For many of Juneau's Filipino residents, a hometown now is just a click away.
Since Dec. 20, cable provider GCI has offered the Filipino Channel to Juneau. Residents can watch Filipino programs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
GCI first introduced the Filipino Channel to Alaska about a year and half ago in Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Kodiak - areas that are home to almost 45 percent of the state's Filipinos.
Census data in 2000 said the Filipinos are the largest Asian American group in Alaska, with 16,170 residents of Filipino descent.
Although Juneau has 1,050 Filipinos, GCI's offering in Juneau is not based on marketing or demographic studies. It resulted from one woman's persistence.
"Watching the Filipino Channel helps us feel less homesick and keeps us in touch with the business, entertainment and news in our hometown," Cecille Saceda said while watching "Search for a Star in a Million" - a Filipino version of "American Idol" - on her 52-inch television.
When she heard that GCI had brought the Filipino Channel to Anchorage, Saceda asked local GCI sales representatives whether the channel was available in Juneau. The answer was no, but the sales representatives encouraged her and other people to keep calling GCI.
"They said if we made enough phone calls, they would bring this to the company's marketing department," said Saceda, 41. She moved to Juneau from her native Philippines in 1986.
Saceda said Juneau residents could watch the Filipino Channel by installing a satellite dish at home, but installing a dish costs $1,500. People also have to pay $26 a month for four satellite Filipino channels.
"Not everybody can afford to install a satellite dish," Saceda said. "It would be great if our local cable provider could broadcast the Filipino Channel."
Encouraged by the sales representatives, Saceda went from door to door and collected more than 300 signatures in two days.
Moved by Saceda's hard work, the company's managers decided to bring the Filipino Channel to Juneau.
"We get requests for channels from customers all the time, but this case is different," said David Morris, spokesman and vice president of GCI.
"Based on the spelling of the letters, many of those who have e-mailed us are preschoolers and ask for programs such as 'Pokemon' or 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.' Other requests are made by people who can make a profit out of it," Morris said. "But this woman has the vision and energy to collect the signatures. And she clearly doesn't have a financial interest in it."
Morris declined to reveal the number of Juneau subscribers to the Filipino Channel, but he said the numbers have been favorable. He also stressed that the company won't respond to a request like this in every case.
GCI's Filipino Channel costs $13.99, in addition to basic cable.
Gethse Erasmo, 30, said she loves watching entertainment programs such as "ASAP" and "The Buzz" on her 55-inch television.
"I feel (as if) I were in the Philippines when I watch the programs," Erasmo said.
I-Chun Che can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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