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Maestro Robert Shroder: Extraordinary Pinoy

by Cynthia De Castro/AJPress

By his name and appearance, Californian musical conductor Robert Shroder seems to be as American as apple pie. But once you start talking to this very talented musical director, you’ll learn that he is as Pinoy as kare-kare and adobo. You can’t help but be taken aback when you first meet this very Caucasian-looking American talking in straight Tagalog –with the right Pinoy accent.

“Pinoy na Pinoy ako!” Shroder proudly says. “I was born in Kawit, Cavite and didn’t immigrate to the US [until] 1991. My father, Jerald Vincent Shroder, was with the US Military stationed at Sangley Point. That’s where he met my mom, Rosalinda Enriquez Samaniego.”

The founding conductor of the Boyle Heights Youth Symphony, Shroder is also the first Filipino-American in the symphony which was founded in 2002.  A favorite symphony of the Office of the Mayor, Shroder and his team frequently perform in government social and community.

Shroder is also a freelance musician and a member of the Local 47, the American Federation of Musicians. He plays to a mixed audience for special events, but his favorite, of course, is performing for the Filipino-American community events.

Music Conductors came into vogue with the rise of Ensemble Music – with so many musicians playing together it became necessary for there to be someone to ‘lead’ them, to indicate when certain passages were to be played and by which section, and the tempo required. It is the conductor’s interpretation of the music that brings overwhelming success or the opposite to a concert.

Shroder’s masterful conducting has made him a favorite of several Filipino artists, like Joey Albert and Pilita Corrales, who know that with Shroder as musical director of their concerts, they are assured success. As a conductor, Robert has impeccably sensitive ears, as well as a rhythmic and interpretative sense. He is skillfully acquainted with every instrument of the orchestra, and is an outstanding flutist. He not only makes sure entries are made at the right time and that there is a unified beat;  Robert sets the tempo, executes clear preparations and beats, listens critically and shapes the sound of the ensemble.

Shroder grew up in Cavite and studied at Emilio Aguinaldo Elementary School, Kawit High School and San Sebastian High School. He then took up Music Conducting at the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music, with Flute as his major instrument.

Shroder admits his passion and talent for music are in his genes. “My lolo, the father of my mom, Augusto Samaniego, was a member of the Philippine Constabulary Band. He was a conductor and played the saxophone under Col Walter Loving. They participated in the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in Treasure Island in San Francisco. He was also the conductor of the Magdalo Concert Band. He took me to rehearsals, fiestas, and to the different engagements of the band, so I grew up in that milieu. I inherited the conductorship of the band when he died. As conductor of the Magdalo Concert Band from 1984-1991, we performed classical music, overtures and marches during fiestas, wakes and other such community affairs,” he recalled.

Robert won the Grand Prize in the National Music Competition for Young Artists in 1982, which was sponsored by Imelda Marcos. He was hired to be the principal flutist of the Manila Symphony Orchestra, the oldest symphony orchestra in Asia. He did some solo engagements in different areas in the Philippines and was a part of the Manila Chamber Orchestra. Shroder also taught flute and chamber music in UP and did recordings for pop music and the Pinoy movie industry. He immigrated in 1991 and first stayed in San Diego where his parents lived.

Robert and wife Amy have four children, Katrina, Timothy, Vanessa and Andrew. Vanessa is a flutist like her dad while Andrew is a singer. Since migrating to the States, Robert makes sure he and his family maintain close ties with the homeland. “We go back at least every other year to the Philippines. I am always in touch with friends and associates in the Philippines,” he said.

These days, Shroder is extraordinarily excited at the prospect of seeing one of his long-cherished dream come true. “Filipino orchestra musicians here in Southern California have long dreamed of founding a Filipino symphony orchestra not only for the Filipino community but for everybody who appreciate music. Wala pang ganito so Filipino musicians have joined orchestras of other races.We learned that there are 3 Filipino orchestra members of the Korean orchestra. There are also Chinese symphony orchestras, Japanese, Jewish –but no Filipino orchestra yet. It doesn’t mean the orchestra will only have Filipino members. So long as we have a core group of Filipinos, we can get musician of other races. The problem has been the lack of a management team to run the business and take care of the administrative side. Matagal na naming gustong mag-start ng symphony group but it’s hard kung puro lang kami musicians at walang management back-up. We don’t have any lack for Filipino talents here; we can form a 55-120 man orchestra with strings -violin, cello, double bass- and wind – flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombones. Well, now, mukhang matutuloy na ang aming pangarap na ito. Thank God for Asian Journal chairman Roger Oriel who caught our vision and has enthusiastically agreed to make our dream come true by founding the first Filipino symphony orchestra in America. Watch out for that very soon!” Robert said excitedly.

Yes, the very first Filipino symphony orchestra in America is now being organized and will soon be another “pride of the Philippines”. And there’s no better musical conductor to lead it than the maestro from Cavite — Robert Shroder.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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Bucks from the Big Box

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress

From a parcel of goodies to a booming industry

There’s nothing like receiving a big cardboard box full of goodies or pasalubong from relatives overseas.

It’s the warm feeling Manny Paez remembers when he was younger growing up in the Philippines.

“I used to tear open the cardboard box and hang them up along my walls so my friends could see that I’m receiving gifts from my family in the US,” said Paez.

That was decades ago for Paez but the feeling remains the same for many people in the Philippines.

