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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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A ‘Sting’ Operation: The Police last concert EVER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were also quite irreverent.

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

The ending was also classic and yes, quite fitting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lights Go Out on Broadway As Strike Continues

By Momar G. Visaya/AsianJournal.com

NEW YORK – Members of Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees went on strike Sunday, Nov. 10 against Broadway producers, effectively shutting down Manhattan’s Theater District.

A total of 35 shows are currently running on Broadway, with 27 of them affected as the strike continued as of Tuesday.

Local One Union Chief James Claffey Jr. told reporters the strike was the stagehands’ only option as they try to protect what they claim is rightfully theirs.

“We truly regret that there is no show,” the stagehands said in a statement as tourists from all over the world scampered all over Times Square while announcements on ticket refunds were plastered on theater doors.

The statement also said that theatre owners and producers are demanding a 38% cut in the stagehands’ jobs and wages. “They have built a $20 million fund to be used against us from the sale of theatre tickets to the public,” the statement added. “Stagehands” is the term used for the people who work behind the scenes to install and run lights, sets and props for all the shows on Broadway.

Tickets to some of the top Broadway shows can command prices of more than 500 dollars, and last year 1.3 million tickets were sold to foreign tourists.

“Broadway is a billion dollar a year industry and has never been more profitable than now,” the 3,000-member stagehands’ union said.

Despite steep ticket prices, the number of theatergoers has continued to increase, jumping 2.6 percent from 2006 to 2007, while box office receipts have increased 8.9 percent over the same period.

According to the producers’ league, Broadway pumps five billion dollars into the New York economy a year and provides the equivalent of 45,000 jobs.

Police monitored the picket lines outside the theaters, with an average of about 20 demonstrators in each theater marching with their placards.

The strike came after months of heated negotiations and caused the multi-million dollar business of Broadway to come to a grinding halt.

Some of New York’s most popular plays and musicals affected by the strike include Cyrano de Bergerac, a new play starring Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner; the David Hyde Pierce-starrer Curtains; Fantasia’s The Color Purple; classics such as A Chorus Line, Rent, Mamma Mia and Les Miserables and tourist favorites like Legally Blonde, Hairspray and The Drowsy Chaperone.

The usually long line outside TKTS, the same-day discount tickets booths in Times Square and at the South Street Seaport were almost empty on Saturday, with only a handful looking at the boards that announced only a couple of shows were on.

“The stagehands are striking to seek to preserve their right to get paid when there is nothing for them to do,” the producers’ league said in a statement.

According to The League of American Theatres and Producers, the average stagehand makes 150,000 dollars a year in pay and benefits.

Stalemate

No new negotiations have been scheduled between the stagehands union, and the League of American Theatres and Producers. The stalemate has forced theatergoers, particularly tourists, to find other attractions and off-Broadway has some 48 productions now playing, according to the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers.

On Monday in the theater district, people were passing out flyers advertising off-Broadway shows, meaning productions in theaters smaller than 499 seats.

The dispute has focused on how many stagehands are required to open a show and keep it running. That means moving scenery, lights, sound systems and props into the theater; installing the set and making sure it works; and keeping everything functioning well for the life of the production.

Theater owners and producers want to be able to hire only the number of stagehands they think they’ll need for an individual show. For example, a play with one set might not require as many stagehands as a large-scale musical with many scene changes or special effects. The union wants to maintain its rules on how many stagehands are hired, how they work and for how long; it wants a specific number hired for each show.

Eight Broadway shows that have separate contracts with the union remained open and did strong, often sold-out business over the weekend. Among the attractions still running are “Young Frankenstein,” “Mary Poppins,” “Xanadu” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” as well as four shows — “Pygmalion,” “The Ritz,” “Mauritius” and “Cymbeline” — playing at nonprofit theaters. (AJ with AP wire reports)

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Successful Pinays in Business Inspire at DC Confab

By Momar Visaya/Asianjournal.com

NEW YORK — Filipina entrepreneurs shared their experiences at the Fifth Filipina Summit held in Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago.

Nini Alvero, Philippine Trade Commissioner for the US Western Region moderated the entrepreneurship forum, aptly dubbed “Make Me a Filipina Millionaire”.

“The Filipino American community is a sleeping dragon, and it is waking up,” Alvero said and talked about how business-minded FilAms can take the opportunity to do business in the Philippines.

Panelists discussed how they reached their first million dollars in business. They also talked about how they worked with their passion in order to achieve their dreams.

