Tita Cely Kalaw, that wonderful, ebullient, opinionated, passionate, down-to-earth, amazing cook/restaurateur/entrepreneur and friend passed away the other evening. I have been out of town and was only updated by readers and those close to her family by email. It is with great sadness that I write this post, and I ask all of you who knew her, and even those of you who didn’t know her but who love Filipino food, to say a prayer for her rapid rise to that wonderful kitchen in the sky… She was perhaps most famous or infamous for her Bicol Express, her reign in the kitchens of the Grove Restaurant many decades ago, and more recently her sinigang stall at Market!Market! and tables at the Saturday Salcedo Market and Sunday Legaspi Market. A passionate and innovative cook, Tita Cely was not only mindful of what was basic and authentic about a dish, but she wasn’t afraid to experiment and innovate. A lovely person to know, generous to the core. There are few people (other than those who are good friends) from whom I have ever accepted a food “freebie” (a serious no-no in my book), but from Tita Cely, I could never refuse a taste of her latest soup, or a freshly fried wonder, or some food find of hers. We often “bartered” food items, and even discussed sitting down and finally writing a book together to preserve her brilliant knowledge of local cuisine. But that just wasn’t meant to be. I wish her well. I hope her family of siblings and nephews and nieces come to terms with their loss. She lies in state at the Loyola Chapel in Paranaque, her cremation scheduled for Saturday, November 6, 2010. In lieu of flowers, Marketman & Family will donate a few hundred meals to undernourished public school children in her name. I think she would have liked that. She will be missed by many.