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Yankees’ Anthony Volpe proud of the Filipino roots on his mom’s side – and the eclectic cooks in his family

Whenever Anthony Volpe’s extended family gathers for Christmas, he and his 15 cousins try to outdo each other.

“We’ll always have a competition, like around the horn, to see who can keep saying different Filipino words,” Volpe told the Daily News. But the battles never last long, nor does Volpe.

Asked if he ever wins the game, the Yankees’ smiling infielder said, “No, never.”

“I can just pick out words,” Volpe added when asked if he knows how to speak Tagalog, or Filipino. “The only time I can tell what’s being said is if my aunts or uncles start talking Filipino around us. I know they’re talking about us. That’s the only thing I pick up.”

While Volpe’s Italian roots have received plenty of fanfare since the Yankees drafted the New York-born, New Jersey-raised leadoff man in 2019, he is also half Filipino. He has his mom, Isabelle, to thank for that.

Volpe said that he’s “proud” of both sides of his family. But with Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month upon us and Mother’s Day here, he spoke lovingly of the Filipino influences in his life earlier this May.

Volpe said that his maternal grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1970s with just two of their seven children. Isabelle was not one of them. She didn’t make the move until two years later, when she was about 11 or 12.

“It just showed the sacrifices the whole family was willing to make,” Volpe said, adding that he heard stories of Isabelle’s grandfather surviving the Bataan Death March during World War II. “Our mom would kind of hold it over us when we were little about how if we weren’t grateful for [my parents] or something, she’d be like, ‘Well, we didn’t get to see our parents for two years’ and stuff like that.

“Kind of jokingly and everything like that, but when you think about it, it’s crazy the stuff that the whole family went through to sacrifice.”

Now 23, Volpe considers his mom, an anesthesiologist, and grandparents to be “big role models” in his life.

His grandfather, or “lolo,” Benjamin, died in 2010. However, his grandma, Concepcion de Leon, is still alive and got to see Volpe achieve an upper echelon version of the American dream: becoming the Yankees’ starting shortstop.

“They wanted their kids to have an opportunity to live in America and take advantage of all the opportunities,” Volpe said with reverence.

While Volpe may not know his mom’s native language well, he has become well-versed in Filipino food. Isabelle is an excellent chef, as is Volpe’s grandmother and aunt, Tita Jazz.

“They’re arguably the best cooks that I’ve ever had food from, that’s for sure,” Austin Wells, a frequent dinner guest, confirmed. “Besides my mother! She’d kill me.

“They’re amazing, and it doesn’t matter what kind of food it is. They do everything, and they’re really good at it.”

Volpe said that chicken adobo is his grandmother’s specialty, and she also makes sinigang, a sour soup native to the Philippines.

However, Volpe claimed that Jazz is “the best cook ever.” Yankees fans may have already heard of her, as she prepared the chicken parm dinner that Volpe and Wells famously shared last season.

Filipino-style ribs are among Jazz’s other go-to delicacies. Wells has tasted those, too.

“You can’t stop eating them,” the catcher said. “They’re so good. It’s really that, and then the Italian [food], like chicken parm. Those are the two that are my favorites.”

Volpe has been inviting teammates to family dinners for as long as he can remember. Both sides of his family are big on food, and the Filipino offerings have allowed Volpe’s peers to try new dishes.

“Part of the culture is the food,” Volpe said. “A lot of guys throughout the years have come over to the house. They’ve definitely gotten to know our culture through having family dinners and different stuff like that.

“Filipino food’s probably the best or up there rivaling the best types of food, and I think nobody really knows about it.”

Volpe is looking forward to eating more this winter, when he and the rest of his family plan on visiting the Philippines.

He’s played baseball on that side of the world, traveling to Japan and Taiwan with Team USA when he was younger. However, Volpe has never been to the Philippines, and his mom hasn’t been back since before he was born. She told her son that the family has relatives in the triple digits there, some of which Volpe has never met or hasn’t seen since he was a baby.

Volpe’s stateside family, including his sister, Olivia; father, Michael; and numerous cousins are looking forward to the trip, which will take place over New Year’s.

Sampling some authentic Filipino food is at the top of Volpe’s to-do list, but he’s eager to “explore everything” his mom’s home country has to offer.

“I’m excited to really dive in,” Volpe said. “We’re going to try and set it up where everyone gets to go over and experience everything.”


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