Dear Asian Youth,
A colorful cycle of different weather, different blooms,
A dazzling diversity of distinct experiences, distinct moods,
A life without seasons seems incredibly bland!
When my parents came to the US in 2003, they were surprised to experience US seasons. Summer/fall in the US is rainy season (basically winter) in the Philippines, and winter/spring in the US is dry season (basically summer) in the Philippines. Clearly, living on the West Coast turned their world upside down, in addition to the other changes they have faced. These include language barriers and feeling detached from the people around them. Then, two years later, my parents had me, and unlike my parents, I was taught about the four seasons and the beauty that each season holds. I was taught about spring, the time of the year when flowers would bloom and green covered the land around us. I was taught about summer, when the weather was at its hottest and the beach would be where we all tried to cool off. I was taught about autumn, the back-to-school season where the warm hues of red, orange and yellow decorated the trees. And lastly, I was taught about winter, the cold season that had us children yearning for winter break and hot cocoa. To us, having just a rainy and dry season was unheard of. So when my mother would make bulalo, a cozy beef and vegetable soup, in the summer and halo halo, a shaved ice dessert with other cold toppings, in the winter, I would tilt my head in confusion and ask why she made hot food in hot weather, and cold food in cold weather. She would always respond to me by saying, “Sorry anak, lagi kong nakakalimutan na iba ang panahon dito," which roughly translates to:
“I’m sorry child, I always forget that the weather here is different”.
But as I grew older and began to adapt to my surrounding environment, so did my parents. They developed a better understanding of the unique weathers and feels of each season, and it seemed like they had finally recognized the contrast between seasons in America and the Philippines. They acknowledged the beginning of each, taking me to the pool on the hottest days of summer and baking cookies and decorating gingerbread houses with me in the winter.
We celebrate the beginning of spring by making lumpia together, and I vividly remember trying to imitate my mother’s nimble fingers as she rolled the thin wrapper around the pork mixture, obnoxiously laughing as the oil splattered on the countertop when we dropped them in. My parents and I visit their friends and they clink their glasses of buko juice as they announce in unison “MABUHAY!”, celebrating and hopeful for another spring filled with prosperity and growth, realizing that this season is the time for birth and the time for new beginnings.
We welcome summer with open arms, excited for the many nights that we’ll drive to the city and feast at bustling Filipino restaurants, the combination of the smells of kare-kare, a stew coated in peanut sauce, and chicharon, fried pork rinds, filling the air as we stuffed our faces with vibrant-colored kwek-kwek, quail eggs fried in orange batter, and pungent suka, vinegar. I would go swimming at the beach and the pool with my friends, munching on the shrimp chips my parents always snuck into my bag—along with the bottles and bottles of sunscreen they managed to stuff in there as well. My July birthday would comprise my friends and I circling around a fragrant leche flan that my parents would get from my favorite Filipino bakery and a reprise of “Happy Birthday” in Tagalog through a screen from my relatives.
We rejoice in autumn by making our favorite Filipino comfy soups during Thanksgiving, tinola and sinigang, subsequently soaking our rice with the broth. We go on chilly nature walks with my parents, just for me to stomp on every fallen leaf to hear its satisfying crunch. There was always a heartwarming aspect to these ventures, seeing the glimmer in my parents’ eyes as they looked around in awe, because during this time in the Philippines, it would be pouring outside. There, my parents wouldn’t be walking around outside inhaling the air tinged with scents of earth from the piles of leaves that surrounded us, rather, they would be sitting inside, huddled on a couch watching teleseryes, counting down the days to when they could finally go outside without getting soaked.
We enter winter with hopeful excitement, planning our schedule that is packed with too many Filipino parties to count. We bring tray after tray of different dishes from lechon, roasted pig, to adobo, marinated chicken or pork, and we jam out from dusk till dawn with MagicSing karaoke. Celebrating with family friends that I only see once a year is something I always look forward to this time of year. Christmas day is filled with pancit, sisig, crispy pata, and of course bowls upon bowls upon bowls of rice. When New Year’s comes around, we don our polka-dot shirts and dresses, buy as many round fruits as our shopping carts can carry. And when the ball drops, out come the pots and pans we loudly bang in each room to ward off any evil (I still don’t know why we do this, but it’s fun, so I’m not complaining).
Though we manage to incorporate Filipino traditions with American seasons, I always manage to see my parents simmering up beef pares on 100 degree days, or savoring ice cold buko pandan on even the rainiest of days, reminding us what the Philippines’s weather compared to America’s. And unlike when I was younger, I don’t look at these actions with confusion, but rather, comfort. So, I smile, as I reminisce on past seasons and excitedly wait for the next.