Daily Archives: November 14, 2007

Lights Go Out on Broadway As Strike Continues

By Momar G. Visaya/AsianJournal.com

NEW YORK – Members of Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees went on strike Sunday, Nov. 10 against Broadway producers, effectively shutting down Manhattan’s Theater District.

A total of 35 shows are currently running on Broadway, with 27 of them affected as the strike continued as of Tuesday.

Local One Union Chief James Claffey Jr. told reporters the strike was the stagehands’ only option as they try to protect what they claim is rightfully theirs.

“We truly regret that there is no show,” the stagehands said in a statement as tourists from all over the world scampered all over Times Square while announcements on ticket refunds were plastered on theater doors.

The statement also said that theatre owners and producers are demanding a 38% cut in the stagehands’ jobs and wages. “They have built a $20 million fund to be used against us from the sale of theatre tickets to the public,” the statement added. “Stagehands” is the term used for the people who work behind the scenes to install and run lights, sets and props for all the shows on Broadway.

Tickets to some of the top Broadway shows can command prices of more than 500 dollars, and last year 1.3 million tickets were sold to foreign tourists.

“Broadway is a billion dollar a year industry and has never been more profitable than now,” the 3,000-member stagehands’ union said.

Despite steep ticket prices, the number of theatergoers has continued to increase, jumping 2.6 percent from 2006 to 2007, while box office receipts have increased 8.9 percent over the same period.

According to the producers’ league, Broadway pumps five billion dollars into the New York economy a year and provides the equivalent of 45,000 jobs.

Police monitored the picket lines outside the theaters, with an average of about 20 demonstrators in each theater marching with their placards.

The strike came after months of heated negotiations and caused the multi-million dollar business of Broadway to come to a grinding halt.

Some of New York’s most popular plays and musicals affected by the strike include Cyrano de Bergerac, a new play starring Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner; the David Hyde Pierce-starrer Curtains; Fantasia’s The Color Purple; classics such as A Chorus Line, Rent, Mamma Mia and Les Miserables and tourist favorites like Legally Blonde, Hairspray and The Drowsy Chaperone.

The usually long line outside TKTS, the same-day discount tickets booths in Times Square and at the South Street Seaport were almost empty on Saturday, with only a handful looking at the boards that announced only a couple of shows were on.

“The stagehands are striking to seek to preserve their right to get paid when there is nothing for them to do,” the producers’ league said in a statement.

According to The League of American Theatres and Producers, the average stagehand makes 150,000 dollars a year in pay and benefits.


No new negotiations have been scheduled between the stagehands union, and the League of American Theatres and Producers. The stalemate has forced theatergoers, particularly tourists, to find other attractions and off-Broadway has some 48 productions now playing, according to the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers.

On Monday in the theater district, people were passing out flyers advertising off-Broadway shows, meaning productions in theaters smaller than 499 seats.

The dispute has focused on how many stagehands are required to open a show and keep it running. That means moving scenery, lights, sound systems and props into the theater; installing the set and making sure it works; and keeping everything functioning well for the life of the production.

Theater owners and producers want to be able to hire only the number of stagehands they think they’ll need for an individual show. For example, a play with one set might not require as many stagehands as a large-scale musical with many scene changes or special effects. The union wants to maintain its rules on how many stagehands are hired, how they work and for how long; it wants a specific number hired for each show.

Eight Broadway shows that have separate contracts with the union remained open and did strong, often sold-out business over the weekend. Among the attractions still running are “Young Frankenstein,” “Mary Poppins,” “Xanadu” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” as well as four shows — “Pygmalion,” “The Ritz,” “Mauritius” and “Cymbeline” — playing at nonprofit theaters. (AJ with AP wire reports)

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Successful Pinays in Business Inspire at DC Confab

By Momar Visaya/Asianjournal.com

NEW YORK — Filipina entrepreneurs shared their experiences at the Fifth Filipina Summit held in Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago.

Nini Alvero, Philippine Trade Commissioner for the US Western Region moderated the entrepreneurship forum, aptly dubbed “Make Me a Filipina Millionaire”.

“The Filipino American community is a sleeping dragon, and it is waking up,” Alvero said and talked about how business-minded FilAms can take the opportunity to do business in the Philippines.

Panelists discussed how they reached their first million dollars in business. They also talked about how they worked with their passion in order to achieve their dreams.

Healing the planet

Among the panelists was Cora Alisuag. She is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Aliron International, Inc., a diversified global company that she founded in 1989.

“It is a good idea to do this one step at a time. Grow your business and diversify when the right time comes,” Alisuag said. Based in Washington, DC, her company provides healthcare solutions and resources for clients throughout the world primarily in four distinct areas: healthcare operations and management, environmental technologies, information technologies, and educational programs.

“Money alone should not be the motivation to go into business, but rather think about what it can do for the common good,” she added.

Alisuag’s biggest dream for the Philippines is for it to have an efficient waste management program. Practicing what she preached, her company officially opened its hazardous and industrial waste treatment facility at the Carmelray Industrial Park II in Calamba, Laguna in 2005.

