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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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The Anatomy of A Balikbayan Box

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
The “ber” months have started and with September comes that special holiday feeling. In the Philippines, which is known to have the longest celebration of Christmas, malls and department stores have already started playing Christmas songs and selling holiday decors and gifts. In the countries where millions of Filipinos have immigrated or are working, the demand for balikbayan boxes has started to increase as families begin shopping for their holiday gifts to be sent back to relatives and friends in the homeland.

For Filipinos in the US, sending balikbayan boxes to families back in the Philippines has become a major part of our lifestyle. Those who have children, parents or siblings left in the Philippines send boxes regularly, either on a monthly or quarterly basis. But, at Christmas time, many FilAms double their usual padala, adding special gifts and holiday treats to the usual staple items.

One Filipina nurse, Nany, who sends boxes to her parents and siblings in Quezon City at least every 2 months, said she’s always on the look-out for special sale items when she goes malling. “I always have a balikbayan box in the house where I store things to send back home. I love going to malls and stores when it’s sale season to look for things I can send to my family in Manila. Whether it’s just in the regular supermarket nearby, in Costco or in the outlet stores in Camarillo or Ontario, I enjoy hunting for clothes, shoes, bags or food items that are on sale. I then keep them in the box until it’s full. Once I send it home, I have a new box to fill up. Ang sarap ng feeling pag nakapagpadala ka ng box,” Nany said.

So, what’s in those balikbayan boxes? What are the most popular items that get sent back home to excited family members? What are the most requested items?

“We usually send the basic items which our children need such as canned goods and bath items,” admitted Yoly, a caregiver in Orange County. “Kasi, ang mamahal na din ng mga grocery items sa Pinas kaya I make sure I send them these things monthly. Para yung padala kong pera, sa mgahousehold bills na lang,” she added.

After asking quite a number of Pinoys who regularly send boxes, we discovered that the anatomy of a balikbayan box is very similar in content. The top 15 items that Pinoys usually send back home are: 1) Spam, 2) Hereford Corned Beef, 3) Centrum Multi-vitamins, 4) Chocolates (top on everyone’s list: Hershey’s, Kisses, Ferrero Rocher, M&Ms, Nestle Crunch, Cadbury & Toblerone), 5. Bath soaps (Dove, Ivory, & Irish Spring are the preferred brands), 6. Shampoo & Conditioner (Pantene, followed by Head & Shoulders, Neutrogena, & Kirkland ), 7) Colgate toothpaste, 8) Coffee (Folgers,Taster’s Choice and Maxwell are favorite brands) and hot chocolate drinks (Swiss Miss and Nestle), 9) Quaker Oatmeal and Breakfast Cereals (Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes and Choco Puffs), 10. Cookies (Famous Amos, Oreos, and Chips Ahoy), and Chips (Pringles, Doritos and Nachos), 11) T-shirts (Old Navy and Gap are favorites), 12) Towels, 13) Bath and Body Works and Victoria Secret products, 14) Rubber Shoes (Nike is the preferred brand), and 15) Sugar substitutes such as Splenda and Sweet N’ Low.

Other items that didn’t make it to the top 15 items but are still in a lot of balikbayan boxes are colognes, pants, sandals, flip-flops, shoes, bags, wallets, and magazines. Favorite shopping places for balikbayan box items are Wal-Mart, Target, 99 Cents, Ross and Costco.

For the holiday seasons, our kababayans usually add another box to complement the usual regular items. Inside the holiday gift boxes are clothes, shoes and accessories bought from outlet stores and malls such as Forever 21, Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, Old Navy, Nike, Adidas, Gap and Hollister.

“I make sure I get a gift for everyone in the family –sa lahat ng pamangkin, pinsan, katulong etc.,” said Rita who works in the garment district in downtown. “I know that it’s not really just the gift that they treasure, it’s the thought that you remembered them and took the time to shop and send Christmas gifts to them. That’s what really counts,” she said.

Yes, balikbayan boxes are not just filled with goods, they’re filled with love, affection and devotion. And for Filipinos abroad, they can’t seem to send too much of those back home.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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Metrolink Crash updates

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
The Sept. 12 deadly Metrolink crash that has killed at least 25 people and left 135 more injured was the worst Southern California train wreck in more than 50 years. Last Monday, Sept. 15, the first workday after the train collision in Chatsworth, there was understandably less people who took the Metrolink.

Lillian Ford, a supervisor for Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said “People are probably still in shock, staying home from work. We were expecting more people, but there isn’t. It’s very calm.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined commuters early Monday morning at the Chatsworth train station to try to reassure people about taking the train and that safety is Metrolink’s first priority. The LA Mayor said, “I want to dispel any fears about taking the train. Safety has to be our No. 1 concern. Taking the train is still the safest option for commuters.”

