Winnipeg’s first Upo Festival has plenty of room to grow.
Leila Castro organized the Upo Festival, a celebration of Filipino culture. For those who don’t know about the festival, Castro says it is a counterpart to the Rural Manitoba Pumpkin festival.
“It is a vegetable that is very common in the Philippines and, like the pumpkin that can become very large, the upo can grow a lot.”
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Upo, or bottle gourd, is a vegetable with a variety of uses other than consumption. A matured upo can be used as a utensil, container, and even as a musical instrument.
But the term ‘upo’ is much more than something that is grown in the Philippines; it is also a respectful way of saying ‘yes’, according to Castro.
“Our joke is that if children don’t respectfully say ‘yes,’ we tell them to eat well so they learn to respond respectfully.”
Upo wasn’t the only vegetable on display today. A sitaw contest (SEE-TAU) was a main event at the festival.
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Castro says sitaw, a variety of green beans, can grow over 37 inches long and someone brought a sitaw that reaches that length.
“The reason for this event is that we want to promote the well-being of the mind and body, especially during the pandemic.”
Castro says the festival is a healthy reminder that you don’t have to sit at home and wait for the pandemic to end, but you can go out and grow some healthy veggies in your backyard.
“Gardening not only promotes physical and mental well-being, it brings people together.”
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Castro helps run a social media group with more than 51,000 Filipino members in Winnipeg and says people are offering seedlings to others so anyone can grow Filipino ethnic vegetables.
“Third and fourth generation children here are only exposed to the vegetables they see in the markets. We only have three months to enjoy Philippine vegetables and we want our children to get a taste of our culture and hopefully they will adopt the practice themselves to share with their children. “
Castro says this year’s festival is being well received and that he “hopes to have an event ten times the size of next year and hopefully by then the pandemic will be gone.”
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