In early 2002, she created HEAL (Healthy Environment for Advancement of Life), a foundation devoted to developing programs to clean up solid and toxic wastes in third world nations, beginning in the Philippines. Alisuag has also been involved in multiple facets of healthcare delivery for more than two decades.

Philippine Food

Alice Ignacio founded API Enterprises, LLC, a company based in Chesapeake, Virginia in 1998.

A food importer and distributor, Ignacio, initially just wanted to get Selecta to be distributed in the US and ended up conquering the mainstream market. An “accidental businesswoman,” Ignacio has successfully penetrated the US market with accounts at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Farm Fresh (East Coast) and the US Defense Commissaries.

Her company is primarily involved in the importation and distribution of top quality, high-end food products for the American markets. Currently, she supplies Selecta ice cream, Goldilocks products and Bonuan bangus (milkfish).

Food for the Mind

Linda Nietes, CEO and owner of the Philippine Expressions Bookshop talked about how culture and business can co-exist.

Nietes admitted that being a bookseller requires “a real passion, hard work and long hours” in order to do it. She has been a bookseller for the past 25 years (13 in the Philippines, 12 in the US)

“I sell the history, hopes and aspirations of every Filipino who writes. I want to share our diverse and vast heritage with the younger generation of Filipinos here today,” Nietes said.

She lamented the fact that Filipinos are generally not a book-reading public and considers that as her biggest challenge in the book-selling business.

“We raise the consciousness of the people in the community through book and poetry readings and author signings. I dream of a more socially aware, aggressive and intelligent Filipino-Americans,” she said.

Nietes also admitted that she has not earned her first million yet, and she probably wouldn’t.

“There are no millions that await me but as long as we preserve the Filipino customs and traditions that are slowly fading away, I would be contented and happy,” she shared.

A statement on fashion

Gina Alexander, President & Designer, Gina Alexander, Inc. went through various challenges that pushed her to the limit.

“There was a point when I lost all my energy to work but when I reflected, I realized that I needed to continue so I could do greater things,” she said.

“One of my heroes is Gina Lopez of ABS-CBN. My maiden name is Lopez so a lot of people ask me about her projects or if we are one and the same. When I met her, I found out that we have the same dreams in helping Filipino children,” Alexander shared.

Her company owns kiosk stores at Hollywood & Highland and The Grove selling her photo bags, which are also sold at Nordstrom, ICE Accessories and Saks, Inc. department stores.

Alexander’s passion for helping children is reflected in her work ethic as she donates a portion of every handbag sold to the Hope for Children. She is also taking care of about 50 children in the Philippines.

Top of her game

Suzie David is President and Founder of Asian and Hispanic Trading and Consulting, a company that specializes in the sales and marketing of office equipment and supplies to construction companies in the metro New York area that are engaged in federal, state and city government funded projects.

She is currently the Chairman of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce, a membership organization dedicated to promoting and assisting the New York women gain economic independence and achieve personal success through business ownership, microenterprise development and self-employment.

David offered the reasons why she made it. “I refuse to fail,” she remarked.

She took the plunge – “with pikit-mata and lakas ng loob” – when she ventured into the business world. With tenacity, determination and hard work, she made it.

Caring homes

With those traits, Nimfa Yamsuan Gamez built herself a mini-empire as she currently own and operates several home care facilities in Northern California. “I have a God-centered business and He is the one who guides me through it all,” she shared.

The summit’s Entrepreneur Forum: Make Me a Filipina Millionaire was in support of Make Mine a Million $ Business, a program of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence to help women micro entrepreneurs grow and build sustainable enterprises, create jobs and develop innovative products and services. (www.asianjournal.com)

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Groups Lambast New Gender Law

By Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – SB 777, a new law recently signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been getting criticisms from various sectors of California.

The new law requires textbooks, instructional materials, and school-sponsored activities to positively portray cross-dressing, sex-change operations, homosexual “marriages,” and all aspects of homosexuality and bisexuality, including so-called “gay history.” Silence on these sexual lifestyles will not be allowed.

Conservatives are worried that this new law will turn every government school into a sexual indoctrination center. It bans “discriminatory bias” against homosexuals and others with alternative sexual lifestyles. Some groups are already issuing calls to parents to get their children out of California’s public school system.

Authored by Senator Sheila Kuehl, a self-admitted lesbian, SB 777 amends the definition of “gender” to the Education Code: “Gender” means sex, and includes a person’s gender identity and gender related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.

SB 777 also deletes the true definition of “sex” from the Education Code. Currently, sex is defined as the “biological condition or quality of being a male or female human being.”

Because of the bill’s wide-open definition of “sexual orientation,” homosexual “marriages” and all aspects of homosexuality and bisexuality would be positively portrayed to children as young as kindergarten. SB 777 will teach these highly-controversial sexual subjects without parental permission.

The new mandate would be enforced by the attorneys of the California Department of Education, which would sue school districts that don’t comply.

