Will Filipinos flex their political muscles?

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

Manila, Philippines (Photo: Oscar Papaorhum )

If you don’t already know, let me break the news to you. Filipinos are the biggest Asian group in California.

In fact, according to a new study by Asian American Center for Advancing Justice, “A Community of Contrasts: Asian Americans and Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, 2013, there are 1.5 million Filipinos living in the Golden State with half living in the greater Los Angeles region. San Diego and Santa Clara counties also have large Filipino American communities.

The study also reveals the Filipino population grew 34 percent during the decade, mirroring the rapid overall Asian American growth rate.

What does this mean? It depends on how you look at it—but you can definitely count on this group to have a very strong voice and to be highly influential, should they choose to mobilize and be heard.

One way to tap into those highly populated Filipino areas is through the media.

ABS-CBN International, the largest Filipino entertainment, news and broadcast company in the U.S., recently launched Lifestyle Network on Time Warner in L.A. and San Diego.

“The new channel will be dedicated to informing, enriching, empowering and inspiring Filipino Americans in English while providing audiences a wellspring of smart, practical and innovative guidance on living well,” said ABS-CBN North America Managing Director and Global Content Head, Olivia De Jesus.

“The Lifestyle Network is appealing to a market seeking diverse, fresh, rich experiences, information, and entertainment that helps balance their lives, improve their well-being, fire up their dreams and fuel their passions.”

Angelenos head to the polls on May 21 to decide who the next mayor will be as well as other councilmembers. As the fastest growing population, with possibly more Filipino voters at the polls, these Filipino channels could play a vital role.

The Lifestyle Network sounds good, but is the channel doing its due diligence in reaching out to the Filipino communities in Southern California? Has it, or any other Filipino programs/networks stepped up to the plate?

Overwhelming, some community activists say no.

“I think it’s always good that there’s more competition, more channels—let everybody compete for something that really captures the opportunity to really engage the diaspora. I think the ones that will do better are the channels that will have a continuum of programming that engages a broad spectrum of Filipinos—be it immigrant of American born,” said Joel Jacinto, Executive Director of the Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA).

“Maybe down the line, but right now I don’t see Filipino channels doing that—I see them doing more human interest stories that talk about issues or personalities and less of issues based shows that could directly affect or impact legislation and/or cause advocacy to happen.”

Jacinto believes the heads and investors of Filipino networks need to seriously think about their programming.

“It’s the mind-set of the leadership of the heads of the networks who need to figure out what their platform is.  It could happen, but will it happen, will it be seen as something of value of Philippines based programming? Remember the stations are coming from the Philippine perspective and I would challenge the Philippine based programmers to say do you have a role, should you have role, could you have a role in advancing the issues concerning the diaspora and in the Homeland?”

Enrique de la Cruz, Professor emeritus of Asian American Studies at the California State University of Northridge, agrees.

“The heads, the investors of Filipino networks are really missing a big gap.”

De la Cruz also points out that the Filipino channels that are available are by subscription-only.

“They need to look at their business plan. The Philippine born, the foreign born, the immigrants—they are getting their programming needs. They’re getting their information but by channels that are subscription only. But, — and it’s a big, big but – the native born, the children born in the United States, my guess is they really have no knowledge of those issues because it’s not readily available, there’s no access to it,” said de la Cruz.

Filipinos need to recognize their political power and that their votes could influence local and national elections. If they had an outlet to help break down the issues and information to them, that would be ideal.

“If they use this platform in the right way, it could be very influential,” said de la Cruz.

“I think this Lifestyle Network can have a following, and be influential among Filipinos, and the overall social and political scene here in the U.S. But they really need to go broadcast, not channel subscription so they reach a broader audience. It’s a risk, but one worth taking,” said de la Cruz.

“It’s not a quick fix, it’s a paradigm shift and it’s a dialogue,” said Jacinto.

“If the heads of these firms see their role and are open to a dialogue in terms of Philippine media in the U.S., in Southern California that they can be influential in our community then there’s definitely an opportunity and willingness for stakeholders to come to the table to discuss, advise, consult to plan with the broadcast companies in order to achieve this,” said Jacinto.

“They can and should play a role, that’s their responsibility to help organize the community and look at it as something that is an investment in their bottom line,” exclaimed Jacinto.

The Lifestyle Network is on channel 683 in L.A. and channel 691 in San Diego for no additional charge to Time Warner Cable customers who already subscribe to The Filipino Channel. 


Cheryl Getuiza

All stories by: Cheryl Getuiza