Monthly Archives: November 2007

Galing Pinoy: First Filipino Footballer

by Martin Mieto (Special to the Asian Journal)

Every day, an untold number of Filipino children are no doubt imitating the moves of their favorite players on the courts of the Philippines. They go to sleep dreaming of someday becoming the next Magic Johnson, the next Jordan, the next Kobe, or the next LeBron James.

They dream about making it into the NBA or one of the pro leagues in the Philippines. They picture themselves becoming Filipino basketball stars using the legacies of NBA stars as motivation and inspiration.

Meanwhile, the legacy of a Philippine sporting legend (a legend of the world’s most popular sport no less) is ignored, buried not just by the sands of time, but also by the immense shadow of basketball.

The basketball buzz that perpetually enthralls millions of Filipinos is indeed a welcome enduring presence in the sports landscape of the Philippines. But the intense fascination Filipinos have with basketball comes with a price. The importance of other sports is diminished. The legacies that Filipino athletes leave behind in other sports are forgotten.

Too many kids want to be like Mike or Kobe or LeBron. Not enough want to be like Paulino.


I’m glad you asked.

Paulino Alcántara is a legendary figure in Philippine sports all right. He’s just not a basketball legend. Instead, he is a legend in the world’s most popular sport, one played in over 200 countries, including the Philippines. He is a soccer legend. Or more probably, if you were to ask Paulino, he may describe himself as a legend of fútbol. He was a man who led the Philippine team during its heyday in the early 20th century.

Though today, the Philippines is currently ranked only 168th in the latest FIFA rankings (and 2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Philippine Football Federation), it has had a few landmark moments in its soccer history that are worth mentioning.

For instance, the Philippine national team is the oldest in Asia. In its inaugural match on February 1st 1913, the Philippines was victorious against China 2-1. Four years later, the Philippines achieved its most lopsided international win, a 15-2 thrashing of Japan in Tokyo on September 10th 1917. Alcántara was a part of that squad.

Alcántara, a Filipino-Spaniard, was born to a Spanish soldier dad and a Filipina mom on October 7, 1896 in Iloilo City, Philippines. He went on to spend his childhood in Barcelona, Spain.

In 1912, Alcántara was talented enough to attract interest from Joan Gamper, who at the time was the President and founder of current-day Spanish soccer powerhouse FC Barcelona (or FCB for short). He was subsequently signed by Gamper and made his club debut shortly thereafter.

Alcántara’s Barcelona debut was one to remember. He helped the club to an 8-2 win over Català SC and scored a hat trick in the process. The 15 year-old Alcántara thus became not only the youngest player ever to suit up for Barcelona but its youngest ever scorer as well. He also achieved distinction for being the first Filipino and Asian player ever to play for a European club team.

Though Alcántara was skinny and not physically imposing, he had guile and possessed a formidable shot. This was never more evident then on April 30, 1922 at Bouscat Stadium in Bordeaux, France. On that date, Alcántara (playing for Spain against France) let fly a shot that shredded the net. FCB’s official site pays homage to Alcantara for that, proclaiming, “For many years after, children from Barcelona would recall that moment and would wish to do the same as the man from the Philippines.”

Today FC Barcelona is undoubtedly recognized as one of the best club teams in the world. The 2006 UEFA Champions League winners are often mentioned in the same breath as other European giants like Juventus, Manchester United, and fellow Spanish rival Real Madrid. Certainly part of the credit for the lofty stature Barcelona enjoys today goes to Alcántara.

His credentials are significant and impressive. During his club tenure, he helped establish Barcelona as one of the most successful clubs in Spain. The team won five Copa Del Rey Spanish titles (including back to back titles in 1925 and 1926) and 10 Catalan championships (including four straight from 1924-27) during his 15-year career.

Upon his retirement on July 5, 1927, Alcántara was (and still is) Barcelona’s leading scorer with 357 goals to his credit. His FCB scoring average was a stellar goal per game.

At the time of his retirement, Alcántara was still only 31. What prompted his retirement? Alcántara sought to fulfill his aspiration to become a doctor.

And so, unlike the short-lived baseballer turned doctor Archiebald Graham in the film Field of Dreams, Alcántara was able to achieve a dual dream, becoming known as Dr. Alcántara after a famed soccer career.

One could say that he went from thrilling fans with his on-the-field exploits to treating them off of it.

Besides club football, Alcántara played for three national squads: the aforementioned Philippines in 1917, Spain from 1921-23 (scoring six goals), and for Catalonia off and on from 1915-24.

He later served on FCB’s board of directors from 1931-34. He was also the manager of Barcelona for a short stint in 1951.

Alcántara died on February 13, 1964 in Barcelona, but not before he had established himself as a 20th century soccer legend.

In its illustrious history FC Barcelona has seen the likes of some outstanding players. Romário. Figo. Rivaldo. Ronaldinho.

But before them all came the little big man from Iloilo City.

Perhaps a young Filipino boy, inspired by the tale of one of his nation’s most successful athletes, will trade in being like Mike for the opportunity to be like Paulino.

Don’t get me wrong. I love basketball. I love it just as much as any other Filipino.

Still, I can’t help but wonder: What would happen if those in the Philippines became as enthusiastic about soccer as they are now about basketball? After all, it’s hugely popular nearly everywhere else on the globe.

Perhaps, in twenty, fifty, or even a hundred years from now, a young Filipino boy, his resolve strengthened by the story of Paulino, will grow up to someday lead the Philippines to its first ever World Cup appearance, and in the process, cement himself as the next Philippine soccer superstar.

That will be a proud day for all Filipinos.

When that day eventually comes, may that boy, now a man, and his teammates be the ones to carry on the proud soccer legacy left behind by the one and only Paulino Alcántara.The first Philippine soccer phenom. But hopefully not the last.


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Filipino Educator Honored on World Children’s Day

by April Tiamzon/

NEW YORK — Celebrity Chef Ron Bilaro presented the first ever McDonald’s Give A Hand Award to educator Dr. Elvira Directo at the World Children’s Day (WCD) held in the Ronald McDonald House.

