Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rhap Salazar: Young Singing Phenom Wows Ellen DeGeneres

Here's my interview with Rhap Salazar:

Monday, November 23, 2009

My Exclusive Report on CNN HERO Efren Penaflorida

Covering the night that Efren Penaflorida won as CNN Hero of the year was one of the highlights of my reporting year. Penaflorida was an ordinary Filipino who is doing extraordinary things to help the poorest of the poor in the Philippines get educated. The night he won, I was the only Filipino journalist at the red carpet. He was a joy to talk to. He walked the red carpet together with fellow nominees and Hollywood movie and TV stars. I also reported exclusively on his victory and day-after-activity for my home TV show, Balitang America. That one's in English but no online link is available at this time. My report below was shown on TV Patrol, a Tagalog news show seen on cable by millions of Filipinos worldwide.

is an inspiration to young Fil-Ams

Monday, September 28, 2009

PHILIPPINE TYPHOON Information for Fil-Ams: Where and How to Give Aid

By Yong B. Chavez

UPDATED INFO BELOW: 9/28/09 and 9/29/09

The worst flooding the Philippines ever experienced in 40 years occurred this past week.

Many of us abroad have a love/hate relationship with our native country. There's no question: we love the people and our family there, the food, the place we grew up in. But we are often exasperated by some government officials and a few of the negative attitude and lack of discipline among kababayans.

But at the end of the day, it is still our Philippines, our people, our family. We shouldn't - we can't - stand by while they suffer.

Here are the facts: There are almost 300 dead; 500 thousand Filipinos are left homeless. Lots of our kababayans were trapped on the roofs for hours: wet, sick, hungry, helpless. People are still missing. Many are still suffering. Rescue is slow. Food and clothing and monetary donations are desperately needed.

There's a sliver of light at the end of this tunnel: Our collective spirit of Bayanihan rose amidst the tragedy. Kababayans and other generous people all over the world are giving and pledging help.

Here are some info. I will try to update this list as often as I can:

List of people missing:

Hotlines to check missing persons:

How/where to give help:
Online donation

1.) Red Cross
American Red Cross 1800-435-7669
Philippine Red Cross

2.) ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya
added info 9/28/09: The Foundation is encouraging monetary donations - it is a little difficult right now to receive and ship donated goods. We will be remitting received donations immediately to fund ongoing relief efforts in the Philippines.- Donations can be received online through: (the North American website - including Canada).

- Donations can be made here through credit card or through PayPal.

- Donations can also be received through mailed checks. Please make checks payable to ABS CBN Foundation - Sagip at 150 Shoreline Drive, Redwood City, California 94065

- Pledges can be made through the toll free number (800) 527-2820 Should you have any other queries, please do get in touch with the Foundation. For pledges and other inquiries, please call (800) 527-2820 [toll free] or email or

3.) Ayala Foundation USA
Select Philippine National Red Cross from drop down.

4.) Inc

added info 9/28/09:
5.) Gawad Kalinga

US-based organizations/companies/individuals mobilizing aid:
a. Alliance Philippines or AJLPP
SAGIP TULONG SA PILIPINAS (STP): Accepting donations cash or check. Send to People's CORE, 1610 Beverly Blvd. Suite No 2, Los Angeles, Ca 90026. Donations more than $50 is tax deductible. Material donations drop off ( donations; shoes, clothes, canned goods. medicines etc. ) at ANSWER LA office at 137 Virgil St. Room 203 , Los Angeles, CA 900042.
b. Fil-Am comic Jokoy is organizing help. "Planning a fundraiser and clothing drive for victims of the typhoon in the Philippines. Those of you in the Los Angeles area interested in donating time, clothes or money on Wednesday. E-mail:"

c. Shirt The Kids helping typhoon relief. Buy any Sammy tee & we'll donate another tee and $5 to Philippine National Red Cross!

added info 9/28/09:
d. Island Pacific Supermarket is accepting donations at all branches. Goods will be shipped by Alas Cargo on Fridays. Goods will be shipped by Alas Cargo on Fridays.

