Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year Equals New Laws for Californians

Are you into texting while driving, a computer professional, or, yikes, an unlicensed car dealer? If you are, you will be affected by this new batch of California laws. Courtesy of ABC News, here are some of the new California laws that will take effect come Jan. 1:

No-text Law - Writing, sending, or reading a "text-based communication" while driving will be against the law for all drivers in California. Violating this law is punishable by a base fine of $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. With the addition of penalty assessments, fines can be more than triple the base fine amount.

New DUI Laws - Zero tolerance. Any person who is on probation for a DUI convection cannot drive with a blood alcohol level of.01 percent.

Temporary operating permits restricted - The DMV will restrict permits to allow more time to obtain a smog certificate.

Special interest license plates - Gold Star Family special interest license plates will be available to family members who have had family killed in the line of duty while serving in the Armed Forces during wartime or military operations.

Temporary employees - Wages for employees of temporary services employers shall be paid weekly or daily if the work is less than 90 days.

Family and Medical Leave Act - Families who have members who are active in the military are eligible up to 12 weeks of leave if they meet the "qualifying exigencies: short notice deployment, attendance at official military events or activities, arranging or providing childcare, attending school or daycare meetings, handling financial and legal matters, and rest and recuperation visits when the soldier is on leave."

Minimum pay for exempt computer professionals - Computer professionals' hourly rate for 2009 is increased from $36 to $37.94.

Definition of a motorcycle - Deleting the existing weight limitation of 1,500 pounds, removes a separate definition for electrically powered vehicles and will allow fully enclosed 3-wheeled motor vehicles to use the carpool lanes

Unlicensed car dealers - Law enforcement officers can impound vehicles that are being sold by unlicensed dealers.

Counterfeit Clean Air Stickers - It will be a crime to forge Clean Air Stickers, which are issued to low-emission vehicles and allow the vehicles with these stickers to be driven in carpool lanes.


I can't believe 2008 is almost over, and there are still so many things I want to do! I planned a blog makeover, but due to my crazy sked, that was sidelined for the nth time. Looking back, I know I missed posting a lot of Fil-Am news, features and topics - even those I actually covered for TV, I didn't even get the chance to write about here.

I'll try to do better in 2009.

I'm also writing a book that's culled from my reporting experiences so I hope to be able to publish more info about that here in a few weeks, fingers crossed.

To those emailers that I haven't responded to: Please don't be mad, I'm writing back soon.

Manigong bagong taon sa ating lahat!

Friday, December 12, 2008


Customers Advised To Check With Airlines To Verify If Tickets Bought Are Valid

By Yong B. Chavez

Long Beach, Calif.-- What if you came to the airport and found out that your tickets are not valid? A Filipino-owned travel agency in Long Beach is the focus of a fraud investigation by the police. Over 30 customers have filed complaints against The Travel Place because they allegedly bought airline tickets for the Philippines that turned out to be bogus.

Mayvel Ocampo was so excited about her plans to spend Christmas in the Philippines, so as early as may, she purchased her Cathay Pacific tickets from The Travel Place in Long Beach.

"I saw their ad in a Filipino newspaper…I called and talked to Alex. He asked me to send them the check and then he sent me the supposed e-tickets through mail. They cashed my check around May," said Ocampo.

Her sister also bought a ticket from the same travel agent named Alex Rebote. All in all, they paid over $5,000 to the travel agency for their tickets.

In October, Ocampo called Cathay Pacific to reserve their seats. She got the surprise of her life when they told her that her booking was cancelled by The Travel Place.

"I called and talked to Alex and he said, 'Really? It was cancelled?' He told me there was just a confusion. He said, 'Everything's OK, I'll send you the ticket," Ocampo said.

The tickets never came. Ocampo called several times a week and got the same reassurance each time. She called Cathay Pacific, and true enough, they have another booking for her - albeit in business class.

It turned out that that was all it was: A booking.

In late November, on another follow-up call, the phone was answered by a building employee who said that The Travel Place office was now deserted; the whereabouts of its owners and employees, unknown.

The Long Beach Police Department is currently investigating over thirty complaints against the company which is owned by Jeanette Lim and has been in operation since 2002, according to the Better Business Bureau.

Reports of fraud against them continue to pour in. Ocampo has heard of a Filipino family who bought tickets from the same place who went to the airport only to be told that what they had were not e-tickets but only itineraries. Another customer recently posted a complaint with the Better Business Bureau - they were stranded in Manila because their return tickets weren't valid.

The Travel Place did not respond to an e-mail request for comment.

With e-tickets replacing paper tickets, customers who get itineraries instead of paper tickets can be easy marks for scammers.

To avoid becoming a victim, travelers are encouraged by the police to seek precautions.

When making travel arrangements, experts give the following tips: Always ask detailed questions and get everything in writing. Verify with the airlines if they have issued the tickets that you paid for, and consider paying with a credit card that allows consumer to dispute charges when problems occur.

It's an expensive lesson for Ocampo, who had to come up with another four thousand dollars so that her family trip can go on. She also had to adjust her vacation leave with her work because there were no more airline seats available on her original schedule.

"That's what hurts more because kapwa Pilipino so you trust more kasi pareho kayo ng pinanggalingan but I guess anywhere, merong mangloloko," she said.

Consumers who lost money from travel sellers can either file a lawsuit or seek compensation with the Travel Consumer Restitution Corporation.

California's Secretary of State also has a "Victims of Corporate Fraud Compensation Fund."

Ocampo's sister, Marvet Espejo, could not come up with the payment for another ticket so she is forced to cancel her plan to find a venue for her upcoming wedding in the Philippines.

"That's why I'm so pissed, everything…ang sakit-sakit dahil hindi ko makikita ang family ko for another year," Espejo said. She adds that she literally has nightmares due to this experience.

The sisters suspect that many homecoming Filipino Americans are still unaware that the tickets they bought might not be valid.

They feel compelled to search the Internet for any information on Lim and Rebote and to spread the word about what happened to them so other Filipinos can be forewarned.

"We feel so helpless...We heard a rumor that the owners of the travel agency have gone to the Philippines," Espejo said.

"That may very well be the case, but I can't say for sure," said Jackie Bezart, public information officer of the Long Beach Police Department. "The investigation is ongoing."

Complainants are not all from Los Angeles area only because many transactions were done over the phone.

To report a complaint, contact Detective Greg McMullen at the Long Beach Police Department at (562) 570-7330.

A shorter version of this story appeared on my Balitang America report this week. Photo info: Mayvel Ocampo, Magnus Ocampo and Marvet Espejo, outside the former office of The Travel Place, 4000 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach, CA.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Filipina Artist Featured in Pasadena Exhibit

Pasadena Society of Artists Holiday Exhibit at VIVA Gallery

The Pasadena Society of Artists (PSA) proudly presents 46 gifted artists for a Holiday Exhibition at the Valley Institute of the Visual Arts (VIVA) Gallery at 13261 Moorpark Street in Sherman Oaks till 27th.
The exhibit showcases 60 artworks done in traditional and contemporary styles and represented in a variety of media such as oil, acrylic and watercolor painting, sculpture, photography, and digital art.

