Monthly Archives: August 2008

Pinay nurse fighting extradition

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
SAN DIEGO – Lawyers for a 72-year-old Filipina nurse is calling for the US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice to stop the extradition charges of their client to Mexico.
For the past two years, Eufemia Alamo Ramirez, a US citizen from San Diego has been detained at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility awaiting extradition to stand trial on charges of being involved in a human trafficking scheme.

“She has remained [in the detention center] for the past two years, denied bail and denied any hearing on the merits of the Mexican charges,” said Shanlon Wu of Wheat Wu Law.

According to Wu, Mexico claims that in 1998 Ramirez engaged in human trafficking when she was on the same bus as four Filipino nurses, who lacked proper Mexican immigration papers.

Wu said his client had nothing to do with how the nurses entered Mexico and had no reason to believe anything was wrong with their paperwork.

“She was let go by the Mexican police after her arrest and heard nothing about the matter for the next eight years,” he said.

However, in 2006, US Marshalls arrested Ramirez at her home in San Diego.

The Marshals informed Ramirez that Mexico had issued an extradition request for her and arrested her. Ramirez is currently being detained in an ICE detention center.

Wu believes his client is innocent “but she will never be able to prove it now—nearly 10 years after the fact.”

Wu said at her extradition hearing, the law prevented Ramirez even from trying to refute Mexico’s charges.

Her legal appeals are running out. Her family is asking for the Secretary of State to exercise her power and protect this outstanding American citizen, added Wu.   (

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Alison Jean Mendoza Heeds Gawad Kalinga’s Call for Volunteerism

by Rene Villaroman/AJPress
Alison Jean Mendoza looked forward to a restful 14-hour flight to Manila on Thursday night. It would be her third visit to her parents’ home country. Born in Nebraska 26 years ago, she and her family moved to Raleigh , North Carolina in 1997, after she graduated from high school. She attended the University of Maryland and graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor of Science, major in Biology and minor in Spanish. “I’m really excited to go to the Philippines, partly to learn more about where my parents came from; I think that it will be an enriching experience,” Alison told a reporter during a merienda at Max’s Restaurant in Puente Hills Mall on Wednesday.
This time around, Alison would be staying in the Philippines for a year, maybe even longer, if she decides to extend her assignment as a volunteer for the Gawad Kalinga’s village-building project in the Philippines . Alison will be involved in GK’s health program in communities that the organization is building for the poorest Filipinos. She will be based in Manila during the first two months of her stint, and will be sent to different villages in each region for periods of two weeks each month to contribute her social work background to GK’s health programs.

A health program is one of the components of GK’s community-building project. “Right now, there are 1700 (GK) villages in almost all the provinces,” explains Rick Munda, a Regional Director of Answering the Cry of the Poor (ANCOP), a GK partner. “In GK, we aim for a sustainable village development,” he said. “We provide for youth development, pre-school care; we provide for a health component, livelihood and productivity for the villages; and value formation for the beneficiaries. It’s really a partnership with the local government,” Munda said.

“We invite volunteers – high school and college students – who are willing to give one week a month to help with GK’s different programs,” Munda implored. GK had been successful in attracting volunteers like Alison during the last few years. Eleanor Chichioco of New Jersey was living the New Yorker dream with a glamorous job in Manhattan and was jet-setting around the USA . She was inspired to leave that lifestyle and dedicated two years of her life as a GK volunteer, helping the Philippines rise from poverty. In the process, she found her identity.

Concert and operatic singer Stephanie Reese lost the love of her life in a tragic car accident. To find closure, she volunteered and shared her talents to GK. She found healing and found her voice again. “I think so many people in this world do not realize the joy that they will receive from giving that they cannot receive in any other way – the joy that is beyond wealth,” she shared.

Jonathan Wittig, ANCOP Development Director, had worked in Mindanao last year, helping to unite Muslims and Christians together. “I really do enjoy Mindanao quite a bit,” said the Chicago native and Loyola University Bachelor of Arts in International Marketing graduate. “I was extremely involved in social justice and giving service to others.” He was a leader of Youth for Christ (YFC), a founding component of GK, and had spent six months in the Philippines last year, immersed in GK’s build-a-school program. “I knew that there was nothing I would want to do except to work with GK’s projects that are so special and serve so many people,” Wittig said.

“I am going to miss air conditioning,” said Alison in jest, explaining she would not have the amenities of her Washington , D.C. apartment in her adaptive home in the Philippines . “I’ve been leaning towards doing an international service for quite sometime,” Alison said. In D.C. she had worked with Food and Friends, a non-profit organization, and when that project ended on August 6, she looked around and honed in on GK, partly due to her mother’s and her former classmates’ recommendations. Alison would finance her Philippine stay with savings while staying with a host family in Manila .

Seafood City Supermarkets, which partnered with GK as a corporate sponsor about two years ago, has paid for Alison’s airline ticket to Manila via the Philippine Airlines (PAL). The supermarket chain also gave her a stipend of $1,000, which was presented to her on Wednesday by Vincent “Bing” Tarroja, head of Strategic Planning and Marketing of the Seafood City Group of Companies.

“I have wanted to do some international service for a few years,” said Alison. “My parents were active in GK in North Carolina , and my mother told me that she heard about GK’s village-building program, and she directed me to the website,” Alison relates. “It sounded like something down my alley.”  (

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The Last Hurrah: Filipino WWII Veterans Waiting Anxiously for Bill

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
LOS ANGELES – In what may be its last ditch effort for this Congressional session, Filipino World War II groups are preparing for a make or break September month to seek the passage of the Filipino WWII Veteran’s Equity Act.
“Right now, we are gearing up for the fall,” said Ben De Guzman, the coordinator of the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE) to the Asian Journal from Washington DC. “We’re trying to prepare a national action week to mobilize the community before congress comes back. This is really it. We have three legislative weeks left before they [members of the House of Representatives] campaign.”

Executive Director of the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans Eric Lachica seemed more optimistic.

“We’re hoping that our champions will live up to their pledge. We are within reach,” said Lachica.

House Resolution 760 is a bill that would provide Filipino WWII veterans to receive equity veterans affairs (VA) pension. There are less than 18,000 surviving Filipino WWII soldiers, 13,000 of which still reside in the Philippines.

A version of the bill has already passed the Senate floors under S. 1315, the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007. According to the Senate bill, Filipino WWII veterans residing in the Philippines to be eligible for an annual payment of $3,600 ($300 a month) and married veterans would be eligible for $4,500. The annual payment for surviving spouses would be $2,400, according to the Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate of the S. 1315 bill.

However, since its overwhelming favorable vote in the Senate earlier this year, the House version has received less fanfare amongst Republicans and blue dog Democrats and currently at an impasse in the appropriations committee.

With only a few months left in the congressional calendar, Filipino WWII groups and advocates are feeling a sense of urgency. Though technically they have until the end of the year to get the bill passed, Republicans and Democrats in the House are preparing for their re-election campaign and focusing on the upcoming Presidential elections.

It’s the reason why September is the month to get anything done.

“If we don’t get this bill passed by September,” said De Guzman. “Realistically we are done for this congressional session and would have to start over again next year.”

Jump Start

Congressman Bob Filner (D-CA), who has championed the bill for several years, has tried to jump start talks before the House left for recess. De Guzman said Filner set off “fireworks” proposing an amendment for a lump sum payment to the veterans as opposed to the proposed annual payment.

“What he really wanted to do was to jump start talks again,” said De Guzman. “It worked. Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi (D-CA) spoke on the Filipinos WWII veterans’ behalf. Of course, Steve Buyer (R-IN) [ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs] opposed it. Chet Edwards (D-TX) [Head of the Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee] gave his support. So in that sense it was positive.”

“Filner’s feeling the same frustration we’re feeling,” added De Guzman. “We’re at an impasse. Nothing is happening.”

The reason for the impasse is simple – money. Creating spending to any veterans groups such as for Filipino veterans would mean taking away money from another source. To fund the Filipino veterans equity bill would mean to eliminate a special monthly pensions for severely disabled veterans over 65 who are also receiving pensions for wartime service.

Giving money to veterans in the Philippines rather than US disabled veterans is a hard pill to swallow for some Republicans, according to De Guzman.

“We are very disappointed how it is being characterized,” explains De Guzman. “In reality, the money set aside for the Filipino WWII veterans would not really take away from the disabled veterans. The disability pension was not being distributed correctly so really it’s restoring the original intent.

“The problem is that our champions and Democratic supporters have allowed the Republicans to set the debate terms and standards,” said De Guzman.

Veterans Fatigue

While De Guzman of NAFVE and Lachica are working behind the scenes in Washington, many members of the community nationwide are feeling veterans’ fatigue.

This past year, it has been a roller coaster ride for Filipino WWII veterans, grassroots groups and their supporters. It’s been full of ups and downs with many members of the community screaming for joy but some feeling woozy from the ride.

The momentum from the Senate passage earlier this year seemed to have waned during these past few months.

Lachica said it’s time for the community to make a last push effort.

Lachica is on his way to Denver for the Democratic National convention to rally support.

“During this recess time, community members should make an appointment to see their congressperson just to remind them about the Filipino WWII veterans equity bill,” said Lachica.

Lachica added that the ACFV is hosting a number of community forums in the West Coast to update veterans and supporters of what’s going on in Capitol Hill.

“We are very close to our goal,” he said. “I think we have enough members of the House to support this bill.”

De Guzman is asking for community supporters, grassroots groups and more importantly the WWII veterans not to give up.

“We are a community that has never engaged in a campaign like this before,” said De Guzman. “I know it’s hard to deal with this veteran’s fatigue but the veterans have been marching 60 years. We’re asking the community to continue their support for the next month. We have fought the fight but we need to do another week, another month of making phone calls to our congressperson so we could look our veterans, the manongs, in the eye and say we did everything we can for you. If we win, great. If we lose, we go back to the drawing board to focus on the 111th but we did what we could.

“Our manongs marched for more than 62 years, we’re asking the community to march with them for the next 62 days.”


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Pinay Boxer Loses Championship Bout

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
LEMOORE – FilAm Pinay boxer Ana Julaton’s dream of being an undefeated champion fell apart after losing a split decision against Brooklyn native Dominga Olivo in an eight round bout at the Tachi Palace Resort and Casino last August 21.

“The girl was much more effective at 120 than she was at 135,” said Roach about Olivo. “She was very durable and quick…Not to say that Ana didn’t fight a good fight. Ana fought well. I think a few adjustments here and there and we could have outpointed Olivo.”

With only two weeks notice, Olivo accepted this match against the highly regarded Julaton after several other opponents backed out.

Fighting for her fourth world championship attempt, the 36-year-old veteran boxer looked sharp throughout the fight. She threw more punches and combinations, while Julaton seemed to have lost a step. The judges scored split-decision bout in her favor 79-73, 77-75 and 75-77.

“I wanted to pressure her and throw the stronger punches,” said Olivo, the new World Boxing Council (WBC) International Female super bantamweight titlist. “I wanted to work the body to the head and use my hooks. And you saw what happened.”

Roach said that Julaton didn’t look like her normal self during the match.

“I don’t know what it was,” said Roach about Julaton’s performance. “I’m not sure if she over prepared. I feel like Ana was a little flat in the fight. Not so much her hands but her legs.”

Julaton, who has only had five professional bouts, admits to having rookie nerves. The bright lights and championship atmosphere took the better of her.

It appeared that Julaton was the quicker fighter with the effective jabs to keep Oliva away. However, Julaton abandoned that strategy for a more brawler type fight.

“I think going into this fight I was too excited,” she said. “I knew she was a forward fighter but my ego got the best of me in terms of me just wanting to go in there and slug it out with her.

“I was a little tight,” she added. “She’s a strong fighter. I just didn’t get off the way I wanted to.”

Julaton said that the loss is a humbling moment in her short career.

“I’m taking it for what it is,” she said. “The best thing is to leave it all behind…and continue on to be better. No excuses on anything. I just need to try to get better next time. I’ll do whatever it takes to get to the next level.”

Too Soon?

Manager Angelo Reyes took the blame for Julaton’s lost.

Coming into this match questions surrounded Julaton’s management about whether she was ready for a championship bout against a very worthy opponent so early in her career.

Reyes said he was overeager to go for a championship early in Julaton’s career because women’s boxing doesn’t have the number of fights available like the men’s professional boxing.

“Look I went on record on saying that we had five top five women in the world who turned down this fight,” he said. “Why is Ana the one challenging people when it should be the other way around?”

The loss drops Julaton’s record to 4-1-1 1 KO.

Reyes said Team Julaton would go back to the drawing board and prepare a new training regiment for Julaton. Reyes added that he and Roach are already preparing for another match for Julaton scheduled for late October.  (

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A ‘Sting’ Operation: The Police last concert EVER

by Momar Visaya/AJPress
NEW YORK—The Police saved the best for last.
The successful ’80s band staged its final concert ever at the Madison Square Garden on Thursday, August 7 and they were joined by a sold-out crowd of 19,000 screaming and adoring fans.

The concert tour, which was stretched to 14 months, came to an end with gig No. 150. The band played for over three million fans and earned more than $350 million. This evening’s final show was also a fitting benefit for two New York public television stations.

“It’s been a huge honor to get back together,” Sting said as he thanked his band mates – guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland for their “musicianship, companionship, friendship, understanding and patience.”

“The real triumph of this tour is that we haven’t strangled each other,” Sting announced. “Not to say it hasn’t crossed my mind—or Andy’s or Stewart’s.” This statement was met with a rapturous applause, as fans of the band know how the trio disbanded in 1984 at the peak of their career after some serious misunderstandings.

The band performed some of their greatest hits and some of their B-sides or their less-famous  ones.

Among the most-applauded was when they brought in almost two dozen members of the NYPD marching band to accompany their Message in a Bottle performance. Watching Sting don a New York’s Finest cap was a sight to behold.

The Police classics such as Roxanne, Can’t Stand Losing You, Don’t Stand So Close to Me and Every Breath You Take were big hits to the audience. Did anybody say nostalgia?

Wrapped Around Your Finger showcased Copeland’s prowess as he used chimes, kettles and various percussion instruments. Summers complemented Sting in almost every single number.

There were poignant moments, especially when photographs of children from around the world were shown on the screens while they were singing. Three of Sting’s daughters dancing while he sang Every Little Thing She Does is Magic was one light-hearted moment to watch.

Watching The Police was indeed a treat, and realizing that Sting is pushing 57 (and his band mates are not exactly young) but they still had that kind of exuberance seen in younger bands just made it better.

They were also quite irreverent.

While the audience waited for the band’s encore numbers, the garden turned dark. Then the projection screens showed the scruffy and full-bearded Sting being shaved, yes, shaved, by two buxom ladies. The camera zoomed out and revealed that Sting was also having a manicure and pedicure.

The ending was also classic and yes, quite fitting.

Remember the cliche “It’s not over till the fat lady sings?” Well, there was someone, dressed as a fat opera singer, lipsynching an aria. Then the famous Looney Tunes ending, with an audio clip of Porky Pig saying “That’s all folks.” They could have projected on the giant screens the words “The End” just to drive home the point.

“It is a celebration. I think it is important that things have an ending. I think Americans call it closure. Things don’t last forever. We all have our interests and our needs and we will carry on making music. This was never meant to be forever, nothing is,” Sting said in a video promoting this final show.

According to the Associated Press, the New York tour finale was intentional because the band wanted to call it quits in the same city of their first US gig 30 years ago, in the far smaller—though no less famous—CBGB’s nightclub, which is now closed.

After a 23-year hiatus, The Police went back on tour, hitting major venues across the United States including Boston, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Phoenix and Los Angeles. The tour also traveled to Europe, Latin America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The B-52s opened the show at exactly 8 pm and performed their greatest hits for about an hour.

It was a treat watching them do new wave songs I used to listen to the radio, including such ’80s classics as Rock Lobster, Love Shack, Private Idaho and one of my personal favorites Roam. Kill me now, I didn’t even know that the group was behind this song which I unabashedly call one of my favorites.

The highly charged final show ended with a bang, earning more than $3 million for the two public television stations in the city. It was also a fitting finale to a comeback concert tour that brought together The Police, one last time. (

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To be loved . . . by the King of Love Songs

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
“Balatkayo lahat ang buhay sa mundo Nakangiti kahit hindi totoo Magandang bulaklak ang s’yang katulad mo Nguni’t paglapit ko’y walang bango.”
The lines above are from the classic love song entitled Balatkayo composed by the Philippines’ King of Love Songs, Anthony Castelo . The song laments how his lover has turned out to be a phony. So, he grieves that most people live life pretending; putting on an act; faking love or happiness; being balatkayo.

Fortunately, the multi-awarded singer/composer is exactly the opposite of being a balatkayo. A truly accomplished international artist, Anthony is a genuinely caring and loving human being who has lived to make a difference in the world he lives in. Despite a long list of gold records, sold-out concerts and outstanding performances for world dignitaries like US President George W. Bush, Saudi King Fahd, Moroccan King Hassan II, Princess Margaret of England, Premier Suzuki of Japan, and Pope John Paul II, he has not been dazzled by show business. He has always had an innate charitable interest in others; looking for ways to extend help, show kindness and give support.

Born in the Philippines, Anthony has a unique Eurasian mix of Filipino and Portuguese/Spanish ancestry. He studied in Los Angeles and it was there, while in his teens that he began his music career, joining the world-famous choral group The Young Americans.

Later, while still a student at the University of the Philippines, Castelo joined the Gentle Rain—a group led by well-known songwriter/producer Nonong Pedero. The quartet, whose members included Boy Camara and Rody Picar, developed an amazing quick and faithful following among the collegians. Later, Anthony was discovered by famous recording producers and OPM pioneers Vic del Rosario, Tony Ocampo, Orly Ilacad and Tito Sotto. A marvelous singer and performer gifted with a soulful baritone or tenor voice, he instantly gained the respect of his audiences everywhere.

Anthony’s success as a solo artist has been nothing short of remarkable. His songs such as Hahanapin Ko, Panaginip, Ibig Kong Ibigin Ka, Nang Dahil sa Pag-Ibig, and numerous others quickly hit the charts and Castelo was dubbed as the “Philippines’ King of Love Songs.” He has earned numerous awards for his music; among them were the ALIW and CECIL Awards (the Philippines’ version of the Grammy Awards).

In addition to music, Anthony has also starred in several hit movies together with the Philippines’ finest actors such as Christopher De Leon, Dindo Fernando, Vilma Santos, and Lorna Tolentino. His 1982 Movie of the Year Pakawalan Mo Ako, garnered him a nomination for the FAMAS (the Oscars of the Philippines).

While many would be contented with a successful career in the arts, Anthony did not rest on his laurels to give more contributions which are significant to the society. He had served as a councilor of Quezon City for which he received the BANTAYOG Award for the “Most Outstanding Quezon City Councilor” in 1999 and 2000 given by the Quezon City Press Club.

Several years ago, Castelo immigrated to the States, making his home in Los Angeles with his family. While continuing his career as a performer, Anthony also used his talent to help organizations such as the International Red Cross, the March of Dimes and other humanitarian institutions. In one occasion in Las Vegas, Anthony performed for the Sammy Davis Memorial Concert, which was held in honor of the late entertainer for the benefit of the March of Dimes Foundation.

After the 911 terrorists’ attack, Castelo composed the song, Long Live America, which he himself presented to President George W. Bush during his visit to the White House in 2002. The song soon became a best-selling hit and for this patriotic composition, the State of Maryland House of Delegates, the City of Los Angeles, and the San Diego, California Congressional District honored Castelo with special awards of artistic recognition.

“Through the years, our people have always been my inspiration in everything I do. It was through music that I’ve learned how to love God, our people and our country, and my role as a public servant is the articulation of that song of love,” Castelo said.

In 2004, through his established non-profit organization Long Live America Foundation, the singer helped secure for Engracia Gutierrez a humanitarian visa to come to the United States. Engracia is the sister and only living next-of-kin to US Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, an immigrant from Guatemala who died in Iraq. Likewise, with the help of city officials from Lomita and Carson, Castelo organized a 2004 Fourth of July event honoring Gutierrez and another immigrant soldier, Philippine-native US Marine Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their adopted country.

All of Castelo’s philanthropy and help for the needy has recently earned him his most cherished award and recognition. Last April 2008, he received the prestigious “President’s Volunteer Service Award” during ceremonies at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. The award was issued by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, a committee formed by President George W. Bush in 2003 by Executive Order. It recognizes outstanding efforts of individuals and organizations towards their community and country.

“On behalf of Long Live America Foundation, it is a privilege for me to receive this recognition and I share this honor with all Filipinos around the globe,” he said. “Through the years, America has shared its blessings of freedom and prosperity with the nations of the world. As a thankful immigrant whose native Philippines has been liberated by the United States in World War II, it is truly an honor to be of service to this great country.”

Albert Einstein once said that “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” Anthony Castelo has truly made his life worthwhile by making a difference in the lives of others. (

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A Life Full Of Passion — And Dance

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress
Initially, I wanted to meet Malu Rivera-Peoples in person. Having been in contact with her only through e-mail since last year, I have been meaning to write a story about her and achievements. However, our busy schedules until now couldn’t meet in between.

Aside from the fact that her success story is a worthy topic, my interest in her is partly personal.  Growing up, I’ve dabbled in the performing arts, having studied piano for five years and voice for a short time.  But there was one thing I couldn’t really handle – dance, because I’ve always admitted that I was born with two left feet.

Short of meeting with her personally, I am already an admirer of Ms. Rivera-Peoples’ craft, passion and commitment to share her undeniable talent to others who dream of a life of dance.

Dancing at the age of 10 under the tutelage of Felicitas Radaic, Luis Layag and Steve Villaruz, by the age of 16, she was already part of the Dance Theater Philippines, the start of her professional career

“I had such a full, exciting, and rich life as a student and as a young adult because of dance.  We trained, traveled and performed around the world.  I feel I have been blessed by all the success as well as the disappointing experiences as a dancer,” she said and added, “I owe a lot to my very first teacher Tita Radaic who passed on her passion, dedication, and respect for dance.   I learned the discipline from her.  I also am very blessed to have had such a professional and creative artistic director in my professional years with Ballet Philippines.”

Ms. Rivera-Peoples then went on to the international stage, training with international figures such as Kenneth Gillespie, Armin Wilde, Norman Walker, Luminita Dumitrescu, William Morgan, Alfred Rodriguez, Gray Veredon, and Mikael Kukarev.  She has also collaborated and performed with internationally acclaimed guest dancers such as Alicia Alonso, Margot Fonteyn, Patrick Bissell, Fernando Bujones, Leslie Brown, Joyce Cuoco, Martin Van Hamel, Natasha Makarova, Eleanor D’Antuono and Rudolph Nureyev.  She has traveled all over the world and has performed solo roles in full-length productions of Swan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, Nutcracker and Romeo & Juliet, to name a few.

But her biggest achievement seems to be off the stage – as a teacher.

Ms. Rivera-Peoples’ teaching career began at age 14, under the supervision of her teacher, Felicitas Radaic.  At the age of 16, she became a member of the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD, London), qualifying her to prepare children for the annual RAD Children’s Examinations.  Then at 19, she opened her own school in Manila, the Silid-Sining Workshop for the Performing Arts in Manila, which continues to operate to this date.