Healing the planet

Among the panelists was Cora Alisuag. She is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Aliron International, Inc., a diversified global company that she founded in 1989.

“It is a good idea to do this one step at a time. Grow your business and diversify when the right time comes,” Alisuag said. Based in Washington, DC, her company provides healthcare solutions and resources for clients throughout the world primarily in four distinct areas: healthcare operations and management, environmental technologies, information technologies, and educational programs.

“Money alone should not be the motivation to go into business, but rather think about what it can do for the common good,” she added.

Alisuag’s biggest dream for the Philippines is for it to have an efficient waste management program. Practicing what she preached, her company officially opened its hazardous and industrial waste treatment facility at the Carmelray Industrial Park II in Calamba, Laguna in 2005.

In early 2002, she created HEAL (Healthy Environment for Advancement of Life), a foundation devoted to developing programs to clean up solid and toxic wastes in third world nations, beginning in the Philippines. Alisuag has also been involved in multiple facets of healthcare delivery for more than two decades.

Philippine Food

Alice Ignacio founded API Enterprises, LLC, a company based in Chesapeake, Virginia in 1998.

A food importer and distributor, Ignacio, initially just wanted to get Selecta to be distributed in the US and ended up conquering the mainstream market. An “accidental businesswoman,” Ignacio has successfully penetrated the US market with accounts at Walmart, Sam’s Club, Farm Fresh (East Coast) and the US Defense Commissaries.

Her company is primarily involved in the importation and distribution of top quality, high-end food products for the American markets. Currently, she supplies Selecta ice cream, Goldilocks products and Bonuan bangus (milkfish).

Food for the Mind

Linda Nietes, CEO and owner of the Philippine Expressions Bookshop talked about how culture and business can co-exist.

Nietes admitted that being a bookseller requires “a real passion, hard work and long hours” in order to do it. She has been a bookseller for the past 25 years (13 in the Philippines, 12 in the US)

“I sell the history, hopes and aspirations of every Filipino who writes. I want to share our diverse and vast heritage with the younger generation of Filipinos here today,” Nietes said.

She lamented the fact that Filipinos are generally not a book-reading public and considers that as her biggest challenge in the book-selling business.

“We raise the consciousness of the people in the community through book and poetry readings and author signings. I dream of a more socially aware, aggressive and intelligent Filipino-Americans,” she said.

Nietes also admitted that she has not earned her first million yet, and she probably wouldn’t.

“There are no millions that await me but as long as we preserve the Filipino customs and traditions that are slowly fading away, I would be contented and happy,” she shared.

A statement on fashion

Gina Alexander, President & Designer, Gina Alexander, Inc. went through various challenges that pushed her to the limit.

“There was a point when I lost all my energy to work but when I reflected, I realized that I needed to continue so I could do greater things,” she said.

“One of my heroes is Gina Lopez of ABS-CBN. My maiden name is Lopez so a lot of people ask me about her projects or if we are one and the same. When I met her, I found out that we have the same dreams in helping Filipino children,” Alexander shared.

Her company owns kiosk stores at Hollywood & Highland and The Grove selling her photo bags, which are also sold at Nordstrom, ICE Accessories and Saks, Inc. department stores.

Alexander’s passion for helping children is reflected in her work ethic as she donates a portion of every handbag sold to the Hope for Children. She is also taking care of about 50 children in the Philippines.

Top of her game

Suzie David is President and Founder of Asian and Hispanic Trading and Consulting, a company that specializes in the sales and marketing of office equipment and supplies to construction companies in the metro New York area that are engaged in federal, state and city government funded projects.

She is currently the Chairman of the New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce, a membership organization dedicated to promoting and assisting the New York women gain economic independence and achieve personal success through business ownership, microenterprise development and self-employment.

David offered the reasons why she made it. “I refuse to fail,” she remarked.

She took the plunge – “with pikit-mata and lakas ng loob” – when she ventured into the business world. With tenacity, determination and hard work, she made it.

Caring homes

With those traits, Nimfa Yamsuan Gamez built herself a mini-empire as she currently own and operates several home care facilities in Northern California. “I have a God-centered business and He is the one who guides me through it all,” she shared.

The summit’s Entrepreneur Forum: Make Me a Filipina Millionaire was in support of Make Mine a Million $ Business, a program of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence to help women micro entrepreneurs grow and build sustainable enterprises, create jobs and develop innovative products and services. (www.asianjournal.com)

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Filipinas in the U.S. Military Smash Glass Ceiling

By Momar G. Visaya

WASHINGTON, DC – Filipinas continue to blaze the trail even in the military, a field traditionally dominated by men.