“It’s like opening gifts during Christmas,” said Paez, the president of Manila Forwarders, a Philippine cargo company based in Eagle Rock.

Balikbayan

boxes sent by Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) have become a sort of chest of treasures full of clothes, chocolate, shoes, canned goods, rice or other kinds of goodies.

With the influx of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) leaving the Philippines daily and their family behind in search of a decent living in other countries, balikbayan boxes and their contents have become a symbol of love from loved ones when they are away.

And it’s the reason why the number of cargo companies shipping to the Philippines has increased, according to Paez.

According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Filipinos who left for employment overseas reached 761,836. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that from January to July of this year overseas Filipino remittances posted $9.6 billion, an increase of 18.2 percent in the same period in 2007. The bulk of remittances come from the USA, Saudi Arabia, UK, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, according to the BSP.

While most send money back home to their family, it’s the balikbayan box that adds an extra touch like adding whipped cream on an ice cream sundae. The standard balikbayan box can weigh up to 100 pounds. The jumbo boxes weigh at 150 pounds.

The Washington Post reported that in 2004 Forex, another Philippine cargo company, estimated that at least 300,000 balikbayan boxes are sent each year from the United States.

Paez believes that number has increased yearly because of the large number of Filipinos living in the US now.

“Just for our company, I know we send one to three thousand boxes a week depending on the season,” he said.

Paez began in the balikbayan box industry more than fourteen years ago. A former Marine Sergeant stationed in Maryland and North Carolina, he would send some of his earnings and boxes of goodies to his family in the Philippines.

When he started Manila Forwarders it was just a small mom-and-pop shop operation. Now, according to Paez, it’s grown to be one of the largest cargo companies directly servicing those Filipinos wanting to send balikbayan boxes to the Philippines.

He said that the industry has changed since he first started more than a decade ago.

He credits the advancement of technology for increasing the number of balikbayan boxes sent to the Philippines.

“Trade is a lot easier now,” he said. “All a person has to do now is go on the phone, or computer, send an e-mail or instant message to us and we’ll take care of everything. Young Filipinos are sending packages, traders. It’s not just the parents and retired Filipinos living here anymore that send boxes back home.”

However even with the advancement of technology it’s still difficult to sometimes ship boxes to the Philippines. Metro Manila is the easiest place to send a package but those sending packages to far off provinces and areas known as alleged terrorist havens have a more difficult passage.

Paez said that he had to learn the hard way.

“If the package is going to Cebu or Mindanao I have to wrap up the boxes in plastic so that people will think twice about stealing the contents,” he said. “When we go to those areas, there are a lot of checkpoints which are manned by MILF or the military. I had to cut a deal with someone I know from the area so they won’t steal or open the packages.”

Paez said that the most popular time to send boxes home is during the Christmas season and it’s also the most dangerous.

“We send about 3,000 to 4,000 boxes a week to the Philippines during Christmas,” said Paez. “Customers have to be very careful because during that time there’s a lot of fake shipping companies that will lower their price to get their business. The business will then go bankrupt and the people lose out on their money and their belongings inside that box.”

Many have criticized that the contents of balikbayan boxes have become material possessions replacing love and affection from those family members not present anymore.

Paez said that the best way for OFW’s and relatives to show their love is to go back home to the Philippines.

“With the OFW’s spending power we contribute more to the Philippine economy up to $2,500 to up to $10,000 a visit,” he said. “We can also have the joy of watching our loved ones open the balikbayan boxes in front of them.”

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Remittances: Our Nation’s Lifeblood

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
The past three decades have seen the most dramatic number of Filipinos migrating to other countries to work as overseas contract workers. There are now more than 11 million overseas Filipinos worldwide, equivalent to about 11% of the total population of the Philippines. These overseas Filipinos often work as doctors, nurses, accountants, IT professionals, engineers, architects, entertainers, technicians, teachers, military servicemen, students, caregivers, and domestic helpers. Many of them eventually become permanent residents of other countries.

Money sent by the overseas Filipinos back to the Philippines thru remittances has made a significant and considerable contribution to the Philippine economy. By providing a steady stream of dollars in the market, remittances have helped stabilize the peso and boost the economy through consumption and investments. Last year in 2007, the OFWs remitted around US $14.45 billion, up from $13 Billion in 2006 and more than $10 billion in 2005.

Because of the role that they play in propping up the economy through the money they send home, the migrant Filipino workers abroad have been referred to as the Philippines’ modern-day heroes.

The Philippine Central Bank announced a few days ago that remittances from Filipino workers overseas grew 24.6 percent in July to US$1.366 billion — the fourth month in a row that money sent home from abroad posted double-digit growth. The July inflows brought remittances for January to July 08 to US$9.608 billion, up 18.2 percent from the same period last year. The strong inflows boost the likelihood that remittances for 2008 will hit US$15.7 billion as projected.

The bulk of remittances from January to July 2008 came from the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

In a study by Stella P. Go (2002) who studies the behavior of the remittances of migratory workers, it shows that there is no direct relation between the quantity of remittances and the geographical concentration of these workers. For example, Saudi Arabia, which is the major destination of overseas workers, only represents 5.4 % of total remittances; the United States, to the contrary, which has less than 1% of the migrant Philippine workers is the origin of 42.5 % of total remittances to the Philippines.

Perhaps, Filipinos who immigrate to the US earn more or have more income left over to send abroad than those OFWs from Middle East and Asian countries.

