Long Distance Stories: A Night of Fil Am History & Storytelling

by Jeana Cho

On Thursday, October 25th, also known as Larry Itliong Day, Visual Communications (VC) hosted “Long Distance Stories: A Night of Fil Am History & Storytelling” as part of Filipino American History Month. The event included a screening of the documentary MANONG by Linda Mabalot, an excerpt from the podcast Long Distance, and a discussion with six Filipino American storytellers of various media. The host of the night was Paola Mardo, the creator of Long Distance and also a former intern at VC. Similar to the podcast itself, this event served as a bridge between past and present, highlighting the manongs, or first-wave Filipino immigrants who came to the US in the early 1900s, as well as the efforts of the Filipino American community today.


The night carried a casual atmosphere with audience members sitting around on chairs, the ground, or the steps, complete with an adorable puppy roaming around and delicious refreshments, such as lumpia, corn bread, and an ube dessert. After a quick introduction by Abraham Ferrer, VC’s Archives and Distribution Manager, Paola Mardo went on to introduce MANONG, a 1978 documentary film by Linda Mabalot, the former Executive Director of VC. MANONG was one of the first VC film productions to articulate stories of Filipino Americans, and the first to tell the story of manongs.

After the screening of MANONG, Paola presented an excerpt of Long Distance, a narrative podcast about life in the Filipino diaspora, in which we learn about the history and meaning behind an old black-and-white photo of the intersection of LaFayette and El Dorado Streets, which used to stand at the center of Little Manila but has now been demolished and replaced. The excerpt discussed how Stockton had been where Filipino immigrants could live out what they had imagined the “American Dream” would be, away from the racism and anti-Asian sentiment they had actually faced outside of Little Manila.

A Q&A discussion followed with six Filipino American storytellers of various media:

  • Alexandra Cuerdo (Director, ULAM)

  • Dr. Anthony C. Ocampo (Sociologist & Author, The Latinos of Asia: How Filipino Americans Break the Rules of Race)

  • Abraham Ferrer (Archives & Distribution Manager, Visual Communications)

  • Rozette Rago (Freelance Photographer & Associate Photo Editor, Wirecutter at The New York Times)

  • Elaine Dolalas & Joe Bernardo (Co-hosts of the podcast This Filipino American Life)


Our guests spoke about their experiences growing up, how they became storytellers, and the struggles they encountered pursuing their creative dreams as not only Asian Americans but also specifically as Filipino Americans.

The event concluded with applause and a collective sense of the need to tell our own stories, with one audience member passionately stating, “It’s your story. Do it. It’s your right.” This excitement continued even upon adjournment, with audience members and guest speakers mingling. Conversations flowed and connections were definitely made that night.

Jeana Cho is a senior at UCLA majoring in Communication and double-minoring in Film, TV, & Digital Media and Asian American Studies. She aspires to be a production designer and is passionate about the accurate representation of AAPIs in film and TV. She is thrilled to be part of the VC family as an intern this fall!