The Love for Food

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Celina Tamayo-Varanavicius

Vilnius, Lithuania

Meet Celina, a Filipino food enthusiast whose passion for cooking and baking led her to a remarkable opportunity in Lithuania.

Who would have thought that Celina Tamayo-Varanavicius, a graduate of BS Biology at UP Baguio, would be an entrepreneur in Lithuania someday?

From Muscat, Oman, where she worked as a medical program executive for almost a decade, she met and fell in love with her now-husband Andrius. Despite her busy schedule, her passion for food through cooking and baking continuously knocks on her heart. She loved playing with recipes, baking cakes and cupcakes, and then sharing them with friends and family. At this point, her love for food is becoming stronger than ever.

“We now have two beautiful daughters, both born in Vilnius, Lithuania,” Celina proudly shared, highlighting the sense of home they’ve created in this foreign land.

In her pursuit to find her real passion, which is food, she found Ubeness, Buco Pandaness, and Langkaness. It was in 2022 that she started using them in her recipes. Celina’s enthusiasm for these essences is unmistakable.

“I have tried other brands too, but nothing compares to these three essences when it comes to flavor and color. What great products they are! I am a loyal customer forever!”

She is not just good at baking; she is also superb at the celebrated Filipino main courses. Both Lithuanian and Filipino patrons have raved about her crispy pork and mango salad, which often results in numerous repeat orders. On the Filipino side, puto and puto pao have become sought-after favorites. Lithuanian clients, on the other hand, have developed a fondness for her cupcakes, lengua de gato in different flavors, and cakes. Eventually, she thought about making her hobby official when she realized that few Lithuanians and other nationalities in the region were familiar with Filipino food and delicacies. Inspired by this new knowledge, she decided to establish her business, Merienda in Lithuania in May 2023.

Last September, she was invited to be a part of an exhibit at the Lithuanian National Museum—House of Histories. The reception of her displayed products is very overwhelming, as she has gained more attention for Filipino cuisine. It was a job well done and an opportunity she embraced wholeheartedly. At the event, she showcased souvenirs, Filipino snacks, chips, candies, buco pandan, and her signature product, lengua de gato, available in different Pinoy flavors—vanilla, coffee, chocolate, mango, buco pandan, and UBE (purple yam). Her migrant story is also featured in Our Migration Story, a global collection of success stories. These gave her more motivation to continuously promote and make Filipino foods for all cultures to enjoy. Maybe there are a handful of Filipinos in Lithuania at the moment, but there are millions of cultures open to experiencing the burst of taste of the beloved Filipino cuisine.

Try this recipe from Celina

Coconut Pandan Jelly Drink

Also known as Buco Pandan Drink, is a refreshing mixture of Filipino flavor with jelly or nata de coco, perfect for the creamy, fresh taste.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine filipino


Drink Ingredients

  • 1 liter coconut-almond drink
  • 1/2 cup of sugar to add depending on preferred sweetness
  • 1 1/2 tsp buco pandaness

Toppings or add-ons

  • Boiled tapioca pearls small or big
  • Buco pandan flavored jelly small pieces
  • Nata de coco white or green
  • Young coconut meat sliced into pieces optional


  • Combine all the drink ingredients.
  • Refrigerate until cold enough, as preferred.
  • Before serving, add the preferred amount of toppings or add-ons.
  • Serve and enjoy.


Buco pandan drink is a samalamig, which means refreshments. It is often served as a streetfood. This is the drink version of the same dessert, Buko Pandan Salad, which is often served in parties and holidays. 
Keyword buco pandan, coconut pandan, pandan

Ube (Purple Yam) Swirl Cheesecake Cupcakes

A sweet treat of western and Filipino fusion in a cupcake.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Course Dessert, snacks
Cuisine American, filipino, fusion, Western
Servings 18 pieces


  • 1 Food processor or zip-lock bag and rolling pin for crushing the cookies
  • oven
  • pan for water bath in the oven
  • cupcake molders
  • aluminum liner or cupcake liners
  • Large bowl
  • electric mixer


  • 320 g sweet biscuits
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup sour cream 35% fat
  • 400 g cream cheese
  • 250 g mascarpone
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 white granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 - 3 tsp Ubeness or About Flavors Ube flavoring
  • pinch of salt
  • water for water bath


  • Using a food processor (or a Ziploc bag and rolling pin), grind/process the sweet biscuits to powder and pour the melted butter. Process until it resembles coarse wet sand. If too dry, add a tablespoon of melted butter. Set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 135°C (the low temperature helps keep the cheesecakes smooth and creamy). Prepare a water bath (I use hot water), to be placed under the cupcake tray (not touching the cupcake tray directly) to steam the cheesecake cupcakes in the oven.
  • Line standard cupcake tins with paper/aluminum liners. Place 1 tbsp of crumbs in the bottom of each liner and press evenly to create the biscuit base. Place in the fridge until ready to use.
  • In a large bowl use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and mascarpone until smooth and combined. Gradually add the sugar and beat until combined. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Beat in the sour cream and salt. Reserve a cup of the mixture before adding the ubeness to the rest of the batter, to create the white swirls on the cheesecake cupcakes later on.
  • Divide the ube-flavored batter evenly among the lined cups, filling each 2/3 of the way. Place a teaspoon of the reserved cheesecake mixture on top and using a toothpick, create swirls. Careful not to overmix to keep a white and purple swirl design, and not to touch the biscuit base.
  • Bake for about 22 - 25 minutes at 135°C, with a hot water-bath under the cupcake tray (not touching the tray but directly below it), until the filling is set. Transfer the baked cheesecake cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.
Keyword purple yam cupcake, ube cheesecake, ube cupcake

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