When A Child Lives On After Passing On: Lauren’s Legacy

Last Sunday, I had the privilege to once again partake of the legacy of a child I have never met.  Her name is Lauren Santos, the firstborn of my friend and fellow parent, Dedet “The Lechon Diva” dela Fuente.  Lauren was born with cerebral palsy.  She lived a too-short span of thirteen years but her life continues to make a huge difference in the lives of others today.

Clockwise from Mommadetski, Liyora, Lileya, Lauren in front with their furry family.
L-R:  Lileya, Lauren, Liyora

Glimpses of her life which Dedet shared gave me a higher appreciation for the meaning of the event which Dedet, her younger daughters Lileya and Liyora put together: Project Wheelchair, a fundraising dinner to provide wheelchairs for the underprivileged.

This was Dedet’s speech that night:

Lauren's Legacy Speech of Dedet

Dedet’s sharing tugged deep in my heart.  Looking at Loren’s pictures and hearing of those precious moments, my heart felt the longing of a mother for her child, the loss of a precious loved one, the helplessness and limitation to change a situation.

Some time ago, Dedet had shared with me her life journey and to say that it was challenging is an understatement.  Understanding the back story moved me to see that Dedet chose to channel her pain from what must have been a cavernous loss into a far-reaching blessing.  I asked her how she overcame; her reply came:

“It was one big hardship after the next but my parents instilled in me how much God has taken care of me. Even in the lowest points of my life, I always knew He was there for me.  I always tell my children, ‘Life is not easy. You can have all the money but if you don’t have faith in God, you will never be able to survive.’ One of the turning points was when Lauren was about to pass on… I was able to overcome because I knew that God will be there for her… … It’s all about faith.”

In this article that sisters Lileya and Liyora wrote for the Philippine Star, they said that they wanted to “give the gift of mobility” [the ability to move forward] which in turn gives the opportunities for “the transformative experience…. second chances, and renewed hopes.”—– a metaphor for the very ministry of Jesus Christ for each one of us.

project wheelchair article
Philippine Daily Inquirer writeup which Dedet shared

From Isaiah 61 which Jesus read in the synagogue , He describes His ministry to proclaim good news to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, release prisoners from darkness, proclaim the Lord’s favor, comfort all who mourn, provide for those who grieve, rebuild the ancient ruins and restore and renew what was devastated and ruined, to bring joy and beauty instead of mourning and ashes.

That is a parallel on a higher realm of the twelve-course degustacion menu I was taking in.  First course:  good news. Second course:  healing . Third: freedom from bondage; fourth: light; favor, comfort, provision, restoration, joy, beauty… The unli degustation doesn’t end… Each day,  more…

Dedet’s faith in God gave her hope “to keep going no matter the cards you’re dealt.”  Dedet helped her daughters five years ago, the year that Lauren passed on, to join the Best Food Forward Bazaar to sell Liyora’s butter beer and Lileya’s Chocolate Happiness. That year, Lauren’s sisters were able to raise funds to buy two second-hand wheelchairs to give away.

Fast forward to November 15, 2015, with God’s favor, the wheels for Project Wheelchair turned and how!  Held at the gorgeous Champagne Room of historic Manila Hotel courtesy of the generous Yap Family…

Photo from Hera Geriene
Photo from Joi Cutter


Photo from Dedet dela Fuente
Photo from Guia Obsum
Photo from Michelle Rivera Lee

…Eighteen people from the culinary industry came together and prepared a degustacion menu.

Photo from Guia Obsum

With Spanky Enriquez hosting the event, around one hundred fifty guests braved the APEC traffic and heightened security to come and support the cause.  [Many more supported the cause but were unable to attend.]

Photo from John Victor Casas

Delicious, beautiful food after the next— the labor of love of different chefs— were dished out for the guests.

Ginger and Wild Chili Gazpacho from Sharwin Tee; Burrata from Jutes Templo; Chicken Terrine Salad with Spice Mango Confit from Jam Melchor
Negros Lump Crab and Corn with Pangasinan Taba ng Talangka Mayo in Artisanal Bread from Angelo Comsti; Mushroom Truffle Cannelloni from Bettina Osmena
Salmon in Parchment from Happy Ongpauco-Tiu represented by Mikee Roxas
Coq au Vin from John Cu-Unjieng
Crispy Roast Pork Belly with Lingoberries, Applesauce, Dijon Mustard, and Gravy from Dulce Magat Gibb
Named Best Dish in Asia Best Dish in Asia at the London Chowtzer Awards, Pepitas Lechon de Leche Stuffed with Truffle Rice fom Dedet dela Fuente
Calamansi with Basil Sorbet from Ian Carandang
Assorted Tartlets – Chocolate, Pecan, and Dayab from Angela Villoria Tolentino
Echire Butter Millefeuille from Miko Aspiras, Kristine Lotilla, and Lileya Santos
Ube Ensaymada from Pearl de Guzman
Red Velvet Cake from Karen Young
Mini Ube Cupcakes with Sugar Flowers from Karen Young
Manille Liquer de Dalandan, Calamansi from Destileria Limtuaco.          Photo by Guia Obsum
886027_10154134983126165_7291910569091400943_o (1)
Dedet giving her speech of Lauren’s Legacy (Entire speech third photo in this article above). Photo from Michelle Rivera Lee
12244772_10154134983301165_7092684979926923225_o (1)
Karen Young rendering an impromptu tribute of the song, “For Good,” from the musical, “Wicked,” for Lauren’s life which we continue to honor and her legacy which continues to be a blessing; Dedet for leading everyone in using influence for good, Lileya and Liyora for continuing this worthy project; as well as for everyone who supported the event in every which way.  It’s a song about acceptance, appreciation even for something that wasn’t desired but allowing the experience to be an instrument for being transformed for good. It also talks about forgiveness, closure, and moving on.  Credit to Leo Nemenzo for patching up the technical equipment.  Photo from Michelle Rivera Lee.

