food is sacred.

Soy Lime Marinated Beef, dressing made with Chef Rossy Earle's Diablo Verde hot sauce on rice noodles (a dish I made recently)

Some recent conversations about food I’ve had with friends in Toronto and New York prompted me to write about it today. I was raised with an almost sacred view of food. I realized how much this has contributed to my perspectives, love and respect for food of all types as an adult. Some of the unwritten rules around food in my childhood were:  

 · try everything once (especially food you’re afraid to try; there were very, very few exceptions)

· never scoff at food you don't necessarily care for (esp. when at people's home cooked dinners or even restaurants) because that would be extremely disrespectful to whomever prepared it – and to food, in general

· meals are enjoyed together and talked about at length

· nothing is ever wasted (before the ‘nose-to-tail’ was ever a trendy thing, poorer countries practiced this as a given), so excess was frowned upon

· processed/packaged food wasn’t readily available in the Philippines and also more expensive. Therefore nearly everything was cooked fresh (thankfully) 

· you ate everything on your plate because so many children around go hungry everyday so a clean plate was a sign of gratefulness

· when dining on the beach, you ate with your hands on picnic tables lined with banana leaves 

All of this taught me to enjoy and respect food as much as I do today. I think it’s normal to have personal preferences. But a narrow-mindedness about food and scoffing at food you didn’t like was looked down upon and simply not allowed when I was growing up. So it drives me crazy when I see narrow-mindedness now. I feel lucky and grateful to have had the upbringing that I had. I love that I was brought up this way. I love seeing children who are growing up with a wider palate and an open-mindedness about food. I have my parents —especially my mom— to thank for this. I was never the kid who was fixated by eating candy. Nor was I allowed to be picky. I was always more interested dinner (not to mention, dessert). Filipino culture centres so much around food in many ways too. So none of this is a surprise. I lived there until I was almost 12 before moving to California. Food was the other religion. Meals were, in essence, pure love and joy. Meals were everything. Not much has changed today.

Living in New York starting in 1999 only helped enhance and widen my perspective and palate. I'm surrounded by even more people over the past two+ years who regard food in this same way in Toronto. It's an endless journey of discovery. It's so fantastic and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 


Valerie & Mark

Last spring, my sweet cousin Valerie broke the news that she and Mark, her long-time boyfriend, got engaged. She soon thereafter contacted me for advice on graphic design and photography for the big day. She wanted my insight on her shortlisted photographers so we went back and forth via email. In the end, she chose Jen Huang. I am thrilled with the result and so thrilled for her and Mark. The wedding and reception (April 28th, 2012) were absolutely gorgeous. Valerie looked stunningI loved the attention to detail. The photos really captured it all beautifully. The photos were even featured in Style Me Pretty magazine this June issue (pages 112-119). 

The Highlands Country Club in Garrison, New York was such an elegant setting for the reception – one of the best that I've seen. Plus, it was also so much fun! The evening included making smores around the firepit outside – white pashminas and cigars that were provided for everyone was a nice touch. 

A big congratulations again to my cousin Valerie and Mark! xoxo Love you both. 



old photos are gems : part 2

Back in October, I posted an old photo of my maternal relatives. It's a lot more unusual for me to see old photos of my father's side of the family. I loved seeing these. It may very well be the first photo I've ever seen of my great grandmother (center) and the first time I've ever seen such a large group photo of my paternal relatives. 

Take a WILD guess which one my father is. It's so obvious, it's hilarious. He's the man with the thick framed glasses on the left (he's standing directly behind his dad, my grandfather). Funny that decades later, we would share similar taste in eyewear! I love the suit and the hairstyle as well. Well done, Pa.  

I also love this photo below. I love how handsome my grandparents look here. My dad is second from the right. The look on his face already showing a faint defiance – a hint of the little trouble maker he apparently grew up to be. Ha!

old photos are gems

With my mom and her mom both celebrating October birthdays (14th, 28th, respectively), it was only fitting to share another recently discovered gem of a photo. It's a follow up to the photo I posted in July. Thanks to my cousin Joel for sharing photos he recently unearthed in Manila. That's my lola (grandmother) in the middle, my parents to the right and my my mom's sister-in-law, sister and brother-in-law to the left. This must have been in the very early 70s. I love how elegant everyone looks. My mom looks like a teenager here. But she had to have been in her early 20s. Whenever I see old family photos, I feel like I know my family just a little bit more. And I love that.

Happy October birthdays to Mama & (my late) Lola! 

learning legacies 2

My cousin Joel sent me this photo of my Lola (grandmother) and her kids that I have never seen before. Her name was Leonarda – Lony for short. Doesn't she look fantastic?! I love that she looks so relaxed and elegant. My mom is the one to the right of my grandmother. I've seen very few photos of my mom at this exact age. It inspired me to write another post about my family history as a kind of follow-up to my post last year. Another thing that inspired me today is a comment someone left on my old blog about my ancestors. It was nice to be reminded of your ancestry.

