The month of October commemorates the first Filipinos to arrive in the United States on Oct. 18, 1587. I may be just a second-generation half-Filipina, but I still continue to exhibit pride in my Filipino blood, especially during this wonderful month that asks us to recognize such a nurturing, good-hearted culture. Montclair State University offers a welcoming college community to Filipino students. We’ve even established the Montclair Unified Filipino American Student Association (MUFASA), a Filipino cultural organization.
Yet, the fact remains that Filipinos are a highly underrepresented group. I conducted a survey including MUFASA members and Filipino friends, revealing a consensus that we do not see enough, Filipino-American representation in the media. A remark from the survey that stood out to me was, “it’s not enough; not until we can see a Filipino on screen or stage and not have to be surprised.”
This is a very difficult reality for many students who grow up surrounded by media, television, movies and performing arts. Why do we rarely see someone who looks like us in the spotlight? Thankfully, the 2020s have seen a slow but steady increase in Filipino-American representation. So read a book, watch a movie, and immerse yourself in our culture! There is more to us than meets the eye.
A Book: “Arsenic & Adobo”
Just how often do we get an Asian-American lead in mystery novels? As the first book of the series, “Arsenic and Adobo” establishes Gen Z’s Nancy Drew: Lila Macapagal. This woman’s got it all. She’s a sharp Fil-Am heroine and a masterful cook. Alongside, Lila is a supporting cast full of dubious townspeople, gossiping titas, two potential love interests, and her doggie sidekick. Except for the whodunnit reveal being a little bit of a letdown, I thoroughly enjoyed this debut novel. It’s a gem, definitely worth the read!
A Performer: Eva Noblezada
A few people on the survey listed Eva Noblezada as a Fil-Am performer they look up to, which doesn’t surprise me. Noblezada’s Broadway career began with her role as Kim in the revival of “Miss Saigon,” and it helped her receive a Tony nomination for Best Actress in 2017. After seeing “Hadestown” on Broadway back in 2019, I was captivated by Noblezada in particular. She truly is an incredible performer and one hell of a singer. I couldn’t think of a better actress to play the role of Eurydice.
A Musical: “Here Lies Love”
Featuring Broadway’s very first all Filipino cast, “Here Lies Love” is a biographical musical nearly twenty years in the making. With music by Fatboy Slim and lyrics by David Byrne, “Here Lies Love” examines the lives of former Philippine President and First Lady Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Having not seen the show yet, I’m not quite sure how disco and politics meld together, especially considering its apparent glamorization of the Marcos regime. But I am willing to sit through the whole thing, thanks to its inventiveness, star-studded cast and generally favorable reviews from friends.
A Magician: Anna Deguzman
The 25-year-old Filipina made history as the first female magician to make it to the finals as the runner-up on “America’s Got Talent.” Anna is an inspiration to female performers and Filipino-Americans with a strong connection to their heritage. Keep shooting for the stars Anna, because not only did you come in second, but you will be included in the Vegas show Line-Up!
A Content Creator: Chrissa Sparkles
I felt a personal connection with Chrissa Sparkles when my mother sent me one of her goofy Instagram videos. Ms. Sparkles owns a clothing brand based in Los Angeles and is a certified Pilates instructor, comedy songwriter, and content creator for Instagram and TikTok. She has inspired me to pursue my artistic dreams despite the fact that my Filipino grandparents and father would rather I have financial stability. Sparkles is one of a kind, a multi-talented businesswoman we should all look up to.
A Director: Rio Rosario
This director is a young, up-and-coming talent from Hoboken, New Jersey and no I am definitely not related to him in any way. In all seriousness though, the reason I decided to feature my brother in this article is 1. He’s Filipino (duh) and 2. He’s determined to make his pipe dream a reality. Knowing Rio as well as I do, I can say for a fact that he’s gonna go far. I’ve never met someone so sure of what they wanted in life. My brother is someone I look up to the most.
I am grateful as a Filipina-American to have seen a surge of new talent in the last decade, and I’m sure many of us are as well. A noteworthy comment from the survey states, “I want people to understand us as complex individuals. We have singers, writers, artists, cooks, etc. I want to inform everyone on how much broader we are as people.”