Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Driving Laws Hoax E-mail Edition

I'm sure some of you have already received or heard of an e-mail about "New California Driving Laws effective 7/01/07". Feel free to not believe that. It is a hoax.

Here's a reality check from Triple A:

FALSE: It's a $1,068.50 fine for first-time carpool-lane violation.
TRUE: It's actually about $380.

FALSE: DUI=Jail, and it stays in your record for 10 years.
TRUE: Getting a DUI doesn't necessarily mean you'll do time, but the offense DO stay in your record for 10 years - a fact since 2005.

FALSE: Speeders can only drive 3 miles above the limit.
TRUE: Unlike talipapa prices, wala pong tawad ang speeding violation. There is no "buffer zone" for speeding.

[The picture is, of course, not related to the aforementioned hoax e-mail. It's just a nice image, and it's from a movie featuring Ron and Mrs. Weasley. Go rent it.]

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Children's Watering Cans with Lead Recalled

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, today announced a voluntary recall of 6, 000 Robbie Ducky™ Kids Watering Cans.

Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

Hazard: The beak of the watering can contains lead in the paint, which violates the federal law prohibiting lead paint on children's toys. Lead is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause adverse health effects.

Description: The recalled Robbie Ducky™ Kids Watering Can is yellow with an orange beak and is about 10 inches high by 6 inches wide. "Robbie Ducky™ Garden Collection Duck Watering Can" is printed on a sticker on the bottom of the watering can.

Sold exclusively at: Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores nationwide from February 2007 through August 2007 for about $10.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately take the watering can away from children and return it to any Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Store for a full refund.
Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Jo-Ann Stores Inc. toll-free at (888) 739-4120 ext. 7 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or email the firm at or visit the firm’s Web site at

This latest round of recalls involving children's goods made in China comes amid heightened scrutiny of Chinese exports following Mattel Inc's recalls of millions of toys this month -- some of which were due to excessive amounts of lead paint.

Lead is toxic and can pose serious health risks to young children who often put toys and other objects in their mouth.

Here's an article that lists toys recalled due to lead.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Ruby De Vera explains her reason for taking on City Hall and why she might take them on again; Fil Am community leaders react to her 125K lawsuit settlement

“This outcome proves that my termination was unjustified and confirms legal precedence that no one should ever be fired because of their political activities. I hope my case will encourage more Filipinos to pursue their dreams of running for office and be a voice for their community which has always been my passion,” De Vera stated in her first official statement after being awarded a 125K settlement in a lawsuit she filed against Councilman Ed Reyes and the City of Los Angeles.

It is a vindication, says her Filipina lawyer, Toni Jaramilla.

De Vera filed a free speech lawsuit against Reyes and City of LA for terminating her after running for public office. She was terminated the very day she returned to work after running for an open seat in City Council during the November, 2005 elections. De Vera, who was Reyes’ office manager at the time, did not run against her boss, but rather against Jose Huizar, a candidate Reyes later endorsed and was backed by Mayor Villaraigosa.

“This was an enormous victory, both monetary and symbolically. Ms. De Vera secured another job within days so her economic loss was not significant. $125,000 is therefore very dignified. But it was never about the money. The lawsuit was always about holding a government and its leaders accountable for infringing on a citizen’s free speech rights to run for public office. This was a righteous case and we could not wait to bring it before a jury,” Jaramilla said.

Here's the rest of De Vera's press statement which includes a possible part two to this saga: because a councilmember (Bill Rosendahl) has accused De Vera of "gaming the system," she and her legal team are "examining our options at this point on whether to pursue an action against Rosendahl, and/or have the settlement voided and proceed to trial."

"Councilmembers Bill Rosendahl and Janice Hahn justified De Vera’s termination in their comments to the LA Times (August 18, 2007) that De Vera was an “at-will” employee. Rosendahl went on to say that De Vera was “gaming the system” which De Vera denies. Jaramilla remarks, 'Apparently, Rosendahl and Hahn fell asleep during history class when the U.S. Constitution was discussed. It is appalling that some of our own elected officials cannot grasp the basic concept that just because you are an at-will employee, does not mean you have no protections under the Constitution or other state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.'

David Duchrow, co-counsel for De Vera states 'Ruby was an exemplary employee and is beloved in the community as demonstrated by the huge amount of votes she received. This kind of ‘back room brokering’ of elections should not be tolerated in LA. The public, and not government leaders by virtue of their power and influence, should decide who can and should run for political positions.' Regarding Rosendahl’s comment about De Vera, 'We are examining our options at this point on whether to pursue an action against Rosendahl, and/or have the settlement voided and proceed to trial,” says Duchrow.'"

Meanwhile, here are some reactions from Filipino community leaders:

As a student of leadership development, organizational development and quality management systems, what Ruby De Vera experienced was a profound blow to the civility and humane veneer that LA City municipal government sectors managed to create in its years of existence. Even, myself as an insider and a volunteer member of its boards or commissions, could not imagine that someone would 'retaliate' in such a brazen way to Ruby who was exercising simply her right to participate in a democratic system by running in office to be elected as a councilperson.

I could not understand that someone like Ruby, who put in a decade of service to LA city government, a career public servant, a city government insider, could lose her job over the very essence of exercising her rights to participate publicly in city council chambers, if she had been elected, and literally preempted from functioning, made an outsider, thrown out of a job without a means of livelihood.

