Jhanessty Vaye Bautista | Maui High School, Class of 2024
As I drag myself into the kitchen the humid environment kisses my face, making me feel heavy with moisture. It’s already noon and although I have just woken up, the scene in front of me is something I am very familiar with. Replayed at least five times a year for good measure, I watch the simmering pot of sinigang, made by my Papa, boil just until it’s about to spill over onto the burning flames below. It’s a routine that has happened more than a hundred times: spoonfuls of bok choy, tomatoes, pork, potatoes, and the occasional piece of okra that is avoided like the plague, fill my small bowl up to the brim. It’s a scene and food that brings me immense happiness and comfort.
Not only does the bowl of soup make me feel physically warm, it also warms my heart. My grandparents don’t live with me but rather in a home 5,403 miles away. They come to visit during late fall and go back during early spring. In the time they spend with us however, food is always the number one indication they’re home. During the five-month period, there is not a single day where the stove isn’t being used. There isn’t a single moment where someone isn’t at the dining table, chowing away. There isn’t ever a reality where there is no food in our home. And firstly, I have to say, I am so grateful. But secondly, I’m a little embarrassed. I have no experience cooking traditional Filipino foods whatsoever! My culinary skills just about stops at the mark of making instant ramen and then eating said Filipino foods. It’s just not one of my strong suits.
Thankfully, our world was graced with the existence of cooks. Their strong suits are the ones making our taste buds and stomachs happy. And on Maui especially, some of the best cooks I know are the peers I go to school with.
One of the most popular Filipino foods worldwide is the rich and flavorful dish of adobo. There are two types of adobo: pork and chicken, and while I’m not here to argue which type is better, pork adobo seems to be the outstanding winner for Cayleb Ramos and Roxelle Magliba. Although Cayleb is the only one enrolled in the culinary pathway at Maui High, the two of them learned how to cook this dish from the cooks they know who do it best: their parents. Cooking with their parents brings up fond memories for the two of them. “Me and my father were working on making pork adobo in a medium Ziploc® bag when the bag slipped out of my hands and all the peppercorns fell in. It was a real struggle trying to eat the adobo with all the peppercorns,” he reminisces.
While Cayleb’s memory cooking the dish is very amusing to look back on, Roxelle remembers a heartfelt moment that started her passion for cooking. “When it was my first-time cooking adobo, I wasn’t entirely sure if I was doing it correctly. My mom left me to experiment on my own because she had to watch her Filipino television show. When I finished cooking it, I didn’t expect my family to like it. Both my parents and my oldest brother, however, enjoyed it!” she excitedly exclaims. The praise she received from cooking her first Filipino dish inspired her to go above and beyond to learn and enhance the dishes she makes.
Another popular Filipino dish garnering love and appreciation from both Dianne Ivy Lacaden and Michelle Castillo is Bicol Express. The two, along with many locals and foreigners of the Philippines, drool over the creamy and spicy dish. Of the two of them, however, Michelle is the only one who knows how to cook this specific dish. While Michelle cooks her favorite pork and chili pepper dish she feels “nostalgic, happy, and an overall connectedness” to her culture. “It brings back memories of family gatherings, special occasions or moments spent in the Philippines to the joy of sharing a special dish with family,” she explains. While Dianne can’t make Bicol Express, the dishes she can make fill her with a sense of accomplishment and happiness. “Cooking my favorite dish made me realize the joy of making something delicious and sharing it with loved ones,” she describes.
The food of the Philippines is a treasure to the homes of many. For all of us, food represents a part of our family we got to grow up with. Generations and generations of families’ individual and specialized recipes made in the comfort of our own home. Happiness can be from many things, but the meals we cook and meals we eat, are a homemade happiness in itself.
Google® Is Not Everything is a monthly column authored by high school students. The title of the column emphasizes education is more than just googling a topic. Google® is a registered trademark. This month’s guest columnist is Jhanessty Vaye Bautista, a Senior at Maui High School. She is a President of Maui High’s Key Club, Vice-President of Maui High’s Filipino Cultural Club, Executive Secretary of Maui High’s Student Government, a member of Blue Thunder, Maui High’s Robotics club, and member of the National Honor Society. Jhanessty is in the ACOM Pathway at Maui High, focusing on graphic design and entrepreneurship. In her free time, she reads books of any and all genres, sketches out designs for her new graphics project, sings karaoke alone or with a group of her close family and friends and loves anything with the popular videogame’s Minecraft Bee. She is the daughter of Vanessa and Jhon Boy Bautista.