What’s a jar of purple jam got to do with Greta Thunberg?

By Keith Pereña

Over the past week or so, my newsfeed has been filled with the adventures of a 16-year-old girl who had world leaders passionately listening to her speech on climate change. Speaking at the United Nations earlier this week, Greta Thunberg’s message about inaction regarding climate change sent shockwaves in the UN’s uber-formal New York headquarters.

As I scrolled further down on the feed, another piece of news caught my eye — a jam.  This purple-coloured variety had been one of my childhood favourites, but the bad news is, it’s changing colour. And the prime reason? Climate change.

Any Filipino worth his/her salt has either eaten or heard about Good Shepherd’s ube jam. This jar of purple yam goodness traces its roots back to 1976 when it was created by the Good Shepherd congregation — a group of nuns based in Baguio in the northern Philippines. I remember as a kid it was a tradition to buy jars of purple jam whenever we visited Baguio. It wasn’t just our family, on reaching the convent, you could see long queues of tourists waiting to stockpile on this sweet treat.

Looking at the congregation’s Facebook page, I came across a dismal message addressed to visitors: “Due to the changing climate, our ube farmers are having difficulty growing purple yam. It has been our struggle in the recent years to find a stable supply. And in the past weeks, there were none. Those of you going to Baguio know this.”

“Now our ube jam sports a new look. Yes, it is ube jam. (Made) from white ube. Yes, there is such a thing. And it is available at the moment,” they added.

According to the Philippine Star, the shortage of purple yam has prompted Good Shepherd to create awareness about global warming among the public.

Reading about the change of (ocean) hues made me understand further what Thunberg’s campaign is all about — you’ll never know what happens until it hits you, so to speak. Sure, the congregation can promise that the white jam tastes the same as the purple one, but it won’t be the same for us who grew up on purple jam.

Greta, consider this as my signing-up papers to join your drive for a cleaner and better world. Despite adults criticising you for having Asperger Syndrome or having a script for your speeches, I will join your battle cry, even if it means bringing parts of childhood back to life, colours and all.


Keith spreads ube jam on toast and relishes it — works well for him.

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