as much” she said.
And if you need someone to bring you comfort, don’t be scared to reach out to your family and friends. There’s also the Kapamilya Channel that will bring you entertainment and company.
As Cristina in Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin
Amid the pandemic and the crisis surrounding her home network, Jef is still blessed with a job via Kapamilya series Ang Sa Iyo Ay Akin. Heartfelt gratitude is noted as she expressed thanks to the management and the production team.
Jef plays as Cristina, the youngest in the Villarosa brood. Among the siblings, Cristina is the one closest to Gabriel (Sam Milby), thus she’d develop compassion for his wife, Ellice (Iza Calzado). Driven by moral righteousness, Cristina would make a stand for the sanctity of Gabriel and Ellice’s marriage. This places her on Team Ellice. Cristina goes after what she wants. She’s brave enough to make a stand without disrespecting the family’s hierarchy of authority.
After having been typecast as a flirty kontrabida, mostly the other woman, Jef is glad to finally play as a good girl in this series. Luckily, she also shares the same values and characteristics with Cristina. They’re both supportive and loyal to family and friends. They’re both helpful and good at giving pieces of advice. Just as how caring Cristina is to Heidi (Michelle Vito), it also reflects how Jef is to her friends.
But their long list of similarities does not exempt her from the challenges. It simply made the portrayal more natural. Jef does not want to disappoint, thus she makes sure to satisfy her directors’ expectations.
The friendship built on and outside the set makes the lock-in taping smoother. Jef didn’t have to deal with awkwardness since she’s known Iza and Sam long before. She last worked with Sam in the 2018 series, Halik, as one of his onscreen side chicks. And Jef would vouch for the actor’s never-changing good boy image. She said that Sam loves to spoil their tummies and he’s caring and approachable.
Jef described Iza as the life of the party, always the sweetest. She admires her as an actress and a woman. She learns a lot from her and she’s so in love with her divine beauty.
It’s her first time to work with Jodi Sta. Maria and she has nothing but praises for her kindness and acting genius.
“Napakaswerte ko na nandito ako sa teleserye na ‘to because everybody is helping each other. We’re all like family. Ngayon ko lang naka-trabaho si Ate Jodi and Ms. Maricel Soriano, napaka-sweet nilang lahat, approachable,” shared Jef.
Mounting such a big teleserye amid a pandemic is memorable enough. The “new normal” lock-in taping and their bonding inside their little ‘bubble’ will forever be engraved in Jef’s memory.
Jef’s Japchae recipe
Since suffering from food intolerance this quarantine, Jef learned to make her own vegan meals at home. In this episode of Kapamilya Chat, she shared a healthy, vegan version of the Korean japchae recipe. This meal is rich in fiber which is good for body detox.
Crunchy garlic bits (for garnish and to add more taste)
Carrots (sliced thinly)
Vegan chicken-less seasoning with turmeric powder
Japchae sweet potato
- Cook the noodles based on the instructions on the packaging. After boiling, drain the noodles and rinse in tap water. “Basain mo lang ng tubig para umalsa-alsa. Makikita mo ‘yung difference niya, hindi dry ‘yung noodle tapos mas nagiging buo ‘yung strand niya,” said Jef.
- Saute the garlic until a bit brown. Since she’s cooking based on her nutritional needs and preference, Jef does not strictly measure her ingredients. In her case, she loves to pour more garlic and lessen the salt in her recipes, to avoid bloating as well. “Ang type ng body ko is water retention, so ‘pag masaydong salty, nagre-retain ako ng tubig,” the actress shared.
- Add in the carrots.
- Mix in the Japchae noodles.
- Add in the greens. Stir. Others use spinach in their Japchae recipes but Jef prefers lettuce and broccoli, to make it more apt for a vegetarian diet.
- Add your preferred seasonings to taste. Jef uses oyster sauce, pepper, and vegan chicken-less seasoning with turmeric. Mix well.
- For the plating, Jef adds a spoonful of garlic bits and wagyu cubes on top.
- Serve the Japchae for the whole family or munch them down while binge-watching your favorite K-drama!