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Food & travel writer Master of Arts in Gastronomy

Food & Travel Writer Author of Two Books Master of Arts in Gastronomy

For over 25 years now, Maida has promised to go where her writing takes her. It has brought her all over the Philippines to all over Asia, Bhutan, Argentina, Spain, US, Canada, and many delicious adventures in between. 

Her work has been published in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, Australian Financial Review, SBS, Reader's Digest Asia, CNN... and many more prestigious publications. 

My Published Articles

Five Soothing Yoga Asanas to Help Alleviate Anxiety

Yoga offers a serene refuge, providing not only physical benefits but also powerful tools for calming the mind. Follow these five soothing Asana movements to find calm in the chaos.

Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heel, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips. Lay your torso down between your thighs and either reach your hands back toward your feet and rest the arms on the floor or stretch the arms forward for extended child’s pose.

Lie on your back

Why it’s getting harder to find a designer label op-shop bargain

A quick search on shows RM Williams is one of the most searched for items. There are four pairs on offer, ranging from $265 to $330. There is also a Celine women’s handbag at $980, and Herve Leger dresses ranging from $98 to $250.

If you are looking specifically for designer brands, there are an increasing number of second-hand boutiques. They have done the sourcing and pre-sort for you and are priced accordingly.

Melbourne is probably the country’s centre for this type of st

Why no one goes to church anymore

I grew up in the Philippines, where 86 per cent of the population is Roman Catholic. During my first stint in Australia, I lived in a Catholic dorm at my university in Perth. Each block segregated males from females. I never really asked the priests why that was the case. That was nearly 29 years ago.

When I attended graduate school in Adelaide, one of my tutorial lecturers said: “The families that play together, stay together.” I giggled, thinking she had made a mistake. All my life, I heard t

Whether you’re a pet owner or fur parent, puppy love is real

On Mother’s Day, as I struggled with the cold autumn morning in Melbourne, I walked my dog Spark to the nearby garden. A fellow dog owner smiled at me with her pug in tow, saying, “Happy Mother’s Day, Fur Mum.” I was surprised by the greeting. It was the first time I’ve ever been greeted on Mother’s Day. I smiled at her and awkwardly responded, “Happy Mother’s Day too.” I have been a dog owner most of my life. But now I have a title: a fur mum. Yet I still felt uncomfortable with the Mother’s Da

Most of my life my friends were much older than me. Now it has flipped

When I moved to Melbourne, I was thrust into a community of yogis who were all younger than I was, including my teacher. In their 20s and 30s, they lived their lives freely following their passion. One was a contortionist who left yoga training to join the circus to showcase her acrobatic skills. One yogi friend in her 30s moved from Melbourne to Perth to Byron with ease and lightness, no drama. As we get older, we shed our carefree ways. We become caught up with the seriousness of living. We be

What do I eat when no one else is watching? Two-minute Mi Goreng

In this age of Instagram, people have tons of photos of their meals on their phones. I have no doubt this is the most documented generation that has ever lived, with an insane number of photos of latte art, oatmeal bowls, and egg porn – yolks oozing – as proof of our existence. But what I’m curious to see is what people eat when no one is watching. I’m a food and travel writer of 25 years, I’ve met Ferran Adria, the father of molecular gastronomy and interviewed many of the world’s best chefs. N

Puffer, thermals, layers, stew: How a girl from the tropics learned to survive Melbourne winter

It’s not yet officially winter. But Mother Nature insists it is. Melbourne began the month with its coldest May weekend in 23 years. There was widespread rain, hail and snow. It seems like we skipped autumn altogether.

The single-digit temperatures have arrived. It means waking up to 6- or 7-degree mornings and rugging up. As I bundle up to walk the dog in my long puffer coat, scarf, beanie and thermals, there they are – the hardy Melbourne men in shorts and a thin sweatshirt.