At the 5th Annual Filipina Summit held at the nation’s capital last week, seven high-ranking Filipina military officers took center stage and shared their stories on how they broke the proverbial glass ceiling in their chosen field.

Capt. Paz Gomez, Deputy Director of Installations Requirements and Management under the Office of the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Installations and Environment) led the panel. She is the first woman of color, and the fifth woman overall, to be promoted as captain in the navy.

“We are here to defend our country, but we cannot deny the fact that we are Filipinos, to. Even though we will gladly say we’re Americans, we will also gladly say that we are proud of our Filipino heritage,” Capt. Gomez said.

Capt. Gomez, who was born in Waukegan, Illinois, grew up in a military family.

Her father was recruited into the navy from his hometown in Mendez, Cavite. “He wanted to give his family a better opportunity so he signed up, first as a cook, then a steward. He studied electrical engineering and became an electrician,” Gomez shared.

Growing up in a “typical Filipino family” with seven other siblings, Gomez said that she loved the military lifestyle and that she didn’t mind moving every couple of years.

Her father, once he found out that the navy has opened its doors to women, began bringing navy catalogues home, which he would let the children browse.

Major Rosadel Dominguez Hoffman’s father was also recruited from Cavite when he was barely in his teens. Her decision to join the military years later emanated from the military influence she saw growing up.

“It has been great. I met my husband in the military and I am proud that both of us serve the country,” Maj. Hoffman said.

Col. Rebecca Samson, chief, Troop Support Division, Army G-4 on the other hand, was born in Angeles City and grew up just outside Clark Air Force Base.

“When I was a kid I had a dream. I wanted to join the military and be an officer. I liked the discipline,” Col. Samson shared.

Col. Samson said that she was raised by very strong women, among them her Visayan grandmother and her own mother. “My father was in charge but my mother was the one in control,” she quipped.

As an officer, Samson believes that her devotion to the military and the hard work she provided were crucial to her ascent in the army.

“Once I earned the respect of my superiors and mentors, the minority thing, the woman thing, they were out of the door,” she shared.

Lt. Col. Shirley Raguindin, State Diversity Coordinator & Supervisory HR Specialist (Labor Relations) of the Arizona National Guard began active duty service in the US Air Force where she was commissioned a Second Lieutenant following her graduation.

Under her leadership the Arizona National Guard achieved a 300% increase in Department of Defense and National Guard Bureau nationwide recognition for diversity initiatives in 2007.

“I grew up wanting to serve. I wanted to do more than just what a regular job could offer,” she shared.

Raguindin had a lot of barriers to go through in order to be where she is at right now, beginning with her father who told her that the military is not for women. “That did not deter me from running after what I wanted,” she said.

LCDR (Lieutenant Commander) Christina de Leon, program analyst of the U.S. Coast Guard, was born in Dagupan City, but was raised in various parts of the U.S. as a Coast Guard dependent.

Her family moved from Pangasinan to the U.S. when she was barely three months old when her father was recruited into the coast guard.

“Call it family influence. My father brought home brochures of the coast guard, salary tables and application to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy,” LCDR de Leon recalled.

She applied and eventually got in. In 1994, she graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree in Management.

“I never looked back since then. I am my father’s only girl, the only one among his children who joined the service,” she added.

Davidson honed her craft and took further studies, eventually earning a Master’s in Public Administration degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. She is currently assigned as a program analyst at the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Major Juliet Beyler recalled that she struggled and did not have good grades when she was in school.

“I was a wayward youth,” admitted Maj. Beyler, who is now the Legislative Affairs Director of the U.S. Marine Corps.

She realized that in order to straighten things out, she enlisted in the military, a decision that distraught her parents. “They almost had a heart attack,” she quipped.

Beyler said she found a home as she grew up in the military. “It was happenstance, but it was the best decision that I made in my life,” she said.

Lt. Lineka Quijano, judge advocate at the U.S. Coast Guard was born and raised in Florida. Her foray into a career in the military happened by accident.

“I was interviewing for a tax job in DC when I stumbled into a Coast Guard recruitment and back then, I had no clue what the Coast Guard did,” she said. Lt. Quijano currently serves as a criminal defense attorney and represents military members at both administrative proceedings and courts martial. (AJ)

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Loida Lewis Shares Her Secrets to Success

By Momar Visaya/Asianjournal.com

NEW YORK — Businesswoman and lawyer Loida Nicolas-Lewis, one of the most successful Filipinas in the world, shared some of her secrets to success in a panel aptly called “Exercising Influence: Being Corporate Savvy” at the Fifth Filipina Summit in Washington, DC last week.

“I didn’t have a ladder to climb. I inherited TLC Beatrice which my husband bought in 1987 as a leveraged buyout for $985 million,” Lewis candidly shared, and explained that the term means a business strategy involving the acquisition of another company using a heavy use of borrowed money to meet the cost of acquisition.

Then in 1993, the unexpected happened. Reginald Lewis, Loida’s husband, died of a cerebral hemorrhage after suffering from brain cancer, six weeks after it was diagnosed. He was 50 years old.

“It was most devastating and (and the days that followed) were the darkest nights of my soul, and for six months, I was totally discombobulated. I had to hold on to God just to get going,” Lewis shared.

Almost a year after her husband’s demise, Lewis said that the business was “going south very fast” because the “company has lost its mooring.”

The company needed a CEO. They hired the best headhunters in town to do a search. Unable to find one who would suit the role, Lewis considered a thought.

“I might as well be the CEO. If I fail, I am the only one to blame,” she said.

And fail she didn’t. In fact, she was able to turn the company around, steer it in the right direction and in 1996, TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc. passed the $2 billion sales mark.

Currently, Lewis is the CEO and chair of TLC Beatrice LLC and TLC Beatrice China and Philippines, a successful multi-national corporation of food companies with holdings in many countries.

Success secrets

Lewis cited three things that she considers as her secrets to achieving remarkable success.

“Set your goals, have your own code of ethics and have much determination,” she said, adding “Goal-setting is important, as well as having a belief system or a culture with no shortcuts. Do not shortchange people. You must also have the tenacity to believe in your dreams.”

In essence, her secret is GOD, an acronym for her guiding principles – Goal-setting, Obedience to a code of conduct and Determination.

Citing her own personal history, Lewis admitted that she did not even know how to read balance sheets, so she had to work overtime to learn them in order for her to lead the company’s operations.

“It was daunting. I was afraid but I knew we had a goal,” she shared.

Armed with her conviction and the knowledge she learned along the way, Lewis brought the company right back on track, and gave their investors reason to be happy.

Spiritual

“We all need to have a relationship with God. We all have to have a spiritual life. With God, nothing is impossible,” Lewis said, explaining that she had to hold on to Him to get through the dark days, weeks and months after her husband’s passing.

Lewis also keeps a prayer journal, where she keeps the day’s prayers and lessons. Before embarking on a full day’s work, she prepares herself.

“My day starts with Zen meditation, which I do for about 15 minutes. It empties and clears me out. Then I read what’s on the readings for the holy mass of the day. I also spend around 15 minutes to an hour to do yoga. I need to take care of myself,” she shared.

Wikipedia describes the many hats that Lewis wears: industrialist, philantropist, socio-civic leader, motivational speaker, author, and lawyer.

They forgot the one that Lewis holds most dearly — being a mother.

During the panel, she told the audience that she is a proud mother to her two talented daughters, Christina and Leslie – both of whom graduated cum laude from Harvard.

Love story

Someone from the panel asked Lewis a question during the Q-and-A that followed. The question was brief. “How did you meet your husband?”

Lewis paused for a second, smiled, and said, “My sister’s date fixed us up on a blind date.”

Lewis’ sister Imelda was then studying at Columbia University while Lewis was in New York with their mother as a tourist. Lewis was given the privilege to travel around the world by her father, a gift she earned after she passed the Philippine bar examinations.

“Seven months later, we got married,” Lewis said, still smiling.

Lewis continues to rack up her achievements. She became the first Filipino and first woman to be inducted into the Asian Hall of Fame earlier this year.

She was the first Asian woman to pass the New York State bar exam with a degree from a law school outside the U.S. She graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law and is eligible to practice both in the Philippines and in New York.

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FilAm Talents Shine in The Joy Luck Club

By Momar G. Visaya

NEW YORK – The new production of The Joy Luck Club, a play by Susan Kim adapted from the acclaimed novel by Amy Tan, started its previews this week, with three Fil-Am theater actresses in the main cast delivering stellar performances.

Tina Chilip and Sacha Bayot Iskra play Waverly Jong and Lena St. Clair, respectively, while veteran thespian Lydia Gaston essays the role of Ying Ying, Lena’s mother.

