This month is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, where we recognize “the contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific island Americans to the history, culture and achievements of the United States.”
If there is one thing I miss the most, it is my family. To be more accurate, I miss my extended family. I spent the first decade of my life in Canada. On my mom’s side, my Nana had 23 grandchildren, of which 17 of us lived within an hour and a half driving distance. Almost every weekend, there would be some get together or family party to celebrate someone’s birthday or just because. Even when we moved to New York, we would visit at least once a month. As I grew older, the visits became less frequent but still about four times a year. We would always stay at my Aunt and Uncle’s at Scarborough. A good majority of my friends can attest to their hospitality, as well as my Uncle’s world famous breakfast. And at least one night of our stay, we would have those typical parties.
I was eleven when I realized these parties were different than the one most of my American friends would have. People did not take off their shoes. It was the strangest concept to me. The thought of not taking off my shoes at home, let alone one of my Tita or Tito’s was unheard of. We would walk around in socks or barefoot. They would even have spare tsinelas if you wanted. My parents would always bring something to the party. Incidentally, when I had my first birthday party, where I invited my school friends, everyone knew Paulo was Filipino because his mom showed up with the biggest watermelon I have ever seen in my life.
I was twenty when my friends thought I was crazy for taking a year off to care for my Nana. She was the one who raised me, while my mom was trying to finish school and work at the same time. My family also engrained the concept of respecting the elderly. When we would see our older relatives, we were taught to “mano po,” where we would take their hand, and they would press the back of theirs on our forehead. I remember my mom would ask, “Did you remember to bless?” “Mano po” was our way of asking for their blessing. When translated though, mano is Spanish for hand and po is a sign of respect.
Anyway, I had been planning on taking this photo for a few months now, but I never had the time or I could not flesh the concept. I knew setting up the scene would not be the easiest, neither would all the posing. I just wanted to do a photo in honor of my family and our memories. I am half Filipino. It is the culture I was surrounded by and grew up with. My mom likes to joke that I am the only kid of hers she couldn’t sell because my two sisters can’t understand tagalog. She thinks it’s because I spent two months in the Philippines when I was four, although it was also the main language spoken at home. I love to cook and one of the things I am most proud of is the moment I realized that all my favorite childhood dishes, I actually learned how to. It makes me wonder why I didn’t eat palabok, kaldereta and kare kare more often when I was younger.
Yesterday, the CDC announced that vaccinated Americans can go most places without a mask. Ontario is still on lockdown. I will need to wait a bit longer until I can visit my family. The one thing that does fill my heart with happiness is knowing that no matter how long it is since I have last seen them, when I do see them, it is like no time has passed. That is the best part of being family.
Side Note: Here are some references I added to the photo that if you’re Filipino you would understand. The Last Supper painting, big wooden spoon and fork, those calendars you get from the Asian grocery, karaoke mic, balut, kamayan, lechon and lumpia. Also, huge thank you to Ara, Hayden, Mauro and Taylor for helping me with the photo ❤
Clothes & Things
- Worn on Grandpa Deadwool – Luc Shirt
- Worn on Guy on Center Deadwool – Lucien Shirt & Broberry Jeans
- Worn on Guy on Right Deadwool – Luc Shirt & Kojima Jeans
- Skin worn from Poema (Grandma & Grandpa) – Odette & Kenji, The Skinnery – Jimin & Song and Stray Dog – Raul