To help Metrolink passengers, MTA buses began shuttling commuters from the Moorpark Metrolink station to Simi Valley and Chatsworth while clean-up continues at the site of the Metrolink commuter train crash in Chatsworth. The MTA southbound service leaving from Moorpark begins at 5:07 am, and the last northbound MTA bus leaving Chatsworth is at 7:44 pm. The MTA provided eight buses for commuters, and had four more standing by. They will operate this bus bridge until full rail service is restored to the Metrolink line.

Some of the buses were half-full, but the commuters who did take the Metrolink to work last Sept. 15 said they wanted to overcome their fears after the crash. Those who boarded the temporary shuttle buses said they were shaken up, but still felt riding the train was a safer alternative to taking the freeways.

Volunteers from American Red Cross of Ventura County handed out leaflets to passengers boarding the bus, offering phone numbers that people could call for mental health counseling to help deal with the crash.

Last Saturday, Sept. 13, Villaraigosa ordered all city flags lowered to half-staff in honor of the victims of the Metrolink commuter train and freight train crash. He also asked local clergy to observe a moment of silence in Sunday prayer services to honor the victims and to pray for their families and for healing for all injured.

In a related development, Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell resigned after she was criticized that she spoke prematurely in saying the crash was caused by an engineer’s mistake. Tyrrell said Metrolink’s chief executive, David Solow, gave her the authority to make statements to the media Saturday about the cause of the crash. Thus, the statement that Metrolink board Chairman Ron Roberts made to The Times on Sunday––that her statement Saturday was premature––and that he made to the Wall Street Journal that she was not authorized to make a statement blaming the engineer, upset Tyrrell. “I felt the damage to my reputation is so great, I could not work for these people anymore,” she said.

Meanwhile, Villaraigosa called on Angelenos to donate blood in a special City Hall blood drive set up by the American Red Cross on Wednesday, September 17, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm at the City Hall, 200 N. Spring St. Los Angeles, CA 90012. For more information, readers may call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE and 1-800-448-3543.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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Up close and personal with KC

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
Concepcion sits flushed inside a dressing room beneath the Glendale Alex Theatre. It’s been a whirlwind ride for the past few hours for her. Since the opening of For the First Time, KC has met, hugged and photographed with hundreds of gushing fans. Her right arm is tired from signing autographs. Her eyes are blurry from the countless flash photos. Yet she remained radiant. Her smile is bright and her attitude is as perky as ever.

Asian Journal sat down with KC to chat about her movie premiere, her budding singing and acting career, overcoming her parents’ looming shadow and her future in show business.

AJ: Are you surprised by the overwhelming reception that you got today?

KC: Well, yeah. I still can’t see right now because of all the flash bulbs but it was really, really nice to see everybody.Hindi ko inexpect na ganito karaming tao, ganito karaming Pinoy ang dadating. And siyempre, it was really, really nice to see everybody was so excited about the movie and was so welcoming of me. It was worth the whole journey, my whole trip over here.

AJ: Let’s get this question out of the way. Everyone seems to always mention a possible [boyfriend-girlfriend] relationship between you and your co-star Richard Gutierrez. So let’s just make this clear. What can you tell us about your relationship with Richard?

KC: My relationship with Richard? Hey, hey, hey. You be careful how you ask questions. [laughing]

AJ: Hey, there are different kinds of relationships.

KC: [laughing] Yeah, I know. Richard is a very, very good guy. He’s a lot of fun to be around. He’s very adventurous. It’s nice to travel with him. So it [the movie] was really the perfect chance for us to get to know each other and to go to Greece and to film there, and we’re doing an international premiere in Austria, too. So we’re really excited to be traveling together, but more than that we’re good working partners. We work well together. We’re very supportive of each other. It worked out well. Naging komportable kami sa isa’t isa. Mabuti siyang tao, masaya siyang kasama. We take it day by day like he always says.

AJ: You two are also set to star in an upcoming film When I Met You by GMA Films slated for release on Valentine’s Day next year. Could you perhaps give us a teaser about the upcoming film that you two will be working together on?

KC: [Asks manager for permission to talk about the film] Siyempre nag-umpisa kami ni Chard dito sa Star Cinemakaya maganda ‘yung launching ‘ng partnership namin sa pelikula, and for that we’re very thankful sa [ABS-CBN] Star Cinema, kina Tita Charo, kina Tita Malou Santos dahil binigyan nila kami ng napakagandang experience for the first time. So for the second time, we’re really excited also to be doing a different story, a different kind of film maybe but still offering sort of the same things na nahanap nila at nakita nila dito sa pelikulang ito [For the First Time]. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone, to seeing the support of everyone hopefully again [when the movie comes out]. ‘Yung ilang buwan din na tinatrabaho namin ‘yung pelikula, worth it ‘pag nakita naming maraming nagbibigay ng dalawang oras nila at nagtatabi ng kaunting pera para i-spend para panoorin ‘yung pelikula namin.

