This weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited (the other one I sort of invited myself lol) by two Filipino-American families to join them in two important religious events. After being colonized by Spain for 300 years, the Philippines became predominantly Catholic and takes the celebration of its religious traditions seriously. These events bring families and friends together which also means one thing gathering over food. When a Filipino family shares their meal with you, you are considered a family friend. Overseas, when they found out that you are visiting from the Philippines, the warmth and hospitality will be graciously extended to you.
Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May)
Clyde Diao, former long-time president of the Big Bend Filipino-American Association, Inc., a non-profit organization in Tallahassee invited me to join the Flores de Mayo celebrationon Saturday at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church. BBFAA conducts events and volunteer services with the Filipino-American communities in Tallahassee. He estimates that there are about 1,600 Filipinos currently living in Tallahassee. Clyde has also hosted Filipino ICMA fellows in the past.
When the lovely Kristen Kerr from the Tallahassee City Government mentioned that she is visiting her adopted Filipino family in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, I jokingly asked if I could come (this was what I meant by inviting myself over lol). I’m pretty sure it was homesickness talking but I’m glad I asked because it turned out to be a heartwarming celebration of family and faith.
We drove the scenic route from Tallahassee to Fort Walton Beach for 2.5 hours on Sunday to attend her goddaughter’s first communion. The first communion is a Catholic ceremony of receiving the Eucharist and is a big deal among children (usually when they reach the 2nd grade) as they are ushered into the Catholic faith.
I was warmly received by the Ferreira-Walker family whose matriarch Vicky Ferreira hails from Silay City, Negros Occidental, the same province where I was born and raised. Naturally, we ended up talking in our native language and shared experiences. Lola (Filipino for grandma), as she is fondly called by her grandchildren, has been successful in pursuing a career in nursing here in the US where she also married and raised her family.
The Filipino diaspora has since sent us working and living in different parts of the world. However, one thing’s for sure. Everywhere you go, a Filipino community or family would graciously extend their hands and table for you whether or not you are Catholic, and for this homesick Filipina, a taste of home.
Maraming salamat to the Diao and Ferreira-Walker families!
And to you Kristen Kerr for being awesome. 🙂