Daily Archives: March 28, 2008

A Journey to a Nation’s Past: A One-Woman Exhibition by Athena Santos Magcase Lopez

by April Tiamzon/Asianjournal.com

“Art should convey and inspire change. It should confront prevailing issues in the hope of moving the collective imagination and will to find ways and means to improve the quality of life, not just for a few but for the many.” — Athena Lopez

A one-woman exhibition entitled An artist’s story of the Filipino People by Athena Santos Magcase Lopez is being featured in the United Nations Secretariat Lobby from March 24 to April 4, 2008. Lopez utilized a predominantly earth-tone palette of ochres, burnt umbers, siennas, perhaps indicative of her own (brown) Malay heritage in her paintings. While her earlier works display brushstrokes that are choppy, textured and lavish in detail, her recent works attain a more fluid and mellow effect (though with the sepia tones) at the same time are richer and more vibrant.

In memory of Filipino heroes, the picture series is a collection of portraits and images of some of the important figures and events that, in her view, have helped define Filipino nationhood. The artist strongly believes that Filipino heroes, both sung and unsung; who have struggled for social justice and change, a national identity, and independence from foreign domination.

The series presents an invitation as well as a challenge for Filipinos everywhere to bridge the archipelagic nature of the country’s 7,100 islands and its people’s attendant regionalistic tendencies. Lopez hopes that viewers will remember the historical characters in the paintings, and in so doing, experience a personal passage that will enable them to embrace the idea of the Philippines as one nation. She also dreams that the series will encourage unity among her countrymen.

Athena Santos Magcase Lopez comes from a family of visual artists, poets, and politicians who have influenced her life and works. Athena tends to do thematic paintings of so-called social realism instigated by her homeland’s turbulent times and events, past or present, to encourage in people an awareness of painful realities or issues that, in her opinion, need to be addressed. Through one painting or a series of pictures, she aims to achieve a more personalized imagery or commentary on historical or current events. Where possible, she uses her own experiences to help convey mood or a message.

Lopez’s paintings are sold in giclee prints because she believes that the image would be more effective in inspiring people if she is able to share it with a wider audience, and not in a very exclusive collection.


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Filipino Medical Workers Set to Get $3M in Back Wages

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

THE US Labor Department charged on Tuesday a US medical staffing firm with violating a foreign labor program after it allegedly owed almost three million dollars in back wages to its Filipino workers.

The New York-based Advanced Professional Marketing Inc. (APMI) and its president, Marissa Beck, were charged by the department with violating provisions of an immigration law that authorized employers to bring non-immigrant workers into the United States under the H-1B program.

An investigation by the department discovered that APMI has underpaid 156 H-1B guest workers from the Philippines employed as physical therapists in hospitals and other medical facilities in the New York metropolitan area. The department directed APMI and Beck to return almost three million dollars in back wages to the Filipino workers.

The department sent a “determination letter” enumerating the results of the probe on March 11, assessing penalties totaling 512,000 dollars for the alleged violations by the company.

Advanced Professional Marketing Inc and Beck could request a hearing on the issue before a US Labor Department administrative law judge within 15 days, the statement said.

The H-1B program permits employers to temporarily hire foreign workers for jobs in the United States in professional occupations such as computer programmers, engineers, physicians and teachers. However, the H-1B workers must be paid at least the same wage rates as are paid to US workers who perform the same types of work or the prevailing wages in the areas of intended employment.


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Post Lenten Special: 2008 Lent in the Philippines: Catholic faith resounds across the nation

By Anna Krisna Noble Bautista/Asianjournal.com

POPULAR for being one the happiest countries in the world for Christmas celebration, the Philippines may as well be the best place to commemorate the Passion and Death of Christ.

Though the Church of the Nativity, the Holy Sepulchre, and Mount Tabor cannot be found in the only Catholic Nation in the Far East, the Filipinos’ piety, hope, faith, and gratefulness to God compensates for the world’s most popular places of worship.

This year, the Lenten sea-son started early, with Ash Wednesday held on February 6. Churchgoers not only recalled the 40 days and nights of Jesus’s agony through penance and ash crosses on their foreheads; but they were also already preparing for the last week of the Lenten season.

Church leaders of the Most Holy Redeemer Parish, Araneta asked parishioners to donate used papers, old newspapers and telephone directories to build the props for their programs for the Holy Week.

Characters for the Senakulo (re-enactment of Christ’s passion on stage) practiced and gathered funds. Though the same play is presented each year in almost, if not all, parishes, Senakulo has always been a product of great effort and has continuously been looked forward to. Who knew that the act would interest local celebrities and renowned film directors to make their own stage and movie versions?

On March 16, extraordinary celebrations of the Eucharist were held in various churches, where Masses were usually held in the same methodical manner, having attendees act their part as the people of Jerusalem. Palm Sunday was a feast as the faithful of Manila bought Php15 to Php 20 worth of decorated palm branches to herald the coming of Christ to Jerusalem. In the provinces, a number prefer to cut a shrub’s branch than spending such amount of money.

As soon as Maundy Thursday arrived, business districts in the country nearly became ghost towns. There barely were persons walking on the streets of Makati, only convenience stores were at service. Commuters and public transportation were rarely seen (note that public rail transits were also not operating). These circumstances made it much easier for believers to repent, as if searching for one’s soul only entails staring at the horizon or looking out the window .

In cities like Makati, such silence is priceless that residents in high-rise condominium buildings could only hear church bells toll and their own heartbeat.

More passionate memorials were seen in Quiapo where throngs of people gathered around a penitent lashing himself until he bled; a number of faithful walked barefoot on filthy lanes; and persons in their 70s and 80s staggered on their kne e s on the aisles of the church.

In every parish, lines of those who were asking for repose waited their turn on the confession boxes. Every residential street had at least one pasyon area , where believers of Christ can sing the incidents before he died. In the previous days, there were reports of local prisoners chanting pasyon in jail. One detainee said that religious activities like this made him feel less guilty.

On Good Friday, which is also the week’s devotion day for

Hesus Nazareno (Jesus of Nazarene), penitents who included Quiapo in their destination for Bisita Iglesia came only as close as five meters from the parish’s entrance to pray because of the throng. In the scorching heat of the sun, parents managed to carry their children while again walking barefoot toward the church.

The community reunified on Saturday night for their renewal of faith, and welcomed those who have just accepted Catholicism.

Finally, on Easter Sunday, Christ once-again drew crowds as He was about to meet His Mother, Mary before his resurrection in

Salubong. Glorious as it should be, joy was felt from the faithful. Those watching the momentous event at the Most Holy Redeemer Parish, Araneta cheered and clapped their hands as the black veil was taken off the Virgin’s vis-a-vis her son, who had just risen.

True, blue penitents, Catholic Filipinos attest that they were not hypocrites in acting their faith and showing their grief for the death of Christ. In fact, the Philippine National Police declared that there was a 20 percent decrease in crime rate during the Lenten season.

One might ask, are not all the troubles the nation is facing enough penitence for Filipinos to do more? If the country has such great citizens, why are political troubles, unemployment, and poverty still eminent in the Philippines?

The answer lies, however, in collective prayer, the chorus answers, the synchronized crying from guilt, the sound of the heart saying one should fast and participate, and the acknowledgment that one’s soul was saved by a Higher Being. The Lenten season in the country declares that whatever tragedy the country is in, hope and unity is always possible for Filipinos — and that is through Christ.


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“Don’t Blame Illegals for Budget Deficit” — Schwarzenegger

By Cynthia Flores/Asianjournal.com

In a meeting with local officials and business leaders in San Luis Obispo on Wednesday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked by Diane Blakeslee, mother of Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo,) how the state should handle fiscal burdens created by illegal immigrants.

In his response, Schwarzenegger said it would be a “big mistake” to blame illegal immigrants for the state’s looming $8 billion budget problem.

“There is, you know, always a time like this where you start pointing the finger at various different elements of what creates the budget mess, and, you know, some may point the finger at illegal

immigrants,” Schwarzenegger said. “I can guarantee you, I have been now four years in office in Sacramento, I don’t think that illegal immigration has created the mess that we are in.”

The governor has spent the last two weeks traveling to different cities to discuss the budget and ask local residents to pressure their legislators into early negotiations.

He was in San Luis Obispo to pitch his budget proposal to local officials and business leaders. His comments came a day after Assembly Republicans announced a package of 20 bills they said would help California reduce the “negative impact” that illegal immigrants have on the state budget. Included are proposals to repeal a law enabling undocumented students from paying in-state college tuition and demand more money from the federal government for housing illegal immigrants in state prisons.

Schwarzenegger said he believes the United States should pursue immigration reform and have tougher border controls. But he added that blaming illegal immigrants “because we have a budget problem would be a big mistake. I think we have to look at ourselves in Sacramento. We in Sacramento have the responsibility to come up with a coherent budget system, and we haven’t done that.”


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