Many people shared their time and energy to support Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) through volunteerism or by donating funds and resources to their local RMHC chapters across the globe. Contributions make a big difference in the lives of countless children and families everyday.

This year, McDonald’s created the Give A Hand Award to recognize individuals who have overcame hardships with the help of RMHC, as well as RMHC volunteers who do inspiring work on behalf of the Charity. The Philippines is proud to be represented by Dr. Directo as one of the first-ever recipients of the Award.

The celebration took place at the Ronald McDonald House of New York City. Bilaro was joined by entertainment stars Hayden Panettiere from NBC-TV’s Heroes; multi-platinum artist and songwriter, Ne-Yo; and actress, singer and comedienne Angelica Vale as presentors.

Bilaro mentioned that he “felt very proud and honored” when he presented the award to Dr. Directo. Dr. Directo is an educator and supervisor for the Department of Education who has volunteered her time and educational skills to extend the Bright Minds Read (BMR) program to 20 additional cities reaching more than 900 elementary schools in the Philippines.

Dr. Directo was approached by a RMHC-Philippines representative and was asked what they can do to help the department. She suggested that her biggest project was literacy. RMHC became the main sponsor for the BMR program. “With the help of RMHC,” Dr. Directo said, “sana wala nang non-readers sa Pilipinas.”

With the support of RMHC, storybooks, lesson plans and worksheets are provided to illiterate children throughout the country. Dr. Directo trains teachers to use these materials in classrooms. She is so passionate about her work that she volunteers her nights and weekends to inspire other teachers and school principals to help children learn and help bright minds read. Because of RMHC, the program has successfully helped increase literacy from 60% to 96%. Her achievements and accolades include special recognition from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“Filipinos are known everywhere, we are here, and we are not going anywhere. We will continue to keep working harder to get to where we want to be,” Dr. Directo proudly proclaimed. “This award has inspired me to do more, love more, and give more of myself to the children who are in need.”

The RMHC Chapter in Manila together with the Department of Education has implemented Bright Minds Read (BMR) education program, currently on its fifth year in 14 municipalities of the National capital Region in Manila. With Dr. Directo’s direction, this program has enabled 511 public school principals and more than 4,000 teachers to adapt the BMR program in all classrooms of the 14 capital cities of Metro Manila. In addition to her extraordinary work as an educator, Dr. Directo’s drive as a RMHC volunteer and her professional education skills have made it possible to expand the BMR program outside of the metro area to 20 additional cities, reaching 911 elementary schools in 16 other regions.

The World Children’s Day at McDonald’s was created on November 20, 2002 to coincide with the International Day of Children’s Rights and Universal Children’s Day. It is an event to honor commendable people for their invaluable volunteer work in support of RMHC and its efforts for children’s well being around the world.

Don Thompson, the President of McDonald’s USA, talked about this year’s WCD activation in 13,700 restaurants in the U.S. and about the program’s grassroots worldwide. It is a global program executed in over 100 countries. Funds raised on WCD benefit children around the world through RMHC and other worthy causes for children.

Bilaro’s future projects with RMHC include a future line-up, “to positively impact children and support awareness” and will be implemented sometime in February 2008. It will involve cooking with sick children and their families, in Southern California. He would like to intertwine this project with his cooking show, to inspire other people.

Ron Bilaro is a successful personal chef and event organizer. He gained considerable publicity as a sous chef to Art Smith, the personal chef of Oprah Winfrey. Ron currently hosts his own cooking and lifestyle show on The Filipino Channel, “Life… Pinoy Style,” which features Asian American cooking, lifestyles, fashion, trends, entertainment, and shopping.


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A Fairy Tale Proposal

by Nickee de Leon/

HERE’s an interesting (and goosebumping) tale for you.

Jason Drilon, a copywriter in Ogilvy and Mather Manila, proposed marriage to his girlfriend Maui Reyes, a copywriter from BBDO Guerrero-Ortega, by conspiring with none other than the master weaver of fantasy stories, Neil Gaiman.

Neil Gaiman was in the Philippines recently as one of the keynote speakers in the 20th Philippine Advertising Congress which was held at El Centro in Subic.

The legendary British author is best known for his cult-following DC Comics series Sandman, with Sandman #19, A Midsummer Night’s Dream bagging the 1991 World Fantasy Award for best short story, the first comic book to ever win a literary award. He was also the man behind Stardust, a fantasy novel-turned-film and co-wrote the script for Beowulf with Roger Avary.

In Jason’s Multiply blog ( ) he related how he was able to involve the fantasy writer in plotting and planning the best, most creative marriage proposal ever. The blog entry is as follows:

The Proposal, c/o Neil Gaiman
Posted by Jason on November 26,’07 12:53 PM
Oh dear. Where do I begin? The timeline here will be slightly disjointed, so please do bear with me if I hop back and forth in my storytelling. It’s been a thoroughly exhausting week and I haven’t fully recovered from all this pleasant madness.
2007 Philippine Ad Congress, Day 02 – Neil’s opening remarks
I can vaguely recall Neil saying something about creativity, storytelling, and always asking, “What If?” because it’s from this “What If?” that we generate ideas and come up with stories. This was directly related to much of his writing, including his most current masterpiece-in-the-making, The Graveyard Book. In it, he answered the question, “What if a real baby could be raised in a graveyard…by dead people?”
*He read the first chapter of the book at the signing event — it’s rather good.
So I think it’s apt that I label what I did as my “What If?” moment. Because, to propose to my lovely girlfriend Maui, I asked the following:
“What if I could get Neil Gaiman, our most fave author and fantasy writer, to help propose to her?”
*I was under a lot of pressure from friends to find a “creative” way of proposing. So guys – was this creative enough for you?
Three Weeks Ago
I already knew some time before that Neil was going to be at the Ad Congress to give a couple of talks and a signing. So one late night, I went to the “Ask Neil” portion of his blog and wrote a rather long e-mail about how I planned to propose, and if he could find some time in his busy sched and play a small part (understatement of the year) in it. I did this well knowing that the e-mail would probably discarded along with the thousands of messages he gets every day.But two days later, a reply from his assistant:
Hi Jason,I am sure we can help with this, give me a bit to make sure of his schedule…
And a day later, while having lunch with Maui, I got a call from Jaime Daez, owner of local book superstore Fully Booked, telling me that Neil had in fact, agreed, and would be very happy to help me out.
I rushed over to Fully Booked to talk to Jaime (he wanted to meet and see my face so that he could signal Neil during the event) and ended up buying a copy of Absolute Sandman Vol. 02 (which was going to be the book).
What followed was about 2 weeks’ worth of planning and headaches to make sure everything was perfect.
2007 Philippine Ad Congress, Day 02 – In a Hallway for “AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY”:
After Neil’s talk, Maui rushed off to the loo. So I attempted to ambush Neil and introduce myself as “that insane guy you’re helping to propose to his girlfriend.”
But Maui quickly exited the bathrooms and rushed towards me, frozen in disbelief that Neil was actually there.
So I instead pushed her towards Neil and took a snap:
Happy Neil Moment #1. If only she knew…
STILL not content with my planning (which was reaching new heights of being Obsessive-Compulsive), I approached Lucre Villaluna of the Ad Congress Neil Gaiman event to put in yet ANOTHER failsafe measure. I told her my story, and wrote a short note to Neil reminding him of what was going to go down on Saturday. I know, I know – a bit much, but I WAS in an O-C mood.
And during dinner the next night, I received an SMS from her. What follows is our SMS exchange:
Lucre: Where r u?
Me: What’s up? Good news, I hope.
Lucre: Yes, bt pls kip it confidential. Can u call me ASAP?
I rushed out of the dining hall to call her:
Lucre: Hi! Someone wants to speak with you.
SFX: Shuffling, muffled voices, and then…
Neil: Hello, Jason. So we’re going to have you married on Saturday, then?
Me (drooling): …
We talked about how it would go down, and agreed on certain visual cues to make things go a smoothly as possible.
Neil: Let’s make some magic happen on Saturday.
Me (on the verge of fainting): …
*I hadn’t counted on this happening. It made my night. Thanks again, Neil.
Saturday, 6:30am, El Centro, Subic:
Groggy from a night of partying, we joined the line at an ungodly hour. Some guy had lined up at 12:30am, which was kind of freaky in a stalker-ish way, but we were all geeks anyway so it was all good. Ha!
Ground Zero.
For a last bit of planning, Lucre pulled me out of the line and shuttled me inside the venue to go over the entire routine. Everyone in the organizing committee was now in on it: ushers, doormen, bouncers and photographers. The operation would be simple: during the signing, they would stop everybody behind us from going up on stage and let the entire thing play out.
So at about 9:00am, a haggard and jet-lagged Neil took to the stage to read the first chapter of The Graveyard Book and answer some questions. Then he would sign books for the first 100 people in line (Maui and I were #19 and #20).
The rest of the story will be told mostly in pictures and captions. At this point, my mind was blank and I really, really can’t recall what happened.
Yes, Maui. Neil rocks. And he will rock further…
…because he wrote this.
…and Maui actually failed to notice Neil’s dedication because she was so starstruck. It took him about three times to actually get her to read the darn thing.
Maui (squealing, closing the book): Thanks!!!
Neil: Aren’t you going to read what I wrote? You have to read it..
Maui (opening the book, shrugging, then closing it again): Thanks!!!
Me: You have to read the dedication…
And she bent over to give Neil a kiss, STILL not noticing what was going on.
Neil: You really have to read this…
When she did (FINALLY!)…
Maui: OH MY GOD!!! (20x)
I took the ring out of my left pocket. Because of portability issues, I left the case back in the hotel, instead substituting a velvet pouch I’d hastily constructed before leaving for Subic.
And then I knelt.
I really hadn’t planned on kneeling. I thought it was an act that was too typical of a proposal and should be left out. But strangely, I found myself down on one knee, staring up at my now-tearful girlfriend and repeating, “Willyouwillyouwillyouwillyou?” over and over.
…and she said, “Yes.”
My guess is that the photographer was getting emotional as well.
This silly little act drew gasps, awwwsss and claps from the crowd. Friends cheered, strangers cried and my knees…were shaking worse than a 5.7 earthquake.
Maui hugged me, her back towards Neil. I reached out to shake his hand, whispering, “Thank you!” over and over. The Author. Neil. Gaiman. just. helped. me. propose. to. my. girlfriend.
And in the midst of all this, we managed to give Neil a copy of Maui’s great grandad’s book on folk tales (he was the writer of Lola Basyang, a popular children’s folktale series).

In his online journal, Gaiman described the booksigning/marriage proposal event as his most “favourite bit of the trip to the Philippines.”

The newly-engaged couple has not set a wedding date yet, but they’re hoping to convince Gaiman to become one of their principal sponsors.

As Gaiman aptly wrote in his book Stardust, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human? Pointless, really… Do the stars gaze back?”

Apparently, they do. (AJ)

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Join the LAPD: Chief Bratton Invites Asian Pacific Islanders

by Rene Villaroman/

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Police Department Chief William J. Bratton announced that they are recruiting an additional 1,000 new police officers despite budgetary concerns expressed by the City Council.

“The recruitment of more police officers is the number one priority of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa,” Bratton told the Asian Pacific Islander Community Forum held at the Empress Pavilion Restaurant in Chinatown on Tuesday, November 13.

“The recruitment will continue unimpeded, and we expect to have a 9,800 police officers by June or July next year,” Bratton added. The department’s goal is to have a 10,000-strong officer corps.

Bratton, who was recently re-appointed to 5-year tenure, also announced that the LAPD would follow through on programs that were started during his first term. “We will continue to reduce crimes in the city,” he said. “We will get the consent decree implemented, and we will assure that this city has the most robust anti-terrorism entities in the United States.”

“Violent crimes are down dramatically in the city and homicide is in its 35-year low,” Bratton said. “This due to the hard-working men in the LAPD and to your communities.”

“We need more young men and women from your community to work with the department, and we promise you that we will welcome them with open arms,” Bratton said. Presently, only about 8 per cent of LAPD’s force come from Asian Pacific Islander communities, Bratton revealed.

Bratton announced that in 2008, the LAPD would open its 20th police station. “The 20th police station over at Koreatown will allow us to put more officers on patrol in that portion of the city,” Bratton said. Although the perimeters and boundaries of that station are still being mapped out, the 20th station is now under construction and expected to open next year. It will be headed by Captain Mathew Blake of the West Los Angeles Area Station. The LAPD also opened one station in the San Fernando Valley, and the LAPD headquarters in downtown–Parker Station–would reopen soon after a $400 million refurbish.

Chief Bratton also announced that the Police Commission approved the installation of video cameras in all the vehicles of LAPD to give the officers the best equipment to work with. “We are constantly working at improving our training methods, and this is an area where you can help us with.”

In the open forum, business and church leaders in Chinatown asked Bratton if a foot beat could be reinstated in that district citing many crimes go unreported because of cultural reasons and language barriers.

Bratton replied that Chinatown has one of the lowest crime rates in the city. “It is really up to you to work with us so that we can serve you better. We cannot do it alone. We want you to encourage your young men and women to come to us,” Bratton pleaded. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” Bratton said.

“If you make this your number one priority, we will make this the safest city in America. That’s our promise, our commitment and our goal,” Bratton said.

Islamic Mapping

LAPD Assistant Chief Michael Downing addressed the controversy that arose with the department’s plan that would map Muslim communities that was announced last week.

“Unfortunately, the media has distorted the plan as an attempt at profiling. It was an unfortunate misuse of a word. We recognize that error, and now we have decided to call it engagement, an outreach effort by which we could determine what kind of services these communities actually need, and whether the department is providing these services or not,” Downing said.

Yun-Sook Kim Navarre, a Joseph Ileto Hate Crimes Prevention Coordinator of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) gave his two-cents worth on the issue.

“There is a need for better representation and dialog for these communities of color, especially those with limited English-speaking abilities. There is a concern that some of these already isolated communities living under the gun may be unlawfully profiled, or that they may have their rights violated,” Navarre said.

“In response to the alleged profiling, I think it is problematic to broadly link a  religion such as Islam with all Muslims– people who come from all countries, all races, and socio-economic backgrounds—with terrorism and with anti-American sentiments,” Navarre added.  “I don’t think that any other religion would have been placed in that same spot; we wouldn’t do that to the Catholic community; we wouldn’t do that to the Baptist community. We don’t want this to turn into an anti-immigrant xenophobia or discrimination based on national origin.” (

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FilAms in LA Media Share Success Stories

by Joseph Pimentel/

LOS ANGELES — Hard work, perseverance, and a little luck are the keys to success that mainstream FilAm TV broadcasters Maria Quiban of Fox News and Denise Dador of KABC shared to young FilAm co-eds at the “Filipino in the Media panel” discussion held at Loyola Marymount University last November 13.

LMU’s Filipino American Experience class sponsored the event. It was the first class about FilAm history at LMU since 2005.

Professor Florente Ibanez said the class is a way for younger FilAms to learn about their heritage.Students in the class not only learn about the FilAm experience but also about their contributions in the US.

“There’s a thirst among young FilAms to know about their roots,” said Ibanez. “Us, Filipinos are trying to discover ourselves because it’s not taught to us. When we think about Asians, we think about Chinese and Japanese but the Philippines has a long relationship with the US people don’t recognize.”

“I wish I had this kind of event to go to when I went to school,” said Moderator Winston Emano to the thirty students in the audience. “This is an important event for the younger generation of FilAms who are not used to seeing themselves on TV or other forms of media. If we don’t have people who represent us in the media who’s going to tell our stories and accurately?”

“It is a rarity to see ourselves on screen,” he added. “We have here two of the very few faces representing us and disseminating the news for the Southern California audience.”

Broadcast beginnings

“When I grew up, proper Filipino children went to law school and medical school,” said Quiban. She was born in Cebu, Philippines and raised in Hawaii.

“Parents expected you to have special careers generally not in the media. Back then it wasn’t considered a real professional career so for generations we weren’t encouraged to go in that direction,” she added. “But when I moved to Hawaii, I saw people on TV like me,” she added. “It inspired me and I know it inspired a few others and it’s like the old adage ‘if I can do it, you can do it.’”

Tough job

“Of all the people who go into broadcasting [career] only two or three percent ever make it to a major top 10 market,” Dador said about the stiff competition in the industry. “You have to really want this job.”

Dador started her broadcasting career while at Mills College in the Bay Area. She was a host of Manila Manila, a FilAm TV talk show. Famous comedian Rex Navarette was her cameraman during those days.

She said ideally incoming broadcasters and TV reporters work their way up from a small media market before the larger networks hire them.

“You have to make a lot of sacrifices,” she said. “You have to move away from your home town. You miss your friends and your family. Your social life suffers. It’s really hard to meet somebody in the industry. Reporters are either single or divorced.“

After graduating, Dador left for Fresno, a smaller media market. She then moved to Detroit, Michigan.

“I was the only Asian American person in Detroit for the longest time,” she recalled. “For years, I was the only one. I think when I left they hired another one.”

Dador said the industry is full of jealousy and backstabbing.

“Detroit was a tough place to work,” she said. “I might have felt I was being discriminated against not so much because I was Asian but the fact that I was young and up-and-coming.”


“If you come in here wanting to become a big star, you’re not going to make it,” Dador revealed. “You have to come in here and have a genuine passion to give information. If you do make it, don’t forget about your community.”

“I had a lot of mentors,” she added. “Asian American reporters and anchors whom I admired would come and speak to the class and talk about how difficult it was. They had families, they had long hours in their jobs, but they came here because they felt it was important to talk to the students.”

“They had to choose that night between their families and their students and I thought ‘wow that was so cool that they chose to be with us.’ That kind of stuck with me,” she said.

No one road

Being a teen mother, Quiban did double duty taking care of her son and going to school. Quiban discovered broadcast journalism in college. She got her break when she met a TV producer for a Filipino TV show while working as a waitress.

She revealed she started from the bottom.

“I would be on the set, clean the floors. One day, the news reader got sick –  ‘I swear I didn’t poison her,’” she joked. “I raised my hand and told them I could do it. And I’ve been doing it ever since.”

“If there is one message that I want to tell all of you is that there is no one road,” she added. “I started in news in Hawaii and fortunately, I didn’t have to move to Yuma or Fresno for my start.”

She encouraged the students to “go for it and don’t be afraid. If you’re in Los Angeles, you can find a job in Los Angeles.”    Joanna Nuval, a 20-year-old Communication Studies major, said she felt empowered after listening to Dador and Quiban speak.

“I can identify with them,” she said. “They are someone just like me. Seeing ourselves in the media is empowering and raises my awareness of other Filipino issues.”

Carissa Caparas, a 19-year-old Communication and Asian Pacific Studies major said she felt the same way.

“I admire that they have a lot of Filipino pride,” she said. (


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NBA Star Elton Brand Reaches Out to Filipinos

by Joseph Pimentel/

LOS ANGELES — National Basketball Association (NBA) and Los Angeles Clipper player Elton Brand is using his long reach to help the Filipino community.

In an exclusive interview with the Asian Journal, the 28-year-old basketball power forward and native New Yorker said he’s starting a basketball camp next summer in the Philippines. He also wants to set up businesses based in the Philippines.

“Kobe [Bryant] went to the Philippines for Nike,” said Brand. “But I’m going there for the love, for the people from the street.”

Sitting inside his Gibraltar Production offices, Brand, an All-Star basketball player, said he wants to start giving back to other minority communities.

“As an African American, I understand what it’s like to be a minority in America and how tough it is,” he said. “If we all work together, we’d be the majority.”

Brand has ties with the Filipino community. When Brand was chosen as the No. 1 NBA draft pick by the Chicago Bulls, during his rookie season he befriended a Filipino businessman who introduced him to the Filipino culture.

Guiding Star Realty CEO and President Ron Vergara helped Brand with investment, business and financial advice.

It was Vergara’s idea to “brand” Brand’s name in the Filipino community.

“It’s not often we see an NBA star wanting to give back specifically to the Filipino community,” said Vergara. “We’re in the largest Filipino population (Los Angeles) in the US. It’s great to see Elton wanting to give back and help the Filipino people as much as he can.”

Different culture

 “There’s the lumpia, and the food,” said Brand about what he likes about the Filipino culture. “I just like embracing different cultures and different people. Filipino people are full of pride and very honest. I enjoy working with them and spending time with them.”

Brand is scheduled to go to the Philippines next summer after the NBA season is over.

“I’d like to see the basketball leagues over there, do a [basketball] camp and bring some of my teammates and other NBA players and counterparts to be part of it,” said Brand. “We want to embrace it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Business Ventures

When Brand is not on the court, he is a meticulous businessman. He has set up ventures from movie production, real estate investments to Internet companies.

Most recently, the production company he owns, Gibraltar Films, produced the critically acclaimed movie Rescue Dawn starring Christian Bale. The movie came out this past summer and the DVD is out in November 22. The movie is based on the true story of an American pilot, Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) shot down during a top-secret mission in Vietnam.

“We shot [the movie] in Thailand,” he said. “We went around and had a lot of fun. Christian Bale aka Batman is a great actor.”

One of his fondest memories on the set is getting his wife a cameo appearance on the movie.

“There’s a scene where a nurse is taking care of Christian’s character,” he said. “That nurse is my wife. I poke fun of her and say ‘you saved Batman.’”

Another venture Brand takes part in is his friend’s creation He said it’s a Myspace for professional people.

“It’s about business and networking with other people,” said Brand.

Vergara said the website is a great way for FilAms here to get in contact with their relatives back home in the Philippines.

“The site offers unique video conferencing, blogs and much more,” said Vergara. “It’s also a business Brand’s friend wants to bring to the Philippines and are looking for workers.”

Basketball and Business

Brand is careful with the businesses he delves into because there are a lot of outsiders who prey on taking advantage of young NBA players.

“You got to trust the people,” Brand said. “You have to build your nest egg first before you divulge into other businesses. If you’re spending it you’re not earning it. You need to do the research in what you are going into.”

Brand hears stories all the time about current and former NBA players throwing their money away.

“You hear the stories, this guy made $10 million a year, $15 million a year, $1 million a year, whatever it is and their broke after their career is over,” he said. “It disappoints me because it shouldn’t be like that.”

Brand said the NBA provides incoming rookies a “transition program seminar” that deals with business to women to drugs. However, Brand said some people have to go through it before they can learn.

“As a businessman I’ve lost money too but I’ve grown and learned from my mistakes,” he said.

Injured Season

Brand is currently injured. He suffered a torn Achilles tendon while playing a pickup basketball game with teammate center Chris Kaman over the summer.

“My rehab is going well,” he said. “I’ve been doing my exercises for about four hours a day. I’m just getting healthy.”

Brand said he’s glad the team is doing well without him.

“I’m so happy for their success,” he added. “It’s a lot of fun [watching the team] right now. I’m looking forward to play again by February [2008].”

Brand said he is optimistic about Clippers’ chances this season. “We’re going all the way. [Shaun] Livingston and I are getting healthy. Of course, the pinnacle is to win that [NBA Championship] ring. We’re definitely gelling. People get hurt but people step up. We have a good solid team.”

