Curious Fernandez wants to learn more about Filipino food, culture

Published September 10, 2021, 5:10 PM

by Carlo Anolin

Leylah Fernandez has always been curious about her roots, having been born to mother Irene, a Canadian with Filipino parents, and Ecuadorian father Jorge.

Canada’s Leylah Fernandez celebrates after winning her 2021 US Open Tennis tournament women’s semifinal match against Belarus’s Aryna Sabalenka at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, on September 9, 2021. (AFP)

Fernandez, who was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec in Canada, admitted she isn’t really exposed to Philippine culture just yet.

A little knowledge would count, like knowing how difficult it was for her to understand Tagalog when watching Filipino television shows.

“But as I’m getting older, I’ve always been curious about Filipino culture,” said the 19-year-old Fernandez in an old interview with Sportsnet’s Arash Madani. “Mainly, [I want to learn] about the food. I’m very curious what is [their] food. I know the language, it’s very hard… it was the language Tagalog, it was super complicated and I didn’t understand one word.

“But maybe one day, if I have more free time, I can try and learn it if I can,” added the Canadian netter of Filipino descent.

Lots of Filipino sports fans are rejoicing with Fernandez’s recent achievements in the US Open.

Fernandez barged into the finals of the prestigious tennis tournament after upsetting the likes of world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, fifth-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, former world No. 1 and 16th-seed Angelique Kerber of Germany, and Japanese icon and third-seeded Naomi Osaka.

And Fernandez wouldn’t be able to reach this point of her career were it not for the support of her both parents as Jorge, a former football player, became a tennis coach while Irene used to work in California to fund her needs in the sport.

“I was just very lucky to have my mom here at this tournament cheering for me and having fun with me all this time,” said Fernandez after beating Sabalenka. “We’ve gone through so many things together as a family. I’m just glad that right now everything’s going on our side.”

When she gets back home in Canada, lots of Filipino dishes prepared by her lolo (grandfather) await the Fernandez family.

“I am so happy to hear that everyone in the Philippines is cheering for me and supporting me so thank you,” added Fernandez. “Unfortunately, I do now know much of the Filipino culture but I do know that my lolo cooks amazing so hopefully when I get back to Canada in Toronto and visit him, he’s gonna make a really nice dish for the whole family, especially Filipino dish because I do miss it and I just can’t wait to learn more about the culture in the future.”