White House observes FilAm History Month

White House Communications Advisor Ninio Fetalvo: ‘Republicans are not anti-immigrant. We wholeheartedly support legal immigration.’ Linkedin photo

By Maricar CP Hampton & Cristina DC Pastor

Ninio Fetalvo, the White House communications advisor, is one of many FilAm government officials leading the celebration of Filipino American History Month (FAHM) in October.

The President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (PAC-AAPI) hosted its third quarterly meeting on October 15 coinciding with a virtual celebration of FAHM. Fetalvo was one of the speakers together with Herman Martir, a commissioner of the PAC-AAPI; Kelly Ilagan, a senior advisor to the International Trade Administration, Department of Commerce, and others in the private sector.

Born Ninio Joseph Fetalvo, his journey to the White House began in 2013 when he became a War Room Intern for the Republican National Committee (RNC). He was then a senior at George Washington University studying Political Communication. For more than three years at the RNC, he held a series of positions that involved liaising with media outlets usually Asian American and Pacific Islander news organizations. In 2016, he became Communications Director for the state of Florida.  

Following Donald Trump’s election, Fetalvo rose to prominence when he was named Assistant Press Secretary to Sean Spicer. He held that position for one year and 11 months, a role that elevated his profile within the FilAm community.

In 2019, he joined the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services as a communications officer, and very briefly — for three months — became as Associate Advisor to the Vice President’s Coronavirus Task Force.

With Ron Falconi, who is running for the Ohio State Senate. White House photo

In college, the young, idealistic Fetalvo was on a search for leaders who “stand up for their convictions.” The road led him to Senator Marco Rubio, who like him is a child of immigrants, a Catholic, and grew up in Florida.

“I really like that he is inspiring,” said Fetalvo in an interview with The FilAm Metro D.C. in 2014. “His story of how he reached the American Dream as a son of immigrants is what resonates not only with me but with most Asian Americans who came to this country in search of the American Dream.”

He took pride in FilAm politicians who have made strides, such as former Brunswick, Ohio Mayor Ron Falconi and former Milpitas, California Mayor Jose Esteves. “They inspire our community to be active in politics,” he said.

“Young Filipinos are becoming more involved in politics than their parents were in their time,” said Fetalvo, 26, noting how the FilAm community has a tradition of engagement with the Republican Party. “They understand that their beliefs match well with what the Republicans are trying to accomplish.”

Born in Fort Myer, Florida, to Nelson Fetalvo, a technician for Acura automotive, and Minerva, a registered nurse, Fetalvo said it was his traditionalist upbringing that prepared him for the GOP. He and his sister Tina grew up in Port Charlotte and learned from his parents —  both from Camarines Sur – values, like respect and studying hard in school.

“I was taught to treat others with respect. That is something my peers would say about me: that I am a very respectful person, and I think that’s being a Filipino American,” he said.

Fetalvo said his parents encouraged their children to immerse themselves in different cultures and have a well-rounded life. “(They wanted me to) learn about my culture and about all the other cultures and how we all fit in together and celebrate the greatness of our country,” he said.

As a student of politics, he realized that his personal beliefs and way of thinking is more aligned with the Republican Party. “The Republican Party has been very welcoming,” he said.  

He took exception to the notion that Republicans are anti-immigrant. “We wholeheartedly support legal immigration, and we believe in prioritizing border security,” he said. He called the GOP “a big tent party” that welcomes anyone who identifies as Republican.

Fetalvo does not discount the possibility of one day running for public office. “Right now I just want to help the party and make sure that the Filipino Americans are inspired by Republicans to do what is best for the country.”

© The FilAm 2020

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: