It all started with a conversation Jim (of Manila Bowl) and I had at an event in San Francisco. He and I would see each other at these things and we would talk Food and how we could collaborate. This time, I felt the urge to just put something into motion. He asked, "wouldn't it be cool to get everyone together?" Being me, I replied, "Where and when?"
I knew I had to make this happen.
Needless to say, the conversation we had was inspiring and a wake up call. We need to work together in order for us to succeed. I became more enlightened and more motivated to work after each of them spoke. That Chel from Tselogs. I felt like I was at church! Preach, girl! Each person here brings something valuable to the plate and it was so exciting to see them all in one place. I have been following some of these guys for almost 10 years (ahem, the old, used, and abused Chef Timmy Luym) and have been friends with some (ahem, I miss your face, Dom and Melissa.) for years. I cannot wait to see what they all have up their sleeves.
They are ready to be seen and heard.
Get ready for them, Bay Area.
PS: If you would like to meet up with us (our next get-together is in May), let me know!
The Philippine Consulate here in San Francisco and the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines were so kind and generous to their "Filipinos Around the World" campaign on Facebook.
I am honored they picked me and valued my opinion on what being a Filipino means to me. Here is my response:
"Being a Filipino to me is all about togetherness as well as being hospitable and making connections. Just think about it, when you enter someone's house, they asked if you have eaten yet. When you are at the dinner table eating sinigang with rice and mention where you are from or where you went to school, Filipinos are quick to ask if you know a certain person who might have known your cousin's stepfather's girlfriend's brother. There is a saying that goes, 'we are all family.' Because we love to eat with each other and tell stories, we have all created a bond that is very unique. I love that. Even though there are so many regions and provinces in the Philippines, we always find each other abroad and create communities. During college, I participated in Filipino organizations run by students and even today, I contribute to our Filipino community events and activities. I love our sense of community and our want to collaborate with each other. This togetherness or kapwa is our way to keep our culture alive.
Being Filipino is probably the most important part of my life. I knew I was Filipino since I could remember. I truly appreciate that my grandparents made it a point to speak to us in Ilocano and feed me Filipino dishes like pinapaitan and pinakbet. Filipinos were pretty much everywhere I looked as I was growing up; however, as I got older, I realized that San Francisco was a special place because of the dense Filipino population here. I did not know that Filipinos were not known well in other parts of the country.
One of the earliest memories of feeling proud to be Filipino was in 1992 seeing Lea Salonga on Entertainment Tonight when she was featured for her part in Disney's Aladdin. I was around 8 years old or so. Who doesn't love 'A Whole New World?' Then in 1995, I watched Lea on PBS as Eponine in the 10-year anniversary show of Les Miserables. That performance is one of my all-time favorites. I have adored Broadway, Disney and musicals since I was a kid, so seeing a Filipino on the television made me very happy - I saw someone who looked like ME achieving success. It was very empowering to see a Pinay hustle and become the person she is now. Actually these days, whenever I do see someone of Filipino ancestry gain success in any field, I feel proud because that shows that our people is a hard working one. We strive to be the best and make a statement in this world. I love seeing our kababayan enjoy the fruits of their labor.
My greatest dream is to be able to travel the world, meet fellow Filipinos, and just eat and eat! Filipino food, and food in general, is such an important aspect of my life. I have been working on the promotion of Filipino food for over 7 years, and through the years, I have met incredibly talented chefs and amazing people who share the same goals as I do. Recently, I traveled to the Philippines, explored my family's province, made my way around Manila, and ate the most delicious dishes - including some Filipino dishes I had never tasted before such as pancit pusit ng Cavite and kinunot. It was truly a life-changing experience. I would love to travel even more to gain more knowledge about Filipino food and other ethnic cuisines, eat, meet more people, and eat more.
Another dream of mine is to help open a Filipino food cultural center in the Bay Area that has a place for hands-on workshops and lectures, special pop-up dinner and events space for local and visiting chefs, and a library that will house all the Filipino cookbooks, memoirs, and historical documents for visitors to refer to. This center will be a hub for those interested to be educated about our food, culture, indigenous ingredients, and stories. Also a drive-through window for rotating chef specials because why not?"
I could only imagine what was going through my mom’s head when she was on her way from Manila to San Francisco in the early 1980’s. She has told me over the years that she chose to leave Pangasinan plus everything she knew to live in the United States so she can start a new and better life for her and me. I am grateful everyday for the opportunities that have been given to me as a result of her sacrifice. However, there was always a part of me that yearned for that connection with my heritage. Being a Filipino has never been a foreign concept for me. My family spoke in our native Ilocano. Lea, Pops, Roselle were on rotation. Our parties were always joyous and the food! Lechon, pinakbet, lumpia. The food was the constant star of our celebrations year after year growing up. We also made trips back to Pangasinan every two to three years. Our togetherness as a family was prevalent. The communities I associated with during college and the present have given me a sense of pride, but still, I felt I needed to experience the Philippines on my own terms, at my own pace. When I saw the call for applicants for the Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO) in the Spring of 2016, I knew it was my chance to finally make that connection.
Every year since 2012, ten delegates are chosen to visit the Philippines and they participate in various activities with the government and local communities while engaging in the culture and heritage of the Philippines. These delegates are to utilize the knowledge they brought with them and the knowledge they gain during their immersion trip to strengthen the ties between the Philippines and the United States.
