Saturday, March 29, 2008

Intruder Alert for your E-mail Account

Setting up an intruder alarm for your e-mail account is another way by which you can repel ID thieves.

Here's an article written by PCWorld's Erik Larkin - he talks about how it's done (getting a hacker alarm) para malaman nyo kung may tumitingin na iba sa email account ninyo.

Eto ang sabi sa article:

1.) Open an account with, and use a disposable e-mail address to complete the registration process.
2.) You'll receive an email from OneStat with an attached file. Save the file, note the account number, and then delete the email.
3.) Rename the file with a name that would catch a hacker's eye like "AccountPasswords." Save the .txt file as an .htm file so it opens up in a web browser.
4.) Send an email with the .htm file to the account you want to monitor. Use a subject title that is eye catching.
5.) Wait for the hacker to take the bait. If the attachment is opened by anyone else but you, the hit counter will record their IP address.
6.) Change your password frequently to something that's a little harder to crack.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


By Yong B. Chavez

"Wag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan."

It's a favorite slogan of nationalists, and many Fil Ams have taken it to heart.

When Philippine tourism officials realized that many Filipinos in America don't relish being strangers to their own motherland any longer, the Ambassadors, Consuls General, and Tourism Directors Tour was born. It is now on its fourth year.

The country might be embroiled in political controversies, but for the tour organizers, the show will go on.

"We are not sidetracked in our mandate – and this is to promote the Philippines as a tourism destination," said Los Angeles Consul General Mary Jo Aragon.

The tour, being lead this year by the L.A. consulate, has drawn hordes of balikbayans and tourists since it began. Each year, hundreds of vacationers enjoy the group trip, which they say is a bargain, considering the itinerary.

The cost of the basic tour, now at $1,610 plus surcharges, has slightly increased due to higher plane fare costs, but the highlights of the tour remain the same: roundtrip ticket, 3-nights hotel stay, a Malacanang Palace visit, business seminars, and day tours.

A Festival of the Philippines soirée at the Sofitel, a beautiful hotel overlooking Manila Bay, will welcome this year's participants.

Many of the early tour sign-ups will visit the Philippines for the first time, but a lot of the travelers are satisfied repeaters. This year, the organizers capped the maximum number of participants to 500. In previous years, they had to turn down last-minute trip bookers due to the enormous response to the project.
Non-Pinoys also enjoy the group trip.

"As a matter of fact, I'm encouraging my friends to go with me because I think it's a very inexpensive way to see the Philippines," said Joseph D'Oliveira, Honorary Consul L.A. Consulate of Guyana.

"It's an experience of a lifetime, once you sign up for it, all you need to do is pack and go. Everything is arranged for you already," said Annie Cuevas, Director and Tourism Attache of the Philippine Department of Tourism in L.A.

The tour will be from July 10 to 15. Optional out-of-town tours from July 15 to 18 is available for an additional cost. Deadline for registration is May 1 ; full payment deadline is June 10.

To register and to get more information:
(213) 487-4525 or (213) 637-3031

Photo credit:
Left, Annie Cuevas being interviewed at the tour launching, taken by Lydia Solis
Above photo, from

Monday, March 24, 2008

Beware of Scammers Stealing Tax Refunds

If you get a call from someone saying that they are IRS agents and asking all kinds of personal financial information in relation to your tax refunds and rebates, hold the phone.

Better yet, disconnect.

Here's a story about how some scammers are targeting people expecting money back from the government. With tax season in full swing, some criminals are having a busy time, too, stealing money from those who are supposed to receive refunds (and soon, rebates).

Some people have received e-mails that looked like they came from the IRS and other government agencies, complete with believable logos, instructing them to click on a special attached form to provide personal information.

Never, ever, ever click. Tandaan ninyo: The IRS will never ask for bank account or similar information over the phone or Internet.

If you ever get this bogus call or e-mail, go to the IRS Web site and report it.


Friday, March 21, 2008


Pinoys did it again. Through the Papaya dance - dubbed as the new Macarena - we have another viral hit.

The Papaya dance was popularized by a Philippine game show and was recently featured in "Good Morning America." Go here to see Diane Sawyer and co. attempt to do the dance.

