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Sina Blanco is a Vegan Super Mama

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Sina Blanco is a Vegan Super Mama

I have been so excited to share with you the passion and zest for life that resides within the gorgeous super mama Sina Blanco. If her surname sounds familiar, that's probably because you'd be familiar with her two smashing daughters, Aja and Tia. I was intrigued to learn more about the mother behind these beautiful, energetic bad-ass girls, so I reached out to Sina for an exclusive conversation on raising a vegan family, life, travel and all-round wellness. I know you'll love Sina as much as I do.

Sina and her husband, who stopped eating meat one month into dating this vegan super mama.

Sina and her husband, who stopped eating meat one month into dating this vegan super mama.

Where are you based and how long have you lived in that part of the world?

My husband is in the military so we've lived in several different places including Oregon, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and soon we'll be moving to San Francisco.  We currently live in Oceanside, California.  We also just built another house to use as an Air Bnb for those that are health conscious and would like a nice, clean, peaceful place to stay.  It's equipped with a Ninja Blender for smoothies, along with yoga mats and yoga blocks.

Tell us about your upbringing and when you began your journey into veganism.

In 1964, I was born and raised into a heavy meat eating, Catholic, Filipino family in Palm Springs. Most Filipinos believe eating meat is a great luxury for the rich, so of course every family meal included some kind of dead animal. 

Lucky for me, my uncle Manny who is a chiropractor, holistic health provider, and one of the first pioneers living on a meatless, vegetarian diet, was in my life.  He and my aunt Virginia were always passionate about not killing or eating animals.  That passion inspired my younger sister Cheryl and I to go vegetarian.  At that time, I was in the 7th grade (age 12) and my sister was in the 5th grade (age 10).  Back in those days (40+ years ago) it was UNHEARD OF to be a vegetarian.  People would call us all us all kinds of crazy.

As vegetarians we believed that eating goat cheese (feta) was much healthier than eating cow cheese.  We also did not eat eggs or drink milk (if only we knew what we know today about dairy...).  I remember my aunt and uncle telling us, "thou shall not kill".  That statement was powerful and meant so much to me as a kid.  I remember being afraid that I would go to hell if I killed or ate dead animals, particularly being a quote from the Bible itself. My uncle Manny would also recite Genesis 1:29 from the Bible to us.  It basically said that God gave us seeds to grow that would bare fruit for our food and that's what we should eat!  As kids that made a lot of sense to us.  My sister and I also had books that were basically the Bible broken down into children's books.  These books had pictures.  In one of the pictures it appeared to be Adam in the Garden of Eden with all the animals standing next to him.  I loved that picture!  I would always stare at it and ponder on it.  Today, I don't own a bible nor do I claim a religion, however, I do believe in God and I also believe in love and compassion, and karma.

Looking back 40+ years ago, we didn't have cell phones or the Internet.  We relied on the resources we had and we did the best we could with the information given to us. 

How did you meet your husband and was he also vegetarian when you met?

I met my husband at a wedding in 1990.  He was not vegetarian or vegan when we met but he would always ask me questions and gravitate toward the meatless diet.  He would even order the same exact dishes I would when we'd go out to eat.  I never had to force him not to eat meat.  He pretty much transitioned on his own only after one month of dating. After about a year and fully vegetarian, he decided to join the Coast Guard.  Low and behold he broke the record for the two-mile run which hadn't been broken in several years.

Nurturing a healthy family is at the core of Sina's journey.

Nurturing a healthy family is at the core of Sina's journey.

How many children do you have and what are their ages? 

My husband and I have two daughters.  Aja is our oldest, 23 years old.  When I was pregnant with her, my doctor said if I didn't eat meat her brain wouldn't grow.  23 years ago there wasn't much research backing a vegetarian or vegan diet.  Most people would have listened to their doctor. I, however, did not. 

Proud Mama

Proud Mama

I would love to talk to that doctor today, as Aja grew up to be a beautiful, intelligent young lady.  She was the recipient of the Harvard Book Award, accepted into an Ivy League college and graduated from New York University with Honors. Today she works for AUM Films, the producers of Cowspiracy and What The Health documentaries.  Aja is the Operations Manager, in charge of planning their events, as well as managing all their social media outlets including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  She is such a great asset to our society.  She creates social media posts that inspire lots of people to go vegan on a daily basis.