A most recent watercolor painting of distinguished Glendale artist and Art Historian Lynda A. N. Reyes entitled "Boy in Blue" was accepted in this juried exhibition. Her son Roy Natian is also featured in the show with his pen and ink composition titled "GHOTI".

This is a juried exhibition that features the works of select members of the PSA (, an organization of professional artists from Pasadena and nearby communities that has continuously exhibited its members' contemporary art for 80 years. Since its inception in 1925, it has evolved into a varied and vital artistic force that has nourished the artistic growth of the contemporary art scene. The PSA is noted for its vigorous and active membership with high professional standards.

VIVA Gallery is not the traditional art gallery for profit. VIVA is a nonprofit organization run by four supporting art groups (Women Painters West, Valley Watercolor Society, Collage Artists of America, and Valley Artists Guild) that have joined together to operate a permanent Arts Center in the San Fernando Valley. VIVA provides artists with the opportunity for critical exposure and public appreciation of their creative work in a professional environment.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gift Card Tips & Laws

Whether you're planning to give gift cards for Christmas or you have an unused or partially used gift card from Christmases past, here are some basic things you should know about them. I just found an unused gift card that I thought was already wasted so this is good news to me:

- Most gift certificates and gift cards sold by retail sellers for use with the seller and its affiliates cannot contain an expiration date or a service fee, including a fee for dormancy.

- Any gift certificate sold after January 1, 1997, is redeemable in cash for its cash value, or subject to replacement with a new gift certificate at no cost to the purchaser or holder. Since January 1, 2008, any gift certificate with a cash value of less than $10 is redeemable in cash, which includes currency or check, for its cash value.

Per Consumer Union: Here are the state-by-state Gift Card Consumer Protection Laws:

No expiration date within the first two years.
No fees for two years. Any fees after two year period must be printed clearly on front or back of card in at least 10 point font.
Covers gift cards useable at single store or chain.
Does not cover cards linked to bank accounts usable with multiple unaffiliated merchants or prepaid calling cards.

No expiration dates and no fees, with one exception.
Permits a $1 per month fee only when the card has a balance of $5 or less, the card has been unused for 24 months, and the card is reloadable.
Covers gift cards at a single store or chain. Multiple-use gift cards are not covered.
Any card with a cash value of $10 or less may be redeemed for cash.

No expiration dates.
No fees.
No expiration dates.
No fees.
Does not cover cards linked to bank accounts usable with multiple unaffiliated merchants.

No expiration for two years.
No fees.
Covers any electronic card with a banked dollar value.

No expiration date for five years.
No fees.
Does not include cards usable with multiple merchants.

No fees unless there is a contract.
No expiration for five years.
No fees for one year.
Does not cover prepaid bank cards.

No expiration within first year.
No fees.
Does not include prepaid calling cards or cards linked to bank accounts usable with multiple unaffiliated merchants or ATMs.

No expiration dates for five years.
No service fees, except for a one-time handling fee of $1.
Covers cards issued to be redeemed in goods or services provided by the card seller.

No expiration dates.
No fees except for transaction fee for initial issuance or for adding value to existing card which must be disclosed in separate writing before purchase.
Does not cover prefunded bank cards.
Cards with an initial value of $5 or less; or rewards or refund cards with $5 or less after redemption may be redeemed in cash.

No expiration dates for four years.
No fees for four years.
Any terms and conditions must be printed clearly in 10 point type on the card, on a sticker affixed to the card or in an envelope containing the card.
Does not cover prepaid calling cards or prepaid bank cards.

No expiration dates for 7 years.
Cards with a remaining balance of $5 or less may be redeemed in cash.
Does not include prepaid calling cards or any electronic cards usable with multiple unaffiliated merchants.

No expiration dates for five years.

No expiration dates.
No fees.
Does not include debit cards or other legal access devices used to access a deposit account, prepaid calling cards, cards linked to bank accounts usable with multiple unaffiliated merchants.

No expiration dates.
No fees.
If original value of gift card was more than $5, and remaining value is less than $5, can redeem for cash.
Does not cover prepaid telecommunications or technology cards or gift certificates usable with multiple sellers.

Expiration or fees allowed only if properly disclosed.
No fees within first year and no fees that exceed $1 per month.
Covers only single retailers.
Does not cover prepaid telecommunications or technology cards.

New Hampshire:
No expiration for cards of $100 or less.
No expiration earlier than date funds escheat to state for cards over $100.
No fees.

New Jersey:
No expiration for two years.
No dormancy fee for two years from date of sale or two years from most recent activity or transaction.
No dormancy fee can be more than $2.
Expiration date and/or dormancy fee must be printed on card, package or sales receipt and include a toll free number to call for information.
Does not include prepaid calling or technology card, or prepaid bank cards.

New Mexico:
No expiration for five years.
No fees.
Covers cards with single retailer or affiliated merchants.
Does not cover prepaid calling cards or cards associated with a deposit, checking, savings or similar account at a bank for debiting such account.

North Carolina:
Fees to be conspicuously disclosed on card at time of purchase.
No fees for first year.
Covers prepaid calling cards.
Does not cover bank cards usable at multiple unaffiliated merchants.

North Dakota:
No expiration for six years.
No fees.
Covers prepaid calling cards.
Does not cover cards useable at multiple, unaffiliated merchants or cards linked to bank accounts.

No expiration for two years
No fees for two years.
Does not cover prepaid calling cards or cards usable with multiple unaffiliated merchants.

No expiration and no fees for five years, with one exception.
Permits a $1 per month fee only when the card has a balance of $5 or less, the card has been unused for 24 months, the card is reloadable and the fee is properly disclosed.
Covers cards with single retailer or affiliated merchants.
Does not cover prepaid calling cards or any prepaid service.

No expiration dates.
No fees with one exception—if card is sold below face value and does not expire until 30 days after the date of sale and card has printed “expires on” or “expiration date” with the date of expiration.
Does not include prepaid calling cards, prepaid commercial mobile radio services, or cards usable with multiple merchants.

Expires after 2 years if unredeemed or after 5 years from date of purchase if no redemption period specified.
Covers cards with single retailer or affiliated merchants.
“Qualified gift certificates” do not expire and do not have fees.
Does not cover flexible spending accounts or bank cards usable with multiple affiliated merchants or ATMs.

Rhode Island:
No expiration dates.
No fees.
Covers prepaid long distance telephone service cards.
Does not cover prepaid wireless telephone service cards.

South Carolina:
No expiration dates for first year, unless expiration date is on front of card in capitalized letters in 10 point font.
Fees permitted but must be disclosed on certificate, envelope, covering or receipt.

No expiration dates for two years.
No fees for two years.
Does not cover prepaid calling cards or cards usable with multiple, unaffiliated merchants.

No fees for first year.
Expiration or fees and other terms must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed at time of purchase. The expiration date and fees must be legibly printed on the card.
Does not cover prepaid calling cars or stored value cards issued by a federally insured financial institution.

No expiration date if not printed or information is not included.
No fees if not printed or information is not included.
Expiration and fees must be printed in readable manner on instrument, packaging or record.

No fees for three years.
No fees, except a licensed money transmitter, financial institution or credit union may charge a one-time issuance fee of either $10 or 10%, whichever is smaller.
Does not cover access device such as a debit card or other access means to a consumer’s account regularly maintained at a bank to access funds or to initiate an electronic funds transfer from the account.