Click on the YouTube link above to see a Pinoy family from San Francisco getting jiggy with it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

BUHAY AMERICA TIP: Family Watchdog

FilipinOnline reader Jon Dela Cruz sent this informative link about Family Watchdog, an organization that maintains a website where parents can know where registered sex offenders live in your area.
It's creepy because in one click you can even see the pictures of the offenders, but a useful tool nonetheless for parents who would like to know if any of the offenders live near their home or the child's school.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Filipino Healing Priest

Text and photos by: Yong B. Chavez

To the church ushers' consternation, the intention of the woman wearing a yellow sweater has skipped their notice. After making her way through the dense crowd, she marched straight to the altar and is now hunched in front of the seated priest, a boyish-looking petite man.

They are talking indistinctly. The mass has just ended and a healing service is about to commence.

"Mga Pinoy talaga, ang hilig sumingit," one of the men says, making jokes but obviously seething. It does look like the woman wanted to bypass the long queue so most of those within the disapproving man's hearing distance nod in agreement. "There's a line, all these people in wheelchairs... She can't just cut. She should wait her turn to be healed by Father," he adds.

"Father" is Father Fernando Suarez, the now-famous Filipino-Canadian Catholic healing priest, who travels all over the world to hold healing services. The 41-year-old man of God was in town for a 2-week stop in Southern California which began in mid-February. He is currently in the country for a multi-city healing tour.

The St. Catherine of Siena church, a good-sized place of worship in the San Fernando Valley, is filled to the rafters despite the rain.

The woman in yellow was led to the microphone by another priest. By the time she began speaking through tears, most have realized that she's no line-cutter. She doesn't need to; she's already healed, she says.

Elvira Lacson, a 58-year-old businesswoman from Rancho Cucamonga, said that before she was prayed over by Suarez in 2007, her left eye was completely blind due to diabetes. She had a host of other ailments, topped off by a mini-stroke.

"After he prayed, Father told me, 'Now, open your eyes,' I did, and then I saw him, I saw the crowd. I saw everything," she said. Her other illnesses? Also gone. "My doctors were amazed. My family was amazed."

It is her first time to share her story publicly but since she became better, Lacson has become some sort of a Suarez stalker, albeit the positive kind.

"Now, I follow Father wherever he goes. When he went to the Philippines, I went there, too," Lacson said.

In this devotion, she is hardly alone.

Since going public with his healing ministry a few years ago, Suarez's miraculous touch has become legendary.

"He's like the Pied Piper. Everyone just wants to follow him," said Vic Perez, a Los Angeles resident. (Perez is organizing a big healing concert for the priest in May 17 to be held at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Admission is free.)

But instead of drowning those who follow him like in the famous legend, Suarez lifts up everyone he encounters, Perez said.

"When I first heard about him, I didn't believe," Perez said. There are a lot of fake healers in the world, he added. "But upon seeing what he does up-close, it's… I don't know, it's just mind-boggling. My life has changed since meeting him."

Even Suarez did not believe his own gift at first.

Born and raised in a small barrio in Batangas by a tricycle driver dad and a seamstress mom, Suarez did not envision "healing priest" to be his future job title. He was the eldest child and he took the practical route of getting a college degree.

However, there was an incident when he was in high school that made him wonder if he was living the life meant for him.

At 16, he met a paralyzed old woman, and feeling sorry for her, Suarez prayed over her. To both their surprise, she was able to walk right after.

He continued with his studies and worked after college as a chemical engineer, but later on, the young man could no longer ignore the call of priesthood.

"When I was a child, I never thought I would end up in priesthood, but it has given me so much peace and joy that my soul was longing for," he said.

Still, Suarez's road to priesthood wasn't bump-free.

He entered the Franciscan Order but left after less than two years, and his stint at the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) was even shorter: He was asked to leave after 6 months. But although he stayed with SVD for only a short time, it was there that Suarez reported being visited by the Virgin Mary who told him to spread the word of God.

In 1985, Suarez immigrated to Canada where he eventually found his priestly home, the Companions of the Cross. In 1997, he joined this religious community of priests and seminarians.

By that time, many people have told him that his prayer and touch have healed them. Initially, he told those people to keep their healing stories confidential.

