Monthly Archives: March 2008

A Journey to a Nation’s Past: A One-Woman Exhibition by Athena Santos Magcase Lopez

by April Tiamzon/Asianjournal.com

“Art should convey and inspire change. It should confront prevailing issues in the hope of moving the collective imagination and will to find ways and means to improve the quality of life, not just for a few but for the many.” — Athena Lopez

A one-woman exhibition entitled An artist’s story of the Filipino People by Athena Santos Magcase Lopez is being featured in the United Nations Secretariat Lobby from March 24 to April 4, 2008. Lopez utilized a predominantly earth-tone palette of ochres, burnt umbers, siennas, perhaps indicative of her own (brown) Malay heritage in her paintings. While her earlier works display brushstrokes that are choppy, textured and lavish in detail, her recent works attain a more fluid and mellow effect (though with the sepia tones) at the same time are richer and more vibrant.

In memory of Filipino heroes, the picture series is a collection of portraits and images of some of the important figures and events that, in her view, have helped define Filipino nationhood. The artist strongly believes that Filipino heroes, both sung and unsung; who have struggled for social justice and change, a national identity, and independence from foreign domination.

The series presents an invitation as well as a challenge for Filipinos everywhere to bridge the archipelagic nature of the country’s 7,100 islands and its people’s attendant regionalistic tendencies. Lopez hopes that viewers will remember the historical characters in the paintings, and in so doing, experience a personal passage that will enable them to embrace the idea of the Philippines as one nation. She also dreams that the series will encourage unity among her countrymen.

Athena Santos Magcase Lopez comes from a family of visual artists, poets, and politicians who have influenced her life and works. Athena tends to do thematic paintings of so-called social realism instigated by her homeland’s turbulent times and events, past or present, to encourage in people an awareness of painful realities or issues that, in her opinion, need to be addressed. Through one painting or a series of pictures, she aims to achieve a more personalized imagery or commentary on historical or current events. Where possible, she uses her own experiences to help convey mood or a message.

Lopez’s paintings are sold in giclee prints because she believes that the image would be more effective in inspiring people if she is able to share it with a wider audience, and not in a very exclusive collection.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Filipino Medical Workers Set to Get $3M in Back Wages

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

THE US Labor Department charged on Tuesday a US medical staffing firm with violating a foreign labor program after it allegedly owed almost three million dollars in back wages to its Filipino workers.

The New York-based Advanced Professional Marketing Inc. (APMI) and its president, Marissa Beck, were charged by the department with violating provisions of an immigration law that authorized employers to bring non-immigrant workers into the United States under the H-1B program.

An investigation by the department discovered that APMI has underpaid 156 H-1B guest workers from the Philippines employed as physical therapists in hospitals and other medical facilities in the New York metropolitan area. The department directed APMI and Beck to return almost three million dollars in back wages to the Filipino workers.

The department sent a “determination letter” enumerating the results of the probe on March 11, assessing penalties totaling 512,000 dollars for the alleged violations by the company.

Advanced Professional Marketing Inc and Beck could request a hearing on the issue before a US Labor Department administrative law judge within 15 days, the statement said.

The H-1B program permits employers to temporarily hire foreign workers for jobs in the United States in professional occupations such as computer programmers, engineers, physicians and teachers. However, the H-1B workers must be paid at least the same wage rates as are paid to US workers who perform the same types of work or the prevailing wages in the areas of intended employment.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Post Lenten Special: 2008 Lent in the Philippines: Catholic faith resounds across the nation

By Anna Krisna Noble Bautista/Asianjournal.com

POPULAR for being one the happiest countries in the world for Christmas celebration, the Philippines may as well be the best place to commemorate the Passion and Death of Christ.

Though the Church of the Nativity, the Holy Sepulchre, and Mount Tabor cannot be found in the only Catholic Nation in the Far East, the Filipinos’ piety, hope, faith, and gratefulness to God compensates for the world’s most popular places of worship.

This year, the Lenten sea-son started early, with Ash Wednesday held on February 6. Churchgoers not only recalled the 40 days and nights of Jesus’s agony through penance and ash crosses on their foreheads; but they were also already preparing for the last week of the Lenten season.

Church leaders of the Most Holy Redeemer Parish, Araneta asked parishioners to donate used papers, old newspapers and telephone directories to build the props for their programs for the Holy Week.

Characters for the Senakulo (re-enactment of Christ’s passion on stage) practiced and gathered funds. Though the same play is presented each year in almost, if not all, parishes, Senakulo has always been a product of great effort and has continuously been looked forward to. Who knew that the act would interest local celebrities and renowned film directors to make their own stage and movie versions?

