Entrepreneur, environmentalist and humanitarian Carolina “Kay” Gozon Jimenez is above all a mother, wife and Bible devotee. Her qualities are celebrated in a book, “Recipes for Life: Hearty Portions 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 to Felipe Gozon, its chairman and CEO, Kay is a silent force in her own right. Her daughter Carmen Jimenez Ong, founder and CEO of Menarco Development Corporation, which led the book project, writes that the memoir shares her mother’s recipes for a joyful life. The main ingredient is complete faith in God.
When Kay was studying economics at the University of the Philippines, Jimenez, then an accountant, drove 45 minutes daily to visit her home 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 answer ’60 heavenly years,'” she says. Despite the contrasts in their personalities, the Jimenezes have maintained harmony by adapting and accepting. “We are close 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 outdo each other.”
Kay had never had a quiet moment and had worked all her life. After a short stint at Caltex Philippines, she worked as a technical assistant at Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ Department for Economic Research while aging 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 founded Da Luz Enterprises, an export company specializing in fashionable bags made from 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 made their deliveries on time and met their customers’ expectations. Her company allowed their suppliers and subcontractors to finish the bags at their pace.
The Jimenezes have taught their children and grandchildren the value of entrepreneurship and financial independence.
Today, Kay has pursued another passion, bamboo cultivation. In her youth, her family stopped in San Miguel, Tarlac on their way to Baguio. They ate in a merienda place. opposite the bamboo forest. “I loved the way the bamboo cast shadows that looked like lace. I loved the whisper of the breeze on their leaves, so I dreamed of a bamboo garden,” she recalls.
On five acres of land in Antipolo, given by her mother, she founded Carolina Bamboo Garden in 2000. The Ecosystems Research Development Bureau provided the seedlings and the training. The plantation, which has 45 unique bamboo species, is located near a stream that waters the plants.
Carolina Bamboo Garden started as a hobby and has since become a workshop venue and a future learning center set up by the Agricultural Training Institute. It has also been a supplier to entrepreneurs who manufacture engineered wood and architectural projects, a museum of bamboo artifacts, and an advocacy organization that provides livelihoods and protects the ecology.
Hitesh Mehta, an international ecological planning consultant, calls her the ‘Bamboo Queen’. “Her drive to succeed is evident in her projects,” he writes.
As a humanitarian, Kay was instrumental in setting up a livelihood program called the Pig Dispersal Project, which gives Conquest for Christ Foundation pastors a pig instead of money to raise. They earn from the sale of the piglets.
Kay complements her insights about life with practical cooking tips. In this way she adds more flavor and nutrition to the nilaga (stew with vegetables) with pumpkin. As a novice cook, she learned her lesson by never taking shortcuts and buying the freshest guts for papaitan (bovine bile, rumen and offal) and clean them thoroughly to avoid the pungent odor.
In a photo of a suspended Kay holding a ladle and adding ingredients, she sums up the essence of her memoir: “Like a carefully prepared meal, life is more than the sum of its parts. Trust that God is the one for everything. reason, a purpose for every step, and a perfect master plan guarantees a life of joy in the Lord no matter the circumstances.”
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