By Elizabeth Ann Quirino

When I saw on the calendar that today was International Women’s Day, I thought of my late mother Lourdes “Lulu” Reyes Besa and her bravery during World War II. I could never be as brave as she was.

Several years ago, around 2000, one late evening, as I turned off the kitchen light to go to bed, the phone rang. It was unusual for our home in New Jersey to get phone calls at nearly midnight. I let our answering machine pick up the message.

“Hello, my name is Robert Dow. If you are the daughter…


Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Lourdes Reyes Besa, 1946

Their house in Malate, Manila had been bombed and leveled to the ground in February 1945. Their home was gone and all their worldly belongings in it. But the young, unmarried Filipina in her 20s named Lourdes Reyes was neither bitter or angry. Instead, she was grateful that the bombings had spared her mother, Luz Jugo Reyes and brothers Roberto, Ponciano, Willie and his wife, Helen. Their family was intact. Nobody had died. Their friends and neighbors throughout the city had lost family members in the heavy bombings of the Battle of Manila. …


By Elizabeth Ann Quirino

We love our family celebrations. But we love the food we serve with it even more. What is a typical American Thanksgiving like in a Filipino home here in the States? Food is a journey from the appetizers to the end of the meal, and desserts are as scrumptious as the entrees. The chilly air fills the outdoors. Autumn leaves in monochromatic hues are strewn on the ground. The tree branches are stark and bare. But inside the house, music, laughter and chatter is loud and lively.

The sweet scent of a huge steaming cauldron of…


By Elizabeth Ann Quirino

“You’ll always be my baby,” my father said to me.

My Father Did Not Want Me to Drive

Unlike teenagers here in America, I did not learn how to drive till I was past my teen years when I lived in the Philippines. We did not have driver’s education classes in the Filipino school curriculum. During my growing-up years in a rural town, women drivers were the exception. Although Filipinos live in a matriarchal society, women took a backseat in the car, literally during my mother’s era.

One day when I was about to go to college, I bravely asked my father for permission.

“I want…


My mother, Lourdes “Lulu” Reyes Besa

By Elizabeth Ann Quirino

One day, during a chat with my writing teacher I told her a story of how I spent my summers as a child in my hometown, Tarlac, a province in the Philippines. I remember from those days how I helped my mom make mango jam. There was no end to the mangoes that had to be peeled, mashed, squashed into a thick pulp. It was so tedious and took time away from playing. I was a child then. It’s a wonder I did not develop a dislike to mangoes, but instead grew up loving them like…


by Elizabeth Ann Quirino

By Elizabeth Ann Quirino

If you are in the Philippines during the Lenten Holy Week, a few days before Easter, the country shuts down and nearly all business establishments are closed. Basically, everyone is praying and practicing religious rituals which have been passed on for generations.

Have you been to a pabasa? My parents made me dutifully go with them to the annual pabasa (say ‘pah-bah-sa’) in our neighborhood when we were children. Translated in Tagalog, pabasa means ‘to read’.

The pabasa is a chanting ritual, a time-honored tradition in the Philippines during Holy Week. It…


My parents Gualberto S. Besa and Lourdes “Lulu” Reyes Besa, with me, then a baby.

Don’t Cry in Kindergarten

By Elizabeth Ann Quirino

On my first day at kindergarten, as I was getting dressed, I overheard my parents talk about me. Mom was bringing me to school.

“No matter what happens, if she cries, do not bring her home before school is over. Leave her in class,” Dad said to Mom.

I wondered why they would think I would cry on my first day of school.
An hour later, I knew why.
My first day at kindergarten was daunting. I had never been to a large school before that day. …


Heart-Shaped Filipino Bibingka — Rice Cake

A Heart That’s Not Perfect

By Elizabeth Ann Quirino

I see hearts everywhere and therefore I baked this Heart-shaped Bibingka, the Filipino Rice Cake for Valentine’s. I see heart-shaped cakes, with chocolate frosting cascading down luring us to take a slice. I love hearts. I love the shape of it on anything be it food, paper, fabric, jewelry, art — whether perfect or imperfectly formed.

In kindergarten, one of my first favorite activities was to draw a heart for Valentine’s Day. My teacher taught me to fold a piece of paper and with a pencil I traced half of the…


One Week at the Beach

The beach beckons…

One Week At The Beach Every Year

I luxuriated in wiggling my bare toes into the ocean waves, just to get a feel of the water temperature. Then I ran back to the sand, buried my toes in the cold, grainy brown surface. I settled into my comfortable beach chair, opened my book and stared aimlessly out to the waves. The wind faintly blew on my cheeks. I dreamily gazed at the blue skies. I was in beach heaven.

As a child, when we went to the beach, I often wondered why the ocean takes…

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Journalist, Author, Writer, Correspondent, Blogger, Artist, AsianInAmericaMag.com

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