AJ: Every time I talk to somebody about you, they always bring up your parents Gabby Concepcion, of course, and Sharon Cuneta. Is that a big shadow for you to overcome?

KC: You know what, honestly, it is. Honestly, there are a lot of comparisons that go on all the time with everything that I do and sometimes it makes me think if that’s a good thing or bad thing. But at the end of the day I’m just proud to have parents like [them] and it’s an honor to be their daughter. But [you know], it’s also a different generation now. Hopefully, people are more welcoming of what’s to come now. It’s always nice na maalaala natin ‘yung past, maalala rin natin kung ano ‘yung mga nagawa nila at nagustuhan natin sa kanila, pero siguro maganda rin nai-welcome yung bago and i-welcome kung ano ‘yung mayroon ngayon.

AJ: Did they push you into acting?

KC: Oh no. Not at all. I was very hesitant in the beginning. But at the end of the day, you find meaning and you meet people who you work with that you actually enjoy working with and learn a lot from and you learn to love the work. And when you find the kind of work that doesn’t feel like work to you, then you know you’re on the right track.

AJ: Now, you also have a budding singing career. Can you tell us about that?

KC: I have fun with music. With that album I was able to work with some of my favorite musicians. Each song is different and the album has about 11 tracks. It was a really nice, experimental thing. I never really had expectations when I came out with it. And with every performance siyempre, natututo rin ako and mas lalo akong nage-enjoy sa bawat performance na ginagawa koMay mga pagkakamali, pero meron ding mga masasayang times, lalo na pag ‘yung audience sumasabay sa kanta.

AJ: So are you planning to do both singing and acting? Or do you just want to focus on one?

KC: I think in this day and age, they work together, ‘di ba? Like ‘yung mga pelikula, I sang the track in For the First Time and it’s included in my a.k.a. Cassandra CD. So yeah, it works. Music and movies tie up together.

AJ: We all know you have an upcoming film with Richard Gutierrez, but can you tell us what else you have planned in the near future?

KC: Before that, we have a few surprises for our viewers and for the audience out there. Watch out for that, I’ll be working with different people.

AJ: Can you elaborate on who those people are?

KC: Not yet. [laughing] But meron akong iba’t ibang tao na makakatrabaho na sana mahalin n’yo rin in the same wayna minahal n’yo si Richard. Gagawin namin ang lahat-lahat para mapasaya kayo sa iba’t ibang paraan so sana abangan n’yo ‘yun. Marami kaming mga sorpresang magaganda.

AJ: How about doing a film with your dad or your mom or both?

KC: Naku, ewan ko kung iluluto yun one of these days, pero kung mangyayari ‘yun, sobrang saya siguro nun kasi, it’s like a family business (laughs). But you know, siyempre there are personal things rin that we have to think about. But of course, it’s always going to be a dream to be able to do that either together or separately. Most probably separately. You know, we’ll see.

AJ: Have you ever thought about perhaps venturing into mainstream US films?

KC: I think it’s every actor’s dream to do that only because they make such great quality films here [in the US] and the time that you give to acting and the energy and yung pagkatao mo na binibigay mo sa acting, deserves that kind of quality. But I’m just happy doing what I’m doing now. I really respect the Filipino movie industry, and it’s just such an honor to be part of it. So I’m just taking things day by day.

AJ: Last question, what do you want to say to all of your fans?

KC: Sa lahat ng mga Kapamilya, (pati na rin siguro mga Kapuso) thank you sa lahat-lahat, thank you sa suporta ninyo. Talagang napakasaya ko po talaga, nagugulat ako sa suportang pinapakita ninyo at sa mga kuwento nyo when I was signing autographs kanina. Ang daming nagkukuwentuhan, ang daming mga bumabati sa iba’t iba kong kamag-anak, andami ko palang kakilala dito. It was really, really nice to see na lahat ng Pilipino sa buong mundo, lahat ng mga kababayan nagsasama-sama at lumilipad kung saan-saan. Nagda-drive from Las Vegas, dumadating galing Hawaii, galing San Diego, galing Seattle, galing Chicago, galing kung saan-saan. Salamat po talaga sa panahong ibinibigay nyo sa akin para sa pelikulang ito. Salamat sa lahat-lahat. Mayroong mga tao na nagbibigay ng regalo din. To everybody who gave us gifts, thank you for being so thoughtful. You really didn’t have to do that, but ginagawa pa rin nila ‘yun kaya napakalaking bagay sa amin ‘yun. And all the more we want to do things for you, now and in the future. You know, just hope to be inspired by you continuously and hope that you continue to be inspired by the things we do too.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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The Philippine Children’s Fund of America

by Malou Aguilar/AJPress

Building Lives Through Hope And Compassion.
The Philippines has been colonized by the United States since 1898. Because of this, there have been as many as 21 US bases, and 100,000 US military personnel stationed there. When the bases closed in 1992, thousands of “Amerasian” children were left behind.

The term “Amerasian” was coined by the writer Pearl S. Buck, in reference to people born to Asian women and US servicemen during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In later 1982, its official definition came about as a result of Public Law 97-359, enacted by the 97th Congress of the United States. An Amerasian, according to the US Department of Justice and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), is “an alien who was born in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea, or Thailand after December 31, 1950, and before October 22, 1982, and was fathered by a US citizen.” The term is also applied to children of Filipinos and American rulers during the US colonial period of the Philippines.

The closure of the bases resulted to an estimate of 52,000 Amerasians throughout the Philippines, with 5,000 in the Clark area of Angeles, Pampanga. However, unlike other in other countries, American-Asians or Amerasians in the Philippines remain impoverished and neglected. In a study made by the University of the Philippines’ Center for Women Studies, it was affirmed that many Amerasians have experienced some form of abuse and even domestic violence. There have also been cases of racial, gender and class discrimination among Amerasian children and youth from strangers, peers, classmates and teachers. The study also said black Amerasians seem to suffer more from racial and class discrimination than their white counterparts. White female Amerasians are highly vulnerable to sexual harassment, the study noted. Two-thirds are raised by single mothers; others by relatives and non-relatives; 6 percent live on their own or in institutions. 90 percent are born “out of wedlock.” It was reported in 1993, that prostitutes are increasingly Amerasian, children of prostitutes caught in a cycle which transcends generations.

With the majority of children abandoned by American fathers, the Philippine Children’s Fund of America (PCFA) was created by the US and Philippine governments in 1991. Founded to serve the needs of children left behind by the US military closure, today it’s serving more children, families and communities including 150 charitable groups all over the Philippines.

PCFA’s Amerasian Program continually assists impoverished Filipino children of American ancestry by providing educational scholarships, employment and working visas to the US. The program provides free travel, internship and a safe home in Sacramento, California, for children registered as American citizen, but somehow were left out in the Philippines without any funds and place to go home in the US. With the assistance of the PCFA, Amerasian children can trace and be reunited with their fathers. Those who are not qualified and have no information about their fathers are also helped through educational, psychological and livelihood programs. 

Carrying the mission, “Building better lives and stronger communities,” PCFA also aims to improve the lives of the children and strengthening the families and communities in which they live. Through their Education Program, the PCFA sustains the educational needs of Aeta children in the indigenous communities by including daily feeding assistance and psychosocial activities.

Their Adopt a Community Reading Center partners with schools and local government units in providing thousand of books and reading materials to school libraries and community reading centers nationwide. Likewise, their School Building Project is a new program helps build school buildings in different parts of the Philippines to help solve the shortage of classrooms.

The PCFA also has other programs that reaches out to more children and communities like feeding centers in different parts of the country, Community Development for Indigenous Peoples (CDIP) for community empowerment, and Lakbay Puso, a life-changing travel mission to the Philippines for young FilAms to know more about their roots and heritage.

With all these projects, the PCFA hopes to open people’s hearts to help them in providing a better future for all these children. The organization believes that together, we can build better lives and stronger communities.

For donations and more information about PCFA, contact telephone numbers (916) 688-1574 or e-mail apobaste@yahoo.com. (Special thanks to Howell V. Felix of PCFA.)   (www.asianjournal.com)

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Gov. ‘Among Ed’ Panlilio concludes 3-day Southern California Visit

by Rene Villaroman/AJPress
LOS ANGELES  - Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio, the Catholic priest who was elected the 26th governor of the province of Pampanga, Philippines, visited Southern California this weekend, appearing at a half-a-dozen events and exhorting his cabalens at a gathering of Pampangan FilAm leaders at the Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) on Saturday night.

The governor’s tight three-day Southern California visit was filled with speaking engagements, including forums organized by the Pampangan Crusaders USA (PamagCUSA), a reception tendered by a Los Angeles Catholic Parish Pastor, Fr. Rodel Balagtas, the second annual coronation of the Virgen de los Remedios at the Lady of the Angels Cathedral downtown, and a dinner-reception that followed at a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be blessed with your presence this evening,” he told the community leaders at the SIPA theatre on Temple St., Historic Filipinotown. “Knowing how difficult it is to gather Filipino leaders in one occasion, I am overwhelmed by your kind willingness to hear one fellow Filipino,” said the 53-year-old priest who was suspended from priesthood by the Catholic Church after he ran for public office in 2007.

“Think of the time when the consul (at the American Embassy in Manila) told you that your visa is approved, and your heart leapt, and you felt like you were walking in the air as you passed the envious eyes of other expectant applicants,” he told more than a hundred Kapampangan community leaders. “And by the grace of God you finally arrived here. How many daily jobs did you take? Two? Three? How did that first dollar salary feel like?” He commended the leaders for achieving success in their quest for a better life abroad.

“You have reached heights that make you the envy of Makati executives, and believe me when I tell you deserve every bit of your success, because it was borne out of perseverance, sacrifice and foresight.”

“This only proves that when the Filipino put his or her heart, mind and muscle to it, nothing is impossible,” he continued. “The most difficult becomes a reality in just a matter of time. The objective is achieved with persistence and determination. And out of all the thousands of Filipinos here in the US who have made their mark and proved that they can make it, it was you who were chosen by your peers to be their leaders,” he told the community leaders. “Inspire each and every one of your members to be leaders themselves; to be sources of inspiration in the transformation of the communities at home, with the hope that ultimately, the whole society may be changed,” Gov. Panlilio said.

Panlilio, whose position as governor is being threatened by a movement calling for his recall, looked serene and unperturbed. Reportedly, some 15 Catholic priests in Pampanga are poised to sign a petition that the movement is passing around hoping to gather the required 100,000 signatures. He never mentioned the issue in all his speeches. Instead he continued to focus on his social programs in the province of Pampanga and how expatriate Kapampangans could help their province.

“In these times of doubt, we are in need of greater charity and prayer as proven and effective responses to conflict,” he told more than 300 Kapampangans at the Ocean Seafood Restaurant dinner-reception on Sunday night, following the coronation ceremony at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. “Our celebration today here in Los Angeles of the coronation of the Virgen delos Remedios and our homage to Christ the Santo Cristo del Perdon connects us with our brothers and sisters back in our provinces and proves that we are truly a Church, a kingdom that has no boundaries.” 

Panlilio also requested for special prayers for himself as a public servant, in view of the recall movement and other challenges to his administration. “The trials are many, the difficulties are diverse. I can only turn on our communal prayers to sustain and strengthen me as we strive to make a difference in the socio-political life of Pampanga,” he pleaded.

“As you materially help your relatives and friends back home, please remember me always as you turn your thoughts to God,” he exhorted his province-mates. He is regarded as a superstar by Kapampangans, and during the reception, he indulged the guests by singing two popular John Denver songs, accompanying himself expertly with an acoustic guitar.

“Among Ed” was born in Minalin, Pampanga on December 6, 1953. He has made his mark as a prime-mover for social development, a dedicated and well-loved priest and a leader. An eloquent preacher, the poor in his province know him as the tireless director of the Social Action Center of Pampanga (Sacop), who put a face to the Church’s presence in the communities displaced by the lahar disaster in the 1990s.

He ran for governor in 2007, defending his controversial decision (to run in a public office) as a logical continuation of his ministry for the poor, who he viewed as having been exploited and neglected for too long by a succession of corrupt and uncaring politicians. He won over his two leading competitors — provincial board member Lilia Pineda and incumbent governor Mark Lapid — both of whom are allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  (www.asianjournal.com)

 

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Guam: Where the FilAm’s Day Begins

by Malou Liwanag Aguilar/AJPress

In the next few years, the number of Filipinos in Guam will possibly increase with the strategic move of US military bases from Okinawa, Japan. At present, approximately one-fourth (or larger) of the island’s population are either Filipinos or of Filipino descent.
 

This move opens new opportunities for Filipinos in the island, as an estimated $13 billion will be spent for construction of facilities and housing for military personnel in the span of four years. This is also meant that 20,000-30,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) can find jobs in Guam. Known for their work ethics and English proficiency, Filipino construction workers are preferred by Guam companies, according to the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (PASEI).

But Guam is no stranger to Pinoys. In fact, thirty-five percent of Guam’s population is of Filipino’s descent, according to Guam Governor Felix Camacho, during his speech at the “Living the Dream” event sponsored by the Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote) at the recently held Republican National Convention (RNC) held at St. Paul, Minnesota. Camacho, who is also part Filipino, emphasized the significant contribution of the API vote and urged his fellow APIs to get involved.

Also, Filipino businesses thrive in the island. Chinese-Filipino tycoons like Lucio Tan, Henry Sy and George Ty are major investors. Tan owns one of the largest malls in the island – Micronesia Mall, the Tropicana Hotel, American Bakery, Toppy Furniture and I-Connect, a mobile communications company. His banks Allied Bank and Philippine National Bank also have branches, while Philippine Airlines regularly flies between Manila and Guam.

Last year, Sy reopened SM Department Store at the Agana Shopping Center, which he took over in 2003. The SM Group also owns Turtle Cove, a popular dive site on Guam,

Sy owns the SM chain of malls in the Philippines, including the SM Mall of Asia, which is on Forbes Magazine’s World’s 10 largest malls.

Ty’s Metrobank has been a fixture in the island for over 25 years and is eyeing to expand its financial services on the island, while businessman Tony Tan Caktiong’s Jollibee is a franchised restaurant.

