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Delcastillo, 62, a retired warehouse worker. “Jersey City is friendly to Filipinos,” Delcastillo says, rattling off the city’s benefits: public transportation, proximity to New York City and airports, and the thriving Filipino community. On Sundays, he prays at Saint John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church on John F. Kennedy Boulevard near the Five Corners, which boasts a large clock tower and has numerous Filipino parishioners. And the city recently got another notable Filipino restaurant, a Jollibee on Danforth Avenue. Jollibee, a beloved Filipino fast food franchise, is the equivalent of America’s McDonald’s. Freddy Panes, in the Five Corners on a recent afternoon, is meeting local business owners and spreading the word about his new publication, My Pinoy World, a free newspaper geared toward Filipinos in the United States and Canada. “This is a field trip for us,” says Panes, a Cherry Hill resident in town with his wife, a friend and relatives. “This is like going back home, but in an American setting.”

Filipino Cuisine For Dummies

To Panes, Cherry Hill seems like a sleepy provincial town in the Philippines, but Jersey City is Manila, in terms of the Filipino community and the businesses concentrated here. “There are so many Filipinos! I wish I could move here,” he says with a laugh. Panes, himself the father of three sons, forbade spoken English in his home in order to keep ties to their home country and traditions. “I always told them you have to be proud to be Filipino,” Panes says. Santos, the Phil-Am owner, worries that as the community and local businesses continue to thrive, Filipinos adapting so readily to the American way of life could eventually lose some of their cultural identity. “A Filipino can go to any country and adapt. We adapt so well, but unfortunately we lose our identity a little bit,” Santos says. Growing up, his father would always remind him to stay true to his roots. “You are an American,” his father would tell him, “but your heritage is Filipino and you can never lose that.”

Filipino food is a mix of Malaysian, Chinese and Spanish with some American influence – all reflecting the history of the archipelago, which has seen waves of Chinese immigrants, and conquest by Spanish conquistadors and the American military over hundreds of years. It has a lower profile than other Asian cuisines, Erwin Santos says, because there tend to be different variations for dishes such as adobo, a stew of chicken or pork in vinegar that is considered the national dish. One version can incorporate coconut milk or none at all. Another has soy sauce. Filipino food also gets a bad rap because the dishes served at restaurants are usually oily and include a lot of pork, Santos says. Most of the food in Filipino restaurants and cafes in Jersey City are displayed in steam buffet tables or turo turo style, which means, “point-point” – people can “point” out what food they want to the server. Santos recommends first-timers try adobo over rice, any pork dishes, such as roasted lechon, and any type of noodle entrees, or pancit. Egg rolls, pork or vegetarian, are often a big hit with newbies, along with turon, which are plaintains in rice wrappers. And, of course, Filipino pastries. 31

NEW Magazine: Winter 2011  

The Winter 2011 issue of NEW, Jersey City's magazine of arts, culture and lifestyle. Featuring stories on Filipino food & culture in Jersey...