Karamihan kasi ng mga immigrants dito sa US, nasa health care industry, at kumikita ng mas malaki kaysa sa mga OFWs sa ibang bansa. And the health care industry is not much affected by economic recession,” said John, a resident intern in an LA hospital.

How do the families of OFWs spend the remittances? According to a study by the United Nations (INSTRAW study 2008), remittances are used to cover first the households’ basic consumption (food, clothes, electricity, etc.), education and health. When remittances are sent regularly, they can also serve to pay a domestic worker or a person who will be in charge of dependent persons. For migrant parents, it is a priority to provide education to the children who remain in Philippines, while for migrant sons and daughters, to provide care for elderly parents is a priority in a context where public services are very poor.

When remittances are more than enough to pay the bills, the families invest for the future. In the same UN study, it was reported that after women succeed to cover basic consumption needs, education and health, they invest in a house or in land for agriculture. Men are inclined to invest in consumption goods, assets, or property. 

Without a doubt, the economic gains are the most tangible positive effect of labor migration for both the family and Philippine society. Foreign remittances have improved the quality of life for the average Filipino family. Within a short period of time, families and household have been able to buy appliances, improve their houses or buy new ones, finance the education of their children or siblings and for some, start a small business. Because of these economic gains of labor migration, thousands of Filipinos continue to leave the country everyday to work overseas.

The Central Bank sees the trend rising even higher in the coming months and years. For example, from January to July 2008, nearly 762,000 Filipinos left the country to work abroad, up by 28.2 percent than in the same period of 2007. “This reflected foreign employers’ preference for Filipino workers who remain competitive due to their skills and proficiency in the English language,” said the Central Bank.

Central Bank Governor Tetangco said workers’ deployment abroad may rise further as a result of the recently concluded arrangement among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including the Philippines, to standardize and regulate professional standards for accountants, dentists and medical workers. The arrangement will facilitate professionals’ mobility in the region, he added. Discussions continue between the Philippines and prospective employers in France, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Norway and Finland for possible deployment of more professionals from the nursing, information technology, and engineering fields, he said.

The remittance boom is partly a product of a period of very rapid global growth that increased both demand for Filipino migrant labor and the earnings of the huge Filipino community in the US, the largest single source of remittances. However, there are some fears that this rise in remittances from the US might not continue for long, specially with the looming US recession.

This was belied, however, by a Western Union agent interviewed by Asian Journal. “Our regular customers have not decreased their remittances to the Philippines,” said Fae, who works in a Western Union remittance agent store in Eagle Rock. “Many of the Filipinos who come here send money weekly or bi-monthly to their families. Even when the gas prices went up, the remittances were not affected,” she reported.

This is certainly good news for the Philippines. First, spurred by remittances, the peso’s increased value has raised people’s confidence in the currency and overseas Filipinos have begun to remit their earnings and savings, not just for basic necessities, but for investments as well. Secondly, the higher the peso, the more dollars have to be remitted to meet the school, food and other peso bills of families back in the Philippines. Thirdly, remittances are expected to continue to increase from the oil-rich states of the Gulf, the second largest source of money from abroad.  And fourthly, East Asian demand for Filipino labor remains high; so the exodus of OFWs, and with it, foreign remittances are expected to continue to grow even more considerably in the near future.  (www.asianjournal.com)

 

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Tapping Good Business: Yardhouse’s formidable trio does the ‘right thing’

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
In 2007, after eleven very successful years, the Yard House chain of restaurants was ready for a giant boost. Founder and CEO Steele Platt, along with partners Harald Herrmann, Yard House President and Chief Operating Officer; and Carlito Jocson, Corporate Executive Chef, were poised for significant growth. They were on the lookout for a strategic corporate partner that will help make Yard House a national brand.

Meanwhile, TSG Consumer Partners is ever watchful for high-growth companies to invest in. The recognized leader in building and investing in high-growth companies since 1987, TSG knows how to tap into a good business investment. And so, it offered to buy shares of Yard House, leveraging TSG’s 2 decades of experience in building some of America’s most trusted brands. Thus, a merger was born.

Acquiring a 70-percent interest in Yard House, TSG enthusiastically lauded the Yard House team’s success and announced that there will be no changes in its management.

TSG Managing Director Hadley Mullin said, “Founder and CEO Steele Platt and his team have developed a successful and exciting concept in the restaurant field. They have grown Yard House at a compounded rate of over 30% per year over the past five years, and we are highly enthusiastic about the Company’s future growth prospects.”

Platt is equally excited about the new partnership. “I believe that TSG will be an ideal strategic partner for Yard House. TSG will assist us in growing and building the brand as we continue to move forward,” said Platt. “We are very excited about beginning this next chapter in Yard House’s evolution and making it a national brand. My executive management team and I continue to own a meaningful portion of the company, and we will remain actively involved in the growth of the business for many years to come.”

The concept of Yard House came from Platt who opened a restaurant called “Boiler Room” in Denver, Colorado offering a wide selection of beers. After several years, Platt sold his restaurant and moved to San Diego, California. There, he spied a deserted warehouse building in the waterfront in Shoreline Village in Long Beach Yard. He decided to put up another upscale pub and eatery in that spot, using his original concept. One of the smartest moves Platt made was forming a partnership with Harald Herrmann and giving him carte blanche to run the restaurant his way. Herrmann in turn signed up Carlito Jocson who had worked with him in Chez Panache and made him executive chef.

From the trio’s combined efforts came Yard House, an upscale-casual eatery that can serve up to two hundred different kinds of beer on tap and a menu of eclectic gourmet food. Yard House’s name is derived from the time of the “Wild, Wild West” when stagecoach drivers only had a quick minute to get a cooling drink before hitting the trail once again. A “yard of ale”, which is a three -foot drinking glass, was handed to the drivers without having them getting off their mounts.

Yard House launched its first restaurant in 1996 in Long Beach with the largest selection of draft beers people have seen; as much as 250 tap handles – when other beer pubs were struggling to produce a dozen kinds.  The beer attracted the crowd but the 100-plus mouth-watering dishes on the menu kept the people coming back for more and more. Yard House soon gained a huge following for its upscale-style fusion cuisine, classic-rock soundtrack and of course, its self-proclaimed offering of the world’s largest selection of draft beers.

Over the last 12 years, Yard House expanded exponentially. Now with 20 restaurants and 5 more in the works, the chain has restaurants in Long Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Rancho Mirage, San Diego, Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, Newport Beach, and  Brea, all in California; in Colorado; Illinois; Kansas; Phoenix,Arizona; Scottsdale, Arizona; Glendale Arizona; Waikiki, Hawaii;  Las Vegas, Nevada; and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

With an average unit volume of $8.5 million per store and cumulatively estimated at close to $200 million annually in sales, Yard House is the recipient of many accolades and awards, including the Hot Concept! award by Nation’s Restaurant News, and the Best Chain Overall Beverage Program as voted by Cheers Magazine. The company was also ranked among the Top 50 Fastest Growing Full Service Chains by Restaurant Hospitality (which also featured the Yard House as a Concept of Tomorrow), and among the Top 100 Independent Grossing Restaurant in the United States according to Restaurants & Institutions Magazine.

Yard House is the first restaurant brand in TSG’s portfolio, whose other food-related investments include Famous Amos, Terra Chips, Garden of Eatin’ snacks, Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts and Smart Balance. Managing about $1.5 billion in invested capital, TSG, together with partners Platt, Hermann and Jocson, have been developing a short- and long-term strategic growth program to make Yard House a national brand.

“We have as much capital as we need to grow, but our performance will lead our growth,” said Platt. “Yard House could parlay its growth momentum into a billion-dollar company, but it’s not about speed, it’s about doing things the right way, “ he added.

And doing things the right way, they have certainly done. So much so that Chef Jocson disclosed that Yard House is poised to go public with the company within the next five years; which is something smart investors should look forward to. After all, Yard House has proven it’s not only a good place to tap in for fun; it’s a great place to tap into good business, too.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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GMA, The Visit: So Far, So Good

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – Before she left the Philippines, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pointed out that her key priorities in visiting the US are to meet with Filipino-American and Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) communities to discuss their needs and concerns; with President Bush and government leaders to confer on vital issues; and with business leaders and investors to showcase Philippine economic and investment opportunities.

As the President rounds up the fi fth day of her 10-day visit, it’s “so far, so good”.

Arroyo’s series of meetings in Fresno last June 22 went well. Hundreds of Filipino health care professionals met her in several medical centers. Almost a thousand members of the Filipino American community in Fresno and central California attended Holy Mass with her at the Fresno International Convention Center (FICC) here.

“Our kababayans in America form a dynamic human bridge that joins the Philippines and the United States, and that connects our past with our future,” the Chief Executive said in her speech at the FICC. She paid tribute to the Filipino-American professionals and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the US for having attained the pinnacle of their professions and for contributing their share in the economic development of the Philippines “without losing your bonds of affection for your mother country or your inherent pride in your Filipino heritage.”

From Fresno, GMA and her party proceeded to Washington DC where she has a packed schedule. Last Monday, June 23, he conferred with Deputy State Secretary John Negroponte over a wide range of issues on USPhilippine bilateral relations. The President then met with officials of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to firm up the Philippines’ bid for MCC Compact status which would pave the way for increased US funding assistance for the country’s anti-poverty programs.

Later in the day, President Arroyo conferred the Order of the Golden Heart on US senators and congressmen who have been at the forefront of promoting in the US Congress Philippine interests including theinterest and welfare of Filipino-Americans.

Given the award, with the Rank of Grand Cross, were Senators Daniel Akaka, Richard Lugar, Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelou, Representatives Bob Filner, Daniel Issa, and Michael Hondo.

‘’The order of the Golden Heart represents our nation’s humble way of recognizing those who help build life to the noble aspirations of the Filipino people. In behalf of the 85 million Filipinos and the families and friends who make up the four million members of the Philippine-American community, thank you for your continuing deep friendship. Thank you for your expression of support,’’ the Chief Executive further said. “The Golden Heart Award is given to those with a golden heart,’’ she added.

On June 24, President Arroyo met with President George W. Bush at the White House.

The two presidents covered several important issues during their talk: the welfare of the veterans, the war on terrorism, food and relief aid for the typhoon victims.

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From the White House, Arroyo visited the Pentagon for a meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the Philippines’ defense reform program. The President and Secretary Gates discussed, among others, counter-terrorism programs and the Philippine Defense Reform Program (PDRP) in a move to achieve not just domestic security but also regional environmental security.

