The holiday season is in full swing and I am excited to go home.  Christmas w/ the Cuenco and Santos clan is one of the funnest times of the year.  I arrive in California on Christmas Eve, just before midnight and in time for Noche Buena.  My dad usually prepares a ham, nilaga or tinola, and other trimmings so that we can have a snack as we open presents.  The next morning is the nearly all day affair at my grandmother’s house on the Cuenco side.  

Walking into my grandmother’s home is like being ported back to the Philippines. She has an outdoor kitchen for all the major cooking since all the extended family start flowing in shortly after noon.  She typically wants her immediate family there in the morning so we get first dibs on the food. We spend much of the morning and afternoon there and then head home to rest. We will probably see my mom’s side of the family later on that evening.  

It sounds really tiring, but spending Christmas away from immediate family is just not the same. Furthermore, this will be my sister’s first time home for Christmas in 3 years. It’s going to be a blast. I hope to revel in the noise, family personalities, stress, and festivities the whole week that I’m there. Best believe I’m taking pictures. 


Turkey Day 2007 (minus the turkey)

IMG_0245.JPG, originally uploaded by vettie vette.

Joe and I started off the evening by making the trek from Park Slope to the Upper East Side. We were supposed to be there by 5:45, so I made sure we left by 4:45 in case the trains were running late. We were promptly greeted at the door by my niece Sophia and my cousin Anton. Sophia’s parents were busy in the kitchen prepping all the food.

As we got our coats out of the way, Sophia’s mom, Ate Carla, emerged from the kitchen to announce that there was no turkey.I was not surprised nor disappointed. Filipinos eat all types of meat, but turkey just isn’t a top choice. So this year at my cousin’s house the centerpiece was boneless ribeye steak and roast chicken. The meal was a mix of Filipino, European, and American fare.Who can beat that?The starters were two types of pâté – salmon and beef w/ truffle. The salmon was okay – but the truffle was to die for. Then we had a bowl of molo soup aka Filipino wonton soup. The trimmings included haricots verts, two types of dressing, and two types of sweet potato. After stuffing ourselves silly – we cut into the dessert. Joe and I brought an apple tart, my Tita Lou brought pumpkin and pecan pies, and my cousins picked up a plate of sapin-sapin from Krystal’s. My sister and her friend Amy pitched in a couple bottles of wine.By the time we finished eating and catching up it was already 2 am!A wonderful meal to end a whirlwind of a month…

October is Filipino American History Month

A fragmented history is one that unites us
The Cuencos invade Concord Filipino community parties

For the past few years, I haven’t paid much attention to October being Filipino American History Month. I can point to a number of things – living in New York, busy with work, etc. But this year is a little different. Perhaps it’s the fact that Joe, who wasn’t taught as much about the culture or history, is more curious about it now. Or maybe I’m coming to another epiphany of just how being me Filipino is just as important as breathing.

The difference between myself and Joe’s upbringing mirrors what many Filipino Americans in our generation experienced. Some parents proudly passed on the culture. But a lot of parents didn’t – wanting their kids to assimilate or simply not having enough access to information (California vs. East Coast). Unfortunately, you hear more of the latter. It’s very easy to point the finger at the United States and Spain. They laid a tough hand in carving the Filipino American identity and separating us cross-culturally and playing one group against the other. At times colonial mentality can seem just too strong to overcome.

But despite this fragmentation – we are one people.

One people who share the common history of fragmentation and a defiant spirit in spite of it. Given this knowledge and the opportunity to fully examine it, it is our generation’s (and possibly our children’s) responsibility to make sense of it all.

I feel very fortunate that my parents taught me the language, taught me to cook the food, taught me the history, etc. At times it’s I’m surprised that many parents in their generation did not do this. And even more surprised when kids my generation talk about how hard it is. It’s not that complicated really.

It doesn’t have to be big and large. We don’t need to wear Filipino flags/pendants everyday or attend rallies/write letters. It can be as simple as eating Filipino food with our kids. Watching a Filipino movie or passing on the stories of Juan Tamad. Or even taking them to events where other Filipino Am couples/families are involved. It might even require asking/begging our parents to tell us their stories and help pass on the culture.

We have a golden opportunity to accomplish what so many of our parents could not do – dialogue and provide access to this rich fragmented history as well as add onto our parents’ legacy. I would hate for it to go to waste.