Happy Filipino American History Month

A Catholic Church in Intramuros, the walled city, within the City of Manila, Philippines.

October is Filipino American History Month and a reminder for me to explore my Filipino American identity.  Last October I read a book by Anthony Ocampo called, “The Latinos of Asia. “ In the book the author talks about how your color depends largely on your social context. When checking the ethnicity box on applications or tests, sometimes there’s an option to put Asian American, sometimes Pacific Islander, and sometimes there’s a completely separate box for Filipinos.  Race largely depends on your social context. I grew up in a Filipino community in Los Angeles County, where Latinos and Asians are the collective majority.   I knew lots of other Filipino Americans and I grew up with dozens and dozens of cousins, aunts (titas) and titos (uncles) and people who weren’t really relatives but we called family.  I didn’t have to think much about being Filipina because there were so many other Filipinos around me.

In the book, “Latinos of Asia” the author says that Filipinos break the social constructs of race because we may phenotypically look Latino or Asian and our culture is so similar to Latino culture.  From our last names, to our religion, to our food and language. Learning now about the history of colonialism I am beginning to learn more about the Filipino culture. It’s all becoming more clear why there is so much overlap between Latinos and Filipinos. The authors states that his objective isn’t to push for categorizing Filipinos as Asians or Latinos but rather to provide a clearer sense of “how to address the social problems that continue to hinder the full inclusion of the Filipino American community within the imaginary of the American society.”

On my last trip to the Philippines I began to rethink my own identity.  While there my whole family took a walking tour in Manila led by Carlos Celdran, a political activist and performer.  We learned about the role of the Philippines in World War II while standing in an actual bomb shelter in the Walled City, called Intramuros which is Spanish for “within the walls.” It is the oldest district and historic core of Manila, the capital of the Philippines. There I learned about the resilience of the Filipinos and the torture and heartaches the Filipinos went through.  I’ve always known that to be Filipino, was to be Catholic but the history behind this all is making me better connect the two identities.

On a tricycle ride through Intramuros.

I’m pretty embarrassed that I am barely learning about the history of the Philippines but I am learning that Filipinos are the forgotten Asian Americans in America’s history. According to Dr. Kevin Nadal, Professor of Psychology at the City University of New York, “though Filipino Americans were the first Asian Americans to arrive in the U.S. in 1587 (33 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in 1620), little was written about the history of the Philippines or of Filipino Americans in the U.S. So although the U.S. had a long history with the Philippines (including the Philippine-American War, American colonization from 1899-1946, and much of World War II being fought in the Philippines), American history books have typically glared over any mention of the Philippines.”  I have always identified as a first-generation Filipino American.  But I think I am just starting to learn what that means. I knew very little about the 333 years the Spanish colonized the Philippines or little about the 50 years of the United States Imperialism. I’ve been to the Philippines nearly a dozen times but it was only on my last trip that I began to learn much more about Filipino history and began to appreciate and understand what it means to be Filipino American.  

I’m so glad that I have been able to travel to the Philippines and have been able to take my daughter twice now.  My children are biracial (1/2 Filipina and ½ white) and I often think about how my daughter and son will identify as they grow older.  Our home is filled with different books for our kids to read. I think it helps to show my daughter different faces and skin colors in hopes of slowly starting to talk about race and to allow her to appreciate the similarities and differences among her own friends and family.

My daughter eating a halo-halo, a popular Filipino dessert  (translated as mix-mix) which is also a great symbol of the mixture of cultures that make up the Filipino culture.

My interfaith, interracial marriage has forced me to think of ways that I raise my children. It has made me consider my own skin As a Filipino American mom, living and working in a context where I’m not in a large Filipino American community. I am thinking about the things I have to consider as I raise my daughter and son to help them form their own cultural and religious identity. For now we’ll start with recognizing Filipino American History Month.

Some of our books and flash cards so that my daughter (and eventually my son) can learn about Filipino culture and Tagalog words.

5 Steps for Planning a Birthday Party

My daughter turned 5 this past weekend. Her birthday landed amidst the chaos of moving, home closing, getting used to our back-to-school routine, and getting adjusted to life with a newborn. It’s been a little busy but I didn’t want to overlook celebrating her turning 5. We celebrated with a simple birthday party at a local doughnut shop with her closest friends and our family. It was easy to plan and my daughter had a blast. I do love planning parties and used to be a party planner years ago when I lived in Los Angeles. Of course the key is scaling it all down for a kid’s party. Here is how I planned my daughter’s 5th birthday in 5 easy steps.

