MANILA, Philippines - Maria Venus Raj loves eating -- in a "major major" way.
The beauty with a 22-inch waistline admits that she doesn't watch her weight and eats almost everything -- from the usual fish and vegetables to the more exotic frogs and snakes -- citing her humble beginnings as a farm girl in Camarines Sur, Bicol.
She has, however, developed a soft spot for all things with coconut milk.
"Ako kakainin ko basta may gata (I'd eat anything with coconut milk)," she happily tells abs-cbnNEWS.com, adding, "I love Filipino food."
It could be noted that sweet, creamy coconut milk and spices figure prominently in the local cuisine of Bicol, her hometown.
The 2 most popular dishes in the region -- laing (taro leaves cooked in coconut milk) and Bicol express (pork strips and finger chilies cooked in coconut milk) -- are among Raj's favorites.
She may not be a picky eater, but Raj swears she will never eat insects again, especially after trying to munch on crickets a few years back.
"Naramdaman ko yung legs tapos pagkagat mo lalabas yung juice. After no'n ayoko na talaga ng insects ever (I felt the cricket's legs as I placed it inside my mouth. Then when I started eating it, its juice came out. I freaked out, after that, I don't want to eat insects again)," she shares.
Here are Raj's answers to some of the questions posed by abs-cbnNEWS.com:
Describe yourself using food. If you were an ingredient, what would you be?
A sili (chili pepper). It's hot, spicy, and adds lots of flavor! (laughs). We use it every day at home.
What's your all-time favorite food?
Laing, Bicol express, ako kahit ano basta may gata (as long as it has coconut milk). I also like sinigang na baboy (sour soup with pork). I love Filipino food!
Give us 5 food items that you can eat every day for the rest of your life. Are these the same as your all-time favorites?
Actually, I can eat anything talaga. Of course, I want rice (laughs). Tapos 'yung iba kahit ano talaga. Kahit anong luto at klase ng isda, gulay, kahit ano talaga. (Then the rest can be anything, any kind of fish or vegetable cooked in any way)
What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
Palaka (frog), bat, snake, and cricket!
What is one thing that you'll never, ever eat?
Insects! After ng cricket ayoko na ng kahit anong insects. (After eating a cricket I don't want to try eating other insects)
You say you love to eat, but do you also love to cook?
Yes! High school ako nag-start magluto. Magaling ako magluto! (I started cooking as early as high school. I can cook really well!)
Filipino food pa rin, particularly 'yung mga dish sa amin sa Bicol. (Still Filipino food, particularly dishes from Bicol, my hometown.)
So if you love to eat, and you love to cook, how come you're still so skinny? What's your secret to maintaining a 22-inch waistline?
Hindi ko alam! (laughs) Siguro mabilis lang talaga metabolism ko. Tapos I exercise sa gym, so baka 'yun. (I don't know! Maybe I just have a really fast metabolism. Then I also make it a point to exercise at the gym regularly, so maybe that's the reason.)