Permits a $1 per month fee only when the card has a balance of $5 or less, the card has been unused for 24 months, the card is reloadable, and is disclosed on card in at least 6 point font.
Covers gift cards at a single store or chain.
Does not cover multiple-use gift cards, or cards usable with multiple unaffiliated merchants.
Disclosures Only:

Expiration and fees allowed only if they are made clearly visible to consumer before purchase.
Covers all cards except prepaid calling cards, debit cards linked to bank accounts or electronic funds transfer cards.

Expiration and fees allowed only if they are conspicuously printed on the card or have a sticker affixed to the card at the time of purchase.
Covers general use gift cards, gift certificates or store gift cards.

Expiration or fees allowed only when statement appears on front or back of card or in location visible to purchaser at the time of purchase.

New York:
Expiration or fees, or other terms and conditions to be clearly and conspicuously stated on the card, package, or accompanying printed document with toll free number.
No dormancy fee before 13th month of inactivity.
Covers cards with single retailer or affiliated merchants.
Does not cover prepaid calling cards, flexible spending cards, and cards linked to bank accounts

Expiration or fees must be clearly and permanently imprinted on card with a telephone number or Internet address to obtain information.

***This is a summary of key features of many state gift card laws. Consumers Union does not give legal advice. Please consult the laws of your state for more information.

OPINION: December Dilemma

Special to

Christians living in culturally-diverse places in America face a dilemma every time Christmas season comes. Their problem is that they cannot celebrate the birth of the Lord the way they used to, because some people might take offense at the sights and sounds of the traditional Christmas celebration and slap them with lawsuits.

In the malls and in a lot of places there is a conspicuous absence of traditional Christmas symbols like the Manger, where the three wise kings from the east first saw the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. In its place are hollies and lights display. Likewise gone are the task theology-loaded Christmas carols like Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Oh Holy Night, and Oh Little Town of Bethlehem. The politically correct people, so-called, are agressively advocating what they call religious-neutral songs like Silver and Gold and Silver Bells.

In the Philippines, they even went as far as making Christmas songs a personal thing. So, what did they do? They replaced the traditional Simbang Gabi and Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit with a very personal interpretation of Christmas, like Pasko Na Sinta Ko and Miss Kita Kung Christmas.

These politically-correct, anti-Christmas crusaders are not done yet. After they successfully pulled out the Manger from the public view, they are now saying that the popular season's greetings Merry Christmas be changed to Happy Holidays.

Now, think about it. If you are a serious and well-meaning Christian you must be very alarmed by now. I guess you will agree with me that this is simply crazy. It is like celebrating a birthday without inviting the celebrant.

I am not an ultra-conservative Christian believer, but the way things are going on, I believe it is time to take a pro-active stance against the forces that are trying to trivialize the birth of our Lord and Savior, the Prince of peace, the King of kings and the true Ruler of this earth.


David Casuco studied journalism at the University of Santo Tomas. He was sportswriter, and later foreign news editor for the Journal Publications in Manila before he moved Los Angeles with his family in 1989. He is now the current editor of the California Examiner. His writing are more on sports and spirituality (not religion).

If you want your Opinion to be considered for publication in FilipinOnline, e-mail it to me at ybchavez[at]

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Filipino citizens residing abroad, mark your calendars:

The Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles wishes to inform the public that pursuant to the Minute Resolution of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), the registration/ certification for overseas absentee voters has been moved from 1 December 2008 to 1 February 2009.

All citizens of the Philippines abroad not otherwise disqualified by law, at least eighteen (18) years of age on the day of the election and who wish to vote for President, vice-President, Senators and Party List Representatives for purposes of the 10 May 2010 National Elections must file applications for registration/ certification as overseas absentee voters from 1 February 2009 to 31 August 2009.

The voting period will be from 10 April 2010 until 3:00 p.m. Philippine time 10 May 2010.

For details, please contact the embassy/ consulate nearest your residence or the following websites:
Department of Foreign Affairs (Manila):
Commission on Elections (Manila):
Filipino residents of SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, NEW MEXICO, TEXAS, ARIZONA and SOUTHERN NEVADA may wish to contact the following:
3600 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 500Los Angeles, CA 90010
Attn: Vice Consul John Reyes
Tel. No. (213) 637-3003
Fax No.: (213) 639-0990

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

You know the grim statistics: unemployment is rising. Well, here are some job leads for you, courtesy of the Calif. Governor Arnold S.'s office:

Fernandez Government Solutions, Legislative/Executive Assistant for lobbying firm. Must be motivated, organized, have excellent communication skills. Knowledge of Legislative process a plus. Competitive salary, benefits. Please e-mail cover letter, resume: or contact: 916 448 7567 (12/3)

American Lung Association, Policy Analyst on air quality and global warming regulatory issues, write position letters, statements, assist with advocacy and outreach. 3 plus years experience, excellent oral/written communication skills. $45,000-55,000. Resume, cover letter: (11/21)

California Association of Health Plans seeks a full-time Administrative Assistant to provide support to our Legislative Affairs department. Familiarity with legislative process preferred. Competitive salary/benefits. Visit for more information. (12/2)
Associate Lobbyist, California Catholic Conference. Public policy advocacy, focus on Hispanic legislators/community leaders. Legislative advocacy experience, college degree, familiar with Catholic teachings, bi-lingual (oral/written) Spanish/English. Some travel required. $38,000-45,000. Cover letter, resume: (11/20)

Assemblymember-elect Bob Blumenfield seeks experienced scheduler for Capitol office. Resumes to Colleen Beamish,, or call 530 758 5470. Also seeks Field Representative for Los Angeles District Office. Resumes to Samantha Stevens,, 818 731 7336. Salaries based on experience. (11/20)

March of Dimes seeks State Director of Public Affairs, who manages Government Relations in California. Coordinate policy agenda, lobbying and grassroots activities within the state. Salary commensurate with experience. More information: Associate State Director at (12/11).

Support the Senate Fellowship Program and LegiSchool. Administrative Support Assistant II. Job No. 100197. Full-time. Support the Senate Fellowship Program and LegiSchool. Position, renewable annually contingent upon funding, work performance and the recommendation of the supervisor. $2,505-$3,758/mo. Duties will include, but are not limited, to travel arrangements, web research, and database entry. Required: Intermediate computer skills; MS Office, especially Access. Knowledge of university and state policies and procedures, especially travel related; knowledge of state government through experience useful. Great benefits! View full description online at:; Open until filled. ADA/EEO. For more information, contact David Pacheco at or at Ext. 4160. (11/3).

The San Diego Unified School District is looking for a Legislative Affairs Manager in Sacramento. This person will serve as the primary contact for the San Diego Unified School District with members of the California State Legislature, Department of Education, and education interest groups. The link to the application and requirements is here: (10/30).

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has active job listings for research positions based in PPIC’s Sacramento Center. In particular we are recruiting for Research Fellow and Visiting Fellow positions. Full position descriptions are available on the PPIC website, As an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer, PPIC is committed to excellence through diversity. We encourage women and members of minority groups to apply. (10/30).

