My Filipino-American Breakfast

Family_1966_67
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 DC 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
of 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 Padua

Photo (1967 or 68). Top row: Margarita S. Padua, Cosme Padua; Bottom row: Jose Padua, Tony Padua.

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