Daily Archives: April 7, 2008

Music to Our Ears

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – The East Coast is all-agog these days for the much-anticipated first apostolic journey of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States from April 15 to 20. The plans for the five-day visit will include a meeting with President Bush at the White House, an address at the United Nations in New York, and a stop at Ground Zero. What is especially exciting to the American public, especially the Catholics, are the major events where they can see and greet the Pope.

In New York, he will say Mass at the Cathedral of St. Patrick and at the Yankee Stadium before they tear it down. The Pope will also lead an ecumenical, inter-religious event at the John Paul II Cultural Center and address a youth rally at the St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers.

Overseeing the music for these events and conducting both Masses is a young Filipina American – Dr. Jennifer Pascual, the Director of Music of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Aside from directing music at St. Patrick’s, a center of Catholic life in America, Jennifer is also host of the popular radio program “Sounds from the Spires” on the Catholic Channel 159. She currently teaches and serves as Director of Music at the St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in Yonkers, New York.

Born in LA in 1971, Jennifer proudly said that her parents are both from Manila and met in California. Her father is a retired Navy while her mother is a retired nurse.

A musical conductor and a liturgical and concert organist, Jennifer took her Bachelor of Music Education and Bachelor of Music in Organ and Piano Performance (magna cum laude) in Jacksonville University in Florida. She then moved to New York where she took up her Master of Music in Piano Performance at Mannes College of Music and her Doctor of Musical Arts in Organ Performance with a minor in Church Music at the Eastman School of Music.

“I have always enjoyed music as a child and growing up,” Jennifer said. she explained that She added that specializing in church music was a natural inclination. “I really didn’t want to do anything else. To have just a solo performing career is just that – solo – kind of lonely. I like working with people.”

Her prestigious position as the Director of Music at St.Patrick’s is something that Jennifer credits to luck.

“I happened to be conducting a concert at St. Joseph’s Seminary in NY and His Eminence, Edward Cardinal Egan was present. It was at a time that the Cathedral was in transition and looking for a new director of music. I simply happened to be in the right place at the right time,” she said.

From teaching piano classes and music at various schools to playing the organ in different Catholic churches, Jennifer has risen in her profession to become the Director of Music at the St. Frances de Chantal Catholic Church, the Associate Director of Music Ministries at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred and the Conductor of the New York Archdiocesan Festival Chorale before she was offered her present position.

“It is a lot of work” she admitted. “ And being in such a highly visible place, there are a lot of politics involved and a lot of people to keep happy. However, the flip side is that the people are wonderful, and we get to make beautiful music in one of the grandest cathedrals in the world. Everyone comes to New York, so I see people that I know from all over the world.”

Jennifer’s other job is hosting a radio program. “I never did it before and all of a sudden I got asked to do it,” she exclaims. “It’s once a week for an hour. We talk about music and how it ties in with faith, religion, get to know church musicians, that kind of thing,” she added.

Very few Filipinos. There is, however, an annual Filipino Mass and that is very well attended with almost a full cathedral,” she said.

“I really love the [Philippines], the food, the people. I wish the Philippines was not so far away so I could visit more often. I’ve only been there twice. I went last 2004 as the featured organist at the Las Piñas (my mother’s hometown) Bamboo Organ Festival,” she said.

When not busy at work, Jennifer usually just catches up with her sleep or she travels and enjoys fine dining. As to future plans, she admits she just wants to stay and direct music in St. Patrick’s.

“I hope to be here for a very long time! I just would like to continue to make great music not only in the Cathedral but throughout the Archdiocese of New York and hope that we continue to be a model for the rest of the United States,” she said.

Next time you visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, pause for a while, listen to the great music, and thank God for this Filipina giving such wonderful music to our ears.


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FBI & ICE Arrest Pinoys for Human Trafficking

By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have charged three people in connection with a human-trafficking scheme involving Filipino nationals brought into the US and forced to work in two local residential elder care facilities.

The FBI arrested Filipino Rodolfo Demafeliz, 39, and his assistant, Rolleta Riazon, 28, Thursday morning prior to boarding a flight to Manila, according to an FBI press release. The third person involved, Evelyn Pelayo, was also arrested at her residence in Los Angeles on Thursday.

The three were charged after criminal complaints filed in the US District Court in Los Angeles on April 2.

“The luring of persons into the United States on the promise of legitimate work and a better life, only to be held in what is, essentially, modern-day slavery is, regrettably, taking place in our community,” said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. “The charges allege that these victims were forced into debt bondage under threat of arrest or deportation, so the defendants could profit.”

According to the complaint, Demafeliz and Riazon recruited Filipinos in the Philippines with promises of employment at Pelayo’s nursing homes in Long Beach. The victims then were forced to work to pay for their “travel expenses,“ in a threatening and abusive environment.

The complaint also describes in detail how the alleged scheme was carried out.

According to the FBI release, Pelayo would allegedly recruit potential workers in the Philippines to work in her elder care facilities.

Once the victim agreed, Pelayo contacted Demafeliz. Demafeliz, a Taekwondo martial arts instructor, posed the victim to immigration officials as a Taekwondo student competing in a tournament for Visa purposes to bring them to the United States. The FBI added that there is no evidence to indicate that any of the victims ever participated in any tournaments in the US.

The complaint goes on to say that once the victims arrived, they were “forced to work 24 hours a day and advised that it would be necessary for them to work for several years while they repaid their travel debt.” If the victims tried to leave, Pelayo allegedly threatened to contact the police and ICE officials to deport them.

FBI Officials said that Pelayo allegedly held the victims’ passports and verbally abused them. She also instructed them to lie about the amount of hours they worked when questioned by officials with the Department of Social Services, who monitor the homes for the elderly.

During the investigation, the FBI’s Human Trafficking Task Force identified three victims who were working at the two elderly care facilities and an additional three workers were found during the execution of search warrants.

The victims have been placed in various shelters, according to the FBI.

“Forced servitude is an unconscionable crime and, as this case shows, it can take many forms,” said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles.

“Holding people against their will and making them work under inhumane conditions amounts to modern day slavery. ICE is working closely with the FBI and its other law enforcement partners to ensure that crimes like these do not go unchecked or unpunished,” he added.

Demafeliz, Riazon and Pelayo are being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.


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Countless Asian Americans Without Health Insurance

By Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – Tens of thousands of Pacific Islanders, Korean Americans and Southeast Asians lack health insurance according to a study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum on April 1.

These ethnic groups “are doing much worse than other subgroups in terms of health insurance and access to health care,” the study said.

Korean Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are less likely to be insured than other Asian American groups such as Japanese or Asian Indians and twice as likely to be uninsured as whites, according to an analysis of national health data from 2004-2006.

Cara James, the foundation’s senior policy analyst for race and ethnicity, stated that the disparity is particularly acute in California, home to a third of the nation’s Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

“People who do not have health insurance delay much needed medical care. They are more likely to forgo care because of costs, and when they do finally show up for care the conditions they have are often far more severe,” James said. “They are more likely to show up with late stage cancer.”

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Nationwide, 24 percent of non-elderly native Hawaiians  and Pacific Islanders don’t have health insurance, compared with 21 percent of Vietnamese, 14 percent of Filipinos and 12 percent of Japanese and Asian Indians, according to the study.

Korean Americans, as a group, are not perceived as low income, but 31 percent of non-elderly Koreans have no insurance, James said, compared with 12 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 17 percent of all Asian Americans.

Many uninsured Asian Americans are eligible to get care at community clinics or through a California program that funds children and families above the federal poverty rate, Jang said.

“Either they don’t know how to access it or are afraid to access it because of their immigration status,” she added.


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Filipino Tourists Hurt in Pasadena Crash: 7-year-old boy still in critical condition

by Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com

PASADENA – A 7-year-old Filipino boy was critically injured and his father was seriously hurt when a Toyota Corolla jumped the curb and hit the victims while they were crossing Colorado Blvd. at Fair Oaks. The Toyota Corolla was subsequently involved in a collision with a Nissan Altima.The Filipino family had only arrived in the US hours before the tragedy. Old Town Pasadena was their first sightseeing destination.

“The child was in “full arrest when he was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital last night. The accident happened at 6:30 pm.Pasadena Fire Department Spokeswoman Lisa Derderian announced.

Jose de la Rosa, 30, father of the boy, suffered major injuries. They were all rushed to Huntington Memorial Hospital.

Asian Journal contacted Huntington Memorial on Friday, and spokeswoman Andrea Stradling said that the boy is in critical condition.

“The father is seriously injured and the mother is fine,” Stradling added. “For privacy reasons, we can’t release any more information,” she said. “The family and the relatives of the victims do not wish to speak with the media. But if there is a further need to release more information, we will call a press conference.”

Pasadena Police Department Spokeswoman Janet Pope-Givens told Asian Journal that Fire, Police and Traffic personnel were at the scene of the accident in one minute.

“This is a tragic accident, and the department is conducting an intensive investigation,” Pope-Givens said.

As of press time, no charges have been lodged against the driver of the vehicle.

“The result of the investigation will be forwarded to the District Attorney and the Prosecutor’s Office by the Pasadena Police Department, which is headed by Chistopher Vicino,” Pope-Givens said.


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Pacquiao Marquez Match Hits Record PPV

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – The numbers are in. The Pacquiao-Marquez rematch last March 15 in Las Vegas generated over $20.2 million dollars in pay-per-view (ppv) revenue, according to Golden Boy Promotions.

About 400,000 homes paid $49.95 to watch Pacquiao win a very narrow  split decision against his Mexican counterpart, establishing a record for fights below the welterweight division. Pacquiao and Marquez were held to a controversial draw the last time they met in 2004 but did not come close to earning the same amount of money.

With the ppv numbers, the gate for the fight also hit records. More than 11,000 people flocked to the Mandalay Bay Events Center to watch the fight live. Top Rank President Bob Arum said during the post-fight press conference that ticket sale earnings surpassed all of Pacquiao’s previous marquee matches against Mexican Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera.

Officially, the Pacquiao-Marquez II bout generated $3.3 million in ticket sales and $60,000 in closed-circuit earnings at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, according to an AP report.

The Inquirer reported that Pacquiao took home more than $5.5 million from the fight purse not including his shares of the ppv, closed circuit and other TV deal earnings.

Pacquiao Marquez III?

The ppv and ticket earnings give further implications that a Pacquiao vs. Marquez III bout is in the works. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaeffer offered $6 million to Pacquiao for an immediate rematch against Marquez.

However, Arum continues to insist that Pacquiao will move up in weight (135 pounds) and his next opponent is Mexican-American World Boxing Council (WBC) Lightweight Champion David Diaz. Arum has scheduled the bout for June 28 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas if Pacquiao’s cuts that he suffered from the hands of Marquez heal in time.

Arum’s insistence on Diaz has caused friction with the Top Rank/ Golden Boy copartnership with Pacquiao.

Golden Boy is heavily promoting Marquez as the next “biggest Mexican attraction in the United States.”

“The numbers for this fight are an amazing achievement for a ‘lower weight’ fighter,” said Oscar de la Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions. “It’s an honor for all of us at Golden Boy Promotions to promote a fighter who is as talented, tough, charismatic and popular as Juan Manuel. While he didn’t get the decision in this historic bout, we are going to make sure he receives the recognition he deserves as Mexico’s biggest star.”

The AP reported that a third bout between “Pacquiao and Marquez is likely, probably at lightweight and possibly within 12 months.”


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FilAm Dance Crew No. 1

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — A San Diego-based dance crew with three FilAm members won the inaugural Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew competition on MTV last March 27. More  than 38 million people voted  JabbaWockeeZ as the resounding winner over Status Quo, a Massachusetts-based dance crew.

FilAms Chris Gatdula, Rynan Paguio and Phil Tayag were among six members of the masked group that shared the winning purse of $100,000 and ultimate dance crew recognition.

The Asian Journal tried to contact the FilAm members of the JabbaWockeeZ this past week for an interview but all interviews have to go through MTV, according to a JabbaWockeeZ member.

For eight weeks, the JabbaWockeeZ, break-danced, head spun and even performed the Charleston before being chosen into the finals.

The group’s signature style and synchronized dance routines  to the latest music impressed the judges rapper Lil’ Mama, hip-hop choreographer Shane Sparks and former N’ Sync member, JC Chasez. The group only made the elimination round once during the competition.

The JabbaWockeeZ always wears their signature mask to concentrate on the group to give the allusion that no individual member stand out from the rest of the dance crew.

There was also another FilAm dance crew in the competition that made it into the semi-finals. Kaba Modern is a street dance group established in 1992 by a group of kababayans (fellow Filipinos) at the University of California in Irvine, according to the Kaba Modern website.

“The name originally put together to perform as ‘The Modern Suite’ at their Pilipino Culture Night, the group has evolved from being a PCN suite to becoming one of the most cutting-edge hip hop troupes in California,” according to the website.

However, during the semifinals Kaba Modern faced off against the JabbaWockeeZ ,with the latter winning that round to advance to the finals. Ironically, there were no FilAm members who competed for Kaba Modern during the MTV competition.

The JabbaWockeeZ is a 10-member dance crew but only six competed in the MTV event. The name is derived from the “Jabberwocky,” a character in Lewis Carroll’s book “Alice in Wonderland.” It’s been reported that in total there are five or six FilAm members. The group had 11- members but one, Gary Kendell, passed away before the competition. His death was a recurring story line on MTV and source of inspiration for the JabbaWockeez throughout the competition.

Partying with the Jabbas

After the decision had been rendered, the members of the JabbaWockeeZ partied it up in the Hollywood night scene. The members were seen at the Bungalow Club after the win, then Shag nightclub on Friday and Saturday at the Highlands Hollywood club.

FilAm Lorraine Caguin, a friend of Gatdula’s since 1997, partied it up with the group after the win. She observed that the members of the group were mobbed everywhere they went. “It was nonstop,” she added.

Caguin and Gatdula attended high school together at Cimarron Memorial in Las Vegas, NV.

“He [Chris Gatdula] always liked dancing,” recalls Caguin, now a Registered Nurse in a Lakewood Hospital. “I remember when I saw him learning how to do windmills.”

She said that the JabbaWockeeZ dance crew formed in 2003. The members were all from different breakdancing crews. Gatdula was in a break dancing crew called Full Force in Las Vegas, she said. She’s proud of Gatdula and the rest of the JabbaWockeez’ performance.

There was no doubt in her mind that they were going to win the competition when they entered.

“I must have voted at least 50 times,” admitted Caguin to reinforce their winning. “I was just clicking on my computer and posted everyone to vote for them on my personal myspace.”

The competition isolated the group from their friends and family.

“Throughout the competition, they were on lock down. They couldn’t communicate with the public, make phonecalls, or check their laptops. They weren’t allowed to talk or see anybody they know,” Caguin explained.

She said Gatdula expressed his fears to her about the final round against Status Quo. “He felt confident that they were the better dance crew throughout the competition but he was scared since everyone expected the JabbaWockeeZ to win that no one was going to actually vote for them,” she said.

She doesn’t know what Gatdula and the other members are going to do with the $100,000 cash prize. “They are thinking of either splitting it or possibly investing it into the group.”


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SC Finds Showbiz Talk Show Host Guilty of Libel

by Joel Roja/Asianjournal.com

CONSISTENT to its circular giving preference to the imposition of monetary penalties instead of imprisonment to those convicted of libel, the Supreme Court spared on April 3 a showbiz talk show host from spending time in jail and instead ordered her to pay more than P1 million in moral damages to veteran actor Eddie Gutierrez and wife Anabelle Rama.

In a 24-page decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, the Supreme Court Third Division affirmed the Court of Appeals and Quezon City regional trial court’s decisions finding Cristtinelli “Cristy” Fermin guilty of two counts of libel in connection with a malicious article that came out in the defunct Gossip Tabloid on June 14, 1995.

The lower court earlier sentenced her to a maximum of eight months and 21 days of imprisonment.

The SC, however, acquitted her co-accused Bogs Tugas on account of non-participation in the publication of the libelous article.

The Court did not give credence to the claim of Fermin that she has no knowledge in the release of the libelous articles.

“It is worthy to note that petitioner was not only the ‘publisher’ as shown by the editorial box of Gossip Tabloid, but also its ‘president’ and ‘chairperson’ as she herself admitted on the witness stand. Obviously, petitioner had full control over the publication of articles in the said tabloid,” the Court noted.

The case arose from the filing of two criminal informations for libel against Fermin and Tugas by the spouses Gutierrez before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 218.

In the said article, Gossip Tabloid reported that the Gutierrez couple had fled back to the Philippines to escape from the manufacturers of expensive cookware that they have been distributing in the United States.

The tabloid article reported that the Gutierrez couple had fled the United States because they allegedly pocketed the earnings from the sale of the expensive cookware instead of remitting it to the manufacturer.

The Court said the article “went overboard and exceeded the bounds of fair comment,” thus, warranting her conviction.


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