Senior Legislative Consultant, Office of Senator Oropeza. Ideal candidate must be motivated, organized, have good written and verbal communication skills to develop, analyze, & manage legislation. Minimum 2+ years Capitol experience with BA degree. Salary based on experience. Please submit resume plus cover letter to: (10/21).

Health Affairs Legislative Director, University of California – The State Governmental Relations of the University of California is seeking a person to advance the legislative interests of the University’s health sciences and services enterprise, which includes the health professions schools, research units, and UC’s five academic medical centers. The person selected will be responsible for working with and maintaining regular communication with the UC Office of the President and campus representatives, including health sciences and services issue experts, to assess and advance the University’s interests with the State Legislature and with representatives of State government on health care matters of interest to UC. Prior experience in the health care field as a consultant, lobbyist or analyst is a plus. Please contact Steve Juarez, Director of UC State Governmental Relations @ 916-445-9924 for more information or go directly to , click on Search Postings, and type in 20080366 in the Requisition No. box, and file your application electronically. (10/16).

Forward Observer, Office Manager. Seeking experienced administrative professional with excellent communications, organization and management skills for a high energy, boutique consulting firm. Competitive salary. Contact Andrew Chang at 916 444 0088 or submit resumes to (12/8)

California Grocers Association, VP/Government Affairs. Lobbying and representation before Legislature and regulatory agencies, grassroots and political programs. 10+ years experience required. Competitive salary. Details here. Fax/email resume/cover letter: 916 448 2793, (12/5)

Program Representative II ($36,108-$61,380/year) VL#11552, FFD 11/10/08. UC Davis Extension seeks employee to manage, market and implement continuing education programs in education, health sciences and public policy. See listing here. (11/10)
Legislative Consultant, JEA & Associates. Motivated, organized individual with excellent written/verbal communication skills; analyze, manage legislation; write position letters/reports. Minimum 2yrs Capitol experience, local government experience a plus. Salary commensurate with experience. Resume, cover letter: (12/5)

Planned Parenthood Los Angeles seeks Public Affairs Manager. Five years experience in public affairs/community organizing. Excellent communication skills. Familiarity with community leaders and organizations. Strong organizational skills. Salary DOE. E-mail/fax resumes:, 323 225 0613. (12/4)

McNally Temple Associates, Inc. Senior Account Executive. Responsible for managing public relations and media programs for diverse array of corporate, government, association, non-profit and political clients. Legislative/political experience strongly recommended. Competitive salary, benefits. Resume: (12/1)

Department of Conservation seeks two Legislative Analysts at the Associate Governmental Program Analyst ($4,400-5,348) level. Staff Service Analyst ($2,817-4,446) may be considered. Legislative experience desired. For more information, please see or contact Vincent Keene at (916) 445-8733. (11/14)

The California Department of Conservation is seeking highly qualified applicants for the position of Chief Counsel. The Chief Counsel advises management on issues affecting all of the department's diverse programs. $9215 - $13,381/month. For details, click here. (11/14)
The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers - Director of Policy and Government Affairs. Responsible for formulating policy-based strategies and representing the industry before policymakers in the California legislature and executive office. Competitive salary. Details (11/10).

Internet TV Freelancer LA preferred
Seeking a freelancer to handle a fast-growing, innovative internet television channel featuring fun and entertaining lifestyle shows. Think “CNBC meets MTV.” Must have strong online and offline media skills and experience working with interactive clients. Must also have good relationships with advertising industry trades and related media (AdWeek, BrandWeek, AdAge, NY Times, etc). Will develop and execute strategic PR campaign targeting existing and potential viewers, advertisers, investors, content producers and other key audiences.

Luxury Real Estate / Luxury Resort Pros West LA
Sr. AE to VP
Seeking travel and tourism pros with luxury real estate or luxury resort experience to work at a large and growing travel and tour specialty firm. Candidates must have solid industry contacts and be top-notch pitch artists who can handle major business media as well as tour & travel and lifestyle outlets. Of course solid writing is a must. Travel tour pros who also love golf would be ideal! Qualified candidates must contact Jim Delulio at

Social Marketing Opportunity West LA
Sr. AE or Supe
Seeking candidates who are strong strategic thinkers and would enjoy working on a social marketing account with a consumer flair. The ability to understand complex issues and handle a fast-paced environment is required. This person must have the ability to multi-task and work independently as well as in a team environment. Strong writing and media relations skills a must. Any experience with environmental or other social issues a plus. Qualified candidates must contact Jim Delulio at

USC Adjunct Instructor for PR/Com Law course LA NEW!!
Will teach undergrad PR/Com Law course on Tuesday nights in the spring 2009 semester. The ideal candidate would be an attorney (past or present) with some understanding of PR. A PR pro who has worked closely with attorneys and has some understanding of PR-related legal issues would also be appropriate. If interested, please contact Jerry Swerling at

Senior Consumer Packaged Goods Talent Orange County [CA] Director
Position will lead PR campaigns for a major Fortune 250 packaged goods client at one of the rock solid, hot consumer agencies in the country. Candidates must have strong consumer branding experience; social media expertise and excellent writing and presentation skills. A record of leading major brand campaigns is essential. A great opportunity for a superstar Supervisor or Sr. Supe who's ready to move up!! Qualified candidates must contact Jim Delulio at

New York, Chicago & Washington D.C.
Healthcare PR Washington, DC
Account Supervisor, Account Director, Senior VP
Great healthcare communications firm based in Washington, D.C. is looking for pharmaceutical PR pros at various levels. Responsibilities include account management, strategic media relations, FDA drug approval activities and planning events/meetings. Candidates must have healthcare/pharmaceutical PR experience. Submit resumes to

Consumer/General PR New York
Account Director
Boutique PR agency is looking for an Account Director to run accounts and manage a team, reporting directly into the President/Owner of the agency. Accounts include a luxury real estate developer, a not-for-profit devoted to adult literacy and a world-class science research institution. Responsibilities include strategic planning, client relations, team management and account management. Candidates must have 7-10 years of agency PR experience. Please submit resume and salary requirements to

Men's Consumer PR New York
Leading consumer PR agency is looking for a Director to work on a leading men's consumer account. Responsibilities include strategic planning, client relations, team management and account management. Candidates must have 10-15 years of consumer PR experience within an agency environment and MUST have experience working on PR campaigns targeting men. Please submit resume and salary requirements to

Financial Services/PR New York
Account Supervisor
Boutique PR Firm is looking for an account supervisor to join their asset management team. Clients include billion-dollar hedge funds and a variety of "superstar" economists and asset managers-regularly appear in all of the industry's top media outlets. Responsibilities include: Managing agency-client relationship, Developing proactive and reactive strategies, Counseling client, managing staff, conducting media relations, writing, reporting, etc. Candidates must have 3-4 years of agency PR experience. Please submit resume and salary requirements to

Team Leader for New Digital PR Business New York
Seeking a technology and marketing professional with experience in performing digital/interactive campaigns. Candidate should have 3-5 years web experience and understand how to implement SEM and SEO campaigns (including Relationship Management campaigns) as well as have an idea how to effectively utilize blogs, podcasts, social networks, etc. as part of full service marketing and public relations campaigns. The ideal candidate will have a track record of creating and executing web based initiatives. The candidate should also be able to educate the company on all things Digital -- i.e., effective strategies for building online initiatives, media lists, targeting bloggers, using services such as Digg and Twitter to the firm's advantage. Please contact

Professional Services Marketing Chicago
Business Development Manager
Prestigious global law firm, is looking for a Business Development Manager to support the Global BD team, Office Administrator, Office Managing Partner, and Chicago department and practice chairs to develop and implement marketing strategies and local business development programs for the Chicago office. This candidate should have 5- 7 years of professional services marketing experience. The Business Development Manager is responsible for creating practice level strategy to develop business with current, prospective and targeted clients by working closely with the entire BD Team. The position is also responsible for the development and implementation of marketing initiatives that support the practice strategy as well as providing assistance to the Director of Marketing. Please submit resume and salary requirements to .