My Lola lost her husband, my grandfather Tomas, when he was only 51 years old. He suffered from severe asthma for years and eventually lost the battle. Back then, there were limited options for treament. I never actually had the chance to meet him. He probably took this photo, now that I think about it. My grandma was left to raise six kids on her own. From what I can recall, her family was fortunate enough to own several pieces of property in and around Manila. She earned a living collecting rent from tenants of several apartment buildings. I still remember going with my grandma to collect rent. Between raising six kids and managing property, she also spent a great deal of her time volunteering for an organization that helped the poor. I also remember accompanying my grandmother many times to visit the sick and the poor. Even as a child, I found this to be very humbling. She would always bring them baked goods that she made. She would sit, hold the hands of, and and talk with people who were sick. It was all very much a part of what my Lola was about. The Lola I remember was eternally (and fiercely) independent, generous, sassy and charming. She wasn't afraid to speak her mind. She had to. During the 60s until she passed during the 90s, she was on her own. It's also great to learn that she descends from a long line of strong women — matriarchs. This of course means that I, too, (along with my mom and her sisters) are part of this lineage. I realize that it's a big part of who I am, too. That's something that's to be proud of. 


papa's day

I love this photo of my dad. It was taken on our big island-hopping trip in the Philippines in 2006. That's my sister behind him, by the way. Not me. Our parents often can't tell us apart in photos and in sunglasses. 

Happy Father's Day, Pa! 

Love you. 


my dad, birthday boy

This is a hand-tinted black and white photo of my father that I recently restored. I'm guessing he was in second grade here – his First Communion portrait. He looks so adorable here with that sweet face and that bow tie. And check out the very ominous looking shadow of a crucifix behind him. I like the unlit candle, too. Oh, Catholicism. I took liberties with toning down some of the colour – too generously and inappropriately applied in certain areas. I think my dad was pleased with the result.

Happy Birthday, Papa :)  
June 2nd

mama styling

It's already Mother's Day where my mom is. So I figured, a slightly early post would be just fine. 

That's my mom in the center of the photo with her cousins next to her. I recently finished restoring this image. I love this photo so much. Everything about it.  I even kept the skewed angle it had originally been scanned in. Perhaps it's simply because I love her look in this photo. She's beautiful. It must have been taken of her in the 60s before I was ever born. I really first learned about style and how to love clothes from my mom. She did dress me and made a lot clothes for my sister and me when we were young. It made me think: my mom was my original stylist! ;) 

Thanks, Mama. Happy Mother's Day! 

I love you.


powerful inspiration : people power

Perhaps the most inspiring experience that came out of my Montreal trip was finally getting to see People Power – a very powerful and moving play about the non-violent revolution in the Philippines back in 1986 that lead to the toppling of former president Marcos' nearly 20 year corrupt dictatorship. It was written from diverse points of view, all seamlessly represented by the cast. All of it honouring the unsung heroes of the revolution: such as the people of the working class and the activists. Not only was my sister, Christine part of the brilliant cast, she is also part of the CBT Collective that wrote this smart, rich, multi-dimensional, modern, sensitive (and sometimes humourous!) piece of theatre. Not only is my sister active in her theatre work, she's also a talented freelance art director and designer like me! I loved seeing this play and was incredibly inspired by the role my sister played in it's creation. 

Toronto-based, Carlos Bulosan Theatre is also lead by another good friend of mine, Nadine Villasin, who is the theatre's artistic director. My other, multi-talented sister Caroline also designed the costumes and my brother-in-law was responsible for the sound design. I am pretty amazed and humbled to be surrounded with such talent and creativity here in Canada.

People Power has received numerous accolades. Not the least of which are the several Dora nominations for many cast and crew members as well as a Dora Award* winning actor, Nico Lorenzo Garcia for his very moving portrayal of an average Filipino taxi driver in People Power

*The Dora is the Canadian equivalent of the Tony Award)

If you happen to be in the Montreal area between now and October 2nd, go see People Power. There are five shows left before it closes. You will be as inspired and moved as I was. 

Photos by Reese Baguio

family and fire

On Tuesday of this week, my sister and her husband's house caught on fire. It was a fire that started in their neighbour's basement.
Thankfully, NO ONE was hurt – including their two dachshund dogs. It's particularly heartbreaking because this is their first home. They
just bought it late last year. The extent of the damage is still being determined but it's safe to say, it was significant enough for
them to have to likely move out for a while. This fire just makes me realize how much I need to be  closer to my family and how much
I miss them. And isn't this a great photo of them? 