Tip of the spear

The largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands, Guam has had a long history with outside military might, starting in the 17th century, the island has been captured by the Spanish, the Americans and the Japanese. It was retaken by the Americans at the end of World War II, and has remained a US territory. At present, a third of the island is house to US military bases, which cover approximately 39,000 acres.

But in a few years time, that would all change.

By the year 2014, approximately 8,000 US Marines and 9,000 family members in Okinawa, Japan will relocate to this island in the Western Pacific Ocean. It is said to be the biggest military build-up in the history of the United States, amounting to about $15 billion. The expansion could include a new Marine base, an Army ballistic missile defense facility and expanded Air Force and Navy bases by 2014, according to an initial Defense Department time line as reported by the Pacific Daily News.

Guam’s recent role on the US’ over-all defense strategy in the Asia-Pacific region is a significant one, with military analysts referring the island as the ‘tip of the spear.’

A big move to a small island 

However, news of the military build-up has raised fears among the native Chamorros that their culture and population will be further diluted. In an interview on Live Leak, Chamorro leader Debbie Quinata said that she’s not sure that the tiny island can cope with the military influx. With about a 25 percent increase – or 40,000 people — expected to move in the island in less than a decade, that is certainly a big challenge to all issues that affect the lives of the people of Guam.

Another issue is that the $15 billion the US is spending for the relocation only goes inside the military bases. This was why during the RNC last week Governor Camacho reached out to US presidential candidate John McCain, to discuss issues that matter to Guam. “I’ve met with John McCain, and I discussed the importance of Guam to the nation, and I said, ‘Sen. McCain, you understand as a former military man the role we play,” he said in an interview with the Pacific Daily News.

The Governor’s office is lobbying for financial assistance from the federal government over the next few years, money that is to be spent outside the bases’ fence lines. This would mean road, seaport, utility improvements and other projects.

In a visit to Guam last year, US Vice President Dick Cheney stressed Guam’s role in the US bases’ relocation, “The US can move quickly and effectively to protect our friends, to defend our interests, to bring relief in times of emergency, and to keep the sea lanes open for commerce, and close (it) to terrorists. This island may be small, but it has tremendous importance to the peace and security of the world.”

Yet, even with Guam’s significant role to the US military, Gov. Camacho pointed out to McCain that Washington, DC could give Guam better treatment. “We are also Americans,” quoted the Pacific Daily News, “and we need to change the way Guam is treated.”

Protecting the patriotism

With its long history of serving in many of the US’ wars, patriotism carries a big factor with the people’s relationship with America. This history of patriotism has made some believe that the US will take care of its people, and will never let the military bases destroy the island.

As for Gov. Camacho, he believes that under a McCain-Palin White House, “Guam will get a lot of attention. It most certainly will.” (www.asianjournal.com)

 

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Elder care employment agency indicted for hiring illegal aliens

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
SANTA ANA—A federal grand jury indicted a Filipino man and his former wife on allegations that they knowingly hired illegal aliens, primarily from the Philippines, to fill the jobs. An office manager for the couple was also indicted.

Filipino natives Wilfredo Ngo, 51, and his ex-wife, Teresa Ngo, 49, owners of A-Plus Senior Planning Services, Inc., were named in a four-count indictment handed down in August charging them with inducing aliens to reside in the United States; knowingly employing illegal aliens; knowingly harboring illegal aliens; and counseling persons to engage in marriage fraud. Gicela Sarabia, 43, office manager for A-Plus Senior Planning Services, was also charged with inducing aliens to reside in the US and with knowingly hiring illegal aliens. 

A-Plus Senior Planning Services is an employment agency firm that provides caregivers to at least 10 major elder care facilities in Orange County as well as workers for individual in-home care, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. 

US Magistrate Judge Marc L. Goldman arraigned the Ngo’s and Sarabia on August 25.

If convicted of all the charges, the Ngos face a maximum sentence of more than 15 years in prison. 

“The allegations in this case are disturbing when you consider that the illegal alien workers hired by these defendants were entrusted with caring for the infirm and elderly,” said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge for the ICE office of investigations in Los Angeles. “People who enter the United States on visitor visas do not undergo the same degree of scrutiny as individuals who are coming into the country as legal foreign workers or immigrants.”

ICE began to investigate A-Plus Planning Services last December 2007 after it received tips that at least 40 of the agency’s workers were in the US illegally.

Most of them arrived as visitors and overstayed their visas, said ICE officials.

According to court documents, the Ngos counseled their illegal workers to enter into fraudulent marriages with US citizens so they could remain in the country legally.  The defendants allegedly told their employees to seek out potential spouses at Leisure World and on eHarmony.com, according to ICE officials.

