Mabuhay! This is a very popular saying between people around the islands of the Philippines. Many use it to indicate good wishes as well as a kind greeting to one another. My grandma is Filipino, and growing up our family would visit her and my grandpa often on their plum farm in the Central San Joaquin Valley of California. My grandma loves to cook Filipino food, and the smell of lumpia (a Filipino Spring Roll that is fried) and pancit (The Filipino national noodle dish) would always greet us when we would visit their home. Our family gatherings were always packed with many relatives and a ton of food. New Years, Lunar
New Years, Good Friday and Christmas are all big holidays that are celebrated in the Philippines.
This means a ton of food and a ton of family getting together. Christmas was when most people would come visit our family. A huge Christmas tree would sit in the middle of the living room and we would always eat dinner together. It was my favorite time of the year because I got to catch up with all my cousins and Aunties, playing games for hours upon hours and of course all the amazing food everyone would bring. They would make Filipino foods such as lechon, pancit, rice, ribs, chicken adobo and tons of lumpia. This past July I attended a Filipino Friendship Festival in San Diego. It was to honor the partnership between the United States and the Philippines that happened in 1946. There were Filipino cultural dance and singing performances, and also the U.S. Navy Band played. There was also a vendor there who was giving out plumeria flower cuttings. I got handed a yellow one and was told I can wear it in my hair. There is also a meaning; if you wear it over your right ear it means that you are taken, and if it's over the left ear you are single and available to date
Growing up in the Philippines my grandma was surrounded by a lot of poverty. She lived in a Nipa hut (a home built with bamboo and coconut lumber that is on stilts) with her 7 siblings and 2 parents. Life was very hard. She was the oldest child in the family, and left school in the 8th grade so that she could go to work to help send her younger brothers and sisters to school. (In the Philippines you have to pay to go to school.) My mom learned how to sew, and also how to do hair, so that was how she made money to help her family. She met my grandpa when he was in the Philippines working for the military on Clark Air Base. After he left the military and came home to America he later bought her a plane ticket when she was 28 and they got married and moved to California, where they have their plum farm.
I decided to sit down and interview my grandma about her overall experience growing up in the Philippines. The weather in the Philippines was always super humid because it is hot they would wake up around 3 AM then go to sleep around 5 PM. They would wake up at 3 AM in the morning, which gave them an advantage to do all their work and harvest their rice crop when it was still pretty cool outside. Once it reached around 11 AM or 12 PM the humidity would get so bad to the point where they had no choice but stop harvesting and go inside to rest.. In their backyard they had rows and rows of rice grains growing. So each meal would have been based on how much they harvested. By the time it was around 5pm the sun would have already been set and it would be pitch black dark. Back then there was no radio or TV so they would often have their parents or other siblings tell them bedtime stories.
One of my favorite foods that I would make when I visit my Grandma’s house is lumpia. Lumpia is a type of Spring Roll that is filled with meat or vegetables and wrapped in a very thin rice wrapper. The wrapper is so thin that you can almost see through it. To make the lumpia, we’d take the rice paper and lay it on a plate. We would put a spoonful of filling we had made the day before. The filling usually consists of ground meat (depending on what was available, the meat used is ground pork, beef or chicken) and thinly sliced vegetables. Our filling normally contained ground beef with peas, carrots and corn. (Although, I liked making ones with just shredded chicken and potatoes). You want to position your rice paper so it looks like it's the shape of a diamond when you look down at it. After you make the filling you put it in the rice paper towards the bottom corner. Before you start wrapping you need to have a flour and water mixture ready because that's how you seal your lumpia. Fold over the corner of the rice paper over your filling then roll it over once. Then fold the corners on the sides in the finish, rolling it up. It won't stay sealed so take the flour water mixture and put a tiny piece on the final corner before folding it up. Once it's made you can fry it up in vegetable oil until it's golden brown.
I am grateful for all of the wonderful memories I have of my Grandma, and of all of the cultural experiences I have learned about the Philippines and the food and importance of family.