A conference with US Agriculture Secretary Schaefer followed. The Chief Executive witnessed the sealing of an agreement between Philippine Department of Agriculture and the United States Agriculture Department that stand to boost the Philippines’ goal for food security in the next five years. Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and US Agriculture Secretary Schaeffer signed the Framework Agreement of Cooperation on Agriculture and Related Fields, in behalf of their respective countries. The Agreement is expected to pave the way for fresh fruit sales from the Philippines to the US soon and also covers strengthened cooperation in support for irrigation infrastructure works and capacity building of agricultural extension personnel.

The President then attended a cocktail and dinner hosted by the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) Business Council and the US Chamber of Commerce, where she urged American business leaders to take advantage of the extraordinary value for investments in the Philippines by investing in the country. In her address during cocktails, the President said that as an investment destination, the Philippines is a “good, longterm bet. We don’t sell hype, no quick bucks, no false gains. Just strong fundamentals, good economic stewardship and excellent returns on your investment. We are the smart, prudent place to place your money,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

The following day, June 25, Arroyo attended a meeting with the Philippine-US Friendship Caucus, a group composed of members of the US House of Representatives who have openly supported moves to strengthen relations between the Philippines and the United States.

A meeting with the likely Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was scheduled later in the day followed by a meeting with the Filipino community in Washington before the President flies off to New York.

The President’s trip to New York from June 26 to 28 will involve meetings with the Filipino community, a possible visit to the United Nations headquarters, and presentations to numerous investors and business leaders to promote more investment and job creation in the Philippines. Among the business leaders and investment groups that the President will be meeting are Bob Rubin of Citigroup, Libby’s Fruits, Target Sourcing, Rotec Technology and Apac Customer Services. She will also meet with the world’s richest man, Warren Buffett, head of the Berkshire Hathaway Corp. whose net worth is placed at $62 billion.

On June 28, Arroyo will go back to Washington where she will also possibly meet with Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The meetings with Senators Obama and Mc-Cain have been described simply as a “getting-to-know-you” type of meeting.

From Washington, the President goes back to San Francisco where she will take a commercial flight back to Manila on June 29. She is expected to land at the NAIA Terminal 3 around 5:25 a.m. on June 30 where she may inspect and personally check on the preparations for the opening of the terminal.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Julaton Prepares Two Fights in Ten Days

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – The yellow hand wrap is packed on tight. Her hair is rolled up. Her manager/trainer Angelo Reyes pulls the blue 12-ounce gloves on her hands. She walks menacingly inside the ring. She stares at her opponent across from her. She squints and opens her mouth like a lion ready to roar.

FilAm female professional boxer Ana “The Hurricane” Julaton is ready to pounce on any one in her way.

Julaton arrived at the Wildcard Boxing Club early this month to begin training for one of her toughest challenges.

The former San Francisco Gold Glove Champion, US Nationals silver medalist and current undefeated professional with a record of 3-0 Julaton has a daunting task ahead of her, one with great risk but even better rewards.

In the next coming weeks, Julaton not only has to train for one fight but two bouts, ten days apart.

Julaton faces Salina Jordan at The Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore on Thursday, June 26. A week later, she’ll face undefeated Johanna Mendez of Texas in a Top Rank Promotions event at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on July 5.

If Julaton does well in her next two bouts, a top-flight promotional contract and a championship match could be waiting ahead.

For the past few months, Julaton’s management has been in “serious” talks with Top Rank President Bob Arum. Arum is one of the few boxing promoters willing to sign female boxers. He used to promote Muhammad Ali’s daughter Laila Ali, and popular female boxer Mia St. John.

“The big plan for Ana is to fight [Mexican] Jackie Nava, who is considered one of the best pound for pound female boxer in the world,” said Reyes. “Arum has already guaranteed that when Ana is ready to fight for the title, she’ll sign with Top Rank.”

But first, Julaton has to show her worth in these next crucial bouts.

Trainer Freddie Roach said that Julaton is ready to take that next step. Two fights in ten days shouldn’t be hard, he said.

“It’s the best blessing in the world for a fighter,” said Roach. “I once fought three fights in thirty days. It helps the fighter stay in shape. You don’t have to worry about sparring or running. You don’t get lazy. Activity is really the best thing in the world for any fighter.”

“Let’s do it,” said Julaton. “It’s exciting. I think the challenges are a good preparation for the future. I’m just glad I have the opportunity. My trainer Freddie has a good schedule for fighters to keep them sharp so I got to go with what the boss says.”

“We’ve been preparing for things like this,” she added. “I’m used to having a sparring schedule back to back and even three, four, five days straight so I know how it feels to fight when fatigued.”

To help elevate her game, Roach has Julaton’s sparring with some of the top female boxers to prepare her. So far, Julaton has sparred with WBC minimum weight champion Carina Moreno, a five-time US National Champion Elizabeth Quevedo, and the 2008 US Nationals Champion Amaris Quintana.

If Julaton is able to come out on top in the next few weeks, there might be a golden opportunity at the end of the rainbow.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Hogging the Limelight

by Rene Villaroman/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – Every year a delegation from the Philippines’ swine breeding industry travel to Iowa to attend the annual World Hog Expo held every May. At least that’s the delegation’s stated mission. But, some members of that same group are representatives of the Philippines’ game-fowl breeding industry who, after the Iowa expo, traveled to Southern states, like Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, to look for ways to improve the health and fighting ability of game cocks used in the country’s number one sport, cock-fighting, a sport that is legal in the Philippines.