One news article translated the new law into simpler terms. It bans the use of “Mom and Dad” and “husband and wife.” Also, a boy can go into the girls’ restroom if he pleases if that’s how he defines his gender. Consequently, a girl can also use the boys’ restroom for the same reason. High school Homecoming Kings and Queens may now both be either male or female, depending on how the person defines his/her gender.

“Parents are angry at the Democrats for passing this school sexual indoctrination bill and frustrated that Republicans did little to fight it,” said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families (CCF), a leading California-based pro-family organization.

“The notion of forcing children to support controversial sexual lifestyles is shocking and appalling to millions of fathers and mothers. Parents don’t want their children taught to become homosexual or bisexual or to wonder whether they need a sex-change operation. SB 777 will shatter the academic purpose of education by turning every government school into a sexual indoctrination center,” he said.

Thomasson is calling upon every California parent to pull their child out of California’s public school system.

“The so-called ‘public schools’ are no longer a safe emotional environment for children. Under the new law, schoolchildren as young as kindergarten will be sexually indoctrinated and introduced to homosexuality, bisexuality, and transsexuality, over the protests of parents, teachers and even school districts,” he said.

Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed similar bills last year when he was running for re-election, conservative groups noted. Surprisingly, he signed the bill three weeks ago without any comment.

Supporters said the new law is supposed to eliminate “confusion” about the State’s responsibility to ensure that all school programs, textbooks, instructional materials and activities are free from unlawful discrimination.

Schwarzenegger also signed a bill allowing domestic partners and married couples equal opportunity to change their surnames upon marriage or domestic partnership registration. Specifically, the bill would require that marriage license forms contain spaces for either party to indicate a change in his or her last name to his or her spouse’s last name.

Parents from all across California and the nation have been flooding concerned agencies  with calls and e-mails, completely stunned that Gov. Schwarzenegger would sign the bill.

One plan filed with Attorney General Jerry Brown last week to stop the signed law from taking into effect is calling for a referendum. Once it is given a title and documentation, supporters will have only 90 days to collect enough signatures – an estimated 434,000 – to qualify the referendum for an election ballot.

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FilAm Vets Celebrate Leyte Landing

By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — On a warm sunny day, Filipino WWII veterans and their supporters came out in full force celebrated the 63rd anniversary of the Leyte Landing at the Los Angeles National Cemetery last October 20.

Filipino WWII soldiers stood on hollowed grounds where more than 86,000 patriots were buried. They listened to the national anthem, the sound of the bugler’s trumpets playing Taps, and watched the ceremonial folding of the flag.

“This program is a salute to the greatest generation of soldiers of all time, those who liberated us from tyranny and oppression,” said Filipino Veterans Foundation Executive Director Dr. Jenny Batongmalaque.

On Oct. 20, 1944 Gen. Douglas MacArthur along with US troops landed in three beaches in Leyte, Philippines – San Jose, Dulag and Himayangan. The landing marks the spot where MacArthur and US troops returned after a two-year layoff. It also heralded the offensive campaign against the Imperial Japanese Army, the beginning of the end of Japanese rule in the country.

It was reported that upon landing on the beach, MacArthur famously cried out, “People of the Philippines, I have returned!”

US Air Force Honor Guards, members of the US Navy, the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society, and a large number of Filipino WWII veterans, widows, and their supporters, were among those who joined in the one-hour celebration.

The occasion also honored two WWII soldiers who recently passed away – US Navy Officer William Homer House and WWII Philippine Scout Mariano Loria. House passed away last September 13 at the age of 81. Loria, also in his 80’s, passed away last October 3.

Batongmalaque said the two veterans epitomized the sacrifice American and Filipino soldiers did to liberate the Philippines.

“They fought side by side to redeem the Philippines for freedom and democracy,” she said.

House was only 18 years old when he joined the US Navy. He was among several troops who landed in Leyte. As part of the US Navy Construction Battalion unit during WWII, he helped build airstrips and command posts for the Armed Forces in Central Luzon. After the war, he stayed in the Philippines and learned to speak Tagalog.

“He never forgot the times he spent in the Philippines,” said Batongmalaque, who was a close family friend of House.

“The Filipino veterans loved him because he could speak Tagalog. House never opened up to his family about his experiences in WWII but he did open up when he was with Filipino WWII veterans. He [House] fought for their cause and believed they should have their benefits,” she added.

Loria was part of a guerrilla unit during WWII in the Philippines. He joined the Philippine Scout and continued his service in the Philippine Air Force. After the war, he and his family immigrated to the US. He also fought for the passage of the FilVet Equity Bill until he succumbed to a brain hemorrhage.

Batongmalaque said Americans and Filipinos share a common lineage.

“This event elevates the awareness of American families that their fathers and grandfathers in their youth were among those who went to the Philippines and fought alongside Filipino veterans in the war,” she added.

House’s relatives were present. US Navy Capt. Greg Akers handed the folded flag to Brad House.

Fighting for Recognition

Sixty-three years after the war ended, Filipino WWII veterans are still fighting. This time it’s for their recognition and contribution in WWII.

