June is Philippines Heritage Month, so one of SEIU-West's Multicultural Mentorship Committee members caught up with Michelle Beveridge, Chief of Staff for the Office of Mayor Charlie Clark. Here's what she had to say about being Filipino.
June 12 is Philippines Independence Day and a good time to reflect on what it means to be Filipino. My mom came from the Philippines to the U.S. on a nursing scholarship, moved to Saskatoon to take classes at the U of S in Continuing Education, and then taught nursing at Kelsey Institute (what is now SaskPolytechnic). It was 1965 when she arrived here and she remembers there were fewer than 20 Filipinos in the city. She met my dad, a ‘born and raised in Saskatchewan’ boy, and slowly brought over the rest of her family. When I was 5, my Apong (grandpa) and two uncles came to live with us until they got jobs and my mom found them a house a block away from us. Then my Lola (grandma) arrived with my two aunts, and they moved into the house. That house became a gathering place for other Filipino families and I remember what seemed like weekly BBQs and a house constantly full of loud talking and laughing.
I quickly realized that loving and sharing food is a big part of being Filipino. When I told my Mom that I was writing this reflection on what I appreciate about being Filipina, she joked I should say “eating bacon.” Pork is a big deal to Filipinos. Same with rice. That was the first dish I was taught to cook when I was really young: how to rinse the rice until the water runs clear and then fill water in the pot up to your first knuckle. Food is the love language. I remember not seeing my uncle for a couple of years and then I ran into him riding his bike along the Meewasin. The first thing he said to me, before even asking how I was doing, was “Do you want any garden carrots?”
There are so many other ways I appreciate the Filipino in my upbringing – music and dancing, brutally honest straight talk even in uncomfortable situations, appreciation for fishing and basketball. But perhaps what I love the most is how my Lola and my Mom used to kiss me as a child and how I see other Lolas and Moms kiss their kids, grandkids, any kids they love. They don’t pucker up and use their lips to kiss. They instead get their lips out of the way and press their nose into the child’s skin, and then breathe, as though they are inhaling the very essence of that child deep into their body. That’s the Filipino way - intense and full of life. Happy Independence Day to all the Filipinos out there!