Category Archives: FilAm News

Filipinos’ Passion for Fashion

by Momar Visaya/AJPress

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.

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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Ernst & Young holds Inclusiveness Forum

by Rene Villaroman/AJPress

LOS ANGELES  -  Ernst & Young, one of the top four accounting firms in America, held a forum, Leading a New Conversation on Inclusiveness, at its downtown office last Thursday, that addressed the subject of diversity and inclusiveness. The forum was attended by more than 200 accounting and finance professionals.

“You have to work at diversity and work even harder at inclusiveness,” declared Raymond Ybarra of Shimasaki Consulting Group, Inc., one of three speakers. “You can have many employees with lots of different nationalities, different educations, from different parts of the world, but the key thing is whoever that body of knowledge that you are tapping into, you need to break it down, what are you going to contribute? You have got to open the doors fi rst, allow them in, and make them feel like they are a part of this,” Ybarra said.

“I think a lot of companies get caught up with statistics, like, ‘we have a good amount of women, good amount of disabled people.’ What is important is to listen to them and to empower them and to include them in the decision-making process,” said Bridget Trumpet, Director of Internal Audit of Rentech. “If you are in business you have to be inclusive because the world is getting smaller due to globalization.”

Raymond Ealy, vice president of business development of Quantummethod, who had worked with Bank of America for many years, said, “What I learned eventually was that even though there were cultural differences among the many different nationalities, what I found were certain idiosyncrasies, but at the end of the day, the common denominator is, they can’t balance their checkbooks.” He said, “What he learned about the different cultures was that people did business the same way, and they have the same issues; you just have to be comfortable in those different environments.”

“Everyone is the same,” Ealy said. “But for some reasons, people have this vision that one group is better, more affl uent than the others; but when you get down on the ground and talk to people, or someone bounced a check to DWP, everybody reacts the same way.”

“What we have to ask is, are they successful from an inclusiveness point of view?” contends Ybarra. “Are they actually working with people of all types, taking the barriers off, taking their blinders off?”

Are they looking at people on the same basis of what they can bring to the table.” Ybarra said that in all the companies he had worked for — including Boeing and Hewlett-Packard — “they didn’t have any blinders. They were open. It made them smart; made them have a little of the ability to change rapidly.”

The business environment is not going to be stagnant, according to Ybarra. “There are obstacles out there, everywhere. Bringing people in, no matter what they do, which level of comfort they are in. Flip open the doors wide open, your ears open, your eyes open and you listen. You can bring them in; you don’t have to have your boss bring them in. Companies hire you because they think that you can help them make more money,” Ybarra suggested.

Ealy believes that inclusiveness comes more naturally to the minorities. “There is more willingness to embrace inclusiveness because the thought process is that you get to look behind you with great courtesy; that there are more opportunities now that you didn’t know about.”

At Hewlett-Packard, where he was a consultant for 11 years, Ybarra said that everyone was expected to be equals. “It was pretty much a fl at organization. They didn’t have quotas on whom to hire, they just want the best and the brightest; they didn’t care what color you are, or if you are on a wheelchair. The ability to cut through the peripherals is so important today.”

Ernst & Young, one of the top four accounting companies in the US, said in a statement that it “fosters a work environment that is open and inclusive of all, regardless of gender, race, nationality and sexual orientation.” More than 50 per cent of those who attended were members of the International Society of Young Filipino Accountants (ISYFA). The forum was moderated by E & Y recruiters Tina McCoy and Katherine Markgraf.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Michael Angulo: Inspired to serve

by Momar Visaya/AJPress

The urban region of New York and New Jersey has become the primary settlement of Filipino Americans in the Northeast region through the years. From Queens to Rockland in New York and from Hudson to Bergen in New Jersey, Filipinos abound. According to the Census, there are almost 200,000 Filipinos in this region. Yet, despite the ever-increasing population, there is only a handful of Filipinos appointed or elected in both states.

Michael Angulo, the highest-ranking Filipino American in the state of New Jersey, is one of them. In 2004, he was appointed by then Governor Jim McGreevey to serve as Executive Director of the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HES AA). “It’s getting lonely here. Despite our strong numbers, we are not visible in the state level,” Angulo told the Asian Journal. As the top guy in the agency that administers New Jersey’s student financial aid programs, Angulo makes sure that HES AA deliver over $1.5 billion annually in grants, scholarships and student loans, and administer a total portfolio of over $4.5 billion.He oversees a staff of 200 employees, and is responsible for all governmental, legal, fiscal, operational, marketing, personnel, and strategic decisions for the Authority. HES AA assists over 1 million constituents with informational and financial resources each year.

Born in Cebu, Angulo immigrated to the United States with his family in 1973 when he was around four years old. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Financial Management from the Catholic University, Washington, DC in 1990. In 1994, he received a Juris Doctor from the Rutgers University School of Law.

Shortly after graduation, Angulo served as judicial clerk to the Honorable Frank M. Lario, Jr.of the Superior Court of New Jersey in Camden County. He also practiced law with a 40-lawyer firm in Pennsuaken, New Jersey. He was well on his way to becoming a partner when the opportunity to serve the public came knocking. “I took a pay cut when I accepted the job offer. Back then, I knew that I wanted to pursue public service not because of the money but because I wanted to serve,” he shared.

