Tag Archives: Rene Villaroman

Gov. ‘Among Ed’ Panlilio concludes 3-day Southern California Visit

by Rene Villaroman/AJPress
LOS ANGELES  – Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio, the Catholic priest who was elected the 26th governor of the province of Pampanga, Philippines, visited Southern California this weekend, appearing at a half-a-dozen events and exhorting his cabalens at a gathering of Pampangan FilAm leaders at the Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) on Saturday night.

The governor’s tight three-day Southern California visit was filled with speaking engagements, including forums organized by the Pampangan Crusaders USA (PamagCUSA), a reception tendered by a Los Angeles Catholic Parish Pastor, Fr. Rodel Balagtas, the second annual coronation of the Virgen de los Remedios at the Lady of the Angels Cathedral downtown, and a dinner-reception that followed at a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be blessed with your presence this evening,” he told the community leaders at the SIPA theatre on Temple St., Historic Filipinotown. “Knowing how difficult it is to gather Filipino leaders in one occasion, I am overwhelmed by your kind willingness to hear one fellow Filipino,” said the 53-year-old priest who was suspended from priesthood by the Catholic Church after he ran for public office in 2007.

“Think of the time when the consul (at the American Embassy in Manila) told you that your visa is approved, and your heart leapt, and you felt like you were walking in the air as you passed the envious eyes of other expectant applicants,” he told more than a hundred Kapampangan community leaders. “And by the grace of God you finally arrived here. How many daily jobs did you take? Two? Three? How did that first dollar salary feel like?” He commended the leaders for achieving success in their quest for a better life abroad.

“You have reached heights that make you the envy of Makati executives, and believe me when I tell you deserve every bit of your success, because it was borne out of perseverance, sacrifice and foresight.”

“This only proves that when the Filipino put his or her heart, mind and muscle to it, nothing is impossible,” he continued. “The most difficult becomes a reality in just a matter of time. The objective is achieved with persistence and determination. And out of all the thousands of Filipinos here in the US who have made their mark and proved that they can make it, it was you who were chosen by your peers to be their leaders,” he told the community leaders. “Inspire each and every one of your members to be leaders themselves; to be sources of inspiration in the transformation of the communities at home, with the hope that ultimately, the whole society may be changed,” Gov. Panlilio said.

Panlilio, whose position as governor is being threatened by a movement calling for his recall, looked serene and unperturbed. Reportedly, some 15 Catholic priests in Pampanga are poised to sign a petition that the movement is passing around hoping to gather the required 100,000 signatures. He never mentioned the issue in all his speeches. Instead he continued to focus on his social programs in the province of Pampanga and how expatriate Kapampangans could help their province.

“In these times of doubt, we are in need of greater charity and prayer as proven and effective responses to conflict,” he told more than 300 Kapampangans at the Ocean Seafood Restaurant dinner-reception on Sunday night, following the coronation ceremony at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. “Our celebration today here in Los Angeles of the coronation of the Virgen delos Remedios and our homage to Christ the Santo Cristo del Perdon connects us with our brothers and sisters back in our provinces and proves that we are truly a Church, a kingdom that has no boundaries.” 

Panlilio also requested for special prayers for himself as a public servant, in view of the recall movement and other challenges to his administration. “The trials are many, the difficulties are diverse. I can only turn on our communal prayers to sustain and strengthen me as we strive to make a difference in the socio-political life of Pampanga,” he pleaded.

“As you materially help your relatives and friends back home, please remember me always as you turn your thoughts to God,” he exhorted his province-mates. He is regarded as a superstar by Kapampangans, and during the reception, he indulged the guests by singing two popular John Denver songs, accompanying himself expertly with an acoustic guitar.

“Among Ed” was born in Minalin, Pampanga on December 6, 1953. He has made his mark as a prime-mover for social development, a dedicated and well-loved priest and a leader. An eloquent preacher, the poor in his province know him as the tireless director of the Social Action Center of Pampanga (Sacop), who put a face to the Church’s presence in the communities displaced by the lahar disaster in the 1990s.

He ran for governor in 2007, defending his controversial decision (to run in a public office) as a logical continuation of his ministry for the poor, who he viewed as having been exploited and neglected for too long by a succession of corrupt and uncaring politicians. He won over his two leading competitors — provincial board member Lilia Pineda and incumbent governor Mark Lapid — both of whom are allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  (www.asianjournal.com)


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Alison Jean Mendoza Heeds Gawad Kalinga’s Call for Volunteerism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cher Calvin: On the Hot Seat

by Rene Villaroman/AJPress
Three years ago, Broadcast Journalist Cher Calvin burst into the Los Angeles Network news scene when she joined the award-winning KTLA Morning News. She assumed the co-anchor position that was left vacant by erstwhile morning co-anchor Sharon Tey who moved to New York City.
Born and educated in the US, Cher took up broadcast journalism in New York University and began her career at the news desk of TIME Magazine while completing her internship at Cable News Network (CNN) in New York. She was eventually offered a part-time job at CNN, and continued working at TIME and CNN simultaneously until she moved to Manila to have her taste of Philippine broadcast journalism.

