Christmas for most immigrants is the time when they think about friends and family from the old country. The season also reminds many immigrants of the Christmas tradition and culture of their homeland including the many delicious foods that go with the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Many Filipino immigrants claim that they dreamed of celebrating “White Christmas” while still in the Philippines but after experiencing it, they have a “change of heart” and they now say that they miss Christmas in the Philippines. This explains why many Filipinos around the world travel to the Philippines during the month of December.
Here in the United States, we see an extraordinary number of “balikbayans” with their balikbayan boxes that are full of goodies lining at the check-in counters of airlines when Christmas time approaches. In airports, we often overhear many balikbayan travelers talking about how they will spend their Christmas vacation in the Philippines including conversations about the Filipino foods and delicacies that they crave and desire to have while in the Philippines.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the annual Parol Lantern Festival and Parade in San Francisco brought back the “Taste of Filipino Christmas” (also known as “Patikim ng Pagkaing Pampasko”) last year after the Patikim was shelved some years ago.
It is a brilliant idea to do a parol festival and the Taste of Filipino Christmas at the same time.
First, we as a people have a long held tradition of making parol lanterns and holiday Christmas decorations. Parol lanterns remind us of the Philippines including its Christmas culture and tradition. On the other hand, the Taste of Filipino Christmas is a food showcase where traditional Philippine Christmas foods are served to help reconnect overseas Filipinos to the Philippines and to their rural and agricultural roots. The Patikim also introduces non-Filipinos to our culture and our rich culinary tradition.
I still remember when the parol festival was first started in 2003 at the Yerba Buena Gardens. Filipino delicacies like suman, puto-kutsina, bibingka, arroz-caldo, and many other rice-based “kakanins” were served.
Most of these delicacies for Christmas are made from rice and agricultural produce like ube, coconut, taro root, yams, and cassava. From there, I started appreciating the connection between Filipino Christmas and agriculture and how a bountiful harvest contributes to the richness and blessings of the Filipino Christmas table. This connection is more visible in Philippine rural areas where agricultural is the main industry and livelihood.
Following what Pope Francis said that Christmas has been “taken hostage” by dazzling materialism and that it blinds many of us to the needs of the hungry, the migrants and the war weary, we should also realize the value and contributions of other people in our lives and in our livelihood including the community of farmers who produce the food that we eat daily.
In the Philippines, the “mall culture” of consumerism and conversion of agriculture lands into subdivisions and mall development real estate is putting agriculture in peril and jeopardy. What will happen if agriculture is totally neglected in the country?
Christmas then should also bring the message of loving and taking care of our farms and our farmers. It should inspire and influence young people to take interest in natural and sustainable agriculture and to advocate for its growth and protection. Christmas and our Christmas food table can also play a big part part in educating us and our loved ones to “go back to the basics” and to embrace healthy living and healthy foods as we celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ.
Come to think of it, even before slow-food and slow-food preparation became popular and acceptable worldwide as healthy alternatives to fast food, our ancestors and elders in the Philippines have been slow-cooking their food for many years. For starters, just think about how ube halaya and kalamay are made!
So please if you have time, come join us at the social hall of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church (on Mission Street between 3rd and 4th Street) this Saturday, December 9, 2017 between 3-5PM for the Taste of Filipino Christmas. The parol and lantern parade will follow immediately after the conclusion of the Taste of Filipino Christmas.
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California. His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases. Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336. You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at www.liangcolaw.com.