by Jim Bea Sampaga
For almost three decades, the Hawaii Filipino Chronicle (HFC) has strengthened the foundation of the Filipino community in Hawaii.
With editorials, features, articles and columns, HFC made sure that every published piece informs and educates the Filipino community about the current affairs and events in Hawaii, Mainland and the Philippines.
Founded by Chona Montesines-Sonido and Dr. Charlie Sonido, HFC published its first issue in 1993, covering the former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos’ exile in Hawaii.
“It was an issue to unify Filipinos. The editorial board at the time felt it was the most appropriate topic for our inaugural issue,” said Montesines-Sonido, the co-founder, publisher and managing editor of HFC, in an article about the newspaper’s 25th anniversary.
HFC is created to advocate for the Filipino community in Hawaii, to raise awareness, connect with a loyal audience and help shape whatever materializes in policy and public opinion.
As the newspaper celebrates its 27th anniversary this year, Montesines-Sonido admits the Chronicle should have been closed several years ago.
“As a business model, the print media, especially the ethnic media, has seen its better days,” she explained, noting that over 2,000 newspapers have either closed or merged in the recent years that left 1,300 communities without access to local news coverage.
The rise of the internet and social media platforms changed the way people communicate and receive information. The traditional model of newspaper publishing would not stand a chance in today’s generation.
In Hawaii, most publications have gone online and there is now only one daily newspaper left operating while others have cut-down their publications to twice a month.
HFC is one of the two Filipino ethnic newspapers still actively publishing in Hawaii. “The Filipino community is lucky to have two enduring and competing newspapers to serve them,” said Montesines-Sonido.
This year’s challenges
2020 is truly the year of challenges for journalism and media. Aside from the rapid increase of information-dependency on social media platforms, the world is struck by the COVID-19 pandemic which endangers publication survival while increasing the need for accurate and unbiased reporting.
HFC associate editor Edwin Quinabo acknowledges this year as “the most crucial for journalism in decades.” He said 2020 is without a doubt “the cover headline year” of his over two-decade career in news reporting.
“I’m thankful to have been a part of it,” he said.
From COVID-19, local and Presidential elections, the civil unrest due to racism and police violence, to the actions of the government responding to these critical issues, the Chronicle have tirelessly published various articles ensuring that the Filipino community in Hawaii are informed, educated and safe.
Since the announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Quinabo has closely followed updates and coverage to ensure information about the virus, prevention, stimulus bills and such are relayed accurately relayed to the Filipino community.
“Our nation and communities in Hawaii were shaken to the core, especially in the beginning of the pandemic,” he shared.
“Besides relaying critical news, I’m thankful that we were able to tell the stories of our Filipino community, how we’ve been coping, how our frontline workers at hospitals heroically have been responding to the crisis. I’m thankful that we’ve helped to bring about calm amidst the chaos surrounding the pandemic, but also in our reporting on the presidential election and civil unrest over violent policing.”
HFC also covered this year’s much-anticipated local and presidential elections that will highly affect the Filipino community as the newly-elected public officials will handle the COVID-19 response, immigration, unemployment, police brutality, racial discrimination and more.
Positivity despite the chaos
Although this year has been filled with heavy issues affecting our community, the Chronicle also made sure their readers are still receiving good news about the Filipino community.
Earlier this year, the newspaper featured Ohana Medical Mission’s trip to the Philippines wherein the non-profit organization provided free medical services to underserved communities.
In September, the newspaper highlighted the Philippine Medical Association of Hawaii’s COVID-19 relief efforts. Another published piece also featured one of the Filipino and first COVID-19 survivors in Hawaii.
When Filipino-operated Primary Care Clinic of Hawaii opened its 6th branch in August, the Chronicle published an article on the legacy, success and determination to serve the Filipino community of the four-decade-old company.
As Biden is announced as the president-elect of the United States, HFC covered the newly-elected Filipino public officials in the State of Hawaii.
Last month, Brenna Marie Flores has been awarded the 2020 HFC Journalism Scholarship to help her finish her undergraduate degrees in environmental studies and communications at Chaminade University.
With the rollercoaster ride that is 2020, Montesines-Sonido is thankful for the support the newspaper has received from the Filipino community over the years. As the “true voice of the community,” the Chronicle aims to accurately record the Filipino narrative.
“I thank God we still exist today because we have the Filipino community behind us,” she expressed.
“I am grateful to all our advertisers, friends and supporters who have helped us in this journey in advocating for the Filipino community. But most of all, I am most grateful to my staff, our contributing writers, columnists and volunteers who have committed their time and service to empower Filipinos through the Chronicle.”
Preparing for the future
“As we are nearing our 30th anniversary, we continue to pray that the paper will be stronger than ever,” said Montesines-Sonido.
A few years ago, the Chronicle established the Filipino Media Foundation in support of the Filipino-American Media in Hawaii. Through the foundation, the HFC Journalism Scholarship was born to invest in young Filipinos pursuing a degree in the field of journalism, media or communications.
As an ethnic newspaper, HFC believes advocating and empowering Filipino youth in media will strengthen the Filipino community.
“We plan to have our scholarship recipients write for the paper to prepare them for what the goal of the scholarship is all about — to have Fil-Am writers who will continue to serve the community in the coming years,” Montesines-Sonido explained.
HFC is published twice a month. Printed copies are available for free at newsstands around Oahu, Kaui, Maui and Big Island.
In March, HFC launched its revamped website to better serve readers around the globe especially those in the mainland and the Philippines. Along with the website, the newspaper can also be viewed on digital publication platform Issuu.com. As a way to connect with younger audiences, the Chronicle is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
As long as there is the Filipino community to serve, Montesines-Sonido expressed that the Chronicle will “continue giving you inspiring stories that will lift our spirits and give you balance, fair and tough editorials which have become the “soul” of our newspaper.”