On March 16, extraordinary celebrations of the Eucharist were held in various churches, where Masses were usually held in the same methodical manner, having attendees act their part as the people of Jerusalem. Palm Sunday was a feast as the faithful of Manila bought Php15 to Php 20 worth of decorated palm branches to herald the coming of Christ to Jerusalem. In the provinces, a number prefer to cut a shrub’s branch than spending such amount of money.

As soon as Maundy Thursday arrived, business districts in the country nearly became ghost towns. There barely were persons walking on the streets of Makati, only convenience stores were at service. Commuters and public transportation were rarely seen (note that public rail transits were also not operating). These circumstances made it much easier for believers to repent, as if searching for one’s soul only entails staring at the horizon or looking out the window .

In cities like Makati, such silence is priceless that residents in high-rise condominium buildings could only hear church bells toll and their own heartbeat.

More passionate memorials were seen in Quiapo where throngs of people gathered around a penitent lashing himself until he bled; a number of faithful walked barefoot on filthy lanes; and persons in their 70s and 80s staggered on their kne e s on the aisles of the church.

In every parish, lines of those who were asking for repose waited their turn on the confession boxes. Every residential street had at least one pasyon area , where believers of Christ can sing the incidents before he died. In the previous days, there were reports of local prisoners chanting pasyon in jail. One detainee said that religious activities like this made him feel less guilty.

On Good Friday, which is also the week’s devotion day for

Hesus Nazareno (Jesus of Nazarene), penitents who included Quiapo in their destination for Bisita Iglesia came only as close as five meters from the parish’s entrance to pray because of the throng. In the scorching heat of the sun, parents managed to carry their children while again walking barefoot toward the church.

The community reunified on Saturday night for their renewal of faith, and welcomed those who have just accepted Catholicism.

Finally, on Easter Sunday, Christ once-again drew crowds as He was about to meet His Mother, Mary before his resurrection in

Salubong. Glorious as it should be, joy was felt from the faithful. Those watching the momentous event at the Most Holy Redeemer Parish, Araneta cheered and clapped their hands as the black veil was taken off the Virgin’s vis-a-vis her son, who had just risen.

True, blue penitents, Catholic Filipinos attest that they were not hypocrites in acting their faith and showing their grief for the death of Christ. In fact, the Philippine National Police declared that there was a 20 percent decrease in crime rate during the Lenten season.

One might ask, are not all the troubles the nation is facing enough penitence for Filipinos to do more? If the country has such great citizens, why are political troubles, unemployment, and poverty still eminent in the Philippines?

The answer lies, however, in collective prayer, the chorus answers, the synchronized crying from guilt, the sound of the heart saying one should fast and participate, and the acknowledgment that one’s soul was saved by a Higher Being. The Lenten season in the country declares that whatever tragedy the country is in, hope and unity is always possible for Filipinos — and that is through Christ.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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“Don’t Blame Illegals for Budget Deficit” — Schwarzenegger

By Cynthia Flores/Asianjournal.com

In a meeting with local officials and business leaders in San Luis Obispo on Wednesday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked by Diane Blakeslee, mother of Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo,) how the state should handle fiscal burdens created by illegal immigrants.

In his response, Schwarzenegger said it would be a “big mistake” to blame illegal immigrants for the state’s looming $8 billion budget problem.

“There is, you know, always a time like this where you start pointing the finger at various different elements of what creates the budget mess, and, you know, some may point the finger at illegal

immigrants,” Schwarzenegger said. “I can guarantee you, I have been now four years in office in Sacramento, I don’t think that illegal immigration has created the mess that we are in.”

The governor has spent the last two weeks traveling to different cities to discuss the budget and ask local residents to pressure their legislators into early negotiations.

He was in San Luis Obispo to pitch his budget proposal to local officials and business leaders. His comments came a day after Assembly Republicans announced a package of 20 bills they said would help California reduce the “negative impact” that illegal immigrants have on the state budget. Included are proposals to repeal a law enabling undocumented students from paying in-state college tuition and demand more money from the federal government for housing illegal immigrants in state prisons.

Schwarzenegger said he believes the United States should pursue immigration reform and have tougher border controls. But he added that blaming illegal immigrants “because we have a budget problem would be a big mistake. I think we have to look at ourselves in Sacramento. We in Sacramento have the responsibility to come up with a coherent budget system, and we haven’t done that.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Immigration Legislation Forum: Business community discuss impacts, effectiveness of E-Verify

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/Asianjournal.com

SAN FRANCISCO (Via teleconference) — A conference call with Washington experts last March 19 (10:00 am PST/1:00 EST) opened with a discussion about recent employer-sanctioning immigration legislation and how businesses and employers have responded to its impact, as well as E-Verify, the federal government’s online employment eligibility verification system.

