This weekend we went to the Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture (commonly known as FPAC). We went as a family on Saturday, but being that this was essentially the event I moved back to Los Angeles for, I took my daughter on Sunday as well.
For those who are unfamiliar, FPAC is a 19-year-old festival showcasing the work of Filipino American artists. The list of performers is a coming-together of arts of all walks of life, bands of all different musical genres, dance troupes of both traditional and modern styles, and our patron saint of laughter, Rex Navarrete. The event attracts visitors both old and young (pavilions for kids and seniors!), and is literally a smorgasbord of Philippine arts and culture. I could spend the entire weekend at Point Fermin Park and not once get bored.
This year, there were dozens upon dozens of exhibitors, and even though I probably spent too much on merch, it felt good just to drop that money to support Filipino businesses. I picked up books for my daughter and nieces at East West Discovery Bookstore, which specializes in bilingual children's books, and Philippine Expressions Bookshop. I also lined my family's wardrobe with shirts from Beatrock, Pnoy Apparel, Archipelago, Solerdarity, and fOLDED.
The food, of course, was monumental. The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran an article on the rising popularity of Filipino food. Filipino food needed more trendy venues -- like food trucks -- to appeal to the mainstream. Three LA-area food trucks showed up to FPAC: TapaBoy, White Rabbit, and The Manila Machine. Two of these trucks (White Rabbit and The Manila Machine) are contestants in Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. I fell in love with TapaBoy's longanisa bowl, and my husband was all about White Rabbit's chicken adobo tacos. (And lest you think I left out the obvious, we did hit up The Manila Machine a couple of weeks ago, and yes, it was also amazing.) I never would have imagined delicious Filipino food on gourmet trucks growing up.
Now, I have a two year old, and in the center of the festival was a wicked playground so there wasn't a whole lot of room for following the show schedule, which is where the real meat of the festival is. I did happen to catch a few glimpses of the college Tinikling Battle, and heard some of the music off in the distance and all the performers I heard were fantastic, but regretfully, I can't give a more thorough review.
Growing up in Connecticut, we had the Pista Sa Nayon which was organized by our local Filipino association, but even this tiny gathering of Filipino families in Hartford had power struggles and broke in half by the time I reached high school. These gatherings were less about culture and history and more about tsismis (gossip, for the uninitiated). It was absolutely painful for us kids to go because the community was so small -- even smaller now that the association was split in two -- and there was nothing for the kids to do outside of spending half the afternoon blessing aunties we've never met and watching our drunk uncles take pictures by the roasting pig. And this wasn't even an event we could go back to school and whine about, because, well, who would understand? All my classmates would have shuddered at the thought of spending an afternoon watching a whole pig roasting over an open flame.
So this was an important event for me as a mom. This is one of those events that I hope to turn into a family tradition for as long as we live in Los Angeles and the festival is still going. I'm sure my kid won't grow up appreciating it as much as I do as an adult, but even if she doesn't think it's beautiful and exciting, she could grow up not feeling weird and a little ashamed of her culture. At the very least, she could get away with eating ube ice cream for lunch for an entire weekend.