The three defendants are currently free on bond.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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Police apprehend Filipino sexual assault suspect

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress

SAN FRANCISCO—The San Francisco Police Department arrested a Filipino sexual assault suspect after he turned himself in last Sept. 5, Friday.

For about two weeks, police officers had been searching for FilAm Horacio Candia Jr., who was wanted for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman near 16th Street and Carolina in the Potrero District in San Francisco on Aug. 22. The victim managed to escape from his vehicle and called the police.

According to reports, Candia was arrested in his attorney’s office last Friday.

Candia is a former San Francisco Fire Department firefighter. After nine years, he was terminated in 2000 for refusing a drug test, according to reports.

Police alleged that Candia shows his badge to facilitate his encounters with women. He then sexually assaults them, using physical violence, according to SF Police officials.

“He lured a woman into a false sense of security,” police Inspector Elaine Economus said to the San Francisco Chronicle. “He said, ‘I’m a firefighter, everybody loves us, you can trust me.’”

The 38-year-old Candia is charged with three counts of forced oral copulation, one count of sexual battery, one count of making terrorist threats, and one count of false imprisonment.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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The Miracle Man

by Momar Visaya/AJPress
FLUSHING MEADOWS – Father Fernando Suarez has been called a lot of things: priest, healer, miracle worker, servant of God. The healing priest, a chemical engineer by profession, is also an avid tennis fan.
For two days that he was in New York City last week, Fr. Suarez dropped by the Billie Jean King Tennis Center to catch a couple of tennis games, including the exciting match between 8th seed Andy Roddick and upcoming Latvian hotshot Ernests Gulbis.

Just before the third round match Sunday, Aug. 31 between third seed Novak Djokovic from Serbia and Croatia’s Marin Cilic, Fr. Suarez sat down with the Asian Journal for a light chat just outside the famed Arthur Ashe Stadium.

A self-confessed Rafael Nadal fan, Fr. Suarez said that he tries to play tennis regularly, or when his schedules would allow. “Tennis is a good way to release stress and it is also a very good sport. Apart from that, I pray,” he said.

For two days that he was in New York City last week, Fr. Suarez dropped by the Billie Jean King Tennis Center to catch a couple of tennis games, including the exciting match between 8th seed Andy Roddick and upcoming Latvian hotshot Ernests Gulbis.

Just before the third round match Sunday, Aug. 31 between third seed Novak Djokovic from Serbia and Croatia’s Marin Cilic, Fr. Suarez sat down with the Asian Journal for a light chat just outside the famed Arthur Ashe Stadium.

A self-confessed Rafael Nadal fan, Fr. Suarez said that he tries to play tennis regularly, or when his schedules would allow. “Tennis is a good way to release stress and it is also a very good sport. Apart from that, I pray,” he said.

Global Healing Center

Fr. Suarez also shared that starting this September, he will already be based for good in Batangas City, where he will, among other things, oversee the construction of a sacred global healing center at Montemaria or “mountain of Mary”.

The center at Montemaria will house the tallest statue of Mary in the world that will stand 101 meters (33 stories) high upon completion and will serve as an apostolic and evangelization center for pilgrims wanting to experience a deeper personal relationship with God.

The Oratory of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Montemaria will include a Rosary Garden, Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, Saint Joseph Chapel, Divine Mercy Chapel, House of Mary, House of Joseph, Scala Santa, Infant Jesus Chapel, and retreat houses that will serve as a way station for pilgrims, complete with board and lodging, souvenir shops, a conference center and an international center for the poor.

Montemaria is an ambitious project that seeks to create an 18-hectare haven for pilgrims and a place for prayer dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Poor. The megashrine is expected to be finished in about five years and the statue of Our Lady of the Poor will stand taller than the Statue of Liberty here in New York and the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

There have been written reports that in June 1981, six children in the little town of Medjugorje received apparitions from the “Queen of Peace” where in one of them, the Philippines was mentioned as a global spiritual center.

A true Marian devotee, Fr. Suarez said he felt his love for the Virgin Mary when he was around 2 to 3 years old. 

Coming Home

This will be a homecoming of sorts for the healing priest since he was born in Butong in the town of Taal, Batangas in 1967. He went to Adamson University to finish his degree in chemical engineering and worked for an oil company in Batangas for five years before moving to Canada where he was based since 1995.

In 1997 he joined the Companions of the Cross religious community of priests and seminarians, founded by Rev. Robert Bedard in 1985 in Ottawa, Canada, and Fr. Suarez was ordained to the priesthood in 2002.

Fr. Suarez began noticing his gift of healing two decades earlier, when he was only 16 years old. Outside the Quiapo church, the then fresh high school graduate saw an old crippled woman. He asked her to pray with him and he felt her bones growing. The young man got scared, and for 20 years, he kept this secret.

Being a healing priest has propelled him to a celebrity status, which has its pros and cons and Fr. Suarez said he is mindful of both.