Yet, the way the City Council responded to restore her dignity sent a very clear message that this brazen act of retaliation is not condoned nor enabled by this progressive Los Angeles City Council was an honorable act! It restored my faith that indeed this LA City Government, under the leadership of its progressive Mayor and its City Council President is truly serious in pursuing its new pathway of Renaissance, of making this city government no longer an entity frozen in the practices of the 1950s, but a city government that leads us in progressive practices of green living, of healthy development that provides living wages to its residents, and a city government that works for all of its constituents, including the developers, the unions, its city employees and all 4,000,000 residents that come from all corners of the world.

I am proud that this Los Angeles City Council voted to restore faith in the system and dignity to Ruby de Vera, two decades - long public servant who has served this city and our community honorably, respectably and unselfishly!
Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. Commissioner,
Los Angeles City Convention and Exhibition Center Authority ( ID purposes only )
Commissioner Emeritus, Los Angeles City Civil Service Commission, 2005-2007

There are people who believe that the decision made by the Los Angeles City Council on November 17, 2007 to settle Ruby De Vera’s lawsuit is a victory. Initially, I would have agreed. However, after reading the November 18 LA Times article by Steve Hymon, I became uncomfortable with all the questions that surfaced in my mind. I'm going to mention just three of these questions.

My first question, some will say, is quite obvious given the numerous email responses I’ve been privy to these past few days. Did the Council act with the understanding that Councilman Ed Reyes did something wrong or did they act in the best interest of certain Councilmembers? Janice Hahn’s statement says quite a bit:

It bothered me because I thought it sent the wrong message to our at-will employees that if they were terminated they could sue," Hahn said. "But the case was made to me that we could have a difficult time in court because of things said when she was let go, and I was convinced that this was the best way to put this behind us, especially for Councilman Reyes.
Ruby’s lawsuit would have deposed Councilman Reyes as well as Councilman Jose Huizar, something that elected officials try to avoid as much as possible. The deposition would have confirmed that prior to running for office, Ruby approached Councilman Reyes to let him know of her intentions to run. According to Ruby, Reyes told her that she should talk to Jose Huizar. At the time, certain City employees alleged that Reyes supported Huizar to gain favor with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa since Reyes supported then Mayor James K. Hahn during the previous Mayoral race. According to Ruby, she complied with Reyes’ instructions and Huizar gave her a go signal. So she moved forward thinking that she had crossed her t’s and dotted her i’s. But a week after coming back to work, Reyes fired Ruby for being an “embarrassment”. Who knows what else was said to her? This prompted her lawsuit.
Bill Rosendahl’s statement accusing Ruby of "gaming the system" is a clear indication that not all the Councilmembers understand the real intent behind this lawsuit. Yes, Ruby is an at-will employee who can be fired at any time. In all my years spent in City Hall, I know that she is not the first to be fired for political reasons.

But was Ruby “gaming the system”? There is no one I know who is less capable of this than Ruby de Vera. Ruby has worked for years for the City of Los Angeles - years spent in unwavering loyalty, total dedication and perseverance despite all odds, years filled with hard work and good intentions.

I believe that Ruby’s lawsuit was not about “gaming the system” but rather about reminding the system that even at-will employees have rights that are upheld by the Constitution. Ruby actually confirmed my suspicion that, if she were simply told to leave the office, without any comments being made; she would have simply walked away. Knowing Ruby, if that had been what transpired, there would have been no complaints. If Ruby was about gaming the system, those who know her well can say that she has had many opportunities in the past. With Rosendahl’s accusation, didn’t he just give her an opportunity to slap him with an oral defamation lawsuit? But that isn’t Ruby.

In filing the lawsuit, Ruby has sent a clear statement to the City Council. Whether they heard it or not is their responsibility and your evidence on whether or not they should remain as decision-makers for one of the largest cities in the world.

Now that Ruby’s lawsuit has been settled, I can’t help but ask my second question. Did Ruby receive the appropriate compensation? Settlement, in legal terms, usually applies to taking the lesser of two evils. Rosendahl’s statement that “taxpayers end up paying the bill” was so incongruous it made me laugh in exasperation. We’re talking here about the same Council known to approve the settlement of cases more than fight them in court. Who can really say how much is appropriate compensation in this situation? The Filipino cultural norm is to adhere to a strong sense of honor, dignity and pride. To be called an “embarrassment” as a reason for firing is like the foot that pushes you to the ground after being slapped in the face. This is what Ruby received from the same person whom she helped place in his position of power. What about Reyes, who seems to have surfaced out of all of this seemingly totally unscathed?

So now I have to ask my third question. Who is the real victor in this case? Let me know when you’ve figured it out.

De Vera was active during the anti-martial law struggle against the US-Marcos dictatorship and promoted Filipino community empowerment. She was an active supporter of the Filipino World War II veterans struggle and was also active advocate for the disabled community.

JFAV coordinator Peping Baclig, testified at the Los Angeles city council in 2005 to support De Vera for her claims of discrimination. De Vera ran in District 14 where there is a large Filipino American population.
We will always fight discrimination and systemic racism in any form and way. This is a clear that victory inspires us. This is not only for Ruby but also for all in the Filipino community who seeks justice. It’s a victory for Ruby. It is a victory for the Filipino Community!


It was recently reported that the Los Angeles school district has been recruiting about 115 teachers from abroad - the largest group of foreign hires in more than 20 years - due to teacher shortage.

