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Escape To The Navy

 July 15, 2020 at 11:59 AM PDT

Khaddy Dublin (00:03): I signed up Khaddy Dublin (00:04): And then I literally just broke the news to my mother and my stepdad. And I was like, by the way, I'm joining the Navy. I already signed the contract. You just cause like, I really was desperate to get Andrew Bracken (00:19): Welcome to my first day telling stories of those. Who've come to San Diego from elsewhere and now call it home. My name's Andrew Bracken. Andrew Bracken (00:28): One common way. People end up in San Diego is by joining the military. The reasons why people join very widely, but what led Khaddy Dublin to join the Navy was pretty simple. She needed an escape. Andrew Bracken (00:44): Khaddy's story. After the break. Quick note, before we start, you may notice the sound quality is a little different in this episode. I think just like everyone we're adjusting to the new reality we're in. So please bear with us. As we dial things in a bit better born in the Philippines to a Filipino mother and father from Grenada. Khaddy had a chaotic, almost nomadic childhood. Here's Khaddy Dublin with her story of: Khaddy Dublin (01:23): My First Day. Khaddy Dublin (01:23): So my childhood is pretty bad actually. So I kind of like bounced around a lot. Yeah. Andrew Bracken (01:29): So how many schools did you go to from kindergarten through high school? Khaddy Dublin (01:33): Let's see. Kindergarten. Second grade was a different school. Third grade was a district school. Fourth grade was at school, fifth and sixth grades, but different school, just seventh grade. I did two schools alone. Um, eighth grade, gosh, that's like 10 already. Andrew Bracken (01:52): Khaddy first moved to the United States as an early child, but returned back just a few years later to her birthplace of Cebu city in the Philippines Andrew Bracken (02:01): It was a getaway. Like when my mother sent me over there at first, you know, like I cried and stuff like that because you're a kid and you don't really know what's going on and you're being left in this place. But after awhile I really adjusted to it. It's beautiful. Crystal clear waters, white sand, you know, fruit trees, everywhere, fruit trees that you've never probably even heard of. Some families didn't have television. So on Fridays they would, all the kids would go to one house and we would just like all congregate in their, you know, in their cell on. And then we would all like watch television on Fridays. But I remember like they were broadcasting XN back then. So all the kids loved X-Men and we would all watch it every Friday. We didn't have a refrigerator. We had to fish the day up. We had to gather things from like the jungle or like the fruit trees the day of, and cook them that day. So really, really simple life Andrew Bracken (03:03): After a longer than anticipated stay Khaddy returned again to the United States, to reunite with her mother though, less than enthusiastically. And so did you want to go back to the States when you went at that age? Khaddy Dublin (03:16): I did not actually. That was, I had fully adjusted, you know, I'd fully adjusted to my life and Subu, I had adjusted to life in Manila. You know, I was like back with my culture, you know, I was very Filipino again, but you know, my mom made the decision for me, so I had to come back and it was a very weird period actually, because it's like, you go to one place, you don't speak any English, you come back. Right. And it's like, you know, English, but it's like, you haven't spoken it in so long. You just forget how to speak for a period of time. When I finally got enrolled back into American schools, it was like, I did not know how to interact with American kids. I just was nervous to talk. I didn't know anything about anything. And it was just a really awkward time for me. Khaddy Dublin (04:15): I grew up as an only child. So literally it became known to myself that I could pretty much only rely on myself. And I didn't really have anybody to talk to except for maybe mama Ingram, mama Ingram. I met her when I was six. We met her at the bus stop. Cause her daughter who is also six years old and was in my kindergarten class, Pauline, we just gravitated towards each other. And we started making like these little snow volcanoes while we were waiting for the bus to pick us up at school. I think I was like a preteen. She told me that the reason why I became a part of her family, it was because she said that God told me to take you in. And from the moment I saw you, you were, I knew that you were going to be a part of my family. It was like such a relief being over in a house that was just so pleasant and kind, and you know, everybody like loved each other and made each other laugh. Khaddy Dublin (05:21): My mother was very adamant about preserving her Filipino heritage. So I grew up eating Filipino food, like some of the really obscure stuff that people don't know about. My mother always insisted on speaking, you know, Silvano and Tagalog in the home. She would just say at that time, you know, because well, race relations are still very high here in the States. But back then, like in the early nineties, you know, it was, it was weird if you were an interracial couple and they were, so my mother was like being that I look Asian. It's important that when we're, we don't speak the language, we speak English because Americans are very adamant about that. Apart from, you know, just trying to assimilate, she was still very about like preserving Filipino culture and food inside the home Speaker 4 (06:14): Khaddy's relationship with her mother always seemed strained after spending time in Michigan and later the United Kingdom, she returned home at a particularly low point in her life and felt like she needed a significant change. Khaddy Dublin (06:31): I need an escape. Like at this point it's like, I'm desperate. And my whole thing was because like I had been traveling since I was like five years old. I wanted to see the world. The Navy is the one that seemed like the best option for that. Andrew Bracken (06:48): When we come back, Khaddy makes her escape in the Navy and gets assigned to San Diego. Khaddy Dublin (07:01): I signed up and then I literally just broke the news to my mother and my stepdad. And I was like, by the way, I'm joining the Navy. I already signed the contract just cause like, I really was desperate to get out of there. And the Navy was my last resort. And to be honest, I do not ever regret doing that. My mother actually had a longtime friend that had been living here in San Diego. So she picked me up. Uh, she took me to her house. She lived in mere Mesa. She made Filipino food. Of course. And then I reported to my duty station, which was 32nd street at the time. I mean, when I got outside of Lindbergh and you see that, that row of Palm trees outside, I was like, Oh man, this kind of reminds me of the Palm trees and