As a child, if I woke up to pots and pans clanking, then the sound of a sharp sizzle, I always knew what came next: the smell of bawang and sibuyas - garlic and onion.

It was the kind of smell that stuck to your hair, seeped into your skin and clung to your clothes.

But it was also an indication that soon our house would be filled with family and friends, the sound of laughter and Tagalish for Thanksgiving.

Tagalish combines the national language of the Philippines - Tagalog - and English to better communicate with the American-born in the family. It bridges the gap between generations through words.

The colloquial speech reminds me of the way I grew up, where my Filipina mother and U.S. Navy-serving father, both raised in the Philippines, fused the traditions of their homeland with American ideals to help me and mga kapatid - my siblings - assimilate while never forgetting our roots.

But even before we could speak broken Tagalog with our elders, what brought us together most was food.

"Salu-salo over pagkain," my mom fumbled to explain to me.

After the laughter subsided, she translated the broken Tagalog phrase to mean: "getting together over food."

I can still vividly remember the feel of the cold tile of the kitchen counter beneath me as I sat watching my mom move about the kitchen, adding pepper to the pancit in the wok and tossing lumpia in the fryer.

As soon as she took the lumpia out, my uncles, aunts, cousins and I could hardly wait to take a bite. But more often than not, after the loud crunch, at least one of us would let out a short scream because we burned our tongue. We were too impatient for the egg rolls to cool off.

The heaping bowl of pancit and crispy lumpia at the Thanksgiving table, in our family, was as important as the turkey. They were the dishes that brought us all together.

I am older now, living away from my family's dinner table, but I always find myself yearning for the taste of my mother's savory dishes no matter how much I stuff myself with roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

I am thankful for the memories of my mom in the kitchen and ever-grateful to the friends who take in Thanksgiving "orphans" like me to provide new memories. This year in particular, I am thankful for those who have extended invitations for my very first Los Angeles Turkey Day.

But without the Filipino staples of my mom's kitchen, the holidays won't quite feel like the holidays.

That's why I will attempt to cook my mom's famous pancit this year to see if I can bring the taste of my home to my friends and fellow holiday "orphans."

Wish me luck.

mariecar.mendoza@dailynews.com

818-713-3623

twitter.com/LADNMarMendoza