The preceding photos brought together by different people to complete the whole picture resonated the contributions of people coming together in the bayanihan spirit, a noteworthy Filipino practice.

Behind the scenes, more people volunteered their time anonymously… among them, Lea Stroem to do administrative organizing work, Leo Nemenzo to put together the slide show for Lauren, Sharwin Tee to manage the food flow on the night of the event, and many other kind-hearted men and women who genuinely wanted to help even without any credit.  Lord, thank You that You are the Great Rewarder/ Repayer and You don’t miss anything.

The goal was reached and will perhaps be surpassed!  One hundred fifty wheelchairs with the gift of mobility (and as the two sisters wish, to give  opportunities for “the transformative experience…. second chances, and renewed hopes.”) will be distributed to those who need them.  Dedet wants to help not just the person with disability but his family and caregivers, the people around him whose caregiving burden will be much eased.  This will help them to move on as well.

Of Project Wheelchair, Dedet says,  “This entire mission would not have been possible without our beloved Lauren. This is for you, Lauren, and for all those who keep moving forward in life.”

loren santos

Dedet posted this on her Facebook timeline on the night of the event:


It had this caption:
“Tonight, with the help of so many, there will be at least 150 people who be thanking the Lord above for having a new wheelchair.  – Dedet dela Fuente”

Amen! Amen!

Thank You Lord!


More photos from Project Wheelchair which turned out to be a lovely reunion with friends, old and new. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take photos of everyone but I’m blessed to see every single person I met that night.

L-R: Lillian, Joi, me, Ann, Rina, Lisa, Chacha.  Lillian, Ann, and I pray for our children together ever since we were together at the British School Manila Moms in Prayer group.  Joi is my designer.  Rina is a fellow parent I just met.  Lisa is a kind-hearted mom whose dance rendition of “Hot Stuff” cracks me up. Chacha’s home was BSM’s adoptive home and I will never forget the time Chacha had me and my boys over for her New Year celebration.
Hera is one of three moms who were channels of God's grace and love when I started this blog
Hera is one of three mom friends who were channels of God’s grace and love for me when I started this blog.  There are many more channels of God’s grace and love but either we didn’t get to have a photo taken or they were not at this event 🙂


With Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko legendary representative, Orly Mercado and beautiful baker Pearl de Guzman as she makes pabaon breakfast for my husband and me, her yummy Ube Ensaymada.
I was enjoying every scrumptious morsel of the Salmon dish whose wrapper Spanky Enriquez announced was not an empanada but parchment (i.o.w., don’t eat the paper!) when a familiar face spoke at the podium.  If she hadn’t come to my shop the week prior, I wouldn’t have connected the grown, beautiful, Paris-trained chef assistant of Happy Ongpaoco-Tiu  introduced as “Michelle Roxas” to little Mikee who sang and danced for the children’s choir I taught years and years ago when we did Christmas caroling for Christ the King outreaches.  I took the opportunity to go to  Mikee and tell her how much I enjoyed the dish.  I was so entertained with chef stories and we had a lovely catch-up bonding time.
Met again this power team of Miko Aspiras and Kristine Lotilla.  They are so humble and hardworking, innovative and talented.  I’m excited to share soon what they generously shared about their work.
Fellowship Behind the Scenes: Seated: John and Michelle, Kristine and Miko. Standing: Karen, Mikee, Jam
John and Michelle Cu-unjieng remind the waiter that there is a whole lechon for the Chefs’ Table.  Er..umm.. I belong here!!! 🙂
Impromptu Brotherhood, Relishing being with these people.  L -R  John and Michelle Cu-unjieng, Miko Aspiras and Kristine Lotilla. Front: Patrick de Guzman, Mikee Roxas.  Back: Jutes and Cello Templo, Patrice and Pearl de Guzman, Ian Carandang.  Karen Young, Jam Melchor



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