Guest speakers were Angelo I. Amador, Director of Immigration Policy for the US Chamber of Commerce, Craig Regelbrugge, Vice

President, Government Relations and Research for the American Nursery and Landscape Association and Chair of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, and Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the CATO Institute and author of Electronic Employment Eligibility Verfication: Franz Kafka’s Solution to Illegal Immigration. Each shared valuable information and inputs about the current immigration legislation and the role of employers in making the law work for the business and their workers.

Saving the agricultural industry

“The agricultural sector is in a precarious situation,” said Regelbrugge. With more than half of the estimated 1.6 million agricultural workforce unauthorized for employment in the industry, farm employers are scared of recent measures made against illegal immigrant workers. “They (farms) have become sitting ducks and easy targets for raids,” explained Regelbrugge.

Also, the past several years have seen farmers and ranchers throughout the US seeking reform of the H-2A temporary and seasonal alien agricultural worker program and years of congressional testimonies before both the Senate and House Immigration Subcommittees. There is bipartisan recognition of the shortage of legal agricultural workers in the US. The current H-2A program needs substantial reform before most agricultural employers can effectively use it.

The effect is hurting the seasonal agricultural economy, as employers now plant and harvest less, downsizing, while workers move to new locations. “We must take a broader base on reform,” Regelbrugge said and added, “Mass dislocation and deportation is not the way to go.”

Regelbrugge believes that there should be clear and simple rules for employers to follow. “We should be creating a mechanism for people to come out of the shadows.” In California alone, it is estimated that 450,000-500,000 workers are employed each year for the very rich, very labor intensive agricultural industry.

E-Verify

E-Verify, then known as “Basic Pilot,” grew out of the requirement to verify the work-eligibility of workers. A joint project of the US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) and Social Security Administration (SSA), it is an electronic employment eligibility verification system created in 1997 and implemented in all 50 states. It is voluntary for all employers except the more than 200,000 federal contractors required by Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

However, recent changes were announced after immigration reform bills failed to pass Congress. These included requirements for all US employers to use E-Verify. DHS estimates such an expansion could cost the agency about $400 million per year. E-Verify is currently free for employers, but that may change and DHS may shift the burden of paying for this system to employers.

Also, such expansion would create problems as far as data is concerned. According to Harper, the database of the SSA and DHS is not up to date and is in error by 4.1 percent. There is always the possibility that a legal worker may receive a “no match” or non-confirmation for his or her eligibility to work. “This will only increase identity frauds, will drive illegal immigrants into law-breaking,” said Harper and added, “and will cause more problems for US citizens.”

“The system is far from perfect, there are problems in the federal system,” said Regelbrugge.

Pushing for reform

History shows how hardworking immigrants became the driving force in turning the US into a prosperous nation. However, immigration laws for both punish the federal and state levels are confusing a lot of business owners and most are framing employers as the problem.

“A lot of these laws do not make economic sense,” said Amador. He believes that there should be a culture of activism to push for comprehensive immigration reform to increase security and open the pathway to legalization for undocumented workers already contributing to the economy. Another solution is to increase the continuity and expansion of H-1B, L-1, and EB visas for professionals and highly valued workers.

Harper believes that a mandatory national electronic employment eligibility verification system will not only be costly but will also be unable to prevent illegal immigration. It would deny a sizable percentage of law-abiding American citizens the ability to work legally.

Creating such system would require a national identification (ID) system, which will cost about $20 billion and hundreds of millions every year to operate. Harper also wrote in his policy analysis that “Even if it were free, the country should reject a national ID system. It would cause law-abiding American citizens to lose more of their privacy as government records about them grow and are converted to untold new purposes.”

Moderated by Odette Keeley of New America Media (NAM), the bi-monthly conference call, Access Washington, aims to help the ethnic media track immigration reform. The calls are organized in partnership with the National Immigration Forum, the Center for Community Change, the Asian American Justice Center and the National Council of la Raza, and funded by Public Interest Projects.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Lani Misalucha Best Singer in 27th Annual Best of Las Vegas

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – Filipina singer Lani Misalucha, dubbed Asia’s Nightingale, was voted Best Singer in the recently concluded 27th annual Best of Las Vegas poll. Conducted by The Las Vegas Review-Journal, almost 8,000 total votes were cast and tallied in this year’s poll. There were two picks for best singer; the readers’ pick was Celine Dion and the staff pick was Lani Misalucha.

Born in Manila,Philippines, Lani holds shows at the Flamingo Las Vegas with the veteran Hawaiian variety troupe Society of Seven – SOS. Misalucha’s full-throated style and wide range have been frequently compared to those of popular divas such as Barbara Streisand, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion. Since arriving in Las Vegas in 2004, she has been called the New Siren of the Strip. She possesses a comedic flair and can effectively impersonate above-named divas as well as Gladys Knight, Toni Braxton, Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, Tina Turner, Beyonce Knowles, and Britney Spears.