Both Chilip and Iskra, who both worked really hard for their roles, are making their Pan Asian Rep debuts. Both actors recently talked with the Asian Journal to share their thoughts on, among others, Asian American roles and how they landed their parts at The Joy Luck Club.

“I actually auditioned for the role of Jing Mei but the producers thought that I fit Waverly’s role,” Chilip said.
A union actor, Iskra went to the Actors Equity Association and found out about the open call for auditions. “It was kind of intimidating but I went. I got to go in a total of three times,” Iskra told the Asian Journal.

Mahjong

Set in San Francisco in the 80’s, The Joy Luck Club follows four Mahjong playing mothers from different provinces in China and their relationships with their American born daughters. This re-envisioning captures the historical sweep and operatic grandeur of feudal China and the dynamic pulse of modern America.
“Transcending nationality, culture and age barriers, The Joy Luck Club may be the most successful Asian-American fiction of the last quarter-century. It’s an Asian American classic and we would like to introduce it to the new generation of artists and audiences,” said Tisa Chang, who is directing the new production.

The film brought Tan’s story into the consciousness of millions and Susan Kim’s adaptation has brought Tan’s characters to life for audiences in both China and America. Pan Asian Rep mounted its New York premiere eight years ago.

Susan Kim’s adaptation had its world premiere in 1993 in a joint venture between Shanghai People’s Art Theatre and The Long Wharf Theatre in Connecticut. Performed in a Mandarin translation, the production launched in Shanghai before playing Hong Kong.

Chang directed the 1999 New York premiere at Pan Asian Repertory Theatre and the production proved popular with critics and audiences that it was extended to a sustained off-Broadway run at the Julia Miles Theatre, where the new production will also be playing.

Roles

“I have a pretty strong personality and I can be very competitive. She is more like an exaggerated version of me. I don’t have the same relationship that she has with her mom. I am very close to my mom. Waverly is a little bit more snide and competitive,” Chilip said, when asked about her similarities with the role she plays.
Iskra, on the other hand said that it is the respect and awe that her character Lena St. Clair for her mother, along with cherishing the importance of her mother’s opinion and her influence on her life’s choices, as some of the traits she shares with the character she plays.

Born and raised in the Philippines, Chilip moved to the U.S. when she was 19 as a transfer college student. “My mom didn’t want me to come here, she wanted me to just continue my studies at the Ateneo. She thought about it for a year and eventually she agreed,” Chilip shared.

“I’ve always enjoyed watching plays as a kid. I never thought acting would be a career, I thought it was just a hobby and I cannot make a career out of it,” she added.

Iskra, now married to a “wonderful husband” (of Polish descent), was born in the U.S. but her parents made sure that she went to the Philippines very frequently and with that, she became proficient in Tagalog.
Iskra’s father’s family is from Amadeo, Cavite while her mother’s family is from Pagsanjan, Laguna. “I’m so excited to visit them again next year because a cousin is getting married,” she said.

Influence

Back at the Ateneo, Chilip took up Business Management Honors, and she continued her interest in business when she took up and finished commerce at Santa Clara University. In between, she was yearning to act. Eventually, her passion in acting pushed her to enroll in a Masters in Fine Arts degree at Brown University, where she graduated in 2005.

“I was a very, very shy kid and I would hide every time we had visitors. Surprisingly, I have met a lot of other actors who are also very shy and acting is a way of expressing themselves, almost,” Chilip recalled.
Iskra recalled her fascination with acting started when she was 5, but her mother didn not take it seriously until she was in college. She considers Lea Salonga as a major influence in her passion to pursue a career in theater.

She has performed in various musicals such as Miss Saigon, where she played Kim, Evita, Ragtime and Pocahontas. Iskra is also into dance, staged readings and plays.

Asked where she is most comfortable with, she replied, “I would say it has to be musical theater but if the story is well-built and the story is well-written and you have a wonderful director and a great cast to work with, it almost doesn’t matter what discipline it is. The job is to tell the story and tell it beautifully.”

Chilip is hopeful as more roles for Asian American actors are becoming more available.

“I think it is changing more and more as we see more diverse casting going on onstage. I think part of it is just not to limit yourself because when the number of roles is limited, I shouldn’t put that on my head. You have to be brave enough,” she said.

“The situation is getting better,” echoed Iskra, “I believe we are making great strides. It’s still hard but it’s getting better.”

Growing up in the theatre scene, Chilip acknowledges the fact that there aren’t many Asian American role models out there. Asked for her advice to Asian American youth who are finding inclination in theater, she offered three tips.

