No Turkey for Thanksgiving



An inexplicable craving for halo-halo one wet and dreary afternoon last weekend brought us to our local Filipino restaurant. A big sign on the window proclaimed that orders for Thanksgiving can already be placed.

What are your specials, I ask. Whatever we have on the menu, that’s what you can order, the answer.

You mean, no turkey? “Wala,” the lady owner said. “Alam mo naman tayong mga Pilipino, hindi mahilig sa turkey.” (None, you know us Filipinos, we don’t like turkey.)

That brought out a clap of laughter from me because that’s exactly how I feel. Other Filipino restaurants are not that honest and would still include some kind of turkey dish in their Thanksgiving specials even if year after year, their crispy pata and fried chicken would render the turkey in the dustbin.

I’ve never really been a “celebrating Thanksgiving” kind of person. At least not the way Americans celebrate it. First off, my ancestors didn’t come to these shores on the Mayflower. Secondly, I’ve never developed a taste for turkey.

Oh, I’ve been at typical Thanksgiving celebrations complete with a giant turkey and fixings lording over the dining table, a cornucopia as centerpiece and three kinds of pie for dessert. They were interesting experiences in the anthropological sense, but did they hit me in the heart and made me feel fuzzy wuzzy American all over? Not a chance.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the family gathering aspect of the holiday, as well as the four-day vacation, but give me a good book, tinolang manok and pancit anytime, with leche flan and turon on top, and I’m a happy camper.

I guess this is why Donald Trump and his white masses want their America back – an America that’s monochromatic and paranoid. Immigrants like us? They don’t want our dark hair, brown skins, strange languages and incomprehensible cultural traditions to litter their world. Not celebrating Thanksgiving? Blasphemous! Trump’s white America still has to realize that we who don’t look like them are the ones actually propelling this nation forward. Anyway…

While I don’t buy into the prescribed Thanksgiving rituals, I do appreciate the blessings that have come my way. And I give thanks for them every day, not just on the last Thursday of November.

On this, the 28th anniversary of our moving to the US, I give thanks for the valuable lessons our family has learned from the many challenges – some of them excruciatingly painful – we have gone through in this country. Stamina, determination, focus, and kinship with kindred spirits of whatever ethnicity, religion, gender and profession – these we have acquired as we pushed, stumbled, cried and forged our way to where we are now in this gigantic nation that is so maddeningly full of contradictions.  

Gemma Nemenzo

Editor, Positively Filipino