Filipino immigrant blends American Thanksgiving traditions with touches from the Philippines

The first time Marcy Tolentino, of Oklahoma City, tried turkey, she wasn't sure what to make of it. It was good, but kind of strange, she said — nothing like the food she grew up eating in the Philippines.
by Silas Allen Modified: November 27, 2013 at 8:39 pm •  Published: November 28, 2013
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The first time Marcy Tolentino tried turkey, she wasn't sure what to make of it.

It was good, but kind of strange, she said — nothing like the food she grew up eating in the Philippines.

“Turkey isn't really part of staple food,” she said.

Tolentino, now an Oklahoma City resident, came to the United States from her native Philippines 35 years ago. Growing up there, she read about Thanksgiving in the American textbooks she used in school. She had no idea what it was, she said.

After she moved to the United States from the island of Luzon, Tolentino spent her first Thanksgiving in New Jersey, where her older sister lived. Although she wasn't familiar with the traditions of the holiday at the time, Tolentino said she didn't think twice about celebrating it with family and friends.

“When I came here, it was just natural for me to join them,” she said.

Today, Tolentino's family has adopted most of the typical American Thanksgiving traditions, but with a Filipino flair. Tolentino's husband was born in the United States but traces his heritage to the Philippines, and the couple's children were raised in the U.S., she said.

They generally serve turkey, ham and other traditional American foods, she said. But alongside those dishes, they may have Filipino fare such as noodles or lumpia, a type of filled pastry similar to spring rolls or egg rolls.

“We always add our Filipino touches,” she said.

That kind of adaptability is fairly common for Filipinos, she said. The country is a blend of eastern and western cultures. Although the country is located in Southeast Asia, centuries of Spanish rule left strong European influences. The country takes its name from King Phillip II of Spain.

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by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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