Monday, May 28, 2007



The world's first martial arts musem to open in Santa Clarita, Calif. in June. One of its main draws will be the history of Filipino martial arts. Might be cool - if they're going to have wax figures of Rey Malonzo and Ramon Zamora wielding nunchucks.


The Washington Post has a piece about Susan Ralston, Jack Abramoff's former assistant and the highest-ranking Filipino American in the administration. She is reportedly requesting immunity to testify before Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman's investigating committee.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Brave Mangyan Girl Desperately Needs Help and Heart Surgery

Like most children her age, Meraly Garcia Mariano is a fun-loving bundle of energy. The 6-year-old girl is a lovable spotlight hog who enjoys singing her heart out at school programs.

A stranger might say that her contagious joy must have come from having an easy life and a solid family background.

Unfortunately, that is not the case for Meraly.

At an early age, Meraly has already survived an unspeakable heartbreak: A few years ago, she witnessed her mother commit suicide.

On top of that devastating trauma, every single day, this brave little girl also deals with the pain of having, literally, a broken heart.

Meraly, who belongs to Occidental Mindoro's Mangyan-Iraya tribe, is suffering from a rare heart condition called pentalogy of Fallot.

"Her heart has two holes, one hole is bigger, and there are three other parts (in her heart) that needs correction," said Criselda Malicdem, a Filipino social worker from Teknotropheo Missions, a Philippine mission group that helps tribal children.

Meraly needs an expensive open-heart surgery which her caregivers couldn't afford.

Without it, doctors say that Meraly would be lucky if she can survive till her 16th birthday.

Currently, she already looks much smaller and thinner than her classmates. Malicdem says that doctors attribute Meraly's growth problem to her heart ailment.

"She also easily gets sick because of her very low immune system," Malicdem adds.

Teknotropheo and the Nangka Mangyan Tribal Community in Mindoro have been taking care of Meraly ever since she was brought to their community center by her family in 2005.

Meraly's family was worried about her frequent fainting spells.

She was brought many times to a government hospital but Meraly never received a complete diagnosis from them.

She became weaker. On several occasions, she lost consciousness.

Malicdem then brought her to a private doctor who immediately diagnosed her congenital heart disease. She was prescribed medications to help with her symptoms.

"Since then we have been taking care of Meraly and everything she needs including her food and medicines. But we could not afford her surgery," Malicdem said. "That is why we have been asking help from others."

Malicdem's organization, which helps many other Mangyan children, has very limited funds. They couldn't even afford a regular doctor for Meraly.

"Her doctor changes every check up because they are resident doctors in the outpatient department of the Philippine Heart Center," Malicdem said.

In her quest for a miracle for Meraly, Malicdem has found an ally in Jude Tiner, a New Jersey native and a Vietnam veteran who traveled to the Philippines last year on a personal goodwill mission.

The good Samaritan is a member of City Chapel where he first learned about the plight of Filipino children in need in some areas in the Philippines through its Filipino parishioners.

Tiner, who works as a longshoreman in New Jersey, is currently coordinating efforts to find donors in the U.S. for Meraly's surgery.

He also sits as a board member of Bishop Amigo Foundation, a non-profit organization. Its vision, according to its website, is "to provide a holistic development program to children and youth living under specially difficult, harmful and risky conditions in the Philippines."

Although Tiner and Malicdem have been tirelessly working to find sponsors for Meraly, they have yet to find enough people and organizations to help her.

With so many other organizations all over the world asking for help for so many people in need, getting donations, even for someone with a serious condition like Meraly, is not an easy task.

In the meantime, they are growing increasingly worried because Meraly's condition, if left untreated, could easily take a turn for the worse. Her very low immune system is a constant concern.

As it is, Meraly's growth is already somewhat stunted. She is shorter and weighs less than other kids her age.

But this does not dampen their belief that with the surgery, Meraly can make a full recovery.

"She is able to walk, she's not bedridden anymore. She's allowed to play also, although it's limited because if she gets too tired she might collapse," Malicdem said.

Her physical limitations notwithstanding, Meraly inspires everyone who meets her with her indomitable spirit.

