Tag Archives: New York

The New York Public Library honors Jose Garcia Villa’s works

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress
NEW YORK – Filipino poet, literary critic, short story writer and painter Jose Garcia Villa is the only Asian poet among a group of modern literary giants in 1940’s New York that included E. E. Cummings, Mark Van Doren, W.H. Auden, Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal. Known as the “Pope of Greenwich Village,” Villa stepped past his ethnicity and became a global poet.

Villa introduced the “reversed consonance rime scheme” in writing poetry, as well as the extensive use of punctuation marks – especially commas, which made him known as the Comma Poet.

On August 6, 2008, Doveglion, a collection of poetry, including rare and previously unpublished material, will be presented at the Jefferson Market Branch of The New York Library as part of Penguin Classic Centennial Celebration. Doveglion is Villa’s penname (derived from “Dove, Eagle, Lion”), based on the characters he derived from himself.  These animals were also explored by E. E. Cummings in Doveglion, Adventures in Value, a poem dedicated to Villa.

Born on August 5, 1908 in Manila, Villa first took medicine and then pre-law before realizing his passion for the arts.  Considered as the leader of Filipino “artsakists,” a group of writers believe that art should be “for art’s sake.”

His tart poetic style was considered too aggressive in his time that in 1929, he was fined for obscenity when he published Man Songs, a series of erotic poems.  He later on won Best Story of the Year from Philippine Press Magazine, and then migrated for the US using his prize money.

Granted a Guggenheim Fellowship in creative writing by American writer Conrad Aiken, wherein literature, Villa was also awarded s a fellowship from  Bollingen Foundation. He was also bestowed an Academy Award for Literature from The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1943.  A National Artist for Literature in the Philippines, Villa’s brilliant pieces had lifted the standards of Filipino writers.  He is still considered as a powerful literary in the Philippines throughout much of the 20th century, although he has lived most of his life in the US.

Jose Garcia Villa died in 1997, at the age of 88 in New York – but his words, his poems continue  to live on. (www.asianjournal.com)

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New York’s ‘Most Honest Taxi Driver’ Receives Posthumous Degree

by Momar Visaya/AJPress

NEW YORK – After 101 seniors had marched up the stage one by one to receive their hard-earned associate in applied science degree in nursing, the face of one student who should have been there flashed on the screen and his classmates stood up and cheered.

The face on the picture was Nestor Sulpico.

Sulpico, 51, New York City’s “Most Honest Taxi Driver,” died of colon cancer last April in Iloilo. Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing, a Manhattan-based school awarded him with a posthumous honorary degree during its graduation rites recently.

He made the headlines four years ago when he returned $70,000 worth of black pearl necklaces left in his cab.

In an interview with the Asian Journal, Dean Janet Mackin, RN, EdD said that the awarding of Sulpico’s degree was a “request from the students that became an administrative decision.”

“Nestor’s classmates wanted to do something for him and the school agreed so we bestowed on him this special honor,” Dr. Mackin said.

Among Sulpico’s classmates and close friends who graduated that day were Luanne Kwon and Edmundo Mercado. Kwon knew Suplico from the first day of school while Mercado met him during the orientation program.

“It was a great feeling. I felt like he was there celebrating amongst us. It was very fulfilling. We really wanted to do something special for him,” Kwon said.

She added that Sulpico’s story touched her. “Nestor’s story is very inspiring for me. I asked why he wanted to become a nurse and he replied, ‘This is my last shot to go after what I really want’.”

The three of them studied together a lot after school and formed a bond.

“I did not know his story but in the course of our friendship, he shared it with us and I was in awe. That reinforced the friendship we had. He is a very special person,” Mercado said.

“Nursing school was really tough and stressful and I am so happy Nestor was there with us most of the time. He was really a funny and very positive person. He didn’t stress out about the small things. He was a very calming force in the school, where the atmosphere was very serious,” Kwon added.