This year, Manny Berbano, publisher and editor of Pit Games, a glossy magazine dedicated to cock-fighting in the Philippines, Dr. Eulalio Lorenzo, DVM, a veterinarian and game-fowl breeder, and Lancy de la Torre, owner of one of the country’s largest game fowl breeding farms in Bacolod . They stayed at the Los Angeles home of fellow cockfighting aficionado Loy Seison.

A P500-billion national sport, according to Berbano, with eight to ten percent of the total 84 million population of the Philippines is involved in cockfighting. For instance, the twice-a-year Slasher’s Cup held in the giant Araneta Coliseum in January and May, offers a top purse of P10 million. The Candelaria Derby, which honors the Nuestra Senora de Candelaria, in the Visayan city of Iloilo, is the second largest, according to Berbano. The sport is so popular that the Philippine government had to throw its support to it. “It is not a culture of gambling, as it is commonly believed,” says Berbano.

“As a sport, it has surpassed basketball in receipts and attendance,” Berbano revealed. “It is held every day in tupadas (illegal cockfights),” Berbano said. To regulate the sport, the local governments are now empowered to issue permits to barangays (government units) to regulate cockfighting in the villages. The upsurge in the popularity of the sport benefits a lot more than the aficionados. The game-fowl feed, medicine, and the construction industries are also benefiting from the windfall. “The lumber industry benefits because of the number of cockpits being constructed around the country,” Berbano noted. Of the 114 cities in the nation, only two have not built cockpits: Baguio City (summer capital) and Manila, the nation’s capital. Out of the nation’s 1,491 municipalities (towns), 1,000 already have cockpits. Zamboanga City, in Mindanao, has the most: five cockpits.

Berbano told Asian Journal that the country is very thankful to Paul Watson, a Los Angeles Times and Time Magazine writer, who attended a Slasher’s Derby at the Araneta Coliseum two years ago. Berbano recalls with relish how Watson was shocked to discover that cockfighting indeed transcends a very wide spectrum of Philippine society. “When we arrived at the Coliseum, Peping Cojuangco and Nene Araneta were already there,” Berbano relates. “There were so many photographers covering the derby; it looked like a scene in Hollywood, with paparazzi chasing celebrities around,” Berbano said. “Paul sat next to me and he noticed the giant billboard that announced the “Thrilla’ in Manila,” the historic heavyweight fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the early 1970s, and he was doubly surprised. After that experience, all of Watson’s biases against the sport were debunked.

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This year, the National Bakbakan Derby will be held simultaneously, where it is expected to attract more than 2000 entries in 25 cockpits across the Philippines. The prizes will top P20 million and the best of the unbeaten game cocks will be fighting at the Araneta Colisuem. Then there is the National Ten Stag Bakbakan Derby being promoted by the National Federation of Game-fowl Breeders headed by Ricardo Palmares, Jr. At present, the NFGB has a membership of 29 breeders. The creation of the National Game-fowl Training Center is also stressing the training of all aficionados and professionalizing the sport.

Lancy de la Torre is one the country’s top breeders with 3000 heads of gamefowl in his Bacolod City farm. One of his champion game-fowls has beaten one of Larry Ronero’s (of Louisiana) gamefowls in the 70s. De la Torre said that Ronero had refused his invitation to come and compete again in the Philippines again. Ronero said that he did not want to come to the Philippines to be beaten by Filipino cock-fighters.

The breeding of a champion game-fowl takes many arcane approaches, according to de la Torre.”Our Filipino handlers and feeders are one of the best in the world,” De la Torre said. “Although Filipino breeders import materials from the U.S., they are good breeders that can mix one bloodline with another to improve the health and ability of game-fowl and transform them into brave and champion fighting cocks,” De la Torre said. “I don’t know why other international breeders (mostly Americans and Asians) still come to the Philippines even though they are losing there,” De la Torre asked. “For instance Larry Ronero used to come to the Philippines during the 1970s, but he lost there most of the time,” De la Torre recalls.

De la Torre began his career as a handler/gaffer in 1977. He started breeding in 1990. “As a handler, you must be focused to your job,” he advised. “And you must be open to ideas and suggestions.” He said that breeders should understand the complexity of mixing bloodlines in order to improve the fighting ability of game-fowls and to understand the early stages of a disease. He said that his province is an ideal place to breed game-fowls because it hardly ever experience violent storms that bring too much water that soak up the ground. The island of Negros is made up of sandy loam, which does not become sticky when it gets rained on; the water is flushed down immediately. Thus bacteria do not thrive.

“In the Philippines, cock-fighting is a venerable sport,” defines Berbano. The champions are on the cover of magazines and are considered as celebrities in their own right,” Berbano said. “If you are a politician, cock-fighting can put you in office because there are many cock-fighting aficionados.”

