Commentary: Dela Cruz celebrates culture and community

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Angelo Dela Cruz
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

I am Senior Airman Angelo Dela Cruz, 97th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron bioenviromental engineering technician. I am one of the project officers along with Master Sgt.Brenda Khamthongath for this year’s Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month and this is my story.

Before I talk about me, I want to introduce my parents. My father, Robert, was born and raised in San Pablo, Pampanga, while my mother, Evangeline, was born and raised in Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija, which are both located in the Philippines. My parents lived very hard lives as children but were still able to go to college and get their degrees. My mother became a certified nurse in the Philippines and Saudi Arabia before moving to Guam, while my father got his bachelor’s degree in engineering and went straight to Guam.

When my mother went to Saudi Arabia and my father went to Guam they continued to stay in contact with each other through mail. They were individually grinding it out to make ends meet, while my father and his father were building the house I lived in for 18 years.

When my mother finally got her U.S. citizenship, she left Saudi Arabia and moved to Guam when my father finished building the house. Years went by and my siblings and I were born. I am the middle child of three children, and I am the only boy of the trio. Once I graduated high school, I decided college could wait and I enlisted in the Air Force. I wanted to help pay for both my older and little sister’s college tuition. I needed to do something with my life and relieve stress from my parents by helping them pay for bills, loans, and tuition.

I joined the Air Force in June 2020. After flying and having multiple layovers for basically an entire day, I finally got to Lackland AFB. I didn’t know what to expect. I heard it was easy but at the same time it was the first time I had ever been to the states. The people in my flights in basic training and in tech school welcomed me with open arms. The only challenging thing was that not a lot of people knew what Guam was and would always ask things like, “Did y’all have Wi-Fi?” or “Did y’all live in huts?” and “Did y’all hunt for your own food?” At one point, it got frustrating with how closed-minded some people were. Over time, I realized they just didn’t know, so it was something I made a point to educate them on. Now when people ask, it’s a pleasure to inform them of what Guam is like, the different types of food we have, and the culture of the native Chamorro’s.

Before coming to Altus Air Force Base, I never once heard of Asian American & Pacific Islander Month. I was kind of shocked that there was a month for us, and I thought it was pretty cool. I instantly volunteered to help in any way that I could. This is my first year where I am a lead. It was all thanks to my supervisor, who is also a project officer with me, Master Sgt. Khamthongath.

We kicked off AAPI Heritage Month with Lei Day where Airmen were posted at the front gate handing out leis and flyers for all the events. The lei symbolizes love, friendship, celebration, honor, or greeting. It is our show of appreciation and celebration for the start of the month.

We hosted a Water Festival Fun Run in honor of a tradition in Southeast Asian Nations such as Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand, as well as among the Dai people of China to celebrate the New Year. Participants splash or pour water at one another and enjoy water fights in the streets as part of the cleansing ritual, to welcome the Songkran New Year, as a show of blessings and good wishes.

We also hosted a Lumpia and Spam Musubi Cooking Class to help people on base become experts at making these dishes. Lumpia was introduced to the Philippines during the pre-colonial period by early Hokkien immigrants and traders from Fujian, China between 900 and 1565. Since then, it has been a very popular dish in the Philippines that can be served as an appetizer, main course or snack. Spam Musubi is a unique Hawaiian dish that was based off a Japanese dish called onigiri and originated back in World War II. They were also given spam molds to continue making it from home!

To close out the month, we showcased authentic foods, cultural dances, and martial arts demonstrations that hail from a multitude of AAPI backgrounds at the Taste of Asia Expo! It was a great turn-out for all of the events so we appreciate all the support and the ability to share our culture with Team Altus.