By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau | 02/11/2013 3:31 PM
LOS ANGELES, California – The numbers are in, and Filipinos have now become the largest Asian American group in California.
New findings by the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice based on the 2010 US Census show that the Filipino population in California is now at 1.5 million, surpassing the Chinese who had 1.4 million, a 34 percent increase from the 2010 US Census.
“We’re awakened by the fact that there's a lot more improvement to be done. We relish in the fact there are so many of us here in the US, especially in Los Angeles, who have made a name for themselves. That lifts up the spirits of those that have migrated, come and who've lived her for quite a while,” said community leader John Mina.
For Filipino community leaders, it's a wake up call to bring the community together.
The Filipino American Community Los Angeles or FACLA, whose membership includes conservative seniors, is hosting an awards show in May for the younger gay and lesbian Fil-Am community.
“The lesbians and gays are not being recognized by the community. This is the first time that this will be done by the Filipino community,” said FACLA’s Linda Nery.
While the local Filipinos try to bridge gaps, Hollywood celebrates the achievements of Filipinos in entertainment but many believe the recent election of Rob Bonta to the State Assembly is one of the biggest accomplishments of the community and proof Filipinos can make a difference politically.
For community journalist Romy Borje who has lived in historic Filipinotown for over 30 years, he says Filipinos are proving their growing political power in every election, whether national or local.
An analysis of Pew Research Center Analysis shows that President Obama's 2012 re-election was fueled by non-white voters, many of them the children of immigrants, 52 percent of second generation Asians were democrat.
“It helps a lot. Any person can help a lot and they're democrats, the Filipinos before were republicans, but they changed. They're becoming independent,” said Borje.
While the numbers and growth can be seen as promising news, some of the figures bring bad news.
Filipino income is just under $27,000, about $3,000 below the state average and the Asian American averages.
The statistics show Filipinos have the lowest admission rates into the University of California College System and it also shows only 19 percent Filipinos have limited English proficiency.
Joel Jacinto, the Executive Director of Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) says he's disturbed at the finding and believes it has the potential to get worse.
As the state deals with budget cuts, he says local Filipino communities are facing tough times, making it more difficult for agencies like SIPA to continue their education, outreach, and social service work with low income Filipino families.
“We also need to invest locally in our domestic Filipino American agenda so that as we build our Filipino American community here, we're going to continue to have ties to the homeland,” he said.
Jacinto, as well as other leaders, agree that as Filipinos become a larger voting block, it is a chance to gain political clout and fight for the services they need to advance the community.