Wednesday, Nov 25

Strengthening family ties through vegetarianism

August 19, 2016 | Bea Velasco

For 21 years, Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Alfredo Li, together with his wife and seven children, have been living as bonafide vegetarians. In celebration of the Auspicious Month, the family have narrated their journey and experiences on being vegetarians and the blessings vegetarianism has brought into their family. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

Story Highlights

  • For the Auspicious Month, two vegetarian families have narrated their experiences on pursuing a plant-based lifestyle.

  • Despite all temptations and struggles, both families have maintained their stand about vegetarianism, and are both living as vegetarians for years.

  • Both families have shared all benefits one can get from vegetarianism, starting from physical, up to spiritual human needs.


Our culture has always been commended by others because of our deep appreciation about family ties. It has been thoroughly embedded within the DNA of each of us to treat as our utmost priority the bond we share with our families, and have our every decision to be guided towards the welfare of each of our family members.

This trait of ours can be easily seen during intimate times. One of those moments is whenever a family, after a busy and dragging day, finally come together around the dinner table and spend the evening with the presence of each other.

Our daily experiences might be individualistic in nature, but at the end of the day, dining with our families and sharing our stories, realizations, and adventures, adds sense to everything we’ve been through the entire day.

With us constantly being occupied with our jobs and other important errands, having the opportunity to end our day with our loved ones and spare some time for a simple family dinner is special in itself. But, two families are not satisfied with just dining together, and thus, continuously make their nightly feasts more intimate and meaningful.

From Meaty, To Veggie

Unlike other families, the Li Family and Tan-Keh Family are bonafide vegetarians. Refraining from buying, cooking, and consuming any meat dishes, both families are practicing vegetarianism, starting from the oldest, down to the youngest members of their families.

For Alfredo Li, the senior member of Li family, their family’s journey to vegetarianism started off from when he decided to have a lifestyle shift.

“Before turning into a vegetarian, I used to accommodate my visitors by hosting big feasts full of non-vegetarian dishes. We ate a lot of meat-based meals such as Lechon (roasted pig), seafood such as lobster, crabs, and other toxic viands. At that time, I don’t know why, I was really sickly. I used to get sick every 3 months. I used to frequently have tonsillitis, and I was having a hard time eating,” says Li.

The current CEO of the Tzu Chi Philippine chapter used to think that his illnesses can be easily cured by casually taking medications.

“Back then, I believed that whenever I get sick, I could just get away with it by taking some antibiotics, not knowing that it was my body’s way of telling me that I should lessen my meat intake,” he adds.

Due to his maladies, the senior Li decided to give vegetarianism a shot. The initial attempts weren’t easy.

“I felt that I wasn’t taking enough food and my cravings weren’t satisfied. But after a few months, my appetite and my body were slowly getting used to eating vegetables, and then noticeable benefits came after. Before I knew it, I am no longer craving for meat,” shares Li.

Since then, Li, along with his wife and seven children, have abandoned their old lifestyle and have fully switched to vegetarianism. Twenty-one years later, their testimony continues to inspire other non-vegetarian families to also make the shift.

For Conchita Tan, leading a vegetarian lifestyle dawned into her life through a spiritual awakening. For the Tzu Chi volunteer, it was Tzu Chi founder Master Cheng Yen who convinced her of the many physical and spiritual benefits of going vegetarian.

“From her (Master Cheng Yen), I learned that for us to have a full life, we need to be compassionate towards all sentient beings, including animals. Back then, I was convinced and immediately changed my lifestyle and eating habits,” says Tan

For more than a decade now, the lady volunteer continues to advocate vegetarianism and have even passed it down to her three grandchildren.

“Practicing vegetarianism does not only make our lives healthier, but it also opens our hearts to be more sensitive and loving towards others,” says Tan.

Nutritious and Creative

To encourage her grandchildren to take on a healthier lifestyle, Tan have been resorting to different cooking styles to entice them to eating vegetables.

“At first, it was not easy. Just like typical kids, Diether, Fiona, and Aldrich were all craving for fried chicken. That was why we always served them with vegetarian spaghetti, and then slowly, I incorporated more vegetables in their diet. With great patience, I successfully enlightened them towards vegetarianism,” says Tan.

Diether, Fiona, and Aldrich Keh have surpassed most adults in terms of eating healthy. At their young age, (13, 10 and 9 respectively), the three children have tamed their appetite for meat-based dishes. Currently, they are celebrating their 8th year of being full-fledged vegetarians.

“Our grandma explained that by simply eating fried chicken and other meat-based dishes, we were causing animals so much pain,” says Diether. “She (Tan) showed us some videos of how livestock animals are being killed everyday just for human consumption. We felt convicted, at the same time, merciful towards those animals. Since then, we grew tired of eating meaty viands and switched to vegetarianism.”

Meanwhile at the Li household, the role of making every mealtime inviting falls on Laddee Li, who stands as the official cook of the family. Since the only time that their family are gathered together is during supper, she comes up with themes every night.

“So far, our most favorite theme would be Chinese. All of us like pancit and other noodle dishes. Aside from that, our parents always insist for rice and vegetable soup. So, typically, we would always have any vegetable viand, rice and soup.

Li says that it had not been hard for them to change their eating lifestyle. Years later, they regretted nothing of the choice they made.