“This is another reason why we celebrate this event,” said Batongmalaque. “We want our Filipino veterans to be part of the entire veteran’s world. When you know them one-on-one it personalizes their stories.”

“The bottom line is, both nations (the Philippines and US) were of one mind, one heart, and one soul in fighting for the same cause, which is freedom and democracy,” added Dr. Rico Jose, a visiting professor from the University of the Philippines. “This bond resonates even today, and long after every single one of those who fought in WWII are gone. It is fitting that we keep these historical events in our minds to remind us of the sacrifice they made.”

Rep. Filner Updates

In a taped video shown during the luncheon after the ceremony, Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) issued a statement on the significance of the Leyte landing and updated the progress of the Filipino Veterans Equity Act bill in Congress.

“This is a salute to the greatest generation, the liberators of freedom and democracy,” said Filner.

Filner announce that he is continuing to work with Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) to bring the Filipino Veterans Equity bill to the House of Representatives and the Senate for debate “as soon as possible.”

“This is the closest to our goal since we’ve introduced this bill in Congress and the many, many years we’ve been fighting for equity,” he added. “The wheels are in motion and both [Senate Veterans’ Committee] Chairman Akaka and I are fully committed to the passage of this bill.”

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US Senate Rejects DREAM Act

By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – The US Senate made an immigration clean sweep when they voted against advancing a bill that would have provided children of illegal immigrants a chance to gain legal status last October 24.

The Senate voted 52-44, well short of the 60 required to advance the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors). The bill would have granted children of illegal immigrants living in the US conditional status if they graduated from high school, have no criminal record, planned to attend college or join the military. After five years, they could apply for their citizenship papers.

Last June, the Senate also did not advance the broader comprehensive immigration reform bill, a larger bill where the DREAM Act was part of. That bill would have legalized more than 12 million undocumented immigrants and increased border security.

According to the US Bureau of Census in year 2000, there were about 2.5 million undocumented youth under age 18 who were living in the US.  A Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis at USC reported that each year, over 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high schools nationwide.
Senate Immigration supporters were hoping that the smaller DREAM Act bill would pass.

“Children should not be penalized for the actions of their parents,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to the Associated Press.

“What crime did these children commit?” added Sen. Dick Durbin, (D-Ill.) “They committed the crime of obeying their parents and following their parents to this country. Do you think there was a vote in the household about their future? I don’t think so.”

Republican leaders saw the bill as a first step to amnesty.

“I do not believe we should reward illegal behavior,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

“This would be the wrong direction,” added Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala). “This would be signal that once again we’re focused on rewarding illegality rather than taking the steps necessary to create a lawful system.”

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said he saw grave reservations about seeing a part of comprehensive immigration reform going forward, “because it weakens our position to get a comprehensive bill.”

After the bill did not advance in the Senate, the White House issued a statement.

“We continue to believe that the best way to address this issue is through a comprehensive bill, one that would put border security and interior security first, and that creates a temporary worker program and helps immigrants assimilate into our society,” said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

“You may recall in the immigration debate [that] we supported an alternative to the DREAM Act, in the context of overall comprehensive immigration reform. That’s obviously what is not being considered now, and we will review it. But I would note that the President has not supported it as a standalone measure in the past,” Perino added.

Local Reaction

In Los Angeles, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) expressed its extreme disappointment in the failure of the Senate to pass the DREAM Act.

APALC had been at the forefront of seeing the bill pass into law.

For the past two weeks, APALC had been urging Asian American community members to voice their support for the DREAM Act and on behalf of Tam Tran. The  24-year-old undocumented Vietnamese activist’s entire family was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents last week, three days after she spoke in favor of the DREAM Act in USA Today.

“Tam Tran’s voice was compromised,” said Daniel Huang, APALC policy advocate.  “The Asian American community did not want her voice to be silenced.”

“The DREAM Act would benefit thousands of innocent students, including many Asian Americans,” added Karin Wang, APALC Vice President of Programs.

“We thank Senators Feinstein and Boxer for their support of the DREAM Act, but we need Asian Americans in other states to raise their voices for this bill to pass,” she added.

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Filipinos on Top of Hollywood Animation

By Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

IN recent decades, most US animation companies have relied on Filipino talents to bring to life varied characters from Mulan to The Lion King to the Little Mermaid.

If you look closer at  animated films, you will see that there is a bahay kubo in little clownfish Nemo’s aquarium in Finding Nemo.  And there is a Mt. Mayon-inspired miniature volcano, Mt. Wanahakalugi. Thank Mang Nelson Bohol from Catbalogan for that touch of Pinoy in one of Hollywood’s box-office blockbusters.

Animator Virginia “Gini” Cruz, a Fine Arts graduate of the University of Santo Tomas from Pasay City, got to animate Dory, the bluefish voiced by Ellen DeGeneres.

In Lilo & Stitch, there are parols hanging in little Hawaiian girl Lilo’s Christmas sequence of the movie. That is the work of Manila-born animator Armand Serrano.

The surfer dude in the same movie, David Kawena, and the lovable alien Pleakley were brought to life by 20-year veteran award-winning animator Ruben Aquino from Mandaluyong.

The Flintstones Christmas Carol, an animated film nominated for the Emmys, takes place in Bedrock but is made in the Philippines.

Then, there is Stargate Digital’s Anthony Ocampo, a Fine Arts graduate of the University of the Philippines, who won the Visual Effects Society Award for his work on the Trojan horse in Helen of Troy.

Global Animation Haven

The Philippines is now known as the global animation haven. Industry estimates say about 90 percent of American television cartoons are now produced in Asia. Of that, more and more are bringing their business to the Philippines.

The animation industry in the Philippines started in 1983 when Burbank Animation, Inc. set up the first animation studio in the country. This was quickly followed by Fil-Cartoons, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hanna Barbera, a subsidiary of Turner Broadcasting which employs nearly 650 people in Manila. Filipino artists and technicians draw, paint and film up to 25,000 sketches, mainly by hand, for every 30-minute episode.

After 20 years, the animation industry now employs 4,500 full time employees in 40 animation studios in the country. Its estimated revenues last year reached 54 million US dollars, according to reports.

Sense of Humor

The Filipinos’ sense of humor makes this profession a natural thing for us. Our love of storytelling and telling jokes as a people despite life’s adversities are traits that are valuable in this line of work. Pinoy animators are recognized not only for their creative and artistic skills, an important factor in animation, but also for the consistent quality and speed by which they can deliver their output. They also pay close attention to detail and are proficient in English. Plus, they have an innate ability to comprehend concepts and storylines better than their Asian counterparts.

Mina Caliguia, managing director of ArtFarm Asia, the first animation school in the Philippines, supports this notion.

“We are entertainers by heart. We are expressive. We are unabashed in expressing movement, compared to our Asian counterparts. We are loud, physical, and wacky. All these characteristics have been translated into art form. That’s why we’re such good animators.”

Another advantage that Filipinos have is the fact that they understand the nuances of American humor better than their other Asian counterparts.
“Because of the Western influence the Philippines has had for so many decades, and when you’re doing a cartoon [with] Western humor, [Filipino animators are] able to animate it much better,” said Bill Dennis of Fil-Cartoons.

Visit the various film studios in the US and you’ll be proud to see several wacky Filipinos in the drawing tables or cubicles.

Jessie Romero, animator

In 20th Century Fox Animation, you will find outstanding Filipino animator Jessie Romero. Born in Quezon City, Jessie was among a few animators hired from Manila to work in major studios in the States more than decade ago.

Recently, Romero related to Asian Journal his adventure from Manila to the entertainment capital of the world.

“Bata pa ako, mahilig na akong mag-drawing (I really love to draw even as a kid.). When I learned that Fil-Cartoons needed artists, I applied. There were several hundred applicants. Thank God, I was among the few who made it. Two of us were immediately transferred to work on Walt Disney projects.”

“In 1996, 20th Century Fox was hiring Filipino artists to work on  Anastasia the Movie. Again, there were hundreds of applicants. And by God’s amazing grace I was one of the few who passed the test. I knew it was only by God’s provision that I was able to pass because there was a lot of very talented people who took the test. Even my bosses took the chance and tried to get in but did not make it,” Romero added.

Sixty Filipino artists were brought to Arizona with their families. Jessie was supposed to be among them but his agent singled him out and brought him to Los Angeles. And the rest, as they say, is history.

For the past 11 years, Jessie has worked for Fox Animation Studios, Film Roman, Klasky Csupo, Nickelodeon, Hanna Barbera, Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney TV. He was one of the few artists who were chosen to do The Rugrats. Among the many other animation films Jessie has worked for are Flintstones Christmas special, Tom and Jerry, Addams Family, Johnny Quest, Avatar, Winnie the Pooh, King of the Hill, Yogi the Easter Bear, Avengers, Darkwing Duck, Beauty and the Beast, 101 Dalmatians, Power Puff Girls,Captain Planet and American Dad.

“Every project that I worked on is my favorite because it’s the passion of doing art work that’s the most important thing to me. Every project for me is a masterpiece,” told Asian Journal.


Jessie revealed that in his first few months in the US, he was so homesick he wanted to go home to the Philippines.

“I didn’t liked the States at first, “ he admitted.  “After 3 months of staying here, I was so homesick, I wanted to go home and just stay in the Philippines. But I had a contract to finish.”

“Homesickness is one battleground that is really hard to tackle. Being alone in a foreign country was a pain. But the Lord is good. He brought me to a good church, Word International Ministries- LA where I met a new set of friends and family. It’s also where I met my wife Lizette. We now have 3 kids- Jacob, Jessica and Jeremy. For all the success and happiness I have now, I give glory to God,” Jessie said.

Jessie revealed that in the animation industry in the States, Filipinos are known for their great creativity and accomplishments. “Our race is well respected in our field,” he announced.

Jessie offered this advice to his kababayans.

“For all the Pinoys who are starting your life here in the States, my advice is to learn the culture that you are in. Educate yourself on how to deal with the new environment. Don’t hesitate to ask for professional advice. If you are willing to stay here for good, do not procrastinate in taking care of your documents. Make sure you have the right counsel because there a lot of people in this part of the world that will take advantage of you being new here in the States. Finally, be strong and trust that the Lord  will see you through. God bless you,” said the animator who is also a music minister in his church.

Thanks to Jessie and other Pinoy animators, Filipinos are being regarded in the global market as animators par excellence; Manila is als the cartoon capital of the world. So, the next time you watch a TV cartoon or an animated film, take a closer look.  You just might spot some Pinoy touches like a colorful jeepney or a bahay kubo.

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FilAm Runs for Mayor

By Malou Aguilar/Asianjournal.com

VALLEJO — It was not his name that caught our attention. Cris Villanueva is the namesake of a popular Filipino teen actor in the 80s. In a letter published in the Vallejo Times-Herald sent by a longtime resident, Lagreeh Flores wrote her concern about the financial budget crisis facing Vallejo. She then continued to describe a man who she believes can change the quality of life in their city.

Villanueva, a resident of Vallejo, has continuously shown his passion for public service.  In 1989, he joined the city council race and was successfully elected for two consecutive terms (1989-1997). He was also appointed as vice mayor in 1994.  This same passion is the reason why he is running for mayor.

His philosophy, “vision into action,” is what makes Villanueva different from other candidates. He believes that it takes knowledge, dedication and hard work to deliver results and be a strong leader.   A certified public accountant, he is now busy preparing for the upcoming US elections on the first week of November.  The good news is that Villanueva has edged out his other rivals by raising as much as $113,000 in campaign funds, as reported by the Times-Herald.

Villanueva is a full-blooded Pinoy. He grew up mostly in the quiet town of Dolores, Quezon.    He used to be an accounting professor at the Lyceum of the Philippines. He taught at the Centro Escolar University and the Philippine College of Commerce. He also served as vice president for finance for Delgado Brothers, Inc. before moving to the US in the 1975.  He settled in Vallejo and for the first two years, worked overtime almost everyday to save money.  In 1977, the same time he bought his first house, he went back to the Philippines to marry his long time fiancee, Candy.

Though he earned his California Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license in 1983, Villanueva admitted that he experienced some racial discrimination. This included working endlessly but being passed over other employees, in most cases, an Anglo-American.  Still, he was driven to serve the people of Vallejo, including his desire to improve how Pinoys are treated.

Bringing Vallejo ‘back in the black’

Villanueva believes that he is the candidate who can make positive changes in Vallejo.  His ‘back in the black’ plan focuses to resolve the city’s financial budget crisis to improve the quality of life.   In his website CrisVillanueva.com, he outlined his vision for economic recovery. This  includes issuance of new tax exempt bonds to create tourist infrastructures to make Vallejo a more inviting tourist destination, the creation of enterprise zones to attract green and clean industries to produce jobs for residents, and economic development and revenue enhancement without cuts and further taxes.

For budget, Villanueva strongly proposes long-term projections for both revenues and expenditures, fiscal impact analysis on every adopted resolution and periodic monitoring of actual and budgeted revenues and expenses.  He also has recommendations and proposals about other issues on public safety, health and welfare and
education, as well as programs for the youth and senior citizens.

With the programs that he plans to implement throughout the city, he knows that he can continue bringing more businesses into Vallejo.  These will provide continual job growth and stronger employment opportunities, balance the budget and satisfy the needs of residents and tourists.

Family man

For 30 years now, Villanueva has been a dedicated and faithful husband to Candy, who is a registered nurse at Kaiser Hospital in Vallejo.  Having lost his father when he was only six months old, Villanueva and his three siblings were raised solely by their mother, Carmen.  Mrs. Villanueva worked hard to make sure that all her children received education. She believes that education is the best gift a mother can give with her children.

This lesson has been passed on to Villanueva’s pride and joy, his four children.  His only son, Christopher is now a State policeman in Napa, and a reserved captain at the US Air Force.  Daughters Crystal and Candace are both registered nurses at Queen of the Valley Hospital and Sutter Solano Medical Center, respectively, while youngest daughter, Carissa, is a sophomore at the St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School.  Villanueva is also a caring grandfather to only grandson, Noel.

Still a Pinoy at heart

Given the chance to serve as mayor of Vallejo, Villanueva’s heart is fixed on helping the Philippines and his fellow Filipinos.  “As soon as I win, I will set up a trade mission to the Philippines and other Asian countries,” he said in an interview with GMANews.TV.   During his term as vice mayor, Villanueva established Baguio as a sister-city of Vallejo.  At present, he plans to expand the trade relationship with Baguio and the Philippines with the possibility of establishing an American school of medicine and nursing.

While a number of Filipino immigrants tend to be passive about their heritage especially when they have been assimilated in the American culture, Villanueva still proves to be a Pinoy at heart.  In fact, he is taking a hands-on approach on his children by immersing them in Filipino culture.  He instills in them strong family ties and values, as well as the importance of education.

Apart from his public service record, financial knowledge, experience and qualification, dedication and ‘vision into action’ motto, his Pinoy heart and values is probably what makes him stands out from the rest of the candidates.

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FilAms and the SoCal Wildfires

By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

WILD Fire: There were 15 major fires this past week in Southern California. The areas affected were in Castaic, Stevenson Ranch, Agua Dulce (Santa Clarita), Malibu, Martin Ranch (San Bernardino), Devore, Grass Valley (Lake Arrowhead), Green Valley Lake, Santiago (East Orange County), Ammo/ Horno (Camp Pendleton Marine Base), Rosa (Temecula), Rice (Fallbrook), Mt. Palomar (San Diego), Witch (Poway) and Harris (San Diego).

Damage: More than 485,000 acres were burned and 4,400 homes or structures lost as of press time. So far, the fires left more than $1 billion in damages. More than 500,000 people had to be evacuated. Seven people have been reported died although only a couple of the fatalities were killed directly by the fires.

Tax Relief: The Franchise Tax Board announced several relief measures to the victims of wildfires in seven Southern California Counties. The FTB will allow victims to receive additional tax refunds this year by immediately reporting their disaster losses through amended 2006 returns. For more information, go to FTB’s website http://www.ftb.ca.gov.

Reaching Out: The Los Angeles Philippine Consulate General has opened an emergency line for Filipino Nationals affected by the Southern California wild fires.

Filipino nationals  who are affected and need assistance can call (213) 268-9990.

Orange County Hotline: The Community Action Partnership of Orange County (CAPOC) is also working with local emergency responders to help the victims of Orange County’s wild fire. Members of the Asian Pacific Islander community who are affected by the wild fires can call (800) 660-4232.

San Diego Hotline: Former Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of San Diego President Carmelita “C. L.” Larrabaster-Vinson has opened her home and office in Chula Vista to those who have evacuated their homes. She can be reached at (619) 948-2459.

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Sal Gatdula Talks About ‘Finishing the Game’

By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

Despite not getting recognition for roles that he produces in his films, Gatdula still plays a most important part.

“I’m like Mr. Everything [on the set],” he said. “Whatever they need me to do I’ll do. I make sure that everything is taken care of,” he said.

The 35-year-old Gatdula is a producer for Trailing Johnson Production. Justin Lin, an Asian-American director, is the founder of Trailing Johnson Production. Lin is best known for his films, Better Luck Tomorrow and The Fast and the Furious.

This weekend, Lin and Gatdula’s latest work Finishing the Game will play with limited release at the Landmark Nuart Theatre in Santa Monica. The movie is a 1970’s period comedy that centers on the casting process for Bruce Lee’s replacement after the actor and martial arts expert passed away unexpectedly while shooting the Game of Death.

“Everyone always wonders who took over Bruce Lee [after his death],” said Gatdula. “We thought it would be funny to make a movie about it.”

The film also examined the role of Asian Americans in film. With a large minority cast of Korean, Chinese, Filipino and other Asian ethnicities, Finishing the Game aimed to study the Asian American identity and how it is related to the entertainment industry.

“I love the film,” he said. “It doesn’t take itself too seriously and I think it makes a statement. It’s about [Asian American] visibility and our struggle to be seen especially in front of the camera,” Gatdula added.

Lack of recognition

Gatdula is all too familiar with the lack of recognition for Asian Americans in the entertainment industry.  It was the reason why he did not pursue a career in the entertainment business after he graduated from UCLA.

Gatdula was fortunate enough that he used to be Lin’s former UCLA college roommate.

“Six guys in a three bedroom wasn’t too pretty,” he recalled. “But [it was] a lot of fun. Justin [Lin] was the most passionate person. You knew that if he didn’t make it, Asian Americans would have a hard time.”

But sharing a room with Lin proved to be more than just mere luck. Gatdula admitted that while growing up, it has always been his dream to be involved in the entertainment industry.

“My parents always told me to be an engineer, or a doctor. Something stable, ” Gatdula shared.

Gatdula graduated with a degree in Applied Mathematics and worked for a small consulting firm. He kept in close contact with Lin. When Lin got his first big break with Better Luck Tomorrow, Gatdula helped him in anyway he could. “From there, when Justin started his company he asked me to join him and I did,” he said.

After five years of working in the entertainment industry, hobnobbing with famous celebrities, Gatdula realized that the entertainment industry was only glitz and glamor on the outside. Inside, it was rugged and harsh  – especially if you’re an Asian American man or woman trying to become a mainstream actor.

“I would say the entertainment industry is one of the toughest industries to break,” he admitted. “It might be easier for an Asian woman to get a part [than a man] but her part [would be] stereotypical.”

Gatdula said that during the pre-production of Finishing the Game, Lin had to go to marketing meetings with the distributors.

“Basically, it’s a room full of people and they had a pie-chart of all the different slices of people who would watch the movie,” he said. “There was a Caucasian slice, a Hispanic [slice], and an African-American slice but there was no Asian category. They basically said that Asians have the same buying habits as Caucasians.”

“We [Asian Americans] are invisible in the heads of business people,” he added.

Asked how long before this is going to change, Gatdala said he wished he knew.

