Project ULAM as observed by Marianne Bolivar

Food is our common ground, and while it’s a universal experience, it can mean many different things to many different people. Food is primarily a means of survival. Above that, it’s also ritualistic, recreational, social and, to me, food provides connections.

Food unites not only people belonging to the same culture, but it branches out to people of different ethnicities, interests and regions. Food becomes an occasion for sharingwhere families come together and cultures link together. Food creates conversation, whether it be through recipes, the retelling of someone’s personal experience, or linking certain foods to traditions and cultural ties.

Being a Filipino person who moved away from their homeland from a very young age and being unable to communicate clearly with other Filipinos due to the language barrier, I found myself often struggling to connect with my roots and culture. So, doing what any other hungry Filipino would doI turn to food.

I had the pleasure of observing the Project ULAM Team as they learned how to create a variety of Filipino foods for the upcoming Kultura Festival.  Here, the ULAM team learned to appreciate the diversity of culture, with people of different ethnicities coming together to learn about different aspects of Filipino culture through food. You learn how to appreciate the cultural nuances that come with Filipino cuisine: our palate, the spices we use and the traditions that are associated with certain dishes. Learning what makes Filipino food unique to other cultures helped me connect with a fundamental aspect of my culture on a greater level.

I learned a few things while sitting in with Project ULAM:

Food creates identity: how we choose to express ourselves, what we choose to associate ourselves with, discovering our likes and dislikes, etc. This part of our identity is made up of everything we are exposed to in the kitchen at home, out at restaurants with friends, and in new cities while on business or vacation. All the food we eat reveals a lot about who we are and how we got here. It is with this where we see cultural and regional differences really shine through.

The cultural importance of food isn’t going to go away, it’s a fundamental aspect for many cultures from their daily lives to their traditions and beliefs. Sitting in with the Project ULAM Team helped me tie in Filipino culture and history with the food that we eat and understand the importance of embracing one of the many facets of our culture that makes us unique.


"Project ULAM was a 10 week Filipino culinary arts program for youth launched in partnership with Sketch Working Arts, and Lamesa Filipino Kitchen; out of this year's Project ULAM group comes KASAMA, a youth-led Filipino culinary enterprise. Follow them on Instagram for the dish on their upcoming projects!"