After her stint in Manila, Cher came back to the US and became anchor for Las Vegas’ KVVU Fox 5. Cher immerses herself in Fil-Am community events and is often involved either as a guest, an award recipient or a Master of Ceremonies.

Two years ago, she received the honor of being awarded as “Broadcast Journalist of the Year” by Reflections. A few months after she joined KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles, this writer interviewed Cher for AWE Magazine. Following are excerpts from the interview:

RV: How would you compare your anchor’s job here in LA to that in Las Vegas?

CC: I must admit that the chance I was given to work at KVVU, FOX 5 Las Vegas was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. Even though the grueling work schedule of waking up in the middle of the night was not easy to become accustomed to: doing four-hour live newscast, solo, for the first six months I was there, was what I like to call “anchor boot camp.” And because of the opportunity at FOX 5, I fee very fortunate that I am now a part of KTLA News. And who wouldn’t be! The station is renowned for many “firsts” in the industry in the West Coast.

RV: How easy (or hard) was your transition from KVVU FOX 5 to KTLA ?

CC: Luckily my transition to KTLA from FOX 5 was a smooth one. And that’s only because everyone here at KTLA really is so genuinely nice. They were all so welcoming. KTLA is a family and they treat their staff with decency, respect and honor.

RV: I read stories purporting that you had a tough start in KVVU?

Well, it was tough at first at KVVU. But mostly I was culture-shocked after being in the Philippines for five years. Yes, I am an American but I became so accustomed to ABS-CBN and the lifestyle there, that when I got to Vegas I felt like I was starting all over again. So it was rough at first. But toward the end of it all, I did enjoy my time at FOX 5 and the people as well.

RV: How long did you stay in KVVU and what was your overall impression of that job?

CC: I was in Las Vegas at FOX 5 News for two years. (2003-2005). Overall, I am thankful for all I learned in Las Vegas. It wasn’t easy to get used to waking up in the middle of the night and doing a 4-hour show….but eventually I got the hang of it. Most of all, what helped me through the first few months was the e-mails from the Filipino community that had followed my shows back home. They were always encouraging. That alone made me strive to make them proud.

RV: How is your typical day like?

CC: My day begins when most people are in their deepest sleep. I have four alarms going off…one at 2:30 and the other at 2:45 and two at 3 a.m. It sounds like a fire truck is coming through my place at 3 a.m. But it’s the only way that i can get out of bed. I start my coffee, jump in the shower, get dressed and literally zoom out of the garage to work. At work, I always check in to the news desk; I’m given the day’s morning paper and then I go over my scripts before heading to make-up. By 4:45 a.m. I am ready to go to the set. On the set, with my second cup of coffee ready, I go over my scripts one more time and then it’s show time! I’m on the air from 5 to 7 am. This is by far the best part of my day. Working with Emmett Miller and Mark Kriski is beyond what I expected. They’re always watching out for me and I am constantly energized by them. I couldn’t ask for a better team. After the show, we have a morning meeting and then I go to my office, research stories that I want to work on and maybe that day I’ll have a story to shoot so I’ll go out on the field. If not, I’ll be done at about 12 noon. The rest of the day…is pretty much a toss-up between a nap, errands, lunch with friends and a drive to the beach, a movie and home by 6 so I can catch up on the news and be prepared for the newscast the next day. I’m in bed by 8 pm and then at 2:30 am the fire trucks start rolling again.

RV: Tell us about your experience working with TIME and CNN in New York.

CC: TIME Magazine is where I got my start in journalism. I worked [at] the news desk. I was only 20 when I started there part-time. And I just couldn’t believe that I got a job there! I was still in college and I had a friend who worked full time at TIME. There was an opening and he suggested I come in for an interview. So I did. It was the greatest place for me to start my career. I monitored news, breaking news mostly and alert the reporters…especially on the weekends when I worked; if there was a break in their story or breaking news that they had to report. My first big breaking news story for TIME was the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. It was a Saturday and no one was in the office except me. That was my main job. Monitor the news. Then Rabin was shot. I began the alert process…calling all the reporters in Israel, the editors in New York. The cover of the magazine had to be changed to Rabin. And trust me, it was a busy night that lasted until Sunday night. CNN New York was a whole different ball game. I started there as an intern, getting the papers for the anchors/reporters, logging tapes, serving the reporters while they do their stories on the field. Get scripts for the anchors and bring them on the set. Then after my internship I was offered a part-time job at CNN. I worked at CNN New York and TIME simultaneously until I went to Manila.

RV: You had a stint in Manila as a broadcast journalist. How would you compare it to your current job in Los Angeles in terms of the way the news is written and delivered?

