Deadly gang war gave birth to hit Fil-Am TV show in Alaska

Host Nez Danguilan with guest, actor Danny Glover on public television show “Fil-Am Showtime” in Anchorage, Alaska. CONTRIBUTED

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Barely three years after Nez Danguilan first arrived in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1991, a 14-year-old Filipino teenager was killed in a ruthless gang war here, involving young Mexican and Asian gang members.

As a small ethnic community, with an estimated 5,000 Filipinos working mostly at canneries and military bases at the time, Danguilan recalls that most Alaskans were largely unfamiliar with Filipinos.

“That deadly gang incident did not help, either,” he said. “Filipinos were depicted, particularly in the media, as a liability.”

Awash with negative stories about the Filipino community, Danguilan says it was a turning point for him and fellow Filipinos to get rid of the stigma and show Filipino talents and their contributions to Alaska.

“We thought, ‘it’s time for us to focus on the positive side of our community,’” he said. “And coming up with a Filipino program on television was the best thing we could think of.”

A big hit

Then, in 1994, Danguilan contacted GCI Channel 44, a public television station in Anchorage, to air a half-hour program, “Fil-Am Showtime,” featuring hardworking and successful Filipino Americans — a Filipino student who earned a prestigious scholarship, a Filipino American teacher in a public school system, a basketball team of Filipino Americans and a Filipino working for a state government agency.

The show was a big hit.

Soon, his show became a regular television program, highlighting weekly stories about Filipinos in Alaska and around the world. A few years later, the show was extended to an hour-long segment aired on four other local television channels across the state.

“It served as a medium of communication for Filipinos to know what’s happening in their own backyard and the homeland they had left behind,” said Danguilan, who is a retired civilian…

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