Monthly Archives: September 2008

Let’s talk about it!

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress

The do’s and don’ts on marriage for gay and lesbian couples

When Americans vote on Nov 4, 2008, Californians will also be asked if they agree to Proposition 8 or not. Also known as the Protect Marriage Act, Proposition 8 is a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in May 2008 that authorized the granting of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. To vote YES to Proposition 8 is to ban same sex marriage and maintain the Family Code that explicitly defines the union of a man and a woman as the only valid or recognizable form of marriage in the State of California. To vote NO is to uphold the controversial Supreme Court decision and agree to legalize same-sex marriage.

Over the coming weeks leading to the election, we can expect Californians to encounter a lot of propaganda by gay rights organizations as well as by proponents of Proposition 8 to try to sway their votes. What are both sides saying?

I Do support marriage of same-sex couples

Recently, a television commercial and a series of print ads were launched to open hearts and minds about the issues involved when same-sex couples marry. Called Let California Ring, the public education campaign addresses the public’s concerns and conflicts about marriage and same-sex couples. It builds a better understanding of the everyday challenges lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Californians face, and encourages dialogue through individual and public conversations about ways to end exclusion.

Over 50 diverse organizations have come together in the Let California Ring Campaign. They hope that the campaign will be able to engage people to talk about the freedom to marry and to build public support for gay marriage.

“I dreamed of seeing my son get married,” said Sylvia Castro-Adams. “Now that California law finally allows them to marry, Paul and Max seized the opportunity. I’m so happy they’re married; it gives me great comfort to know my son will be taken care of by someone who loves him, no matter what. I want to honor and celebrate Max and Paul’s love and commitment just as we do for all the loving couples in our family. So, we’re planning a big reception, with all the family together.”

In a recent collective editorial brainstorming session in LA organized by New American Media (NAM), a PR practitioner from San Francisco named Robert spoke of other stories of love and commitment. “The first couple who married in June 16, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, has been together for 55 years. Del died Aug 27. Her last great act was finally marrying the person she has loved for over 50 years. This is why people care so passionately about this issue. How would you feel if you can’t marry the person you love? How would you feel if the government told you, you can’t marry the person you love,” Robert said.

Sandy Close, NAM executive director, said that the gay community wants society to talk about their plight, and to understand and support them. The main message of Let California Ring is that “as California’s gay and lesbian couples marry, their families grow stronger. And what’s good for families is good for our communities. Strong commitments make for strong families and strong communities.”

I Don’t support marriage of same-sex couples

Those who are opposed to gay and lesbian marriages believe that the union of a man and woman in marriage is the most enduring and important human institution, and legalizing gay marriages could undermine the family.

Bishop Oscar Solis of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles stands by what Pope Benedict has stated—that the Roman Catholic Church denounces homosexual behavior but calls for empathy and compassion for gays and lesbians. The Church teaches that the inclination toward homosexuality is not necessarily a sin; it can be considered a tendency toward an intrinsic moral evil, and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder. However, as Pope Benedict said, “a person engaging in homosexual behavior acts immorally,” because he feels that sex is only good if framed in the stance of being for procreation between a married man and woman. Currently, the Roman Catholic Church has strict limitations on allowing homosexuals to become members of the clergy, and it also continues to fight the legal recognition of homosexual couples

Many other Christian denominations reject same-sex marriage because several verses in the Bible denounce it, like in Romans 1:26-27: That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”

Asked to comment on the question of many gays about “how would you feel if the government tells you that you can’t marry the person you love?,” Pastor Mark Briones of Word International Ministries- Los Angeles stated that, “It’s not a question of what people wish or desire. It’s an issue of what God says is right or wrong. Since I believe the Bible is God’s Word and it says homosexual relationships are wrong, then I cannot support gay marriage.”   (www.asianjournal.com)

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Poll shows Californians favor same sex marriage

by Joseph Pimentel AJPress
LOS ANGELES—The percentage of Californians opposing a constitutional amendment that would reinstate a ban on same-sex marriages have grown over the past year, according to the Field Poll, an independent and nonpartisan organization.

The surveys latest finding released on September 18 revealed that 55 percent of Californians opposed while 38 percent favored Proposition 8, the initiative to ban same-sex marriage on the November election ballot. In May, the Field Poll’s first survey on the subject found that 51 percent had opposed the proposition. During the same time, an LA Times/ KTLA poll found that 54 percent of California residents favored the ban on same sex marriages.

“During the past two months, voter opposition has increased toward Proposition 8,” said Mark De Camillo and Mervin Field, the researchers of the poll.

The Field Poll’s recent findings show that voters are keen on this issue. The report found that 70 percent of voters have “heard something about Proposition 8.”

De Camillo said that the survey found that preferences on Proposition 8 divide sharply by party, ideology, region, religion and educational status of the voter.

The report revealed that Democrats oppose the initiative nearly four to one. Republicans are in favor of the ballot initiative by almost a three to one margin. Meanwhile, a majority (56 percent) of non-partisans are lining up on the No side.

The survey found that 57 percent of voters living in coastal counties or touching the San Francisco Bay are opposed to Proposition 8. By contrast, voters living in inland counties are closely divided (44 percent Yes vs. 48 percent No).

The poll also revealed that 52 percent of Protestants favor the bill. Catholics (55 percent) and those affiliated with other religions oppose the bill. The findings in the report are based on a random sample survey of 830 likely voters in California.

However, those favoring Proposition 8 are wary of the recent Field Poll survey.

“Recent polls published by California media outlets claim that Proposition 8 to restore marriage in California as between a man and a woman, is trailing among voters. These polls, including the Field Poll released this week, suffer from the same historic problem that other polls on this subject around the country have had: they do not accurately reflect the true support for traditional marriage,” said Frank Schubert, campaign manager for ProtectMarriage.com in a statement. “For example, the Field Poll showed that support for Proposition 22 in 2000 was at 53 percent right before the election, yet over 61 percent of voters supported the proposition.”

Anti-Proposition 8 supporters have already been lining up to defeat the ballot measure.

Earlier this week, actor Brad Pitt announced he’s donating $100,000 to fight the November initiative.

“Because no one has the right to deny another their life, even though they disagree with it, because everyone has the right to live the life they so desire if it doesn’t harm another and because discrimination has no place in America, my vote will be for equality and against Proposition 8,” said Pitt in a statement published in the LA Times.

With the November election only two months away, expect Proposition 8 supporters and oppositions to make a strong push about their case. (www.asianjournal.com)

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Filipinos’ Passion for Fashion

by Momar Visaya/AJPress

Grace Edwards, Andy Arcangel & Monique Lhuillier make Pinoys proud, too

NEW YORK—Last week, a veritable who’s who in the fashion industry converged in the city to celebrate Fashion Week where the Spring/Summer 2009 collections of famous designers were presented.

The historic Bryant Park was transformed into one giant tent, where all the fashion shows and some after-parties are held. This is also where industry insiders, designers and buyers meet and match.

“It is a very tough industry, it is so hard to get in,” Grace Edwards, a Filipina designer told the Asian Journal. “This is an opportunity for businesses and buyers to take a look at next year’s trends and for a week, they will be looking at a horde of designs so your collection must really stand out.”

Among this year’s designers whose collection gets showcased in a fashion event is Monique Lhuillier.

Lhuillier is known for her exquisite bridal gowns but through the years she has also designed ready to wear clothes, which are as elegant and timeless as her gowns. Her designs have also graced numerous red carpet events and editorial spreads in fashion magazines.

Already, there’s a long line of celebrities who have donned her design during their wedding days. The list includes, among others, the singer Pink who wore an ivory and black gown during her wedding day; Lost’s Emilie de Ravin who had a lacey long gown; Private Practice lead star Kate Walsh who wore a custom-made gown for her Ojai wedding; TV host Ali Landry; singer Natalie Imbruglia; Kevin Costner’s wife Christine Baumgartner, and Britney Spears during her infamous wedding to Kevin Federline.

According to reports, Lhuillier’s spring collection at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week showed her ability to pull off more relaxed looks.

“She offered outfits in billowy chiffon, feminine organza and, surprisingly, denim. A pleated cocktail dress with embroidered Aztec cap sleeves elevated denim to a whole new category. There also was a chambray jacquard cocktail dress with a crisscross pleated halter top that was lovely,” the Associated Press said.

“This season I used dry crisp fabrics, straw-braiding techniques, basket patterns and wave prints,” the designer wrote in her notes to the crowd at her show.

Today, Monique Lhuillier is considered one of the leading innovative fashion houses in terms of design, quality and brand image.  The Monique Lhuillier boutique, in the heart of Beverly Hills, offers world-class service and a wide selection of her latest Ready-to-Wear and Bridal collections as well as some custom offerings.

Her designs have been showcased though various Fashion Week shows and for spring/summer 2009, Lhuillier explained that it is all about the skin this time.

“Evening is about layers of sheer fabrics giving the illusion of seeing lots of skin. Billowing shirts, draped bodices and weightless volumes accented with copper and bronze beading,” Lhuillier said.

Her famous designs have been featured on such fashion forward television shows as Sex and the City and Will & Grace, and is a favorite among many noteworthy celebrities. Her Ready-To-Wear collection has been worn by megastars such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Connelly, Janet Jackson, Debra Messing, Angelina Jolie, Sharon Stone, Mariah Carey, Sarah Michelle Geller, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Marg Helgenberger, Amber Tamblyn, Elisha Cuthbert, Jorja Fox, Holly Hunter, Tiffany Thiessen and Jamie Lynn Sigler.

Grace Edwards

Compared with Lhuillier, Grace Edwards is a novice. She’s not a household name. Not yet, at least.

At the young age of 50, Edwards is trying her best to make it in this cutthroat world of fashion. She has been fortified by time, experience and the numerous challenges that she had to face along the way.

Edwards and her husband moved to New York in 2000, shortly after the death of Jack, their middle child who succumbed to severe asthma attack.  He was only 23.

A couple of years later, Edwards worked at Henri Bendel, an affluent retail store where she believes she began to realize that she had a passion for fashion. “I was looking at the stuff that we were selling there and noticed the prices. I told myself, ‘I can do this,’” she related.

Three years later, she launched her own line: Grade Edwards, Inc., a clothing design company focusing on haute couture.

Her ascent to fame and her struggles are all documented through Start Up 2, an online reality series that featured three small business owners and produced by AOL Small Business and Entrepreneur.com.

Andy Arcangel

Andy Arcangel and his partner Dino Lomboy run Arcangel Men’s Wear in the hip East Village area of Manhattan.

Arcangel’s passion for fashion came at a young age, when he still had no idea what fashion was. Growing up in a middle class family in Sta. Mesa, Manila, Arcangel witnessed his mother create their own curtains, table covers and blankets.

“I used to watch her and I remember being wide-eyed in amazement about how raw materials could turn into such beautiful finished adornments for the house. That was how my love of fashion and fabrics started,” Arcangel said in previous interviews.

He moved to the New York in 1997 and this ignited his passion for design. He enrolled in fashion courses at the Fashion Institute in New York City and soon earned a master’s degree in Business Administration from Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City.

During last week’s fashion week events, Arcangel showcased his own summer 2009 collection with a runway show at a loft in Chelsea.

“This collection is inspired by summer in Mexico,” Arcangel said before the show started. His collection can best be described as eclectic. Some pieces had floral and psychedelic designs while others were just bursting with colors. Most were fun going-out clothes that have been a trademark of the label for eight years now.

This is the fourth fashion show that Arcangel has staged in time for the Fashion Week.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Of Global Pinoys & Balikbayanis

by V. de Leon/AJPress

With the onset of technological advancements and the birth of new industries, the hardworking Juan has learned to broaden his horizons and has become a citizen of the world — a global Pinoy.

There are two kinds of global Pinoys — the immigrants, who have found permanent residence in another country and possibly have become naturalized citizens of the country that they’ve migrated to, and the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) or expatriates. OFWs or expatriates are Pinoys who work with multi-national companies abroad on a temporary (and oftentimes,contractual) basis.

Family always comes first in Filipino culture. This trait does not only apply to immediate family members, but extends to relatives, even relations through affinity as well.

Traveling long distances to work abroad or reside permanently in another country does not make the global Pinoy forget — in fact, it makes him long for home and his family even more. In the midst of homesickness and loneliness, he strives hard to meet his financial goals and provide a better life for his loved ones.

In the beginning of his arduous journey to financial success, he comes across a familiar face, a kababayan, who would help him go through the rudiments of starting a new life in a foreign land.

With his newfound support group, the concepts of family and kababayan become synonymous and synergized for the global Pinoy. He finds reprieve and pays the kindness he receives forward. If his ventures become lucrative enough, he may even be willing to make patriotic investments on the Philippines, either through retirement or business endeavors.

Filipinos never forget their roots and will always find means to visit their home country– thus, the moniker balikbayan (balik means to return and bayan means country). After all, a Pinoy will always remain a Pinoy at heart, no matter what citizenship he has acquired or what new culture he has adapted to.

The OFW

Every year, a considerable population of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) or expatriates seek greener pastures by working in different industries abroad. The spectrum is expanding further, with Pinoy professionals in different fields now working in developing Asian countries as Vietnam, Indonesia and China.

In a 2007 survey conducted by census.gov.ph, the report stated that “the number of OFWs who worked abroad at anytime during the period April to September 2007 was registered at 1.75 million. This represents an increase of 15.3 percent over the estimated 1.52 million OFWs in April to September 2006. Out of the total OFWs during the period April to September 2007, 92.4 percent (1.61 million) were Overseas Contract Workers (OCW) or those with existing work-contact abroad. The number of OCWs in April to September 2007 went up by 16.6 percent over the 1.38 million OCWs estimated for the same months in 2006.”

In the same survey, it was elaborated that “OFWs sent a total remittance of Php110 billion for the period April to September 2007, an increase of Php8 billion (7.7%) from the estimated remittance of Php102 billion for the same months in 2006. Included in the total remittances are cash sent (74.6%) cash brought home (20.7%) and remittances in kind (4.7%). Of the total cash remittance sent for the period April to September 2007, 76.8 percent were sent through the bank, 14 percent were sent through door-to-door and the rest (9.2%) were sent through the agency and or local office, friends or co-workers and other means. OFWs working in Asia, comprising 78.1 percent of all OFWs, sent the biggest cash remittance of Php57.7 billion. Among occupation groups, OFWs working as laborers or unskilled workers posted the highest cash remittance of Php17.6 billion.”

With his intelligence, ingenuity and industry, the Pinoy expatriate has elevated his country’s stature and competence in the global job market. The stigma that was once associated with OFWs has now become a myth. The OFW is no longer deterred nor disheartened by derogatory perceptions, because his sacrifices prove beneficial not only to his family and loved ones, but to his beloved country as well.

The Pinoy immigrant

Filipino immigrants are a common sight around the world — countries as the United States, Canada and Australia are fast-becoming new settlements for migrating Pinoys. In the United States alone, there is already a significant population of Filipino-Americans who have found their place and have adapted to the ways of American culture. The numbers continue to increase, especially with the continuing high demand for medical professionals. Times are changing and opportunities are rising for nurses, physical therapists and doctors.

In an article by Aaron Terrazas from the Migration Policy Institute, it was reported that “the number of Filipino immigrants in the United States tripled between 1980 and 2006, from 501, 440 to 1.6 million, making them the second largest immigrant group in the United States after Mexican immigrants and ahead of the Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese foreign-born.

“Over two-thirds of all Filipino immigrants resided in just five states, although their numbers are growing in places like Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas.”

Other notable facts in migrationinformation.org include: (1) “There were 1.6 million foreign-born from the Philippines residing in the US in 2006. The 1960 census counted 104,843 Filipino immigrants, a number that increased 15.6 times to 1,638,413 Filipino immigrants in 2006. The Filipino-born were the second-largest foreign-born group in the US in 2006 after immigrants from Mexico. (2) Filipino immigrants made up 4.4 percent of all immigrants in 2006. In 1960, Filipino immigrants composed 1.1 percent of all foreign-born in the United States. That share more than tripled to 3.6 percent in 1980 and increased to 4.6 percent in 1990 but decreased slightly to 4.4 percent in 2006.”

From balikbayan to balikbayani

According to Inquirer.net,the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) announced in October 2007, through a study that was released in Washington DC, that the Philippines ranked fourth in dollar remittances among developing countries with $13.7 billion of global remittance flows in 2006.

In these trying times, The Philippines has found refuge in the new income-generating global Pinoy — the foremost contributor in revving up dollar revenues and boosting the Philippines’ economy. They have become a new breed of heroes – the balikbayanis, instigators of an economic revolution that counters poverty. Global Pinoy Power has become the new People Power, a teeming source of economic stability and empowerment.

Specialized needs

Global Pinoys have become a formidable force to reckon with — a potential market with unique needs. These unique needs necessitated the inception of a new industry — one solely dedicated to ensuring that their exigencies are met with ease and convenience. Remittance centers, balikbayan box companies and travel agencies are all part of this singular group.

Their specialized services have made this industry an indispensable part of global Pinoy culture. They may even be considered as balikbayanis themselves. They are the mediators that turn the global Pinoy’s dreams into reality through balikbayad (remittances), the balikbayan box and of course, the balikbayan.

The balikbayani ecosystem operates with such efficiency and symbiosis. Remittances to the Philippines provide our economy with much needed dollar revenues. Balikbayan boxes sent to the Philippines not only bring the global Pinoy’s parcel of love home but also generate jobs and added income for our kababayans. Reasonable airfare rates and travel packages attract millions of global Pinoys to come home every year, thus increasing income for the country further through tourism.

Indeed, it’s always a win-win situation in the balikbayani ecosystem — a manifestation of Pinoy’s ingenuity and adaptability wherever in the world he may be.   (www.asianjournal.com)

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Bucks from the Big Box

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress

From a parcel of goodies to a booming industry

There’s nothing like receiving a big cardboard box full of goodies or pasalubong from relatives overseas.

It’s the warm feeling Manny Paez remembers when he was younger growing up in the Philippines.

“I used to tear open the cardboard box and hang them up along my walls so my friends could see that I’m receiving gifts from my family in the US,” said Paez.

That was decades ago for Paez but the feeling remains the same for many people in the Philippines.

“It’s like opening gifts during Christmas,” said Paez, the president of Manila Forwarders, a Philippine cargo company based in Eagle Rock.

Balikbayan

boxes sent by Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) have become a sort of chest of treasures full of clothes, chocolate, shoes, canned goods, rice or other kinds of goodies.

With the influx of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s) leaving the Philippines daily and their family behind in search of a decent living in other countries, balikbayan boxes and their contents have become a symbol of love from loved ones when they are away.

And it’s the reason why the number of cargo companies shipping to the Philippines has increased, according to Paez.

According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Filipinos who left for employment overseas reached 761,836. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that from January to July of this year overseas Filipino remittances posted $9.6 billion, an increase of 18.2 percent in the same period in 2007. The bulk of remittances come from the USA, Saudi Arabia, UK, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong, according to the BSP.

While most send money back home to their family, it’s the balikbayan box that adds an extra touch like adding whipped cream on an ice cream sundae. The standard balikbayan box can weigh up to 100 pounds. The jumbo boxes weigh at 150 pounds.

The Washington Post reported that in 2004 Forex, another Philippine cargo company, estimated that at least 300,000 balikbayan boxes are sent each year from the United States.

Paez believes that number has increased yearly because of the large number of Filipinos living in the US now.

“Just for our company, I know we send one to three thousand boxes a week depending on the season,” he said.

Paez began in the balikbayan box industry more than fourteen years ago. A former Marine Sergeant stationed in Maryland and North Carolina, he would send some of his earnings and boxes of goodies to his family in the Philippines.

When he started Manila Forwarders it was just a small mom-and-pop shop operation. Now, according to Paez, it’s grown to be one of the largest cargo companies directly servicing those Filipinos wanting to send balikbayan boxes to the Philippines.

He said that the industry has changed since he first started more than a decade ago.

He credits the advancement of technology for increasing the number of balikbayan boxes sent to the Philippines.

“Trade is a lot easier now,” he said. “All a person has to do now is go on the phone, or computer, send an e-mail or instant message to us and we’ll take care of everything. Young Filipinos are sending packages, traders. It’s not just the parents and retired Filipinos living here anymore that send boxes back home.”

However even with the advancement of technology it’s still difficult to sometimes ship boxes to the Philippines. Metro Manila is the easiest place to send a package but those sending packages to far off provinces and areas known as alleged terrorist havens have a more difficult passage.

Paez said that he had to learn the hard way.

“If the package is going to Cebu or Mindanao I have to wrap up the boxes in plastic so that people will think twice about stealing the contents,” he said. “When we go to those areas, there are a lot of checkpoints which are manned by MILF or the military. I had to cut a deal with someone I know from the area so they won’t steal or open the packages.”

Paez said that the most popular time to send boxes home is during the Christmas season and it’s also the most dangerous.

“We send about 3,000 to 4,000 boxes a week to the Philippines during Christmas,” said Paez. “Customers have to be very careful because during that time there’s a lot of fake shipping companies that will lower their price to get their business. The business will then go bankrupt and the people lose out on their money and their belongings inside that box.”

Many have criticized that the contents of balikbayan boxes have become material possessions replacing love and affection from those family members not present anymore.

Paez said that the best way for OFW’s and relatives to show their love is to go back home to the Philippines.

“With the OFW’s spending power we contribute more to the Philippine economy up to $2,500 to up to $10,000 a visit,” he said. “We can also have the joy of watching our loved ones open the balikbayan boxes in front of them.”

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Remittances: Our Nation’s Lifeblood

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
The past three decades have seen the most dramatic number of Filipinos migrating to other countries to work as overseas contract workers. There are now more than 11 million overseas Filipinos worldwide, equivalent to about 11% of the total population of the Philippines. These overseas Filipinos often work as doctors, nurses, accountants, IT professionals, engineers, architects, entertainers, technicians, teachers, military servicemen, students, caregivers, and domestic helpers. Many of them eventually become permanent residents of other countries.

Money sent by the overseas Filipinos back to the Philippines thru remittances has made a significant and considerable contribution to the Philippine economy. By providing a steady stream of dollars in the market, remittances have helped stabilize the peso and boost the economy through consumption and investments. Last year in 2007, the OFWs remitted around US $14.45 billion, up from $13 Billion in 2006 and more than $10 billion in 2005.

Because of the role that they play in propping up the economy through the money they send home, the migrant Filipino workers abroad have been referred to as the Philippines’ modern-day heroes.

The Philippine Central Bank announced a few days ago that remittances from Filipino workers overseas grew 24.6 percent in July to US$1.366 billion — the fourth month in a row that money sent home from abroad posted double-digit growth. The July inflows brought remittances for January to July 08 to US$9.608 billion, up 18.2 percent from the same period last year. The strong inflows boost the likelihood that remittances for 2008 will hit US$15.7 billion as projected.

The bulk of remittances from January to July 2008 came from the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

In a study by Stella P. Go (2002) who studies the behavior of the remittances of migratory workers, it shows that there is no direct relation between the quantity of remittances and the geographical concentration of these workers. For example, Saudi Arabia, which is the major destination of overseas workers, only represents 5.4 % of total remittances; the United States, to the contrary, which has less than 1% of the migrant Philippine workers is the origin of 42.5 % of total remittances to the Philippines.

Perhaps, Filipinos who immigrate to the US earn more or have more income left over to send abroad than those OFWs from Middle East and Asian countries.

Karamihan kasi ng mga immigrants dito sa US, nasa health care industry, at kumikita ng mas malaki kaysa sa mga OFWs sa ibang bansa. And the health care industry is not much affected by economic recession,” said John, a resident intern in an LA hospital.

How do the families of OFWs spend the remittances? According to a study by the United Nations (INSTRAW study 2008), remittances are used to cover first the households’ basic consumption (food, clothes, electricity, etc.), education and health. When remittances are sent regularly, they can also serve to pay a domestic worker or a person who will be in charge of dependent persons. For migrant parents, it is a priority to provide education to the children who remain in Philippines, while for migrant sons and daughters, to provide care for elderly parents is a priority in a context where public services are very poor.

When remittances are more than enough to pay the bills, the families invest for the future. In the same UN study, it was reported that after women succeed to cover basic consumption needs, education and health, they invest in a house or in land for agriculture. Men are inclined to invest in consumption goods, assets, or property. 

Without a doubt, the economic gains are the most tangible positive effect of labor migration for both the family and Philippine society. Foreign remittances have improved the quality of life for the average Filipino family. Within a short period of time, families and household have been able to buy appliances, improve their houses or buy new ones, finance the education of their children or siblings and for some, start a small business. Because of these economic gains of labor migration, thousands of Filipinos continue to leave the country everyday to work overseas.

The Central Bank sees the trend rising even higher in the coming months and years. For example, from January to July 2008, nearly 762,000 Filipinos left the country to work abroad, up by 28.2 percent than in the same period of 2007. “This reflected foreign employers’ preference for Filipino workers who remain competitive due to their skills and proficiency in the English language,” said the Central Bank.

Central Bank Governor Tetangco said workers’ deployment abroad may rise further as a result of the recently concluded arrangement among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including the Philippines, to standardize and regulate professional standards for accountants, dentists and medical workers. The arrangement will facilitate professionals’ mobility in the region, he added. Discussions continue between the Philippines and prospective employers in France, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Norway and Finland for possible deployment of more professionals from the nursing, information technology, and engineering fields, he said.

The remittance boom is partly a product of a period of very rapid global growth that increased both demand for Filipino migrant labor and the earnings of the huge Filipino community in the US, the largest single source of remittances. However, there are some fears that this rise in remittances from the US might not continue for long, specially with the looming US recession.

This was belied, however, by a Western Union agent interviewed by Asian Journal. “Our regular customers have not decreased their remittances to the Philippines,” said Fae, who works in a Western Union remittance agent store in Eagle Rock. “Many of the Filipinos who come here send money weekly or bi-monthly to their families. Even when the gas prices went up, the remittances were not affected,” she reported.

This is certainly good news for the Philippines. First, spurred by remittances, the peso’s increased value has raised people’s confidence in the currency and overseas Filipinos have begun to remit their earnings and savings, not just for basic necessities, but for investments as well. Secondly, the higher the peso, the more dollars have to be remitted to meet the school, food and other peso bills of families back in the Philippines. Thirdly, remittances are expected to continue to increase from the oil-rich states of the Gulf, the second largest source of money from abroad.  And fourthly, East Asian demand for Filipino labor remains high; so the exodus of OFWs, and with it, foreign remittances are expected to continue to grow even more considerably in the near future.  (www.asianjournal.com)

 

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The Anatomy of A Balikbayan Box

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
The “ber” months have started and with September comes that special holiday feeling. In the Philippines, which is known to have the longest celebration of Christmas, malls and department stores have already started playing Christmas songs and selling holiday decors and gifts. In the countries where millions of Filipinos have immigrated or are working, the demand for balikbayan boxes has started to increase as families begin shopping for their holiday gifts to be sent back to relatives and friends in the homeland.

For Filipinos in the US, sending balikbayan boxes to families back in the Philippines has become a major part of our lifestyle. Those who have children, parents or siblings left in the Philippines send boxes regularly, either on a monthly or quarterly basis. But, at Christmas time, many FilAms double their usual padala, adding special gifts and holiday treats to the usual staple items.

One Filipina nurse, Nany, who sends boxes to her parents and siblings in Quezon City at least every 2 months, said she’s always on the look-out for special sale items when she goes malling. “I always have a balikbayan box in the house where I store things to send back home. I love going to malls and stores when it’s sale season to look for things I can send to my family in Manila. Whether it’s just in the regular supermarket nearby, in Costco or in the outlet stores in Camarillo or Ontario, I enjoy hunting for clothes, shoes, bags or food items that are on sale. I then keep them in the box until it’s full. Once I send it home, I have a new box to fill up. Ang sarap ng feeling pag nakapagpadala ka ng box,” Nany said.

So, what’s in those balikbayan boxes? What are the most popular items that get sent back home to excited family members? What are the most requested items?

“We usually send the basic items which our children need such as canned goods and bath items,” admitted Yoly, a caregiver in Orange County. “Kasi, ang mamahal na din ng mga grocery items sa Pinas kaya I make sure I send them these things monthly. Para yung padala kong pera, sa mgahousehold bills na lang,” she added.

After asking quite a number of Pinoys who regularly send boxes, we discovered that the anatomy of a balikbayan box is very similar in content. The top 15 items that Pinoys usually send back home are: 1) Spam, 2) Hereford Corned Beef, 3) Centrum Multi-vitamins, 4) Chocolates (top on everyone’s list: Hershey’s, Kisses, Ferrero Rocher, M&Ms, Nestle Crunch, Cadbury & Toblerone), 5. Bath soaps (Dove, Ivory, & Irish Spring are the preferred brands), 6. Shampoo & Conditioner (Pantene, followed by Head & Shoulders, Neutrogena, & Kirkland ), 7) Colgate toothpaste, 8) Coffee (Folgers,Taster’s Choice and Maxwell are favorite brands) and hot chocolate drinks (Swiss Miss and Nestle), 9) Quaker Oatmeal and Breakfast Cereals (Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes and Choco Puffs), 10. Cookies (Famous Amos, Oreos, and Chips Ahoy), and Chips (Pringles, Doritos and Nachos), 11) T-shirts (Old Navy and Gap are favorites), 12) Towels, 13) Bath and Body Works and Victoria Secret products, 14) Rubber Shoes (Nike is the preferred brand), and 15) Sugar substitutes such as Splenda and Sweet N’ Low.

Other items that didn’t make it to the top 15 items but are still in a lot of balikbayan boxes are colognes, pants, sandals, flip-flops, shoes, bags, wallets, and magazines. Favorite shopping places for balikbayan box items are Wal-Mart, Target, 99 Cents, Ross and Costco.

For the holiday seasons, our kababayans usually add another box to complement the usual regular items. Inside the holiday gift boxes are clothes, shoes and accessories bought from outlet stores and malls such as Forever 21, Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, Old Navy, Nike, Adidas, Gap and Hollister.

“I make sure I get a gift for everyone in the family –sa lahat ng pamangkin, pinsan, katulong etc.,” said Rita who works in the garment district in downtown. “I know that it’s not really just the gift that they treasure, it’s the thought that you remembered them and took the time to shop and send Christmas gifts to them. That’s what really counts,” she said.

Yes, balikbayan boxes are not just filled with goods, they’re filled with love, affection and devotion. And for Filipinos abroad, they can’t seem to send too much of those back home.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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Metrolink Crash updates

by Cynthia de Castro/AJPress
The Sept. 12 deadly Metrolink crash that has killed at least 25 people and left 135 more injured was the worst Southern California train wreck in more than 50 years. Last Monday, Sept. 15, the first workday after the train collision in Chatsworth, there was understandably less people who took the Metrolink.

Lillian Ford, a supervisor for Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said “People are probably still in shock, staying home from work. We were expecting more people, but there isn’t. It’s very calm.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined commuters early Monday morning at the Chatsworth train station to try to reassure people about taking the train and that safety is Metrolink’s first priority. The LA Mayor said, “I want to dispel any fears about taking the train. Safety has to be our No. 1 concern. Taking the train is still the safest option for commuters.”

To help Metrolink passengers, MTA buses began shuttling commuters from the Moorpark Metrolink station to Simi Valley and Chatsworth while clean-up continues at the site of the Metrolink commuter train crash in Chatsworth. The MTA southbound service leaving from Moorpark begins at 5:07 am, and the last northbound MTA bus leaving Chatsworth is at 7:44 pm. The MTA provided eight buses for commuters, and had four more standing by. They will operate this bus bridge until full rail service is restored to the Metrolink line.

Some of the buses were half-full, but the commuters who did take the Metrolink to work last Sept. 15 said they wanted to overcome their fears after the crash. Those who boarded the temporary shuttle buses said they were shaken up, but still felt riding the train was a safer alternative to taking the freeways.

Volunteers from American Red Cross of Ventura County handed out leaflets to passengers boarding the bus, offering phone numbers that people could call for mental health counseling to help deal with the crash.

Last Saturday, Sept. 13, Villaraigosa ordered all city flags lowered to half-staff in honor of the victims of the Metrolink commuter train and freight train crash. He also asked local clergy to observe a moment of silence in Sunday prayer services to honor the victims and to pray for their families and for healing for all injured.

In a related development, Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell resigned after she was criticized that she spoke prematurely in saying the crash was caused by an engineer’s mistake. Tyrrell said Metrolink’s chief executive, David Solow, gave her the authority to make statements to the media Saturday about the cause of the crash. Thus, the statement that Metrolink board Chairman Ron Roberts made to The Times on Sunday––that her statement Saturday was premature––and that he made to the Wall Street Journal that she was not authorized to make a statement blaming the engineer, upset Tyrrell. “I felt the damage to my reputation is so great, I could not work for these people anymore,” she said.

Meanwhile, Villaraigosa called on Angelenos to donate blood in a special City Hall blood drive set up by the American Red Cross on Wednesday, September 17, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm at the City Hall, 200 N. Spring St. Los Angeles, CA 90012. For more information, readers may call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE and 1-800-448-3543.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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Up close and personal with KC

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
Concepcion sits flushed inside a dressing room beneath the Glendale Alex Theatre. It’s been a whirlwind ride for the past few hours for her. Since the opening of For the First Time, KC has met, hugged and photographed with hundreds of gushing fans. Her right arm is tired from signing autographs. Her eyes are blurry from the countless flash photos. Yet she remained radiant. Her smile is bright and her attitude is as perky as ever.

Asian Journal sat down with KC to chat about her movie premiere, her budding singing and acting career, overcoming her parents’ looming shadow and her future in show business.

AJ: Are you surprised by the overwhelming reception that you got today?

KC: Well, yeah. I still can’t see right now because of all the flash bulbs but it was really, really nice to see everybody.Hindi ko inexpect na ganito karaming tao, ganito karaming Pinoy ang dadating. And siyempre, it was really, really nice to see everybody was so excited about the movie and was so welcoming of me. It was worth the whole journey, my whole trip over here.

AJ: Let’s get this question out of the way. Everyone seems to always mention a possible [boyfriend-girlfriend] relationship between you and your co-star Richard Gutierrez. So let’s just make this clear. What can you tell us about your relationship with Richard?

KC: My relationship with Richard? Hey, hey, hey. You be careful how you ask questions. [laughing]

AJ: Hey, there are different kinds of relationships.

KC: [laughing] Yeah, I know. Richard is a very, very good guy. He’s a lot of fun to be around. He’s very adventurous. It’s nice to travel with him. So it [the movie] was really the perfect chance for us to get to know each other and to go to Greece and to film there, and we’re doing an international premiere in Austria, too. So we’re really excited to be traveling together, but more than that we’re good working partners. We work well together. We’re very supportive of each other. It worked out well. Naging komportable kami sa isa’t isa. Mabuti siyang tao, masaya siyang kasama. We take it day by day like he always says.

AJ: You two are also set to star in an upcoming film When I Met You by GMA Films slated for release on Valentine’s Day next year. Could you perhaps give us a teaser about the upcoming film that you two will be working together on?

KC: [Asks manager for permission to talk about the film] Siyempre nag-umpisa kami ni Chard dito sa Star Cinemakaya maganda ‘yung launching ‘ng partnership namin sa pelikula, and for that we’re very thankful sa [ABS-CBN] Star Cinema, kina Tita Charo, kina Tita Malou Santos dahil binigyan nila kami ng napakagandang experience for the first time. So for the second time, we’re really excited also to be doing a different story, a different kind of film maybe but still offering sort of the same things na nahanap nila at nakita nila dito sa pelikulang ito [For the First Time]. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone, to seeing the support of everyone hopefully again [when the movie comes out]. ‘Yung ilang buwan din na tinatrabaho namin ‘yung pelikula, worth it ‘pag nakita naming maraming nagbibigay ng dalawang oras nila at nagtatabi ng kaunting pera para i-spend para panoorin ‘yung pelikula namin.

AJ: Every time I talk to somebody about you, they always bring up your parents Gabby Concepcion, of course, and Sharon Cuneta. Is that a big shadow for you to overcome?

KC: You know what, honestly, it is. Honestly, there are a lot of comparisons that go on all the time with everything that I do and sometimes it makes me think if that’s a good thing or bad thing. But at the end of the day I’m just proud to have parents like [them] and it’s an honor to be their daughter. But [you know], it’s also a different generation now. Hopefully, people are more welcoming of what’s to come now. It’s always nice na maalaala natin ‘yung past, maalala rin natin kung ano ‘yung mga nagawa nila at nagustuhan natin sa kanila, pero siguro maganda rin nai-welcome yung bago and i-welcome kung ano ‘yung mayroon ngayon.

AJ: Did they push you into acting?

KC: Oh no. Not at all. I was very hesitant in the beginning. But at the end of the day, you find meaning and you meet people who you work with that you actually enjoy working with and learn a lot from and you learn to love the work. And when you find the kind of work that doesn’t feel like work to you, then you know you’re on the right track.

AJ: Now, you also have a budding singing career. Can you tell us about that?

KC: I have fun with music. With that album I was able to work with some of my favorite musicians. Each song is different and the album has about 11 tracks. It was a really nice, experimental thing. I never really had expectations when I came out with it. And with every performance siyempre, natututo rin ako and mas lalo akong nage-enjoy sa bawat performance na ginagawa koMay mga pagkakamali, pero meron ding mga masasayang times, lalo na pag ‘yung audience sumasabay sa kanta.

AJ: So are you planning to do both singing and acting? Or do you just want to focus on one?

KC: I think in this day and age, they work together, ‘di ba? Like ‘yung mga pelikula, I sang the track in For the First Time and it’s included in my a.k.a. Cassandra CD. So yeah, it works. Music and movies tie up together.

AJ: We all know you have an upcoming film with Richard Gutierrez, but can you tell us what else you have planned in the near future?

KC: Before that, we have a few surprises for our viewers and for the audience out there. Watch out for that, I’ll be working with different people.

AJ: Can you elaborate on who those people are?

KC: Not yet. [laughing] But meron akong iba’t ibang tao na makakatrabaho na sana mahalin n’yo rin in the same wayna minahal n’yo si Richard. Gagawin namin ang lahat-lahat para mapasaya kayo sa iba’t ibang paraan so sana abangan n’yo ‘yun. Marami kaming mga sorpresang magaganda.

AJ: How about doing a film with your dad or your mom or both?

KC: Naku, ewan ko kung iluluto yun one of these days, pero kung mangyayari ‘yun, sobrang saya siguro nun kasi, it’s like a family business (laughs). But you know, siyempre there are personal things rin that we have to think about. But of course, it’s always going to be a dream to be able to do that either together or separately. Most probably separately. You know, we’ll see.

AJ: Have you ever thought about perhaps venturing into mainstream US films?

KC: I think it’s every actor’s dream to do that only because they make such great quality films here [in the US] and the time that you give to acting and the energy and yung pagkatao mo na binibigay mo sa acting, deserves that kind of quality. But I’m just happy doing what I’m doing now. I really respect the Filipino movie industry, and it’s just such an honor to be part of it. So I’m just taking things day by day.

AJ: Last question, what do you want to say to all of your fans?

KC: Sa lahat ng mga Kapamilya, (pati na rin siguro mga Kapuso) thank you sa lahat-lahat, thank you sa suporta ninyo. Talagang napakasaya ko po talaga, nagugulat ako sa suportang pinapakita ninyo at sa mga kuwento nyo when I was signing autographs kanina. Ang daming nagkukuwentuhan, ang daming mga bumabati sa iba’t iba kong kamag-anak, andami ko palang kakilala dito. It was really, really nice to see na lahat ng Pilipino sa buong mundo, lahat ng mga kababayan nagsasama-sama at lumilipad kung saan-saan. Nagda-drive from Las Vegas, dumadating galing Hawaii, galing San Diego, galing Seattle, galing Chicago, galing kung saan-saan. Salamat po talaga sa panahong ibinibigay nyo sa akin para sa pelikulang ito. Salamat sa lahat-lahat. Mayroong mga tao na nagbibigay ng regalo din. To everybody who gave us gifts, thank you for being so thoughtful. You really didn’t have to do that, but ginagawa pa rin nila ‘yun kaya napakalaking bagay sa amin ‘yun. And all the more we want to do things for you, now and in the future. You know, just hope to be inspired by you continuously and hope that you continue to be inspired by the things we do too.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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The Philippine Children’s Fund of America

by Malou Aguilar/AJPress

Building Lives Through Hope And Compassion.
The Philippines has been colonized by the United States since 1898. Because of this, there have been as many as 21 US bases, and 100,000 US military personnel stationed there. When the bases closed in 1992, thousands of “Amerasian” children were left behind.

The term “Amerasian” was coined by the writer Pearl S. Buck, in reference to people born to Asian women and US servicemen during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. In later 1982, its official definition came about as a result of Public Law 97-359, enacted by the 97th Congress of the United States. An Amerasian, according to the US Department of Justice and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), is “an alien who was born in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Kampuchea, or Thailand after December 31, 1950, and before October 22, 1982, and was fathered by a US citizen.” The term is also applied to children of Filipinos and American rulers during the US colonial period of the Philippines.

The closure of the bases resulted to an estimate of 52,000 Amerasians throughout the Philippines, with 5,000 in the Clark area of Angeles, Pampanga. However, unlike other in other countries, American-Asians or Amerasians in the Philippines remain impoverished and neglected. In a study made by the University of the Philippines’ Center for Women Studies, it was affirmed that many Amerasians have experienced some form of abuse and even domestic violence. There have also been cases of racial, gender and class discrimination among Amerasian children and youth from strangers, peers, classmates and teachers. The study also said black Amerasians seem to suffer more from racial and class discrimination than their white counterparts. White female Amerasians are highly vulnerable to sexual harassment, the study noted. Two-thirds are raised by single mothers; others by relatives and non-relatives; 6 percent live on their own or in institutions. 90 percent are born “out of wedlock.” It was reported in 1993, that prostitutes are increasingly Amerasian, children of prostitutes caught in a cycle which transcends generations.

With the majority of children abandoned by American fathers, the Philippine Children’s Fund of America (PCFA) was created by the US and Philippine governments in 1991. Founded to serve the needs of children left behind by the US military closure, today it’s serving more children, families and communities including 150 charitable groups all over the Philippines.

PCFA’s Amerasian Program continually assists impoverished Filipino children of American ancestry by providing educational scholarships, employment and working visas to the US. The program provides free travel, internship and a safe home in Sacramento, California, for children registered as American citizen, but somehow were left out in the Philippines without any funds and place to go home in the US. With the assistance of the PCFA, Amerasian children can trace and be reunited with their fathers. Those who are not qualified and have no information about their fathers are also helped through educational, psychological and livelihood programs. 

Carrying the mission, “Building better lives and stronger communities,” PCFA also aims to improve the lives of the children and strengthening the families and communities in which they live. Through their Education Program, the PCFA sustains the educational needs of Aeta children in the indigenous communities by including daily feeding assistance and psychosocial activities.

Their Adopt a Community Reading Center partners with schools and local government units in providing thousand of books and reading materials to school libraries and community reading centers nationwide. Likewise, their School Building Project is a new program helps build school buildings in different parts of the Philippines to help solve the shortage of classrooms.

The PCFA also has other programs that reaches out to more children and communities like feeding centers in different parts of the country, Community Development for Indigenous Peoples (CDIP) for community empowerment, and Lakbay Puso, a life-changing travel mission to the Philippines for young FilAms to know more about their roots and heritage.

With all these projects, the PCFA hopes to open people’s hearts to help them in providing a better future for all these children. The organization believes that together, we can build better lives and stronger communities.

For donations and more information about PCFA, contact telephone numbers (916) 688-1574 or e-mail apobaste@yahoo.com. (Special thanks to Howell V. Felix of PCFA.)   (www.asianjournal.com)

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