From Laoag to Fairbanks: A Fil-Am finds roots in Alaska
MANILA, Philippines – The difference in temperature couldn't be any more stark. Winters are cold, and during certain times of the year, the sun never goes down. Sitka, Alaska, is where Johrn Robert "JR" Ancheta, a photojournalist originally from Laoag, Philippines, now calls home.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Oh my gosh it’s really late and there’s still sun.’ That blew my mind,” JR told Alaskan newspaper Newsminer about the time he first moved to Alaska.
He was petitioned by his grandfather to migrate to the US in 1996 when he was 9. He told Newsminer, "In Southeast Alaska, there’s a lot of Filipinos who come in because of the canneries. That brought my grandparents and other relatives to Sitka.”
About 15,000 Filipinos call the northernmost US state home. According to a report in New America Media, most Filipinos work in military bases, canneries, oil refineries, hospitals, retail stores, and government and nonprofit offices.
JR's family left their home in Alaska due to better job opportunities. He told the same paper: “It was difficult. I had to leave my dad behind... I was pretty emotional.”
Adjusting to life as an American was difficult at first, he said.
“I think when I was a kid I tried to distance myself from being Filipino,” he told Newsminer. “Being an immigrant I realized ‘I am different.’ I wasn’t being ashamed of who I am, I tried to just distance myself. Partly because being different when you’re younger is hard. I tried to choose an interest that was a complete opposite.”
He's finishing a degree in journalism and French at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and is beginning his career as a freelance writer and photographer.
JR said he is enjoying life in America's "Last Frontier."
“What I love about living in Alaska is, being different is OK. I see that with a lot of people. Everybody finds a community," JR told Newsminer.
Read the full profile on Newsminer. – Rappler.com
Check out JR Ancheta's photography on his blog here