Daily Archives: May 7, 2008

FilAms Run for Democratic Central Committee

By Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/Asianjournal.com

DALY CITY – The Filipino American Democratic Club of San Mateo County formally endorsed five Filipino-Americans who ran for local office in San Mateo County on May 2 at the War Memorial Community Center in Daly City.

District 5’s Ray Buenaventura, Michael Guingona, Robert Uy and Ora Seyler, and District 1’s Buenaflor Nicolas, have all decided to represent the growing Filipino community. If elected, they will be a part of the Democratic Central Committee of San Mateo County.

The Democratic Central Committee makes the official Democratic Party endorsements in non-partisan municipal, local district and county elections, as well as coordinates all the party’s activities in the San Mateo County. It is also the one who formulates policies and implements plans and programs of the Democratic National Committee. The Filipino American Democratic Club is under this committee.

San Mateo County covers about 22 cities, including Daly City, home to about 51,000 Filipinos. “There are approximately 17,000 potential voters in Daly City,” said Ray Satorre, Commisioner for the Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors. “If everyone votes, the candidates will win.”

The candidates

Two women and three men are reaching out to all Filipinos to vote for them on June 3.

“Twenty percent of San Mateo are Asians,” says lone District 1 candidate Buenaflor Nicolas. “But there are no Asians in the Central Committee, that is why we are underrepresented.”

“I want to be an example to encourage more youth to join the Democratic process,” she added to explain why she brought her kids to the convention.

Nicolas has been extremely active in the community, including her stint as Director to the Filipino American Club of San Mateo County. She believes that if elected to the Central Committee, she would be able to bring forward issues and concerns in the community, like the Filipino Veterans Equity Act and those affecting minority women. She is also a senior manager for a major biopharmaceutical company in South San Francisco

Ora Seyler, a finance officer for a major corporate law firm in the Bay Area and an active leader in the FilAm community, wants to get involved in the passage of resolutions and endorsements of candidates, especially Filipinos.

“It’s time to show FilAm empowerment,” she said. “Even if we lose, we will continue to fight.”

Four-time Daly City Mayor Michael Guingona believes that there is a need to play a more active role in politics. “We need to be more organized to get more people to vote and increase their involvement,” he said. Born in San Francisco and raised in Daly City, Guingona also stressed the importance of working together.

No stranger to politics, Guingona was the first FilAm to be elected to City Council in 1993. His colleagues on the City Council elected him to his first of four stints as Mayor. For him, the electorate is a huge process and being on the Central Committee is an opportunity to make some changes from the grassroots. “There’s a reason why we’re here, and Filipinos should know that their votes count,” he said.

A staff attorney at the Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, candidate Robert Uy has come across with the problems and issues concerning Asian immigrants.

“There are so many things [which need] to be addressed,” he said. “We have to bring focus on these issues that non-Asian-Americans may not be aware of.” These issues include immigrants’ rights, domestic violence, anti-human trafficking and other concerns in the Filipino community,

“There are not enough people representing us,” said Uy. “There have been times that FilAm candidates have been denied endorsements.”

The Club’s President, Ray Buenaventura also believes that it is important to start acting and get more involved. “There are no Filipinos or Asians in the Central Committee,” he said.

Buenaventura is currently in private practice, focusing on criminal defense and immigration. He has been actively involved in both local and national politics, and was recently elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Denver this August.

“This is a big thing, we are sticking our necks up. It is an uphill battle,” he assessed. Still, he feels that Filipinos can be encouraged if they see familiar faces actively engaged in the community. “This is a start, a new beginning, a first step. It is a sign of something to (new) to come.”

Who can vote

All natural-born FilAms and US citizens, at least 18-years-old, and are residents of the 5th or 1st District of San Mateo County, can vote for these candidates on June 3. “It’s not too late to become involved in the community,” said Guingona. “The Central Committee needs diversity.” (AJ, with reports from Joseph L. Peralta)

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First Filipino Heritage Night at SF Giants Game

By Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/Asianjournal.com

SAN FRANCISCO — Thousands of Filipinos are expected to fill up sections of the AT&T Park on Wednesday, May 14 as the San Francisco Giants take on the Houston Astros.

A game dedicated to Filipinos, the Giants event will feature the first Filipino Heritage Night.

Although the club has hosted other “heritage nights,” this is the first time that it has included an event that is solely Filipino.

The event is also a part of the Asian Heritage Week, an annual celebration of Asian cultures and communities that will culminate from May 12 to 17.

“We (Asians) are an important force in the United States,” said Asian community leader Florence Fang, during a ballpark tour for members of the Asian media last May 1. “We should not be exclusive to own community, but this is to encourage us to join the mainstream.

A milestone for Filipinos

Just as there’s hardly any Filipino ballplayer in any Major League team since Bobby Balcena stint with the Cincinnati Reds in 1956 and outfielder Benny Agbayani of the Mets, the number of Filipinos in the Bay Area has increased rapidly in the past years. Filipinos are now an integral part of the city that it wouldn’t come as a surprise to meet one in every place one goes.

As of last week, more than 2,000 tickets have been sold, a huge turnout considering that they started with a conservative sales forecast of 500. Tickets are at $20 each.

There will be performances by Bay Area-based cultural groups including the Barangay Dance Company of San Francisco, the Hiyas Philippine Folk Dance Company and the LIKHA Pilipino Folk Ensemble.

“This event bodes well for the Filipino community,” said Manilatown Heritage Foundation Executive Director Ron Muriera. “This will expand the awareness and connections to the mainstream groups and help cultivate the community’s relationship with the SF Giants organization.” Manilatown Heritage Foundation is one of the community partners in the event.

Be free of Hep B

Another goal of the Asian Heritage Week is the campaign against Hepatitis B. The San Francisco

Hep B Free Campaign will be present at each game to educate fans about the importance of testing and vaccinating for hepatitis B.

“Our simple goal is to make San Francisco the first city in the US to screen, vaccinate and treat anyone with hepatitis B,” said Dr. Albert Yu, Director of the Community Health Network of San Francisco.

Hepatitis B is a silent illness affecting the API communities. According to Dr. Yu, one out of 10 APIs have the disease, which is a hundred percent more than Caucasians. People who have Hepatitis B are also four times more susceptible to liver cancer, especially if they are chronically infected. Hepatitis A, though seen more likely to cause outbreaks and epidemics, is still a lot different from hepatitis B. Hepatitis A infections are caused by oral and fecal contamination, while hepatitis B is acquired from blood and IV transfusions, sexual contact and mothers.

“People should know that it is not a stigma and that they should seek care,” said Dr. Yu. “Don’t think that you should live silently and in isolation.”

The good news is that there are five, six or several more treatments for the virus activity said Dr. Yu, and all you need are three shots.

He also sees the campaign as a reflection of the true value of the SF Giants—teamwork. “We need the entire community to make this prominent as HIV, breast cancer and other important illnesses,” he said. “This is an opportunity to tell all APIs in San Francisco to get yourself screened, to get vaccinated to protect you and your offsprings.”

The Asian Heritage Week celebration will also feature the Chinese Heritage Night (May 12), Korean Heritage Night (May 13), Japanese Heritage Night (May 16) and the SF Hep B Free Night (May 17). Tickets may be purchased by calling (415) 972–2298 or by logging online at http://www.sfgiants.com/specialevents.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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DREAM COME TRUE: Charice Set to Conquer Oprah on May 12

by Momar Visaya/Asianjournal.com

MAKATI CITY – Mark your calendars.

On May 12, young diva Charice Pempengco’s quest for international stardom gets a much-needed boost as her dream of being a guest at The Oprah Winfrey Show becomes a reality.

After traveling thousands of miles from Manila, Charice joined some of the world’s most talented, amazing kids take the Oprah stage. The Oprah Winfrey Show is the longest-running and highest-rated daytime television talk show in America today.

The young diva blew the audience away with her performance of Whitney Houston’s song I Have Nothing. After her fantastic performance, an emotional Charice told Oprah, “I’m always dreaming that someday I can be a part of your show. I can’t believe I’m here standing with you. This is my dream come true.”

Asian Journal sat down with Charice and her mom Raquel in Manila a day before they flew to Honolulu to ask her about her Oprah experience, how they have been trailblazing and jetsetting.

“Nung una po, parang hindi ako makapaniwala. Kasi Oprah yan eh, napapanood ko lang sa TV. Tita Millie (Gurfinkel) called my mom and sabi niya na mag ge-guest ako sa Oprah Winfrey Show. Si mommy, parang walang reaction, parang okay lang. Tapos after nilang mag-usap, sinabi ni mommy sa akin na gusto akong mai-guest sa Oprah so napasigaw ako sa tuwa,”

Charice said as she recalled the day when she found out about the guesting.

Indeed, it was a dream come true, considering that only weeks earlier, she and her mom have been talking about the good breaks she has been getting.

“Nagulat lang kami kasi napagkuwentuhan lang namin ni Mommy. Nasabi ko na after Ellen, tapos yung sa London, parang nag-wish lang ako na sana next time Oprah na. Kaya nagulat ako nung tumawag na si Tita Millie,” Charice shared.

It was a whirlwind from there. Mother and daughter flew to Chicago to come face to face with one of the most powerful women in media, Oprah Winfrey herself.

“Parang ang bilis ng mga nangyari. Pagdating namin dun, nag rest kami kasi kinabukasan rehearsal na. Dinala kami ng staff sa studio. Hindi ako makapaniwalang nakatayo na ako dun sa stage ng Oprah. Napapanood ko lang ito sa TV. Sabi nila, iyan yung stage mo bukas.

“Ito yung show na talagang pinakakinabahan ako, kasi siyempre Oprah ito. Tapos kinabukasan nakita ko yung mga kasama ko sa show, ang gagaling din nila,” Charice recalled.

“Iba ang talent ng Pinoy, kailangan kong ipakita yun. Matindi yung kaba ko nun talaga. Nung ako na, sabi ko, “This is it”. Kinanta ko yung “I Have Nothing” ni Whitney. Nag start siya chorus na kaya mabigat. Idinedicate ko yung performance kay Oprah,” she added.

After her performance, Charice recalled Oprah joining her on centerstage, asking her so many things.

“Saan daw galing yung boses ko, sino daw ako. Na-shock daw siya sa talent ko. Tapos niyakap na niya ako at napaiyak na siya. Napaiyak na din ako nun, tapos si mommy nakita ko umiiyak na din. Sinabi nila ako yung first Filipina sa show. I felt very, very proud,” Charice said.

It was a memorable scene that she kept on playing in her mind days, even weeks after the performance.

She felt happy after her song. She felt proud. She was ecstatic. A lot of things were going through her mind. “Na impress ko kaya siya? Nagustuhan kaya ng audience? Tama ba yung pagkakanta ko? Ang daming tumatakbo sa utak ko pagkatapos nun,” she related.

She didn’t have to worry. Oprah Winfrey loved her performance.

“Na-feel ko na special ako sa kanila. Ipinaramdam nila sa akin na special ako. Dun sa closing ng show, kasama na lahat, hindi napansin ni Oprah na ksama na ako sa group. Hinanap pa niya talaga ako. “Where’s Charice?” sabi niya.

“Nung umpisa, after ng Little Big Star, naisip ko lang na okay siguro kung magkaroon ako ng exposure sa Philippine TV. Tapos nag-start na yung sa Korea, then napanood ni Ellen. Nag tuloy-tuloy na,” she said.

Charice admitted that all these would not have been possible without the help of her fan known as the False Voice. Most of all, Charice thanks her US immigration lawyer, Atty. Michael Gurfinkel, who facilitated the issuance of Charice’s proper work visa that allowed her to appear on TV, to meet the show’s deadlines.

Also, Charice and mother’s passports were stolen recently and Atty. Gurfinkel helped with the re-issuance of their US visas that normally takes months – Gurfinkel did it 3 days.

“Kung wala si Atty. Gurfinkel, kahit may invitation ang Oprah show, di pwedeng mag perform si Charice dahil sa konting panahon na ibinigay para sa visa applications. Di siya makikita sa US television at all, kung di nakuha ni Atty. Gurfinkel ang kanilang mga visas,”

Charice’s mom revealed.

Ellen de Generes saw her videos and invited Charice to be a guest on her show. Last December, Charice performed And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going) on The Ellen de Generes Show and got a standing ovation from the audience. Then came London’s Paul O’Grady.

And now, it’s Oprah.

“Nangarap po ako ng malaki. Pero hindi maiiwasan yung mga challenges, mga problema. Kailangan lang ng tiyaga. Pagsisikap lang talaga. Ito yung gusto kong marating. Kahit anong challenge, go lang ng go. Di ba nga may kasabihan tayong mga Pilipino na kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga?”

Charice said.

Other kids featured in the program include; seven-year-old ballroom dancers, an eight-year-old guitarist, a three-year-old drummer, a seven-year-old pianist, a ten-year-old who plays the accordion, the youngest film director in history, a two-and-a-half-year-old pint-size prodigy who can identify more than 100 countries on a map and a fourteen-year-old international best-selling author. Also, a nine-year-old dancing phenomenon nicknamed “happy feet” teaches Oprah how to do the Cha-Cha slide.

Abigail Breslin and Willow Smith, daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, will join the show via satellite to discuss their upcoming film project An American Girl. (www.asianjournal.com)

(Catch Charice on The Oprah Winfrey Show on Monday, May 12, 2008 – check your local listing)

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An 11-year-old Filipino Tennis Champion

By Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/Asianjournal.com

SACRAMENTO – He has been playing tennis for most of his life and has won tournaments in the Philippines and Asia, but competing with other seasoned players here in the US has never occurred to Vince Marc “Mac-mac” Tabotabo. He is, after all, only 11 years old.

Mac-mac, however, proved himself wrong after his short stay in the US, winning two titles and one runner-up slot, and earning an entry to the Little Mo national finals slated this year, following the sectionals the other week at Folsom, where he topped.

The Little Mo tennis tournaments is the premier challenge for young kids across the US to compete at the sectional, regional and national level. The diminutive Mac-mac was able to end his stint in the Southern California Sectionals at 4th place. But the sweetest victory was at the end of his US sojourn, grabbing the Boys 11 division title at the Laguna Creek Junior Creek Open at the Laguna Creek Racquet Club in Elk Grove, California last May 2. Mac-mac defeated a much bigger and experienced Avery Moor with a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

But Mac-mac’s journey to the US was not easy. Together with his father Titus Tabotabo, who used to be a tennis trainer at the Ding Velayo Sports Center in Manila, they hurdled through the same trials of struggling athletes in the Philippines—the lack of support from the government and athletic organizations, including funding for equipment, facilities and financial back-up. However, these did not stop father and son to step up to challenge and reach for their dreams.

Hailing from Tuburan, Cebu, the provincial government, led by Governor Gwen Garcia and Vice Governor Greg Sanchez, was the one who supported the Tabotabos’ trip to the US. Though the funds was spent mostly covered airfare, the father-and-son received aid from fellow Filipinos.

Malaki ang pasasalamat ko sa mga tulong ng mga Pilipino dito, (I am very thankful for the support and help of the Filipinos here),” said Titus in a telephone interview with the Asian Journal. “Marc has built a fan [club] based here in Northern California, especially in the Filipino community.” In fact, Mac-mac’s victories has pulled in Filipino crowds to watch him play.

Sinasabi nila, the boy from the Philippines is beating everybody,” said Titus proudly about his son. “Magaling daw. (They said he is good.)”

Reaching out to anyone or any organization for more support, Titus hopes that this will not be the end of Mac-mac’s tennis career. It was a sad story, he said, relating his experience where they live. Titus, who had also competed in the past, is training the kids in his hometown for free. “There is no interest to support these kids,” he said in Filipino. “I am hoping that Mac-mac’s achievements can make them wake up, support us by helping us in training, equipment and supplies.”

Mac-mac will return later this year to play in the nationals. This is a bigger achievement compared to last year, where he had to fight for a slot to the main draw of the Little Mo nationals.

Moreover, Titus dreams to have an organization or club which will help in honing his son’s talent. “Sana matulungan si Mac-mac na dito makapag-aral (I wish that they can help Mac-mac study here). My son is promising, has talent.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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US Army Vet Sentenced to 18 Years for Beating to Death Pinay Wife

by Miko Santos/Asianjournal.com

JERSEY CITY — A Jersey City man and army veteran was sentenced to 18 years for mercilessly beating to death his Filipina wife in a jealous rage last year.

A forlorn Nicaragua-born Eddy A. Casco, 29, of Sip Avenue, Jersey City wept openly as State Superior Court Judge Peter Vasquez read the sentence, 18 years, the maximum recommended by the state in the plea agreement.

Casco pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the death of Teris Casco, 33, who suffered 21 rib fractures, a broken nose and brain damage at the hands of her husband in their apartment early on Jan. 20, 2007.

“I knew what I did was wrong,” said Casco, almost too emotional to speak, before being sentenced. “I never meant to hurt my wife. Sometimes people say things to each other, you don’t’ know how they are going to react to them.”

“I just want to get this over with, move on with my life,” said Casco.

Mitigating Factors

The defendant’s lawyer, Peter Willis said that he did his best to get him the plea deal as he believed that if they went to trial the results would be devastating to Casco and would cause undue stress to his family.

Willis said that Casco in his grief and remorse attempted suicide by tying a rope on a light fixture and tried to hang himself but due to his weight the fixture gave way.

Willis in a further attempt to reduce the sentence mentioned Casco’s 9 years of service to his country, the 911 call, the emails that proved Teris’ alleged affair that led to the brutal killing, and his statements to  authorities.

Hudson County Assistant Prosecutor Steven Dill refuted the statements made by Casco’s lawyer, saying that there were no marks at all on Casco’s body regarding his attempted suicide.

Dill also mentioned the time lapse from when Casco called 911, he did so by 11am the next day, when his two kids went to see their mom and asked if she was alright.

Dill also noted that Casco’s service in the army, not being shipped to war but being stationed the whole time in Hawaii.

Dill likewise noted how a lot of people have known of the abuses but no one came forward, no one went to the police.

“The saddest thing about it was this was something that was increasing and eventually he was going to snap and no one who knew about it picked up a phone and called police,” Dill said.

Nina Nguyen Lagac of the Filipina Women’s Network (FWN) made a statement on behalf of Teris Casco’s family urging the court to impose the maximum penalty.

“We urge this honorable court to impose the maximum sentence as recommended by the state in the plea agreement.  We further believe that such an apt
sentence will be a deterrent to batterers and would encourage victims of domestic violence to come out, speak up and no longer be afraid,” Lagac said.

Casco was given the chance to speak and said that he was remorseful and wanted this to be done and over with and for him to get on with his life.

In the end, Vasquez gave the maximum sentence of 18 years with a chance of parole after serving 15 years.

Reaction

Teris Casco died at the hands of her husband, suffering broken ribs, broken nose, and brain hemorraging in their apartment in Sip Avenue, Jersey City early on Jan. 20, 2007.

The couple were happily celebrating Teris’ 33rd birthday at a bar near their home the evening of January 19. When they got home, reports say Casco confessed to an affair, which he said he had already ended a month earlier.

Teris told her husband she wanted to go to Hawaii for two weeks to be with her family and to sort things out. The discussion about the future of their relationship turned violent.

Casco admitted in court that he and his wife were arguing in their bathroom when he struck her at least three times in the face and she fell into the bathtub. He then stomped on her several times before picking her up and carrying her to the bed. Once in bed, he elbowed her in the face at least three times and heard her nose break.

Later that day the couple’s two young sons returned home from a baby-sitter. One of the boys saw his bloody mother in bed and asked what was wrong. Casco told the boy she was sick, then called 911, but it was too late.

“The tragedy of Teris’ death is that individuals who knew about the domestic violence in the Casco home never picked up a phone and called police. Teris did not have to die, and her death is an example of how silence can kill,” the Filipina Women’s Network (FWN) said in a statement.

One relative told police on the day of the killing that Eddy Casco had assaulted Teris in the past but police had never been notified, reports said.

“Individuals and organizations came together to find ways on how to break the silence, the cycle of shame and to effectively confront the high incidence of domestic violence in Filipino homes,” said Marily Mondejar FWN head.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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