Surely, I am ove

I’ve gone cold turkey on caffeine, and this is how I’m surviving in Melbourne

When I moved to Melbourne some three and a half years ago, I wasn’t fully aware of the depth of the city’s coffee culture. I had previously lived in Adelaide in 2005-06. At that time Starbucks opened three outlets, which quickly closed in July 2008. Australians take their coffee seriously, and somehow Starbucks just didn’t seem to make the cut. But little did I know, Melbourne takes their love for coffee even a notch higher. With a large Italian and Greek immigrant population settling in Melbour

A young man called me ‘auntie’. It was a mark of respect, but I was taken aback

When I lived in Singapore, “auntie” was the respectful term for an older woman. We often fondly called the vegetable vendor in the market or our favourite laksa hawker “auntie.” They are the women pulling their shopping trolleys to the market. While shopping for shoes in Singapore, I tried on a comfortable pair of shoes. Turning to the sales lady for her opinion she replied, “It looks very ‘auntie’.” She did not hold back her opinion that it did not look fashionable for a then 30-year-old. Maida

Who let the dogs in (Canva and Amazon, for two)

Amazon isn’t unique in allowing dogs in the office. Google, Legal Vision and Canva are also dog-friendly. But not everyone is a fan of such policies.

Having dogs in the office does require some rules. At Amazon Australia, dog owners need to first ask the people who sit near them if they are comfortable about the prospect of having a dog in proximity before they can bring their canine companion. They also need to register the animal with the “Dogs-At-Work” program, which requires information suc

I’ve only been to Chadstone once – I’ve found my bliss away from malls

A few weeks ago, my best friend, Rissa in Manila, asked how my weekend was. “I just got back from a picnic in the gardens with some friends,” I told her. “Wow, how nice you get to do things outdoors,” she replied. Maida Pineda with her dog, Spark, in the Royal Botanic Gardens. One thing I love about Australia is the outdoor lifestyle. Having lived in Asia and the US, I am awed by how parks and gardens are the central setting for Australian life. I grew up in Manila in the Philippines and later l

Soaring rents and limited leases make for tenant anxiety

I have an email alert for rental properties in my neighbourhood. Each day I get sent a listing of all the available apartments that fit within my ceiling price. I usually get a list of several places nearby within my budget. In the past few weeks, however, the only thing available is a car park rental. Ouch! I live in Southbank, a short skip away from the CBD. Rent in Southbank has soared. In January 2023, the average apartment in Southbank cost 40 per cent more to rent than a year ago, accordin

‘What is this flavour?’: why Australian desserts have turned bright purple

Filipinos have long had a love affair with ube, but it’s only recently the rest of the world is catching on to the allure of the vivid purple yam. Pronounced “oo-beh”, ube is often mistaken for purple sweet potato, but while the latter is dry and starchy, ube is moist with an earthy, nutty, vanilla-like flavour.

Ube’s distinctive heliotrope hue contributes to its broadening appeal. Trend forecaster WGSN earmarked ube as a top food trend for 2023, though it’s been building for years. In 2022, an

Joining a ‘Buy Nothing Group’ changed my life. Here’s how it works

It all started a few months ago, with a group suggested to me by Facebook. I joined “The Buy Nothing Group”, a community covering my suburb and the neighbouring suburbs. There I would find people posting: a chair they no longer need, packing cartons, books, plates, a tent, and all sorts of things for free. It is a gifting economy. Instead of Facebook Marketplace’s frantic first-come, first-served rule, the gifter can ask a question or a fun way of choosing who to gift the item to. Say you post w

Anyplace, anywhere, anytime

When the National Restaurant Association (NRA) unveiled its Restaurant Industry 2030 report in November 2019, they had little idea how much the world would change due to the Covid pandemic.

The 2030 projections expected restaurant industry sales to reach $1.2trn. Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the research and knowledge group for the association said: “Restaurant owners are swiftly adapting across their businesses to meet the wants and needs of guests. The radical transformation of the

Summer is one of many reasons to cool down with bingsu

The Australian sun can be heavy in the summer months. So we arm ourselves with a layer of sunblock, a hat and sunnies. We cool down with milk teas, iced coffees and gelato. There's another way to stay refreshed, too: or bingsoo is a Korean shaved ice dessert, often topped with fruits, red beans, syrup and condensed milk.

