By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
July 08, 2014
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Every year, politicians and elected leaders come in full force to celebrate Philippine-American Friendship Day in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
With their booths filled with campaign posters and slogans, they recognize potential votes they can generate from this annual fiesta attended by more than ten thousand people. Most are Filipino Americans.
“Mabuhay. Thank you so much, I’m so exciting to be out here to celebrate Independence Day with you all. So excited to run for election this November and I hope I can count on your support,” City Council candidate Brad Martin said from the podium in front of the Philippine-American Friendship Day crowd.
Community leader Bing Branigin of NAFFAA says political candidates have recognized the Filipino voting power in Virginia. She says, for years now, political candidates wait for their turn to speak to their Filipino constituents.
“It’s not like the other states, where the Filipino American organizations beg for them to go to their events, here they wait and participate. They mingle, they join them in their activities. It’s because they know the power of the Filipino American vote in this area is very strong,” said Branigin.
Last year, 30-year-old Leonard Tengco became the first Filipino American elected member of the Virginian Beach School Board.
“It just shows that the Filipino population, the strength of community will continue to get stronger and stronger as we become more immersed in local politics, statewide politic,” said Tengco. “I think elected officials throughout Virginia Beach want to be able go engaged in the Filipino community,”
“Every politician, every candidate here understands how significant the Filipino-American vote is,” said Elected State Congressman Ron Villanueva. “I wouldn’t be here without the Filipino American community, and they realize that, and we’ve been able to get a lot of our officials elected because of the strength of the Filipino vote.”
The Filipino American community action group says that registering to vote is the first step to empowerment – there may be four million Filipinos in the U.S. but it doesn’t mean anything if they are not part of the electoral process.
“Don’t waste your vote, because every vote, politicians are looking at who we are,” Nony Abrajano of Fil-Am Community Action Groups said. “They don’t answer to our concerns if they are not showing what we can do for community votes. That is what they are looking for.”
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