Tag Archives: Malou Aguilar

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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A Life Full Of Passion — And Dance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(For inquiries about WSPA’s programs and class schedules,  you can contact them at (650) 757-1244, e-mail  wspa1@sbcglobal.net or by logging on to  http://www.wspadance.com.)


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Talk is cheapest now

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress
It is a fact that the way we communicate with the rest of the world has been dramatically changed since the invention of the Internet.

In the past, getting the message through was a struggle, especially when we were entirely dependent on postal mail, a.k.a., snail mail.  Also, gone are the days of expensive phone calls, again, thanks to the Internet.  Aside from the usual voice chats or conversations, the introduction of the Voice over Internet Protocols (VOIP) has given people the chance to keep in touch on the cheap.

Saying ‘hello’ over the Net

Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP or Broadband phone service as it is often referred to, has changed the telephony world.  It has slowly phased out traditional phone lines as businesses and households around the world embrace the benefits.

The technology started as far back as 1995, when a small company called Vocatec released what was believed to be the first Internet phone software.  Designed to run on a home PC, it was simply called “Internet Phone.”  It had initial success, but the lack of broadband availability in 1995 resulted in poor voice quality when compared to a normal telephone call.  By 1998 however, VoIP traffic had grown approximately 1% of all voice traffic in the US.  Businesses were jumping on the bandwagon and started to create devices to enable PC-to-phone and phone-to-phone communication work.  By the year 2000, VoIP traffic accounted for more than 3 percent of all voice traffic.

By 2005, all major voice quality issues have been addressed and the system was able to ensure reliable, clear sounding and unbroken calls.  It is forecasted that revenue from VoIP equipment will be over $8.5 billion by the end of 2008, driven primarily by low cost unlimited calling plans and the abundance of enhanced and useful telephony features associated with the technology.

Snail mail vs e-mail

It has been a longstanding debate – which is better, snail mail or e-mail?  However, in a survey conducted by the International Communications Research (ICR), it was a mixture of results.  Although the survey concluded that respondents overwhelmingly prefer promotional messages via snail mail, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are persuaded by them.

Electronic mail, or e-mail is a natural use of networked communication technology that developed along with the evolution of the Internet.  It was, in fact, already in use in the early 1960s, developed for the ARPANET shortly after its creation.  It has now evolved tremendously into the powerful e-mail technology, a widely used technology on the Internet today.

E-mail provides a way to exchange information between two or more people with no set-up costs or less paperwork.  It is also a convenient way to send the same message to multiple addressees, with a swift click of the ‘send’ button.

A number of people however still see the e-mail as ‘too impersonal’ or business-like.  This is probably because handwriting a letter, putting it in an envelope and actually mailing it out, takes more effort, thus the personalized touch.  Still, the advantage of time and cost overthrows the reasoning, making the e-mail an essential part of our lives – business or personal.


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FilAm Runs for Mayor

By Malou Aguilar/Asianjournal.com

VALLEJO — It was not his name that caught our attention. Cris Villanueva is the namesake of a popular Filipino teen actor in the 80s. In a letter published in the Vallejo Times-Herald sent by a longtime resident, Lagreeh Flores wrote her concern about the financial budget crisis facing Vallejo. She then continued to describe a man who she believes can change the quality of life in their city.

Villanueva, a resident of Vallejo, has continuously shown his passion for public service.  In 1989, he joined the city council race and was successfully elected for two consecutive terms (1989-1997). He was also appointed as vice mayor in 1994.  This same passion is the reason why he is running for mayor.

His philosophy, “vision into action,” is what makes Villanueva different from other candidates. He believes that it takes knowledge, dedication and hard work to deliver results and be a strong leader.   A certified public accountant, he is now busy preparing for the upcoming US elections on the first week of November.  The good news is that Villanueva has edged out his other rivals by raising as much as $113,000 in campaign funds, as reported by the Times-Herald.