CC: Manila was the best time of my life. I went from anchoring a one-minute news update on GMA News Live to doing a morning show. Then I went to ABS-CBN and hosted “F” for four years and Points of View. At one point I realized that I had to get back to anchoring the news and started with ANC and News Central. It was a fast track in broadcasting and I owe a lot to GMA and especially to ABS for believing in me and giving me the chance to have all the exposure and experience they both gave me. Asking me to compare the difference between Los Angeles and news and news back home is like comparing apples and oranges. The reason why I say that is because the concerns of the communities are different. Since I’ve been in Los Angeles, the community concerns here are nothing to be overlooked. There have been the worst landslides since the 1970s, a new mayor who is the first Latino mayor in over 130 years, and there is also so much importance put on what’s happening in your neighborhood to our newscast in the morning. Mainly, the news has the same objective: whether you are in the Philippines, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles — anywhere in the world — people want to be informed.

RV: Did you always dream of becoming a TV journalist? Was that what you had in mind when you went to NYU?

CC: I wanted to be a doctor like my mother. But my strongest subjects in school were always English and History. But trying to pursue my dream of becoming an MD, I went to NYU Pre-Med. I just couldn’t get into it. I decided I would take Political Science and on a whim, I also took a broadcast journalism class. I fell in love with broadcast journalism and really set my mind to it. The program at NYU was incredible. We would go out on the field and shoot stories and even had a TV newscast class [where] we would be assigned stories and duties to either direct, produce, write, report or anchor. We would go live every week at the end of the class and broadcast a newscast to a local cable channel at the university. The 9-hour class [went] by like a breeze. I just wanted to be a journalist so badly…and then came the opportunity to work with TIME Magazine while I was in my junior year at NYU. Everything just fell into place.

RV: Who is the greatest influence in your life?

CC: My father. Without his guidance and support I would not be the woman I am today. I am thankful for his presence in my life everyday. He is my best friend and knows me better than anyone in the world. I am lucky that we are so close and that I can count on him for sound advice and a shoulder to cry on whenever I need him. He is so wise and I know that following his advice is the reason I am where I am today.

RV: What would be your message to the FilAm community in Los Angeles?

I am so thankful and grateful for the support that I am receiving from the Fil-Am community. We are so strong here in Los Angeles and I know that my kababayans are supporting me. This is what we Filipinos do. Bagamat ako’y isinilang, lumaki at natapos ng pag-aaral sa America ang puso at damdamin ko ay makaPilipino. Maraming Salamat Po sa inyong pagtangkilik at umasa po kayong hindi kayo mabibigo. (www.asianjournal.com)

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Hundreds of Filipino Americans Evacuated to Qualcomm Center

By Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com

SAN DIEGO — Close to a thousand FilAms have taken refuge at the Qualcomm Center football stadium to escape from several fires that had ravaged several communities in San Diego County since Sunday, October 21st.

Volunteer coordinator of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations Joanne Fields informed Asian Journal that most of the FilAm evacuees, except for a handful awaiting orders to go back to their home, have left on Tuesday.

“I’ve met close to a thousand Filipino families here early this week, and they stayed here for three days at least,” Fields said.

Among of the FilAm evacuees were from North San Diego County and from communities heavily affected by the firestorm, like Rancho Bernardo, Ramona, Escondido, and Poway.

On Thursday afternoon, when a team from the Philippine Consulate General’s Office in Los Angeles got there, all of them have already gone back home or have opted to stay with close relatives and friends. Vice Consul Jim Tito San Agustin led the contingent from the Philippine Consulate General’s Office.

“We’re sort of glad that we did not find any Filipinos there,” San Agustin told a small group of civic leaders at the Villa Manila Restaurant in National City. “The family ties of Filipinos are still strong. We all have close family ties, and, I believe that (displaced) FilAm families stayed with their relatives and close friends,” San Agustin theorized.

“Evacuation procedures were very organized at Qualcomm Center,” San Agustin told the civic leaders.

He also said that his team talked with the staff of Federal Emergency Management Authority (FEMA) and were told that no Filipino was reported in distress. FEMA wasn’t able to ascertain whether some Filipino-owned homes were burned down. NAFFAA’s Fields corroborated this information, saying that government agencies’ records did not specify ethnicities and nationalities.

“We are highly organized here in San Diego,” said Rita Buencamino Andrews, Chair of the Council of Philippine American Organizations (COPAO) of San Diego.

COPAO is a 35-year-old umbrella organization that presides over 59 organizations in the San Diego area.

“I would like to volunteer COPAO to organize a fundraiser,” she informed San Agustin. “Although there was no loss of life, there will be income and job loss as a result of the disaster,” she added.

The leaders agreed to take immediate action to raise money on November 3rd.

Bing de la Vega, head of Philippine Disaster Relief Organization (PEDRO), said that his organization would be glad to pitch in.

“We’ve aided victims of the Katrina disaster who did not qualify for FEMA aid,” de la Vega said. “Let’s just make sure that the money is given to those people who really need it,” he added.

Realtor Carmelita “CL” Larrabster-Vinson suggested creating a separate fund. “We need to set up a fund so that when something like this happens again, we will have the money.”

The leaders united in deciding which agency to give the money to: The American Red Cross.

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