Young Filipinos Take Center Stage

A growing movement across the country hitting our shores soon will spotlight young Filipino-American leaders who are making great strides in politics, culture, entrepreneurship, education and civic engagement.

It’s no secret that Fil-Ams make up the second largest Asian-American population in the United States, many of whom reside in California and Hawaii. In fact, the 2010 census shows that Filipinos are now Hawaii’s largest ethnic group. And the 50th state also has earned a reputation of being a showcase for Fil-ipino achievement in the nation – the first governor, Supreme Court justices and mayors of Filipino ancestry all hail from Hawaii.


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Bruno Mars accepts the award for best pop vocal album for 'Unorthodox Jukebox' Jan. 26 at the 56th annual Grammy Awards Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

So it is fitting that Hon-olulu will play host to the first ever Fil-Am Young Leaders Summit May 3 at the Filipino Community Center, where youthful Filipino leaders will dominate the event. It will coincide with FilCom’s Flores De Mayo (Flowers of May) Festival.

The summit is chaired by Kit Zulueta of Maui and Oahu’s Randy Cortez. The talented duo was asked by the Philippine ambassador to the United States, the Hon-orable Jose Cuisia Jr., and Philippine Consul General to Hawaii Julius Torres to spearhead the activity. Both are active members of the Fil-Am Young Leaders Program, a prestigious group chosen among hundreds of applicants throughout the U.S. A highlight of the program is an all-expense-paid trip to the Philippines, where they saw for themselves the enormous opportunities for both countries to work together for their mutual benefit.

“We are not just leaders of tomorrow, but we aspire to be leaders of today. Our goal is to assist Filipino-Americans reach their potential of being one of the most influential ethnic groups in the nation,” says Zulueta, director of communications for the County Council of Maui. The May summit will cover topics including immigration, jobs, education and voter registration. Companies and individuals interested in either participating or sponsoring can call 291-9407 or log on to

Speaking of Filipino superstars, all eyes were on the two-time Grammy Award winner Bruno Mars when he performed in the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show. The Honolulu-born song writer, producer and singer is proud of his Filipino ancestry and Hawaii roots. His mother, Bernie Hernandez, who died last year, immigrated to Hawaii from the Philippines as a child and performed here as a hula dancer. Peter Hernandez, his percussionist father from New York, is of Puerto Ri-can/Jewish descent.

It seemed like it was only yesterday when Bruno was performing as a child with his father’s group, the Love Notes, specializing as an Elvis impersonator. Because of the impressive entertainment awards he has garnered and the numerous chart-busting songs he’s sold, Mars made Time magazine’s 100 most influential list in 2011, and this year was rated No. 1 on the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Not bad for the Roosevelt High School product, who’s racked up all these accomplishments by the tender age of 28. His Hawaii fans can’t wait to sing and dance to his hit tunes, including Treasure, Just The Way You Are, Marry You and Locked Out Of Heaven, when he returns to the 808 in April to perform at Blaisdell Arena. It promises to be a couple of evenings that we will long remember!

Another rising star in our midst is 2009 Punahou grad uate Ashley Moser, who is now the co-anchor for KITV’s weekend morning show and weekday general assignment reporter. Several news directors around the country had contacted her, but when opportunities came regarding Hawaii news, “KITV was the most persistent and presented me with an amazing job position,” says Moser. After being away from her family and friends for so long, she adds, “The offer helped me realize my home state is truly paradise, and that I didn’t want to be away from this place any longer.”

Moser graduated last April with a degree in communications from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where her college career entailed a number of extensive media assignments. While anchoring for Eleven News, she won the Society of Pro fessional Journalists 2012 national award for “Best All-Around Television Newscast.” She also logged time in the Big Apple for New York One, Time Warner’s 24-hour cable news channel.

Moser most recently worked as a weekday morning co-anchor and morning live reporter for the NBC affiliate WNWO in Toledo, Ohio. “I went to work at 3 a.m. every weekday and there was never a dull moment,” she says. She was quickly thrown into the fire, covering blazes, a car chase that crossed state lines, deadly shootings, a standoff and other breaking stories that kept her on her toes. Her first-week assignments at KITV included fatal incidents in Waipahu and Kailua. In week two, she covered the lockdown at Roosevelt high, where a police officer was stabbed. She no doubt was well-prepared to take on her new challenging assignments.

Her idol in TV news is CNN’s Erin Burnett. “Erin is graceful, fluent and has a presence about her that shows people they can trust her,” says Moser. “At the same time, she is down to earth. That is the kind of trust I am striving for as a journalist.”

At the rate that she is advancing and progressing, it won’t be long too long before Moser will develop a legion of aspiring media types who will strive to be just like her.