Born into a musical family, Lani started joining various bands at age 17 as a vocalist or back-up singer. After obtaining a degree in Business Management from the Philippine Christian University, Lani married Noli Misalucha, an IT expert and Mormon pastor with whom she has two kids, Lian and Louven.

In 1996, Misalucha made a breakthrough with the song “Ang Iibigin ay Ikaw” which was a finalist at the Metropop Song Festival and later conferred the Awit Award for Record of the Year. In 1998, she won acclaim outside the country when she was awarded the Best Interpreter/Singer Award at the 3rd Asian Song Festival. Misalucha received the Grand Prize at the 1999 Metropop Song Festival Artist of the Year Award. In that same year, she won the Aliw Award for Best Lounge Act, Awit Award for Best Performance by a Female Recording Artist, and Awit Award Nomination for Best Stage Actress.

Misalucha was hailed as Aliw Awardee for Best Female Performance in Music Lounges, Bars, Clubs & Restaurants for four consecutive years, 1999-2002. She became a semi-regular host in the Sunday noontime show SOP (Sobrang Okey Pare) in 2001, along with other top artists. Her first major solo concert in September 2001 at the Araneta Coliseum entitled, “Lani Misalucha, The Crossover Live Tour” was packed to the rafters by over 18,000 fans. In that same year, Misalucha received the Aliw Award for Best Major Concert by a Female Artist and the Tinig Award for Best Solo Performer. Her Crossover Live Concert album received the Platinum Award.

In 2002, she bagged the Aliw “Entertainer of the Year” award, and two Katha awards — Best Folk Song Vocal Performance and Best Traditional Song Vocal Performance. She also held her first US Concert Tour that year, performing in Reno, San Diego, Washington, Las Vegas, New York, Chicago, Atlantic City, Pasadena, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Mayor Willie L. Brown, Jr. of San Francisco declared August 17 “Lani Misalucha Day” to give due recognition to her talent as an artist.

In 2004, after being granted a US visa as an “Alien of Extraordinary Ability,” Misalucha relocated with her whole family to the United States.

In no time, Lani became the first Asian to headline in a Main Showroom of the Las Vegas Strip, performing with Hawaii’s Society of Seven at the Jubilee Theatre of Bally’s. Her stint at Bally’s ran for 15 months from August 7, 2004 to February 5, 2006, after which she and the Society of Seven moved to the Main Showroom of the Flamingo starting last August 2006. They will be staying on at the Flamingo till April 13.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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GMA’S Amnesty is Constitutional – DOJ

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) has assured that Presidential Proclamation No. 1377 issued by President Arroyo last year which grants amnesty to members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPPNA-NDF) and other rebel groups will not violate the equal protection clause under Constitution. In his legal opinion no. 11 issued on February 21, 2008, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez explained that the equal protection clause means that “no persons or class of persons shall be deprived of the same protection of the laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in the same place and in like circumstances.”

Gonzalez, however, insisted that the he constitutional guarantee on equal protection does not prohibit classification provided as long as it is reasonable.

He explained that the classification must rest on substantial distinctions; must be relevant to the purpose of the law; must not be limited to existing conditions only; and must apply equally to all members of the same class.

“Applied to the instant case, a reading of the purposes of the presidential issuance, as revealed in its whereas clauses, vis-à-vis the provision thereof, it appears indubitable that the requirement of equal protection has been observed and complied with in the issuance of the amnesty proclamation and the classification therein appears reasonable,” Gonzalez said.

He stressed that the proclamation clearly identified class of people and the crimes covered by the amnesty offer.

Gonzalez noted that the amnesty grant is limited to members of the CPP-NPA NDF and other communist rebel groups and covers only the crime of rebellion and all other crimes committed in pursuit of political beliefs.

“For another, the classification is undeniably germane to the purposes thereof, that is, to accept the rebels back into the folds of law by granting them amnesty and eventually providing them access to the government’s socio-economic services,” the DOJ said.

The legal opinion was issued in response to the queries made by Secretary Jesus Dureza, presidential adviser on the peace process, on the difference between political crime and common crime and on whether the said amnesty proclamation complies with the equal protection clause.

Specifically, the DOJ secretary stressed, political crime is one that is directly aimed against the political order, as well as such common crimes committed to achieve a political purpose such as those committed in furtherance of resistance to the duly constituted authorities of the government.

On the other hand, ordinary or common simply refers to one that is not aimed directly against the political and social order.

(AJ)

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