“Marami kang natutulungan, maraming bumabalik sa simbahan. Nagkakaroon ng conversion, ng healing. Nagkakaroon ng hope ang mga tao. On the other hand, you live under the microscope, lahat ng ikinikilos mo, napapansin. Hindi mo rin naman mapi-please lahat ng tao. Pinababayaan ko na lang yun,” he said.
 
“I never ever thought na aabot sa level na ito yung paniniwala ng mga tao sa akin. I did not even consider it was possible before pero nangyari eh,” he shared.

From the very beginning, Fr. Suarez said that the calling was there, “I just did not have enough courage to pursue it. I struggled to understand this unusual gift.”

Believing

“As far as I know, marami pa rin sa ating mga Pilipino ang believers, lalo na sa ministry ko. Karamihan sa mga maysakit can’t help but be believers kasi pag nangangailangan na ang tao, wala na silang ibang mapupuntahan kundi ang Diyos din,” Fr. Suarez explained.

Early this year, Fr. Suarez had a healing mass in Los Angeles attended by thousands of people at the L.A. Sports Arena. It was said to be the biggest healing mass the priest has ever done in the United States.

Fr. Suarez gets really busy during ministry and healing masses. “Napakaraming maysakit na tumatawag at humihingi ng tulong. Sana lang mapagbigyan ko silang lahat,” the soft-spoken priest said.

Before he embarks on every healing mass, Fr. Suarez said he prepares by saying a personal prayer. “I compose myself and I go to confession. Nililinis ko ang sarili ko to make sure na wala akong galit, hinanakit o guilt sa katawan,” he shared.

There are already plans for more healing masses in different U.S. cities but he said that there are things to be ironed out before anything is finalized.

Between now and the time he flies to the Philippines to stay there for good, Fr. Suarez will be holding healing masses in Ottawa and Vancouver in Canada.

A true believer from the start, Fr. Suarez hopes to inspire more people as he continues his quest to spread God’s word around the world through healing masses, retreats and missions.

Fr. Suarez also shared that starting this September, he will already be based for good in Batangas City, where he will, among other things, oversee the construction of a sacred global healing center at Montemaria or “mountain of Mary”.

The center at Montemaria will house the tallest statue of Mary in the world that will stand 101 meters (33 stories) high upon completion and will serve as an apostolic and evangelization center for pilgrims wanting to experience a deeper personal relationship with God.

The Oratory of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Montemaria will include a Rosary Garden, Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, Saint Joseph Chapel, Divine Mercy Chapel, House of Mary, House of Joseph, Scala Santa, Infant Jesus Chapel, and retreat houses that will serve as a way station for pilgrims, complete with board and lodging, souvenir shops, a conference center and an international center for the poor.

Montemaria is an ambitious project that seeks to create an 18-hectare haven for pilgrims and a place for prayer dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Poor. The megashrine is expected to be finished in about five years and the statue of Our Lady of the Poor will stand taller than the Statue of Liberty here in New York and the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

There have been written reports that in June 1981, six children in the little town of Medjugorje received apparitions from the “Queen of Peace” where in one of them, the Philippines was mentioned as a global spiritual center.

A true Marian devotee, Fr. Suarez said he felt his love for the Virgin Mary when he was around 2 to 3 years old.

Coming Home

This will be a homecoming of sorts for the healing priest since he was born in Butong in the town of Taal, Batangas in 1967. He went to Adamson University to finish his degree in chemical engineering and worked for an oil company in Batangas for five years before moving to Canada where he was based since 1995.

In 1997 he joined the Companions of the Cross religious community of priests and seminarians, founded by Rev. Robert Bedard in 1985 in Ottawa, Canada, and Fr. Suarez was ordained to the priesthood in 2002.

Fr. Suarez began noticing his gift of healing two decades earlier, when he was only 16 years old. Outside the Quiapo church, the then fresh high school graduate saw an old crippled woman. He asked her to pray with him and he felt her bones growing. The young man got scared, and for 20 years, he kept this secret.

Being a healing priest has propelled him to a celebrity status, which has its pros and cons and Fr. Suarez said he is mindful of both.

“Marami kang natutulungan, maraming bumabalik sa simbahan. Nagkakaroon ng conversion, ng healing. Nagkakaroon ng hope ang mga tao. On the other hand, you live under the microscope, lahat ng ikinikilos mo, napapansin. Hindi mo rin naman mapi-please lahat ng tao. Pinababayaan ko na lang yun,” he said.

“I never ever thought na aabot sa level na ito yung paniniwala ng mga tao sa akin. I did not even consider it was possible before pero nangyari eh,” he shared.

From the very beginning, Fr. Suarez said that the calling was there, “I just did not have enough courage to pursue it. I struggled to understand this unusual gift.”  (www.asianjournal.com)

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