Did I tell you about the first time I set foot in the United States?
It was in the 1980s, and I was sporting Minnie Mouse house shoes.
As you can see, upon arrival at San Francisco International Airport, I immediately made a call. I got in touch with my relatives back in the Philippines to let them know that we had finally arrived safely in America — our new home.
As of the 2019 census, around 4.2 million Filipinos live in California, making up the third largest ethnic group (after Latinos and African Americans). And Filipinos are the second largest Asian American group in the United States.
Although we've been away from the Philippines for a long time, we have remained in touch with our roots. And as we celebrate Filipino American History Month this October, let me share the stories and culture of the Philippines by introducing you to some of the up-and-coming food and beverage brands led by Filipino-Americans.
"Kasama" is the Filipino word for "together," and the brand's founder, Alexandra Dorda of Filipino-Polish descent, says she chose the name because it speaks of the warmth of Filipino hospitality.
Alexandra's father is the co-founder of Belvedere and Chopin, widely known in the industry for bringing Polish vodka to the forefront. On the other hand, Alexandra has always loved rum and wanted to develop her brand.
After discovering through her research that the Philippines produces some of the best sugarcane, the base ingredient of rum, and the country is one of the biggest rum producers in the world, Alexandra focused her energy on developing and producing Kasama Rum.
Kasama Rum is made from pressed sugarcane, fermented and distilled, then aged in ex-bourbon American oak barrels. This aging process gives it a golden hue and mellows the overall flavor profile, leaving you with a hint of vanilla on the nose and palate.
This young rum brand is currently being sold only in the United States, and Alexandra intends to grow it internationally and continue to tell the story of the Philippines in a modern, compelling way.
I'm also very excited to be part of Kasama Rum's Filipino American History Month Celebration on social media! During October, the brand is highlighting Filipino creatives and entrepreneurs and sharing their stories with the world. I'm so proud to be one of the folks feature, and I can't thank them enough for bringing together our Filipino community in this special way!
As a Filipino-American, Celeste Perez grew up in a household where herbs and superfoods like moringa and ginger are common ingredients for delicious meals like tinola and arroz caldo. Celeste's parents are also doctors who cared about herbal remedies, and these inspired her to create Droplet.
Droplet is a line of stress-balancing, sparkling adaptogen drinks made with all-natural ingredients and no artificial sweeteners designed for self-care. In short, they contain herbs and botanicals that help your body regulate its stress response.
Each flavor is elegant, non-alcoholic, and sustainably sourced. They're the healthy soda alternative, and they're developed by an all-female team of designers and food scientists.
In fact, Droplet draws from scientifically-backed plant magic to help you fight stress and feel balanced without harmful ingredients.
Founded by Alessandro "Sandro" Roco, a Queens-born Filipino American, Sanzo is on a mission to bridge cultures by connecting people to authentic flavors.
As the son of Filipino immigrants, Sandro is very familiar with common Philippine fruits like mango and calamansi. His heritage and knowledge of these delicious tropical fruits inspired the flavors of his hit sparkling water brand, Sanzo.
Through these unique and refreshing flavors, Sanzo is able to stand out from the saturated sparkling drinks market. It's the first Asian-inspired sparkling water that uses real fruit without added sugars to deliver a refreshing taste.
These authentic flavors are a taste of home and a source of discovery that will definitely excite your taste buds.
Jack and Friends Jerky
Jessica Kwong created Jack & Friends vegan jerky to satisfy the growing demand for all-natural, better-for-you snacks that effortlessly fit into any lifestyle.
Too many snacks force us to sacrifice one benefit for another: high protein but not allergy-free, low fat but not low sugar, plant-based but inconvenient.
Jack & Friends solves that problem by using jackfruit and pea protein to create plant-based jerky for any lifestyle. Plus, it's vegan, top 8 allergen-free, packed with protein, and no added sugar.
Drawing inspiration from her grandmother Pamela, a small-scale farmer and food entrepreneur in Davao, Philippines, CEO Cristina Patwa put respect for the land and the earth at the heart of the business.
Enroot, is a healthy, non-alcoholic drink that is set out on a mission to create a range of organic sparkling wellness teas crafted with James Beard Foundation chefs.
Oh, and John Fogelman and Brad Pitt co-founded it. Yep, that Brad Pitt.
After embarking on a lengthy discovery process from leaf-to-bottle, trying hundreds of tea varietals, fruits, roots, and botanicals, Enroot chefs crafted the slow 20-hour cold brew tea ritual for its delicious taste experience and nourishing attributes. Finished with a sparkling texture to both awaken and excite the palate, this distinct brewing method extracts a smooth, refreshing flavor without the bitterness and astringency often associated with teas.
Wanderlust Creamery is an artisanal ice cream shop co-founded by Filipino-American power couple Chef Adrienne Borlongan and Jon-Patrick Lopez.
From its name Wanderlust, the shop's ice cream flavors are inspired by travel. The founders are constantly pursuing the right proportion of butterfat, low levels of overrun, and exotic flavors and textures for a mind-blowing delicious ice cream experience.
Among their hit Philippine-inspired flavors are Sticky Rice Mango, Ube Malted Crunch, and Pandan Tes Leches.
As a first-generation Filipino-American, Chef Adrienne is turning to her Filipino-American roots to create unique flavored ice cream rooted in her Filipino heritage that will take you on a beautiful journey of their childhood memories of the Philippines.
Through precisely formulated ice creams that have a consistent creamy texture that's delightful and light on the palate, whether made with 100% organic milk from Straus Family Creamery or dairy-free, Wanderlust Creamery ice creams are a must-try.
Chef Anna Swann is a second-generation Filipino-American born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. However, she moved to Texas for love, which also made her yearn for the Filipino food and flavors she grew up enjoying. So she reached out and reconnected with her relatives and collected Filipino recipes.
Through the Ulam Dallas food pop-up, Chef Anna gives Filipino dishes a modern take that people are raving about. Among her most famous dishes is the Tipsy Pancit, a flavorful and genius take on traditional Filipino noodle dishes.
You should definitely catch Chef Anna and Ulam Dallas if you're in the area!
As a Filipino-founded company, we celebrate our Filipino heritage every day. We're always looking for ways to highlight our fellow Filipino founders and show off their amazing brands. If you're interested in getting more snacks from Filipino-American-led companies, let us know by sending us a message here!