It doesn’t happen very often but was I dumbstruck on Thursday morning. The yemas photo on my food blog made it to the papers! I never would have imagined because I had nothing to do with it. The picture was stolen.
It was obviously mine but I was still in denial. I looked at it from all angles as if it wasn’t one-dimensional. How could it be? How can someone steal a photo which has been online for almost a year and have it published in a national broadsheet of the widest circulation without thinking someone would notice? Huh?!?! Can someone really be that naive? Careless? Shameless? Stupid may even be an understatement. But James Anthony R. Ceniza seems to be all of that and perhaps more.
I’ve had my photos hotlinked before but that I could control. Another person, also out of naivetÃ©, used one of my photos for his website but gave proper attribution when one of my townmates called his attention. There is actually no fear of my not granting requests to use my photos. Several of my fellow food bloggers know I even go out of my way to take pictures for them and sometimes even ask that I not be cited. Some teachers have asked to use my material. No problem. Someone asked if they could reprint one article with photos. Sure. I really don’t mind others benefitting from what I have as long as I’ve been told.
But then again, if this certain James Anthony R. Ceniza asked my permission to use the said photo for the purpose of entering it into the Philippine Daily Inquirer Family Recipe Contest, I would never have acceded. The contest rules assume that the recipe and pictures were actually worked on by the contestant. Clearly Mr. Ceniza violated the rules on at least two counts. Now I’m wondering if the recipe he submitted wasn’t pilfered as well.
The other victim, Marketman, in his usual clear exposition, critiques the recipe as not being that traditional because it uses condensed milk. This is based on Cocina SulipeÃ±a where Gene Gonzales says old-style yemas and those from Spain didn’t have milk in them. I can let that pass, not only because my aunties always used condensed milk but also to acknowledge the process of indigenisation the recipe has gone through.
What gets me is how the recipe is supposedly from Sta. Rita (yes, MY Sta. Rita) and how our “secret” ingredient for flavouring is lime zest. Hmmm… when was it ever a secret? Anyone who bites into our yemas would immediately know. It really makes me wonder if the recipe was indeed from an old townmate because the main ingredients are mixed with the lime zest. Excuse me! That will make the mixture rough and bitter. The zest needs to be pressed through cheese cloth. That’s the same process used in cooking leche flan. We only mix it with other ingredients when we make buco sherbet or bucayo!
Also notice the way he proceeded with the custard candies.
“Cook over moderate heat until thick in consistency but not boiling. Let the mixture cool and then form into balls.”
Bad, very bad. Very bad recipe, very imprecise and likely to spell disaster. The candies will be malformed when dipped in hot caramel if the custard is not cooked till thick and dry. While I’m at it, I should also critique his process of caramelising the sugar.
“In a deep pan, mix together sugar, water, and cream of tartar. Bring to a quick boil until golden in color. Take out caramel from heat.”
Oh dear! Anyone who has worked with this kind of caramel would know that it is not the water that makes the syrup and bringing it to a quick boil will not achieve the intended result! The water is only meant to soften the sugar crystals and will eventually dry out. Caramelisation happens when the sugar liquefies because of the heat.
This is not my food blog but I am critiquing the recipe here to drive home the point that the author probably didn’t cook it at all or he’s just a really terrible recipe writer (worse than I am, even if I say so myself) which makes one wonder how he won the contest.
That brings me to the next point. In the original contest rules published online and on print on 7 July 2005 (yes, I do have a copy of the street edition too), PDI is supposed to choose three recipes “every week â€“ after being kitchen tested at the San Miguel Purefoods Culinary Center”. Are they saying Mr. Ceniza’s recipe was kitchen-tested and it won? Remarkable!
As a matter of prudence, I wrote the Inquirer editor responsible for receiving and printing the pictures. It was a very non-confrontational and non-threatening e-mail. That was Thursday afternoon. It’s now Saturday lunchtime, still no response, no acknowledgement of the e-mail. I re-sent it yesterday when I e-mailed the Inq7.net editor. JV had the decency to respond and apologise. He immediately took down Marketman’s yema picture.
On 11/18/05, K
Knowing how the Inquirer print and online editions have separate editors, I did not copy you on my e-mail to the PDI Family Recipe contest editor (attached below). I thought the photo on the online version looked familiar but didn’t realise it was an edited version of Marketman’s until a friend alerted me to it. I’m attaching a screencap she sent, “as proof it was there even if they take it down”. The second photo is of the print edition. I’m sending you this e-mail since Marketman’s yema picture is still online.
What happened? Are there no guidelines to ensure that photos used for the recipes are not stolen? This is very basic. One can write a label and place it beside the dish one has cooked before taking a picture. Migs and I were talking about this earlier.
Another “bloggers against the Inquirer” brouhaha is the last thing I want to happen. As one of the aggrieved parties, I’m reserving my right to act on the infringement of IPR accordingly but I’m also very willing to work with you and get to the bottom of this. Migs mentioned he is also willing to help out.
P.S. A properly cooked caramel-coated yema is not melt-in-your-mouth. I am from Sta. Rita.
———- Forwarded message ———-
Date: Nov 17, 2005 5:14 PM
Subject: Melt-in-your-mouth yema balls article
To: “email@example.com” < firstname.lastname@example.org>
I would like to call your attention regarding today’s print version of the Inquirer, on Page C4 is the article Melt-in-your-mouth yema balls. There are two pictures, one with a pink wrapped candy which also appears on the online version, and another is a picture of several candies on a saucer with a few wrapped on a bonboniere. That picture happens to be mine, and it’s been online on my blog since March on the entry Yemas (Caramel Custard Candies).
Now, I am not sure if the picture was sent to you by the author or if someone from the Inquirer art department did it. In any case, this is just to call your attention to the apparent violation of copyright. I am not asking for a public apology and I do not want my full name in print.
I hope this unfortunate incident does not happen in the future.
Very truly yours,
[my full name]
In the ensuing correspondence, JV updated us on the issue. He found out from Ms. Chelo Banal-Formoso, the PDI Lifestyle editor, that Mr. Ceniza sent the photos with his recipe for the contest. I still have not gotten any response from Ms. Banal-Formoso. Marketman got one at around 2:00 a.m. but it’s neither here nor there. Well, at least he’s been acknowledged.
Let’s see now… When I said “I am not asking for a public apology and I do not want my full name in print” it doesn’t mean I can’t seek other forms of redress.
Also read Marketman’s piece Shame on You, Photo-Nappers!!! He provided the e-mail addresses of those responsible for printing the stolen pictures for those who wish to write:
The PDI also has a Readers’ Advocate: email@example.com
Update: Ms. Chelo Banal-Formoso responded to my e-mail on 19 November, 8:36 p.m. Details of this issue shall be threshed out in the next few days.
24 November, past midnight: Note on recipe photos published Nov 17 is online on the Inq7.net website.