Sina's youngest daughter, Tia, showcasing the power of plant-based atheltiscm.

Sina's youngest daughter, Tia, showcasing the power of plant-based atheltiscm.

Our youngest daughter is Tia, 20 years old and a professional surfer.  I remember when she was a toddler people used to tell me, "You better feed her meat or she won't grow up to be strong."   Since then, she's become a professional athlete.  She won two Gold Medals in 2015 and 2016 for the Open Women's divisions at the ISA World Games.  She is also an ambassador for Beyond Meat. In addition to that, she has her own vegan nutritional shake called Peaches & Cream by Vegan Smart. She is also featured in the What The Health documentary.   

Tia has an Instagram account dedicated for all her vegan recipes.  Check it out @tiasvegankitchen.  

When did you switch your family to a vegan lifestyle?

Both of our children were conceived and raised as vegetarians up until about five years ago, when our whole family went vegan. Tia, Aja, and I had actually read a couple of books that my aunt Virginia recommended.  One was called The China Study and the other was called Eat To Live.  We also watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives.  After that we were convinced veganism was the way to go.  The first year of going vegan was tough, although Tia didn't seem to have a problem with it, she was hardcore vegan.  The rest of us took it at a little slower pace.  Although we didn't purposely eat, drink, or buy milk, cheese, eggs or butter we did eat Mema's Christmas cookies during the Holidays knowing that they probably contained butter.  Today that is not the case.  Apparently, we've made an impact on our extended faintly as they now include vegan eats during the holidays.

When our kids were in grade school I used to make their lunches.  I would pack sliced apples with cinnamon, carrots and celery with hummus and peanut butter and honey sandwiches on wheat bread (before we learned honey wasn't vegan).  The girls would always end up eating their lunches during the car ride home from school, and They would tell me that the other kids would make fun of their lunches so they were embarrassed to eat them. When I asked them what the other kids ate they said either Lunchables or orange cheese (American cheese) with bologna or ham on white bread.

Ironically a lot of those kids have gone vegan now. We've all come a long way.  It doesn't matter what path someone else is on because they all lead to the same place. 

Can you tell us a bit about your day to day lifestyle?

Every morning when I wake up I drink a huge glass of water.  Then I take the Koa Bear (our dog) out to run around while I drink my cup of coffee.  I add a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda to my coffee to alkalize it.   (Side note: cancer thrives in an acidic body so cut out acidic foods.)  After I have my coffee, I start work.  I'm an IQ SIP Engineer and I work from home programming trunks and doing MAC's for my clients. 

For lunch, I'll usually go to a yoga or piyo class and then eat leftovers from the night before.  Sometimes I like to snack on nuts and fruit or hummus and rice crackers, and banana ice cream.  After work I'll make a vegan dinner, take Koa Bear for a walk and call it a night. 

Overall, I'm just like everyone else.  I try to be a good human by doing good things on the daily in hopes of ridding my karmatic debt (if that's even a thing).  We are all here to learn our life's lesson and I think we are all doing the best we can.

You travel quite a bit with your family…where have you been most recently that sticks to mind as an epic adventure, and how do you sustain your vegan lifestyle when traveling?

I feel really blessed to be able to travel with my family.  I'm also very grateful that Tia still likes to bring me along with her when she travels to compete.  I consider myself her personal videographer and chef.  When we're on trips my job is to video her surfing so she can critique her technique and make adjustments.  I also do all the cooking on these trips.  So before we travel we go shopping for food to buy beans, rice, pasta, spices, etc. When we arrive at the destination we'll go shopping again for the fresh indigenous produce to incorporate into our meals.  I try my best to cook meals according to her needs, so if she's feeling fatigued the night before I'll make her pasta and kale (carbs and iron).  If she is feeling bulky or slow I'll feed her salad and beans.  If she is feeling dehydrated I'll give her lots of water, coconut juice, and fruit.  It's quite amazing how food influences the body and its performance.

Sina and Tia in Japan.

Sina and Tia in Japan.

Our most recent trip together was to Japan.  My favorite part of that trip was visiting a temple.  Talk about spiritual vibes, I was feeling them for sure!  In Japan we rarely ate out.  I did most of the cooking.  We ate a lot of rice, veggies, tofu, seaweed and curry. In my opinion, if you are not in Tokyo, I would recommend cooking yourself because vegan food is hard to find.

