Monthly Cultural Corner - April 2024

April 3, 2024

Cultural Spotlight- Rosa & Kyla Leynes

Hello Penny Lane!  My daughter and I are glad to collaborate on the cultural spotlight for this month. My name is Rosa Leynes, you can call me Rose for short. I am the Accounting Supervisor of the Fiscal Department in North Hollywood. I started as an Accounting Clerk, and I’ll be reaching 10 years in October. My daughter Kyla Rose Leynes, fondly called Kyla, is the youngest of my 3 adorable kids. She started with Penny Lane as a Staff Assistant for the Employment Support Program (ESP) in North Hills and is now the ESP Quality Assurance Specialist. She’s been with Penny Lane for 3 years.

I identify myself with Filipino culture, while Kyla identifies with a mixed Filipino American culture.

I grew up on the Philippine island of Luzon. My parents were both born in Luzon as well. A short history of the Philippines: it is divided into 3 major islands called Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, acronym LUZVISMIN. The funny thing is each Island has different dialects. In Luzon where I grew up, it’s divided into two regions, Southern Luzon and Northern Luzon, and each region has different dialects. I spent much of my life in Northern Luzon, and in that region, we have 5 dialects, meaning each province has a different dialect. But the main dialect wherever you go is Tagalog and English. Kyla was born in the Philippines, but she was only 2 ½ years old when we immigrated to the United States. Kyla unfortunately does not have any memories of her home country prior to immigrating, but she has since visited twice now and is looking forward to more vacations to explore beautiful places as well as cultural traditions in the Philippines.

We have two (2) popular folk songs that Filipinos love to teach their children called “Bahay Kubo” and “Leron, Leron Sinta”. Bahay Kubo tells the story of a small, simple house made of bamboo and nipa palm leaves, and the various vegetables that are grown around it. Leron, Leron Sinta or “My Dear Leron”, is traditionally a work song representing those who are in the fields harvesting fruits. This folk song has even become popular in other countries, where they can perfectly sing the lyrics in Tagalog acapella. For Filipino American kids born in United States, parents are still fondly teaching their kids to sing the 2 folk songs in Tagalog. Growing up in the Philippines, I love to listen to Filipino Pop Music like the songs of the famous artist Sharon Cuneta, and APO Hiking Society which is one of the famous trio bands. I also love to listen to Catholic Tagalog songs. Kyla loves to support and listen to Filipino-American musicians such as Ruby Ibarra, Bambu, Olivia Rodrigo, and Bruno Mars (yes, Bruno Mars is half Filipino).

Filipinos love to eat. Food is a significant part of the Philippine culture, and our staple food is rice. Filipinos are very hospitable and cook a lot whenever there’s an occasion. During town fiestas, all passersby are invited to eat and join the feast. My favorite food that my mother cooked as our comfort food, and that my children also love, is Chicken Tinola (chicken soup with green papaya), Adobo (a very popular Filipino dish made of pork or chicken, and has soy sauce and vinegar base), and Sinigang (Pork or Beef Sour Soup). For special occasions and birthdays, the food that we always have on the menu are Kare-Kare (Beef Shank or Oxtail with ground peanuts & rice base, comes with shrimp paste that adds the salty flavor to the dish) paired with green mangoes, Filipino eggrolls (aka, Lumpia), and Pansit (rice noodels or glass noodles). These are very popular in Filipino culture. My family’s favorite is Pansit, which we always cook during birthdays because of our superstitious belief that it will bring us long life.

Growing up, my mother always cooked rice cakes for our snacks and for special occasions. There are many variations of rice cakes. Kyla’s, as well as mine, favorite is the “Biko” that I learned how to make from my mother. It is made of glutinous sweet rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar, and topped with “Latik” which is made of coconut cream that is cooked until the oil comes out and the cream curdles. Other favorites of ours is the “Ginatan” which is made of ground sweet rice, coconut cream, ripe saba (plantain), a variety of root crops (taro, purple yam, sweet yam, & cassava), and sugar. With all rice cakes and desserts, the main ingredients are sweet rice, coconut cream, and sugar. Even now I love to cook these traditional rice cake recipes that I inherited from my mother.