Here's a report from FilipinOnline contributor Art Pacho about a training attended by the new recruits:

By Art Pacho

New teachers from the Philippines attended an orientation training on surviving the classroom in Los Angeles. On August 15, about 58 teachers who were recruited by the Los Angeles Unified School District received the training conducted by the Filipino American Educators Association of Los Angeles (FAEALA). A similar training was held in June by FAEALA for 23 Filipino teachers.

The teachers learned basic topics as preparing a resume, classroom management, survival skills, transportation, housing arrangements, and comparison of instructional and discipline practices in the U.S. and the Philippines.

Facilitators of the training were Zaida Monserate JRA, Frances Lacebal, Dan Gumarang, Lucila Dypiangco, Joseph Nacorda, Glenn San Pedro, and Ron Hage. The training was held with the support of the Los Angeles Unified School District, Human Services Department, represented by Imelda Fruto. Erick Mata, a Filipino American principal at Marina del Rey Middle School, was the training coordinator.

Other community service groups which cooperated with the training include the Filipino American Service Group (FASGI) represented by Bernie Targa and Filipino American Library (FAL) represented by Jonathan Lorenzo.

A CBEST review is also scheduled for September 15 and 22, 2007 to be coordinated by Glenn San Pedro, Zaida Monserate JRA and Junnie Verceles. It will tentatively be held at Cochran Middle School in Los Angeles. Passage of this test is a requirement to qualify as a teacher in California.

FAEALA is an organization dedicated to helping the needs of Filipino American educators and promoting Filipino culture and heritage. Zaida Monserate JRA, the current FAEALA president, stated that this was the second training program conducted for free by the organization to help the largest number of Filipino teachers ever recruited by Los Angeles. The training was a community effort to support the newly arrived teachers become successful in the classrooms in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


In Eagle Rock Plaza, you can get designer bags at Macy's, casual chic items at Target, as well as barong tagalog and Chickenjoy and other Pinoy goodies at its seven Filipino stores. It is the only mainstream mall carrying that many Filipino retailers and restaurants.

Here's a nice article in the LA Times about how Eagle Rock is now considered as "ground zero" for LA's Pinoys.


By Yong B. Chavez

Former Philippine schoolteacher and Dipolog native Nena Ruiz gets justice.

Her former employers, Elizabeth and James Jackson of Culver City, pleaded guilty Monday to forcing Ruiz to work against her will in their home for months. Federal officials called this case a "modern-day slavery."

In 2004, her case hogged headlines when she was awarded $825 thousand by a Sta. Monica jury. Reportedly, the couple had filed for bankruptcy.

"I think it's a landmark case," said Aquilina Soriano-Versoza, executive director of Pilipino Workers' Center, a Filipino organization that has provided assistance to Ruiz. "It calls for stricter enforcement of trafficking laws."

One of the things that struck Annalisa Enrile, Gabriela Network USA chairperson, in this case was the fact that Elizabeth Jackson is a Filipina and a kababayan of Ruiz. GABNET was one of the first organizations to give aid to Ruiz when her plight was exposed.

"I think it's to our benefit that we are made aware that things like this are not only done by menacing foreigners," Enrile said.

Elizabeth Jackson faces a maximum sentence of 46 months in prison for her forced labor charge while husband James’ sentence will include 200 hours of community service. They are scheduled for sentencing this Nov. 5.

Ruiz is now living and working in Los Angeles with her husband. She is currently employed as a caregiver.

Here's the complete press release from the Department of Justice:

California Couple Pleads Guilty to Human Trafficking Charges
WASHINGTON - Elizabeth and James Jackson, of Culver City, Calif., pleaded guilty today in federal court in Los Angeles to felony charges related to forced labor and human trafficking. Elizabeth Jackson pleaded guilty to a single count of forced labor, and James Jackson pleaded guilty to a single count of alien harboring.

Elizabeth Jackson admitted to forcing a Filipino woman to work against her will in the Jacksons’ home for several months in 2001 and 2002 by creating a climate of fear through threats of abuse of the legal process. James Jackson admitted to harboring the same Filipino woman in the Jacksons’ Culver City home for several months in 2001 and 2002, even though he knew her work visa had expired.

Elizabeth Jackson faces a maximum sentence of 46 months in prison for her forced labor charge. James Jackson’s sentence will include 200 hours of community service, including providing immigration-related legal advice for indigents. Both of the Jacksons are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 5, 2007.

“These defendants subjected their victim to what amounts to modern-day slavery,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. “The Justice Department will remain dedicated to rooting out this horrible crime and prosecuting those who would enslave others.”

“No person should ever be forced to live in a world of fear, isolation and servitude, particularly in a country that prides itself on its freedoms,” said Julie Myers, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “Today’s guilty pleas should send a message to those who traffic in human beings that ICE is committed to protecting those who cannot protect themselves.”

“Freedom is the most basic of human rights and no one has the right to harbor illegal aliens and force them into labor,” said Salvador Hernandez, Deputy Assistant Director for the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI takes human trafficking crimes very seriously and is committed to investigating those involved in the systematic abuse and degradation of this essential right.”

The Attorney General has made the prosecution of human trafficking crimes a top priority. In the last six fiscal years, the Civil Rights Division, in conjunction with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, has increased by six-fold the number of human trafficking cases filed in court.

The case was prosecuted by Special Litigation Counsel Andrew J. Kline from the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit and Douglas Kern from the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The case was investigated by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Department of Labor.


We're all familiar with the saying, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonades."

But for Christine Pechera, a brave and now cancer-free Pinay, a more appropriate saying could be, "When life gives you cancer, kick its behind."

Last week, she related over the phone how ecstatic she felt just being able to do regular things again, like eating at a restaurant and standing under a New York rain.

"It was raining outside so I went out and just stood in the rain. My mom was yelling, "Get out of the rain, get out of the rain!" but I just wanted to let the rain hit my face. [With the second life given to me], I felt like it was a baptism. It was like a moment of cleansing for me."

Her family couldn't be happier now that she's back with them.
"When I arrived home, I had all these home-cooked meals waiting for me. Dinuguan, monggo, adobo - all my favorites," she said.

She is as busy as ever. "I plan to visit the churches and other Filipino communities in the area who organized bone marrow drives. I want to give thanks to all of them for their support," she said.

My piece (see below) about Christine comes out today in Philippine News. I first wrote about her plight back in 2006 in this article.

Christine Pechera’s faith tames cancer
Yong B. Chavez, Aug 22, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Most people usually don’t cry while eating ice cream but that is exactly what Christine Pechera and her mother did a week ago at Friendly’s, their favorite diner in New York.

“We were talking about the last time we were here and then we both just started crying,” Christine said. The Pechera family, longtime East Coast residents, has been affected by the savageness of cancer more than most families. Before she was diagnosed, Christine donated her own marrow to her brother, Francis Rex, who had lymphoma and also needed a transplant. Because of Christine’s donation, Rex went on to live a few more years. Her sister is a current survivor of lymphoma.

It’s been about 21 months since the Pechera women were at the same restaurant, talking about the cold realities of Christine’s cancer relapse. This time she felt that it was more vicious than ever.

Christine thought that it would be the last time she and her mom would be sharing their favorite ice cream treat.

“I told my Mom that and she said, ‘No, you will get well. We will come back here again, you’ll see’. I was crying so hard because, morbid as it sounds, I knew that chances are, I will be coming back home in a box.”

In July 2006, she played her last card: A risky partial match transplant from a donor based in Hong Kong.

When I caught up with her in March of this year, she said that was still not sure if she will make it.

“A simple flu could kill me,” she said then. Her life revolved around visits to the City of Hope hospital.

But 13 months after the transplant, she got the greatest news of her life: Her doctors told her that she is now cancer-free.

“I just couldn’t believe it. I literally went numb. I kept asking my doctor, ‘Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure?’”

Her doctor showed her the scans. It was completely clear.

“The images were a cool blue, a peaceful blue. A vast empty void of pure, unadulterated pristine health…this is beyond miracle,” Christine ecstatically wrote on her blog right after getting the news.

“The results of the “one-year” bone marrow biopsy came back 100% donor. In the past, “100% donor” meant “promising” or “a good sign”. The marrow also came back “clear.” This triple-confirms that the cancer has completely vanished. At 13 months out, it is safe to officially say that the donor marrow has taken and that the transplant is successful,” she recently assured her supporters on her blog, adding that her father broke down on the phone when she told him that her plans of mounting a post-cancer celebration party is pushing through because she is, indeed, a full-pledged survivor now.

Three years ago, at age 30, doctors told Christine that she had a rare and very aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was given a month to live. Her father flew to California to bring her home to die.

But after receiving chemotherapy and an autologous transplant (a procedure where the patient’s own cells are used instead of a donor’s), Christine thought she had her cancer licked for good. In December 2005, it was back. This time, she needed a bone marrow transplant, and for that, she needed a matching donor.

Finding a donor is hard enough but as a Filipino, Christine feared that her chances of finding a match were slim-to-none. Among minorities, Filipinos contribute the least to the bone marrow registry.

“I had less than 10 percent chance of surviving,” Christine said. What she did with this knowledge astounded and inspired not only her family and friends but also strangers.

Using her remaining strength, she actively participated in bone marrow drives and spoke at countless church and community events to enjoin Filipinos to sign up. She was relentless.

When I interviewed her last year at a bone marrow drive sponsored by Goldilocks when she had yet to find a match, Christine related her day-to-day struggle with dizzy spells and general weakness brought on by chemotherapy. And yet, her focus to sign up donors didn’t seem to waver.

“Even if I don’t survive, other patients might be if we sign up more people so I have to keep doing this,” she said then.

“Christine was a very open and hardworking patient. She went all out,” said Madhuri Mistry, public relations and South Asian outreach and recruitment coordinator of Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches (A3M).

A3M is a Los Angeles-based organization that recruits donors in six Asian communities to assist patients in finding marrow matches. Information on how to be a donor can be obtained from and in Filipino events such as the upcoming Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture (FPAC). They are also mounting a fundraising concert featuring Martin Nievera in October to help more patients. Currently, they are helping to find a donor for Hawaii-based Jonah Kalaikai Jr., a 5-year-old part Filipino with acute myeloma.

A3M was able to sign up more Filipinos during the first five months of Christine’s involvement in the bone marrow registry campaign than they had in the last five years.

Her story attracted even the mainstream media, culminating in an appearance on Nightline.