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Filipina Cristeta Comerford Might Retain Presidential Chef Post

There's a good chance Pinoy-flavored food will stay in the Obama White House menu.

Though change is coming in the White House this January, there's one area where Obama's new administration isn't likely to change, reports say.

Walter Scheib, White House executive chef for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, says in an AP interview that "there's a 90 percent chance the new administration will stick with his successor, Cristeta Comerford."

Though the job is high-profile, the work of a White House executive chef isn't fit for someone wanting a celebrity status. Being sensitive and understanding is just as important as culinary skills, given that the chef is among the few people who interact with the first family in private, former White House chefs say.

Comerford, the first woman and first minority to serve as executive chef in the White House, gets high praise in those areas.

Below is an article I wrote about Comerford back in 2005.

First Lady Head Chef In The White House is Filipina
By Yong B. Chavez

When Cristeta Comerford comes back to work from her vacation by the month’s end, she will have a full plate in front of her as she assumes her new responsibilities as the White House executive chef at that time.

Mrs. Laura Bush announced Sunday that Comerford, whom the First Lady calls by her nickname “Cris”, has been given the executive kitchen’s top post.
A Food Technology graduate of the University of the Philippines, the 42-year-old wife and mother is the first woman to get the job.

"I am delighted that Cris Comerford has accepted the position of White House executive chef," Mrs. Bush said in her press statement. "Her passion for cooking can be tasted in every bite of her delicious creations."

Comerford will be in charge of designing and executing menus for state dinners, social events, holiday functions, receptions and official luncheons hosted by President and Mrs. Bush.

The first lady top chef of the White House is trained in French classical techniques and specializes in ethnic and American cuisine. She has helped develop menus for previous special White House events including a state dinner in honor President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Susan Whitson, the First Lady’s press secretary, said that Mrs. Bush was very happy with Comerford’s work in her capacity as the White House assistant chef for the past 10 years.
“She is very pleased with Cris,” Whitson said.

It took six months for the position to be filled because the First Lady wanted to make sure that the person who would replace former executive chef Walter Scheib III would be the best that they could get, Whitson added.

The search for the presidential chief chef was headed by White House social secretary Lea Berman and head usher Gary Walters.

Walters has been quoted in reports as saying that the White House executive chef is paid in the general range of $80,000 and $100,000 a year. Although it is a sizable amount, famous chefs in America get so much more than that, but the high-profile job still attracted a lot of applicants hungry for the chance to rule the president's kitchen.

“They went through hundreds of applicants, and after thoughtful consideration, they went with Cris,” Whitson said. The fact that she is a woman is a bonus, but in the end, she was chosen because she was “the best qualified”, Whitson said.

The new White House top chef, a naturalized U.S.citizen who was born in the Philippines, lives in the Washington D.C. area with her family.

About the photo:Chef Cristeta "Cris" Comerford prepares a meal inside the White House kitchen in this July 17, 2002 photo. White House Photo by Tina Hager

Friday, November 21, 2008

Philippine President's Husband Mike Arroyo Hospitalized

Update as of 3pm, PST: The President's appearance in L.A. is cancelled due to FG's hospital stay, but she will still go to Peru. Picket against her is also pushing through, per organizer.

First Gentleman Mike Arroyo is being treated at a Japan hospital at this time. On board the plane en route to Los Angeles, he suffered a heart attack. His illness is considered non-life threatening but a hospital stay is necessary.

He was with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during the incident. Arroyo is scheduled to hold a reception for the Fil-Am community tonight in Los Angeles.

A Philippine Consulate General official confirms that Arroyo will continue with her planned trip to the U.S., a stopover to her Peru trip for an economic summit, albeit at a delayed schedule. She is expected to arrive at the LAX at 4 p.m. PST.

Meanwhile, activist groups ALLIANCE for a JUST and LASTING PEACE in the PHILIPPINES (AJLPP), ANSWER-LA and GABNET are planning to picket tonight's event.

I will be reporting on this tonight for Balitang America and for FilipinOnline.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"My dad extended his vacation in the Phils & I need to mail his prescription meds. Can I use USPS?"

Yes, you can. (Heh.)

You can use the US Post Office's Express Mail International flat rate ($25.95), which is pretty reliable. I've been using it, and so far, so good. You get a tracking number and you can log online to be notified via e-mail once it's received. I tried using their Global Express service to send a small package once and it flopped - the package was returned to me because of a zip code snafu.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What Are You Doing This Veterans Day?

By Yong B. Chavez

Today is Veterans Day. Let's all take a moment to say a prayer for our U.S. troops overseas, and for those we have lost.

Let this also be the day when we show our appreciation for WW II's largely unheralded Filipino heroes by actively supporting their fight for equity. Do it not just today. If we Fil-Ams are not solidly and actively behind them, who do we expect to help them? If we can muster enough unity as a community to join our fellow Americans during last week's historic events, why can't we all lift a finger and just be there in whatever way for our vets who are still fighting for recognition absent our overwhelming support?

The day after the elections, I called up Eric Lachica, the tireless executive director of American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, Inc. to ask how he felt about Barack Obama's win.

"I'm thankful that he won," he said, adding that the President-elect has expressed his support for Filipino WWII veterans many times. Lachica is hoping for a bipartisan support for the veterans, a likelier prospect now that lawmakers have become more supportive in light of Obama's win.

Finally, change will also come to the lives of our aging veterans, it looks like. When a call goes out to support them by contacting the lawmakers on their behalf, we need to take the time to do that.

The veterans and their supporters' plans include working for the passage of a bill that would get the vets a lump sum amount and a much-delayed official recognition of their bravery during the war.

Here is their latest letter to President-elect Obama:


November 6, 2008

The Honorable Barack Obama
President-elect of the United States
Washington DC
Attn: Ruchi Bhomik, Legislative Aide

RE: Congratulations and Thanks

Dear Senator Obama:

On behalf our elderly Filipino American World War II veterans, their families and supporters, we the undersigned extend our congratulations on your victory Tuesday and best wishes to your incoming administration. We trust your inspiring and pragmatic leadership in solving the current economic crisis, the creation of well-paying jobs, overcoming the difficult challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan, and protecting the interests of the American People.