Bingsu dates back to the early period of the Joseon Dynasty (which began in 1392). Government records document officials eating crushed ice topped with various fruits dist

Why the joy at getting my dog back quickly turned to shock

I was recently reunited with my dog Spark, who relocated from Manila to join me in Melbourne. It was two years, eight months, and 16 days since I last saw him. Thanks to the pandemic, it took much longer for me to organise his move to Australia. Maida Pineda is reunited with her dog Spark in Melbourne after years apart. I was worried he’d forgotten me after all these years apart. But as soon as he saw me, he kissed my face over and over, while jumping excitedly. He never forgot me. I was overjoy

Mate, have you heard? Melbourne is the friendliest city

Moving to Melbourne some three years ago, I knew only two people here: Andrei, a friend I met in Manila in 2007, and Josie, a friend I met in Singapore in 2012. Being a single person without a family in a new foreign city can be challenging. But Melbourne showered me with so much kindness from the onset.

During lockdown, I found community with neighbours in my city apartment building. When I got COVID, friends came to my aid. Recently, I moved house. Worried I’d have to struggle with carrying b

Finding connection in COVID isolation

And then it happened. Two and a half years after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, I caught it. I thought I could dodge it forever. But no. For a single person living alone, getting sick is tough. But getting sick with COVID as a singleton is even tougher. Isolating after testing positive to COVID is difficult enough, but more tricky for single people. There is the challenge of how to get food, medicines and supplies while isolating. I was also faced with another challenge. I had just picked up

Spark flies: it took a village to bring my dog from Manila to Melbourne

Any dog owner knows how difficult it is to be apart from their pet. After being separated from my dog for nearly three years, I know it too well.

While many Melburnians were surviving long lockdowns one dog walk at a time, I was trying to figure out how to get Spark, my shih tzu-poodle cross, to join me from 6,339km away in Manila.

Australia has some of the world’s strictest animal quarantine laws. Moving a dog here from a non-approved country such as the Philippines is not cheap and it’s not

Praise be my mum's Filipino shrimp sandwich

While others wax sentimental about their mums' chicken sandwiches, I have fond memories of my mum's shrimp (prawn) sandwich.

As a little girl, I could not understand why people liked sandwiches with shredded boiled chicken and mayo, and don't get me started with boiled chicken skin.

Meanwhile, my mum's shrimp sandwich included steamed or boiled shrimp that was meticulously peeled, and then mixed with mayo, pickle relish, salt and pepper. Mum liked to chill the filling to let it set a

A former people pleaser’s guide to turning visitors down

I come from a people-pleasing culture. There, I said it. Instead of confronting each other about awkward social situations, Filipinos tend to avoid them at all cost.

Growing up, I was taught to practise ‘ ’ – the Filipinos’ way of prioritising togetherness and group harmony above all else. Part of this is ‘ ’ or being able to get along with others that avoids any

The keyword here, of course, being ‘outward’.

So while everything seems fine, deep down all the “Yep, no problem!”s

I cringe to see perfectly good food go to waste

On the ground floor of my apartment building is a cafe. At the end of the day, when the cafe closes, it would put unsold croissants near the bins. I pointed out to a friend visiting my neighbourhood once, “Look, we have the best fed pigeons in Melbourne”, as we watched the birds feast on the perfectly edible surplus of croissants. Recently, I’ve noticed the end-of-day surplus now includes crates of croissants and doughnuts left outside the store for anyone to take. Blame it on my Catholic upbrin

Fish heads, tripe: how I’m stretching my grocery dollar

The price of groceries has gone up. I stared in disbelief a few weeks ago as I shelled out $100 for my weekly groceries for a household of one. That same week, I saw a news feature on a woman called Norma, a 70-year-old disability pensioner making her food shopping fit within her $100-a-fortnight budget. As the price of food, rent, utilities, and coffee have all gone up, but not my income, I have employed several tips from Norma. I’ve also used a few tips I’ve learned through the years to stretc
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