“It represents the true meaning of the Filipinos’ honesty, integrity and fair play. That’s the name of the game,” Berbano explained. “The passion of Filipinos for the national pastime is incomparable anywhere in the world because this is where you can rub shoulders with the high and mighty of society and the lowly people of the barrio.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Flash[back] Photography (Second of Two Parts)

by Rene Villaroman/AJPress

Joe Cobilla, Larry Pelayo and Sid Guerrero Come Together

During the mid-1990s, more community newspapers were being published, adding to an already burgeoning list of FilAm publications. Aside from the weekly California Examiner, Asian Journal, Philippines News, TM Herald, and TM Herald’s Weekend Magazine, Balita (originally owned by former Malacañang photographer Jolly Riofrir) and the monthly Manila-US Times, owned and edited by Johnny Pecayo, were also in the mix. Joe Cobilla, who was shooting part time for some of these publications, got together with Larry Pelayo, then the editor of Los Angeles Monitor. They met regularly at Sun Fah Restaurant on Sunset Blvd., in LA’s Echo Park section. To the strain of karaoke songs, the two hatched a press photographers group in anticipation of the Fil-Am community’s upcoming participation in the Tournament of Roses Parade. Joe reasoned that it was time to organize a press photographers’ organization in order beef up the coverage of the annual parade. In a few days, a third co-founder, Sid Guerrero, an avid amateur photographer and a prodigious collector of photographic equipment, would join Cobilla and Pelayo. In short order, the Philippine Press Photographers (PPP) was born. Joe claimed the title of founder and president, but on registering the PPP as a non-profit organization, it was Guerrero’s name that was listed as agent-in-process. So, technically, Guerrero “owned” the corporation. Joe had been fighting to regain rightful ownership of the PPP name, as well as the Miss PPP franchise. But so far, he had been unsuccessful in wresting the ownership from Guerrero. The PPP is still operating without a constitution and by-laws, more than a decade after it was founded.

The PPP forged ahead, picking up members days after it was organized. Scorpio was invited to join in 1997, in time to cover the PPP’s first Miss Press Photography Pageant held in the Bonaventure Hotel in L.A.that year. Cobilla was president, and because the club did not have a constitution and by-laws, he continued to serve in that position for five years. That tradition would be continued by Guerrero, who took over the helm of the PPP from Cobilla. He too would reign for five years. Scorpio, meanwhile, had been elected a second vice president, together with Dan Baltazar, a former Malacanang Palace Press Office cameraman, and presently a practicing commercial photographer, who was elected first vice president.

Scorpio, then already an experienced journalist and photographer, ascended to the presidency of PPP in October 2005, beating rival Baltazar by a large margin.

Historically, that election was a break in tradition, having been the first ever held in its almost ten-year existence. In September 2007, after nearly two years of a tumultuous administration, Scorpio announced that he would not seek another term, giving Baltazar an unimpeded quest for the presidency.

After irreconciliable differences with other PPP members, Scorpio decided to leave the PPP for good. When he asked Lamdagan his thoughts on how to stop the persistent mutation of FilAm photography clubs, he said: “I think – in my own personal perspective – there should be always a core, almost like the apostles. They will always be there. The second tier of membership – they are mostly going in and out, but the core group must stick to the mission,’ Lamdagan said. “If the organization knows clearly what its mission is; what we are meeting for here as colleagues; if we stick with that, then we will remain together,” Lamdagan said. “When we start deviating; that’s not our mission; that’s not why we get together,” Lamdagan added.

As recent as two weeks ago, there were overtures from PPP members to try to repair the split between the PPP and Photo-Reporters Guild, Inc., the organization founded by Scorpio at a historic meeting held at Tribal Café on December 29, 2007. Scorpio had informed the PPP leadership that his organization was willing to co-exist with the PPP and put a stop to the rivalry. “We are for reconciliation, but you can’t expect us to rejoin PPP,” Scorpio told PPP member Jimmy Hernandez and FAMEGATE Publisher and editor Thelma Calabio, who called a peace powwow the other week to try to patch things up between the two clubs.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Flash[back] Photography (Part 1)

by Rene Villaroman/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – Scorpio had been a member of the Press Photographers Philippines,a ten-year organization comprised mostly of community newspaper photographers, but after he was delegated the assignment of writing a story about the history of FilAm photographers in Los Angeles, he had to do his homework extensively to consider the photographers’ groups organized before he arrived in California in the ‘80s.

Scorpio called Andy Tecson, a long-time Los Angeles resident and one of the most visible and well-known special events photographers in LA. Tecson had been one of the stalwarts of a core group of photographers that established Salamin Filipino-American Photographers Association. Salamin means glass in English. Tecson touched base with a Salamin colleague, Pete Lamdagan, a semi-retired former Federal government employee who was one of the club’s neophyte members during its existence from mid-1970’s until its slow demise in the early ‘80s.

Scorpio made a call to Pete Lamdagan.“You could write a book about the FilAm photographers in Los Angeles,” Lamdagan said over the phone. “There is a wealth of information about them,” he added.

A meeting in Bahay Kubo led to the establishment of new friendships. Bahay Kubo Natin Restaurant remains the meeting place of choice for Press Photographers Philippines – USA. Scorpio also called Larry Pelayo, a community journalist and former editor of the now defunct LA Monitor. He was instrumental in co-founding the PPP in the mid-1990s.

Salamin – a collegial group

“There was only one umbrella (organization) then,” remembers Lamdagan. “But you know what? it was always on the boat. If Gil (Garin) was there, you know we were on the same boat.”

Garin was a renowned consummate photographic craftsman during that time. He hired professional models and 15 to 20 Salamin members would shoot almost non-stop on certain weekends. “It was not a small group,” Lamdagan said. “It had at least 15 to 20 all Filipino photographers, some were professionals, and they shot weddings and photos for the local newspapers at the time,” Lamdagan added.

At one point, Rolly Ecarma, a member of the core group, suggested establishing portfolios. “One day, we would gather and try to evaluate each other’s works. I was just shooting a variety of subjects in color and in black-and-white,” Lamdagan recalls. “It was very collegial. And I thought – from my perspective as a non-professional – these guys treat their photography as a serious hobby. They were aiming for master craftsmanship.” After they had put together their portfolios, Ecarma awarded them certificates.