The eldest of two girls, Meraly was born into a household where family members considered themselves lucky if they ate their meal of mostly just cassava and root crops twice in a day.

When Meraly was younger, his father was unable to adequately provide for the family, sources say. He was a farmer who grew crops on a very small piece of land in the mountains.

Meraly's mother took the brunt of the family responsibilities. When it all became unbearable for her, the Mariano family's life took a turn for the worse when she hung herself.

Meraly's mother apparently suffered from an undiagnosed post-partum depression, a social worker who interviewed family members later said.

A few months after the tragedy, Meraly's health problems grew more serious.

And yet despite the hard hits that life has dealt her, this spunky girl, all of 35 pounds, is undeterred in her active fight to live, and to be as happy as she can be.

"She's so different from other Mangyan kids who, by nature, are timid and quiet. Meraly is not shy and could connect easily, even to strangers," Malicdem said. "She's also a leader. She leads other kids when they play."

Meraly is aware of her serious health problems. Finding joy even in unlikely places, she looks forward to her trips to Manila, her greatest luxury, for her check-ups. She follows her doctors' instructions to the letter.

Meraly is audacious in her hope that one day soon, her dream of being treated by the best doctors in the U.S. can come true.

Punta ako America, dun ako magpapa-opera para gumaling ako,” she said.

Meraly's supporters are hoping that kindhearted Filipinos can help make her dream come true.

Anyone who wants to help Meraly can send donations to pay for her immediate surgery, either in the Philippines or in the U.S.

The Philippine Heart Center has asked for at least $8,500 to schedule her surgery.

Donations can be sent through bank transfer. Make sure to indicate that it is for "Meraly's Surgery":

Branch Account Name : TEKNOTROPHEO
Account No.: 260-8303270

Donors should inform Criselda Malicdem of the donated amount and the date it was sent to the bank. They could e-mail her at or text/call text her at 639175211150 or 639106338405 or call landline no. 6329242023.

U.S.-based donors can also contact Jude Tiner at 201-7799426; address: 546 Kennedy Blvd., Bayonne, NJ 07002; e-mail:

[Update: Several individuals and organizations have come together to find a miracle for Meraly. The Bayonne Rotary Club has taken up the cause to ensure that her surgery will take place in the U.S. Her airfare will be shouldered by Knightsbridge International . Jude Tiner will be hosting Meraly and her gurdian when they arrive for the operation. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 226 will be hosting a fundraising dinner for Meraly to cover other expenses. Additional funding is still very much needed.]

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


The Leyte Provincial Hospital located in Palo, Leyte received medical equipment and supplies from Knightsbridge International and Worlds Apart-One Heart Inc. of North Carolina, USA.

The much needed medical equipment which had an estimated value of $200,000 were turned over on March 30, 2007 in Palo. On hand to receive the equipment were Doctor Linda Teresa Astorga, Provincial Health Officer, and Doctor Josenilo Bunado, Leyte Provincial Hospital Director. The Carigara District Hospital was also a recipient of the donated medical equipment. The equipment were donated by Dr. Patrick Ballen, Naomi Ballen, Moses Cone Health System and various individuals. Rene Cone and Ms. Hankins collected the equipment and facilitated their transfer. Tom and Rene Cone’s family paid for the shipping of the equipment to Manila.

Knightsbridge is a non-profit organization located in Los Angeles, California providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief worldwide. Under the auspices of Sir Ed Artis, the organization extended help to the recent calamities in Southern Leyte and the Bicol region, and in Southern Mindanao.

Leyte Provincial Governor Carlos “Icot” Petilla expressed gratitude for the donation and welcomed the generosity of Filipino Americans, who want to help improve the health services in the province.

The turnover was facilitated with the support of Mr. Orlando Uy of the Leyte Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Mr. Alfredo Pacho from Pricon Microelectronics Inc.

Ms. Hankins who hails from Carigara, Leyte is committed to giving medical assistance to Leyte after her sister died in 1999 from pneumonia without receiving any medical help. Sadly, she could not afford antibiotics that resulted in her untimely death.

