Ryan Gonzalez: California teen now a travel & lifestyle director for CNN Philippines

Proud to have rediscovered and to embrace his Filipino roots

Proud to have rediscovered and to embrace his Filipino roots

By Wendell Gaa

This article is part of a continuing series on second-generation Filipino Americans who have returned to the homeland, lured by more fulfilling careers and an opportunity to bridge and embrace their two cultures.

Ryan Gonzalez is emblematic of a growing number of millennial generation Filipino Americans who are moving back to the Philippines to make a meaningful life-long career. Like this writer, he has spent much of his youth growing up in Southern California, and today he is based in Makati and is a TV and photography director for several travel and lifestyle documentary shows on CNN Philippines.

Born in Mandaluyong City but migrating to Virginia when he was 4 years old, Ryan would spend much of his adolescent years in Palos Verdes, California where he graduated from high school in 2004, and then went on to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville where in 2008 he attained his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2D Marketing. Shortly thereafter, he decided to move back to the Philippines out of a growing curiosity to explore his professional opportunities in the multimedia industry.

At first, the social and cultural transition was not easy, especially being a FilAm. He experienced the cultural awkwardness and alienation that some FilAms endure, most notably the language barrier. Just by merely attempting to engage and interact with locals in daily conversation, people here would occasionally complain of him giving them “nosebleed,” a common term Filipinos use when struggling to understand and communicate in straight English with an American accent. At times, he would even be labeled “Am-Boy,” which is considered derogatory because it connotes an obsession with anything American.

Shooting an episode for CNN's lifestyle program 'Something to Chew On'

Gonzalez has filmed CNN Philippines documentary shows as ‘Drive,’ for which he has served as the lead director.

In due course, Gonzalez has persevered and learned to adapt socially and culturally to his ethnic homeland.

“I now feel proud and more cultivated to have rediscovered and embrace my Filipino roots while living and working here,” he said.

Ryan’s parents grew up in Metro Manila. His father, Rodel Gonzalez, who hails from Sta. Ana, was a famous musician who along with his brothers founded the popular music band Side A. Currently, Rodel is a Disney artist who is licensed to do original art work for George Lucas’s “Star Wars” films.

Among the shows on CNN Philippines which Ryan assists in directing is ‘Drive’ which is popular among viewers for its automative lifestyle highlights. His show has won a Henry Ford Award for Advertising and Best Travel Lifestyle Show, given to programming devoted to automotive and lifestyle.

Ryan has seen how the Philippines has been the perfect place to hone and perfect his media directing craft, as well as to find his identity as an insider in the entertainment business. Given that the Philippines is one country in Asia which is most familiar with western Hollywood culture, this fact has indeed been a boon and blessing to Ryan.

The network of media practitioners and artists who Ryan has met and worked with has also taught him how to be more flexible in maintaining direct and constant contact with his colleagues and associates alike. Among the local sports and entertainment figures he has worked with include, boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, actress and surfer Mara Lopez, and rock musician/record producer Raimund Marasigan.

Asked how he sees his future in the Philippine media industry, Ryan expressed his intent to “professionally grow in his craft and to continue to expand his network.” He has no desire whatsoever to be content in his current occupation, for he believes that “complacency stunts your growth.”

Ryan’s dad, ‘Star Wars’ artist Rodel Gonzalez. Photo: Thomaskinkadehq.com

Ryan’s dad, ‘Star Wars’ artist Rodel Gonzalez. Photo: Thomaskinkadehq.com


  1. Paul wrote:

    Very interesting insight into the experiences of a person of Filipino and American cultural heritage.

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