Moreover, we also deeply appreciate your public appeals to your colleagues on behalf of our Filipino WWII veterans. In your February 25, 2008 statement on the anniversary of Filipino People Power revolution, you wrote:

“On this anniversary, I urge my colleagues in Congress to honor the Filipino veterans who bravely fought with American troops in World War II. Approximately 250,000 Filipino troops joined American forces to fight in World War II, but too many of these heroes are still being denied benefits. The time has come for Congress to honor the Filipino veterans of World War II by finally enacting the Filipino Veterans Equity Act... I applaud Chairman Akaka's leadership on this issue and will continue to urge my colleagues to provide the benefits and recognition these veterans deserve.”

With your early assistance in June 2007, Sen. Akaka’s bill S. 1315, “Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act” was finally passed in the Senate by overwhelming vote of 96 to 1 on April 24, 2008 and includes our Filipino WWII veterans.

On behalf of our 4,000 members and Mr. Patrick Ganio Sr., ACFV president, we look forward in working with your senate staff to successfully complete Sen. Akaka’s bill in the few weeks remaining in the 110th Congress.

Very sincerely
FRANCO ARCEBAL, ACFV Vice President Membership
ERIC LACHICA, Executive Director

Art CALEDA -Honolulu: Faustino BACLIG –Los Angeles; Avelino ASUNCION- San Diego; Filemon MORDENO -San Francisco; Antonio TAPERLA –S.F.; Dominador VALDEZ- San Jose; Jose NUEGA, Sacramento; Ernesto ANOLIN –Delano; Amador MONTERO & Thelma SEVILLA- Seattle; Lourdes CEBALLOS -Chicago; Joe GONZALES- Houston; Fred DIAZ –Jersey City; Pacifico TIMBOL- NY; Maurese OWENS- Arlington VA; Celestino ALMEDA- Guillermo RUMINGAN; VA; Romy SAN ANTONIO- Va. Beach; Dick AQUINO –Jacksonville FL; and others.
[picture c/o Eric Lachica]


This Thursday, November 13, at 10 a.m., you can join millions of people throughout Southern California in the ShakeOut Drill, the largest earthquake preparedness activity in U.S. history.

Simulating a 7.8 quake, participants throughout SoCal will duck, cover and hold simultaneously to do the nation's biggest earthquake drill.

The Great Southern California Shake Out is meant to teach each resident what to do in case of an earthquake, a much-needed exercise, considering how the area has always been known as a likely site of a big earthquake. The last jolt epicentered in Chino Hills, a city in the Inland Empire where about 51,000 Fil-Ams live, was a shaky reminder of why we all need to be prepared.

Please register today to join the drill.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama has come to the White House

Obama has come to the White House

The just concluded US presidential election – in state of the art digital automation – is cause for envy in so far as RP is concerned. But, It is not as if steps in this direction have not been initiated except that the Supreme Court according to its worldview – believes that it cannot be applied in our contemporary political culture. Thus, it will always be the case that counting the votes would proceed manually such that the longer it takes to finish the count – in days and weeks – the more likely it has opened windows of opportunity for cheating. America on the other hand counts push-button and RP counts scandalously primitive.

Obama and McCain were luminous figures seen in the world stage as arch contenders to who should run corporate America after President George W. Bush. And Obama got 64,414,843 of so-called popular votes and 364 of so-called electoral votes against McCain getting 56,735,145 and 162, respectively. Obama’s victory in this presidential race flips a new page in US political history as the first ever African-American president with McCain conceding even before the last vote is counted.

In the realm of the senses, there is nothing McCain can do to outsmart Obama whose oratory is par excellence. Given images of two competing candidates, McCain receives the short end of the bargain, McLuhan-wise – where ‘the medium is the message’. Obama is seen and heard to have presented his promissory note under the terms and conditions that come agreeable to any contracting party. Thus, there is little difficulty for every voting American to sign this social contract offered by Obama as the simple epitome of the American dream.

Obama is highly educated, McCain isn’t. Obama is an eloquent orator, McCain just isn’t. Obama carries charisma, McCain is yet to acquire the virus. Obama attracts patronage from both the blacks and the whites in, more or less, equal degree while McCain only got half of the racial deal. With another under-educated as chosen running mate, McCain failed to check his political equation. Obama has been better paired with his running mate. With just these two presidential wannabes viewed in the viewing screen, there is no way McCain can attract adherents any more than Obama can – with such ease and facility – typical of the educated class in the US social pyramid. Obama, after all, graduated his law magna cum laude at Harvard Law School while McCain almost at the tail-end of the graduating class in the US Naval Academy.

Perhaps, speech power has been the name of the game in this US election. Every word spoken by Obama seems calculated to summon favor from any average listener or viewer. His speech proceeded from a methodology already known to most Americans with delivery alone qualifying as superb and a cut above the rest. The text of his message comes as though God has spoken before a revering flock – a speech that has warmed the hearts of most Americans, whites or non-whites. Obama’s overall audience impact has really touched every a listener who has been so frustrated with the way Bush has run US politics that one school of thought believes Obama has been a principal beneficiary of this hatred for Bush war policy – viewed as ‘crimes against humanity’.

No wonder then that the punchline – “Change has come to America” – really placed the viewing universe in some kind of trance. Bush bedeviled the American people, and Obama kind of probably ‘angelized’ the new and contemporary American population. Between the devil and the angel, Americans across social ladders, tend to like Obama better than any Bush protégé, or McCain. Given then a prevailing national mood, Obama can skillfully order how his chips will fall in place. And he did just right for his dream to become the next and 44th president of the world’s superpower that is America.

What will US politics be like under an Obama administration? Policy issues have already been drawn, even maybe neatly by the new world leader. Some of these send “shark attacks effect” making the world uncertain for countries that used to benefit economically from US policy directions under Bush. If Obama pursues the creative approach of going insular by focusing largely on its domestic economy, then world trade as we used to know it might have to be configured differently under an Obama regime. If all jobs go to citizens of America, if all goods go to the American people, if all services are just for the Americans – this consuming all-American protectionist policy might mean making US a closed society than what it used to be and imperiled its own national life.

Whatever policy directions Obama will take ought to be beyond fault. With two wars – that in Irag and Afghanistan – first in the political agenda, Obama is left with not much choice but perhaps to withdraw troops in this beleaguered nations if only to cut on the defense budget. With the economic meltdown US is into, Obama might have to make drastic fiscal reforms without having to reinvent the wheel like say – strengthening a protectionist policy in the best tradition of the Democrats where he belongs. A host of pressing social, economic, political, and security issues have to be addressed and Obama thinks too honestly that indeed US meets the challenge in his favorite line – “Yes we can”.

It still bears watching how Obama will reformat a prevailing if irreversible economic curse that appears to be redeemable only with as much as a $700 billion bail out. Bush is heard to have wished Obama hits the ground running. Truly, US has been seen to be at the verge of a cliff to such extent that it seems like there is only 24-hour left to save present-day America.

After the whole electoral exercise, Obama must get down to business. An economic turnaround or a miracle cannot just come about – from a culture of overspending – that has characterized the Bush’ government. Nor can US’ global position as world policeman be compromised as though pulling out US troops in war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan will do the trick. It bears watching whether Obama can bring US economy back on its track especially by giving middle class tax cuts to some 95% of American workers if true anything can be done to uplift some 37 million poor Americans that corporate American has neglected for many years. With Obama breaking the century-old racial barrier, it is hoped that political assassinations by some kind of feudal supremacist vogue would be a thing of the past.