Villanueva is a full-blooded Pinoy. He grew up mostly in the quiet town of Dolores, Quezon.    He used to be an accounting professor at the Lyceum of the Philippines. He taught at the Centro Escolar University and the Philippine College of Commerce. He also served as vice president for finance for Delgado Brothers, Inc. before moving to the US in the 1975.  He settled in Vallejo and for the first two years, worked overtime almost everyday to save money.  In 1977, the same time he bought his first house, he went back to the Philippines to marry his long time fiancee, Candy.

Though he earned his California Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license in 1983, Villanueva admitted that he experienced some racial discrimination. This included working endlessly but being passed over other employees, in most cases, an Anglo-American.  Still, he was driven to serve the people of Vallejo, including his desire to improve how Pinoys are treated.

Bringing Vallejo ‘back in the black’

Villanueva believes that he is the candidate who can make positive changes in Vallejo.  His ‘back in the black’ plan focuses to resolve the city’s financial budget crisis to improve the quality of life.   In his website CrisVillanueva.com, he outlined his vision for economic recovery. This  includes issuance of new tax exempt bonds to create tourist infrastructures to make Vallejo a more inviting tourist destination, the creation of enterprise zones to attract green and clean industries to produce jobs for residents, and economic development and revenue enhancement without cuts and further taxes.

For budget, Villanueva strongly proposes long-term projections for both revenues and expenditures, fiscal impact analysis on every adopted resolution and periodic monitoring of actual and budgeted revenues and expenses.  He also has recommendations and proposals about other issues on public safety, health and welfare and
education, as well as programs for the youth and senior citizens.

With the programs that he plans to implement throughout the city, he knows that he can continue bringing more businesses into Vallejo.  These will provide continual job growth and stronger employment opportunities, balance the budget and satisfy the needs of residents and tourists.

Family man

For 30 years now, Villanueva has been a dedicated and faithful husband to Candy, who is a registered nurse at Kaiser Hospital in Vallejo.  Having lost his father when he was only six months old, Villanueva and his three siblings were raised solely by their mother, Carmen.  Mrs. Villanueva worked hard to make sure that all her children received education. She believes that education is the best gift a mother can give with her children.

This lesson has been passed on to Villanueva’s pride and joy, his four children.  His only son, Christopher is now a State policeman in Napa, and a reserved captain at the US Air Force.  Daughters Crystal and Candace are both registered nurses at Queen of the Valley Hospital and Sutter Solano Medical Center, respectively, while youngest daughter, Carissa, is a sophomore at the St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School.  Villanueva is also a caring grandfather to only grandson, Noel.

Still a Pinoy at heart

Given the chance to serve as mayor of Vallejo, Villanueva’s heart is fixed on helping the Philippines and his fellow Filipinos.  “As soon as I win, I will set up a trade mission to the Philippines and other Asian countries,” he said in an interview with GMANews.TV.   During his term as vice mayor, Villanueva established Baguio as a sister-city of Vallejo.  At present, he plans to expand the trade relationship with Baguio and the Philippines with the possibility of establishing an American school of medicine and nursing.

While a number of Filipino immigrants tend to be passive about their heritage especially when they have been assimilated in the American culture, Villanueva still proves to be a Pinoy at heart.  In fact, he is taking a hands-on approach on his children by immersing them in Filipino culture.  He instills in them strong family ties and values, as well as the importance of education.

Apart from his public service record, financial knowledge, experience and qualification, dedication and ‘vision into action’ motto, his Pinoy heart and values is probably what makes him stands out from the rest of the candidates.

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Kid Jeopardy Champ is a FilAm

By Malou Aguilar/AsianJournal.com
CONCORD, CA — A proud lola, Mrs. Cely Rayco Millena called last week to share the good news about her granddaughter Rachel Lee A. Millena. At 10 years old, Rachel bested other whiz kids in the game show Kids Jeopardy aired last October 9.

A sixth grader at St. Francis Catholic School in Concord, Rachel was selected among 10,000 registered kids from age 10-12 years old. The numbers went down to 3,000, then to 200 and finally to 15 contestants.

