In a nearby Detroit kitchen, Detroit Filipino Supper Club Co-founder Shane Bernardo cooks up connections to Filipino culture, history, and community by sharing traditional Filipino recipes that boil over with ancestral wisdom and the power to heal. It’s a group that formed after Bernardo and another friend began reminiscing about the meals they loved to eat as kids.
One Detroit catches up with Bernardo as he’s preparing a supper club meal to talk about the importance of building spaces for these types of gatherings culturally, socially and politically. Plus, he shares how personal ties to his ancestors help him create new dishes and show the variety of Filipino culture through food.
Shane Bernardo, Community Organizer: Today I’m cooking the meal in preparation for our supper club. It’s called the Detroit Filipino Supper Club. And it’s a way for those of us in the diaspora to help celebrate our culture and come together around food. These are spaces that are important for me to build socially, but also culturally and politically, because food is a really great way for bringing people together.
Speaker 2: Oh! Whoa! Oh!
Shane Bernardo: So the way it started is a mutual friend introduced me and Ali together, and we were just reminiscing about all the different foods that we used to enjoy when we were growing up and how much we miss that. And we miss the camaraderie and the social aspects of coming in around food, especially around the holidays.
Shane Bernardo: The Philippines archipelago is made up of 71 over 7100 different islands, and Luzon is the north where my people are from. The Visayas is the central region and Mindanao is the southern region. To look at our food is just one of the many ways to show that how nuanced and how varied our culture really is.
Shane Bernardo: My grandmother transitioned to Ancestor Hood in 2016, so fairly recently. That hit me pretty hard because when my parents were working, my grandmother was one of my main caregivers. But then growing up as an adult and having to deal with grief of losing my father and my grandmother, I can now hear the grief that I was feeling from that sense of loss with some of what I refer to as ancestral wisdom and ancestral creativity within the food that I’m making.
It’s healing to be able to reconnect with our land, kind of in an indirect way, by preparing and celebrating some of these foods and dishes. If I were to ask you what your favorite food was, I’m sure you can name a whole list of things. If I were to ask you, is there a particular dish or food that you look for in and around your family gathering? You could probably come up with another list.
And then if I were to ask you, how would you feel if you could never enjoy those dishes or foods ever again? You could probably come up with another list of emotions. The reason why I’m really happy to do this piece is because it gives folks an alternative for seeing our community. A lot of times Filipino Americans are homogenized and our identities are really flattened.
Speaker 3: And we thank everybody for being here as well and for creating a community for us.
Shane Bernardo: So the work that I do within myself and within the Filipino-American community here in Detroit is indicative of the kind of work that needs to happen for anyone that’s been displaced off their ancestral land and has found it particularly harder and more difficult to celebrate their own traditions.
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