(Email to:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


LOS ANGELES, CA – The Filipino-American Service Group, Inc. (FASGI) through its nonpartisan voter engagement project, FILVOTE, conducted a phone banking drive to encourage Filipino-Americans to go out and vote on Election Day. This drive was started a week before Election day and peaked during the day itself. FASGI volunteers and staff spearheaded the drive and called everyone on its registered voter list. Most of these people were assisted by FILVOTE to register or re-register to vote.

Majority of the volunteers at FASGI noted that at 1030a.m. most of the Fil-Ams they called already voted and the small percentage that didn’t vote yet said that they are on their way to their designated precincts. Mr.. Peping Baclig, a Filipino-American Veteran, called mostly the Filipino Veteran American seniors, he said that almost all of them already voted through the vote by mail or permanent absentee vote. They collectively observed that there was an unprecedented enthusiasm and excitement among the Filipino-Americans to participate on this election.

There were a lot of first time voters. Those that just felt that they have a need to participate on this historic election. According to one first time voter, Maria Corazon Paus, who was recently naturalized as an American Citizen on October 9, 2008 , “I am elated to participate and feel the benefits of being an American, to have a voice in the process of selecting a new leader to guide the course of this Country I now call mine.” She said her wait to vote was not that long, about 15mins at the Knights of Columbus precinct at Temple Street in Los Angeles . She was there in line at 9 a.m. Although she voted Republican she says she is happy that Barack Obama won because “he has given a lot of Americans hope for a better future” she goes further “I am very happy that I cast my vote, even if my candidate lost, I feel that I still won, we all won.”

It is evident from this election that a huge turnout of Filipino Americans came out and voted. This is a departure from the perception that Fil-Ams are apathetic to the American Democratic process.
[text & photo: Fasgi, Sherwin Shakramy - Legal Program Coordinator]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


History is made, and we are part of it.

Congratulations, President-elect Barack Obama. Congratulations, too, to Sen. John McCain for such a classy concession speech.

This morning I left home first to vote, and then to polling places in West Covina and Walnut, Calif. to report live on FilAm voting experiences for ABS-CBN's news shows.

I was supposed to wait for a family member so that we can vote together after office hours but I just couldn't take the chance, if for some reason I can't be at my polling place by 8 p.m.

I couldn't wait to vote. I couldn't even sleep last night because this is all I think about recently. This was my first time to vote, and there's no chance I will squander this right and privilege.

But after voting, I put aside the personal and went to work to report on today's historic elections.

In two live phone patch reports for ABS-CBN, (and for LA18's Kababayan LA - a last-minute request from colleague and friend, Jannelle So), I spoke about how Filipinos supported each candidadate.

Among the Fil-Am voters I interviewed in the area, a majority (around 70%) supported McCain. "He's a veteran." "He is just better." "He's a Republican." were the reasons they gave. Someone also said that her church told her to vote for McCain so she did.

Those who favored Obama were more detailed in their reasoning: "His economic policies make more sense." "Kay Bush, nawalan ako ng trabaho, nasira ang ekonomiya, so bakit ko iboboto ang kagaya rin nya?" "I voted for him because he gives me hope. I hope that one day, I will see a Filipino American president, too."

The news about Obama's win might not be great for those Filipinos we talked to, but as one Fil Am voter said: "Whoever we voted for, what's important is how we claimed our place and believed in our power as Americans - immigrant or not."

What's in store for FilAms who didn't believe in Obama? In his acceptance speech, Obama acknowledged those who didn't vote for him. He said, "I hear you, too."

But will they hear him, too? That is the hope.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


The Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County (RR/CC) headquarters is open Monday for voters wishing to vote early. Due to the tremendous turnout, they extended the office hours over the weekend but the lines were still long.

RR/CC Clerk Dean Logan said, “Early voting activity in L.A. County reflects high interest by voters wishing to cast their ballots prior to Election Day. They are flocking to the RR/CC in record breaking numbers. The weekend of October 25-26, we began a ‘seven day a week cycle’ open to the public for early voting. During that weekend alone over 2,600 voters came into the office, with another 1,300+ the following Monday.”

November 3rd office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The office is located at 12400 Imperial Hwy., Norwalk, CA 90650.

To date, over 977,000 voters have requested vote by mail ballots, and more than 329,500 have returned their voted ballot by mail or in-person to the RR/CC.
“The number of vote by mail ballots requested has surpassed the prior record from the November 2004 General Election, where with the same number of days remaining before the election, 740,000 requests had been made. The total vote by mail ballots cast in that election was 701,693 representing approximately 22 percent of the total votes cast”, Logan said.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cash For Your Old Electronics

Here's a good idea for anyone who wants to raise some money - or just wants to clear some closet space and help the environment in the process: You can exchange your unused electronics for store gift cards.

EcoNEW is a green website that allows you to trade-in products for: Laptops , Desktops , MP3 players, LCD monitors , LCD TVs, Game systems, Camcorders, Digital cameras, and Smartphones/PDAs.

Here are the steps, per its website:

1. Click on the participating retailer's website - Sam's Club, Office Depot, or Navy Exchange -
to enter information about your product to get its value.

2. EcoNEW generates a trade-in value on the product and provides a pre-paid shipping label for you to print and send the product to our ISO 14001 certified partners. Upon receipt, the product is audited and a branded gift card is mailed to you for the trade-in value of the product. Some products have no trade-in value, but you can still send the product back for proper recycling.

3. The returned product may be resold in whole form or broken down for parts. The remaining product is then safely recycled. Other recyclables that you can send are: CRT monitors , printers, fax machines, and small home electronics.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Former Tawag ng Tanghalan winner Mar Dureza keeps on singing

By Yong B. Chavez

As Nelson Doreza, he was "Tawag ng Tanghalan's" undefeated singing champ for 12 weeks. The American Idol-like talent show was the Philippines' most popular in the '60s. His reign as 1968's winningest singer followed then-nascent superstar Nora Aunor's successful run the previous year. They later worked together in the movie "Bahay Kubo Kahit Munti".

The singer now goes by Mar Dureza but neither name-change nor time has dimmed his talent. He has been living in America for more than two decades now. In his early days in America, Mar used his architecture background to work as a draftsman in Chicago for 10 years while singing regularly in local lounges and concert arenas.

He and his wife, Bella, who's his biggest fan and supporter, are currently enjoying their retirement years in Florida but making music is something he says he won't retire from.

"I had a stroke in June of 2005. Now, three years later, I feel alive and kicking once again, although I lost the ability to play guitar because of the effect of the stroke on my left side. However, my voice is as good as ever," he says.

On December 27, 2008, at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago, he will be the recipient of the Hall of Fame awards for achievement in music and art from the Chicago Philippine Reports Television.

His biggest project to-date is his recently released CD called "Maalala Mo Kaya" where he covers popular Filipino love songs called kundiman. Songs in the CD include absolute Filipino classics like Saan Ka Man Naroon, Kapantay Ay Langit, Matud Nila, among others.