“Ten, maybe 15 years,” he said. “I don’t know. It took African Americans a long time to break in the industry. We see the Hispanics making their movies now. As for Asian Americans, it starts with support.”

“It needs to start in our [Filipino] community then spread it into the different Asian markets. The problem with Asians is that there are so many of us, it’s so broad, that we all can’t unite,” Gatdula further said.

Finishing the Game opens this Friday, October 26.

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Undocumented Student Activist Arrested

By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) is asking for immigrant community support after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities arrested a 24-year-old Vietnamese immigration advocate and her family.

Tam Tran, a former honor student graduate and Ph.D. candidate at UCLA, and her family were arrested October 8 by ICE agents at their home in Orange County. ICE officials charged Tran and her family with being fugitives from justice despite being immigrants seeking political asylum in the US for the past 18 years. They were released the next day with monitoring devices.

“Many in our community are scared to come out and lend their voices to the immigration debate because of ICE actions like these,” said APALC’s Immigration Policy Advocate Daniel Huang. “Such heavy handed tactics do nothing to solve our immigration problems and only serve to hurt families, refugees, and those in greatest need of assistance.”

Tran’s journey has been well documented. She represents one of thousands of undocumented students and children of illegal immigrants.

Tran has been outspoken in her efforts before State and US House legislators for the passage of the Federal DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act that would allow children of undocumented to become US citizens if they meet certain criteria. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the State DREAM Act that would have allowed undocumented students access to school financial aid.  Schwarzenegger said it would strain the State’s General Financial Aid Fund.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that 1.5 million Asians in the US are undocumented. Of that number, the National Federation of Filipino American Association (NaFFAA) estimated more than 500,000 hail from the Philippines.

Tran’s Plight

“I am lucky…to share my story and give voice to thousands of other undocumented students who cannot,” testified Tran’s during a House hearing.

Since her graduation from UCLA in 2006, Tran has embarked on a series of speaking engagements to educate people and legislators about the plight of undocumented students.

Recently, Tran was one of many undocumented students that testified before the US House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law last May.

According to the House transcripts, Tran’s parents fled Vietnam during the Vietnam war. A German ship rescued Tran’s parents at sea and brought them to Germany where Tam and her 21-year-old brother was born. Her family then migrated to Southern California seeking political asylum. After a lengthy battle, they lost the asylum case. The Immigration court ordered her family to be deported to Germany.

However, Germany does not grant birthright citizenship. German officials did not grant the family a visa. The family stayed in the US and continued to seek political asylum.

In 2001, the Bureau of Immigration court ruled that the father had suffered persecution in Vietnam for his political beliefs. Tran and members of her family were able to obtain Government identification and work permits from immigration officials.

Meanwhile, Tran continued to succeed in school. She assimilated into the fabric of American culture.

“I am culturally an American… I grew up watching Speed Racer and Mighty Mouse (cartoons)  every Saturday morning,” said Tran.

She graduated with honors at UCLA and was accepted to a Ph.D. program in Cultural Studies. UCLA also awarded Tran a department fellowship and minority fellowship.

“But the challenges I faced as an undocumented college student began to surface once again,” said Tran in her testimony.

Despite the fellowship and scholarships, the hefty price tag of $50,000 along with living expenses thwarted Tran’s educational dreams. Her undocumented status did not allow her State financial aid.

“When you’re in my situation you have to, or learn to, or are forced to make compromises.”

Tran began to work as a film editor but also encountered problems. Three days before she testified in front of Congress, her work informed her that it would be her last day at work until she renews her work permit.

“Every year, I must apply for a renewal but never have I received it on time,” said Tram. “This means every year around this month (May), I lose the job that I have.”

“But it’s okay, because I’ve been used to this – to losing things I have worked hard for. Not just this job but also the value of my college degree and the American identity I once possessed as a child.”


Chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee US House Representative Zoe Lofgren accused ICE officials of “witness intimidation” and trying to silence Tran and her family.

Huang said the timing of Tran and her family’s arrest is suspicious.

Three days before her arrest, Tam was featured on a USA today article, “Children caught in the immigration crossfire” about the number of undocumented children that are raised in the US and eventually, threatened with deportation to their home country.

“Of course, we can’t say for certain [that Tam was arrested because she spoke out],” said Huang.  “She’s been here, her family checks in yearly to immigration officials. How can anyone interpret them as criminals? We’re very suspicious.”

Phone calls to ICE authorities were not returned as of press time.

Huang said looking at the bigger picture, this arrest might affect the number of undocumented immigrants to keep silent.

“That’s something that we’re very concerned about,” said Huang. “This immigration debate and policy issues rely on the voice that is most affected. We don’t want to see anyone’s speech silenced through this kind of intimidation tactic.”

“Those in our community who are judgmental about illegal immigrants often don’t realize that they include asylum denials, visa overstays, and immigrants who simply have no legal avenue for staying here,” added Sara Sadhwani, APALC’s immigrant rights project director. “We hope the Asian American community will unite in support of the Tran family and their painful ordeal.”


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