Knowing Filipinos are mostly Lakers fans, he told the Asian Journal, “To all the Filipino people here and around the world, support the LA Clippers and you can support the Lakers too. It’s cool, but don’t get mad when we kick their butt,” he said. (


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Galing ng Pinoy: From ‘Batang Sementeryo’ to Mr. Universe

by Cynthia De Castro/

TWO hundred fifty participants from 39 countries posed in front of the judges at the finals of the 2006 Mr. and Ms Universe Body Building Competition in Cuxhnvun, Germany. All the contestants excitedly held their breaths. They knew the winner would join the ranks of famous past winners like Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator) and Lou Ferigno (Incredible Hulk).

When the winners were announced, perfect scores, each one, the contest honored the first Asians to win the Mr. and Ms. Universe. Both they were Pinoys – Francisco “Ringo” Borlain and Dwan Adantao.

Building body

Ringo Borlain was near tears as he recalled all the obstacles he faced that led to that moment. One of four children of Amelia and Diego Borlain, Ringo grew up in South Cemetery in Makati City, where his father worked as a grave digger. They lived inside the cemetery until his high school days.

His memories of growing up are poignant with heart-rending episodes of hardship and distress. “Namulat ako sa tatay na laging lasing (I always wake up with a drunken father),” he said.

After high school, Ringo worked in a canteen in Makati. He worked hard and saved money. When he was able to raise P500, Ringo enrolled at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). He then joined the varsity basketball team where he got an allowance. Through hard work, discipline, diligence and determination, Ringo graduated from college with a degree in Physical Education.

“Almost everything I have now started at the PUP, the humility, discipline, courage, diligence and my being a sports-minded person all came from my school,” said Borlain. “At PUP, I learned to compete in sports and take it seriously with total commitment.”

Borlain revealed to the Asian Journal that since college, he had taken up many sports like marathon and other endurance sports. Then, he got a job as an OFW, working as a recreation supervisor at the United States Military Training Mission in Saudi. He came back after two years and became a fitness instructor at Excel Fitness Center and Slimmers World International.

While working in gyms, he decided to concentrate in body building and fitness.

“Kailangan lang determined ka basta may goal ka na. I kept to my strict diet of fruits and high protein. I was in the gym everyday — 1 ½ hours in the morning and another 1 ½ hours in the evening. You will always find a reason or an excuse in the morning when you wake up before going to your physical training, why you can’t run or swim or bike that particular day. But never allow that to stop you from going anyway,” Borlain said.

All his hard work and discipline paid off when he joined body building and fitness competitions and emerged champion. Some of his awards are Mr. Ironman, Slimmer’s Great Body Champion, and 1st runner-up in Mr. Philippines contest in 2006. Then, he joined the selection for who will represent the country in the event in Germany and was able to make it.

A born-again Christian, Borlain said it is all by faith in God that he was able to overcome the obstacles. He said it is miraculous how God provided for all his needs to join the competition.

“ I didn’t have money to buy my plane ticket pero naniniwala ako na bibigyan ako nuon ni Lord kung will Niya talaga na mapunta ako sa Germany. Then, a friend unexpectedly gave me a plane ticket, with some pocket money pa. Tapos, malapit na akong umalis wala pa akong titirhan sa Germany. Siyempre wala naman akong pera para mag-hotel duon. Nag-pray ako sa Lord to help me. Then, a friend I met in the gym learned about my trip and said may kakilala siya na nakatira duon mismo sa lugar sa Germany na pupuntahan ko. Tinawagan niya kaibigan niya at pumayag yun na duon ako sa kanila tumira – kahit hindi naman niya ako kilala. And a few days before I left, unti-unting may mga nagbigay ng pera na pambaon ko,” Borlain added.

From center stage to the wings and back

Upon arriving in Germany, Borlain and Adantao were discriminated upon. The other participants from Europe and Western countries were given interviews with the press but they were not.

“Hindi kami sinali sa mga pictorials at sa interviews (We were not included in the pictorials and interviews), “ revealed Borlain. “At saka, may mga number na nakukuha ng participants para malaman mo kung saan ka tatayo sa stage. Yung numbers na nakuha namin duon sa gitna ng stage. Pero, pinaalis kami dun sa gitna at nilagay yung mga Russians instead. Pinapunta na lang kami sa gilid ng stage,” he said.

A man with lesser faith would have been discouraged by all the obstacles he faced but Borlain just kept believing. “Alam ko, ( I know) my God is more powerful than any obstacle, more powerful than all the negative treatment and circumstances that came our way,” he said.

Borlain’s faith brought him the gold and the title of Mr. Universe.

“There was no cash prize, just a trophy,” he revealed. “But, the honor of being the first Asian and the first Pinoy to become Mr. Universe and the privilege of bringing honor to the Philippines –that is priceless,” he said.

No ticker tape parade

Borlain and Adantao’s victory was not given any attention by the media and the government.

“Hindi kasi popular yung sport na body building kaya siguro walang atensyon at support from the government. Pero kung gusto kang i-angat ng Lord, Siya ang gagawa ng paraan. May nakilala ako na nagulat na wala kaming nakuhang reward or recognition from the government. May kaibigan pala siya sa Malacanang at sinabihan niya yun about us. So, while we won the championship in December 3, 2006, we were only recognized by the government in February 2007. Nuon kami pinapunta sa Malacanang at nabigyan ni President Arroyo ng Medal of Merit at pa-premyo na P100,000. At nuon din lang kami na-feature sa press,” Borlain told the Asian Journal.

Borlain’s colorful past and victory was featured in the media. One memorable interview he had was with popular celebrity Donita Rose Villarama, who featured Ringo in her weekly TV show that delves into true-to-life stories of individuals who overcome extraordinary obstacles and tragedies.

The reigning Mr. Universe (the 2007 championship will be in December) said that God has been opening doors of opportunity for him to speak before people. He makes the most of these opportunities to inspire people to overcome the odds. He admits that he is so passionate for God because of what the Lord has done for him- taking him out of his “ghetto life” and transforming him from a “batang sementeryo” to Mr. Universe.

