The Star-News - Oct. 25, 2002

Filipino minority flexes its muscles


A name that won't be appearing on your ballot form this November is Aurora Cudal. And yet she's regarded by many as the de facto mayor of San Diego County's Filipino American community. It's her perception that Nick Inzunza will benefit from the Filipino American support that has hitherto been part of Mayor George Waters' power base in National City.

"Inzunza understands the demographics," she confided at a reception organized by Filipino American Development Initiatives at the Windham Emerald Plaza Hotel in downtown San Diego, Oct. 22.

A sheet of statistics circulated at by FADI at the event confirms that San Diego has the largest concentration of Filipino Americans in the nation.

Chula Vista has 12,588 Filipino Americans (7.2 percent of the population) whereas National City's Filipino American population, at 9,363, comprises a highly significant 17.2 percent of the population.

And the message from FADI is that San Diego County's 120,000 Filipino Americans should not be regarded as an economically marginalized community. Their median household income is reckoned to be $50,000 per year. And the 6,000 Filipino-owned businesses in San Diego are now grossing around $438,000 in annual revenue. It is with this in mind that FADI is holding its second annual Filipino-American Business Summit at the Wyndham Hotel on Nov. 16. Among the movers and shakers participating in the summit are Hal Brown, director of SDSU's Center for Economic Development, and Diosdado Banatao of Tallwood Venture Capital.

Banatao came to America 30 years ago as an electrical engineer, having graduated cum laude from Mapua Institute of Technology. He now heads a $300 million venture capital firm and, billed as "the most successful Filipino in Silicon Valley, will be a keynote speaker at the Nov. 16 summit.

FADI's president Wilfredo D. Racelis is a keen supporter of business improvement districts such as the Filipino Village proposed for the area of National City between L Avenue and Euclid Avenue.

And high-profile support for the Filipino Village in National City is one of the things Inzunza has got right, as far as Cudal is concerned.

But, mindful of the rules against a 501 (c) 3 non profit benefit corporation endorsing a political candidate, Racelis is content to concentrate on the issues as the Filipino-American population flexes its political muscles.

"Our message is that the term 'Filipino American entrepreneur' is not an oxymoron," he said. "The Filipino-American store is open for business."