Mercado agreed, “Masayahin na tao si Nestor pero pagdating sa studies, seryoso siya. He took nursing seriously kasi yun talaga ang dream niya. I know he was doing it against all odds.”


“The Class of 2008 is a diverse group of students who have completed a rigorous program of nursing education in our traditional day and innovative weekend programs,” said Dean Janet Mackin, RN, EdD. “This is the culmination of concentrated learning and preparation for working in a variety of patient care settings, as well as a stepping stone for more advanced nursing degrees.

At a touching and solemn ceremony, the largest class to graduate from the school received their diplomas and prepared to join the ranks of the revered profession.

Consul General Cecilia Rebong was on hand to receive the award on behalf of the late student, who dreamed of becoming a nurse and was given a full scholarship by Phillips Beth Israel, but succumbed to cancer last April.

Dean Mackin also announced the establishment of a Nestor Sulpico Fund, an initiative of classmates Luanne Kwon and Edmundo Mercado.

“It is something that Edmundo and I talked about a lot after we learned of Nestor’s death. We discussed it with school authorities and we found out that the school was also planning something similar so we are going to combine our ideas,” Kwon said.


Sulpico’s death surprised his close friends who were unaware that he had cancer.

“When we found out about his death, things became more clear,” Kwon shared, “The three of us studied a lot after school. On our second year, he distanced himself from us. There was a noticeable difference.”

Kwon and Mercado confronted Sulpico on two different occasions but he said it was nothing.

“We let him be. We thought he would come around at some point. I should have bothered him more. I should have been a better friend. I should have been more relentless. Then we found out he left. There was no closure,” an almost emotional Kwon said.

“There’s a part of me that feels really guilty,” she admitted.

Mercado, on the other hand, felt bad when Suplico suddenly disappeared. “We were very close and for him to just leave like that, parang gusto kong magtampo,” he shared.

“I feel that he was ready and prepared to die. Napaghandaan na niya,” Mercado said. The two used to discuss a lot on topics such as death, philosophy and religion.

Second career

Majority of the class are second-career individuals who switched to nursing, determined to be the solution to the nursing shortage.

Dean Mackin noted that most of the students held jobs and many raised families and had other responsibilities while in school.

“It is not too late for anyone who might be considering a second career. A good 42% of our students are aged 30 and above. I hope they follow Nestor’s example to study. He was already in his late 40s when he enrolled but his age did not deter him from pursuing his dream,” Dean Mackin added.


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Investigators Puzzled Over Stolen San Lorenzo Ruiz Statue

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

NEW YORK – Investigators are still trying to piece together clues as to who stole the statue of the first Filipino Saint last week in Queens.

“Right now, there is nothing new with the investigation,” said Lieutenant John Grimpel of the New York Police Department to the Asian Journal. “We have [made] no arrests.”

Grimpel did not further discuss the status of the pending investigation. He said that detectives from the NYPD Hate Crimes Unit are still working on the case.

Thieves stole the bronze colored statue of San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, a Filipino Catholic martyr and saint, on May 5. The fiberglass statue was chopped off at the ankles and stolen from the San Lorenzo Ruiz Spiritual Center in Jamaica Hill, Queens.

According to the Queens Courier, Councilman James Gennaro and other religious leaders considered the theft a hate crime during a press conference last week.

“There is no place in this or any other community for any kind of religious intolerance and hatred,” said Gennaro.

Nick Libromonte, the National Director of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Association of America, begged the thieves to return it.

It is assumed that thieves stole the statue thinking it was made of bronze – which sells for hundreds of dollars as scrap metal. However, the statue has no real monetary worth just spiritual value.

“It is very precious to us,” said Libromonte.

Rabbi Moshe Shur of the Queens College Hillel also attended the press conference denouncing the crime.

“We cannot tolerate this kind of behavior,” he said.

Born in the 1600’s, Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila’s path to sainthood began after he sought asylum in Japan in the mid-1630s. Upon landing, the Japanese arrested and persecuted Ruiz along with three Dominican Priests due to their Catholic faith.