“God has radically changed my life and He can do the same for anyone who comes to Him,” Borlain testified. “I want to be an example for the youth and encourage them to stay away from drugs. Instead, they should engage in sports and must make sports a part of their daily lives.”

“ Talagang gifted ang mga Pinoys at talented. We just have to have a positive attitude and not forget to give the glory, not to man, but to God who makes all things possible.” (



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Miss Earth ’07 is Fil-Canadian

by Carmie Carpio/

MANILA — The night of Nov. 11 belonged to Jessica Nicole Trisko of Canada when she bested 87 other candidates for the Miss Earth 2007 crown during the coronation night held at the crowded University of the Philippines Theatre.

Runner-ups Miss India Pooja Chitgopeker (Miss Earth-Air), Miss Venezuela Silvana Santaella Arellano (Miss Earth-Water), and Miss Spain Angela Gomez (Miss Earth-Fire) completed her court.

Special awardees were Miss South Africa Bokang Montjane (Beauty for a Cause), Miss Lebanon Amale Al Khoder (Miss Friendship), Miss Lithuania Monika Baliunaite (Best in Talent), Miss Philippines Jeanne Harn (Miss Photogenic) Miss Thailand Jiraporn Sing-ieam (Best in National Costume), and Miss Venezuela Silvana Santaella Arellano (Best in Long Gown and Best in Swimsuit).

No surprise
Trisko, 22, who’s mother originally hailed from Manila, grew up in Vancouver.  During the pageant, she wowed the audience with her grace, charm and her quick wit in the question and answer portions.

“I’d say the beauty of mother nature smells as sweet as the sweetest rose, that the beauty of mother nature feels as soft as the softest leaf, and the beauty of mother nature sings like the birds on the trees,” she answered on the final question, “How would you describe mother nature to a blind child?”

Later she said that she was surprised that she became the new Miss Earth. The audience chose between her and Miss India during the final moments of the beauty tilt. In the end, Trisko won the votes of the judges. She took over the reign of Miss Earth 2006 Hil Hernandez of Chile.

Trisko is not new in beauty competitions. She joined the Miss Universe-Canada tilt this year and landed in the final 10. She was the only female of Asian descent to be in the roster. She then took the opportunity to join Miss Earth-Canada with the advocacy of promoting environmental education in her home country and abroad.

Unlike former Miss Earth-Canada Riza Santos, who is currently a celebrity housemate in the reality show Pinoy Big Brother, Trisko said she has no plans to join show business in the Philippines.

“I’m so proud of being half-Filipino but my heart is where my home is, Canada,” she said. Right now, she is a political science student taking up her PhD.

Pageant for a cause
Now on its seventh year, the Miss Earth pageant is held every year to select women all over the world who can carry out the mission of promoting a more sustainable environment and to advance its cause of saving and protecting the planet. The winner took home a cash prize of $20,000 among others.

The Miss Earth pageant was done under the production and marketing of Carousel Productions in partnership with ABS-CBN 2. The event was aired live nationwide and globally over The Filipino Channel (TFC) on a delayed telecast basis. MTV VJ Utt, Miss Earth 2004 Priscilla Meirelles of Brazil, and Miss Philippines-Air 2006 Ginger Conejero were the night’s hosts. (

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Asian Contemporary Art Fair Hits New York City: Filipino Painter’s Work Highlighted in Seoul-based Gallery

by Momar Visaya/

NEW YORK — The first-ever Asian Contemporary Art Fair debuted at Pier 92 on the Hudson River from November 8 to 12 and enticed more than 20,000 guests during the four-day affair.

The fair featured 76 exhibitors from 10 different countries and the top galleries from the international art market. Hundreds of artists, both young and old, from different Asian countries such as China, India, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam participated.

In the midst of them all stood Leslie de Chavez, the lone Filipino painter, represented by Arario, an art gallery based in Seoul.

De Chavez’s work, alongside Korean artist Hyung Koo Kang’s dominated Arario’s booth at the exhibit. Kang’s huge, monochromatic portraits featured fellow artists, such as Auguste Rodin, which was one of the paintings on display. De Chavez’s work, depicting women, shared the limelight.

De Chavez’s paintings focus on “unique Filipino scenes, culture and history,” according to Jeeah Choi, Arario Gallery’s curator.

“His paintings are dark — literally, since he begins each work by painting the canvas black,” Choi explained.

Two of his paintings at the fair are unusual, because, as the New York Sun described it as “mildly — and, no doubt, ironically — pornographic”.

One was called “Lilly”, a schoolgirl, wearing a T-shirt with an image of Andy Warhol’s “Marilyn”. The racy painting had Lilly pulling up her skirt to reveal her lacy underwear.

The other one, called “Asian Wave”, shows a pair of naked women with the words “here 2 stay”.

“Lilly” and “Asian Wave”, both oil on canvas measuring 195 by 150 centimeters, cost $18,000 each (16,000,000 KRW (Korean won) or 774,000 Philippine pesos).

A third one was slightly hidden from view. It is called Unang Dalaw (First Visit) and in the market for $15,000.

De Chavez held a solo exhibit earlier this year in Beijing and Seoul where most of his paintings were sold. Next year, Arario will bring a solo exhibition of his new work to Switzerland. Plans were also being made to bring some of his paintings to the newly opened Arario Gallery, a 20,000-square-foot space on West 25th Street.

De Chavez is currently based in the Philippines. He stayed in Korea for a year as part of the Neo-Emerging Artists residency. He graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.


Six life-size statues of Mao Zedong made of shiny stainless steel by Guangci greet visitors at the exhibition’s entrance. Ken Johnson of the New York Times noted his reappearance in works by some of the artists in the exhibit was noted by.

“The vaguely mocking way he is so frequently represented in contemporary Chinese art hints at a deeper post-traumatic anxiety and, perhaps, an urge to exorcise him,” Johnson said.