“Transitioning to vegetarianism wasn’t really hard for us because we are not picky eaters. But I think, the reason why we transitioned in the first place is because of my father’s health, and as a family, we need to change each of our own ways to fully support him,” she adds.

Physical and Spiritual Benefits

In hopes of passing down good values and good karma, both families have introduced the wisdom of going vegetarian onto the youngest members of their families.

According to Lindsey Li-Ting, when they agreed to teach their children to become vegetarians, some people have expressed doubts and concerns that the children might not get enough nutrients and vitamins.

 “But, our kids have been vegetarians all their lives and they grew much healthier, stronger, and less sickly compared to other kids. I think they are living proofs that vegetarianism is, indeed, good for children,” says Li-Ting.

In addition, Li-Ting believes that teaching her children not to kill any living being to satisfy their palate, brings spiritual benefits into their lives.

“It’s like, as their parents, through vegetarianism, we are planting good seeds into their lives. We might not see immediate results as of now, but we believe that in the long run, it will help them to be better individuals, physically and spiritually,” she adds.

Tan shares the same sentiment.

“It has always been more than making my grand kids physically healthier. I strongly believe that our present lives are results of our accumulated karmas from our past lives. As their grandmother, I want to change whatever bad karma they earned in their past lives and add good karma on their present lives,” says Tan.

Passing Down Family Values

Aside from the health benefits their family has been reaping from practicing vegetarianism for 21 years, the senior Li have also cited their lifestyle to be one of the reasons why their family has a much stronger bond compared to non-vegetarians.

“The unexpected benefit of becoming vegetarian is that in the Philippines, there are very few vegetarian restaurants, that’s why we are forced to eat at home,” says Li. “The beauty in there is that, when we eat at home, we can cook our own food and not compromise its vitamins and nutrients, at the same time, we can share precious moments with each other. Around the dinner table, we can share stories, lessons, and experiences that we endured the entire day. Our family became very much closer to each other.”

For Tan, it has always been about completing her grandkids’ lives despite of the earlier hardships the children have experienced before finally settling with the lady volunteer for good.

“I hope nothing but to make my grandkids feel that they are complete and well-loved by me. It has always been more than making them healthier. I want them to have a full life, and add more good karma into their lives. I want them to have a better future,” shared by Tan.

Modernization dawns faster than before. For humanity to maintain its morals and ideals, we should keep our bond with our families stronger and firmer. Let’s take inspiration from the testimonies of Li and Tan-Keh Family, and aspire to live a more loving and healthier life.

  • For the Li Family, vegetarianism has taught them to be more creative about their daily meals. For their daily supper, the family experiments with different ingredients and themes. Last August 11, they have decided to have a Japanese and Chinese theme for their dinner. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • Laddee Li stands as the head of their kitchen. Every night, the lady cook prepares different themes for their dinner, hoping to bring out tasty and satisfying dishes for her family. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • For better and easier digestion, all the vegetarian meals of the youngest members of Li Family have to be crushed and blended. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • The utmost priority of Lindsey Li-Ting is for her kids to grow up as vegetarians. According to her, she wants her children to be not just physically healthy, but spiritually-nourished as well. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • Unlike other kids, Li-Ting’s children are all well-trained on eating any kind of vegetables. Above, Li-Ting can be seen feeding her son with an avocado purée mixed with milk. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • For their dinner, the Li twins enjoyed two bowls of carrot and apple and adobong tofu. Since they were still small, the twins were immediately trained to be vegetarians. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • For their Japanese-Chinese themed dinner, Laddee Li has prepared six vegetarian dishes, namely; vegetable tempura, monggo soup with coconut milk, vegetable balsamic salad, toge salad, sweet potato shoots with tomato salad, and brown rice. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • Despite their busy schedules, the Li Family makes sure that they don’t miss any family dinner. For them, it is their utmost priority to spend time within the presence of each other. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • Tzu Chi volunteer Conchita Tan (center) makes sure that her grand children, Diether Keh (left) and Fiona Keh (right), knows the importance of blessing their food before they start eating their meal. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • The lady volunteer prioritizes her grand children’s well being by teaching them the physical and spiritual benefits of being vegetarian. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • The Tan-Keh Family kicks off their day by having 3 bowls of oatmeal, induced with various Jing Si vegetarian powders and some leafy vegetables. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • For Diether Keh (13), he gives much appreciation with every meal their grandmother prepares for them. To show his gratitude, every after meal, he pours water in his bowl, and consumes even the residue from his utensils. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • Aside from cooking vegetables, the Tan-Keh family also prepares each of their meal with different Jing Si Products. Made from different organic ingredients, these Jing Si Products are being manufactured by Dharma Masters of Tzu Chi Foundation in Taiwan. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • The Tan-Keh Family is fond of eating stews made from different root crops and mushrooms. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • From their main dish, down to their side dishes, the meals of the Tan-Keh Family are all vegetables. Not a single meat, or any artificial flavorings have touched their dishes. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • For their lunch, the family has prepared a large bowl of vegetable stew, a vegetable side dish, and brown rice. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】

  • In hopes of adding more good karma into the lives of her grand children, Tan continues to teach them about Master Cheng Yen’s teachings about vegetarianism, and how it can benefit not just their bodies, but the well-being of our planet as well. 【Photo by Bea Velasco】