Op-Ed: Filipino Culture is More Than Just Lumpia

Have you ever had your entire culture summed up in one food dish? “I love lumpia!” is what I normally hear whenever people discover I’m Filipino American. However, lumpia does not define who I am, nor does it define the Filipino and Filipino American people.

As previously covered by NextShark, the San Francisco Chronicle’s unfortunate coverage of this year’s Pistahan Parade and Festival set the scene with the “scent of fresh lumpia” as its first sentence.

Image courtesy of Sabrina Pacheco, Pistahan Parade Director

I am the son of immigrants. Born and raised in San Francisco’s South of Market (SOMA) neighborhood, I attended Bessie Carmichael Elementary School, only four short blocks from the site of the annual Pistahan festival that was a fixture of my childhood. The point of the festival is to share my culture with friends from different cultures.

Yet the article reduced the Filipino culture to an exposition of food, bright bags, and calling out the current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. The controversial politics of Duterte have no connection to the local parade.

Image courtesy of Vas Kiniris

This year was particularly special because I was a judge at the parade, along with California Board of Equalization Chair Malia Cohen, Vas Kirinis of the SF Council of District Merchants Association, and Cherry Medina Franco of the Philippine Ballet Theatre. These allies and members of the Filipino community were at the parade to celebrate the energy, strength, and joy of the Filipino community. I wish the journalist could have seen that. Our culture does not define us due to one person currently in office.

Another point the Chronicle missed is that the parade expresses the Filipino community’s spirit to thrive. The Filipino community feels the same stress that many communities in San Francisco are experiencing due to a housing crisis and changing demographics.

Image courtesy of Vas Kiniris

It’s important the Filipino community remains in San Francisco. Building more housing that is affordable to working and middle-income residents will ensure that Filipinos rooted in SOMA continue to stay in SOMA. Housing for teachers will lead to more investment in education, so public schools like Bessie Carmichael can continue to develop and educate our future. Investments in an arts and culture complex, a “Barangay” community center, and a SOMA Pilipinas commercial corridor are needed to ensure foot traffic grows.

When more Filipinos are able to call San Francisco home, perhaps there won’t be superficial articles written about us because we will be visible enough to be seen beyond food.

Image courtesy of Mick Del Rosario

By having a thriving community, people can learn about everything the Filipino people offers. And if we are going to talk about food, we should include the popular Filipino cold dessert called halo-halo, which includes dozens of different sweet ingredients. You could say that Filipino culture is more than just lumpia. It’s a “halo-halo” (mix) of everything.

I invite all San Francisco journalists to join myself, and leaders of SOMA Pilipinas, for a tour of the cultural district. This is an opportunity to meet its merchants, residents, and community members. SOMA Pilipinas aims to preserve and promote the cultural legacy that the Filipino community holds in SOMA. Specifically, SOMA Pilipinas holds its mission enshrined in three main parts: cultural celebration, community development, economic and social justice. I believe this is an opportunity to put that mission to the test, by highlighting our community to the city, and to the world.

About the Author: Mick Del Rosario is born and raised in San Francisco’s South of Market district, and currently serves as an elected Delegate to the California Democratic Party. You can follow @mickdelrosario on Instagram and Twitter.

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