"I was confused. I don't know – I just didn't feel worthy. I didn't want to be the center of attention. I was so reluctant to admit it and basically just avoided the issue for a long time. Now, looking back, I realize that I just didn't feel ready to face the challenges and responsibilities of this gift," he said.

"I finally embraced it the day before I was ordained when my spiritual director told me that this gift is not for me; that I have to share it because this is for the people."

Suarez was ordained as a priest in 2002. While representing the Companions of the Cross, he goes to parishes all over the world, performing healing services. He also created the Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation (MMP) which supports a number of indigent families in the Philippines. He is also building a Blessed Virgin shrine in Batangas. Suarez's ministry is supported through donations from many countries.

Since he started traveling, testimonials about the priest's healing touch have multiplied. Some can be read through his website,

"Explanation ko dito, healing is possible and it is happening in order for us to know that God is present and He is available and He is alive and is there to help us. Because of this healing ministry, I have the opportunity to tell many people about our faith and the beauty and the gift of being a Roman Catholic," he said.

He conducts the healing service only after celebrating mass.

During a recent homily, he reiterated that "healing flows from Jesus. He is the only one who heals. Jesus will be offended if you go to church only because I am here, and if you go to church only because you're sick. Even when I'm not here, the same God is available to heal you."

But whether he likes it or not, people have been packing churches he visits largely because of him. He dismisses this notion, and even makes jokes about his gift.

"I get people all time telling me that they have a headache, I tell them, 'Then take Tylenol,'" he said while the congregation laughs.

He also loves to tell the joke about how one follower revealed that the reason why the priest is able to get to so many people so fast during the healing service is because Suarez's prayer consists of only one, quickly uttered sentence: "There's nothing wrong with you."

Turning serious, he added, "It's true – for those who believe in God, there's nothing wrong with you."

Suarez is very specific in what he says and doesn't say to those who seek healing. He never promises any miracles.

"I don't give false hope – I never say that if they come, every cripple will walk, every blind person will see, everyone with cancer will be cured. No. I tell them to be open to God. The bottom line is, it's all about God's will. If they don't get healed physically, maybe they'll get healed in other ways," he said.

Suarez adds that more than physical illnesses, more people today are afflicted with emotional and spiritual pain.

"There are a lot of people who won't forgive, who have so much hatred in their hearts, who wishes ill on other people. That's a serious illness." He prays over them just as much as he prays for anyone else, he adds.

The exploding popularity of his healing ministry has recently been met with challenges.

In the aftermath of the healing masses that he recently officiated in the Philippines where tens of thousands attended, Catholic bishops in the country said in January that "while they are happy for Suarez," they will be "watchful" of his healing activities. One bishop has even lodged a complaint against him for not following church rules on healing activities, specifically the one that asks that priest healers first ask "explicit permission" from the governing bishop before conducting a healing mass in his diocese.

A Las Vegas church also cancelled his healing masses last week because, aside from other unnamed reasons, the last time he conducted a service there, the church was displeased with the multitude of clutter left behind by the mass attendees. Suarez has instructed those who invite him in their parishes to follow church protocols but unfortunately this time, this violation caused many Las Vegas devotees to lose out on a chance to attend his healing service.

But those who seek him will get many other opportunities in the future as the priest does not show any sign of slowing down. His schedule is fully booked for 2008.

At the beginning of his healing service at the St. Catherine of Siena church, Suarez sat down on the steps in front of the sick and downed a bottle of water in one big gulp. He looks tired, and he should be. Every single day of the week since he arrived in Los Angeles, he has been officiating healing masses.

At each one, he picks up people in wheelchair in a seemingly random fashion and helps them up to the altar for instant testimonials.

He doesn't know how many he has healed and doesn't sound interested in finding out.

"It's not about me. It's about God," he says. He is aware of skeptics, and he asks them to come to church just the same. "Just come and see the power of God."

He adds that it is there, during the mass, that the biggest miracle happens when the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.

"Our understanding of healing is very limited," he says. "For a miracle to happen in their life, people just have to open their heart and believe."

After his short rest, the priest stood up, cracked a big smile, and began healing.

[A shorter version of this story currently appears on Philippine News]

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

My husband and I just became US citizens. My 9-year-old child, who's born in Manila, is also a US citizen now, di ba?

