My Filipino-American breakfast

A family photo taken in the 1960s. Jose (seated left) with parents Margarita Padua and Cosme Padua, and brother Tony. Photo: Shenandoah Breakdown.

By Jose Padua

My Filipino-American breakfast of the ‘60s was the local Briggs brand pork sausage patties, sunny-side up eggs, and rice, with the runny yolks broken over the rice, and the rice and yolk and sometimes the eggs whites, too, mixed, stirred, or just turned yolk top over rice bottom
depending on if my Mom or me or sometimes my Dad was doing the mixing.

I gathered it wasn’t the typical American breakfast.

I understood that my Anglo friends didn’t eat this way in the morning and I knew for sure that they didn’t have rice for breakfast though I didn’t exactly know how I knew, which was the case for a lot of the things I knew back when I was a child. And the thing was, I didn’t know if any other Filipino-American kids ate like this either because my Mom had been the cook for the Embassy in D.C. and this very well could have been her breakfast invention or innovation.

All I knew is that we were different; I didn’t know exactly how or by how much. All I had was this vague child’s notion, and all I wanted was to fit in, and one thing I knew for sure was that this breakfast was one thing I wasn’t changing no matter how much I wanted to think of myself as a real American. Because some things just weren’t worth it, while other things were worth more than the price you paid for feeling strange. Call it tradition, call it pride, call it the price of admission to the exclusive club I belonged to because even I had it back then—looking into someone’s ice cold, blue eyes with my brown ones as if there were an ocean of distance between us—a symbol of what would forever be my independence from America.

Jose’s book will launch at The Bowery Club on July 1.

Poet Jose Padua lives in Washington D.C. with his wife and children. His Filipino parents came separately to the U.S. around 1950 and met when they were both working at the Philippine ambassador’s residence. He and his two brothers were all U.S.-born and went to Gonzaga College High School and then to Catholic University in D.C. They have all worked at the Library of Congress. Jose lived in New York for a number of years. For about 11 years he lived with his family in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, an area where Filipinos are very much in the minority. They are now back in D.C.  Jose will launch his award-winning book, “A Short History of Monsters,”  at The Bowery Club on July 1 at 6 p.m. The book was chosen by former U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins for the Miller Williams Poetry Award and has recently been published by the University of Arkansas Press. Many of the poems were written in and about NYC in the early 1990s, a time when spoken word poetry was blossoming and Jose was a popular performer in places like CBGBs, the Knitting Factory, the Nuyorican Poets’ Café, and other venues.  This essay, originally published in 2015, is being reissued with permission from the author.

The Children’s Orchestra Society

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