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My First Thanksgiving in the Philippines

Being American I love Thanksgiving with all the foods. I love turkey, dressing/stuffing, and especially pumpkin pie.

As you know I live in the Philippines now and to Filipinos, the 3rd Thursday in November is just the 3rd Thursday in November, just as in all other countries in the world.
Well, one of my friends Louis mentioned he wanted to do a REAL Thanksgiving. There are Butterball and Norbest frozen turkeys available in the markets here. Then a newer friend of ours, Reg mentioned he would like to be part of the festivities. So we got together to plan a Thanksgiving Day Dinner.
We talked about items and also decided to ask a dear friend Fr. Thomas Martin. Tom lives around the corner and has become a good and close friend of ours. Then we decided it invite another friend who lives close, Ted and his fiancée Arnie.
I would have liked to invite more of my friends, but I did not want so many people stuffing the house as what happened at my wedding party. You need to stop at some point and I hope those who were not invited to understand.
Louis who is an incredible cook offered to do a lot of the preparation. He made the turkey, gravy, a delicious Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Dressing with sausage and bacon. Louis also made an apple pie.

Reg made string beans in olive oil and garlic and a Hawaiian Cole slaw. Reg also bought 2 ham balls which Louis sliced and made a glaze.

Ted brought an Antipasto with rolled meats, olives and pickles and a cheese platter and some bottles of red and white wines.
My responsibility was the house, pumpkin pies, cranberry sauce and also a sweet potato casserole. One of the differences here in the Philippines is they do not have sweet potatoes like in the States. Here they have Comote. It is a sweet potato but has a gritty consistency. In the past Elena made a mixture of mashed Comote and white potatoes that came out smoother, so that is what we did and I added nutmeg, cinnamon and brown sugar to make the taste closer to what I am used to.
Because I was unable to find pie crust mix, Louis offered to make the pie crusts for the pumpkin pies. Louis made the dough and then he came over to roll the dough out for the pies. As we were working Elena’s brother from Kidapawan showed up with about 10 relatives unannounced. Elena was still out running errands. So as I was entertaining my guests, Louis mixed the pumpkin and made the pies for me too.
Finally Thursday arrived and about 2:00 I drove over to Louis’s house to pack up all his items and drove back to get all the foods ready. Around 4:00 Ted and Arnie and a few minutes later Father Tom arrived. We sat and enjoyed the wines and antipasto Ted brought and of course the good conversation. Reg came next and finally Reg’s wife Liz and her sister Chel arrived.
As the men sat and talked, the ladies played cards.

Finally we set the table for a wonderful feast. I asked Father Tom to please say a blessing and I enjoyed his wonderful words of love and friendship as he thanked GOD for our meal.

Everything was wonderful and we enjoyed all the tastes we are used to from home. All the foods were delicious and I watched the plates fill up as items were passed around the table. Being a Lover of fresh roasted turkey, I was in heaven. As at most Thanksgiving meals, the plates and later found our stomachs are not big enough for all we want to eat. Living here, we eat less here than in the States, so instead of having 2 to 3 plates of the delicious foods, one plate was enough.

I was also surprised, after we were finished and my nieces came out to have their dinner, I noticed they enjoyed most of the foods and ate a good dinner without any rice, vinegar or soy sauce on the table. It is nice to see they have opened their minds and palate to enjoy non-Filipino foods.
After dinner the men moved to the Living room to relax and then the ladies served us some of the pumpkin pies and apple pie to complete a wonderful meal and a day of friendship and holiday cheer.
From all the comments after dinner, I know everyone enjoyed the day and look forward to next year knowing the foods we can get and now one of our cultures customs can be continued.
I will remember this day, my first Thanksgiving in my new country with happy and fond memories, so now I have another item to be thankful for, good friends and good foods.

8 Responses to “My First Thanksgiving in the Philippines”

  1. Tom Martin says:

    Bruce I have been in the Philippines this time for five years and the Thanksgiving at your home was the first real Thanksgiving I have had since being in the Philippines. I enjoyed the meal and conversation a great group of people to have dinner with.

  2. Bruce says:

    I am glad all of us were able to be together and to give you a Thanksgiving you can remember. As your friend I hope I can continue to give you the friendship and support you need as you have given me.

  3. DavaoBaseJumper says:

    Hey Bruce,

    I’m glad you were able to celebrate Thanksgiving here in Davao. As you already know, this event is not really being celebrated here in the Philippines.

    But when you’re talking of Christmas… boy, you’re talking preparations as early as September!

  4. Bruce says:

    Thanks for reading my blog and commenting.
    I did experience Christmas 2 times in Davao and once in Kidapawan. Kidapawan was a shock, with all the fireworks I thought the MILF was attacking.
    I also know about and wrote about the “Ber” Months.

  5. john levalley says:


  6. Hello fellow Americans;
    I have lived in Liloan now for 5 months, I have been to P.I. 5 times before being invited here by my army buddy who lives in Manila. I am from Reno Nevada. But I fell in LOVE with Cebu, and a sweet lady here, after a disasterious Divorce from an american counter part and NOT liking OBAMAS CHANGE, I cashed out and moved what I had left here to cebu. I did a Thanksgiving dinner for her famly 2 years ago, they went NUTS and next day I introduced them to the Traditional Turkey Day Sandwich with a slice of turkey, mashed patatoes, a dab of Gravy, cheese, onion, Cranberry sauce, Ocean Spray of course, and all of it built on a Giant wheat roll,with mayo, everybody had a bite and the food frienzy began, sandwitch making went into full production and the rest of what was left of the turkey was HISTORY in 10 minutes with people crying for more. I love to cook and it is fun to share foods that they never eat, now have become a yearly standard at Christmas & New Years as well, Turkey all around! Not to mention I make YUMMY wine as my family have been Vintners for over 400 years. LIfe here in the Philippines os wonderful if not even slow. And my High Blood Preasure is GONE ! Anyway I am always excited to met good fellow Americans as I am a VET here and sometimes I feel I am the only Kano in the area.Thanks for The story, God Bless
    Rob~ 9-25-11

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