BronxNet brings Filipino perspective to television

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A walk through a studio that wasn’t his made Michael Max Knobbe realize his Bronx operation was missing an important voice — a Filipino one. 

Knobbe, the executive director of the cable access group BronxNet, recently visited the studios of a sister project, the Manhattan Neighborhood Network and stumbled upon “Makilala TV.” 

Hosted by Cristina D.C. Pastor, Jenjen Furer and Rachelle Ocampo, “Makilala” is a Filipino-American program that discusses culture and current events as it relates to the Filipino community. For the past four years, it’s been a mainstay at Manhattan Neighborhood, and with the start of its fifth season, it’s now a part of BronxNet as well.

“I kind of felt a great energy as I was walking over to the studio,” Knobbe said. “I was captivated by the costumes and the discussion.”

“Makilala” is the brainchild of Pastor and the show’s former Queens Public Television producer, Maricor Fernandez. In the Tagalog language, “makilala” means “get to know,” and that’s exactly what the two wanted to do — get Filipino and non-Filipino-Americans to gain real insight into the community.

All three hosts bring something different to the table — Furer knows about immigration in the United States, Pastor is a journalist, and Ocampo shares information about health care.

“Makilala” initially aired on Queens Public Television, gaining interest from Manhattan Neighborhood in 2015. As of Sept. 7, Bronx residents became the third borough that can catch the three women on their screens, airing Thursdays at 8 p.m.

For Pastor and Fernandez, the most important thing in developing the television show was to push forward conversations about deportation, sex trafficking, healthy eating, and a laundry list of topics that affect Filipinos.

“When we conceptualized ‘Makilala TV,’ we had a specific belief that we wanted to have a discussion about issues that the Filipino community doesn’t want to talk about,” Pastor said.

In a recent episode about immigration, a lawyer provided tips on various issues incoming new residents face, like if their travel visa runs out. The episode was barely over when the show was hit with a number of calls asking for the lawyer’s contact information. 

“We really are making a difference, I’m not just saying that,” Furer said. “Based on the topics that we talk about, people think about it and actions are being taken. For me, it’s a huge deal.”

And it’s even helped guests have the courage to talk about various issues concerning the Filipino community.

“We’re creating a platform for our community to talk about the topics that we really care about,” Furer said. 

“Even for the guests, it became a cathartic thing for them to tell (the audience) their story.” 

With a third home in the Bronx, “Makilala TV” plans to explore everything the borough has to offer while also featuring its local residents. A future episode of the show, for example, will feature three Bronx residents with careers in music, makeup and nursing. 

“We want to extend our viewership, and we actually have Filipinos who live in the Bronx,” Furer said. “That inspired us to get to know the Bronx.”

Finding the Filipino voice in such a diverse community could be difficult without a program like “Makilala,” and Pastor hopes her peers recognize that effort.

“I want to impress it on our community that ‘Makilala TV’ is something that they should be proud of,” she said. 

As for Furer, she anticipates her comfort and approach to sharing her views will continue to be inspiring.

“I really think we’re making a difference, we’re inspiring other people,” she said. “Just by sharing my story, I know I can inspire others.” 

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