In Search for Stories
Excel V. Dyquiangco
Filipinos are storytellers. In the world of journalism and media, they serve to bring tales that revolutionize, narratives that change, and sagas that challenge.
Here are four brave souls who have managed to cultivate an environment that’s definitely rich in Filipino class, culture and talent. Armed with much love for the country, they devote their whole lives to bring honour, prestige and style to the whole world–the Filipino way.
Host, I am Pinoy Proud Ako
Ever since she was young, Ethel Cantor-Constantino had always dreamt to be on television. The glamorous look and the popularity was what fascinated her. “I was particularly amazed with journalists covering conflict stories,” she says. “They were brave and beautiful! I dreamed to be like them to the point that when I graduated high school, I wrote this in our yearbook: ‘Ambition: To become a TV host.’”
Armed with a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Communications Arts from Ateneo de Davao University, she worked for almost two decades in different TV stations in the southern Philippines until she got her big break after visiting a friend in the United States. A successful Filipino businesswoman in Queens, New York thought they could come up with a partnership to produce a TV show for Filipinos in New York, a show that would inspire kababayans around the world. In November 2014, they aired the pilot episode.
“I Am Pinoy Proud Ako! is the first and only TV magazine show for Filipinos in Northeast America,” she says. “The 30-minute bilingual program features the lives of ordinary Fil-Ams, as well as the exceptional achievers and leaders in the community. It aims to inspire, entertain, and inform the public about the challenges, hopes, fun and accomplishments of Filipinos in New York and its neighbouring states.”
The response was overwhelming—they got letters from as far as New Zealand, Australia, Canada and London, asking the show to cover success stories from these places.
In the near future, she hopes to take up Masters of Arts in Social Journalism at the City University of New York. She says that Social Journalism is the use of wide and new tools and skills involving relationship-building, data, social media, and business to produce tangible impact that goes beyond page views and clicks or likes.
“For those journalists who want to make it big in other countries, build your skills, skills that you will love to do anytime, anywhere,” she says.
Actor, Kevin From Work
(photo credit DIANA TOSHIKO)
From the time he saw “The Sound of Music” and “Annie,” Jason Rogel knew he wanted to be one of those kids playing fun roles onscree. It wasn’t until high school that he really got to explore theatre and acting, and from that point on, he became hooked to a world of make-believe.
“My first job was in a TV commercial for the Royal Bank of Scotland,” he says. “I played an employee on a company retreat in the woods. No lines, but it was an amazing experience. We shot in the Sequoia National Forest, so I got to travel for the job which was all so new and exciting to me. All of the other actors knew it was my first Union job, so we all celebrated with drinks after the shoot.”
He considers his most memorable role to date is his portrayal of the character Larry, from ABC Family’s Christmas musical movie, The Mistle-Tones, starring Tia Mowry and Tori Spelling, in which they all had such a great time singing, dancing and shooting together. His dream role? To play the Engineer in the movie version of Miss Saigon, if Hollywood ever decides to make it.
“When it comes to actors I would like to work with someday, there are so many, and I got quite a random list. Right now, my top two would be Alfre Woodard and Gary Sinise. I have admired them both for so long, it would be amazing to actually get to work with them. Working with Lea Salonga would be awesome too!”
Right now, he is fortunate enough to be working on a new sitcom for ABC Family called Kevin From Work, where he has “regular” work schedule. Shooting happens from Monday to Friday, one episode a week. And like any other jobs, it has its challenges, but he says it is hard to complain about anything when he is lucky enough to be in an amazing show with great cast and crew.
His advice to Filipino actors wanting to break into the Hollywood mode: “In addition to being persistent, patient and keeping that belief in yourself and your talent, I would say make sure you have some good training. Be versatile and always keep improving your skills. Show them that the only reason Aaron Sorkin does not see Asian movie stars is because they simply do not cast Asians as movie stars, not because the talent is not there.”