“I saw her on TV and I was just floored by her so I sought her out,” said Jerome Williams, one of many former strangers who are now part of Christine’s life. Williams has leukemia and his own quest to find a marrow donor can be found on his website,

He was one of Christine’s guests at a thanksgiving party that Christine recently gave after getting the good news that she is now cancer-free.

Jerome smiles widely as Christine takes over the dance floor, swaying to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” with the gusto of a teenager. The party’s prom theme was Christine’s choice because aside from its fun connotation, it also signifies an ending of an era, in her case, her battle with cancer.

“I saw her when she has no energy, I saw her in her worst times…so it’s great to see her now living and enjoying life,” Williams said. “When you have a success story like Christine’s, it’s exciting. It gives you hope. It lets you know that you just have to keep on fighting.”

Christine’s plate post-cancer is full but there is one thing that she will definitely make time for: Meeting her bone marrow donor. As is the norm for cases like hers, donors are not allowed to be introduced to patients until after a year. A few weeks after the one-year mark, Christine was finally able to communicate with “my angel,” a 36-year-old Hong Kong resident via e-mail. Christine is not sure if he has Filipino blood but she believes that the fact that she is part Chinese accounted for their partial match.

Christine is currently in the East Coast, spending time with her family but she plans to go back to Los Angeles in the near future to resume her career in films and TV. Here, she talks more about her journey.

Yong B. Chavez: How did it feel going back home?
Christine Pechera: It was very emotional. I was so scared when I left 21 months ago. I’m just so happy to be with family again and to do things I haven’t done in a long time.

YC: Like what?
CP: I went fishing. I grew up near the ocean, in Long Island, so I really like fishing. As I was sitting down, I just kept looking at the sky. I was remembering those days when I was confined in the hospital for 145 days, not allowed to leave my room.

YC: What kept you fighting for your life?
CP: What gave me strength through all this was my faith in God. What kept me fighting was all the support and prayers that were sent my way. Just knowing that there were people praying and cheering from the sidelines kept the fires stoked and helped me to focus when things got downright scary.

There were so many people who were fighting for me: my family, friends, my doctors, my church, other survivors, fighters, supporters and absolute strangers. How could anyone possibly give up when there is an ocean of love all around you, candles being lit in countless churches and temples, and letters being sent from all over the world? One thing I learned is that we are loved more than we know. It is too bad that it takes such a potential tragedy to expose the fact that there truly is goodness everywhere and in all of us, especially where you least expect it.

YC: During the whole ordeal, what was the worst thing that you experienced?
CP: Probably when my boyfriend dumped me after my cancer came back. The timing was just terrible. It was a few days after Valentine’s and it was my first day of chemotherapy. But (the experience) actually made me find my own strength.

YC: Are you seeing someone now?
CP: No. I am currently the most eligible Filipino bachelorette. [laughs] Seriously, I’m happily single.

YC: What was the most surprising thing that you experienced?
CP: The most surprising and upsetting thing was hearing stories of potential donors who were contacted and then refused to donate their marrow. Unfortunately this happens more often among the Asian population. Imagine being told, “We found someone who can save your child’s life but they said ‘No.’” I often cry for those patients who never found a donor, which are many. But my heart simply breaks apart for those patients who did find a donor but died anyway because the donor said “No.” The pain this inflicts on the patient’s family is immeasurable. And imagine being the patient. Being told that your life is not worth someone else’s time? Absolutely tragic.

YC: It sounds like you’ve learned a lot in such a short time.
CP: For sure. I’ve learned that life is truly about love and connections.

YC: You’ve met a lot of people since your ordeal started. What were the worst and best things that anyone has ever told you?CP: I used to have a problem asking for help, and one day, a friend of mine, a fellow patient, told me, “You have to let people help you because by allowing them to help you, they become a part of your healing.” He told me that I have to believe that I’m not a burden, that by accepting help I’m giving someone an opportunity to be a better human being. The worst thing that anyone said was at an interview. A reporter asked this question to my mom: “Christine is already the 3rd of your children who got cancer, so does it get easier with each one?”

YC: Whoa.
CP: Yeah, it was really bad. But don’t mention the reporter’s name. [laughs]

YC: How was the Nightline feature experience? Did this and other media exposure help you?
CP: The Nightline piece was such an important moment for me. On the day of the interview, I didn’t know how much time I had left. It was May and rumor had it that I wasn’t going to make it to the end of summer. We still had not found a donor and time was running out. Originally I thought that by going on national TV, I’d find my donor and hopefully inspire more people to sign up with the National Marrow Donor Program. But what actually happened was so much more.

Soon after the piece aired and right up to this day, I hear from other survivors and caregivers who saw the story. To these people, the story was less about me finding a donor and more about not giving up. About keeping the flag flying high and fighting on despite the incredible odds stacked against you.

At that point I didn’t know if I was going to survive, but it gave me solace to know that all this uncertainty, suffering and pain was turning into a story of hope, strength and faith. No matter what God had planned for me, at least I knew that others were being helped.

YC: What’s next for you?
CP: I will go back to work, doing what I love best which is film and TV. I’m also writing. I am a contributor to this book called “Writing for Wellness” coming out in October. I am also looking at several other book proposals. I will also continue to support bone marrow drives and speak on behalf of patients needing donors. We still need to put Filipinos on the registry. I am very busy and I love it. What’s next for me, really, is the rest of my life.

Filipina gets $125K in lawsuit

Posted below is the story I wrote for Philippine News about Ruby De Vera's case. I'm hoping to hear back from her soon to get more details so that I can write the update where I will include reactions from Filipino community leaders.

Filipina gets $125K in lawsuit
Yong B. Chavez,
Aug 22, 2007
LOS ANGELES — Ruby De Vera, a former Los Angeles councilman office manager was awarded a $125,000 settlement last week by the City of L. A. after she alleged in a lawsuit that her former boss fired her because she ran for office against a candidate he was endorsing.

"It’s a victory for our Filipino community," said De Vera.

Philippine News ran a story about her firing in 2005 where De Vera related what her boss, Councilman Ed Reyes, gave as a reason for her firing.

"He just told me I embarrassed him when I ran for office," De Vera said at the time.

In 2005, De Vera was working as Reyes' office manager when she ran for the City Council's 14th District, an area where many Filipinos reside. She came in third among 12 candidates. A candidate that Reyes was backing won the seat.

Elected officials in Los Angeles can hire and fire at will without dealing with civil service requirements but Reyes' council colleagues reportedly voted 9 to 2 to settle the case. Without the settlement, the case would go to court and Reyes and possibly other council members would probably have to testify.

De Vera had been working for the City for about 10 years. After her firing, De Vera went to work as a clerk/typist at the City controller’s office.

In her lawsuit, De Vera asked for compensatory, injunctive and punitive damages for, among other reasons, labor code violations and discrimination based on race/ethnic origin. Her legal filing, posted on a prominent Los Angeles political blogsite, also mentioned that "throughout her employment with the city, Plaintiff had always performed her duties competently, received favorable performance evaluations, and maintained an unblemished work history.

Plaintiff was terminated not only because of her political activities and affiliations, but also because of her race (Filipino). Defendants treated non-Filipinos more favorably by, among others, paying them higher salaries despite holding the same or less senior position than Plaintiff. Plaintiff was also terminated because she was a visible and vocal member of the Filipino community, and was involved with various activities which supported the Filipino

Monday, August 20, 2007


Sawa'ng-sawa na ba kayo sa mga balita tungkol sa real estate crisis?

These days, news about home foreclosures is like traffic in L.A. - you just can't avoid it.

But it's one thing not being able to avoid hearing about the increasingly alarming foreclosure stories, and quite another to actually avoid becoming a statistic in this ongoing saga.

So, here are some tips to avoid foreclosure per Parade Magazine:

1. As soon as hindi na kayo makabayad ng mortgage ninyo, contact your lender.

2. Sagutin ninyo lahat ng sulat na pinapadala sa inyo ng lender ninyo. Sa umpisa, they will send you tips on how to avoid foreclosure; pag hindi pa rin kayo umaksyon, legal notices na ang dadating sa inyo.

3. Know your rights. Basahing maige ulit ang inyong loan documents.

4. Prioritize spending. This goes without saying - pero kung nahihirapan na kayong magbayad ng mortgage, tama na muna ang shopping. After healthcare expenses, pambayad sa bahay kaagad ang isigurado ninyo.

5. Avoid foreclosure-prevention companies & scams. You don't have to pay fees to get help. Wag na wag kayong pipirma ng anumang dokumento sa sinumang nagangako na they will stop foreclosure for you. They will end up getting your house, and kayo pa ang lalabas na may utang. Napakaraming TV commercials na nag-o-offer ng tulong kunwari sa foreclosure pero lolokohin lang kayo. Mag-ingat din kayo sa mga "We Buy Houses" signs dahil karamihan scams lang ito. Here are two articles (this one and this one) about these scams.

6. Humingi ng tulong sa gobyerno. Pasalamat tayo at nandito tayo sa America kung saan merong lehitimong mahihingan ng tulong gaya ng HUD. Sa Department of Housing and Urban Development, makakakuha kayo ng libre o murang foreclosure counseling. Tumawag sa 1800-569-4287 o bumista sa


This week's Good For You award goes to Ruby De Vera.

De Vera, the tough Pinay who took on City Hall when her boss, Councilman Ed Reyes, fired her allegedly for "embarrassing him" when she ran for public office against a Reyes-backed candidate, is going to get $125,000 in a lawsuit settlement.

I first wrote about De Vera's firing in this story back in 2005.
In her lawsuit, De Vera asked for compensatory, injunctive and punitive damages for, among other reasons, labor code violations and discrimination based on race/ethnic origin.

A Los Angeles political blogsite posted her Federal complaint which mentions that "throughout her employment with the city, Plaintiff had always performed her duties competently, received favorable performance evaluations, and maintained an unblemished work history.

Plaintiff was terminated not only because of her political activities and affiliations, but also because of her race (Filipino). Defendants treated non-Filipinos more favorably by, among others, paying them higher salaries despite holding the same or less senior position than Plaintiff. Plaintiff was also terminated because she was a visible and vocal member of the Filipino community, and was involved with various activities which supported the Filipino community."

I will be posting the complete story about her victory soon. In the meantime, congrats, Ruby!

Friday, August 17, 2007


Here's an interesting piece from FilipinOnline contributor and SoCal resident Art Pacho:

I was surfing the net and found
Home Depot owes my wife a refund of over $300 and it is now in the hands of the state so I went to this government website.

Try typing your last name and city, and you might also have some money waiting for you.

