Coming home to Carson

rp_Jannelle-So_So-LA-300x170.jpgWhen you’re going to any event, try to get there early. That will give you time to network and meet people. But the first thing you do when you arrive is to save a seat, if it’s not assigned. And heres how you do it: 1. Pick your seat. 2. Take a sip of water from the glass. 3. Unfold your napkin; 4. and put it on top of your place setting.

In four easy steps, I learned a valuable strategy for networking at events. Thanks to Carson City Mayor Jim Dear. “I will share this with you because you might need it,” he said to me years ago; although I still very distinctly remember it.

I had just moved to California, from Manila, at my dad’s insistence. I left a thriving career in print and broadcast journalism in the Philippines to move to Los Angeles, to be with my family. And because my parents had just bought a place in Carson City, my first home in America was in a city most popularly referred to as “Manila Town.”

“It’s good here, you will not really get homesick,” my parents said to me. “You want Filipino food? There’s lots of Filipino restaurants. Even the mayor here, at one time, was Filipino,” my dad said, referring to former Mayor Pete Fajardo who eventually encountered problems with the law.

I don’t quite remember exactly when I first met Mayor Dear. But I remember him to be very helpful and accommodating. A year later, after I had completed my print and broadcast journalism course at UCLA, I saw him again. This time, it was to interview him for a story I was doing for The Filipino Channel’s (TFC) Balitang Amerika. And that’s when he introduced me to fellow kababayan  Elito Santarina who was in the Carson City Council.

Over the years, I would see and meet several community leaders in Carson. Even after I moved out to live in West LA, I would still visit often, because of my parents. And when I was blessed with the means to purchase my own property, I chose to buy a place in Torrance, “the suburb of Carson,” Mayor Dear would say.

Last week, I found myself on familiar grounds as I was invited to the City Hall, to accept a proclamation. Interestingly, it didn’t feel like a “business” matter. It felt more like getting together with family. Of course, my parents, brother, niece and my husband were there to celebrate the accolade; but it felt like I had a bigger family. I saw familiar faces that have always been there to lend me their support through the years.

With my sincere thanks to City of Carson Mayor Jim Dear (right) and Pro Tem Elito Santarina

With my sincere thanks to City of Carson Mayor Jim
Dear (right) and Pro Tem Elito Santarina

Paz Velasquez, a fixture in Carson City events and projects, was there. She had called on me a few times in the past, to help spread the word about their latest endeavors. In 2011, she asked me to be the Hermana Mayor for the city’s month-long celebration of Filipino-American History Month. That’s when I built a deeper relationship with the selfless kababayans in the South Bay. I saw how a few people rolled up their sleeves to work in preserving and promoting Filipino traditions in their community.

Evelyn Andamo was then President of the Filipino-American Chamber of Commerce, in the South Bay. And journalist Fe Koons was also very active. It was a camaraderie of individuals who are proud of their heritage and are committed to making a difference in Carson City and beyond. Something that each was doing on the side, donating their time and talent, to uplift Filipinos in Carson.

Rose Ibanez was the one who told me about the proclamation. She said the community of Carson City, through the council, would like to thank me for my service to kababayans. It was totally unexpected. I did my job and felt quite fortunate that my job gave me lots of opportunities to serve my community. That in itself, was already an honor. Rose’s husband, Florante, also attended the small gathering; took pictures; and told me “You did a lot for the community. Thank you.”

In fact, I should be the one saying “Thank you,” not only for the recognition; but more importantly, for giving me opportunities to serve. And for making me part of this very dynamic community. To me, home is where my family is. And in Carson City, I know I have not just my immediate family; but a whole community who consider me their kapatid.

Maraming Salamat po!

Jannelle So is taking a break from 20-years of print and broadcast journalism career that began in the Philippines and continued here in the US. Connect to her on Facebook (; Twitter(; and Instagram ( or email her at

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