Host and Television Producer, Kababayan Today
Giselle Toengi is not a stranger in front of the television screen. Having acted in various Philippine soap operas and movies, she also dabbled as an MTV VJ back when people still watched music videos on television. At nineteen, she has booked a job travelling the world to interview pop stars and musicians, from Mariah Carey, Ricky Martin to Maxwell. Nowadays, she graces the small silver screen by showcasing her hosting mettle via Kababayan Today, the only daily talk show for Filipino Americans on free TV in all of North America, which is locally produced, and is a platform for the community to reach out to their kababayans to discuss topics important to them. Interestingly, not only does she host the show, she also produces, conceptualizes, edits at times, books guests, writes all the scripts and represents the show on various community events.
“I sent in my hosting and producing reel to LA18, an Asian American free-to-air station who was specifically looking for a host who could speak Tagalog,” she says. “My resume as a producer wasn’t as extensive as my hosting, but because I had graduated with a degree in Communication, I feel that it made me a good candidate for the position. The experience so far has been very fulfilling, but it certainly has its challenges. It isn’t easy breaking into a market like Los Angeles, where the capital of the entertainment industry is situated. But believe me, that didn’t happen overnight. It took many years of school and hands on experience for me to be able to fulfill the job requirements. As they say, timing and luck is half of it, but these are factors you can’t control. I choose to work hard on the things I can control: education, experience, and artistic collaborations.”
She recounts some passionate interviews on the show. Two of the most touching stories her show has featured was a grandmother reading a letter she had written for her nephew who identifies as a transgender man, and a tribute to Enzo Pastor on his one-year death anniversary.
“I hope that the audience realize that Kababayan Today is a platform for them to share what is important to them,” she says. “It provides our people visibility that our stories are important and should be celebrated.”
Elizabeth Ann Besa-Quirino
Columnist and Food Writer, AsianInAmericamag.com
A graduate of BA Communication Arts from Saint Paul University, Elizabeth Ann Besa-Quirino took on several jobs back when she was still based in the Philippines: she was then a copywriter in anad agency in Makati, and she later taught college courses at Assumption College. When she moved to the USA, the digital age of online publications opened many doors of opportunities, and she was able to land a job as a freelance writer.
“I started writing my blog ‘Asian In Americamag.com’ in 2010 because I love to cook and I have been cooking since I was tall enough to reach the kitchen counter,” she says. “When my sons were getting ready to go to college, I taught them how to cook. I used to write recipes for them on a yellow pad. Instead of handwritten recipes from me, my sons wanted me to send it digitally. My oldest son, Tim had gone to college at Drexel University in Philadelphia for web design. Both my sons Tim and Constante created the blog for me, as a way for me to record recipes so that they could read and cook from it even if they didn’t live at home.”
The blog took off, and now she doesn’t just cook and write recipes for her sons—she reaches a large audience from all over the USA and the world. Her YouTube channel is also available for those who want to learn her recipes. In 2012, she won a Doreen Gamboa Food Writing award for her essay ‘A Hundred Mangoes In a Bottle.’ “This was an essay about making mango jam and the summer memories I cherished as a child,” she says. “I submitted my entry. In a few weeks, I was told I won. It was memorable because the essay was about cooking with my late mother, whom I miss very much.”
For those who want to follow her path someday, she has this advice: “Be yourself. Every person is unique. Nobody else has your story, your family or even your interpretation of the recipes you have. Be as real and authentic as possible, because readers can tell if you are who you really are.”
“For those journalists who want to make it big in other countries, build your skills, skills that you will love to do anytime, anywhere.”
“Be versatile and always keep improving your skills. Show them that the only reason Aaron Sorkin does not see Asian movie stars is because they simply do not cast Asians as movie stars, not because the talent is not there.”
“I choose to work hard on the things I can control: education, experience, and artistic collaborations.”
Elizabeth Ann Besa-Quirino
“Nobody else has your story, your family or even your interpretation of the recipes you have. Be as real and authentic as possible, because readers can tell if you are who you really are.”