Angulo served as Assistant Counsel to the Governor of New Jersey from January 2002 through July 2004. His responsibilities with the Office of Chief Counsel included monitoring legal, legislative, regulatory, and policy issues impacting the departments of banking and insurance, personnel, consumer affairs, higher education, labor, and military and veterans’ affairs.

When the executive director of HESAA resigned, then Gov. McGreevey plucked him from the Governor’s Counsel Office and appointed him to head the organization.

“As a close and trusted adviser, I can personally attest to how the students of New Jersey will benefit from his leadership. Michael has had a distinguished law career serving the people of New Jersey and his invaluable experience will help us expand upon the extraordinary steps we have taken to increase access to higher education for New Jersey’s students,” Gov. McGreevey said when he announced Angulo’s appointment.

“I felt humbled and honored at the opportunity to assist New Jersey students pursue their dream of attaining higher education. In this increasingly global and complex world, our highly educated workforce allows New Jersey to not only compete, but flourish, socially and economically,” Angulo recalled saying when he was given the post.

To this date, Angulo has served three New Jersey governors: McGreevey, Richard Codey, and current governor Jon Corzine. “I serve at the pleasure of the governor,” he quipped.

Currently, he is the 2007-08 President of the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, representing the interests of over 500 New Jersey Asian American attorneys. He also serves on the Governor’s Asian Advisory Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Commission, the Higher Education Capital Planning Taskforce, and the Senior Public Institution Operating Taskforce.

He hopes to inspire the younger Filipino Americans to pursue a career in public service.

“Parents encourage their children to be professionals, as doctors, lawyers, engineers or nurses. They don’t want their kids to go into public service or politics, maybe because of the old-school mentality that view politicians as corrupt. We should stop thinking that way,” Angulo said.

He believes that Filipinos are matured and educated enough to take on the challenge of serving the people and the community.

“The positions are there, we are just not pursuing them enough,” he added.

Michael Angulo’s position as the top FilAm guy in the state level in New Jersey continues to become a source of inspiration for the community that is in dire need of more role models in the realm of politics and public service.

(Mr. Angulo is an MBA candidate at the Rutgers School of Business. He lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey with his wife Susan and their two beautiful daughters.)

(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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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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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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Elder care employment agency indicted for hiring illegal aliens

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress
SANTA ANA—A federal grand jury indicted a Filipino man and his former wife on allegations that they knowingly hired illegal aliens, primarily from the Philippines, to fill the jobs. An office manager for the couple was also indicted.

Filipino natives Wilfredo Ngo, 51, and his ex-wife, Teresa Ngo, 49, owners of A-Plus Senior Planning Services, Inc., were named in a four-count indictment handed down in August charging them with inducing aliens to reside in the United States; knowingly employing illegal aliens; knowingly harboring illegal aliens; and counseling persons to engage in marriage fraud. Gicela Sarabia, 43, office manager for A-Plus Senior Planning Services, was also charged with inducing aliens to reside in the US and with knowingly hiring illegal aliens. 

A-Plus Senior Planning Services is an employment agency firm that provides caregivers to at least 10 major elder care facilities in Orange County as well as workers for individual in-home care, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. 

US Magistrate Judge Marc L. Goldman arraigned the Ngo’s and Sarabia on August 25.

If convicted of all the charges, the Ngos face a maximum sentence of more than 15 years in prison. 

“The allegations in this case are disturbing when you consider that the illegal alien workers hired by these defendants were entrusted with caring for the infirm and elderly,” said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge for the ICE office of investigations in Los Angeles. “People who enter the United States on visitor visas do not undergo the same degree of scrutiny as individuals who are coming into the country as legal foreign workers or immigrants.”

ICE began to investigate A-Plus Planning Services last December 2007 after it received tips that at least 40 of the agency’s workers were in the US illegally.

Most of them arrived as visitors and overstayed their visas, said ICE officials.

According to court documents, the Ngos counseled their illegal workers to enter into fraudulent marriages with US citizens so they could remain in the country legally.  The defendants allegedly told their employees to seek out potential spouses at Leisure World and on eHarmony.com, according to ICE officials.

The three defendants are currently free on bond.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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Police apprehend Filipino sexual assault suspect

by Joseph Pimentel/AJPress

SAN FRANCISCO—The San Francisco Police Department arrested a Filipino sexual assault suspect after he turned himself in last Sept. 5, Friday.

For about two weeks, police officers had been searching for FilAm Horacio Candia Jr., who was wanted for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman near 16th Street and Carolina in the Potrero District in San Francisco on Aug. 22. The victim managed to escape from his vehicle and called the police.

According to reports, Candia was arrested in his attorney’s office last Friday.

Candia is a former San Francisco Fire Department firefighter. After nine years, he was terminated in 2000 for refusing a drug test, according to reports.

Police alleged that Candia shows his badge to facilitate his encounters with women. He then sexually assaults them, using physical violence, according to SF Police officials.

“He lured a woman into a false sense of security,” police Inspector Elaine Economus said to the San Francisco Chronicle. “He said, ‘I’m a firefighter, everybody loves us, you can trust me.’”

The 38-year-old Candia is charged with three counts of forced oral copulation, one count of sexual battery, one count of making terrorist threats, and one count of false imprisonment.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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Pinay nurse fighting extradition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alison Jean Mendoza Heeds Gawad Kalinga’s Call for Volunteerism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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