Ms. Hankins’ visit to Leyte from March 26 thru April 10 included a two-day medical mission which provided surgery and treatment to many patients from Carigara. Doctors, nurses, and one dentist from Leyte and Samar volunteered for the mission, in addition to nurses and parademic from North Carolina. Brad Cone, son of Rene and Tom Cone shouldered most of the expenses on a major operation of one patient. Ms. Hankins also donated books to a library and computers to schools.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


The Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles County presents this panel discussion that promises a compelling and thought-provoking examination of the intersection between race and national security, the treatment of Asian Americans caught up in the justice system due to alleged security breaches, the government's attitude towards U.S. permanent residents/citizens who are natives of Asian countries that are at odds with the U.S., the government's interests and perspectives on security issues, free speech and military justice, and what role a vigilant public can play to ensure that justice is served even in times of war.

ARIF ALIKHAN - L.A. Deputy Mayor, Homeland Security
RANJANA NATARAJAN - Staff Attorney, ACLU of So. Cal.
ERIC SEITZ - former Attorney for U.S. Army Lt. Ehren Watada
BRIAN SUN - Attorney for Wen Ho Lee, Noshir Gowadia, and former FBI Agent James Smith
CHAPLAIN JAMES YUSUF YEE - former U.S. Army Capt. & Muslim Chaplain at Guantanamo

  • Thursday, May 31, 2007 - Registration - 5:30 pm Program - 6:30 pm
  • Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. First Street Los Angeles, California 90012
  • RSVP BY MAY 25, 2007 —
  • FREE ADMISSION — MCLE credit available at no charge for APABA members and $10 for non-APABA members.
Light dinner will be available for purchase before the program. No host reception will follow the program.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007



How to reach a human when calling customer service

Inis na inis na ba kayo dahil pag tumawag kayo sa customer service ay laging automated na boses ang sumasagot sa inyo?

Para hindi kayo abutin ng siyam-siyam bago may makausap na tao, i-click ninyo ang website link na ito at malalaman ninyo ang pinakamadaling steps para makakonekta kayo. was created by a dissatisfied customer who compiled a list of phone numbers and the codes that you need to get out of voicemail and get a human voice on the other end of your line.

They have practically every company and government agency phone number, but here are two examples from the site:
US Citizenship & Immigration - 800‑375‑5283 - Select language; press 2; press 4; at prompt press 0.
Verizon Wireless - 800-922-0204 - Press 0 at each prompt, ignoring messages.

US-Based Company Expands Operations in the Philippines

Texas Instruments to Expand Operations in the Philippines
Will Employ 3,000 Pinoys

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Texas Instruments (TI), a Dallas, Texas-based company that has manufacturing, design or sales operations in more than 25 countries, announced recently that it will expand its assembly/test operations in the Philippines with a new site that aims to be the most environmentally efficient assembly/test site in the world.

At 77,000 square meters in size, the site within the Clark Freeport Zone is expected to eventually employ about 3,000 workers and will double the capacity that TI has in the Philippines. The announcement was made at a ceremony with officials from the Philippines government and senior TI representatives.


Monday, May 7, 2007


By Yong B. Chavez

[UPDATE: In a press conference, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa discussed accountability measures taken by LAPD following the May Day clash. He said: "We are not going to shift responsibility down the chain of command. Accountability begins at the top. What happened on May 1 was wrong, and we are taking immediate action to address it."
Also, LAPD chief William Bratton reassigned two high-ranking police commanders for their role in overseeing the violent police response to the rally.]

Ricky Morales, a Los Angeles-based Filipino freelance videographer for various media companies (including The Filipino Channel), was among those hurt during the recent immigration rally clash in Los Angeles.

Morales said that, without any provocation, he was pushed and hit by policemen as he was shooting footage for a news report.

The May 1 rally was organized by immigration reform proponents who are mostly Latinos but which also included Filipino groups such as Alliance (AJLPP), People's CORE, Pilipino Workers Center, GABRIELA Network, Samahang Pilipino, Pesante-USA, Ecumenical Fellowship, United Health Workers-West, and Justice for Filipino American Veterans (JFAV).

According to Art Garcia, People's Core coordinator, "there were at least 100 of us who joined the march from Historic Filipinotown to MacArhur Park" where the event occurred.

