Daily Archives: June 26, 2008

New York’s ‘Most Honest Taxi Driver’ Receives Posthumous Degree

by Momar Visaya/AJPress

NEW YORK – After 101 seniors had marched up the stage one by one to receive their hard-earned associate in applied science degree in nursing, the face of one student who should have been there flashed on the screen and his classmates stood up and cheered.

The face on the picture was Nestor Sulpico.

Sulpico, 51, New York City’s “Most Honest Taxi Driver,” died of colon cancer last April in Iloilo. Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing, a Manhattan-based school awarded him with a posthumous honorary degree during its graduation rites recently.

He made the headlines four years ago when he returned $70,000 worth of black pearl necklaces left in his cab.

In an interview with the Asian Journal, Dean Janet Mackin, RN, EdD said that the awarding of Sulpico’s degree was a “request from the students that became an administrative decision.”

“Nestor’s classmates wanted to do something for him and the school agreed so we bestowed on him this special honor,” Dr. Mackin said.

Among Sulpico’s classmates and close friends who graduated that day were Luanne Kwon and Edmundo Mercado. Kwon knew Suplico from the first day of school while Mercado met him during the orientation program.

“It was a great feeling. I felt like he was there celebrating amongst us. It was very fulfilling. We really wanted to do something special for him,” Kwon said.

She added that Sulpico’s story touched her. “Nestor’s story is very inspiring for me. I asked why he wanted to become a nurse and he replied, ‘This is my last shot to go after what I really want’.”

The three of them studied together a lot after school and formed a bond.

“I did not know his story but in the course of our friendship, he shared it with us and I was in awe. That reinforced the friendship we had. He is a very special person,” Mercado said.

“Nursing school was really tough and stressful and I am so happy Nestor was there with us most of the time. He was really a funny and very positive person. He didn’t stress out about the small things. He was a very calming force in the school, where the atmosphere was very serious,” Kwon added.

Mercado agreed, “Masayahin na tao si Nestor pero pagdating sa studies, seryoso siya. He took nursing seriously kasi yun talaga ang dream niya. I know he was doing it against all odds.”


“The Class of 2008 is a diverse group of students who have completed a rigorous program of nursing education in our traditional day and innovative weekend programs,” said Dean Janet Mackin, RN, EdD. “This is the culmination of concentrated learning and preparation for working in a variety of patient care settings, as well as a stepping stone for more advanced nursing degrees.

At a touching and solemn ceremony, the largest class to graduate from the school received their diplomas and prepared to join the ranks of the revered profession.

Consul General Cecilia Rebong was on hand to receive the award on behalf of the late student, who dreamed of becoming a nurse and was given a full scholarship by Phillips Beth Israel, but succumbed to cancer last April.

Dean Mackin also announced the establishment of a Nestor Sulpico Fund, an initiative of classmates Luanne Kwon and Edmundo Mercado.

“It is something that Edmundo and I talked about a lot after we learned of Nestor’s death. We discussed it with school authorities and we found out that the school was also planning something similar so we are going to combine our ideas,” Kwon said.


Sulpico’s death surprised his close friends who were unaware that he had cancer.

“When we found out about his death, things became more clear,” Kwon shared, “The three of us studied a lot after school. On our second year, he distanced himself from us. There was a noticeable difference.”

Kwon and Mercado confronted Sulpico on two different occasions but he said it was nothing.

“We let him be. We thought he would come around at some point. I should have bothered him more. I should have been a better friend. I should have been more relentless. Then we found out he left. There was no closure,” an almost emotional Kwon said.

“There’s a part of me that feels really guilty,” she admitted.

Mercado, on the other hand, felt bad when Suplico suddenly disappeared. “We were very close and for him to just leave like that, parang gusto kong magtampo,” he shared.

“I feel that he was ready and prepared to die. Napaghandaan na niya,” Mercado said. The two used to discuss a lot on topics such as death, philosophy and religion.

Second career

Majority of the class are second-career individuals who switched to nursing, determined to be the solution to the nursing shortage.

Dean Mackin noted that most of the students held jobs and many raised families and had other responsibilities while in school.

“It is not too late for anyone who might be considering a second career. A good 42% of our students are aged 30 and above. I hope they follow Nestor’s example to study. He was already in his late 40s when he enrolled but his age did not deter him from pursuing his dream,” Dean Mackin added.


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Life lessons Dale Talde learned from ‘Top Chef’

by Momar G. Visaya/AJPress

NEW YORK – “Salamat. I hope I did you guys proud. I hope I put someone out there, specially to first generation Americans like me who do not have someone in the media that we can look at,” Dale Talde, the Filipino American chef from Chicago told the Asian Journal in an interview Monday, June 23.

Top Chef, the Bravo reality show which is now on its fourth season, just ended one of its most successful runs.

The show averaged three million viewers weekly and up 28% in adults 18 to 49 from last season. There’s no doubt that it is cable television’s top food show.

One of the show’s resident judges, chef Tom Colicchio said in the reunion episode that this is the strongest group of chefs ever.

Padma Lakshmi, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, shared her thoughts on the show’s resurgence in viewership. “Never did I think it would become this big, huge thing, but I’m very proud to be a part of it. It’s like this big little show – people have never heard of it or they’re obsessed,” Lakshmi, the show’s host said.

Equally as proud is Dale himself. He is the second Filipino American to be one of the competing chefs, after Season 2’s Josie Smith-Malave. “My ex-girlfriend and I are big fans of the show. She really pushed me to do it, and I am happy I did,” he shared. Dale trained at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and worked at some of Chicago’s fine dining restaurants before moving to New York to work as chef de cuisine at Morimoto. Prior to the show, he was working as sous chef at Buddakan.

While the show focused on the chefs running after the perfect dish, Dale believes that there’s more to it than just that.

“The perfect dish does not exist. It is for me a metaphor for the drive that one has – never being satisfied, never being content. It’s never gonna be there. You will never get it. Everyday you need to go to work and say, ‘This is what I want’. It is not really the dish but the drive to get to that dish,” he said.

Dale was one of the more controversial cheftestants of the show. While he was perceived as someone who had bad temper and attitude problem, a lot of the show’s fans expressed their disappointment online via blogs and message boards when he was unceremoniously booted out during the show’s ‘Restaurant Wars’ episode.

“I deserved to be in the Top 3 but because of my ego, I blew it. I should have let her be executive chef. It’s all water under the bridge now. The show is over and I am glad how everything panned out. I showed my skills well and I am very happy I had the opportunity to do that,” he shared.

The last six contestants were divided into two groups. They were given a budget to come up with a concept for a restaurant and run it for a day. Dale’s group had him sharing the limelight with Lisa and Spike. The other team had eventual winner and the first female Top Chef Stephanie, Richard and Antonia.

Dale’s team lost. Lisa contributed two dishes that the judges didn’t like but since Dale was the executive chef, he got the boot.

Another reason cited for his elimination was a dish he prepared called ‘Butterscotch Scallops’. Guest judge chef Anthony Bourdain wasn’t happy with this dish and called it “supremely bad”.

Suppressing his laughter, Dale recalled, “The dish was supposed to be done with sea bass but when we went to the market they didn’t have enough sea bass. I thought I could do it with scallops although I knew that scallops are naturally sweet while sea bass is not that sweet. That’s where the dish failed.”

There have also been posts that focused on a conspiracy theory, about producers not wanting to have back-to-back Asian Top Chef winners. Last season’s Top Chef was Hung Huynh, a Vietnamese American.

Dale said he made friends during the show and he hopes to keep them. He shared that he got closest with Stephanie and Richard. “Steph is a great friend of mine. I knew her way back from Chicago. With Rich, I really made a connection with him,” he said.

As for regrets, Dale admitted that he should have played the game differently.

“Things happen, I made a mistake. At that point, I didn’t play the game right. I should have just let Lisa be the executive chef and I should have taken the back seat and watch her fall down. My ego got way big,” he quipped.

After the show, Dale went right back to resume his role as sous chef at Buddakan, one of New York City’s hottest restaurants. He is also working on different projects at the moment such as a new concept for a TV show and a screenplay about his restaurant experiences.


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GMA, The Visit: So Far, So Good

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress

LOS ANGELES – Before she left the Philippines, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pointed out that her key priorities in visiting the US are to meet with Filipino-American and Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) communities to discuss their needs and concerns; with President Bush and government leaders to confer on vital issues; and with business leaders and investors to showcase Philippine economic and investment opportunities.

As the President rounds up the fi fth day of her 10-day visit, it’s “so far, so good”.

Arroyo’s series of meetings in Fresno last June 22 went well. Hundreds of Filipino health care professionals met her in several medical centers. Almost a thousand members of the Filipino American community in Fresno and central California attended Holy Mass with her at the Fresno International Convention Center (FICC) here.

“Our kababayans in America form a dynamic human bridge that joins the Philippines and the United States, and that connects our past with our future,” the Chief Executive said in her speech at the FICC. She paid tribute to the Filipino-American professionals and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the US for having attained the pinnacle of their professions and for contributing their share in the economic development of the Philippines “without losing your bonds of affection for your mother country or your inherent pride in your Filipino heritage.”