We have a lot of Filipino traditions, but my favorite is what my parents taught me, and I pass on to my kids. It is called the “Visita Iglesia” (or Church Visit) which we practice every Lenten season as a “Panata” (sacred vow).  Kyla loves this Catholic practice. During the “Visita Iglesia”, we visit seven (7) churches on Good Friday to reflect and pray for Jesus’ suffering. Another tradition that we love is the “Simbang Gabi” during Christmas season. The “Simbang Gabi” (or midnight mass) consists of 9 days of midnight masses in honor of the Blessed Mother Mary that usually begins on December 15th (depending on the Calendar year) and concludes on the 24th, with the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. The “Simbang Gabi” masses in the Philippines were very enjoyable as there were always Christmas Carols being sung in the Community and meals being served after the mass. Kyla’s favorite tradition is how long Filipinos celebrate Christmas. Because there’s no Thanksgiving or Halloween traditions, Filipinos will very often start putting up Christmas decor in September, when the “ber” months start. Filipinos start to put decor not only in their homes but in the streets, in the Malls, and in offices. The spirit of Christmas is very warm and joyful as Christmas Day approaches. Kyla’s favorite decorations are “Parols”, which are ornamental lanterns shaped like stars to represent the North Star. Decorations and holiday spirit linger on until Three Kings Day. Kyla loves how holiday joy fills up 1/3 of the entire year for Filipinos!

Respect to elders is very important to the Philippine culture.  My parents taught this to us, and I pass this on to my children. In our culture, we don’t refer to older siblings by name, there are specific honorifics used to refer to older siblings. The eldest brother is called “Kuya” and eldest sister is called “Ate”. We are five (5) children in the family, the youngest call the eldest “‘Kuya” the 2nd is “Ate”, the 3rd is Ditse and the 4th is Diko. There are more names to call if there are more than 5 children. We use “Tito/Tita” for Uncle/Aunt, “Lola/Lolo” for grandparents, and “Ninong/Ninang” for godparents. Additionally, the use of “Po” or “Opo” is a sign of respect when you answer or ask questions to elders, in lieu of ‘Yes” or “No”. Another huge sign of respect that my parents, especially my mother, were very particular to our culture is “Mano po”. The “Mano po” is a very polite act of respecting parents/elders/religious persons. “Mano po” literally translate to getting the hands of the elders as the greeting initiates the gesture of touching the back of the hand of an elder lightly on one’s forehead, and the elders will say “God Bless”. My mother always reminded my siblings and I to do this act after praying, after mass, and when visiting relatives. She always told us that “Mano po” is like receiving a blessing.

For the elderly, this sign of respect is a huge factor for them to know they are being respected and recognized. My parents also instilled in us the importance of education. They learned from the past generations and passed on to future generations that education is wealth. My mother (Kyla’s grandmother) was a child during World War II and the Japanese invasion of the Philippines. My mother’s upbringing consisted of running from the Japanese army and hiding in caves with her family to stay alive. Because of hardship even after the war, my mother was not able to go to school. My mother made sure that sure that all her children would be well-educated and had food on the table three times a day, every day. Fast forward to today, through the passing down of those educational values and sacrifices, all my kids have their bachelor’s degrees and Kyla is about to receive her master’s in social work this coming May. She is a fulfillment of her grandmother’s wildest dreams. If she were alive today, she would be very proud of the achievements of her “Apo” (grandchildren).

One of my fond memories when I was growing up in the Philippines was that there was no electronics to play with. We played outside of the house in the streets, playing games like hide and seek, jumping rope, “step no”, “sipa”, “tumbang preso”, “jackis stone”, or even just playing with dirt to make pots and plates and enjoying being in the nature. We had a curfew for playing outside until 6pm, when my father would blow his whistle to call all his children to go inside the house and bathe. After that, before dinner, we would gather in the living area near the altar (Catholic shrine in the home) to pray the rosary. After the rosary we would do the “Mano Po” tradition to our parents. We would set the table, and our parents equally divided the food among our family of seven (7), including the desserts.  Despite growing up with very little, I fondly remember my childhood was plentiful with love & joy. Even though Kyla did not have childhood in the Philippines, she still had some exposure here in America to traditional Philippine pastimes. My mother took care of Kyla when she was young, and she taught her some practices of Filipino traditional pastimes. She recalls a fond memory of sitting with her two siblings and her Lola (grandmother) playing cards called “Pekwa”. Playing cards was a big part of Kyla’s childhood as her grandmother also taught her how to play solitaire, and they would often play together when she would visit.

The Philippines has a core cultural value called “Kapwa”, which essentially encompasses the collectivistic nature of the culture. It is a “recognition of a shared identity, an inner self, shared with others”, as defined by Prof. Virgilio Enriquez, the father of Filipino psychology. This value is present in the natural desire for Filipinos to help and support others. In my younger days in the Philippines, I was an active member of the church community, teaching young kids/young adults about religion and giving guidance to those who lost their path in life. Kyla embodies this value in her path to becoming an LCSW, aspiring to support the community. We see this passion to help Penny Lane’s value of community, and in the work that Penny Lane does every day.

Kyla and I have been very grateful to experience the rich diversity here at Penny Lane! We feel that folks are very open to hearing and learning about different backgrounds and cultural practices, without any judgement or criticism.

-Rosa & Kyla Leynes, Penny Lane Centers

Check out some more photos below!