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Two Fil-Ams seek elective posts in Los Angeles county (Part 1)

Alex de Ocampo, the Fil-Am candidate for the 51st Assembly District, poses during an interview in a coffee shop in the Historic Filipinotown in Los Angeles. Photo © Abner Galino

TWO Filipino Americans are very visible these days in our neighborhoods.

One of them, Alex De Ocampo, is caught up in the heat of the moment as he campaigns for the vacant California’s 51st Assembly District.

While the other one, Edwin Duterte*, is still sort of “testing the waters” as the elections for the 43rd congressional district of California, the political race he intends to join, is still more than a year away.

Alex de Ocampo is a Filipino-American born from full-blooded Filipino parents. Alex proudly disclosed that he speaks Tagalog and Kapampangan. He is running in a crowded race for the chance to represent the 51st assembly district of California.

De Ocampo has been engaged politically since he was in high school.

I was very much involved in activism — fighting for various issues — from the issue of school funding and up to supporting the local Democratic party,” De Ocampo disclosed.

He said his desire to run for an elective post was cultivated when he became a foster parent and personally experienced the challenges that confront parents like him, particularly in the areas of child care and health care.

It really changed my perspective when I become a working father. I realized that laws and guidelines on how to access social services do matter to parents and their kids. I realized that there’s so much work that needs to be done,” De Ocampo narrated.

As for the Filipino American community, De Ocampo is bothered that many of our seniors are being “taken advantage of” by scammers that include predatory lenders.

So I would like to make sure that there would be laws to make sure that our seniors are not taken advantage of, and that they are educated and kept informed,” De Ocampo added.

De Ocampo said he has big faith in the Filipino American community’s capacity to elect a worthy political representative. While the Filipino American voters has not been known to vote solidly behind a particular candidate, they are however known to be spirited voters.

We really go to the polls,” De Ocampo observed, adding that getting the Filipino American votes depends on how far he would be able to connect with them and send his messages across.

In 2013, De Ocampo ran and lost in the elections for City Council seat over the same area which was dominated by Latino voters.

But it was a close and tight race,” de Ocampo recalled, adding that he thought that he did well because of the support of the Filipino American community.

De Ocampo expressed confidence that he will also be able to win sizeable votes from the Latino community because of his message and track record as an activist and community leader.

I believe that they (Latino voters) would recognize the work that I have done for the community,” De Ocampo said.

The California 51st assembly district is comprised of Chinatown, Cypress Park, Eagle Rock, Echo Park, Edendale, Glassel Park, Highland Park, Montecito Heights, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights and Monterey Hills.

The special primary election will be held on October 3, 2017.

This writer, in a bid to know more about De Ocampo, visited his website and found the following posted information:

Alex’s father, Pedro, immigrated during the 1970s to Los Angeles where he faced the harsh realities of being an immigrant. He washed dishes in restaurants, sold off family heirlooms, and slept on park benches until he saved enough money to reunite the family in Historic Filipinotown. Early in Alex’s life, his father became ill with cancer. Unable to afford health insurance, his condition rapidly declined and needed to return to the Philippines for care. By then, the cancer had spread and he passed away.

His mother, Encarnacion, a widow with five children to provide for, worked 80 hours a week in convalescent homes. Gangs, drugs, and crime were part of the daily happenings in the neighborhoods surrounding the family’s studio apartment. Alex chose to spend his time working and focusing on his studies. A product of LAUSD’s Dayton Heights Elementary, Lockwood Elementary, Thomas Starr King Middle, and John Marshall High School, Alex took advantage of every opportunity offered to him and earned scholarships to attend California State University Northridge.

Alex helped his family make ends meet by working after school and during summers. He was introduced to the Youth Entertainment Summer program that sparked his interest in working in the entertainment industry. The program connected students of diverse backgrounds to jobs at studios. He was assigned to work with Glenn Padnick, the President of Castle Rock Entertainment’s television division. After earning his degree, Alex used the connections and experience gained and began his career working with the creator of the Power Rangers, Haim Saban.

Alex worked his way up through the ranks from an assistant to managing the Saban Family Foundation. With nearly $400 million of giving to causes around the globe, Alex helped establish the Saban family’s most impactful projects in Los Angeles. He directly supervised the $50 million fund dedicated to the Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He also helped the family establish the Saban Theatre, the Saban Wellness Center at the Motion Picture Television Fund, the Saban Community Clinic, and the Cheryl Saban Self-Worth Foundation for Women & Girls.

The arts and entertainment industry provided him with an opportunity to rise out of poverty, and he shares this perspective as a board member of the California Film Commission and the California State Summer School for the Arts Board of Trustees.

(To be continued)

Abner Galino
The author is a poet and a writer. He was a cultural worker before he became a reporter for Tinig ng Masa and Malaya Midday Edition during the Marcos regime. He later became a reporter of People's Tonight shortly after 1986 EDSA Revolution. He went on to become its Chief of Reporters, City Editor and News Editor. He retired after 15 years in the Journal Group of Publications. He now writes for Weekend Balita and the US Asian Post (USAP), weekly Filipino-American newspapers based in Los Angeles, California.

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