After working on my application and sending it off to FYLPRO in July, I wondered how my work in Filipino food promotion would even help. A cruel realization came to me that I knew so little about what I was promoting. With the country’s regionality and diverse ecosystems and people, there was so much to learn and I made it my goal to go back to the Philippines whether or not I was chosen. Fortunately, in September, I was blessed to be selected as one of the ten delegates in Batch 5 to travel to Manila in November.
On the airplane to Manila, I looked back on all the trips I took prior. My last trip was in 2014. Before that 2011. And before that 2009. I was not unfamiliar with my family’s province, but Manila was going to be a challenge for me as I was traveling alone. For the first time. I then wondered how mom was when she travelled to San Francisco on her own. My grandpa, whom we fondly call Tatay, immigrated to the United States in the late 1970’s - at the height of government turmoil in the Philippines. Mom joined him in 1983 and I was born shortly after. Being the first grandchild born in the United States, there was always the expectation to make the family proud and to be the best I can be. They sacrificed so much to come to the United States and I felt it was my duty to do just that.
I knew the Philippines I would be seeing would be a whole different one from the Philippines I was exposed to as a child and even as a young adult. Citizens my age are now making decisions for the country. People like ME were making a difference in their communities. I felt proud, empowered, but terrified. Was I even worthy to be part of this group? Were mosquitos going to eat me alive? What if I couldn’t get good cellular service? Was I safe? The worrywart came out full throttle; nonetheless, I was incredibly excited to meet my batchmates and start on this new adventure because I was certain it was going to be an eye opening one.
The curators of the trip, (special thank you to Minnie, Joe and Joanna at the Ayala Foundation), made sure that the delegates had a healthy dose each of government exposure, cultural activity, hands-on community work, and time to reacquaint ourselves with the Philippines. Because my legacy project is focused on the progress of Filipino food, as well as its history and chefs, I made sure to create connections with those in the Filipino food industry.
Department of Foreign Affairs - We were given the opportunity to have a roundtable discussions with leaders at the Department of Foreign Affairs. We discussed everything from the government’s plan to create an infrastructure that will ensure the country's market growth in the future, to the Philippine foreign policy, budgets and targets, to the DFA's mission to promote Philippine interests in the global spectrum to more mundane things such as my love for Filipino food. It was a great honor to converse with DFA Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr., Assistant Secretary Maria Andrelita Austria of the Office of American Affairs, Director Reichel Quiñones of the Canadian Division, as well as with the representatives from the DFA, National Economic and Development Authority, National Commission on Culture and the Arts, and Department of Social Welfare and Development who were generous with their time.
Senate of the Philippines - Immediately after our visit to the DFA, we were ushered to the Philippine Senate to meet and converse with Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, and Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan. They graciously shared their programs regarding community advancement, leadership, and political and civic engagement.
Malacañan Palace - I never would have thought I would ever step foot at Malacañan. This place has so much history within its four walls. Paintings of all the presidents and their First Ladies, artifacts from the Martial Law era, and even the fine china used at special dinners were on display. It was such an honor to be there. This was also the perfect place for the traditional FYLPRO teleserye photo.
National Museum of the Philippines
Intramuros and Fort Santiago - Jose Rizal's jail cell with BamBikes Tours
Habitat for Humanity - Bistekville 4, Culiat, Quezon City
100 for 200 - Araw ng Pagbasa - Books for Youth with Ayala CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Vice President Leni Robredo - Ayala Museum, Makati
XO46 Heritage Bistro - Thank you to owner Andrew Masigan for feeding us until we couldn't eat anymore! On our first day, we were treated to a welcome dinner at XO46 Heritage Bistro in Makati where the servers spoke in old Tagalog and no English! Many of us have never heard that spoken before and it definitely added to the charm of the restaurant.
Mentorship: One important aspect of the FYLPRO immersion trip was to spend time with someone in the community who can mentor us in our fields. Mine is the promotion of Filipino food, and I was mentored with Mr. Masigan who gave me a tour of his properties, including XO46 in the S Maison Conrad which has a gorgeous dining room, inspired by the grand dining room at Malacanang, overlooking Manila Bay and his not-yet-opened Arroz Ecija in BGC. He also treated myself and Batch 4 alumna Nicole Ponseca of NYC's Maharlika and Jeepney to a sumptuous meal over a conversation about their beginnings in the restaurant industry and how to entice the masses to Filipino restaurants. The food was amazing - the pusit pancit from Cavite was my favorite!
Aristocrat with Mama Sita's
Rural Kitchen of Liliw, Laguna
I am incredibly grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Even though the trip was only 1 week long, I felt I became more connected to the Philippines and to my batch mates. We came from all over the country and from different backgrounds, but we all had something in common: we wanted to strengthen our ties to the Philippines because we know we have something valuable to offer. I admire the people I experienced this trip with and I am indebted to all those who helped make this trip possible.
Hi. I'm Jo.
Everything in this blog is mine. All photos, words, all of it. All views on this blog are mine. My views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer and the community organizations I work with. Do not use my words or screenshots of my website and blog without written permission.
At the end of the day, if you would like to know me more than what is said here, please feel free to message me and let's hang out or better yet, LET'S EAT!