Daily Archives: January 17, 2008

Missing FilAm IRS Agent Confirmed Dead

by Maria Sunantha Quibilan/Asianjournal.com

MILL VALLEY – Filipino American IRS agent Veronica Ruiz, who had been missing in California since December 3, has been confirmed dead. The Marin County coroner’s office was able to confirm through dental records that the body of a female found on Mount Tamalpais Sunday afternoon was Ruiz’s and that she had apparently committed suicide by shooting herself in the head.

The Marin County’s search and rescue team found the body during a training exercise in a very secluded area surrounded by dense brush. They found Ruiz’s government-issued handgun by her side and her purse containing her US Treasury Department photo identification at the place of her death.

According to reports, the 25-year-old Ruiz was despondent after a breakup with her boyfriend when she went missing from her hometown of Mill Valley. On the day of her disappearance, she had cancelled lunch with a friend and called in sick to work in the morning. That afternoon, Ruiz informed friends that she was going trail hiking. At 10 p.m. that same day, she was reported missing.

Two days after, on December 5, all official search efforts were suspended and the Ruiz family organized their own search, putting up a website and calling upon volunteers.

The confirmation of Ruiz’s death ends the search that lasted more than a month and involved hundreds of volunteers, which included federal agents and Ruiz’s colleagues in the IRS.

The latest message posted on the website set up to aid in the search for Ruiz reads: “The family and friends of Veronica Ruiz would wholeheartedly like to thank all our volunteers for all their efforts in the search. Your prayers, awareness created, supplies and monetary donations have contributed to bringing resolution to our family.”

Funeral arrangements are pending and will be announced later by the Ruiz family.


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UP Jumpstarts Centennial Celebration

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

QUEZON CITY – Burning lights, fireworks, performances, personalities and a thick crowd marked the beginning of the year-long centennial celebration of the University of the Philippines (UP).  Students, alumni, alumnae and their families trooped to the main campus in Diliman, Quezon City to be part of the once-in-a-lifetime event.

The day-long event kicked off with a morning mass in UP Manila, which used to be the main campus until 1948. The historic transfer was commemorated via motorcade from UP Manila to UP Diliman. The delegates met with contingents from UP Baguio, Los Baños, Pampanga, Visayas, Mindanao, and Open University along the way and proceeded to University Avenue in Diliman.

Among the highlights of the celebration were skydivers on exhibition jumps, the blowing of ten tambuli horns and the launching of a hundred kwitis rockets. The newly-refurbished Carillon was also played along with 100 gun salutes of the UP Rifle Team.

Amid banners that read “UP @ 100: Ang Galing Mo!” and the serenading of UP Naming Mahal, the school’s alma mater song, a torch relay highlighted the kick-off ceremonies. The relay was participated in by 100 torch bearers composed of students, faculty, alumni and key personalities and officials coming from the entire UP system.

All eyes were on the first torch bearer, Engr. Fernando Javier, a graduate of Civil Engineering from UP Manila in 1933, who led the parade of lights of the Isko’t Iska (Iskolar ng Bayan). At 100 years old, he walked the lengths of the campus’ academic oval with glee and pride. He is the oldest living alumnus. The 99th torch bearer, on the other hand, was the youngest in the pack – Michael Reuben Dumlao, an excelling sixth-grader from UP Integrated School.

UP President Emerlinda Roman was the final torch bearer. She welcomed the 99 others, who then extinguished their torches, then lit the Centennial Cauldron with its “permanent flame,” a symbol of knowledge and inspiration that each student obtains from studying in the university.

She announced that UP remains “a national resource” and an “institution that has credibility.”

The Centennial Cauldron was designed by Joel Ajero, a 1969 Chemical Engineering graduate, which features three pillars representing the three core values of the University, and seven flowers that stand for the seven constituent universities in the UP system.

After the torch lighting, a free concert was held at the amphitheater behind UP’s Quezon Hall featuring UP’s home-grown talents such as the UP Madrigal Singers, UP Symphonic Orchestra, and UP Symphonic Band. The UP Pep Squad danced along with the orchestra.

A thirty-minute fireworks display capped the festive night.

Several commemorative lectures, cultural shows and homecomings around the seven UP units have already been calendared for the next 12 months.


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New Star Rising

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

FOR the past 24 years, the University of the Philippines’ College of Law has not produced any graduate with an honor higher than cum laude. Then came Dionne Marie Mercado Sanchez.

Graduating magna cum laude and class valedictorian in 2007, Dionne is the first law graduate with that honor since 1983 and only the second female since the college started. The first was a retired Supreme Court justice who graduated more than 50 years ago.

Those who know Dionne are not surprised at her latest achievement. Her long list of amazing accomplishments is quite rare for a 28-year old; or for anyone for that matter.

She graduated summa cum laude and class valedictorian from the UP College of Business Administration in 2002. She was awarded the most outstanding BS BAA graduate of UP. In high school at the Poveda Learning Center, Dionne was named outstanding student from 1993-1997 and graduated as the class valedictorian.  She is a certified public accountant, having placed 14th in the board exams. She also has the honor of being one of the ten outstanding students in the Philippines in 2002.

“I really don’t know what motivated me to excel in school. It wasn’t any pressure from my family,” she told the Asian Journal.

Dionne explains that her family had nothing to do with her drive to surpass and set records.  “Actually, my parents and siblings are more into business. They are fun-loving. They can’t understand what drives me although they are happy about it and supportive. Sometimes I wonder myself. I guess I was born with it,” she said with a laugh.

As a kid, Dionne dreamed of becoming a lawyer.

“Maybe my decision was influenced by my watching the TV series LA Law all the time. But through my years in school, the decision has been firmed up. I want to be partner in a firm. Areas of interest are corporate and taxation. I plan to take my Masters in a few years either in US or London. I want to continue teaching in UP CBA, and if I pass the bar, in the College of Law. I also want a private practice as an investment manager. But my personal advocacy is family law.”

Passing the bar is no question for this rising star attorney. But while waiting for the official results to come out in April 2008, Dionne is working as a junior associate in Poblador, Bautista, Reyes Law Office in Makati and teaching Basic Accounting in the UP College of Business Administration.

You would think that a whiz kid like Dionne would have no time for anything else than her studies. But her many other hobbies and activities prove that Dionne believes that all study and no play makes one a dull girl. She revealed to Asian Journal how a summa cum laude can still lead a very well-rounded life.

“I love to run. I have ran two full marathons (42 kms) already. I really enjoy running. I’m currently training for the HK Standard and Charter Marathon this year. I also go to the gym regularly because I believe we should always take care of ourselves. Physical appearances, unfortunately, are very important in this world, no matter how we try to deny it.”

“When not studying, I spend time with my friends. I’ve so many barkadas. We love to drink and eat, especially at buffets. I’m really addicted to coffee shops. I like dancing. I also cook as a hobby. I love the beach…I make sure to go to Boracay at least yearly and Cebu at least twice a year…And not to forget, I also love going to the beauty parlor,” the pretty Dionne revealed.

Married to Dr. Marc Maano, a resident of dermatology at the Philippine General Hospital, Dionne plans to travel a lot, study abroad and get some work experience. She explains though that “nothing beats home when it comes to settling down and living the life!”

Good news for the Philippines which has been losing so many of its people to greener pastures abroad. “I want to be a technocrat one day. Also, I plan to continue teaching. Of course, I plan to add to the GNP/GDP by earning a lot, ” she said with a grin. “Oh and I want to do a lot of pro-bono work later on, especially in family law such as annulments, adoption, and support,” she added.


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Nursing Shortage May be Over within 10 Years – Report

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com)

LOS ANGELES — Filipinos have turned the USA’s shortage in caregivers to their advantage in the last decade. Tens of thousands of Filipino nurses have immigrated to the US to fill in dire positions in hospitals across the country. Staffing agencies in the Philippines and the US say the largest market is California where the nursing shortage is most acute, having fewer nurses per capita than every State except Nevada.

The shortage has led hospitals to offer very attractive compensation packages to nurses, leading even medical doctors in the Philippines to pursue careers in nursing here.

With the US nurses getting older, many predicted that the nursing crunch would only get worse. But a recent study predicted that renewed efforts by nursing schools could make the nursing shortage history within 10 years.

According to a research recently released by the University of California-San Francisco’s Center for California Health Workforce Studies, the number of nursing school graduates has increased by 73 percent during the past five years.

“If policymakers can sustain the growth in nursing programs that they’ve achieved, the nursing shortage will be solved over the next 10 to 15 years,” lead researcher Joanne Spetz said.

However, the 2006 Board of Registered Nurses report stated that 45 percent of nurses with active California licenses are over 50 years old, meaning that when these huge number of nurses retire, relief may not be looming in the horizon.

To answer the problem, the California Governor’s Office launched a program in 2005 that included $90 million for expanding student enrollment in nursing degrees. Colleges such as UCLA and UC-Irvine have opened nursing baccalaureate programs. And junior colleges — which educate roughly two-thirds of the State’s nurses — have invested more in their programs.

But another problem is that nursing instructors have been particularly difficult to find. With wages as high as ever for nurses — the average nurse in California made $73,542 in 2006 — many nurses have chosen to practice nursing over teaching. Thus, the problem remains in finding enough teachers who want to leave behind nursing to instruct nursing hopefuls.

With a healthcare system that is desperate for nurses and a school system that lacks the resources to educate and train would-be nurses, the nursing shortage problem seems to have no solution in sight.

But Spetz remains optimistic. She said that with wages so high, she sees no shortage of interest in nursing. However, an earlier research she did in 2003 suggested that wages will decrease as the shortage declines.

Shown the UCSF’s new report by Asian Journal, Noreen, a nurse in Manila who just passed the NCLEX exam in Hongkong and waiting for her papers from the US, commented, “This nursing shortage in the US has been working to our advantage so we should act quickly and efficiently. As the cliche goes, we should make hay while the sun shines. Habang bukas ang pinto- pumasok tayo di ba? (While the door is open, let’s enter in, right?) Now, whether or not it is true that the shortage will be over in ten years, I believe we should just focus on the present opportunity. A lot can happen in ten years.”


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Dry Run of Nat’l ID System First – Sec. Gonzalez

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

JUSTICE Secretary Raul Gonzalez on Wednesday proposed the conduct of a dry run to test the proposed national identification (ID) system after some sectors expressed apprehension that its implementation might lead to human rights abuses.

In an interview, Gonzalez told mediamen that he believes that the benefits of the ID system far overweights the consequences.

“There may be basis to these apprehensions because the fact that in our country, a lot of infringements of certain rights have been discovered but as I said, you must weigh the benefits from the perceived evil which people are scared about,” Gonzalez stressed.

He pointed out that the fear of the Filipinos can be traced to the abuses that were committed during the Martial Law years.

The DOJ chief said the ID system can be used by the military in its effort to neutralize terrorist and communist groups in the country. It will also help people in their daily transactions with government and private offices.

He further said that that the possible consequences and abuses in the identification system like loss of privacy and eavesdropping can addressed through its strict implementation of the law and by creating sufficient safeguards.

Gonzalez added that the Congress should further debate on the ID system in order to give people more information about its pros and cons.

“The common belief is that it might be abused, that privacy might be violated but I think it’s a matter of enforcement. Just as in any other regulations, it’s actually how you carry everything out and if there are excesses, how to prevent the excesses.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, earlier, stressed that the ID system cannot be implemented without an enabling law.

He cited the 1998 decision of the Supreme Court stating that only Congress can pass a law for such a purpose.

Gonzalez is optimistic that kinks in the ID system can be ironed out through a series of dryruns.


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Galing Pinoy: FilAm Actress Leading the Way

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — Actress Camille Mana is best known for her recurring role as Lisa, an underachiever on the defunct UPN TV show One on One. In real life, however, Mana, is anything but.

“I’ve worked real hard with a strange level of focus most people would describe as insanity,” she said.

The 24-year-old thin loquacious actress with Filipino and Chinese looks is a certified hard-worker. She has a successful acting resume that spans more than seven years from commercials, television to films. She has an Economics degree from UC Berkeley, finishing in only six semesters.

Recently, she became an award-winning producer when her short film Equal Opportunity won Best Film in NBC/Universal’s First Annual Comedy Shortcuts Film Festival in 2006. The award led to a $25,000 development deal with NBC/Universal.

The short film shows a typical multi-racial workplace where co-workers take a break and talk to each other freely, unmasking the normal political correctness afforded in modern-day interaction.

This year, Mana will be seen showcasing her acting prowess next to legendary screen and TV actor Dennis Quaid and Sarah Jessica Parker in the Miramax movie Smart People.  She is also playing a female lead role in the Lionsgate teen movie comedy, College, set to debut at the same time as Smart People sometime in April.

Despite all her successes in such a short amount of time, she’s hoping her performances can give way to more chances for Asian and Filipino American actors into the mainstream.

“I’m so blessed to be where I am,” she said. “There are so few opportunities for us. It’s tough to be an Asian American actor. So many of us go to college, have a degree, yet here we are reading for one line as the Chinese delivery waiter, or the Asian prostitute. It can be so degrading to even get that audition. We are changing things…[but] there has to be more of us writing, producing and creating stories that integrate Asian characters to the mainstream.”

It’s the reason why she spends so much time dedicating herself to the involve more minorities in Hollywood.

“That’s why I’m producing now,” she added. “You have to have writers and producers creating opportunities for Asian American actors.”


Mana can’t quite put her finger where the acting bug in her vein started. Her father was a former “rocket scientist” during the Cold War (“He actually holds a patent for many of the technologies that came out during that time.”) while her mom was a “typical Filipina working as a nurse.”

Growing up in Orange County, Mana was the baby of the family with a lot of expectations. Her parents expected her to follow her brother’s footstep, who at the time was studying to be a doctor. Mana, however, became interested in show business at an early age.

When she was nine, her parents brought her to watch Phantom of the Opera.

“It was like being struck by lightning,” said Mana of the performance. “I was only nine years old and I remember being so moved and very emotional as a little girl.”

“I knew this is what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a professional actress and that’s that,” she added.

At the age of 12, she said she would ride a bike to the local library and bookstore reading “anything and everything about acting.”

“I was reading about [Constantin] Stanislavski, and the method approach to acting,” she said. “Then I would read all the How-to-break-in-to-Hollywood books. I was just storing up the knowledge.”

However, her parent’s forbade her to pursue such a lofty endeavor. It took Mana a lot of conniving and convincing before her parents began to realize their daughter would give up  her art.

“They thought it was just a whim,” she recalls. To Mana, it was her passion.

It wasn’t a success story from the beginning for Mana. Her first audition in high school was a let down. Her perseverance paid, however, when she got cast in a community theater production of Oklahoma.

“It was funny because here I was a small Filipino girl in Oklahoma,” she said. “From there, they [her parents] were stuck.”

Later, her young career earned Mana numerous acting awards. She later on drove to Los Angeles for more professional acting classes. “This was my side life,” she said. “My parent’s allowed me to do it as long as I maintained my 4.3 grade point average.”

No success in sight

Unbeknownst to her agent, Mana had been attending UC Berkeley. In spite of the distance, she went on auditioning for parts with little success.

“I was determined,” she said. “I would fly to Los Angeles on four hours notice. My agent never knew I was going to school. But I never missed an audition. I got down here paid for the flight with my own money even if I had finals the next day. It seemed like it was a losing battle. I would read one line and wouldn’t get a call back.”

From 2001 to 2005, she played bit parts in Hollywood. She shot one episode of Angel, The OC and a few other television series but never quite had a chance to fully showcase her talent.

Her big break came when UPN revamped the show, One on One.

“The moment before One on One, I was about to quit the business,” she said.

She credits her 22 recurring appearance on the now defunct television series as her training wheels.

“I was now one of the six leads,” she said. “Having come from only doing bit parts, it’s a whole new world. I learned so much being on the set everyday.”

Reflecting on her success, she realizes that her confidence had to go through a period of “personal doubt and big challenges” before making it.

She advises those trying to make it in the industry to never give up their dream.

“It’s all about how much you want it,” she said.

However, despite having achieved so much in so little time, Mana is not done calling it a career yet.

“I told you I was struck by lighting,” she said. “That fire in my belly has not gone out.”


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