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May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and as a proud, first-generation, Filipino-American female, I will be sharing some stories and information about the Philippine culture and my American upbringing.

Today let’s talk about the Philippine national flower, the sampguita (pronounced saam-puh-gwee-tuh), or otherwise known as Jasminum sambac or Arabian jasmine. They are small white flowers with the lovely scent of jasmine.

The background photo was taken from one of my late grandparents’ homes—this one in Singalong Manila—from a window of which I remember fondly sitting by as a child. Sampaguita flowers lined the neighborhood, and it has such a sweet scent. My cousin and I would pick some of them to place in our hair, create something similar to a lei to wear around our neck, or a crown of flowers to wear on our heads.

Sampaguita flowers are used in many wedding and religious ceremonies. It is also used for herbal medicinal purposes. I recall my aunt taking some of the sampaguita flowers and threading them together as a lei for her to wear and help alleviate her headaches. The sampaguita flower is considered the flower of love in many Asian countries also symbolizing devotion, purity, simplicity, humility, strength, and divine hope.

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