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Trailblazing  Filipino-Americans

Trailblazing Filipino-Americans

THIS WEEK ON PEOPLEASIA - Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - October 14, 2018 - 12:00am

October is widely celebrated as Filipino-American History Month in the US. From the arrival of the first Filipinos in what is now Morro Bay, California, to the present day — a period spanning more than four centuries — Filipinos have struggled and triumphed to leave a mark on American history and society.

Recently, the US Census Bureau released its latest American Community Survey data indicating that there are now around four million Filipino-Americans in the United States, making them the third largest Asian group in the country. Many of them are doing very well, distinguishing themselves in their chosen professions and earning the respect of people in their respective communities.

A number of them have chosen to go into public service such as Attorney General Sean Reyes, who is the first Filipino-American to become Attorney General of Utah. When we met during my visit at the Beehive State last month, I was impressed by how deeply he remains connected with his Filipino heritage. I also believe that Reyes’ familial relations with Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay make him predisposed to public service.

There is also Mayor Ron Falconi of Brunswick,  who is the first Filipino-American mayor in the state of Ohio. Prior to being mayor, Falconi served on the city council committees on economic development, planning and zoning, safety, finance committee and building code.

With Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes during my visit at the ‘Beehive State.’

In the House of Representatives, we have Congressman Bobby Scott, who is currently serving his 13th term in the Third Congressional District of Virginia. He is also the Democratic co-chair of the bipartisan US-Philippines Friendship Caucus.

In the upcoming midterm elections this November, three Filipino-Americans will be running for public office for the first time. There is Cristina Osmeña, a great grand-daughter of President Sergio Osmeña and a solar industry executive, who is running as US Representative from the 14th Congressional District of California under the Republican banner.

In Texas, first-generation immigrant and former Air Force intelligence officer Gina Ortiz-Jones is the Democratic candidate for US Representative from the state’s 23rd Congressional District. Ortiz-Jones could make history as she may become the first Filipino-American, first openly gay and first Iraq War veteran to represent a district of the Lone Star State in the US Congress.

And in Florida, Democratic candidate Dr. Jennifer Mijares-Zimmerman is running to represent what many consider to be the most Republican district of the state. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Zimmerman, fondly called “Dr. Z,” when she paid a courtesy call on the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C.

A pediatrician for 20 years, Dr. Z told me that the healthcare crisis prompted her to consider running in the elections, disclosing that most parents of her young patients are the working poor who do not qualify for healthcare and rely mostly on Medicaid. Should she win in the midterm elections, Dr. Z is poised to make history as the first Asian-American and first immigrant to win as US Representative in Florida, and the first full-blooded Filipina to win a seat in the US Congress.

These three trailblazing Filipino-American candidates, who also happen to be all women, are already becoming rallying points for the Filipino-American community. Traditionally considered to be the “silent Asians,” the Filipino-Americans of today are more vigorously working to increase their visibility and become effective advocates of their interests.

FILIPINO-AMERICAN HISTORY
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