Her road to becoming a Kids Jeopardy winner started when she saw the Kids Week registration ad. Rachel asked her parents for permission to register and take the online test last March, wherein each participant had to answer each of the 30 questions in 10 seconds. In July, Rachel was informed that she was one of the 200 finalists selected for an audition.

Among 15 contestants, Rachel became the biggest winner of the week. In her face-off with the two contestants during the final round, she had won $16,000 already. Faced with the final Jeopardy question, “Name the only US president who never lived in Washington, DC,” Rachel bet $12,000. She answered ‘George Washington’ and walked away with $28,000.

Just another girl

Bubbly, precocious and friendly were the impressions that this reporter had after her phone and e-mail interview with Asian Journal.

“Rachel is just like any 10-year-old girl,” said her father, Engr. Millena. He is a principal train control engineer at BART Systems Engineering. “She loves her American Girl doll, and is an avid reader.”

Aside from reading, Rachel loves history, plays the piano and is a member of the Walnut Creek Girls Golf Club. She also acts in her school drama class. As a sister, she loves playing with her sibling, Rebecca Lee, who is 8. Although there are times that they disagree with each other, being an older sister, Rachel has learned to be more understanding. “Rachel loves being a big sister and enjoys sharing the spotlight with her sister,” her father explained.

There is no doubt that her youth is just one part of her. Her answers showed how smart and intelligent she is. Engr. Millena said that Rachel likes to take on challenges and gives it her best shot.

“She, of course, enjoys meeting and overcoming those challenges but more importantly, she learns from her mistakes when she falls short,” her father said proudly.

Everybody’s game

During the interview on the show, Rachel said, “It’s everybody’s game.” For someone who won over thousands of kids to get to the final round, she was admittedly still nervous being on TV and competing with other kids.

“You never know what questions will come up,” Rachel shared. “…And there were a lot of smart kids there,” she added.

She never thought that she would emerge as the Final Jeopardy winner. “I was hoping to just have fun, learn something new and make friends,” Rachel said.

The Millenas made trips to Los Angeles for the past three months for the audition. When they received the call late July from the contestant coordinator, they were informed that Rachel was of the 15 kids selected. She prepared for the competition in Los Angeles by reviewing geography, history, US presidents and literature.

Still a Filipino

Although Rachel and her sister were born in the US, their parents instill in them their Filipino roots. Rachel’s proud grandparents, arrived here in 1979 as special immigrants granted to her lolo, Rolando Millena. He worked for 21 years at the Ship Repair Facility at the Subic Bay Naval Shipyard in Olongapo City as Chief Metallurgist. Rachel’s father was only 13 years old when he arrived in the US with his four other siblings.

Engr. Millena believes that it is very important to instill faith and humility in their daughters’ lives. He and his wife, Lea, a full-time mother and housewife, agree that without their own parents’ diligent efforts and dedication to provide them with the proper moral values and faith in God, there will not a be a moral compass to guide them. They also immerse their children in the traditions and culture of Filipinos. Being Bicolanos, they also participate in the Penafrancia Fiesta held in San Leandro every year.

“Of course, the ‘mano po’ blessing we greet our elders is one of the little things we have taught our girls,” said Engr. Millena.

Rachel and her sister visited the Philippines for the first time in July last year. Engr. Millena believed that it was an eye-opening experience for both.

“It’s one thing to be able to tell the girls stories from our own experiences when we lived there,” he said . “It is so much more when they actually see, feel, smell and live it there.”

Both girls enjoyed the experience so much. Aside from the sights, beautiful beaches, fresh fruits and wildlife, Rachel also had to chance to see her best friend, Gianna, who recently moved back to the Philippines.

After all the excitement, Rachel is busy with school and her extra curricular activities. She looks forward to her future — either as a novelist, concert pianist, photojournalist, or reporter. As for her $28,000 prize, most of it will be saved for her college fund and to buy a new laptop computer — a pink one. (www.asianjournal.com)

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