Photo By Alex Felipe

portrait at the barbershop

my dad at the barbershop, toronto

I took a blog break last week to spend time with my dad. He was visiting New York, New Jersey and Toronto from Manila. I asked my sister Caroline to take some portraits of him. It had been a while since either one of us took proper portraits of him. I was excited about what she would come up with given all the recent family photo restorations that I've been working on as well as conversations about family history.
During his visit to Toronto, my sisters took my dad to Mankind – a spa and barbershop just for men. I must mention that my dad is no stranger to spa treatments. He's what we might refer to nowadays as "metrosexual." Only I remember him getting facials back in the late 70s and 80s – long before the term was coined and before I really understood what facials were all about. All I knew is it was a form of grooming for the face.
I really love this portrait Caroline took. It was shot exclusively with natural light (which is totally amazing to me). My dad looks like he's part of the mob here (yet again!). The photo looks very cinematic. He looks quite intimidating and sombre here. Ironically, he's usually more of a jokester but you'd never know it looking at this photo.


a woman and the boss


my sis and my dad walking in toronto
My sister Caroline sent me this photograph last night of my sister Christine walking in Toronto with my dad. it had to be posted. My dad is currently visiting both our cities and family visits typically involve lot of photography. This one is just timeless. I love how womanly my youngest sister looks (she's nine years younger than me). My dad looks mafioso-like here. Where are they going? Is my sister packing a gun in that clutch? Is she being held against her will with a gun pointed at her back? This photo could have been taken in the 60s — if it weren't for the parka my dad is wearing (as well as the parked car).


mom style


my mom
I recently took on the task of meticulously restoring old family photos, most of which have been damaged over the years. This portrait of my mother in the early 70s was no exception. It was drawn by my aunt Amelia (Mel) in pencil/charcoal. She definitely captured the likeness and essence of my mom here. I thought it would be a perfect homage to my mom for Mother's Day. I mean, how chic is her haircut? I must mention, too, that my mom ran a clothing company for women and children when I was young. She loved dressing us. My sister Caroline and I (before my youngest sister was born) were often her models (and fit models).
So for the woman who dressed me early in life, kicking off a lifelong love of clothes and fashion, Happy Mother's Day!
I don't see my mom too often since she lives in Manila. I love and miss her.
Happy Mother's Day to all moms out there :)


learning legacies


Throughout my childhood, I was told various stories about my ancestors by my Lola (Tagalog for grandmother), my mom and other family members. I remember bits and pieces about this legacy I had from the generations that preceded me – specifically my maternal grandmother's side. Having moved to N. America has taken me further away from this history. A recent invite to a clan group on Facebook by an uncle of mine sparked renewed interest. I was fascinated by the photos and stories from my mom and my sister (who looked into this deeper while on a trip to the Philippines last year). And to give you an idea of the size of this clan in actuality (not on FB), the reunion that is held every four years is attended by about 400-500 people.
My great great grandmother, Maria 'Angoy' Limjap (pictured below in a corset) was married to a prominent business tycoon, Mariano Limjap. This makes her my grandmother's grandmother. Apparently she was a very strict, regal woman and socialite who became a well-known philantropist. Mariano, is a descendant of a prominent Chinese immigrant who married a Spanish (mestiza) or someone of mixed heritage in Manila named Lim Cong Jap. Like some Chinese immigrants of the time, they combined Chinese names with Spanish names. Hence the new last name Limjap (pronounced Lim-hap – which is the Spanish pronounciation of the letter 'j').
I also heard that apart from being a very successful industrialist, Mariano Limjap was apparently a patron of the Philippine Revolution that would eventually free the Philippines of 400 years of Spanish colonial rule. In 1896, he was apparently arrested and imprisoned for his revolutionary efforts. He was eventually released when Spain surrendered to the Americans. There's a photo below of the couple's busts (in marble?) at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.
My great grandmother Leonarda 'Nena' Limjap at one point also turned down a beauty queen crown in favor of traveling abroad. She would eventually marry Dr. Ariston Ubaldo who was the nephew of Dr. Jose Rizal (son of Jose Rizal's sister, Olympia), the renowned national hero of the Philippines (also played a major role during the Philippine Revolution). Meaning my great grandfather was a descendant of the country's most honored hero and was inspired by him to also pursue EENT (eye, ear, nose and throat) medicine. AMAZING.
Needless to say, learning (and being reminded of) all this was quite incredible. The research continues. I love finding out about my amazing family history. More than accomplished industrialists, they were also philanthropists and revolutionaries! It's completely awe-inspiring and humbling.
My captions below provide more information.
Maria 'Angoy' Limjap in a corseted (Victorian?) dress
Mariano and Maria Limjap in traditional Philippine dress
Maria 'Angoy' Limjap as a teenager
Mariano and Maria Limjap
The (marble?) busts Mariano and Maria Limjap at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila in 2006 photo by Ria Limjap

Maria 'Angoy' Limjap (center) with three of her daughters: my great grandmother Leonarda 'Nena' Limjap is the one on the far left
One of many lavish parties thrown by my great great grandparents. Apparently, the grandchildren (like my grandmother) would be sequestered upstairs under the supervision of nannies during these soirees.
A postcard (?) of the Limjap ancestral home in Manila



This is a photo of my great great aunt Esperanza Limjap and her husband, Sergio Osmeña who was the second President of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1944 and was one of the founding members of the Nacionalista Party. Pretty amazing!
All photos (unless otherwise noted) from La Familia Limjap



My mom. She taught me how to care, to nurture, to give and to love. She also taught me to love food. She's all the way on the other side of the world. And I miss her. 

Happy Mother's Day, Ma.

photo by my sister, Caroline