With the 2016 national elections in the United States heating up, voters are turning their attention to who the frontrunners are in each party. Filipino Americans, despite being one of the largest Asian groups in the United States with 3 million people, still remain underrepresented. We are republishing this piece by our content partner The FilAm Metro DC which highlights Fil-Am members of the Grand Old Party (GOP).
WASHINGTON DC, USA – A Filipino American, 21-year-old Ninio Joseph Fetalvo, is the Asian Pacific American Press Assistant for the Republican National Committee.
Like many young, idealistic Americans, Ninio was on a search for leaders who stand up for their convictions and make the right decisions. The road led him to the GOP. He found his role model in Tea Party firebrand Senator Marco Rubio, who, like Ninio, is a child of immigrants, a Catholic, and grew up in Florida.
“I really like that he is inspiring,” said Ninio in an interview with The FilAm Metro D.C. “His story of how he reached the American Dream as a son of immigrants is what resonates not only with me but with most Asian Americans who came to this country in search of the American Dream.”
As a publicist for the GOP, Ninio makes sure the conservative message gets across – and is understood – by the Asian community. As a Filipino American, his mission is to “improve the engagement” of his community in the political process.
“We have great up-and-coming GOP Filipino leaders like Ron Villanueva of Virginia Beach, and Brunswick, Ohio Mayor Ron Falconi, and they inspire our community to be active in politics,” he said. Other Fil-Ams in elected office include Milpitas, California Mayor Jose Esteves, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Claremont, California Corey Calaycay, Walnut, California Mayor Pro Tem Tony Cartagena, and Honolulu City Council, District 1 councilor Kymberly Marcos Pine.
The trend is shifting, said Ninio. Young Filipinos are becoming more involved in politics than their parents were in their time.
“People like me and Matthew (Alonsozana), who are getting more involved in Republican politics, is an example of how our community is engaged with the Republican Party,” he said. “They understand that their beliefs match well with what the Republicans are trying to accomplish.”
Born in Fort Myer, Florida to Nelson Fetalvo, a technician for Acura automotive, and Minerva, a registered nurse, Ninio said it was his traditionalist upbringing that prepared him for a role in the GOP. He and his sister Tina grew up in Port Charlotte and learned Filipino values like respect and studying hard at school.
“I was taught to treat others with respect. That is something my peers would say about me: that I am a very respectful person, and I think that’s being a Filipino American,” he said.
While his parents constantly stressed the importance of valuing his Filipino heritage, Ninio said they also encouraged him to immerse himself in all different cultures and have a well-rounded life. “(They wanted me to) learn about my culture and about all the other cultures and how we all fit in together and celebrate the greatness of our country,” he said.
As he learned politics in school at the George Washington University, he realized that the Republican Party is aligned with his personal beliefs and way of thinking. After an internship with the RNC, he landed his dream job. As a publicist detailed with the Asian American community, he reports to Jason Chung, the National APA Field and Communications Director.
“The Republican Party has been very welcoming,” he recalled. “When I started interning for RNC during my senior year of college, halfway through the internship they notified (me) that the job for press assistant for Asian American engagement would be available. I applied for the job and I knew that this is exactly what I wanted to do after college.“
He talked about the Growth and Opportunity Project and the Victory 365 Project as efforts to better connect with minority communities, grow the party, and win elections.
Asked about the party’s outreach initiatives to Filipino Americans, he said, “We have hired staff across the country to engage not only Filipino Americans but Asian American and Pacific Islanders. We work with various current and past elected Republicans who are acting for our communities as surrogates and who are active in the community.”
They make sure that political leaders are visible at Asian community events.For instance, US Senate nominee Ed Gillespie of Virginia and Delegate Ron Villanueva celebrated Filipino American Friendship Day last summer, and Filipino American Heritage Month in Virginia Beach a few weeks ago. Villanueva is Fil-Am.
There are two concepts he wished to clarify: One, that Republicans are anti-immigrants, and two, that the Tea Party is dividing the GOP.
“We wholeheartedly support legal immigration, and we believe in prioritizing border security,” he said. He called the GOP “a big tent party” that welcomes anyone who identifies as a Republican.
Ninio does not discount the possibility of one day running for public office. “Right now I just want to help the party and make sure that the Filipino Americans are inspired by Republicans to do what is best for the country.”
Among his immediate plans is to visit Camarines Sur, a province in the Philippines, where he has family. “I’ve been to the Philippines many times,” he said. “Most of my family is still there.”
With some free time, Ninio enjoys exploring the sights and sounds of the nation’s capital. “I think DC is one of those places where they have a lot of great restaurants. There is so much to do here, and I really enjoy learning about the history of our government and our country.” – Rappler.com