In a time when current events might be spurring in you a yearning for the good old days, listening to Dureza's soothing voice singing melodious Filipino songs of yesteryears might do the trick. His CD is available for purchase through

Here's more on Mar:
"One Monday night in February of 1968 I defeated the reigning champion and went on for 12 consecutive weeks successfully defending my title. On the 13th week, Patsy & Pugo, who were the regular emcees of the show, advised me to retire to give others a chance on the championship. The truth of the matter was that the regional finals was approaching and they needed more champions to compete. In order to qualify one should have at least won two weeks. Edgar Mortiz had a lot of weeks to his credit earlier that year but was not competing in the finals because he was already fast becoming a star with the growing Vilma-Edgar tandem.

Although I wanted to win some more weeks, I reluctantly retired under the pressure and my 13th appearance in the show was just as a guest relinquishing my crown to whoever won 1st place that particular night."

"I hit the nightclubs circuit instead of going into television and performed professionally all over the Philippines and the Far East. Coming home in 1977 I realized I needed to change my name from Nelson Doreza to Mar Dureza which is actually the shortened version of my real name Mariano Nelson Doreza. Filipino sounding Mar Dureza came quite naturally and easily stuck to the minds of the audiences of "Astral Villa" and "The Manila Garden Hotel" where I performed regularly from 1978-1981 before I came to the USA on a petition visa from my father."

"I was very unfortunate not to land on a recording job for myself in the Philippines...It seemed that the big stars always got the parts before I did. No wonder my greatest passion was to be able to record something. Here in the U.S., I had my chance when I met Warren Kime, a friend who took interest in the idea of doing an album of Filipino music.

First thing that came to my mind was an album of timeless music - the nostalgic [quality] of kundiman that never grows old and stands the test of time. Not having heard of the Filipino sound before, Warren Kime, who happened to be a band leader, great trumpet player and arranger was faced with a challenge of his musical career. But as I tried to explain it, I may have told him to imagine serenading a beautiful lady with guitars and mandolins and whatever he could think of. He well may have gotten the picture as the result of our little labor of love came out to be something simply perfect as I have expected it. We recorded and released the album in cassette and it was played and sold all over Chicagoland for sometime.

Disc Makers got ahold of the cassette that my wife, Bella, secretly sent to them. After listening to it, they decided to digitally enhance and release it on CD to be marketed in the Internet worldwide. I, myself, drew the cover design that impressed them as well."

"The song that I liked the best in the CD is Ay Kalisud, hands down. This song originated from my home province of Iloilo where I was born on April 17, 1945.

Among my favorite singers, which is a whole lot of them, are Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Ruben Tagalog in the olden days always fascinated me. I also enjoy Hajji Alejandro, Basil Valdez, Rico Puno, Jun Polistico, Anthony Castelo."

Apart from singing, Dureza continues to tend to his other talent. His CD's self-drawn portrait is a testament to that. "I also accept commissions for my drawings of portraits in pencil. You can see sample of my works at"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Economic Crisis Survival Tip #3

If you're stressed about money these days, you don't need the added aggravation by getting scammed.

So, if you see one of those TV ads promising to GET YOU OUT OF DEBT NOW! - please change the channel. Better yet, turn off the TV to save on power costs. Yes there are legitimate, for-profit credit counseling companies but before you send them anything, thoroughly research their company first. There are scammers, vultures, really, who are capitalizing on the fact that many are having money problems now, and they promise things too-good-to-be-true. Remember, they are not magicians who can just wave off your debts. What's absolutely true? Legit or not, they will get your hard-earned money.

Non-profit organizations are giving help for free. Here are some legitimate and FREE credit counseling organizations:

1. The Homeownership Preservation Foundation
Call 1-888-995-HOPE (4673) and receive free counseling when you're facing foreclosure.
Seventy percent of those they've assisted retained their, according to a report.
They will also connect you with free services if you have other financial issues, such as credit card debt.

SCORE, a nonprofit association working in partnership with the Small Business Administration, offers financial counseling to small businesses.

Avvo is an organization of lawyers (all screened and profiled on the site) who answer legal questions online for free. They specialize in helping regular people like you and me. You can post a question about foreclosure, credit or bankruptcy issues.

Here's the link to some other organizations that you can get free counseling from.

If you have a question or other tips for our kababayans, please let me know.

[Reference: CNN; Photo:]

Friday, October 17, 2008

Popular Creme-filled Cookies Recalled Due to Melamine

As one mom blogger said: Lead is so 2007. It's all bout melamine-tainted product recalls nowadays.

In late September, it was the White Rabbit candy; now it's Koala's March creme-filled cookies.

The cookies are being recalled from U.S. store shelves because "they were made in China and may be contaminated with melamine," a newspaper report say.

Michigan-based Lotte USA Inc. said to the New York Times that it initiated the recall on Sept. 29.

It recalled king-size chocolate, white chocolate and strawberry flavors, family pack-size chocolate, white chocolate, strawberry, chestnut, Hawaii chocolate and Hawaii pineapple flavors.

Melamine is the industrial chemical blamed for killing four infants and sickening thousands of children in China. It's used to make plastics and fertilizers. Melamine is an organic compound that is often combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin, a synthetic polymer which is fire resistant and heat tolerant. Melamine resin is a very versatile material with a highly stable structure. Uses for melamine include whiteboards, floor tiles, kitchenware, fire retardant fabrics, and commercial filters.

In the Philippines and in many other countries, it is also widely used in plates and other household items. I even remember the blue set I bought from SM more than two decades ago. Oh, those were the days when we were blissfully unaware that the products we use everyday can actually harm us.

So to be safe, here are some tips from SafeMama:

- Don’t microwave, boil or otherwise heat melamine dishware or utensils, ever.
- Hand wash all melamine in warm water with mild soap.
- Use safer materials like bamboo, stainless steel, or BPA-free plastic (same heat rules apply here though, no microwave, hand wash).
[photo from Wikipedia]

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


A lot of people who lost their jobs due to the present economy are hurting from losing their health insurance coverage. Many people don't have health insurance in the first place.

Luckily, there are people in the community who are always there to help those in need.

If you live in or near Los Angeles, here's an opportunity for you to get health screenings for free. At this health fair, you will also get information about eligibility for public health care programs including Medi-Cal, Medicare, Healthy Families, and California Kids.

Here are the details:

Asian Pacific Health Care Venture and The Philippine Consulate General, Los Angeles - 5th Annual Pagpahalaga Sa Kalusugan Ng Pamilya Health Fair
Where: Philippine Consulate, Community Hall, Ste.500
3600 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90010

When: October 22/2008 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
October 23/2008 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
October 24/2008 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Schedule of Activities & Free Services:
· Blood pressure screening * Glucose screening * BMI screening
· Information about eligibility for public health care programs including Medi-Cal, Medicare, Healthy Families, and California Kids
· Information about available services in the community such as:
o Pregnancy testing & counseling, HIV screening, prevention & counseling
o Family planning; Parenting classes, CPR Training; Nutrition Education for Diabetics
o Healthy Women screenings (mammograms & pap smears),
o Enrollment to WIC, Food Stamps, Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, other health programs
· On-site Osteoporosis scanning services
· Bone Marrow Donor Registration undertaken by the National Marrow Donor Program