Alaska, America’s last frontier, is home to more than 30,000 Filipino Americans. Filipinos are one of the largest Asian American groups in the state, where Randall Ruaro now serves as Governor Mike Dunleavy's Chief of Staff.
Randall's grandfather, Pete Ruaro, was a full-blooded Filipino from San Vicente, Ilocos Sur. He migrated to the United States in 1923, worked at a farm in California, and eventually got married. The Ruaro family moved to Seattle and later to Alaska.
"[There is a] long history of Filipinos in Alaska. They were working in the mines; they were working in the canneries; they worked on fishing boats. So [there is a] long, strong history of the Filipinos in Alaska," the younger Ruaro said.
In a conversation with TFC News, Ruaro also proudly talked about his own journey to Alaska. "It was a very long journey to get here. I started out after graduating high school in 1983. I started working at a hotel as a van driver, and busboy carrying the bags for people. Over the years, I continued to work and get some education. I went to law school [and] went to work in government."
Ruaro's appointment as the governor's Chief of Staff is a testament to the growing population of Filipino immigrants who continue to thrive in public office in the US. With this, Ruaro encourages Fil-Ams and other Alaska residents to avail of the permanent fund dividend program being given by the state. Because of Alaska's high cost of living, Ruaro hopes this check will help every Alaskan resident especially with winter coming soon.
"We are also working on several relief programs that had been hit hard by the Covid pandemic. Tourism was impacted by Covid and travel restrictions. So Alaska saw a pretty large decrease in tourism which a lot of our small businesses rely on," Ruaro acknowledged. "So we have a couple of relief programs for those businesses. They can apply and get some help to make it through the winter now. And be ready hopefully for a full tourist season - cruise ships, everything - in May of 2022."
Like many other states affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, Alaska is optimistic of its road to recovery especially that almost 59 percent of people in the state have been fully vaccinated.