“Training is very important. I am so grateful to have had that training at Brown. It just didn’t boost my confidence but I also gained a network where I can learn from. Being grounded is also important, like having a support group of family and friends. You need some other thing to support you financially. I have a day job and they are very wonderful to me and let me be flexible with my time so I can do acting,” she shared.
Founded in 1977, Pan Asian Rep is the premier producer of Asian American theatre with New York season international and national touring and residencies.  For 30 years, Pan Asian Rep has celebrated the artistic expressiveness of Asian and American theatre artists with the highest standards of professional theatre.

The company encourages production of new plays with contemporary Asian American themes, explores new forms by drawing upon the unique heritage of Asian American style, music and movement and nurtures emerging Asian  American talent. Under the direction of Tisa Chang, Pan Asian Rep continues to bring Asian American Theatre to the general theatre-going public and deepen their appreciation and understanding of the Asian American cultural heritage. (AJ)

(The Joy Luck Club runs October 28th – November 25th at the Julia Miles Theatre (424 W. 55th Street between 9th & 10th Aves).  Via Subway, take the 1/A/C/B/D trains to Columbus Circle or the C/E to 50th Street/8th Ave. **Performances are Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30PM with matinees on Sunday at 3:00PM. Tickets are $50. Senior tickets are $35. Student tickets are $20. For tickets, call Telecharge.com (212) 239-6200. Discounted rates available for groups of 15 or more are available by calling 212-868-4030.)

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Bayanihan sa Amerika Makes New York Pitstop

By Momar G. Visaya

NEW YORK – After a successful launch in Los Angeles and a subsequent pitstop in San Francisco, “Bayanihan sa Amerika,” a conference of Filipino community centers and associations in the United States gathered more than a hundred community leaders at the Philippine Center Saturday, Oct. 20.

The conference aims to gather owners or administrators of Filipino community centers, leaders of Filipino associations, officers of Filipino-American chambers of commerce, and other institutionalized Filipino entities, to enhance networking and foster cooperation.

The conference hosted by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) and the Philippine Consulate General, New York discussed, among other issues, sustainability factors for non-profit organizations, ways of bridging cultural and generation gaps for the new generation of Fil-Ams and new strategies for development assistance in the Philippines.

Consul General Cecilia Rebong welcomed the conference participants while Deputy Consul General Millie Thomeczek read Ambassador Willy Gaa’s keynote address.

The conference, according to Gaa, is timely and “brings to the fore the close and unbreakable bond that ties Filipino Americans to the Philippines.”

“It comes when more than 2.5 million Filipinos and Filipino Americans residing in the United States are consolidating and beginning to flex their political muscle. Indeed, it will not be long when the United States Congress will have among their ranks an elected official of Filipino descent,” Gaa’s statement said.

The first plenary session gathered speakers to discuss the situation of Filipino community associations in Northeast USA.

Vladimir James Manuel, founding chair of Collaborative Opportunities for Raising Empowerment (CORE), reported that most of the Filipino community associations in the consulate’s jurisdiction fall under the major categories of province, profession, local, alumni and religion.

There is an estimated 4,000 organizations in the entire United States, with the tri-state area accounting for more than 500.

Manuel posed some questions, among them, if we need all 4,000 or so of these organizations. “Do we need to come together as a community so that we can align and coordinate our efforts? What specific issue would galvanize is as a community?” he asked.

Audience response ranged from “behavior” to “veterans issues” to “political empowerment”.

According to ConGen Rebong, out of the more than 500 organizations that they have on their list, “only more than 100 can be considered visible”.

Dr. Jean Lobell, co-founder of Filipino American Human Services, Inc. (FAHSI), talked about the effectiveness and sustainability of nonprofit organizations in the community.

Citing Census data such as Filipino families’ median income ($69,228) versus the city’s ($38,293), Lobell also focused on the fact that 6% of the community lived below the poverty line and 40% of the senior citizens have limited English skills, while 7% did not finish high school.

“To achieve greater impact, there needs to be purposeful planning, viability and sustainability,” Lobell explained.

Rey Padilla completed the panel for the first session and talked about effective fund-raising, financial management and internal controls for the organizations. He provided tips for organization’s to be able to access funds from the local to the state to the federal level.

“We do not know they exist. We do not know how to access, and much more manage the funds once we have it,” Rebong said, as she asked the participants if there is a need for a workshop where leaders will be taught to write proposals and access funds, which the consulate can organize.

“Fund-raising in our community is just amongst ourselves. We should start to learn to access funds para hindi tayo-tayo na lang ang naghihingian sa isa’t isa. Sayang naman lahat ng mga taxes na ibinabayad ninyo,” Rebong added.