added info 9/28/09:
e. LA-based performing artists, civic-minded individuals, corporate sponsors, members of the media, who are interested in supporting an emergency fundraising project to raise funds and collect in-kind donations to aid the victims of typhoon Ondoy. Please email, or text 323-788-8911.

added info 9/28/09:
f.) Philippine Consulate General, Los Angeles, CA
Vice Consul John G. Reyes
Attn: Mr. Edwin Caraos
Tel: 1(213) 637-3010Cell: 1(213) 268-9990 (Duty Officer)

added info 9/28/09:
g.) Bayan-USA's "BALSA" (Bayanihan para sa Sambayanan, or "People's Cooperation for the People") fundraising effort. "Aid will directly go towards the basic sectors of society – the workers, peasants and the the urban poor who make up the majority of the victims (despite media attention that 'the poor and rich are equally impacted')," said Rhonda Ramiro, Secretary General of BAYAN-USA.
Bank: Chase
Account Name: BAYAN-USA
Account Number: 340-209749-3
If you have any question, contact Ramiro at

added info 9/28/09:
h.) Xoom offers Fee-Free Money Transfer to Help the Typhoon Ondoy Relief Efforts. Money is transfered to the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC). You can donate to the relief efforts by visiting and entering the coupon code“HELPONDOY” to make a fee-free money transfer donation to the Philippine National Red Cross. This special coupon code is valid until Friday October 9, 2009.
How to Use Xoom to Help the Typhoon Ondoy Relief Efforts
Use the following steps to make a donation to the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC):
Step 1 – Sign up for a account, or sign in to your existing account.
Step 2 – Select Bank Deposit as a disbursement option.
Step 3 – Enter the following Recipient Name and Bank Account details:
Recipient Name: Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC)
Bank Account Details:

The following Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) bankaccount details will be needed at the time of the transaction.
You can enter any one of the following bank accounts to make their donation:
PNRC Peso Accounts:
• Banco de Oro – Peso Account: 453-0018647
• Bank of the Philippine Islands - Peso Account: 4991-0010-99
• Metrobank – Peso Account: 151-3-04163122-8
• Philippine National Bank – Peso Account: 3623-3680-0011
• Banco de Oro - Dollar Account: 453-0039482
• Bank of the Philippine Islands - Dollar Account: 8114-0030-94
• Metrobank - Dollar Account: 151-2-151002182
• Philippine National Bank - Dollar Account: 375-283500026

Enter Recipient Address and Phone Number:
Philippines National Red Cross National Headquarters
Bonifacio Drive, Port Area Manila 2803, Philippines, Phone Number: 632 527 0000

Step 4 - Enter the coupon code "HELPONDOY" at the bottom of the Payments page.

added info 9/28/09:
h) GMA Kapuso Foundation

added info 9/29/09
i) UN World Food Programme has identified at least 178 000 families in need of immediate food aid. Go to to donate.

added info 9/29/09
j) Enderun Culinary College in the Philippines is accepting raw food or canned goods to be brought to Enderun College, 1100 Campus ave formerly Park Ave. Mckinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio. They will cook it and package it up. 700 people fed and counting. Red Cross is picking up and distributing the food. Volunteers to cook and or pack the food are welcome as well. They need more bottled water and milk tetra packs. (Info care of:

added info 9/29/09
k) GABNetLA - Saturday Oct 3, collection @ SIPA 3200 W. Temple St, LA 10 am-7 pm. Please bring diapers, formula, blankets, baby clothes.

and Jeepney Music Offers Immediate Aid to Victims of Typhoon Ondoy

Native to the Philippines, Requests Global Support

to Assist Thousands Displaced

Los Angeles, Calif., (September 27, 2009) of the Black Eyed Peas and founder of Jeepney Music pledges immediate aid and asks people from around the world to assist the thousands affected by the typhoon that swept through Manila. Apl, a native to the Philippines and the creative ambassador to country, requests those interested in helping victims to donate through the Apl Foundation relief fund by logging onto says, “My heart is broken to see so many of my Filipino brothers and sisters hurt by this disaster. We must all bond together and move forward to restore the city we hold dear. I’m asking the global community for their support and donations to assist the thousands of Filipinos affected by this tragedy.”


