Home is a vivid place that hosts many memories. Some may say it is the place where they opened their first gift underneath the tree on Christmas morning. Others say it is the grand Thanksgiving feast at their grandparents’ house. Or, a place, where they ate their first birthday cake and played hide and seek with their cousins. The common denominator here is that a home is a place filled with memories of family that make you feel cozy, safe, and happy.

In our tahanan (home), we all love to eat, and it is here where I learned that good food is made in our own kitchen. My dad loves to cook using traditional Filipino recipes passed on from one generation to the next. I remember the sound of the wok made as it clanged on the stove, the sizzling sound of ginger and garlic as it sautés, the wonderful smell that fills the kitchen as he worked his way into preparing some of his favorite recipes: pancit, a noodle dish that symbolizes long life, and lumpia (egg rolls) that represents wealth in the form of golden bricks. The sharing of food helps bring everyone together at the dinner table. The sight, sound, and smell of Filipino cooking is what makes it home.

When Filipino’s have gatherings the food is always front and center along side the gossip, laughter, and karaoke. Everyone you meet is like family: a tita (auntie) a tito (uncle) and all the young ones are considered your cousins. The titas huddle around the living room couch reporting the everyday gossip as if it were a campfire story. The titos make corny jokes trying hard to make everyone laugh. The kids entertained themselves with their iPads by binge-watching Minecraft videos on YouTube or playing video games.

The crowd of guests still trickles in up to the wee hours as we Filipinos are laid back on time. The foyer of the house echoed the booming greetings at the door, while the mirror reflected the bountiful gifts brought in for our family. The musical talents in the room create an imaginary stage to watch. As my dad plays kundiman on the piano, a classical romantic Filipino ballad, those familiar with the song joins in as they sing their hearts out on the karaoke machine. The pitch may not be perfect but its the joy, laughter, and endearing bond that makes it home.

A home isn’t just the four corners of a house or its roof. It is made up of memories of family, culture, sense of identity, & togetherness. I will always carry these cherished memories close to my heart. This will guide me when it is my turn to start my own tahanan.