The three were tortured and only Ruiz did not recant his faith.

Pope John Paul II beatified Lorenzo Ruiz during a visit to the Philippines in 1981. The Pope later elevated him to sainthood in 1987, becoming the first Filipino saint and martyr.


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Music to Our Ears

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – The East Coast is all-agog these days for the much-anticipated first apostolic journey of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States from April 15 to 20. The plans for the five-day visit will include a meeting with President Bush at the White House, an address at the United Nations in New York, and a stop at Ground Zero. What is especially exciting to the American public, especially the Catholics, are the major events where they can see and greet the Pope.

In New York, he will say Mass at the Cathedral of St. Patrick and at the Yankee Stadium before they tear it down. The Pope will also lead an ecumenical, inter-religious event at the John Paul II Cultural Center and address a youth rally at the St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers.

Overseeing the music for these events and conducting both Masses is a young Filipina American – Dr. Jennifer Pascual, the Director of Music of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Aside from directing music at St. Patrick’s, a center of Catholic life in America, Jennifer is also host of the popular radio program “Sounds from the Spires” on the Catholic Channel 159. She currently teaches and serves as Director of Music at the St. Joseph’s Seminary and College in Yonkers, New York.

Born in LA in 1971, Jennifer proudly said that her parents are both from Manila and met in California. Her father is a retired Navy while her mother is a retired nurse.

A musical conductor and a liturgical and concert organist, Jennifer took her Bachelor of Music Education and Bachelor of Music in Organ and Piano Performance (magna cum laude) in Jacksonville University in Florida. She then moved to New York where she took up her Master of Music in Piano Performance at Mannes College of Music and her Doctor of Musical Arts in Organ Performance with a minor in Church Music at the Eastman School of Music.

“I have always enjoyed music as a child and growing up,” Jennifer said. she explained that She added that specializing in church music was a natural inclination. “I really didn’t want to do anything else. To have just a solo performing career is just that – solo – kind of lonely. I like working with people.”

Her prestigious position as the Director of Music at St.Patrick’s is something that Jennifer credits to luck.

“I happened to be conducting a concert at St. Joseph’s Seminary in NY and His Eminence, Edward Cardinal Egan was present. It was at a time that the Cathedral was in transition and looking for a new director of music. I simply happened to be in the right place at the right time,” she said.

From teaching piano classes and music at various schools to playing the organ in different Catholic churches, Jennifer has risen in her profession to become the Director of Music at the St. Frances de Chantal Catholic Church, the Associate Director of Music Ministries at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred and the Conductor of the New York Archdiocesan Festival Chorale before she was offered her present position.

“It is a lot of work” she admitted. “ And being in such a highly visible place, there are a lot of politics involved and a lot of people to keep happy. However, the flip side is that the people are wonderful, and we get to make beautiful music in one of the grandest cathedrals in the world. Everyone comes to New York, so I see people that I know from all over the world.”

Jennifer’s other job is hosting a radio program. “I never did it before and all of a sudden I got asked to do it,” she exclaims. “It’s once a week for an hour. We talk about music and how it ties in with faith, religion, get to know church musicians, that kind of thing,” she added.

Very few Filipinos. There is, however, an annual Filipino Mass and that is very well attended with almost a full cathedral,” she said.

“I really love the [Philippines], the food, the people. I wish the Philippines was not so far away so I could visit more often. I’ve only been there twice. I went last 2004 as the featured organist at the Las Piñas (my mother’s hometown) Bamboo Organ Festival,” she said.

When not busy at work, Jennifer usually just catches up with her sleep or she travels and enjoys fine dining. As to future plans, she admits she just wants to stay and direct music in St. Patrick’s.

“I hope to be here for a very long time! I just would like to continue to make great music not only in the Cathedral but throughout the Archdiocese of New York and hope that we continue to be a model for the rest of the United States,” she said.

Next time you visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, pause for a while, listen to the great music, and thank God for this Filipina giving such wonderful music to our ears.


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