From Fresno, GMA and her party proceeded to Washington DC where she has a packed schedule. Last Monday, June 23, he conferred with Deputy State Secretary John Negroponte over a wide range of issues on USPhilippine bilateral relations. The President then met with officials of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to firm up the Philippines’ bid for MCC Compact status which would pave the way for increased US funding assistance for the country’s anti-poverty programs.

Later in the day, President Arroyo conferred the Order of the Golden Heart on US senators and congressmen who have been at the forefront of promoting in the US Congress Philippine interests including theinterest and welfare of Filipino-Americans.

Given the award, with the Rank of Grand Cross, were Senators Daniel Akaka, Richard Lugar, Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelou, Representatives Bob Filner, Daniel Issa, and Michael Hondo.

‘’The order of the Golden Heart represents our nation’s humble way of recognizing those who help build life to the noble aspirations of the Filipino people. In behalf of the 85 million Filipinos and the families and friends who make up the four million members of the Philippine-American community, thank you for your continuing deep friendship. Thank you for your expression of support,’’ the Chief Executive further said. “The Golden Heart Award is given to those with a golden heart,’’ she added.

On June 24, President Arroyo met with President George W. Bush at the White House.

The two presidents covered several important issues during their talk: the welfare of the veterans, the war on terrorism, food and relief aid for the typhoon victims.

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From the White House, Arroyo visited the Pentagon for a meeting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates about the Philippines’ defense reform program. The President and Secretary Gates discussed, among others, counter-terrorism programs and the Philippine Defense Reform Program (PDRP) in a move to achieve not just domestic security but also regional environmental security.

A conference with US Agriculture Secretary Schaefer followed. The Chief Executive witnessed the sealing of an agreement between Philippine Department of Agriculture and the United States Agriculture Department that stand to boost the Philippines’ goal for food security in the next five years. Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and US Agriculture Secretary Schaeffer signed the Framework Agreement of Cooperation on Agriculture and Related Fields, in behalf of their respective countries. The Agreement is expected to pave the way for fresh fruit sales from the Philippines to the US soon and also covers strengthened cooperation in support for irrigation infrastructure works and capacity building of agricultural extension personnel.

The President then attended a cocktail and dinner hosted by the US-Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) Business Council and the US Chamber of Commerce, where she urged American business leaders to take advantage of the extraordinary value for investments in the Philippines by investing in the country. In her address during cocktails, the President said that as an investment destination, the Philippines is a “good, longterm bet. We don’t sell hype, no quick bucks, no false gains. Just strong fundamentals, good economic stewardship and excellent returns on your investment. We are the smart, prudent place to place your money,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

The following day, June 25, Arroyo attended a meeting with the Philippine-US Friendship Caucus, a group composed of members of the US House of Representatives who have openly supported moves to strengthen relations between the Philippines and the United States.

A meeting with the likely Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was scheduled later in the day followed by a meeting with the Filipino community in Washington before the President flies off to New York.

The President’s trip to New York from June 26 to 28 will involve meetings with the Filipino community, a possible visit to the United Nations headquarters, and presentations to numerous investors and business leaders to promote more investment and job creation in the Philippines. Among the business leaders and investment groups that the President will be meeting are Bob Rubin of Citigroup, Libby’s Fruits, Target Sourcing, Rotec Technology and Apac Customer Services. She will also meet with the world’s richest man, Warren Buffett, head of the Berkshire Hathaway Corp. whose net worth is placed at $62 billion.

On June 28, Arroyo will go back to Washington where she will also possibly meet with Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The meetings with Senators Obama and Mc-Cain have been described simply as a “getting-to-know-you” type of meeting.

From Washington, the President goes back to San Francisco where she will take a commercial flight back to Manila on June 29. She is expected to land at the NAIA Terminal 3 around 5:25 a.m. on June 30 where she may inspect and personally check on the preparations for the opening of the terminal.


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On his plate: Bush lauds White House FilAm chef

WHEN United States President George Bush met with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last June 24 at the White House, the usual formal meeting of two great leaders was inserted with a little humor.

“Madam President, it is a pleasure to welcome you back to the Oval Office. We have just had a very constructive dialogue. First, I want to tell you how proud I am to be the President of a nation that — in which there’s a lot of Philippine- Americans. They love America and they love their heritage. And I reminded the President that I am reminded of the great talent of the — of our Philippine-Americans when I eat dinner at the White House (laughter),” said President Bush.

He was actually directly referring Cristeta “Cris” Comerford, who was named White House chef in August of 2005, after 10 years as an assistant chef in the White House kitchens. A naturalized US citizen, Comerford received her bachelor’s degree in Food Technology from the University of the Philippines and was trained in culinary arts serving as Chef Tournant at Le Ciel in Vienna, Austria; Chef at Le Grande Bistro at The Westin Hotel in Washington, DC and Chef at The Colonnade at the ANA Hotel in Washington, DC where she implemented the “Culinary Arts Gallery” which showcased the best of American fi ne cuisine.

Even before President Bush’s comments, Comerford’s culinary talent and skills has been praised by First Lady Laura Bush in a White House press release. “I am delighted that Cris Comerford has accepted the position of White House Executive Chef,” Mrs. Bush said. “Her passion for cooking can be tasted in every bite of her delicious creations.”

Before going on to other somber issues, President Bush again said, “And the chef is a great person and a really good cook, by the way, Madam President.”

He then went on to express the US’ deep condolences to the victims of the recent typhoon in the Philippines. He also assured Arroyo that the US will send assistance and aid.

Arroyo thanked Bush for the compliment, and for the offer to send two assets the Philippines need desperately now: US Navy ships to help with ferry rescue, and rice to feed a country suffering a rice shortage.

“We’re happy to do it,” said Bush. “We want to help our friends in a time of need.”


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Pacquiao fights for typhoon victims

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress

LAS VEGAS – The Pride of the Philippines will live up to this moniker come fight night Saturday. Win or lose, Manny Pacquiao announced that he would be fighting in honor of the survivors and victims of the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines last week.

“I feel sad about what happened,” said Pacquiao during Wednesday’s last press conference before the much-anticipated fight against David Diaz at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. “I’m just thankful to God that I’m in a position to help them. This fight is for them.”

Typhoon Fengshen capsized the seven-story Princess of the Stars ferry carrying about 900 people near Sibuyan Island in San Fernando, Romblon, Philippines last June 21. A little less than four-dozen people survived the typhoon, according to the Associated Press. More than 800 have yet to be found.

Pacquiao is known for fighting with the Filipino people in the back of his mind. His last match against Juan Manuel Marquez, he told the Asian Journal he would fight to help calm the situation against the Philippine government regarding the controversial ZTE broadband scandal. Prior to that, he ran for Congress hoping to be elected.

Pacquiao said that he would do whatever he could to help the victims.

“When I come back to the Philippines [after the fight] I’m going to help them any way I can,” he said.

Pacquiao also wanted to reassure those victims and survivors to keep praying.

“I just want to tell them to believe in God,” he added. “Pray to the Lord everything will be okay.”

Diaz Dedication

Not to be outdone, David Diaz also dedicated his fight to a special somebody in his life. Diaz was about to breakdown in tears after he announced that he would dedicate this fight to his father.

“You know I just wanted to do it,” said Diaz to the Asian Journal. “My dad has been with me through everything. He’s the one who got me started in the sport of boxing. I owe everything to him.”

“He is Mexico,” added Diaz.

Diaz said that he announced the dedication because of the magnitude of the fight against Pacquiao. He wanted to let his father know just how special he is to his life.

“It’s true what I feel,” said Diaz. “I wasn’t being fake. I just wanted him to know that I’m fighting for him win or lose. Don’t get me wrong. We want to win.”

Diaz’s father was also on hand to witness his son’s declaration. How did the elder Diaz feel about the dedication?

Muy Bien,” said the elder Diaz, who does not speak English.

Other Boxing Notes

Current IBF and IBO Flyweight Champion Nonito Donaire Jr., who was on hand at the press conference, said that he has left Gary Shaw Promotions and would most likely sign with Top Rank.

“He [Gary Shaw] wasn’t giving me any fights,” said Donaire Jr. about why he left his promotion.

Top Rank President Bob Arum made a more vague announcement regarding Donaire’s signing.

“Thursday, we will announce that we have signed another Filipino fighter,” he said to the media horde.

When pressed to discuss whom he was referring to, if in fact it was Donaire, Arum declined to discuss the matter further with the Asian Journal.

“No comment,” he said with a smile.

Donaire Jr. said that he was surprised hearing that news from Arum.

“I usually just let my manager take care of that,” said Donaire, believing he is whom Arum is referring to. “I won’t believe it until it happens. But I’m very excited.”

If Donaire signs with Top Rank, it would give the promotion company a solid Filipino championship lineup with Pacquiao headlining and upcoming Filipino prospect Bernabe Concepcion on the rise.

Roach Predicts Knockout

Trainer Freddie Roach expects Pacquiao to knockout Diaz in “less than nine rounds.”

Roach said that Pacquiao isn’t going to slug it out with the Chicago brawler. Rather, Pacquiao will use his speed and quickness to outbox the 31-year-old Mexican American champion.

“Manny’s in great shape,” said Roach. “We had a good solid seven-week training camp. Diaz is going to be tough. He’s a former Olympian and a World Champion and those things don’t happen by accident [but] I think Manny’s speed will be too much for him.”


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