The New York leg was part of a series of “Bayanihan sa Amerika” conferences organized by the Commission on Filipino Overseas, Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Tourism, and Department of Trade and Industry.

The conference also endeavored to develop strategies to enhance Filipino cultural visibility through programs that will promote Philippine culture and tourism and identify ways by which Filipino community centers and associations can assist Philippine development through resources and knowledge transfer.

It was also an opportunity to create more awareness on business and investment opportunities in the Philippines as both Trade Representative Josephine Romero and Tourism Director Emma Ruth Yulo talked about prospects for Philippine products ad services in the US and enhancing prospects of Philippine tourism through community-led marketing and promotion, respectively. (AJ)

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Filipina Women’s Network Honors 100 Most Influential Women in the U.S.

Pinay Power in Washington DC

By Momar G. Visaya

WASHINGTON, DC – It was a veritable who’s who at the gala night of the Fifth Annual Filipina Summit as the Filipina Women’s Network honored 100 of the most influential women in the United States.

The awarding was one of the highlights of the three-day summit at the nation’s capital.

Among the awardees were business executives Loida Nicolas Lewis; Oahu state Rep. Rida Cabanilla; Washington State Legislature’s Velma Veloria; Davis, California Mayor Ruth Uy Asmundson; former President Bill Clinton’s personal physician, Dr. Connie Mariano and US Navy Capt. Paz Gomez.

The nationwide search was a key initiative of FWN’s Pinay Power 2012, a campaign to identify the Filipina women who are shaping the Filipino-American community’s influence in American society today.

The network identified these influential leaders based on their impact, innovation, involvement, mentorship, sustainability and professionalism.

“It was a daunting task to come up with the process of honoring all these wonderful women,” FWN president Marily Mondejar said.

Philippine Ambassador to Washington Willy Gaa congratulated the awardees and thanked them for their contributions in uplifting the image of Filipinos in the country.

Panels

The Filipina Summit, attended by women leaders from different parts of the U.S., had different plenary sessions for its participants.

Some U.S. congressmen joined the gathering during the first day of sessions, which was held at the Rayburn Building near the Capitol.

Rep. Mike Honda expressed his congratulations to the event organizers and called on the participants to call their congressmen and be “very angry about the veterans issue.”

“I know that Filipinos are very passionate about liberty and freedom. If we break a promise, we have to correct it. This country promised something to the veterans. We should expect no less,” Honda said.

Rep. Jim McDermott shared tat in his district in Washington state, Filipinos are the largest minority. He focused on immigration issue and said that this is an issue that the government needs to deal with in “a very humane manner.”

On the veterans issue, McDermott said, “The veterans are old and most of them are dying. They are entitled to be respected.”

Rep. Laura Richardson, who represents the cities of Long Beach, Carson and Compton in California, promised the participants that they are working very hard on the veterans issue.

That morning’s keynote speaker was Gloria Caoili, one of Washington DC’s Filipino-American community leaders.

“This is such a momentous occasion to be with a distinguished group of women. The next three days will redefine us,” she said.

Caoili shared that there are 74 women in the House and 16 in the Senate.

“Access equals influence equals power. Register, get active and vote,” she told the participants, “If our community votes, we count.”

Pinays in politics

Kris Valderrama, eldest daughter of former Maryland State Delegate David M. Valderrama, took over a post her father had for four terms. Her father was the first Filipino American to win as representative to the Maryland Legislature.

“I got into politics because of my father’s influence. I echo Gloria’s call for all of us to be involved. Let us all vote and make our voices count,” Valderrama said.

She also mentioned her support for Vellie Dietrich-Hall, a fellow Filipina running for a Board of Supervisors seat to represent Mason Dsictrict in Fairfax, Virginia. Valderrama is a Democrat while Dietrich-Hall is a Republican.

“We may not share the same beliefs but regardless of our party affiliations, I am supporting her. I want to see more of us taking the risk in running for public office because this will advance the cause of our political empowerment,” Valderrama said.

She also shared that running was “a humbling experience” and advised those who want to consider a career in politics to not be overly sensitive.

“People will say mean things just to spite you,” she said.

Ruth Uy Asmundson, Davis, California’s current mayor pro-tem and future mayor, joined Valderrama and other elected Filipinas at the panel dubbed “Run Filipina Run”.

“I never allowed anybody to discriminate me,” the Isabela-born politician said.

