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The Lechon Diva Needs Your Help—Dine On November 10 And Give Wheelchairs To Those In Need

Dedet de la Fuente’s Project Wheelchair degustation dinner, prepared by the country’s top chefs, is not just a worthy cause, but a deeply personal one for her and her family

Without a doubt, nary a week passes by and there isn’t some benefit lunch, fashion show, and/or activity dedicated to a cause, advocacy, or foundation in need. In today’s world, there are so many worthy causes, and you can’t even begin to place them in any hierarchical order. So as a columnist and writer, what creates recall for me is when I discover the story behind why the advocacy came to be, its raison d’être.


When Issa Litton was asked to host the Project Wheelchair degustation dinner last year because regular host RJ Ledesma would be out of the country, I could guess it would be about raising money to buy wheelchairs for individuals who need them but can’t afford to purchase them on their own. I imagined that the organizers would generally source the wheelchairs from one source to control costs; and then nominate beneficiaries from all over the country. And true enough, a lot of what I surmised was the case. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how Pepita’s Kitchen’s Dedet de la Fuente, known as the Lechon Diva, spearheads the dinner, and how her very personal story is behind the project’s very existence.

Dedet’s firstborn, Lauren, suffered from cerebral palsy, and lived all her 13 brief years in a wheelchair. A year after Lauren passed away, her younger sisters Lileya and Liyora decided to try and raise funds to buy wheelchairs for those who need them but are financially challenged to acquire them. They had seen the dependence of their Ate on her wheelchair, and recognized how it was a vital link for so many disabled persons in maintaining as mobile a life as possible.


Of course, Dedet encouraged her daughters and tried to make the effort as far reaching as possible. Reaching out to friends in the culinary world, the fundraiser Project Wheelchair degustation dinner was conceived, and has been a success every year that it’s been held. 

This 2019, Project Wheelchair happens on November 10 at the Manila Hotel’s Champagne Room. This 9-course dinner highlights Filipino regional cuisine, with the following chefs and food personalities participating:


Margarita Forés of Cibo and Grace Park
Glenda Barretto of Via Mare
Sau del Rosario of 25 Seeds
Nancy Lumen and her Team Adobo
Kevin Villarica, Thirdy Dolatre, and Kevin Navoa of Hapag Private Dining

Datu Pendatun and his Mindanao cuisine
Mikel Zaguirre of Locavore

Tanya Dizon of XO46 Heritage Bistro and Arroz Ecija
And of course, Dedet de la Fuente, the Lechon Diva

The P4,500 price for the dinner gets you a seat in the Champagne Room, and will help buy a wheelchair and/or assistive walking device. The wheelchairs purchased from previous dinners have reached as far as Baguio, Cebu, Davao, and even Marawi. Some of the photos shown here were taken in October 2019, as Dedet flew to Marawi with her daughter to effect the turnover of wheelchairs.

As I peruse the names of the culinary luminaries involved in this year’s Project Wheelchair, it’s evident that the nine courses will all be very special. But what sets this dinner apart is just how personal this all is for Dedet and her daughters. Dedet and Project Wheelchair certainly deserve our support. And with her Truffle Lechon as a deal breaker, how can we resist?



For reservations and inquiries, call (0917) 532-4666 or email projectwheelchairph@gmail.com


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