Andy Tecson, who was Salamin’s first president, remembers how Salamin members threw themselves into every project. He said that during the celebration of Independence Day, the group put up a slide show of images provided by the Philippines’ Department of Tourism. “We would show these slides with the accompaniment of music to a FilAm audience, and city officials would let us set up the show at a park behind the Los Angeles City Hall. The shows were sponsored by a car dealership manager in Glendora.”

A souvenir program loaned to this writer showed that Salamin Association was formed in 1977, and listed a total membership of 23. Eric Furbeyre was Vice President, Cyril Cabison, Secretary, and Cris Redondiez, Treasurer. Eric Lachica was also a member before he moved to Washington to establish a coalition that’s working for Filipino World War II veterans

The club embarked on “A Day in the Life of…” project in which they spent a day photographing people at work and at play during a weekend at Redondo Beach.The members attempted to make their avocation or careers to incorporate the life of the Filipino community within the Southern California area by focusing all their efforts on them. “I thought the response was good. I thought we were going to have the pictures published in a book,” he said. The club also participated in the celebration in May of the Asian Pacific Islanders American Heritage Month by holding exhibitions at the MacArthur Park in the Westlake district of Lon Angeles.Once a month, Salamin would invite photography experts to lecture on different topics. “At one time we invited an American photographer who lectured on the use of different trick filters,” Andy recalls. “This was not a neophyte organization; there was always a core group that members could count on,” Lamdagan said. “We wanted to show that we had credentials approved by our own peer group, and that made us credible rather than fly-by-night. That’s the impression I got,” Lamdagan said proudly.

Rolly Ecarma and Jerry Tabije

At around 1991, Scorpio met Rolly Ecarma and Jerry Tabije who were friends. Together with Scorpio, Ding Carreon, and Bobby Saddul, they explored the formation of another photographers’ group. They met at the newly opened Edgardo’s Restaurant in a strip mall at the corner of Fountain Avenue and Vine St. in Hollywood. Scorpio knew little about Ecarma and Tabije except for the fact that they were former members of Salamin. Scorpio also learned from charter member Bobby Saddul that Ecarma attended the prestigious Art Center College in Pasadena and had worked at a large camera store in the Westside as a sales associate. Scorpio, who worked as a photojournalist and writer with the San Miguel Corporation Public Relations Division, had known Saddul since the late 1970s. They bumped into each other in LA in 1987.

Ecarma and Tabije would assume the roles of co-founders of what would be called Association of Filipino Photographers (AFP). Scorpio remembers some of the charter members: they were—apart from Saddul—Ding Carreon, Ernie Cheng, Irwin Jazmines, Zac Fernandez and himself. Jazmines and Fernan dez were former members of the world-class photography association, Camera Club of the Philippines. The AFP, under the tenuous leadership of Ecarma and Tabije, tried to replicate Salamin’s ideals. Ecarma, with the support of Tabije, Saddul and Scorpio advocated the preparation of individual portfolios as a prerequisite to full-time membership of everyone. The idea did not sit well with some neophyte members, and it never got off the ground. When the core group began pushing for the creation of a constitution and by-laws, the process of deliberation took even longer, and the project died in infancy. There were other reasons why AFP failed to sustain itself. Bickering and petty jealousies were rampant, and tempers were short. AFP did not live to celebrate its first year’s anniversary.  (To be continued).

(www.asianjournal.com)

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The Great Pretender

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – Sometimes, a person who has been convicted of a crime and imprisoned for it would change his ways once he gets out of jail. But sadly, sometimes not.

Eleven years ago, Filipina Elda Beguinua made the headlines in the UK as a “Bogus Baroness” who was accused of posing as a baroness (Baroness Avilla) and trying to defraud British financial institutions of £16trillion. She was jailed for two years.

A few days ago, Elda made it to the headlines again, after she was accused of once again pretending to be royalty rolling in money, and defrauding people. She allegedly weaved a web of deceit, boasting of Spanish galleons filled with gold and a family fortune in the Philippines worth “300 followed by 41 zeros”. The 63-year-old mother of two created fake documents which she showed to her victims, including letters relating to her proposal to buy Harrods, one of the world’s most famous department stores in London, for £15billion. She also said she was looking for a new house to buy and was viewing properties worth up to £70million.

Earlier this week, jurors at Southwark Crown Court, UK were told that following Beguinua’s release from prison, she targeted victims from whom she was able to swindle more than £20,000. The victims told police they gave up their jobs and happily accepted Beguinua’s offer for them to join her “global humanitarian organization” with huge salaries and numerous other promised benefits that never materialized. They believed Beguinua’s stories and lent her money when she said red tape was holding her money overseas. It was only after months passed and they were not paid for their work, let alone the loans, that they became suspicious, according to the Daily Mail.

The “countess” denied eight counts of deception and one of attempted deception at the courts.

During Beguinua’s trial in 1997, prosecuting attorneys told the court that Elda Beguinua posed as a Spanish baroness and tried to defraud British financial institutions of £16trillion, claiming she controlled $1 trillion worth of precious metals being held on deposit by a bank. But one broker knew the huge value of the bullion Elda claimed to control (80,000 tons of precious metal) was greater than the entire world precious metal production in the last 150 years, which is around 35,000 tons.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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