the coconut trees in the Philippines, you know? And it was like warm 32nd street is really close to Coronado. So you could see like the ocean I'm like, okay. So like we're super close to the ocean. Obviously, honestly, coming to California for the first time, felt like how I do when I see a new country. That's what it felt like for me, it was kind of like a discovery of something new, like something new that you had never experienced before. Speaker 4 (08:33): Khaddy's time in the Navy, brought her new bonds with other service members, coupled with a burgeoning interest in cooking, which would soon take hold of her. Khaddy Dublin (08:40): When I was in the Navy, I kind of discovered that I had a knack for like cooking really well. My whole thing was before deployments, I would always have this tradition of bringing in food to my work center. You know, like they were my family and they like loved it. One of my friends, she would say all the time, how she hated aubergines eggplants. She's like, I hate, I hate those. My grandmother always made them and would make me eat them. And I was like, you're going to love my aubergines . So like I made like an aubergines lasagna and fed it to her. And she was like, Oh my God, this is amazing. And I was like, okay, if I can make somebody that hates aubergines like aubergines again, there might be something to this Speaker 4 (09:21): Much of Khaddy's time in the Navy was spent on deployment on faraway seas and often all encompassing experience. Khaddy Dublin (09:28): It was pleasant, but it's also stressful, you know? Cause you literally are working nonstop when you're on deployment and on a ship, you it's easy to work 19 hours a day, get enough sleep and then go do it again. The next day, Speaker 4 (09:43): Khaddy was particularly impacted by an officer of hers during her time in the Navy Khaddy Dublin (09:47): He was the first boss I think I ever had in my life that showed that he cared for anybody else, but himself, you know, like he was always trying to develop us as sailors, making us Excel. And I remember him always telling us, I might be a petty officer first class he's like, but if you surpass me as a petty officer first class, he's like, then that means I did my job. So he was just like genuinely selfless. Andrew Bracken (10:11): Once her enlistment period ended Khaddy decided to focus on becoming a chef with the help of the GI bill years of training and experience later, her focus shifted toward a familiar place. Andrew Bracken (10:23): But in the back of my mind, it was just always Filipino food will always be my favorite. It's always going to be my comfort food. Filipino food has like all of these cultures in it. You know, all these influences in it, all these wonderful, strange ingredients in it. But yet every time I walked down the street in my Hillcrest neighborhood, you know, I don't see it. You know, I S I see Mexican, I see French. I see Tahlia and there's Japanese, there's Thai, there's Indian there's even Nepalese and Afghani. Once I was able to kind of be a little bit more creative and grow as a chef in the restaurants that I worked at, I started incorporating like little, like little Filipino things into the tasting menus and my boss, you know, like he was really receptive to that. So it always just made sense, like to apply what I've learned and what I've always known to the food that I grew up eating. Andrew Bracken (11:16): You know, even though like San Diegans are well accustomed to Filipino food, you know, um, because we have such a big diaspora of Filipinos residing here, but there just, hasn't been like attention brought to the food. I guess it just hasn't been made appealing to the masses, um, specifically to like white Americans, I guess. And that's an issue, you know, because for me, I feel like sometimes we end up wanting to appeal to the masses, but the food no longer tastes like the food. I'm one of those. I'm not going to sacrifice the flavor of the food to make it appealing to you. Because the moment I do that, I lose my food culture. I lose my heritage. So what I try to do is incorporate those weird flavors and things into new techniques. Our cuisine is comprised of a mix of our entire history and that's the indigenous Filipinos, the techniques that we learned from being subjected to Spanish colonialism, and also the food culture from Chinese immigrants that came to our country a long time ago, noodles are not a thing that's prevalent in the Philippines that came because of Chinese immigrants and noodles are a thing that we have for like everything. Andrew Bracken (12:41): Things like cured meats, things like corn, beef, hot dog that was brought over by the American GIS during the war, you know, and Filipino spaghetti you'll see that at every birthday party that a child has, all of the adobos like the stews and things that we have. That's all from, you know, Spanish cooking. I just tell people that Filipino food is like one big fusion of everything. When people ask me like where I'm from, I always say Filipino because being so Pino is my heritage. That was my happy place. It's the city I was born in. You know, it's the languages that I speak Andrew Bracken (13:21): Also been influenced by many along the way from family back in the Philippines, to her adopted mother in the United States, from a selfless Naval officer to chefs, who'd become mentors. Khaddy Dublin (13:32): They showed me that not all people are bad, you know that there's actually people out there that want the best for you and who are legitimately rooting for you. And you just have to let them. And like when you do, like, they make that imprint in you and you end up being better for it Andrew Bracken (14:01): Today, Khaddy Dublin is a chef in San Diego who was starting a modern Filipino popup restaurant. Next year, we have a link to it in our show. Thank you to Kristine Custodio Suero and Mary Ann Beyster for helping with this episode. My first day is produced by me, Andrew Bracken, along with help from Melissa di, you can find me at Our email is my first day stories at gmail dot come, on Instagram at My First Day stories, music by Jason Begin, theme music by Chris Curtis for KPBS, Emily, Jankowalski's technical Kinsee Morlan's podcast coordinator, Lisa Jane Morrissete is operations manager. John Decker is director of programming. This programming is made possible in part by the KPBS Explore content fund. Thanks for listening. See you next time.

Khaddy Dublin endures a chaotic upbringing and seeks an escape in the Navy. Later, she reconnects with her homeland through food. About the show: My First Day is a KPBS Explore series that explores these important days through people who came to San Diego from elsewhere, and now call it home. About the producer: Andrew Bracken is a documentary mediamaker working with audio, video, and interactive media. He is the creator, producer, and host of the KPBS podcast My First Day. Follow the show: Instagram: Contact: