Category Archives: Feature

The Global Pinoy: The Modern Day Heroes

by Nickee 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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Moms need a break too

by Jherlyn Meneses/AJPress

If you’re a working mom, and you’re juggling the three hectic roles of  being a wife, a mother and an employee at the same time, it’s time to hold your chin high, give yourself a nice pat in the back and tell yourself that: “Woman, you rock!”

Why not? Being a mom, for one, is already a gargantuan task. This may sound too cliché but carrying a child in your womb for nine months, with all the sickness and weight issues that accompany pregnancy, could be a totally punishing experience for the weak of heart.

The arduous task of nursing and caring for the baby, also, could be vigorously extraneous to the inexperienced.

Achieving the “American Dream” is difficult indeed for working moms like me. Moms, sadly, have to wear different hats, two or three at times, to keep up with the enormous responsibilities on their hands.

Daily, you are faced with several tasks of working, raising your kid and addressing an endless list of domestic chores. How’s that for a challenge?

Any person with feeble health might suffer a stroke when confronted with this anxiety-provoking lifestyle. Although oftentimes you feel you’re on the verge, getting sick is absolutely not an option.

Back in the Philippines where there is a multitude of help, child care and keeping one’s household spic-and-span are not so complicated. Either you have relatives to assist you, or hire a housekeeper / babysitter at your beck and call.

Here in the US, you’re on your own. If you can afford to pay a sitter or a house help, you are blessed! A sitter’s fee is equivalent to a full month’s salary of a minimum wage earner, nowadays. Whew!

In a recent survey made by the US Census Bureau, it was reported that 7 out of 10 mothers are in the labor force. Working moms account for almost a fifth of all employed individuals and nearly a quarter of employed mothers usually work full-time.

Aside from working full-time, these mothers also spend more than 2 hours each day performing active childcare, cleaning the house and preparing meals.

“The situation they face is not just simply employment, but combining employment with motherhood & housekeeping. Since women continue to be the principal caretakers of children, how do they combine work and family roles over the course of their lives?” the survey asked.

There are a lot of reasons why Pinay moms work. Most women work to augment the family’s income; others, to become self-sufficient; still some work to simply attain a certain form of personal fulfillment or a higher self-esteem.

For many women, it’s empowering especially if you bring home another paycheck. It is also a way for self-improvement. Some perks such as the healthcare and retirement benefits entice women to hold on to their jobs. However, the demands and the pressures on mothers these days are not commensurable, still, to whatever gratifications they receive.

A lot of us try to be the best mom, an excellent wife and a proficient worker. To women, nothing could be better than having a happy home and a successful career.

But we must also give ourselves a break. Let’s pause and take stock. After all, we’re only human beings.

Hats off to all working moms out there!   (www.asianjournal.com)

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The Divine Comedian: Dolphy

by Nickee de Leon/AJPress

Sinasabing magaling daw sa drama ang mga comedian. Hindi ko alam kung bakit, wala akong teorya diyan. Basta from my end, naranasan ko na kasi ang lahat — hirap, gutom, ang mga anak na perwisyo’t may bisyo, ang ma-inlove, at ang mahiwalay. Napagdaanan ko na’ng lahat, kaya nasasakyan ko kapag ginagampanan ko na.”

There was no better way to celebrate and immortalize the 80 wonderful years of Dolphy’s life.

Dolphy: Hindi Ko Ito Narating Mag-isa is the heartfelt unfolding of the life of Rodolfo Vera Quizon, better known onscreen as Dolphy, the King of Comedy. The actor celebrated his 80th birthday on July 25 this year and son Eric Quizon, a noted actor and director himself, wanted to mark this milestone in his dad’s life and make it memorable by collaborating with Bibeth Orteza in putting up a fitting biography.

From the title of the book itself, one would already prefigure that the story would be bigger than the subject. It’s probably inconceivable to think that a biography of someone as legendary and magnanimous as Dolphy could be so humbling and unassuming.

Yet, there has never been a more refreshing approach to storytelling. The beauty of Dolphy’s narrative lies in its candid simplicity and sincerity.

It’s also not surprising to find that the book teeming in self-deprecating, tongue-in-cheek humor. The last time I laughed this hard while reading (and seemed, every inch like a fool to unknowing bystanders) was when I was in high school, skimming through the pages of Pol Medina Jr.’s Pugad Baboy Series. Dolphy’s inherent wit and comic sensibilities are sharper than ever, and not even the written word could deter him from showcasing this God-given talent.

But beyond the funnies, Dolphy: Hindi Ko Ito Narating Mag-isa is a bold, poignant and compelling memoir that serves as Dolphy’s indelible and enduring legacy.

In a foreword by Randy David, a professor in the department of sociology in the University of the Philippines, he referred to the book as a script, a screenplay of Mang Dolphy’s life.

“Narito ang kaniyang iskrip — makulay, masalimuot, buong-buo, bukas. Eto si Dolphy ng pelikula’t telebisyon, mapagbiro at masaya. Pero, sa likod nang komedyanteng singkit na nagpatawa sa halos tatlong henerasyon , narito rin ang isang taong matamang lumingon sa kanyang pinagdaanan, inuulit-ulit sa sarili ang mga aral na kanyang natutunan. Walang kimkim na galit o sama ng loob, walang panghihinayang, walang panghuhusga, walang pagyayabang.”

Dolphy: Hindi Ko Ito Narating Mag-isa is indeed, a piece of history told by one of the most celebrated actors from an ordinary man’s perspective. Written in Tagalog, the book captures the flavor of a tumultuous era and the quintessence of being Dolphy — his humble beginnings, his love for family, his first sexual awakening, a hardy life during WWII, his colorful experiences as an OFW in Hong Kong, the numerous women in his life and the struggles he went through in fathering 18 children.

And it wasn’t only Dolphy that made this memoir robust and meaningful. Former wives and lovers, friends, colleagues, and of course, his children, also shared their testimonials and encompassed Dolphy with their gratitude, love and support. Everyone he holds dear, even those who’ve been privy all these years, gave a piece of themselves in words and pictures.

As aptly put by Butch Dalisay, Palanca Hall of Fame awardee and UP Professor in English and Creative Writing, “I haven’t read a biography like this, ever, and the uncensored unmediated first-person accounts strike home with a power and a poignancy you’d be hard put to find in any screen drama.” If Dolphy’s story would be translated into film (or perhaps, a telenovela), it would definitely be a project of epic proportions (and lots and lots of Kleenex).

And speaking of film, here’s what film director Peque Gallaga had to say about the book: “The delight that comes from reading this book is that it nails down a fascinating character who is all at once a baffling combination of grace and dignity, contrariness and mischievous rascality; of one blessed with a gift for careless irreverence and absurdity in the face of adversity, who triumphs over misfortunes and who accepts what can’t be changed. One is never sure if it is the portrait of Dolphy of the Filipino people. Ang problema lang sa libro, pagkatapos mong basahin ay parang gusto mo sana, mas mahaba pa ito.”

My sentiments, exactly. (www.asianjournal.com)

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Ayala Foundation-USA: Creating Better Opportunities to Serve Others

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress

The emergence of a ‘new golden age of philanthropy’ has pushed the number foundations all over the world.  According to a study Asian-American Philanthropy:  Expanding Knowledge, Increasing Possibilities done by Andrew Ho for The Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership, the number of foundations in the United States has grown from 22,000 in the early 1980s to over 65,000 in 2004.

However, the boom in the number of foundations and their assets has also involved the issue of diversity in philanthropy – like how it is (or isn’t) a factor in giving, how ethnic and racial groups exhibit different styles, etc.  With the growth of Asian American population, there has also been an increase in diaspora philanthropy, or philanthropic giving from citizens and residents of the US to their countries of origin.

This is the thrust of Ayala Foundation-USA — to inform, motivate and inspire others to be generous in support of social development programs in the Philippines.  Established in 2000, AF-USA has become a bridge between US-based Filipino individuals and communities, and Philippine-based social development institutions.

“If Filipinos don’t help their fellow-Filipinos, who will?”  said Vicky Garchitorena, President of AF-USA and added, “Fortunately, our experience at AF-USA is that most FilAms do want to help their kababayans back home.”

However, Ms. Garchitorena also explained that often, FilAms have not helped because they do not know what the problems are, the solutions or how to give their support.  This is why AF-USA creates opportunities for Filipinos in the US to help the Philippines.  Although it does not undertake programs on its own, AF-USA encourages a number of strategic initiatives that has shown a track record of success in implementing programs that can have a long-term positive impact on its beneficiaries.

One of these projects is the Gearing up Internet Literacy and Access for Students, or GILAS.  A program implemented in cooperation with both the Philippine national and local government officials, it aims to put computer labs with Internet access in all 6,350 public high schools in the country.

“As of the end of September 2008, GILAS has connected 2,000 public high schools, thereby benefiting about 1 million underprivileged youths from Batanes to Basilan,” said Ms. Garchitorena and added, “It has a tremendous impact on the ability of our youth to find jobs when they leave school, as computer and Internet literacy skills are now basic requirements for any type of employment, whether they stay in the Philippines or go abroad.”

AF-USA gets help from their Philippine counterpart, Ayala Foundation, in encouraging local non-government organizations (NGOs) to apply for accreditation as a grantee institution.  These organizations are then evaluated and presented to the Board for approval.

But of course, there are always challenges, said Ms. Garchitorena.  “One big challenge is the fact that the FilAms are scattered all over the US.

While there are pockets of concentrations, the size of the country makes it difficult for us to reach them all.”  For this reason, AF-USA rely on other committed and dedicated FilAm network volunteers in identifying community and business leaders in cities and states.

Another challenge she says is the need to capture the attention of second or third generation FilAms who might no longer be emotionally connected to their homeland, unlike their parents or grandparents.

Still, Ms. Garchitorena explained that they have seen an increased interest among FilAms to help their hometowns, alma maters, parishes or personal charities.  For this, she invites all FilAms as well as Americans with strong ties to the Philippines to join AF-USA in helping underprivileged Filipinos in the Philippines.  She is also appealing others all over the US to join as volunteers.

“Our country still suffers from many problems related to poverty – illiteracy, homelessness, abuse, environmental degradation, and an inadequate public sector infrastructure.  The government does not have enough resources to address all our problems.  We cannot wait for the perfect time and place.”

For more information on AF-USA and how you can help Filipinos back home, you can contact their office at 255 Shoreline Dr., Suite 428 Redwood City, CA 94065 or call(650) 598-3126.  You can also log on to http://www.af-usa.org.   (www.asianjournal.com)

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Madonna tells Palin: Get off my street

NEW YORK – After kicking off the North America leg of her Sticky & Sweet tour in New Jersey over the weekend, Madonna crossed the Hudson and performed two nights in a row to sold-out audiences at the Madison Square Garden.

And what would a Madonna concert be without her political commentary?

The 50-year-old singer continued to slam the Republican bet for vice president, Sarah Palin at The Garden when she sang her hit I Love New York, which had a line that goes ‘Get off my street!’

“You know who can get off of my street? Sarah Palin! I’m gonna kick her ass if she don’t get off of my street!” Madonna said as the crowd, which included P. Diddy, Rosie O’Donnell and designer Michael Kors, screamed in approval.

Madonna began her tirade against Palin during her show Saturday at the Izod Center. “Sarah Palin can’t come to my party. Sarah Palin can’t come to my show. It’s nothing personal,” the New York Post quoted her as saying.

That was not the only time when the singer showed her political color.

Halfway through the show, a montage of images that juxtaposed Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain with Adolf Hitler and Kim Jong Il was shown on the giant screens onstage. Sen. McCain’s campaign reportedly said Madonna’s actions were “outrageous, unacceptable and crudely divisive all at the same time.”

On the same montage, Sen. Barack Obama’s images were interspersed with photos of Oprah, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and Bono.

Politics aside, the show was, as expected, a visual spectacle.

The singer emerged onstage sitting on a queenly throne accompanied by the sound of her song Candy Shop.  The audience, just like in her two previous concert tours I watched, just stood up and started dancing. Most of them remained standing throughout the duration of the show.

“I love New York! It’s good to be home,” Madonna screamed as the audience roared. The Garden was just pulsating with high-strung energy.

The spectacle continued when a sparkling white Rolls Royce emerged onstage as a giant prop, one that Madonna maximized well and when she left the stage, a boxing ring manifested. The dizzying screens were also transformed into various sizes while green laser and almost blinding lights filled The Garden, making it New York City’s biggest club for the night.

The two-hour show featured Madonna in various stages of undress as she showed the world that she could be the fittest 50-year-old woman in the business. She danced and sprinted. She even skipped rope and strutted the catwalk.

It was more than just physical, however, as she breathed new life to some of her most memorable hits such as Like a Prayer, La Isla Bonita, Ray of Light, Borderline and Vogue. She could have called this The Reinvention Tour, Part 2 and the fans would have gobbled the tickets just the same.

My personal favorite?

It has to be her heart-felt performance of  You Must Love Me, which she did while strumming her guitar. It was so spotless and you can really feel the sincerity in her voice. There was no tight choreography, no vocal calisthenics, just pure, raw emotion.

Madonna had a grand time interacting with the audience as she performed for them and with them.

At one point in the show, she jammed with the crowd as she performed Lucky Star, which was requested by some placard-carrying members of the audience.

She also pointed out the few people who were sitting down while everyone was up on their feet clapping. “Are you bored?” she asked a couple of middle-aged men, before she politely asked them to stand up. “Come on, this is not a Barbra Streisand show,” she barked.

Her energy level was way up there and this was willingly matched by the very appreciative audience. Madonna was really having fun and it showed.

Her adoring fans couldn’t be happier. (www.asianjournal.com)

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The Reign of Sarah

by Rochelle Pangilinan/AJPress

With a box-office hit (the recent A Very Special Love), a series of successful concerts and a new album (featuring the lead single I’ll Be There, where she duets with Backstreet Boy Howie Dorough) to boot, all at the young age of 20, Sarah Geronimo is primed to rule show business.

And with her latest hit album Just Me… Sarah to promote, Sarah donned Burberry—complete with dramatic eye makeup and sophisticated slick back hair—in the October issue of Preview magazine, Sarah may yet add another title to her credit: fashion icon, something her young fans would definitely welcome.


Sarah is aware of her many young fans, one reason why she declined to shoot a kissing scene with leading man John Lloyd Cruz in A Very Special Love, where she played the Polyanna-like, fresh- out-of-college girl (armed only with colorful post-its, a fashion sense that resembles Rainbow Brite and a bright smile) thrown into the jungle-like world of men’s magazine publishing, with John Lloyd as the powerful but emotionally vacant editor-in-chief.

“A lot of young people look up to me. It would not be a good example if they saw their Ate Sarah in a kissing scene,” Sarah tells Preview magazine. She is also proudly boyfriend-less as well, as she’d rather focus her attention on her burgeoning career at the moment, but this has not stopped her many male admirers from trying to woo her.

Some admirers, however, are all just for her wonderful singing talent. Among them, international star Howie Dorough, who had no second thoughts on recording with Sarah on a track for Just Me… Sarah. I’ll Be There is produced by Christian de Walden of Hollywood and was composed by Al Taveel and Pamela Philips-Oland, the same team behind one of the most successful duets in pop music history, Too Much, Too Little, Too Late by Johnny Mathis and Denise Williams.

“I liked Sarah instantly,” says Howie. “She seems to be very sweet and humble and she did a good job with the song.”

And unlike many young stars who gain fame and fortune all too fast, “sweet and humble” are still words often associated with Sarah even after all the success she’s amassed. Since winning the grand title in Star For A Night for her rendition of the Celine Dion pop hit To Love You More at the tender age of 14, Sarah has continuously made her presence felt in the biz. And from the looks of things, Sarah is far from slowing down. Among her next projects include a follow-up movie with John Lloyd to be released early next year. By November, Sarah will be holding a major solo concert at the Araneta Coliseum and will be releasing her first-ever Christmas album, to be produced by Ryan Cayabyab, in December.

The reign of Sarah is indeed upon us.  (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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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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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 Miracle Man

by Momar Visaya/AJPress
FLUSHING MEADOWS – Father Fernando Suarez has been called a lot of things: priest, healer, miracle worker, servant of God. The healing priest, a chemical engineer by profession, is also an avid tennis fan.
For two days that he was in New York City last week, Fr. Suarez dropped by the Billie Jean King Tennis Center to catch a couple of tennis games, including the exciting match between 8th seed Andy Roddick and upcoming Latvian hotshot Ernests Gulbis.

Just before the third round match Sunday, Aug. 31 between third seed Novak Djokovic from Serbia and Croatia’s Marin Cilic, Fr. Suarez sat down with the Asian Journal for a light chat just outside the famed Arthur Ashe Stadium.

A self-confessed Rafael Nadal fan, Fr. Suarez said that he tries to play tennis regularly, or when his schedules would allow. “Tennis is a good way to release stress and it is also a very good sport. Apart from that, I pray,” he said.

For two days that he was in New York City last week, Fr. Suarez dropped by the Billie Jean King Tennis Center to catch a couple of tennis games, including the exciting match between 8th seed Andy Roddick and upcoming Latvian hotshot Ernests Gulbis.

Just before the third round match Sunday, Aug. 31 between third seed Novak Djokovic from Serbia and Croatia’s Marin Cilic, Fr. Suarez sat down with the Asian Journal for a light chat just outside the famed Arthur Ashe Stadium.

A self-confessed Rafael Nadal fan, Fr. Suarez said that he tries to play tennis regularly, or when his schedules would allow. “Tennis is a good way to release stress and it is also a very good sport. Apart from that, I pray,” he said.

Global Healing Center

Fr. Suarez also shared that starting this September, he will already be based for good in Batangas City, where he will, among other things, oversee the construction of a sacred global healing center at Montemaria or “mountain of Mary”.

The center at Montemaria will house the tallest statue of Mary in the world that will stand 101 meters (33 stories) high upon completion and will serve as an apostolic and evangelization center for pilgrims wanting to experience a deeper personal relationship with God.

The Oratory of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Montemaria will include a Rosary Garden, Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, Saint Joseph Chapel, Divine Mercy Chapel, House of Mary, House of Joseph, Scala Santa, Infant Jesus Chapel, and retreat houses that will serve as a way station for pilgrims, complete with board and lodging, souvenir shops, a conference center and an international center for the poor.

Montemaria is an ambitious project that seeks to create an 18-hectare haven for pilgrims and a place for prayer dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Poor. The megashrine is expected to be finished in about five years and the statue of Our Lady of the Poor will stand taller than the Statue of Liberty here in New York and the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

There have been written reports that in June 1981, six children in the little town of Medjugorje received apparitions from the “Queen of Peace” where in one of them, the Philippines was mentioned as a global spiritual center.

A true Marian devotee, Fr. Suarez said he felt his love for the Virgin Mary when he was around 2 to 3 years old. 

Coming Home

This will be a homecoming of sorts for the healing priest since he was born in Butong in the town of Taal, Batangas in 1967. He went to Adamson University to finish his degree in chemical engineering and worked for an oil company in Batangas for five years before moving to Canada where he was based since 1995.

In 1997 he joined the Companions of the Cross religious community of priests and seminarians, founded by Rev. Robert Bedard in 1985 in Ottawa, Canada, and Fr. Suarez was ordained to the priesthood in 2002.

Fr. Suarez began noticing his gift of healing two decades earlier, when he was only 16 years old. Outside the Quiapo church, the then fresh high school graduate saw an old crippled woman. He asked her to pray with him and he felt her bones growing. The young man got scared, and for 20 years, he kept this secret.

Being a healing priest has propelled him to a celebrity status, which has its pros and cons and Fr. Suarez said he is mindful of both.

“Marami kang natutulungan, maraming bumabalik sa simbahan. Nagkakaroon ng conversion, ng healing. Nagkakaroon ng hope ang mga tao. On the other hand, you live under the microscope, lahat ng ikinikilos mo, napapansin. Hindi mo rin naman mapi-please lahat ng tao. Pinababayaan ko na lang yun,” he said.
 
“I never ever thought na aabot sa level na ito yung paniniwala ng mga tao sa akin. I did not even consider it was possible before pero nangyari eh,” he shared.

From the very beginning, Fr. Suarez said that the calling was there, “I just did not have enough courage to pursue it. I struggled to understand this unusual gift.”

Believing

“As far as I know, marami pa rin sa ating mga Pilipino ang believers, lalo na sa ministry ko. Karamihan sa mga maysakit can’t help but be believers kasi pag nangangailangan na ang tao, wala na silang ibang mapupuntahan kundi ang Diyos din,” Fr. Suarez explained.

Early this year, Fr. Suarez had a healing mass in Los Angeles attended by thousands of people at the L.A. Sports Arena. It was said to be the biggest healing mass the priest has ever done in the United States.

Fr. Suarez gets really busy during ministry and healing masses. “Napakaraming maysakit na tumatawag at humihingi ng tulong. Sana lang mapagbigyan ko silang lahat,” the soft-spoken priest said.

Before he embarks on every healing mass, Fr. Suarez said he prepares by saying a personal prayer. “I compose myself and I go to confession. Nililinis ko ang sarili ko to make sure na wala akong galit, hinanakit o guilt sa katawan,” he shared.

There are already plans for more healing masses in different U.S. cities but he said that there are things to be ironed out before anything is finalized.

Between now and the time he flies to the Philippines to stay there for good, Fr. Suarez will be holding healing masses in Ottawa and Vancouver in Canada.

A true believer from the start, Fr. Suarez hopes to inspire more people as he continues his quest to spread God’s word around the world through healing masses, retreats and missions.

Fr. Suarez also shared that starting this September, he will already be based for good in Batangas City, where he will, among other things, oversee the construction of a sacred global healing center at Montemaria or “mountain of Mary”.

The center at Montemaria will house the tallest statue of Mary in the world that will stand 101 meters (33 stories) high upon completion and will serve as an apostolic and evangelization center for pilgrims wanting to experience a deeper personal relationship with God.

The Oratory of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Montemaria will include a Rosary Garden, Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, Saint Joseph Chapel, Divine Mercy Chapel, House of Mary, House of Joseph, Scala Santa, Infant Jesus Chapel, and retreat houses that will serve as a way station for pilgrims, complete with board and lodging, souvenir shops, a conference center and an international center for the poor.

Montemaria is an ambitious project that seeks to create an 18-hectare haven for pilgrims and a place for prayer dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Poor. The megashrine is expected to be finished in about five years and the statue of Our Lady of the Poor will stand taller than the Statue of Liberty here in New York and the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

There have been written reports that in June 1981, six children in the little town of Medjugorje received apparitions from the “Queen of Peace” where in one of them, the Philippines was mentioned as a global spiritual center.

A true Marian devotee, Fr. Suarez said he felt his love for the Virgin Mary when he was around 2 to 3 years old.

Coming Home

This will be a homecoming of sorts for the healing priest since he was born in Butong in the town of Taal, Batangas in 1967. He went to Adamson University to finish his degree in chemical engineering and worked for an oil company in Batangas for five years before moving to Canada where he was based since 1995.

In 1997 he joined the Companions of the Cross religious community of priests and seminarians, founded by Rev. Robert Bedard in 1985 in Ottawa, Canada, and Fr. Suarez was ordained to the priesthood in 2002.

Fr. Suarez began noticing his gift of healing two decades earlier, when he was only 16 years old. Outside the Quiapo church, the then fresh high school graduate saw an old crippled woman. He asked her to pray with him and he felt her bones growing. The young man got scared, and for 20 years, he kept this secret.

Being a healing priest has propelled him to a celebrity status, which has its pros and cons and Fr. Suarez said he is mindful of both.

“Marami kang natutulungan, maraming bumabalik sa simbahan. Nagkakaroon ng conversion, ng healing. Nagkakaroon ng hope ang mga tao. On the other hand, you live under the microscope, lahat ng ikinikilos mo, napapansin. Hindi mo rin naman mapi-please lahat ng tao. Pinababayaan ko na lang yun,” he said.

“I never ever thought na aabot sa level na ito yung paniniwala ng mga tao sa akin. I did not even consider it was possible before pero nangyari eh,” he shared.

From the very beginning, Fr. Suarez said that the calling was there, “I just did not have enough courage to pursue it. I struggled to understand this unusual gift.”  (www.asianjournal.com)

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