Per USCIS, a foreign-born minor child of alien parents who naturalized is a citizen but you still need to file for her an "Application for a Certificate of Citizenship" using Form N-600 to document her naturalization. (Alien here means foreign, of course, not Martian, he-he.)

Pwede kang mag-apply ng U.S. passport for her even without her citizenship certificate but remember that passports expire. Naturalization certificates don't. That's her document for life.

Here's a story about how one's failure to apply for an N-600 affected his life.

The fee is currently $460, non-refundable. Here are the requirements.

Speaking from my own experience using the USCIS L.A. district office, here are what you can expect when you file this form:

1. It will take forever before you'll get the certificate. All right, not really. But it will take about 6-8 months before you even get the interview letter.

2. When you file the N-600 with the payment, you won't get one of those official-looking receipts from the USCIS. You will get a small receipt that looks like it came from an adding machine. When I got this receipt I almost felt like I paid for a siopao instead of $255 - that was the fee a year ago. Now it's $460. Ang taas na ngayon, ano?
Tip: Pay with a personal check so that you have another evidence of payment (from your bank statement) that you could produce when needed.

3. The interview takes only a short time but when you get to the district office, be prepared to wait for about 1-2 hours to get your appointment called. Meaning, your appointment might say 9 a.m. but get comfy seats because you'll wait. Still, be there on time. After the interview, you will be asked to go to another room where you will wait some more before your child's citizenship certificate can be claimed.

4. The interview's purpose is to positively determine that all of the application details are legit and that the child is in fact yours and the same one on the application so if you have complete documents, your interview will be short (and hopefully, sweet, as ours was). No US history questions, like in the adult's citizenship interviews.

5. While you're waiting for the interview letter, use that 6-8 months of waiting time to make sure you have the originals or certified copies of your marriage contract, your child's birth cert, and of course, your naturalization certs.

6. Bring picture IDs (like passports) to the interview - your child's and yours. Bring all the other requirements as stated in the interview letter.

To periodically check on the status of your N-600 application, click here, then choose the district office when you reside. It will take you to another page where you can see which priority dates (the month of your application) are being currently processed. To test this, I entered Los Angeles, CA and I saw that the N-600 applications that they are processing now are those submitted back in July, 2007.

Call the USCIS at 800-375-5283 if you have more questions.

[Photo: USCIS]


There are many Fil-Ams who do so many good things for our kababayans back home. These Pinoys heroically give their time, money and effort without fanfare. Here is one example. You can also be a bayani to our kababayans back home by sponsoring a wheelchair. Instructions on how to help can be found below. ---Yong


Ten brand new wheelchairs were donated to needy children and one adult in Leyte by the Wheelchair Foundation of California last January at a turnover ceremony held in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Two Leyte children with disabilities attended the ceremony. They are Vanessa Bernal, 12 years old from Barangay Hiluktugan, Carigara, Leyte; and Raymark Galit, 7 years old from Barangay Santol, San Miguel, Leyte.

The Wheelchair Foundation has been donating wheelchairs all over the world and finally chose to come to the Philippines to give aid there. The foundation has offered to pay half of the cost of a wheelchair for other wheelchairs in the Philippines while part of the shipping cost will be covered by Knightsbridge Foundation. Donors are encouraged to contribute $135 for each wheelchair to be given to an individual. In Leyte there is a waiting list for 100 individuals requiring wheelchairs but are unable to afford one.

Donors are wanted to provide the wheelchairs to any of the towns where the needy people are from: Baybay, Dulag, Alangalang, Leyte, Burauen, Tabontabon, Tolosa, Pastrana, La Paz, Tunga, Julita, Jaro, Palo, Carigara, and Dagami. The list was prepared by Provincial Social Worker Clotilde Malatbalat.

Contributions for Leyte may be sent in the name of Knightsbridge International and addressed to PO Box 12186, La Crescenta, CA 91224. The contributions will be coordinated by Art Pacho of the Leyte Development Advisory Council and forwarded to the foundation (a non-profit organization) so that one lot order could be made for the province.

Two children received new wheelchairs from the Wheelchair Foundation of California. Shown in the photo seated in the wheelchairs are: Vanessa Bernal and Raymark Galit. Standing next to them is Leyte Provincial Social Worker Clotilde Malatbalat who accompanied the children.