Los Angeles Police Department Chief William Bratton has apologized for the policemen's actions after the rally turned into a melee which left several reporters and rally attendees injured.

The Metropolitan Division officers could be seen on videos attacking attendees - even reporters in so-called safety zones - with batons and foam bullets.

The clash at MacArthur Park started when the police tried to disperse demonstrators and several people at the rally threw rocks and bottles at officers.

But it does not excuse the subsequent attacks done by the police, said Bratton.

He had ordered about 60 officers "off the streets" while the case is being investigated.

As to why the incident occurred at all, Garcia has a theory.

"I believe that anti-immigrant reactionary forces are trying to discourage immigrant rights mobilization," he said.

(Photo courtesy of Ricky Morales and Art Garcia)


A report says that US insurance companies have used improper hard-sell tactics to persuade Medicare recipients to sign up for private health plans that are not all that good as they were made up to be.

Sadly, over the weekend, negotiations for release of Filipino hostages in Nigeria has failed again. The Pinoys, together with three South Koreans, were kidnapped several days ago in Nigeria. They are employees of Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co. In January, 24 Filipino seafarers were also taken hostage by Nigerian militants. Another Filipino, instrumentation engineer, Winston Helera, was abducted February 6 and was released a month later.

By now, you must have heard that bubuyogs are mysteriously disappearing. One report asks if it's because of cell phones.


This photo of Filipino kids living in a garbage dump in Malabon was featured in Yahoo's "This Week in Photos" segment over the weekend.
Their smiles, unbroken by extreme poverty, are heartbreakingly hopeful.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Have lots of patience, a balikbayan says


By Art Pacho
Special to FilipinOnline

These days, anyone wanting to deal with Social Security must present an original birth certificate. This is very important to those who are about to retire or in need of Social Security benefits, including medicare. The change was recently adopted by Social Security as a response to homeland security issues and the hard line posture on immigration by the current U.S. administration.

How does one get a birth certificate if one is now a Filipino-American but was born in the Philippines?

It is not a simple and easy task as one would think.

In April 2007, I was in Manila for a visit. One of the things I had to do was to get birth certificates from three places for my wife, sister, brother, two brothers in-law and one sister in-law.

The assignment sounded really simple: go to a city or municipal hall and apply for the certificate.

Not so fast, buddy.

First, I was advised to start with the National Statistics Office (NSO) where I stood in line and paid 125 pesos for each application. You have to stand in line four times for four steps of the process (interview, application, payment, and release of document).

The NSO centralized all the civil registry services with the aim of automating all personal records (birth, marriage and death) in the country.

Someone advised me to go early to a provincial NSO where the lines are somewhat shorter so I went to the NSO in Tacloban where I was also visiting.

However, all I got from the NSO was a document telling me that they had no records for all the applications I made, including the two who were born in that city.

This all I got after they took my payment and my afternoon.

One is supposed to go to your own municipal or city hall, get supporting documents, and return to NSO to apply for delayed registration.

This means you have to deliver to NSO the very information that they are expected to have or should have gotten in the first place from all over the Philippines.

The next step was to go to each city hall of the birth places of the people needing the birth certificates.

Since I was in Tacloban that week I first applied for the certificate of my brother and sister at the civil registry in city hall (cost: 50 pesos per certificate).

They asked me to return in a week and since I did not have enough time, I asked my cousin to do that. My cousin later sent me the documents to Manila via a courier service.

Before that, I also went to our hometown parish church and got the baptismal certificates. Fortunately, this was easily available through the church records (cost: 100 pesos). I am hoping that these church documents would be sufficient for SSS purposes because Tacloban eventually told me they did not have the original records.

As for the other applications, I went to the City Hall of Quezon City where people were waiting in long lines, a chaotic and cramped place with some applicants sitting on broken benches.

It took me three days and three visits to Quezon City to get the certificates (cost: 40 pesos per certificate). Fortunately, the people at the counter were very cordial and helpful despite working in a crowded and almost squalid office.

I also went to the City Hall of Manila. There, the lines are a lot longer than at Quezon City but at least you are in an air conditioned place with nice and clean benches with polite attendants herding people in line, and the office looking orderly.