When I looked up under Business Name and typed in Filipino American, I came up with a list of 23 unclaimed property. The unclaimed amount totalled $6,697.75 representing 23 organizations in California. The amount ranged from the highest of $2,223.78 to the smallest which was $41.00 (or an average of $291 for all organizations).

These organizations can claim their money by filing the proper form to the Bureau of Unclaimed Property under the California State Controller. If after a time, the property is unclaimed, the state can take ownership. Most of the property was for a dormant checking or saving account in the bank or credit union; payments by vendors; court settlements; or insurance refunds. The Filipino organizations are located in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Jose, Alameda, Tracy, Carson, Porterville, Garden Grove, Wilmington, Novato and Oakland. Their treasurer or officer should begin to make a claim before the expiration date.

The names of some organizations are: Filipino American Chamber of Commerce, Filipino American Democratic Club, Filipino American Political Association, Filipino American Senior Citizens, Filipino American Service (Group, Inc), Filipino American Club of Southern California, and Filipino Americans for Good Government. The Filipino American Chamber of Commerce in Carson can claim $2,223,78.

One suggestion for these organizations which have no interest in these unclaimed funds:
How about donating the money to a non profit organization in California? We have Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, Filipino American Service Group, Inc., or Filipino American Library, etc. that need support.

Thanks for the tip, Art. To see the list of Filipino American orgs with unclaimed property, here's the link.



If you have a preteen or a teenager at home, you probably already know Vanessa.
This beautiful Salinas, Calif native is going places in Hollywood due to her widely popular High School Musical projects. Part 2 is premiering today on the Disney Channel.
Ang nanay ni Vanessa ay si Gina Guangco, who's also part-Chinese.
The 19-year-old actress-singer is also a regular fixture on showbiz mags because she is dating costar Zac Efron.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Harassed Gabriela Leader Back in L.A.

Anna Lisa Enrile, GABNET chairperson back in L.A.

By Fe P. Koons
For FilipinOnline

At the LAX, Dennis Garcia, the husband of Anna Lisa Enrile, national chairperson of the Gabriela Network (GABNET), embraced his wife and the happiness on Dennis’ face is seen. Anna Lisa herself smiled to GABNET members, friends and relatives who welcomed her arrival at Los Angeles airport.

Dr. Anna Lisa Enrile experienced harassment in the Philippines when she was not allowed to board the Philippine Air Lines and head for LA last Aug 5 and was informed that she was on a “watch list”. Dr. Enrile was never clearly told why she could not go back to the U.S. With her, were writer Ninotchka Rosca and Judith Mirkinson, both of GABNET. The three women leaders were in Manila to attend the WISAP international solidarity conference of GABRIELA Philippines. Enrile also led a medical mission to needy areas in the Philippines, together with her USC students who were learning about social work.

In Los Angeles, some 100 supporters from many organizations, SIPA, Pilipino Workers Center, UCLA, Alliance for Lasting Peace and Justice, People’s CORE, KmB, ANSWER LA, GABNET school chapters, PAGE, and the students of Dr. Enrile at USC held a candlelight vigil infront of the Philippine Consulate on Wilshire Blvd.

Philippine Consul General Mary Jo Aragon extended her assistance upon talking to the family of Enrile, Ivy Quicho, GABNET LA coordinator and members of the press last August 13. Aragon called the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila and expressed her support of Anna Lisa and urged them to allow Anna Lisa to come to Los Angeles.

Anna Lisa Enrile said that the harassment will not prevent her from going back to the Philippines and in exposing the political killings in the Philippines. “I will go there every year.”
Philippine Party List Representative Liza Maza and GABRIELA lawyer Alnie Foja intervened for the GABNET 3 who were delayed for an hour by the Bureau of Immigration officers who insisted that the three were”connected with the Taliban”.

The targeting and harassment coincide with the implementation of the RP Human Security Act that went into effect last August 11. Since Gloria Arroyo Macapagal took office in 2001, there have been 900 murders and disappearances of Filipino activists, clergy, labor leaders and 90 of them were GABRIELA members or affiliates. The Philippines has been called as the most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq.

At the IHOP Westchester, Anna Lisa’s parents are smiling. They are now glad that their daughter is with them. But the incident in Manila is just the beginning. Anna Lisa will be reporting back about the WISAP conference, and for sure, will continue to monitor and expose the human rights violations in the Philippines.

[photo courtesy of Al Garcia of People's CORE, taken at the protest vigil at the LA Phil Consulate]

Friday, August 10, 2007


This particular scam has been around for quite sometime now pero marami pa ring nabibiktima so please tell everyone you know to be extra vigilant. Thanks to FilipinOnline reader Levi G. for forwarding the alert e-mail.

Here's the original scam notice from the University Of Texas Police Department:

Bank ATMs converted to steal bank customer IDs

A team of organized criminals is installing equipment on legitimate bank ATMs in at least two regions to steal both the ATM card number and the PIN. The team sits nearby in a car receiving the information transmitted wirelessly over weekends and evenings from equipment they install on the front of the ATM (see photos). If you see an attachment like this, do not use the ATM and report it immediately to the bank using the 800 number or phone on the front of the ATM.

The equipment used to capture your ATM card number and PIN is cleverly disguised to look like normal ATM equipment. A “skimmer” is mounted to the front of the normal ATM card slot that reads the ATM card number and transmits it to the criminals sitting in a nearby car.
At the same time, a wireless camera is disguised to look like a leaflet holder and is mounted in a position to view ATM PIN entries.