  1. Choose a venue: Throughout my pregnancy I was craving donuts so needless to say, my daughter and I spent a lot of those 9 months with trips to the donut shop. We love Glazed and Infused donuts so I asked the shop if they would host a kids party. Unfortunately our local store was too small but they directed us to another store in a nearby neighborhood. It was still small with a maximum capacity of 25 people but they were able to host our party. I selected a 2 hour time slot of 10am-12pm.  For $75 we had the back table area to ourselves, party plates, decor, balloons, and of course donuts!20170924_095357
  2. Narrow down the guest list: The venue basically set the guest capacity for me. I could only invite a few people since the 25 max capacity included both adults and kids. I had my daughter choose 5 friends from her class, 2 friends outside of class, and her family. We had one parent per child attend (although I guess looking back we could have done a drop-off party).  wp-image-618019829
  3. Pick a theme: My daughter and I love donuts but we also have a love for Tokidoki and Donutella. I love choosing a theme for every party. It makes planning easier for me and when we look back my daughter references her birthday parties by themes. 1st birthday Music theme, 2nd birthday: Under the Sea theme, 3rd birthday: US Presidents theme, 4th birthday: Dia De Los Muertos theme, and 5th birthday: Donuts & Donutella. Picking a theme narrows down what party goods you’ll need. I picked up a few donut themed plates, napkins, cups, party favors, garland, and a tablecloth for about $35 . My daughter already had donut dresses and headbands so that made it easy for dressing her up to match her theme.wp-image-871802737
  4. Food: Since were were having the party at 10am we kept it simple with breakfast food. The donut shop had a variety of coffee drinks, juice, and milk that was just ordered by our guests and added to our tab. Before heading to the party I stopped by Whole Foods and picked up a dozen bagels, cream cheese, a fruit platter, and yogurt. The donut shop had three plates of cake donuts (yellow cake, chocolate, and red velvet).  For the birthday girl’s cake, I took 2 of the cake donuts and topped it with a “happy birthday” candle. I figured the kiddos wouldn’t need more sugar so no need for a separate birthday cake.wp-image-1608144846
  5. Enjoy the party! We had the kids decorate the donuts with a variety of toppings: chocolate or vanilla glaze, rainbow sprinkles, mini m&ms, and crushed oreos. They all had a blast creating their donut masterpieces and it was a fun and simple activity for them to do. We kept it simple and it seemed like everyone had a great time. The birthday girl had so much fun and I’m glad she was able to celebrate with her friends and family.wp-image-55198120

I still remember my 5th birthday party. We celebrated at the McDonald’s in our neighborhood and I had so much fun with all my friends and family. I’m hoping my little girl will remember this past birthday with the same happiness that I still have for mine.

Baby J’s Baptism & Hebrew Naming

J’s Hebrew naming certificate and baby whale party favor. J is named Yonah Natan after my husband’s late father.

A few weeks ago sweet baby J was baptized and had the Hebrew naming ceremony. It was a beautiful Interfaith ceremony held at Old St. Patrick’s Church and coordinated by the Interfaith Union. Fr. Tom Hurley and Rabbi Ari Moffic were Co-Presiders at a ceremony that blended both the Jewish and Catholic faith. My husband is Jewish and I am Catholic but we want to expose our children to both faiths. For Catholics, a baptism is one of the seven sacraments and it is when babies are welcomed into the Catholic faith and freed from the original sin they are born with. In Judaism, with the bestowing of Hebrew names, children are linked with their ancestors and their Jewish heritage. We as parents are granted blessings so that we may know the joy of teaching our children the virtues of reverence, Torah, and good deeds.

When I was pregnant with baby J, I knew I wanted him to be baptized just as my daughter was baptized at Old St. Pat’s but with my husband being Jewish, I wanted to find a way to incorporate his faith in our son’s life. I wasn’t sure where to begin, finding a way to do an interfaith ceremony but luckily I was introduced to jBaby at a Bump Club event. My husband and I met with our jBaby Parent Ambassador and were connected to a rabbi that presides over interfaith ceremonies. We were also welcomed into a community of other young families of Jewish faith in Chicago.

My ohana with Co-Presiders, Fr. Hurley and Rabbi Moffic, and Godparents Manilyn (my cousin) and Ed (my brother-in-law).

I was raised in a devout Roman Catholic family.  Being Filipina-American and Catholic are part of my identity and who I am. Actually it’s pretty hard to separate the Filipino culture apart from the Catholic faith, they seem to intertwine in so many ways. That being said, being Catholic played a huge role in who I have become as an adult. I taught religious education (CCD), was a Lector for years in our home parish,  and even went to a World Youth Day in Paris to see Pope John Paul II.

Before meeting my husband I did not know much about Judaism. Growing up in a suburb of LA, mostly all my classmates were Filipino or Latino. I wouldn’t think that Catholics had much in common with those of the Jewish faith but as Father Hurley said during the ceremony, if you peel away the layers you will see the beauty and commonalities of both religions. Being married now for a year I see that there are actually so many things in common with both the Filipino culture and Jewish culture. We have similar values and place a great deal of importance on family, education, and tradition.

With tonight being the Jewish New Year, it made me think of the traditions and rituals I grew up with to celebrate the New Year. For Filipinos, we came together at a relatives house to eat noodles to symbolize long life, wore polka dots to symbolize wealth and had a variety of round-shaped fruit in our home on New Year’s Eve to symbolize prosperity in the new year.

In the Jewish faith,  food such as apples dipped in honey is a tradition for Rosh Hashanah to symbolize a sweet new year. Both cultures customarily feast and drink with family and friends to gather and celebrate the new year. I can think of countless other ways that our culture and faith are similar but ultimately my husband and I have values of love, loyalty and compassion which are universal values in many cultures.