However, I waited for almost two hours there only to be told that I could not get what I came for because I needed authorization letters from my in-laws.

Frustrated, that same day I had an alternative, following the advice of my brother.

He said, go see the Secretary to the Manila City Mayor who is a good friend of my brother and request him for constituent help. Through his kindness he sent a note verifying my request and seeking for consideration. I went to Manila three times trying to get the certificates. The cost in Manila was 110 pesos for 1 certificate. Of course, I also spent for transportation.

I got the certificates I needed which were authenticated or certified from the original by a local government agency. The NSO certificate would have looked original since it is not a certified copy of the birth certificate.

At no time did I offer anyone extra to expedite the process (meaning no bribe). I did not hire anyone from outside to get the documents. As a tidbit, in Quiapo I spoke to someone who claimed he could get a birth certificate from NSO for 500 pesos in 1 week, just like at the fake document alley in the Alvarado area in Los Angeles.

The certificates I got in the Philippines did not cost that much in dollar terms. But you certainly have to suffer through long lines waiting to be served and returning to pick up the documents when eventually found and completed.

One person I spoke to at the Manila City Hall told me he missed his overseas job because he could not complete the birth certificate requirement on time due to an error in the form he received.

People have to suffer just to get a piece of paper: traveling from their barrios or towns to NSO or city hall, waiting in line, looking for supporting documents, and paying for the certificate.

There is no reason to require applicants to go to NSO in the first place when the documents are right in your own municipal or city hall. NSO is an extra bureaucratic layer and an attempt to centralize a local service and create a massive automated data base at the people’s expense. It is also a form of added taxation on the very people that the government has to serve.

At the local civil registry offices, searches are still done by hand shifting through dusty old records and log books.

Fees and requirements differ in each civil registry.

Here are my tips from this experience:

- Bring the right information as to the correct full name, date of birth, name of father and mother, municipality or city of birth, and exact place where born (name of hospital or home address if delivered at home).

- Remember to send a letter of authorization if requesting someone else to secure the certificate for you.

- Mention the purpose of the birth certificate, for example for retirement, claim benefits, securing a loan or whatever.

- Have a lot of free time and patience.

- For an extra fee, one can also apply online from NSO but there is no guarantee you can get the information or the certificate you need since the reply may be "no record available." You will still have to go to the local civil registrar for verification of records and endorsement of the records to NSO.

In parting, I have to ask our kababayans: How can the quality of service be improved for the Philippine civil registry? Let me hear from others their experiences and suggestions.

About the author:
Arturo Pacho just retired from the LAPD as a civilian adjutant in the Hollenbeck Area. He lives in Glendale, California with his family. He has a keen interest in public policy and administrative issues. Art recently returned from a visit to the Philippines to fulfill some errands, such as acquiring birth certificates. He does not think it is amusing that many Filipinos have to endure the indignities of going through a tangled bureaucracy just to get a piece of paper, although a very important one. Despite this experience, he firmly believes that there is a promising future for the country despite all the shortcomings at this time.

To contact Art, please e-mail and put ART PACHO on the subject line.


David Magdael

In this Los Angeles Times special report, Filipino American publicist David Magdael talks about his passion for movies.

Magdael heads the L.A.-based firm, David Magdael and Associates, which focuses on campaigns for documentaries and independent films. One of his most succesful projects was representing Morgan Spurlock's Oscar-nominated (and McDonald's-slamming) documentary "Supersize Me."

In the article he talks about connecting Asian American filmmakers and films with Asian American filmgoers. He is the co-director of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, or VC Filmfest which runs till May 10.

(Magdael and Spurlock's photo from indiewire)

Thursday, May 3, 2007


By Yong B. Chavez

Four Filipino contractors working for the American government were killed when a rocket attack hit Iraq's Green Zone on May 2.

The identities of those killed have not yet been released.

According to a report, the extremists' attacks started three days before the deaths.

The U.S. embassy in Baghdad has been quoted as saying that Wednesday's attack left it "with a profound sense of sadness and regret'' over the loss of Filipinos who "were integral members of our embassy community.''

The Green Zone, also called the International Zone, home to the U.S. and British embassies, American troops and major US consulting companies, is a heavily guarded area of closed-off streets in central Baghdad. It is also where the main palaces of former President Saddam Hussein can be found.