In 1983, Ms. Rivera-Peoples migrated to the US.  By the summer of 1991, she co-founded the Westlake School offor the Performing Arts (WSPA) in Daly City.  Under her leadership, WSPA has continued to have the respect and reputation of the community for being an outstanding school.  The school and its students have been receiving awards for their ensemble and solo entries in competitions such as the Youth America Grand Prix, the International Dance Challenge, Showstoppers and Prelude, in both junior and senior divisions.

“Any one who runs their own business would say that the work is 24 hours a day.  It is the same with running a performing arts school, you are continually on the edge of your seat creating new works (as a choreographer), hiring teachers to replace the good ones who had to move on, letting go of teachers who have not delivered well, promoting students who deserve and having to deal with parents who do not agree with your decisions, so forth and so on,” she explained.  “I have learned to take it all objectively, and because of all the human interaction the business has fortunately allowed me to have, I have learned so much about people, relationships, life, and so much about myself as well.”

Aside from these, Ms. Rivera-Peoples is recognized as an excellent choreographer, receiving several awards for modern, ballet, lyrical jazz and musicals.  Twice awarded as Outstanding Choreographer by the Youth America Grand Prix in Long Beach in 2004 and 2006, she also directs WSPA’s full-length ballet, The Nutcracker every year at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.  Just last year, she was selected as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the US in Washington, DC.

As to her advice to those who wish to pursue a career in dance, she simply said, “Follow your heart and do not give up.  When you are true to your goal and true to yourself, everything in the universe will work together to make sure you reach your destination.  The journey may not be easy, but the rewards will be beyond your imagination.”

(For inquiries about WSPA’s programs and class schedules,  you can contact them at (650) 757-1244, e-mail or by logging on to


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The Making of a President: All Roads Lead to the White House

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress
It’s almost the last hurrah.

John McCain and Barack Obama, the men who would be President—well, one of them. After their knighthood at their respective party conventions and the November 4, 2008 elections, all roads lead to the White House, or it’s back to the old hometown.

On August 25 to 28, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) will return to Denver, Colorado, after a century. The first DNC in Denver in 1908 was the first convention by a major party in a western state, and was the first national political event to accredit women, with five credentialed as delegates or alternate delegates.

On the other side, an estimated 45,000 delegates, alternate delegates, party officials, volunteers, members of the media and convention guests will troop to the Grand Old Party’s (GOP) 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota on September 1 to 4.  It will also be the second time for the party to convene in Minneapolis, when the Republicans nominated Benjamin Harrison in 1892.

Democrat or Republican?

As is usually the case, America’s eyes are set on the two major political parties in the US. In the upcoming 2008 US Elections, for the first time, two sitting senators will run against each other—Obama (Democratic) of Illinois and McCain (Republican) of Arizona.

These two major parties used to be one—the Democratic-Republican Party, formed in 1792 by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and other influential opponents of the Federalists.  However, since the split of the Republic Party in the election of 1912, the Democratic Party has consistently positioned itself as the left of the Republican Party in economic as well as social matters.

In 2004, USA Today reported that the Democratic Party was the largest political party, with 72 million voters (42.6 percent of 169 million registered) claiming affiliation.  Also, since the 2006 midterm elections, it was the majority party for the 110th Congress, holding an outright majority in the House of Representatives as well as control.

In the early 1850s, the Republican Party was born from the hands of anti-slavery activists and individuals who believed that the government should grant western lands to settlers free of charge. With its first official meeting held on July 6, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan, the name “Republican” was chosen because it alluded to equality and reminded individuals of Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican to win the White House.

Republicans ruled mostly during the late 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. The White House was in Republican hands under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George Bush.  During the last two Presidents’ terms, the US became the world’s only superpower, winning the Cold War from the old Soviet Union and releasing millions from Communist oppression.

JFK and the making of a president

Conventions, nominations and elections always create a certain drama and complexity in choosing a leader for a great nation. But perhaps one of the most interesting highlights through time was the election of the late John F. Kennedy.

Despite his youth, JFK was able to capture the Democratic nomination in 1960 at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles, and then went on to win one of the closest presidential races in US history. He won the nomination by getting a series of state primaries, overcoming the traditional assumption that a winning candidate must have the support of entrenched party leaders from states with large blocs of electoral votes. The Republican nominee, then Vice President Nixon, was older and more experienced, led in the polls after the national conventions.

But a series of televised debates, watched by an estimated 70 million Americans (about 2/3 of the electorate) gave JFK an edge. Although Nixon and JFK had appeared as equals, issues about experience and maturity seemed to fade from the campaign.  Studies would later show that of the 4 million voters who made up their minds as a result of the debates, 3 million voted for JFK.

JFK was elected president with a popular vote margin of 118,550 out of a total of nearly 69 million votes cast. He was the youngest elected president, the only Catholic and the first born in the 20th century.

In 1963, the world mourned his death after he was shot in Dallas, Texas while his car drove slowly past cheering crowds. JFK’s brief time in office stands out in people’s memories for his great leadership, personality and accomplishments.

On November 4, 2008, votes will again be cast. Once again, the fate of the United States and its people will depend on one person, one leader. Whoever it will be—a Democrat or Republican—the change he brings is hoped to deserve the nation’s votes and to become the springboard towards the country’s continued progress and a much improved economy. (With research from, and


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Jane Monreal: The eye in the sky

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
She provides the most important information for any Southland driver.
Everyday FilAm Jane Monreal provides millions of drivers their traffic updates. If there’s a big rig on fire on the 60 West Pomona freeways, Monreal is there. If there’s a traffic jam on the 10 West heading to Santa Monica, Monreal gives the up-to-the-minute update.

Since 2004 when Monreal started working for KABC 7 Eyewitness News This Morning team, Monreal has seen countless of accidents and traffic jams as well as providing the much-needed information for commuters.

Monreal began her reporting career in 1994 delivering weekend, overnight traffic reports and eventually became the lead afternoon traffic reporter for all-news radio station KFWB, according to the KABC website.

Her work on the afternoon news team earned her a Golden Mike award, an annual award given by the Radio and Television News Association.

She has also served as an airborne traffic reporter at KFWB, covered the North Hollywood attempted bank heist shootout in 1997, and the brush fires in Orange and Los Angeles Counties. She also served as a broadcaster on 94.7 the Wave for five years.

A University of Miami graduate, Monreal was a former Miss Asian-America Florida. She served as captain of the university’s dance team and is still active in dance.  (

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Kristine Johnson: Beauty, Brains, and Beyond

by Nickee de Leon/AJPress
If you google Kristine Johnson on the web, you’ll come across a number of adoring fan sites. There’s, a forum site where ogling men pine for the stunning half-white, half-Filipina beauty whenever they see her on TV. has a wide collection of screen captures of Kristine, while describes her as adorable but breaks through her adorability with her professionalism. “The adorability sinks back in by the end of the broadcast, but by that time, they’re talking about things like street fairs and adopting kittens, so it’s fine,” the site further quips.

Kristine is definitely more than just a pretty face. She is the co-anchor of Chris Wragge for the 5pm and 11pm News broadcasts of WCBS-TV in New York City. Before joining WCBS-TV, Kristine was the anchor for NBC News Early Today, an alternate anchor for Weekend Today and daytime anchor for MSNBC. Major newsmakers and breaking news events, such as the killing of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi and the London Terror Bombings were part of Kristine’s daily fare as a journalist.

Kristine also worked as a weeknight anchor and field reporter for WPRI/WNAC-TV in Providence, RI and was responsible for field anchoring from live breaking news events in the Providence market. She is a recipient of two Emmy nominations for her contribution in the production of Brendan’s Story and Newsmakers.

Kristine was born to a Filipina mother and an American father in Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Pampanga in the Philippines. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism and minors in political science, history and English. She now resides in New Jersey with her husband, Steve and their two children,  Ava, 6 and Burke,1.


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