By Melanie

The Gift of Merienda

In the Philippines, we normally eat three meals and three meridenda a day. Meriendas are snacks in between meals (served a couple of hours before/after the meal). They are bigger than the snacks I am used to eating in the States, making me feel like I'm eating six full meals a day. Eating and digesting constantly has been difficult on my stomach and has been one of the harder parts of immersing into the Filipino culture. 

As I internally struggled with my bowl of ginataan halo halo (warm coconut milk with tapioca, banana, mochi, and sweet potato), the women at Samaritana gathered around to proudly describe the dish to me. Then, one of the Ate's said something that stuck with me. "It is sad that nowadays, people eat processed foods and crackers for merienda."

I suddenly remembered the women who rushed into the kitchen right after breakfast to prepare this merienda. I looked at my bowl and tasted the hours of their hard work and love. In that moment, I realized how much I've prioritized quick grab-and-go's and missed out on the opportunity to receive this gift. 

When it's time for merienda, everyone stops what they are doing to gather around the table. There is this learned rhythm of taking a break. Merienda is an invitation to pause and be present with the people around us. It allows us to trust that whatever work that needs to be done will get done and enjoy the deeper intimacy with the community and with God. 

I receive the gift of merienda and I am so full!

Melanie is a student at the University of Texas, Austin.