Then And Now: Ria Pretekin of Urban Ohana

As our families grow we try and find ways to make sure our children stay connected to their roots. We draw from our own childhood experiences and build new traditions with our partners, children and the friends we make along the way. In our Then and Now series we talk to moms and dads about how they channel these rich customs, that have been passed down through the generations, in their parenting today. 

We are so excited to introduce you to Ria Pretekin. She is an educational coach at the Network for College Success at the University of Chicago. She coaches counselors and college coaches to help support student identity development. She also works with Chicago Public Schools to help transform high schools into equitable learning spaces for students. 

We have loved following her on Instagram. She has taught us so much about her culture and is one of the most approachable and kind people you could find! 

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi I’m Ria Pretekin, Filipina American mom of two (a daughter and son). We live in the City of Chicago although I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and my husband was born and raised in Dayton, OH.

I am exploring what it means to raise my kids in a multicultural, interfaith family, raising bi-racial kids and exposing them to both Catholic and Jewish faiths. As a former counselor and yoga teacher I am big on social emotional learning and mindful parenting.

 I am constant learner and always looking for ways to become a better mother, wife, friend, counselor, and educator. I think the best way to learn about the world is to experience different places, so my husband and I love to travel with our kids. 



 What were your favorite traditions growing up?

 Family gatherings! Christmas Eve was always such a big, huge family party with all my cousins, titas (aunts), titos (uncles), parents, and grandparents. In Filipino culture, Noche Buena is the Christmas eve celebration that is centered around Midnight Mass and a feast with family. The party would go into the wee hours of the morning with my cousins, sister, and I opening presents after mass. It was always such a joyous occasion to be surrounded with so much family.

Now that you have kids, has the way you embrace traditions changed?

We had so many traditions growing up and now that I have young children, midnight mass is no longer in the plans for us. We do, however, go to church on Christmas Eve still but usually around 3pm for the Children’s Pageant. And since we are an interfaith family and Hanukkah typically falls around Christmastime, we incorporate the celebrations and prayers of both Filipino Catholic traditions and Jewish American traditions.

Ria on the left and her daughter on the right

Ria on the left, Ria's daughter on the right.

 How do you explain other families cultures and celebrations to your little ones?

We expose our children to other cultures, other faiths, and other places so that they can embrace the beauty of other cultures. Lucky for us we have places like Bubbles Academy where we can take our little ones to celebrate other cultural traditions such as Diwali and Holi. We are huge book lovers and our collection has books that explain and celebrate other religions, cultures, and ways of being. From learning about Eid and Ramadan to learning about the traditions of Native Americans, I want my children to being exposed to the world beyond American culture, Filipino culture, and Jewish culture.

Do you have a favorite recipe you've gotten from your family that your kids also love?

Lumpia, filipino eggrolls. We are using my maternal grandmother’s (lola’s) recipe and the kids love lumpia! Lumpia is a staple at every Filipino party and celebration so it’s great to spread this love for lumpia with friends and family who are not Filipino. We got real creative one holiday season and celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah with latke & lumpias. It’s such a great way to honor and celebrate our family’s collective identity.

 How do you use clothes and accessories to teach your kids more about your heritage?

The Barong is a special embroidered formal shirt or dress that is made out of pineapple fiber. My kids and husband all have a barong now and I am trying to incorporate wearing it at special occasions. We recently wore our barongs at our Filipino American History Month Festival this past October. Well, everyone except the little one who decided his Paw Patrol shirt was more fitting for the occasion.

From Ria's Mothers Perspective: 

 What were their favorite traditions growing up?

Growing up in a typical large Filipino family, we look forward celebrating Christmas Eve with the family , relatives and friends  by feasting on hamon, queso de bola, Pandesal, Pancit and lots of desserts such as leche flan , Puto bumbong and other rice based sweets. Then we wait for midnight to exchange gifts.  We sang Christmas Carols and play games.

On Christmas day we would visit our godparents homes , aunts and uncles too and were given aguinaldo which are cash put in envelopes which we get to open once we are home. Me and my sisters would excitedly open the envelopes, lay them out and brag who got the most cash!

  What was an important aspect of their culture they wanted to ensure they passed down through the generations?

 The part of our culture we would like to pass down is the food. A lot of love goes into every dish and it warms not only the belly but also the heart. Filipino food is very tasty and most of the staple dishes are easy to prepare. Although  I am not very good in the kitchen, I can manage to cook an appetizing savory dish.

I just recently taught my granddaughter how to make lumpia and it brought me back to the days when my mom and I made lumpias, chatting away as we rolled those meat and vegetable ingredients in the wrapper. It was a lot of work but also very fun to do! I encourage all Filipino families to have a lumpia making session and make lasting memories with our loved ones through food.

Ria's kids' perspective:

What are your favorite traditions?

Decorating our Christmas tree. We collect ornaments from all the places we travel to so it is so nice to remember our family trips with each ornament year after year.

 What would they like to learn more about?

My oldest wants to explore the world. From seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris to seeing the Mayan Ruins in Mexico, she wants to see it all! I love that I’ve passed down my family’s adventurous spirit to her.