Photo Information

On Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, May 9, 2024, some of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander commissary workers. From left to right: Janelle Mansapit (Guamanian), Christina Blankenship (Filipina), MaryAnn Isidro (Filipina) and Mercy Jauss (Filipina). Not pictured: Rizza Shelley (Filipina) and Erlin Parica (Filipina).

Photo by Vanessa Schell

AANHPI Represents at the Commissary

16 May 2024 | Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow

In 1992, May was nationally designated as the month to celebrate the heritage and cultures of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. The month of May was chosen specifically to honor the first Japanese immigrant, a young fisherman named Manjiro, arriving in the United States on May 7, 1843 and the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 by laborers who were mostly Chinese.
In honor of Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we will highlight the AANHPI women who work at our Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow commissary.

Philippine born and raised, Mercedita Jauss, commissary secretary and supply, who goes by “Mercy”, has been working at the MCLB Barstow commissary since 1998. Long before arriving in the United States, Jauss’s aunt worked at the base's Yermo Annex, where she met George Jauss. She asked him if he was single and he was, so they started writing letters. This was in the early 90s, before internet and cell phones. They met in-person for the first time in November 1992, when George traveled to the Philippines to stay for three weeks. During that time he and Jauss married and six months later, after all the visa paperwork had gone through, Jauss arrived in the US, where she has lived ever since.

While adapting to the dryness of the High Desert, Jauss used a tried-and-true Filipino remedy, Vicks VapoRub, under her nose to help her breathe outside in the dry desert air. Jauss grew up in Zambales, a province of Luzon, the central island of the Philippines. Already fluent in Ilocano (regional dialect) and Tagalog (the universal dialect of the Philippines), Jauss improved her English by watching television with subtitles. After she learned enough to apply for a job, she started working at the post exchange on MCLB Barstow, before moving over to the commissary.

Jauss would make lumpia (eggrolls) for her husband—his favorite Filipino dish, but in order to not waste the wrapper, which had to be acquired during a trip every three months to a Filipino grocery store in West Covina, she would make the “large” lumpia, instead of the more widely known Shanghai lumpia (which are smaller and thinner). Jauss also prefers beef adobo (meat marinated in vinegar) over chicken or pork, because it reminded her of home, when every time her father was paid, they would splurge on beef.

Also born and raised in the Philippines, MaryAnn Isidro, commissary store manager, is married to another Filipino and raises their children in the traditional Filipino way, wherein being respectful is most important. Every adult, whether related or not, is referred to as “auntie” or “uncle," and elderly women are “lola," which is Tagalog for “grandma."

“They understand 100 percent Tagalog, even if they only respond in English,” said Isidro, of her children. At 11-years-old, her children started learning adult responsibilities, such as cooking and cleaning, which is also a Filipino tradition. They will always do the Filipino sign of respect to the elderly, "pagmamano," a gesture of honor, wherein the younger person bows and presses the elder’s hand to their forehead.

Janelle Mansapit, commissary store worker who is Guamanian, grew up in the U.S., but her parents were both from Guam. Her mother, from Sinajana, and her father, from Santa Rita-Sumai (formerly known as just Santa Rita).

Mansapit’s husband is also from Guam, although that was a fortuitous coincidence, as they met here in Barstow at a Guamanian barbecue and “just clicked." Mansapit’s family settled here after Mansapit’s father left the Army—he was never stationed at Fort Irwin, but rather wanted to be close to his brother, who was stationed there. Although both of her parents are from Guam, Mansapit doesn’t speak Guamanian, as her parents did not speak it around her and her brother when they were children. In order to keep the Guamanian culture going with their children and generations to come, Mansapit and her husband strive to continue the traditions.

Mansapit's favorite foods are chicken kelaguen, a Guamanian dish that is made with chicken breast, lemon juice, fresh grated coconut, green onions and spicy peppers. Kelaguen is considered to have been derived from the Philippines, as there is a similiar dish there, but kelaguen is usually eaten with tortillas. For dessert, latiya, a custard cake that Mansapit makes using Sara Lee poundcake mix, "because it's easier," which is then topped with homemade custard.

Christina Blankenship, commissary teller, also grew up in the U.S. but both parents are from the Philippines. Although she can understand Ilocano and Tagalog, she can only speak a little Ilocano and almost no Tagalog. Like Isidro’s children, she also responds in English when spoken to in Tagalog.

Blankenship's mother was an amazing cook and they ate Filipino food every day. Typically dishes such as chicken adobo, pancit (stir-fried rice noodles), shanghai lumpia and tinola—a soup made with meat and sayote, a green fruit that is similar to summer squash. As well as Filipino desserts such as leche flan and halo-halo, which her mother would shave the ice for by hand using a special Filipino tool. Blankenship has been at the commissary for the last nine years.

“It’s nice, working in an interracial environment,” said Blankenship.
Commissary Officer, Rizza Shelley, born and raised in the Philippines, has been at the MCLB Barstow commissary for over a year. She is from Tondo, a district of Manila (the capitol of the Philippines). Her favorite Filipino food is sinigang, a sour soup made with tamarind and pork ribs, which she makes regularly for her family and for the other workers at the commissary. Shelley has been a Defense Commissary Agency employee for 18 years.

"Every day, we work together, eat together, from contractors to baggers," said Shelley.