Billed as the first international art fair to focus exclusively on contemporary Asian art, the exhibit had collectors, artists, dealers and art-lovers during the four-day affair.

There was also a special 26-artist group exhibition organized by the independent curators Eric C. Shiner and Lilly Wei called Simulasian: Refiguring ‘Asia’ for the 21st Century. It aimed to examine “the ways in which today’s artists are questioning, and enlarging, the definition of ‘Asian-ness.’” (

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LA Auto Show Goes Green

by Joseph Pimentel/

LOS ANGELES —  Fuel efficiency, in-car technology and speed dominate the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show at the Downtown Convention Center. The auto show opens to the public on November 16 to November 25.

Hybrid cars have been in hot-demand in recent years and with the cost of gas nearing $4 a gallon in California, Hybrids will no doubt continue to increase sales over the next year. Los Angeles alone has more hybrid vehicle owners than the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany combined, according to research.


Car manufacturers touted their latest “Green” cars in Los Angeles.

General Motors (GM) unveiled five new fuel-efficient vehicles for 2009. GM introduced the Aveo5, Chevy Silverado Hybrid, Chevy Malibu Hybrid, Tahoe SUV Hybrid, and the Chevy Volt, GM’s latest electric vehicle.

“We are changing the way we power America,” proclaimed GM’s Vice Chairman for Product Development Robert Lutz. “We want to be part of the solution to today’s societies energy issues as a matter of energy efficiency, national security and other environmental responsibilities.”

“People now feel that they have a social responsibility,” Lutz added.

Along with GM, Cadillac’s Escalade Hybrid delivers more than a 50-percent improvement in fuel economy in city driving. Porsche is featuring its popular SUV Cayenne Hybrid with a fuel economy of at least 26 miles-per-gallon.

The Chrysler Group introduced their Hybrid line – the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango.  Ford Motor Co. will have their Hybrid Escape SUV in a new color tone. Nissan, Toyota and Hyundai are other automakers displaying Hybrid vehicles or concept cars.

Honda’s FCX Clarity stole the show. The Clarity runs on Hydrogen Fuel Cell that would get up to 68 miles per gallon with zero emissions and a total range of 270 miles. Honda said the car is due out next year and offers potential buyers a three-year lease plan for $600 a month.

Not enough

However, with all this talk about fuel efficiency, outside of the LA Convention Center members of the Freedom From Oil Campaign plan to protest all week saying that automakers are not doing enough.

“The automakers know how to put on a good show, but when the rubber hits the road, their only real commitment is to keeping the status quo,” said Sarah Connolly of Rainforest Action Network. “With extreme drought and wildfires in California, oil spills fouling the shores of San Francisco and the Black Sea, and oil prices approaching $100 a barrel, it is high time for the automakers to stop saying what they can’t do and start giving American drivers the oil-free, zero-emissions vehicles we want and deserve.”

Lutz on the other hand disagrees. He said there is no silver bullet when it comes to fixing the environment’s problems.

“There is no single solution, or secret solution that will solve all of our energy and environmental problems,” said Lutz. “But we can make a really big difference by working with challenges from many different angles at the same time. Regardless of fuel or technology, our goal remains the same, the best possible fuel economy for whichever type of vehicle our customers choose.”

Voice activation

Meanwhile, on the other side of the convention center, Ford representatives are busy showing members of the press their latest and exclusive in-car entertainment system.

Ford has teamed up with computer software giant Microsoft for a new “Sync” program. Sync is a fully integrated, voice-activated, hands-free, in-car communication and entertainment system for your mobile phone and digital music player.

“You can make a phone call by just saying ‘call [example] Robert,’” said Ford Spokesperson Octavio Navarro. “The system can read your text messages to you and you can respond through a series of already typed out messages.”

Navarro said unlike previous voice recognition system that made errors, Sync features a more highly sophisticated program.

“It’s the next generation of voice activation,” he said.

The Sync operating system will become standard in all new Ford, Mercury and Lincoln cars this fall. The cars will all have Bluetooth capabilities and a USB port for those with a flash drive that contains music.  Most specifically, the Ford Escape will have an AC adapter port for those wanting to connect a laptop computer or other devices.

Navarro added voice-activation makes searching for songs much easier. For those people with hundreds of songs on their iPod, flash drives, or other digital MP3 players, all they have to say is the artists name or title of the song to play it.

“All you have to do is say [voice-command] the title of the song that you want to listen to,” said Navarro. “That way you’re not pressing the buttons to look for a song and not paying attention to the road.”

Navarro also said that the program would have automatic updates just by logging on to a computer through

“This is the future of car technology,” he said.

The need for speed

Of course, it wouldn’t be a car show until you visit the Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Audi and Ferrari side of the convention center.

Lamborghini is showing off only one of 20 Reventon’s worldwide. Inside the sleek charcoal grey aerodynamic lightweight carbon-fiber body panels is a 6.5-liter V12 engine boasting 650 horsepower, and runs a top speed of 211 miles per hour or 0 to 60 miles-per-hour at 3.4 seconds. All 20 cars have already been sold at $1.4 million each.

The Nissan GT-R delivers just as much. The twin-turbocharged GT-R has a 3.8-liter V-6 engine delivering 473 horsepower. The car accelerates 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.4 seconds and a top speed of 200 miles per hour.

For old school people who remember the very first movie car chase scene, Ford unveiled the Mustang “Bullitt.” Inspired by the 1968 Steve McQueen movie of the same name, the car features a 4.6-liter V-8 engine and delivers 315 horsepower.

Other speedy cars to look for are the Audi A4, Ferrari 430 Scuderia, Maserati Quattroporte Sport GTS, Mercedes Benz C63 AMG, Porsche 911 GT2, Lotus Exige S Club Racer and Bentley Continental GT Speed.

Tickets for the Auto Show are $10 (cash only), children 12 and under are free when accompanied by an adult. Seniors (65+) pay $7. Discount coupons will be available at participating LA area new car dealerships and 7-Eleven stores. Hours from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (


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