by Dee Mandigma
26 years; six weekly community newspapers; 208 million copies; a travel magazine distributed across 60 countries and 101 cities worldwide to date—who would have thought that this once-weekly community newspaper in Los Angeles would grow into one of the biggest Filipino-American publishing firms in America today?
Christina Oriel, Editor-in-Chief for online, LA and Las Vegas, vividly recalls the Asian Journal’s (AJ) humble beginnings.
“From a small staff back in 1991, at a time when the Filipino-American population in America was just a little over a million, AJ is now home to top caliber writers, artists, and creative people serving the second largest Asian-American group in the U.S.,” she proudly reminisced.
“The Asian Journal founded by my father, Roger Lagmay Oriel, and mother, Cora Macabagdal Oriel, has since been true to its core value of empowering, informing Filipinos living in America, and connecting them back to their local communities, regional, and national news back in the Philippines,” Oriel was quoted as saying at a recent gathering of Filipino-American community in Los Angeles, with no less than Philippine Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo in attendance.
According to her, the company has remained committed to excellence, maximizing every opportunity to improve their products and services to be responsive to the ever-evolving demands of the Fil-Am communities around the world.
But what largely shapes AJ to continue towards this path, Oriel said, is social responsibility—“to give back to the Philippines through social entrepreneurship.”
“We are motivated to do whatever we can to help ignite and drive economic development in the Philippines in terms of tourism, investment from individuals and the private sectors alike,” the editor said.
To mark AJ’s more than two decades as one of the leading voices of the Filipino-American community, Oriel disclosed they will soon be launching two international and local multimedia platforms, the Balikbayan Program and the Love of Country website.
It is envisioned to build a sustainable, long-lasting foundation to awaken, strengthen, and solidify Filipino cultural identity; empower Filipino communities throughout the world; and connect present and future generations of Filipinos with the Philippines.
Named after AJ’s bi-monthly travel and lifestyle magazine Balikbayan, a comprehensive online and offline multimedia program, aims to ignite and fuel economic growth, tourism, investment, education, philanthropy, and retirement in the Philippines. Its target audience is Filipinos of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds worldwide.
LoveOfCountry.ph, on the other hand, would serve as the ultimate ‘where-to’ guide for international and local travelers “to seamlessly discover the gems of the Philippines.” The website will enable visitors to easily search, find, and experience a wide array of destinations, to restaurants, bars, hotels, resorts, museums, beauty salons, health clinics, stores, local Philippine-made products, to real estate, in an aim to fully showcase what the Philippines has to offer.
“What we try to accomplish is to encourage Filipinos to come home and rediscover their roots. Through our research over these past few years, our work and everyone in this room’s work and goals have never been more important nor more urgent for the Philippines than it is today. And we like to believe that the future of our nation depends on it,” Oriel proudly noted.
Curiously, Teo also made an impassioned call to the Filipino-American community in LA to rally behind her in inviting their sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters alike, or the next generation millennials in the U.S., to trace their roots and come home to the Philippines.
Playing the country’s sales woman, she said the Philippine Department of Tourism is pulling out all the stops with balikbayan travel packages featuring special rates in airfares, accommodations, ground handling, and tours targeting Fil-Am millennials.
Along this line, Teo also disclosed plans to tap young professional, millennials, and social media influencers in the U.S. through “Bring Home a Friend”, an incentive travel program which was first launched by former Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor in 1994 also for the American travel market.
The AJ Media Group, Inc. hosted a dinner reception for the tourism chief, who arrived in Los Angeles from a four-day official business trip in San Francisco and San Jose in July. The executive team led by the Oriel couple, Roger and Cora, graced the event held at the Mayflower Seafood Restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. n
Dee Mandigma is the information officer for the Office of Public Affairs and Advocacy of the Philippine Department of Tourism.