Asmundson said that her husband, a former mayor himself, mentored her. “I made my own decisions though, and the people in Davis know that I am my own person. I am very hard-working and I’m just as good as any other man, if not better,” she said.

Hawaii’s Rida Cabanilla, state representative for District 42 said, “We must know how to run if we want to change the face of power in America.”

A first-generation Fil-Am from Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, Cabanilla said she faced some challenges along the way, among them the language.

“English was not my first language but that did not stop me. Don’t let that stop you,” Cabanilla, a nurse by profession, said. (AJ)

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No Slowdown in Remittance Despite Weak Dollar

By Momar Visaya/Asianjournal.com

NEW YORK — Despite the weakening dollar and the continued appreciation of the peso, there is no recorded slowdown in terms of remittances to the Philippines, according to Finance Secretary Margarito Teves.

“Fortunately, there has been no slowdown yet. That’s rather a pleasant surprise because I would have expected those who are earning dollars to be affected. So far, with the volume of remittances and based on Central Bank projections, remittances will probably reach close to $15 billion this year,”

Teves told the Asian Journal in an interview after the ASEAN Finance Ministers Investment Seminar at the Citi Headquarters in downtown Manhattan Tuesday, Oct. 23.

The lack of slowdown does not mean that the government will be complacent, according to Teves.

“We have to find a way of continuing their support for us by two ways, which we need to manifest as soon as possible,” he shared.

For those who are not inclined to engage in business, Teves suggests that they look at peso-denominated bonds and for those who are inclined, he proposes that the government should help them get into microfinance or microenterprises as well as small-to-medium enterprises.

“They’re also benefiting from gradual increase in property prices so that’s somehow going to compensate for I guess what they are suffering, those who are earning dollars. That’s the thing that probably also motivated them,” Teves added.

Engine of growth

Teves joined other ASEAN finance ministers at the meeting with investors, dubbed “Borderless ASEAN – Stronger, Soaring Together”. After the conference, they held a press briefing to discuss, among others, trade and investment opportunities in the region.

“Much attention has been paid to two fast-growing Asian economies – China and India. Asean’s performance and economic conditions are equally encouraging. We have placed programs to further integrate our economies and encourage our levels of sustainable growth,” Teves, who read the finance ministers’ statement, said.

The group hopes to continue raising investors’ awareness about Asean and its standing as a major engine of growth in Asia and that Southeast Asian member countries have taken various measures to speed up mechanism restructuring and economic reforms in the last ten years after the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

“Asean economies have posted a 5.5% growth for the past four years, and this year, they are looking at a growth of at least 6%,” the statement said.

Ranking 4th

A recent U.N. report listed the Philippines as the fourth highest recipient of remittance from migrant workers, after India, Mexico and China.

Asked for a reaction, Teves replied, “I am not surprised at all because we have a large number of overseas Filipinos and it’s really in a way unfortunate on the one hand that a lot of Filipinos need to go to other countries for lack of employment of meaningful employment opportunities at home.”
An estimated 10% of the country’s population, or about eight million Filipinos form the Filipino diaspora.

“As a policy, that’s not really what we wanted but we need to continue improving the growth of our economy especially at the higher sustainable level so we can stem the outflow of overseas Filipinos. So, it becomes a matter of choice for them to go out rather than need. So far, because of the large increase in the population, we need to generate more employment opportunities,” Teves explained.

Subprime

Apart from the weak dollar and high oil prices, Asean finance ministers are closely monitoring how the subprime crisis would eventually affect the U.S. economy.

“We are all waiting to see its impact on the U.S. economy and we’re watching very closely,” said Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s Minister for Education and Second Minister for Finance.

“If there is going to be a significant impact, then it will have an effect to the rest of the world,” he added.

Weak dollar

The impact of the weak dollar on Thailand’s economy has been quite a challenge, according to Thai Finance Minister Chalongphob Sussangkarn. “There’s too much U.S. dollar going around the world,” he added.

“The depreciation of the dollar has been helpful to the Philippine economy but there are concerns at the export sector and among overseas Filipinos,” Teves explained.

He added the weak dollar is not the only reason why the country’s economy is doing good but a combination of reasons, among them the peso’s appreciation, lower inflation rates and lower interest rates, all contribute to show that the country’s macro-economic fundamentals are in place.

Teves added that the ideal situation would be a gradual adjustment of the peso so that the affected sectors like exporters and overseas Filipino workers can adjust.

“The peso will continue to appreciate as long as our macro-economic fundamentals are also improved,” Teves said.

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