NORTHRIDGE, Calif. — The House of Representatives passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act on Tuesday to address the recent violence against Asian Americans during the pandemic.

One Filipino bakery owner shared her experience and why it is so important to support Asian American and Pacific Islander businesses during AAPI Heritage Month.

What You Need To Know

  • Carissa Ortega is the owner of Ninong’s Dessert Lab

  • After her family business shuttered due to the pandemic, the family quickly pivoted and modernized the business by shifting to online orders

  • Since it is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, she hopes non-Asian Angelenos will show their support

Carissa Ortega, owner of Ninong’s Dessert Lab, is focusing on her ube cookie butter recently, because sadly her 12-year-old family business Ninong’s Cafe shuttered due to the pandemic. 

“Our intention was just to share Filipino food and culture with our community, especially those who weren’t familiar,” said Ortega.

The family quickly pivoted and modernized the business by closing the restaurant and shifting to online orders of their famous ube pancakes and desserts. But, Filipino cuisine wasn’t always widely accepted. Ortega said she got made fun of over what she ate at school.

“Our generation would get bullied all the time when we would bring out our lunch and it would look weird. It’s purple and they are like, ‘Ew, it stinks. What is that?’” remembers Ortega.

It hurts her heart that some of the racism still continues, especially with the rise in recent hate crimes against the Asian community.

“It really makes me emotional to even think about what others, we go through it as well, but what other people, especially the elder community is going through. It’s heartbreaking to see because they are so vulnerable and you just don’t know who would come up to you and have hate in their heart for someone else. It’s hard to wrap your head around,” said Ortega.

This fear she said has always led the older generation to try to assimilate and become more “American,” but she wants to share her history and have pride in her culture.

“I am the first generation that can no longer speak our native language, Tagalog. I worry about our son and him not even knowing where he comes from or the history of the Philippines. And that’s why I think it’s really important because a lot of our community is so bent on being accepted, yet we don’t have any pride in our culture. What about the future generations that are now living here in America? They are losing something special,” said Ortega.

She is grateful to be working with her dad, aunt and husband at her business to keep the family traditions and recipes alive that have now become pretty popular. 


“It’s so crazy that now people know what ube is. Now, people are like ‘Oh ube. I love ube. I know what that is,’ Crazy, but really it’s really exciting at the same time to see the LA community really embrace other cultures,” said Ortega.

Since it is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, she hopes non-Asian Angelenos will show their support. She feels if more people want traditional Asian cuisine, these businesses will stay afloat and continue to spread their traditions to more people.

“We are steaming and beaming with pride and we can’t wait to tell people about it and we are not afraid anymore to be proud to share our food and it’s the easiest way to spark that conversation with people,” said Ortega.

Supporting AAPI businesses this month and always will continue the conversation and create acceptance. Ninong’s Dessert Lab can be found online or at pop-ups at fellow Filipino business Café Aficionado.