The thieves copy the cards and use the PIN numbers to withdraw thousands from many accounts in a very short time directly from the bank ATM.


The Internet giant is kicking off a call for designs for an icon that best symbolizes “green.”

For artists and green-minded people out there, here's what they want:

"We’re looking for a graphic that will be used to flag simple, eco-friendly things you can do all over our network, so that everyone knows the many green choices and options available on Yahoo!. That could include everything from making green purchases to finding the most fuel-efficient cars.

You don’t have to be a professional to design an icon. You just have to make a clear, strong visual sign for “green” and send it in. The chosen design will be seen possibly billions of times on Yahoo!’s product pages, by a global audience of more than 500 million people.

If your design is chosen, not only do you get to brag about it — the environmental nonprofit of your choice will receive a $20,000 grant from Yahoo!. If your design is a runner-up (two will be chosen), your designated nonprofit will receive $5,000."

Click here for more details.

Low Income Medicare Part D Beneficiaries Can Now Change Plans ANY TIME

If you know someone who is a low income Medicare Part D beneficiary, here's some welcome news for them from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services:

Dealing with the Medicare Prescription Drug Program (Part D) just got a little easier for people with low incomes. Low-income Medicare Part D beneficiaries now enjoy a new, important right to change plans at any time during the year. Previously, many of these Medicare beneficiaries could only change plans once a year, during the fall enrollment period.

The expansion of enrollment rights was announced by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services last month and takes effect immediately. Under the expansion, all Medicare Part D beneficiaries eligible for the Low Income Subsidy, also called “extra help,” (1.1 million Californians, 9.2 million beneficiaries nationwide) may switch plans as often as once a month. The new right is most helpful to those who are in a plan that is too expensive or does not cover all of their drugs. An individual who changes plans in August can be in a new plan as of September 1.

This continuous special enrollment period has many benefits. If a beneficiary finds that his or her plan does not cover a necessary drug, it may be easier to switch plans than to seek an exception to the plan’s formulary. Because of the plans’ intensive, at
times misleading marketing efforts, many individuals have joined plans that they do not understand or that they later realize do not meet their needs.
The continuous enrollment period makes it easy for them to switch to a better plan.

Advocates nationwide support the enrollment right expansion as an improvement to the Medicare prescription drug program.

“This change is a step in the right direction. It will help many low income individuals who have been trapped in a plan that does not cover their drugs,” says Katharine Hsiao , Staff Attorney at the National Senior Citizens Law Center , a member organization of the California Medicare Part D Language Access Coalition. “It is very important to spread the word about this new
development, especially to low-income communities, including limited-English proficient communities. This change is likely to assist thousands of individuals across the country.”

“This change will help many in our community get access to the drugs they need,” says Caroline Lee, Health Access Advocacy Director of the Korean Resource Center in Los Angeles .

“Last week, a couple came in because they could not afford to buy a newly prescribed heart medication that was not covered by their Part D plan. Because of the enrollment right expansion, they were able to change to a plan that will save them over $300 a month. Getting accurate information about Part D has been even more difficult for limited-English proficient clients than for English speakers. We need to spread the word about changes like this one that can help low-income individuals.”

The California Medicare Part D Language Access Coalition is a coalition of advocacy and service providers working to improve access to Medicare Part D for limited-English proficient beneficiaries. Some of the members are the Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Asian Pacific American Legal Center , the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, the Center for Health Care Rights, the Health Rights Hotline, the Korean Resource Center and the National
Senior Citizens Law Center . For a fact sheet on these new enrollment rights, or for a copy of the Coalition’s recent report, “Medicare Prescription Drug Plans Fail Limited English Proficient Beneficiaries,” see

SOURCE: Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Monday, August 6, 2007

WANTED: Filipino Teacher

Job opening:

Teaching Filipino part-time at Granada Hills Charter High School in Los Angeles or Full-time (Filipino + another subject).

Sixty students are waiting for a Filipino teacher. If they do not find a teacher, they will have to wait until next year. School begins on August 13th, so candidates are needed ASAP.

Contact person: Brandon Zaslow, Chair - World Languages & Cultures Department at:

[File picture: Ginang Oliva teaching Filipino classes at Cerritos]

EARLY BUZZ: Toxic Printers, Risky Houses, Timing yourself, and Hello Kitty cops

- Are printers hazardous to you health? A study says it is while HP denies. Per article, "Office printer could be posing as much danger to the lungs as a drag on a cigarette, according to air quality tests by Australian scientists. An investigation of dozens of laser printers revealed that almost 30 per cent emit potentially dangerous levels of tiny toner-like material into the air."

- According to Forbes, today's riskiest housing markets are: Miami, Orlando, Sacramento and San Francisco.

- What's the best time of the day to do stuff? This article IDs them. Who knew that 4 p.m. is the best time of the day to clean the house? It's a handy guide for many of us who've always thought it's at quarter-to-never.

- Finally, here's a unique way to clean up dirty cops: Offending Thai cops will have to wear Hello Kitty armbands. "Police officers caught littering, parking in a prohibited area, or arriving late — among other misdemeanors — will be forced to stay in the division office and wear the armband all day." Meow!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Not Laptop Users, A Study Says

This CNN piece, sourced from the Oxford Journal Human Reproduction, says that there's truth to this urban legend: Laptop computers may lower sperm count. Click here to find the, um, full monty.