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Food, Crafts, and Fun to Celebrate Filipino American History Month

Here’s how my family eats, dances, and makes memories all throughout Filipino American History Month!

Dominic Arenas

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Heeral Chhibber

During the month of October, we celebrate a lot of things: fall foliage, birthdays, Halloween, LatinX Heritage Month...and Filipino American History Month! To me, a first-generation Filipino American, it is a time to embrace my heritage, jam out to my favorite tunes by Filipino American artists, line dance and karaoke, eat lots of great food, and spend quality time with my family! 

Filipino American History Month (FAHM) is celebrated in the United States during the month of October to commemorate the arrival of the first Filipinos who landed in what is now Morro Bay, California on October 18, 1587. Filipino Americans are the second-largest Asian American group in the nation and their contributions to all facets of society — civics and public service, the health field, entertainment and pop culture — are immense. 

The proper way to celebrate? Well, there is none. BUT...but I do know Filipinos and Filipino Americans (including myself) love food, singing and dancing, and having loads of fun with our family. Cue up Bruno Mars and Olivia Rodrigo’s greatest hits, grab a spoon and fork, and enjoy my recommendations on how to celebrate Filipino American History Month.

Have a Kamayan!

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Don’t let sweet treats be the only thing you’re having this month! Filipino cuisine is a blend of many food profiles across the world: Chinese, Spanish, Mexican, American, and Malay. It’s hard to choose a favorite Filipino dish, so why not have multiple...AT THE SAME TIME? A Kamayan is a family feast that puts a variety of different dishes on the table — and pulls all the family members together.

And here’s the best part: Kamayans are feasts unlike any other — because you eat with your hands! (In fact, Kamayan translates to “eat with hands” in English.) Also known as a "boodle fight," this tradition began in the Filipino military when quick meals had to be served to troops and there was no time for laying out plates and utensils. In my family and the larger Filipino and Filipino American community, feeding each other is a way we demonstrate love and celebrate family! Pro tip: To avoid the meat sweats and heartburn, take your time, enjoy the company, and savor the meal!

Try an Ube Dessert

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Ube has been a staple in Filipino cuisine for a very long time, but it has taken the food scene and internet by storm in the past few years. The purple yam can be found (and eaten) in many Philippine dishes, so it’s time for you to get in on the craze and enjoy its hints of vanilla and sweet flavor. My favorite way to eat Ube? CAKE, CAKE, CAKE (Rolls)

Everybody to the Dance Floor...It’s Time to Line Dance!

Ok, so I don’t know the exact origins of why Filipino Americans love line dancing, but I do know it’s been a staple in my family since I could walk. I probably started dancing and singing in the crib — and I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case for most Filipino Americans! It doesn’t matter if it’s Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart,” Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September,” or Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” — if the song has a catchy beat, I guarantee you there’s a Filipino family line dance for it.  

Craft a Holiday Parol

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Once September rolls around, it’s time to decorate the house for the holidays. And by holidays, I don’t mean Halloween or Thanksgiving, but the December ones. Why do we Filipinos get into the holiday spirit so early? I think it’s because — apart from the food, festivals, presents, and parties — Christmas is a time where Filipinos are reminded of their sense of community and family. Extended family in other parts of the world and cousins who you have never met gather as one for HUGE parties. Sure the food is amazing and the karaoke pipes may be unmatched, but at the heart of what really makes a Filipino Christmas so special is being together as a family. 

Get in the mood early and gather your family to make a Philippine Parol! A Parol is a Filipino ornamental lantern displayed during the holidays to symbolize the victory of light over darkness, hope and goodwill, and that homes are open and ready to receive Jesus. Start collecting rubber bands, heat up those glue guns, stock up your favorite colors, and get crafting (and ready for Christmas)!

Traditions, laughter, feasting, and celebrating with the family are at the core of my Filipino American identity. I celebrate my family’s history and my heritage every day, and I’m happy to invite you and your family to sumali sa lahat ng kasiyahan (join in on all the fun)!