Parenting · Wellness

Pasalubong is Love made Edible

She is like the merchants’ ships; she brings her food from afar” Proverbs 31:14

Each time we go to Manila, my husband knows the drill. Whether we’re staying five days or four weeks, Dave knows that his clothes should fit his backpack – 2 pairs of shorts, 5 shirts, 5 underwear.

Each homecoming means at least four suitcases packed with pasalubong. And I don’t mean just chocolates and cookies. We bring at least 10 lbs of steak, 15 lbs of bacon – the thick kind from Stater’s, ham from Honey Baked, different flavors of liquid coffee creamer, and all kinds of cheese. 

I get at least one full cart of the seasonal chocolates – Valentines, Easter, Halloween. We don’t get these in the Philippines and I like to show my sons the changing of the seasons thru the chocolates. 

Halloween chocolates

My kids see America thru my eyes. The land of plenty, where bacon is thicker, a good steak is cheap and coffee creamer is cream and not the powdered kind. Food, plentiful and good, is the evidence of the goodness of the land.

Each food has a story to tell. I store each culinary experience in my mental file to be retold when I see them– candied bacon from a small diner in the Midwest, the huge steak in Texas, and the astronaut food from Houston space center. 

Astronaut food from Houston Space Center

Once, Dave got MREs so he can share with them a little bit of military life. It was fascinating for my sons to experience how American soldiers eat when at war. They still have dessert!

Since we can’t be together on American holidays, I bring the holidays to my kids. In two weeks, sometimes less, we try to cram and make up for all the occasions we missed in a year.

Thanksgiving dinner: Turkey, candied yams, green bean casserole

The first time we came home – we brought frozen turkey which Dave cooked for Noche Buena! We had Thanksgiving in December.

Another night, Dave hosted an all American BBQ night for my kids and their friends. He grilled bacon-wrapped steaks, cooked a huge pot of chili using Mexican chorizos and grilled corn. I made my version of Mexican street corn (elote) using mayonnaise, garlic powder, parmesan cheese – not just butter. 

My favorite Mexican grilled corn, Elote

Food, glorious food! Every time I come home, whether it’s June or December, it feels like Christmas to my family.

And because my youngest son is now in the US, these days, food is a way for my sons to share their brother’s new life – through his favorite American food-chocolate covered macadamia nuts, shelled pistachio and his favorite bread.

Food connects Carl back to his roots. I brought him his favorite coco jam, homemade biko made by a dear friend, bottled tuyo, and adobong mani.

Biko from RVB Food

Proverbs 31 talks about a noblewoman who brings food from afar. What is it about bringing food from distant places that earned a spot in the Bible? It is mentioned in the same breath as hard work, charity to the poor, and honoring her husband.

Maybe it does- when chocolate covered almonds from Costco represents hard-earned dollars, it teaches my kids the value of hard work. The expensive cheese I bring home to my mother is my way of honoring her sacrifice for us. 

My grandson Franco in a balikbayan box!

For my sons in the Philippines, the rich abundant food I bring home are images of my adventures. It also fills in the gaps of separation. Thru the stories we tell thru the food we bring, it tells my kids what went on when I was away.

It also lessens the pain because they know that the next time I come home, there is something wonderful and exciting. And I’ll have more stories to tell.

But I guess, the more important thing- this food brings hope. It is a promise of the good things to come in the land that awaits them.

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