FROM THE DESK OF: Aiza
Over the weekend, Nina, Deo and I shared memories growing up in an immigrant family. While not necessarily unique compared to other Filipino-Americans, our experiences are definitely different than our second generation cousins, nieces and nephews who grow up with today’s modern conveniences and access.
When I was in elementary school, many weekends were spent down in Bonita, California to spend time with our large extended family. My parents, sister and I would take a drive down to San Diego to hang out, pick up pandesal and basically celebrate any occasion possible- a wedding, a birthday, a sunny day, name it. Although relatively average in size, my Lola’s house felt the size of mansion with multiple bedrooms and a swimming pool. Remember those days in 6th grade when a swimming pool was all you needed to make for a great Saturday?
I want to say at least anywhere from 15-25 relatives would spend the weekend together. Saturdays compromised of endless food, live singing, swimming and then more singing into the late night. All our family slept together spread out throughout the living room floor during these weekend visits. It was with my extended family, I learned the meaning of banig. In these moments, I understood sleeping on the floor is always an option.
One such visit, relatives brought a live pig to Bonita. All us young ones were encouraged to come outside and take a look at this large alive pig. Excitement of fresh animal had our family joking around and jolly. If digital cameras were around during this day, I’m sure we all would have uploaded pictures to Facebook posing with this pig.
As for me, I remember thinking, Wow, a pig. In the backyard?
Early the next morning, I woke to loud repeated piercing screams. When you spend family slumber parties with 15-25 relatives you learn quickly how to ignore raucous to get some extra sleep. Despite the noise, I kept sleeping and remained ignorant to my family’s activities in the backyard.
Later that day, I walk down to the dining room and found a lechon perfectly placed on the dining table surround by other Filipino dishes. This centerpiece proudly displayed for whatever family occasion would take place that day. As I stared at this roasted pig, my brain slowly started to register our upcoming lunch: Live pig? Squealing? Roasted pig? Reality sunk in as I figured out that my own relatives just roasted a pig in the backyard. Wait, I’m in San Diego, right?
As my horror grew and I shared my realization with my family. Instead of sympathy, uncles instead just laughed and seriously asked, Who wants to put the apple in his mouth?
Maybe it was seeing an actual living pig the previous afternoon or maybe it was the pig’s intense squealing or maybe it was the vision of my uncle ripping the ear off the lechon and joyfully chowing down in my face but to this day, I still can’t eat from a lechon in a whole form unless it is cut up or made into a soup. (I even tried finding an image to post up here to those who might not know what a lechon looks like, but the image freaks me out).
Nina, Deo and I agreed the generation that follows us unfortunately would miss out on the memories of our immigrant family slumber parties and feasts. Admittedly, I’m slightly traumatized by a live pig roast in Bonita, California 20+ years ago. But to this day, I still look forward to family weekends together for any occasion. Banig and all-minus the lechon though.