What advice do you have for mothers raising a vegan family (especially those with athletic kids)?

Don't be afraid!!! 

Start them as early as you can.  It'll be easier in the long run.  

People will tell you you're wrong for doing it, don't listen them.  

Feed your child as often as possible.  Remember most vegan food is light and very easy to digest so your kids will be hungry more often.  

Let your child eat whenever they're hungry! Think about it, if you look at vegan animals, cows and gorillas for instance, they graze all day long.   

Most importantly, feed your child foods with a lot of good fats like avocado, and coconut oil.  Their brain needs fats to grow. 

Make sure to incorporate things like Braggs Amino Acids and Kals Flake Brewers Yeast in their diets. Sprinkle it on everything!  It's good stuff and you'll be glad you did.

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What is your purpose in life?

My purpose in life first and foremost is to save animals.  They need us to protect them, not eat them.  I'm also trying to spread the word on how harmful factory farming is effecting our environment.  People really need to wake up and start caring about our future generations.   I for one want my future great-grandchildren to have a nice place to live.  And the only way to do this is to inspire people to go vegan.  If they don't, our planet can't survive.

How can we follow your amazing lifestyle? Social Media/Website?

Instagram - @sinablanco

FB - sinablanco

@tiablanco

@tiasvegankitchen

@ajablanco

@cowspiracy

@wthfilm

@simonblanco949


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Water World - an interview with Angie Davis

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Water World - an interview with Angie Davis

Simon Foster from Screen-Space took the time recently to interview Angie Davis after the release of Double Barrel. 

From her home in the Byron Bay hinterland, Angie Davis has reached across oceans and continents to tell the story of Lobitos and its people. The Peruvian coastal village, its self-sustained emergence from under the shadow of ‘big oil’ and the surfing culture that has helped reform the region’s innate strength are examined in Double Barrel, the journalist-turned-filmmaker’s picturesque and deeply humanistic documentary.

In the US to support the festival rollout of her debut long-form work before returning home for the Australian premiere on February 27, Davis (pictured, above) spoke at length to SCREEN-SPACE about her love for the Lobitos community and how their struggle has inspired her, creatively and intellectually… 

What made the culture and people of Lobitos so alluring to you?

The people of Lobitos live a simplistic lifestyle without the modern comforts that we are accustomed to in the West. The rawness of north Peru’s coastal regions make for a number of complexities, such as a dramatic lack of rain, clean drinking water, and fertile soil. The locals are dependent on the ocean for food sources, yet the oil industry combined with commercial overfishing has significantly affected the fish stocks. Local fishermen have to venture further out to sea, in small boats or handmade balsa rafts at night, to hook a decent catch, which translates to greater running costs. I respect the local fishing community for enduring such hardships, while living with big smiles on their faces. And now the son’s of fishermen from the area are getting into surfing and living their lives around the tides and swells. It is this ocean-inspired lifestyle with the backdrop of the raw Peruvian desert that drew me to the area. 

An oil platform off the Lobitos coast. Photo: Gary Parker.

An oil platform off the Lobitos coast. Photo: Gary Parker.

How has the emergence of a modern surf culture integrated with the traditions of the township?

It hasn’t been so seamless. Lobitos was created as an oil town 100 years ago by BP, became one of the richest towns in Peru, and then fell to ruins when the lefts took power in the 60s, expelling all foreign oil companies from the country. In the 90s, the beaches attracted the affluent surfers from Lima who built hostels and surf lodges straight onto the shoreline, which wasn’t exactly welcomed by the existing community who lived back off the ocean a few blocks inland. Surfing has definitely put Lobitos on the map, both domestically and internationally, but the rate of development is alarming. A combination of profit-driven objectives and an ignorant lack of knowledge about how delicate sand-bottom surf breaks are to the movements of sand, tides and wind (means) overdevelopment on the beachfront can lead to the complete destruction of the town’s primary profitable resource - the waves (pictured below, right; Davis with environmental advocate and big wave surfer Harold Koechlin and an Andean local). 

Photo: Gary Parker.

Photo: Gary Parker.

Double Barrel balances a human-interest story, environmental/social issues and sports travelogue elements. How did you reconcile your objectivity of a journalist and empathy of a social commentator?