We want to raise baby J to be somewhat of a hybrid Filipino-Jew. We will continue to expose him to both faiths and allow him to explore his own identity as he gets older. We want to ensure that we are blending both the Filipino Catholic faith along with the Jewish faith. Luckily for us, we belong to a parish that is progressive, open-minded and welcoming. This quote was written on baby J’s program and I think it’s a great way of exemplifying why my husband and I wanted to honor each other’s faith during baby J’s baptism and Hebrew naming. “As Christians and Jews, following the faith of Abraham, we are called to be a blessing to the world. This is the common task awaiting us. It is therefore necessary for us, Christians and Jews to first be a blessing to each other.” —   Pope John Paul II. So to my Jewish friends and family, “Shanah Tovah.”

urban ohana: Top 12 items to pack in my hospital bag

I recently had my second baby, well he’s 8 weeks old now! I have been wanting to document my mommy life. I have friends that just recently had their first babies and my best friend is having her first soon too. I’m so excited for all these future friendships my little one will have. I have always had a love for journaling but life with two has left no time for that. Life is busy but I thought that taking a few minutes for myself to sit down and write would make me feel like I had a little more control of my time and my thoughts.


I’m nearing the end of the newborn days and I wanted to list out all the things I brought with me to the hospital before I completely forgot what I packed. My new mommy friends have asked me what to pack and what worked for me. So here are my suggestions:


  1. Ergobaby Natural Curve Nursing Pillow: Breastfeeding can be difficult, especially in the beginning since newborns have no head control. This nursing pillow helped me with the weight of the baby and also assisted my 4 year old daughter when she held little brother for the first time.
  2. Oat Mama Lactation Granola Bar: I found myself hangry the whole time I was at the hospital so I made sure to pack a whole bag of snacks. Sure the hospital has room service but it took 60 minutes from the time of ordering to arrive. These bars are delicious, filling, and they help boost milk supply! This is the s’mores flavor which was amazing. I will add that I also had a lactation consultant, Judy Teibloom-Mishkin from Lactation Partners, to support me (the same one I used with my first born). She came to my home the day after I was discharged and she is such an incredible resource for my breastfeeding journey.
  3. Monica + Andy Bodysuit: Ever the planner, I wanted to make sure I had Baby J in the softest and cutest outfit for his first photos ever. Monica + Andy have a full organic, modern layette with so many fun prints to choose from. This one is the Little Kahuna print, which I adore!
  4. Motherlove Nipple Cream: Again, breastfeeding can be tough and tough on those nipples! I made sure to bring my own nipple cream, which is 100% organic and does not need to be wiped off before nursing.
  5. doTerra Essential Oils: I swear by my essential oils and used them during both pregnancies. I was able to have an unmedicated birth with both babies with my go-to labor oils. I love Serenity, which is a calming blend, which helped me stay relaxed. I also brought Wild Orange to help energize me during labor. Deep Blue Rub was an absolute must all over my low back to help relieve the pain and relax my muscles.
  6. Fridababy Momwasher: Talk about luxurious peri care! I didn’t have to use the crappy ketchup bottle from the hospital. Trust me, it is worth the $16!
  7. Kieihl’s Damage Repairing & Rehydrating Conditioner: Bring your own toiletries! I brought all my own toiletries to make those 2 nights as comfortable as possible. Those little motel bar soaps won’t cut it!
  8. doTerra Petal Diffuser: I brought a diffuser to use in the labor and delivery room and in my recovery room to help make my room cozy and relaxing. All the nurses kept commenting about how lovely my room smelled.
  9. Honest Newborn Diapers: I love the Honest diapers. Being an eco-concious mom I wanted something eco-friendly with both my first born and my newborn but could not fathom the idea of cloth diapering. These premium diapers are a happy medium for me. Not to mention all the fun, cute prints they offer.
  10. Monica + Andy Coming Home Blanket and Newborn TopKnot Cap: We set up a layette appointment and Melissa, the Guideshop Manager, was great at helping us customize and select the prints and pieces we wanted for our little one. We chose a few essentials and had Baby J’s coming home blanket customized. These were all great for his first photos at the hospital.
  11. Monica + Andy Prima Ballerina Dress: We knew we wanted to make big sis feel special so we got her a beautiful twirly dress all wrapped up in a cute box from little brother. We gave it to her at the hospital and she was so thrilled to open it right after meeting her new sibling.
  12. PureBarre Non-Slip Socks: The nurses ask you to put on non-slip socks once leaving the labor & delivery room, so why not wear some cute ones instead of the thin, ugly hospital ones? I was dedicated to PureBarre during my pregnancy and loved these socks: inhale tacos, exhale negativity!
  13. JuJuBe Be Right Back Backpack: I packed it all in this beautiful diaper bag that I am now using daily. It’s super functional with lots of compartments and pockets. I LOVE that this bag is machine washable! This is the Queen of the Nile Print. There are so many fun designs, the challenge is not buying them all!

There you have it, my hospital essentials! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more stories about my little ohana. Follow our adventures @urbanohana.