For years, I've talked about reaching out to other food bloggers, finding kindred spirits who believe and practice mindfulness in their relationship with food and how they choose to nourish their bodies, minds, and souls. And there was also a wish that has carried over from the time I was very small: to have friends that are Filipino - who understand my culture and my roots and will double over in laughter at inside jokes detailing the idiosyncrasies and too true stereotypes that come with growing up in a Filipino household. But for a number of reasons, whether real or manufactured in my mind, I haven't put the time nor the energy into making it happen. I've remained a lone wolf, doing my own thing and alternating between searching and evading. Hoping for things to change while simultaneously holding close the comfort of isolation.
But there comes a time when something must shift. Upheaval. Undoing. Beginning. And Growth. And in 2015, with the unwavering wish of finding community at the helm, I began my search, no longer wanting to roam on my own.
I'm happy to say that I didn't have to wait long.
I've long admired the blogs and photos of RG of Astig Vegan, Jen of Wholly Vegan, and Rosie of Rose_Petalz Vegan: Filipino vegan food bloggers with whom I am connected via Twitter and Instagram. Even though we had never met, I considered us to be part of the same "barkada," a Filipino term for one's group of friends; a tribe. So when Rosie contacted me to let me know that they would all be in Austin from the Bay Area for Vida Vegan Con at the end of May, I was excited to say the least. Kindred spirit food bloggers? Check. Filipino? Check. Jonathan doing a happy dance? Double check.
But knowing someone virtually and knowing someone in real life can be two vastly different things. And walking up to the venue on the first day of the convention, I was hopeful to find a connection, but I also did not exclude the possibility that we might not click. They all know one another and live in the same area, so I could very well become the 4th wheel on a tricycle. (I've never been on a blind date, but I figure it might feel pretty similar).
|Inside the Driskill, savoring the A/C.|
|Stopping by Lady Bird Lake.|
But hearing them call out my name and instantly label me a "kaivegan" (a play on "kaibigan," the Tagalog word for "friend"), I was put at ease. And in addition to those three, there was also Jasmine of Sweet Simple Vegan, Yvonne of My Eclectic Kitchen, and Anna of Vegan Cookbook Addict. And after a few hours at the Vegan Bazaar, an overwhelmingly huge gathering of vegan vendors with demos galore (and LOTS of tree nut cheeze), I was happily included in their exploration of downtown Austin, acting as their guide as we crossed the bridge from the trails around Lady Bird Lake, strolled down 6th Street (in its less debaucherous daytime guise), ate at one of my favorite local restaurants discussing the political and social implications of veganism, and walked the Capitol grounds long after the setting of the sun with flurries of bats flying overhead.
It was a full, full, day, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
And as the cherry on top, in the final hours before they were to depart to the airport, we ate at The Steeping Room, sipping tea, eating family style, and shocking neighboring tables with the elaborate multi camera photoshoot that would take place upon the arrival of each course.
My heart brims recalling these memories and looking at these photos, and I look forward with enthusiasm and excitement to visiting them in California and Vancouver. And I am also grateful beyond words for this sense of affiliation and belonging - strange feelings, indeed, for a lone wolf.
I am on my path, and I walk with many others; separate, but still together.
Be on the lookout for a Filipino recipe, perfect for the Summer heat, in the very near future, inspired by the days spent with these wonderful people (whom you should *definitely* check out on Instagram and Twitter). And, as always, Thank You so much for continuing on with me on this journey less traveled.