An original version posted on 11/2/2009 as "Conrado Baylon Fiel: My Filipino Role Model Growing Up" @ AMMMO
When I was 9 years old, I knew that unless it was news-related or on Filipino news, it was a bit of a pipe dream to see Filipinos regularly on television, magazines, or newspapers.
It was as if no one knew my race and ethnicity existed, though I did see a lot of them in grade school and was surrounded by them. But I knew that they wouldn't be on the LA Times (least till my sister got into the Orange County Edition in 1994) or Eyewitness News or anything. That was a black and white dominated world. And if they did have to acknowledge Asians, it would be the Chinese. Filipinos, in my opinion, were too ordinary and boring to do anything cool.
It would be an event every time I saw some Filipno on any kind of any medium at all. I was thrilled to see Mr. Dante "Bang-a-Rang" Basco play Peter Pan's sidekick, even though he was kind of a bad guy.
But that was only one time. Basco played a fictional character, and kind of a bad guy to boot. That was all there was to him after that movie. He never showed up again. Back in 1993, there was no sense of character to him, there would be no back-story, there wasn't any googling his name to see what he was up to now. That was the end of Dante Basco, at least until the explosion of the internets and community events. So for a while, he was just kind of an afterthought of a Filipino.
Same thing with Ernie Reyes Jr. whose had one of the more successful careers in Hollywood as a Filipino martial artist and played the protagonist in Surf Ninjas, my most favoritest movie of all time as a 9-year old.
In my most formative preteen years, there weren't many real-life Filipinos to look at over and over again as heroes. I thought Filipinos were really boring people who would always be ignored until...
Conrado Baylon Fiel!
In this book...
I knew clearly that this was a bad guy book and other than Street Fighter it was the first time I remember seeing Latinos and Middle Eastern people being in print as well.
"Victor Manuel Gerena, that guy looks like the Mexican who lives next door!"
"Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, kinda looks like Scottie Pippen, but he comes from the Middle East. You know *a far away place where they cut off your eat, if they don't like your face (quoted from Aladdin)"
It was compelling reading. Or perhaps intent staring and voyeurism - trying to see the criminal traits inherent within their faces. Very 1890s-esque, except adjusted to reflect America's trans-national diversity. It was also interesting how they didn't put any of the women on this cover, even though there was one in the book.
The statistics and descriptions this book gave about each of them made it look like a Street Fighter Profile or a basketball card
Place of Birth
Of course none of these individuals were heroes, nonetheless it was compelling for me.
The Filipino guy's profile (2nd place was the Chinese guy following him) is what I stared at the most, complete with Street Fighter II-esque attributes and descriptions.
That "swarthy, heavyset" Fiel could've been an uncle of mine! Matter of fact, every time I ran into Mr. Galicia, one of my friends' dads, I thought of Conrado. His skin color probably looked like my dads, and he was born around the same time my mom and dad were born too! In the 2nd picture, he even actually kinda looked like my dad. Filipinos wouldn't be just boring, regular people who liked to folk dance and become nurses, they could be murderers on the FBIs Most Wanted List as well!
I didn't see too many Filipinos at all in print unless it was in the Los Angeles Asian Journal, but this one book was different. It was 25 cent pocket book that was in wide circulation! It would be read by lots of people, even white people, standing in line at the supermarket.