‘Good morning, San Diego’ welcomes Kristina Le

'I almost gave up my dream'

‘I almost gave up my dream’

By Lawrence C. Ochoa

San Diego County, that balmy destination 144 miles south of Los Angeles takes pride in having the second largest Filipino American population (approximately 200,000) of any county in the nation, yet lags behind in visibility in this highly diverse city.

One venue to project this significant number is the news – bringing the day’s highlight to viewers in the convenience of their homes or their computers. Anchoring the news translated to power and influence, reminding one that not too long ago, only men read the news.

Today there are but a handful of well-known Filipina anchors in Los Angeles County despite a vast population of more than one million Filipinos – Cher Calvin for KTLA Channel 5 LA; meteorologist and anchor Maria Quiban of KTTV/KCOP-TV and Jean Martirez, KTTV Fox 11.

A few months ago, 29-year old Kristina Audencial Le joined the elite group as the first Filipino American news anchor for San Diego UT-TV (on Cox and Uverse cable). We met her as she lined up last month at the Asian Film festival with her parents, originally from Pasig Rizal, waiting for the showing of Pulitzer-prize writer Jose Antonio Vargas’ “Documented.”

“Kris was born in the Naval Station of Subic Bay,” said her father Rico Audencial, a retired navy man. “My wife Jenny and I came to the U.S. with her when she was 13.”

Married to Huy Le, son of Vietnamese immigrants, Kristina gets excited at the thought that she’s one of the station’s leading prime time news broadcasters, five days a week. “It is an honor to put the face of a Filipina in this thriving city,” Kristina smiled, “It’s about time.”

She’s always been conscious that there are very few on-screen positions for Filipinos in the news – a place where thousands of expatriates could identify with.
She graduated from the University of California, at San Diego, majoring in communications. After graduation, she immediately acquired a position as a news writer for 10News, an affiliate of ABC. She credits the experience as a substantial foundation for her journalistic career summing up that “I had learned everything in my time there.”

With a dream of representing the country of her birth on local TV news, Kris relentlessly sent out her resumes all over the U.S. and got a bite from one news outfit in Grand Junction, Colorado.

“I lasted about four months, and I don’t know if it was the combination of being away from the family, being in the snow … I called my Dad every day, and I said that ‘I don’t know what I’m doing here!’”

She returned to San Diego and for a while got out of news. “I thought that I didn’t want to do news anymore. I almost gave up my dream.”

Her brief hiatus from the news media led her to seek out a career in finance. It had been a surprising fallback plan during her self-imposed break from writing.

She remained unhappy. She continued to seek out an on-camera news position. In January of this year, a start-up news outfit, UT-TV San Diego called and during her first seven months, she was working as a field reporter.

With fellow  UT-TV San Diego morning anchor Luis Cruz

With fellow UT-TV San Diego morning anchor Luis Cruz

Soon, UT-TV introduced Kristina Le, a statuesque Filipina American, as a member of its morning news anchor team.

“I couldn’t believe it, I thought I would take a small supporting role – but they made me the morning news anchor, with the team!”

She sees the role as a prominent position for herself to reach out to the Filipino community, saying that “I know there are young Filipinos out there aspiring to make a name on TV – my advice is for them not to give up. Start as news reporters, anything behind the scenes and if you work hard; show your talent, you’ll get on-screen. Our numbers will support more news anchors, more writers, and more visibility for our demographics.”

On November 17, a couple of days after Yolanda (Haiyan) the station flew her to Hernani, Eastern Samar to bring back news about the survivors to their loved ones in the U.S. , some of whom are from San Diego. She sent back tapes of sad but brave stories of compatriots as they withstood the test of nature.

At the San Diego Asian Film Festival. Photo by Lawrence Ochoa

At the San Diego Asian Film Festival. Photo by Lawrence Ochoa

One of her favorite memories from the Philippines was children in Hernani singing the Tagalog version of “Joy to the World” while faced with great loss. “Songs of hope in times of need,” she reminisced.

By Thanksgiving, Kristina was back with her family in the States, already sending Facebook messages to her friends to join her as she emcees “For the Love of the Philippines,” a benefit show for Typhoon Haiyan victims featuring local entertainments celebrities on December 14 at 7 p.m. at the Moonshine Flats, 344 7th Avenue in San Diego.

Her heart will continue to hearken to those who care about her heritage.

A version of this story appeared in an issue of Inquirer.net, a content partner of TheFilAmLA.

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