March 1, 2019

One night of ULAM

by Vizlumin Cabrera (Published in Pilipino Express March 1-15)

Members of Manila Nights and ANAK
Recently, ANAK and Manila Nights hosted a screening event for the film ULAM: Main Dish at Winnipeg’s own Park Theatre. The movie by filmmaker Alexandra Cuerdo, gives us an inside look at the struggles and triumphs of Filipino-American chefs who have been carving out space for Filipino food in the mainstream food scene. Audience members were treated to the beautiful colours and sounds of the Filipino kitchen with dishes like bulalo, sinigang, Bicol Express, and tuyong dilis finally on the big screen like starlets making their Hollywood debuts.
The documentary gave contributors like Nicole Ponseca of Jeepney in New York City a platform to share her story as a second-generation immigrant, as well as what finding passion for the food of her culture has meant to her. Her restaurant and its menu stands as an unapologetic testament to the love she has for her Filipino heritage. Alvin Cailan of Eggslut, Amboy, and Unit 120 opened up with his own experience telling his parents about his decision to start a career in the food industry. Cailan’s parents strongly disapproved, and he was left to pave his own path without the support of those closest to him. Despite the start of his career being undoubtedly difficult, he was eventually able to mend those familial relationships, and share his success with them.
With Winnipeg having such large Filipino community, the event gave some of our local Filipino-Canadian chefs and entrepreneurs a chance to weigh in on the movie. Winnipeg panelists: Allan Pineda of Manila Nights, Charlie Villapando of Charlee’s Restaurant & Lounge, Ejay Chua of Manila Nights, Lord Sale of Lolo’s Premium Food Co., Nikki Mallari of Sugar Blooms and Cakes, and Roddy Seradilla of Pimp My Rice / Bisita shared their wisdom on what it took for all of them to break in to the business. Although they faced challenges like “crab mentality” and having to make Filipino flavours more approachable to a North American palate, they persevered and stayed true to their original vision.
The common thread in both our local panel and in the film ULAM: Main Dish is that what the Filipino Food Movement needs most is support within our own community. For us to pick up our own spotlights and shine it on the Filipinos around us who go in to work with the intention of paying homage to our culture with their craft. With every underground pop-up Filipino theme dinner, every bowl of sinigang, every link of longganisa, and every pan of special ensaymada, the people who make our food their life’s work showcase our culture on the plates of their patrons every single day.
Vizlumin Cabrera is the Public Relations officer for ANAK and a fellow food enthusiast. To learn more about ANAK programs and events, or how to become a volunteer, visit or email