It has numerous armed checkpoints, coils of razor wire, chain link fences, and is surrounded by reinforced and blast-proof concrete slabs.

But according to a report, two Americans were killed in late March in the Green Zone also due to a rocket attack. In the same week, two suicide vests were found unexploded in the area.

The embassy statement did not provide other details about this recent attack.

Philippine president Gloria Arroyo expressed her sadness over the tragedy and ordered the country's Department of Foreign Affairs to repatriate the remains of the victims.

No data was immediately available as to how many Filipinos have died since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq started.

In 2004, Rodrigo Reyes, a 52-year-old truck driver was the first Philippine casualty in Iraq. He was killed in an ambush in northern Iraq while working for a U.S. firm.

The same year, the Philippines banned deployment of workers to Iraq after extremists abducted another Filipino truck driver, Angelo de la Cruz.

His captors demanded for early withdrawal of a small Philippine peacekeeping contingent from Iraq. Arroyo granted the kidnappers' demand to save his life which earned the ire of Washington officials.

Robert Tarongoy, a Filipino accountant, was also abducted by Iraqi militants and held captive for almost eight months.

There are about 5,000 to 6,000 Filipinos who are employed in U.S. military camps across Iraq, according to reports.

Despite the Arroyo government's Iraq deployment ban, many Filipino workers slip into Iraq through neighboring countries such as Jordan.

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Mixed Emotions for Filipino Virginia Tech Student

By Yong B. Chavez

The day that 32 of his schoolmates were murdered, Romeo E. Capuno, Jr. overslept and narrowly missed what could have been the most tragic day of his life.

Due to a tiring night spent cooking Filipino food for an international food fair, Capuno, president of one of Virginia Tech's Filipino student associations, had a late start Monday morning, April 16, thus avoiding any chance encounter with Seung-Hui Cho and his murderous rampage.

"On my way to class, I always go by Norris Hall so any other day I could have been there," he said. "I really feel fortunate that I didn't go that morning. But at the same time, I feel so sad for the victims and their families. I still find it hard to accept that this happened at my school."

The April 16 massacre in West Ambler Johnston Hall and Norris Hall at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia which claimed the lives of 33 people, including the shooter, happened a mere five minutes away from where Capuno lives.

Cho, an American of South Korean descent, was a mentally ill Virginia Tech student who was able to easily purchase guns and ammunitions.

The tragedy shook its students' lives. Days after, they were still shaking.

"We became fearful. Every time we hear any unusual sounds… It was difficult." Capuno said.

Capuno, who's been going to Virginia Tech's graduate school for two years now, learned of the attacks through television and the Internet like the rest of America and the world. Because information from the school took a while to get to the students, some of them were among the last to know even though they lived near the university.

"We were shocked. We knew about the bomb threat the week before [the tragedy] but we got an e-mail Friday night that classes would resume Monday so we thought it was safe," he said.

The fact that the students were not informed immediately after the first attack disappoints him.

When the police learned of Cho's second and much bloodier attack, officers patrolled the area around the university and announced on loudspeakers that all students should not leave their buildings.

This was a warning that came much too late for 32 innocent, young lives.

"There's so much pain and sorrow," Capuno said. He knew some of those who were killed.

When the gunman wasn't identified yet and the media just identified him as "an Asian male," the thought that the perpetrator could be Filipino bothered Capuno a little.
He also worried if there were Filipino victims.

Before he called his mother in the Philippines to let her know he was safe, he called every Filipino student whose numbers he knew to make sure that they were.

But the relief that he felt in knowing that his fellow Pinoys were okay was tempered with a great sense of sadness when he saw the victims' families and friends. Their faces were broken with grief.

What are the odds that on one seemingly normal Monday morning, their lives could be permanently altered, Capuno wondered.

Though not as directly hit as them, he said that the events changed him too.

"I learned that everyday you should be prepared," he said. "I now pray a lot. I thank God for saving us."
(Picture of Filipino Virginia Tech students, courtesy of Virginia Tech, through Romeo Capuno, Jr.; picture of candlelight vigil, from Wikipedia)