We Are Essential / Mahalaga Tayo
Valerie J. Bower
Printed in the UK
Includes a foreword by Jennelyn Tumalad
Design and all photographs © 2020 VALERIE J. BOWER
Food is the center of Filipino life and culture. The dining table is a social gathering place and, at a young age, we learn how to help in the kitchen. Since the 1900s, Filipinos have been immigrating to the U.S. West Coast as laborers, especially in the food and agriculture industry. In March 2020, at the beginning of the global pandemic and statewide stay-at-home order, California released a list of workers deemed as essential to critical infrastructure sectors. Keeping in mind the emphasis of food in Filipino culture and the history of Filipino laborers in the U.S., I wanted to highlight these oftentimes forgotten essential workers in the community. Through this work, I hope to honor the Filipino workers of the past and present, who are essential in providing us with the familiar foods we need to thrive and remain connected to Filipino culture. Mahalaga tayo! Kailangan natin ang pagkain para tayo ay mabuhay! We are essential! It’s important to eat, so we can live!
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