It doesn’t matter where on the African descendant line we all evolved, the one common theme no matter the village, city, province, or country is by far, food and fellowship.
For most Black Expats, living abroad can be everything one’s dreams are made of, from financial freedom to more frequent travel. However, ask any expat on any given day the one thing they miss the most about being abroad are family and friends and/or fellowship. Finding myself the furthest I’ve been away from my family and friends, coupled with being in a not so frequented location of the Philippines, I was no different. I found myself longing for a safe space where people who look like me could let their hair down and just be themselves. I moved to Manila, Philippines in July 2017 to work as a Speech Language Pathologist at an International School. I was met with grave disappointment when I showed up for orientation. Not only was I the only person of color at my job, but I was also the only American. It was disappointing to say the least, as one of the things I was looking towards most was working with international colleagues from all ethnicities and nationalities. Shortly after getting settled, I decided if I wasn’t going to be able to have that network inside my workspace, then I was just going to have to create one outside of that. Hence, the birth of my Facebook group, Brothas and Sistas of the Philippines.
Born out of necessity and also paying homage to similar groups established all over the world, I threw the idea out to the few friends that we’re here to see if any of them would be the ones to start it up. Everyone passed as we all were just trying to get used to our surroundings as well as get our bearings with the new employment. Although reluctant at first, I forced myself to click a few buttons with hopes it would evolve into something special in the future.
Starting with just the couple of friends that had come over around the same time as myself, we have now grown to a proud group of about 100 members. The group consists mostly of expats from all nationalities, ranging from retirees, long and short-term expats to people passing thru looking to gather information about their upcoming holiday. The only exclusive requirement I require is that they must consider themselves a person of color. No exceptions. It’s an exclusive space, and I am unapologetic about that requirement.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, I have enlisted friends to help me run the group as they serve as moderators and monitor memberships and posts. I am grateful as operating an FB group can be time-consuming and frankly it was more than what I originally intended. It takes a village.
Just like any good thing, word of mouth travels fast. I always knew there were several POC in my area. I would see families and singles alike out and about doing their shopping and daily activities. I just wasn’t comfortable with flagging them down like a banshee to say hello. Now, with the group, I can politely introduce myself and direct them to the page. It’s less intrusive, and slowly but surely we are gaining additional members.
In the past, with our smaller numbers, we have met for impromptu happy hours, brunch, or shisha meetups. However, after my recent holiday to Chiang Mai, Thailand I had the pleasure of attending their legendary Sunday dinner. It’s where an average of 20-30 members get together at various eateries for weekly celebrations and fellowship, just so happened the one I attended had close to 50. It was truly a beautiful event to experience. I came home to Manila with a renewed spirit and alas “Soul Food Sundays” was created. It was a group effort as my vision was for us to gather around with various dishes contributed by our members for the sole purpose of feeding our bellies as well as our souls.
It doesn’t matter where on the African descendant line we all evolved, the one common theme no matter the village, city, province, or country is by far, food and fellowship. Mix in a ton of laughs and no matter the occasion it’s bound to be a good time. The response was overwhelming as we had a good 30 members show up for our inaugural event. It was a good time for all.
Soul Food Sundays will come in various forms in the future but will always involve a good time with good people. Check us out on Facebook @ Brothas and Sistas of the Philippines.