What Food Means to Me: Kamayan during Homecoming and Fil-Am History Month

By Miguel Locsin, FINDink Contributor

It was late 2006, a few months before moving the America, when my Aunt issued this dire warning to me: “There are no mangoes in America.” I remember being so conflicted, so distraught, so confused. How could the fabled land of the free and big hamburgers not have my favorite dessert fruit? To me, mangoes, together with all my other favorite Filipino foods are my ultimate connection to my homeland culture. How was I supposed to survive in the United States

I moved to the US in 2007, and time went by steadily. One day went by, then a week, then a month. I eventually learned, of course, that there was this country called Mexico that was right next to America, and they made mangoes there that were about on par to the Philippine Mango, for my standards at least. I also learned that my grandma, who had been here in America since the 70s, was as amazing as a cook as the legends foretold. It has been about 10 years since immigration happened, and self-evidently, I am happy to say that I am still alive.

So why is food so important to me? The answer goes way beyond the fact that I biologically need food to survive. I enjoy eating. It nourishes my senses. Newly cooked, fresh food utilizes all my senses. I can see its different colors, smell its distinct odor, and hear a food’s unique sizzle and crackle. And there’s taste, which of course, is my primary predictor of one’s favorite cuisine. Through food, I relive experiences from the past. It makes me happy. And with the simple act of sharing a meal with other people, I realize that I can share my happiness and experiences as well.

As a board member at the College of William and Mary’s Filipino American Student Association, it was my goal from the very beginning to share these experiences with my fellow members, and just today (October 22 2017), we successfully did just that. Notably missing from my list of sensory nourishments was the lack of touch. People rarely feel their food with their own skin these days, and this is important, as touch can impart a lot of information. Eating a full meal with hands is an experience everyone must have at least once in a lifetime. So today, W&M FASA had a feast today to celebrate homecoming and Filipino-American History Month in the style of Kamayan, a traditional style of eating that predates the Spanish Colonizers. Contemporarily called “A Boodle Fight,” people dine with traditional Filipino food with no silverware of the sort, and with food sitting on top of banana leaves, only eating with hands.

By all accounts it was a fun and fulfilling experience, as we not only became really full, but also were able to connect with the Filipino Culture in a way that only Filipino food is capable of.

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Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.