This story was close to my heart. I started writing humanitarian journals for Amnesty International and throwing fundraisers for Surfrider Foundation from when I was 18. I was a surfer with a burning desire to travel and soon recognized a link between great waves being located in underprivileged regions and wanted to explore that more. I was working on a luxurious surf travel piece when I found myself in Peru, but abandoned that story when I saw first-hand that Lobitos was not ready for an influx of wealthy surf tourists. I decided that a film would give Lobitos a chance to move forward more sustainably and challenge audiences to consider their role in the rise and fall of surf communities, or any developing communities, worldwide.

Harold Koechlin paddles over a wave at Lobitos, oil platforms visible on the horizon. Photo: Gary Parker.

Harold Koechlin paddles over a wave at Lobitos, oil platforms visible on the horizon. Photo: Gary Parker.

Which filmmakers inspired you? 

I grew up with Taylor Steele’s surf movies. My interview with him on his film Sipping Jetstreams was my first published magazine piece, and I watched him evolve as a filmmaker from action-packed surf films to more travel-inspiring cinematic ‘journey’ pieces. Taylor (pictured, below) was a great mentor on Double Barrel. In the end I wanted to make a surf film with ‘everyday’ people that everyone could relate to, with inspiring travel cinematography supporting a story that inspires hope. Too often environmental films finish with that feeling of “wow, I have no idea what I can do to help save the world.” Double Barrel highlights marine environment protection initiatives like the Juntos Por Las Playas Del Norte, a project that was inspired by our efforts making the film. 

Filmmaker and Angie's mentor, Taylor Steele.

Filmmaker and Angie's mentor, Taylor Steele.

The impact of industry on a population and their natural habitat is key to Double Barrel. How did your experiences living in Japan at a time of enormous hardship influence the film?

The Japanese disaster in 2011 was devastating. After the earthquake, we were forced to evacuate for what started as one night but eventually turned into about three months of uncertain life on the road. Nothing could prepare you for living through something like that. The aftershocks were constant and powerful, the constant threat of tsunami was exhausting, not to mention the unknown consequences of the Fukushima fallout. As someone who surfed, swam or walked alongside the ocean daily, and with a one-year-old toddler and being pregnant at the time, the entire experience was life changing. When I first visited north Peru and saw the aging refineries and platforms so close to the shore, the thought of what could happen brought up so much pain inside of me. My experience in Japan made me feel there was an urgency to make this film. I couldn’t bare to see another place I love and the people who inhabit it become so devastated by the consequences of building industry right on the coast. Surviving an event like Fukushima stays with you forever, but it has to be taken as an opportunity to grow and evolve from the experience. 

Angie (left) on set with her crew filming Double Barrel in Lobitos.

Angie (left) on set with her crew filming Double Barrel in Lobitos.

What are your thoughts on ‘film’ as a force for change? How would you define the relationship between your artistic vision for Double Barrel and the message you had to impart? 

Until I went to Peru and had the idea to make Double Barrel, I had never desired to be a filmmaker. I loved storytelling through writing and producing. Taylor had done a short film for Charity Water in Ethiopia, and helped raise $1million for fresh water wells. I was blown away by how much documentary film could appeal to a global audience, and actually impact developing communities. I knew I had to have a script and storyboard, so that it had structure and context. I didn’t really know a thing about filmmaking, but I knew I wanted the film to be of the highest quality possible, and placed myself around geniuses in their fields that were also passionate about the project. Dustin Hollick was a surfing ambassador for Patagonia who had made surf films growing up in Tassie, including a film ‘El Gringo’ which had sequences from Peru, so I went to him with the script knowing I could trust him. I could not have made the film without him. Dustin recognized my emotion to the place and knew that had to be included in the film, resulting in a transparency that tells the story as it truly happened. Cinematographer Tim Wreyford had previously shot Mick Fanning’s ‘Missing’ film and we shot the first half of the film together. Then I returned with Alejandro Berger who is one of the world’s best water photographers (pictured, above; Davis, left, whith her key crew members). I wanted to combine the format of surf films with longer music-driven surf and travel montages that would give a real sense of the place. We learnt a lot of lessons the hard way, and threw in a lot of our own money to get this off the ground, but the response so far has been incredible. I am very proud of everyone for sticking with it.

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