Press Contact:

Alia Mahi Henson

Exposure Public Relations

(316) 619-4245


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ask A Kababayan:
Healthcare Reform Basic Info

This is an issue that will affect most if not all of us, and so we should take the time to learn the facts. Dito na po tayo nakatira sa Amerika kaya dapat lang na sumali tayo at pag-aralan ang anumang bagay na makakaapekto sa buhay natin dito.

As you (should) know, President Barack Obama’s endorsed healthcare reform bill include extending insurance to all Americans - but there will be no health insurance Federal aid to undocumented immigrants. ERs will still be obligated to treat all patients, including TNTs - this is not a new procedure. That system has been in place in previous administrations. It's a legal (and moral) obligation of U.S. hospitals and their staff.

Here are some basic info about the healthcare issue from Newsday.

Question: Where do most people in America get their insurance now?

Answer: An estimated 253.4 million people had coverage in 2007, according to the most recent analysis by the U.S. Census Bureau. The majority of those had private insurance, most of it obtained through an employer. Eighty-three million people got health insurance from the government through Medicare, Medicaid or some other program such as the Veterans Health Administration.

Q: How many people don’t have coverage?

A: The Census Bureau estimated that 45.7 million people in the country under age 65 did not have insurance in 2007. (Most discussions focus on those under 65 because senior citizens have access to Medicare.)

Many experts believe that the number of uninsured is higher now, perhaps more than 47 million, because so many people have lost coverage in the economic downtown. Even more people may go without coverage for a time as a result of changing jobs, leaving school or some other event. An analysis by the consumer group Families USA estimated that about 64.5 million people were uninsured for at least six months in 2007 and 2008. The majority of the uninsured, more than eight in 10, are in working families.

Q: Can any of the uninsured afford coverage?

A: Probably. Many younger people and healthy people choose not to get coverage. Some 4.5 million of the uninsured make at least four times the federal poverty level — or $43,320 a year for an individual and $88,200 for a family of four — according to an analysis by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured and the Urban Institute. The analysis estimated that 15 million of the uninsured are below the federal poverty line of $10,830 for an individual and $22,050 for a family of four.

Q: Couldn’t those people qualify for government assistance?

A: Many probably could. One of the challenges that has confounded policymakers is how to get more poor people to sign up for aid. Congressional Democrats pushing health care legislation want to expand eligibility for Medicaid — the federal-state health insurance program for the poor — and ramp up outreach efforts.

Q: How many of the uninsured are undocumented immigrants?

A: As many as 7 million. An additional 3 million are legal immigrants, according to the U.S. Census.

Q: Will all of the people without insurance be covered under plans being developed in Congress?

A: Not all of them. The bills written by senior House Democrats and by the Senate health committee would explicitly prohibit undocumented immigrants from getting federal aid for health insurance. Although all the major proposals would require everyone to get health insurance, millions of people are expected to not sign up.

Under the House bill, the percentage of people with coverage (excluding undocumented immigrants) is expected to go from about 83 percent in 2010 to 97 percent in 2019, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which is charged with analyzing the cost and impact of proposed legislation. The Senate health bill would boost the coverage rate to 90 percent.

Q: Where will people be getting their health insurance if the bill succeeds?

A: The CBO estimated that in 10 years, most Americans under 65 will get private insurance though their employers. In fact, the number of people with employer-based coverage is expected to grow.

As many as 30 million people would get their insurance through exchanges created by the legislation. These new, highly regulated marketplaces would offer people a choice of health plans provided by private insurers and the government. Of those in the exchanges, fewer than 11 million are expected to get their insurance from the government plan, according to CBO.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Family of murdered Filipina American still seeking justice and closure

By Yong B. Chavez

It's been 5 years since the lifeless body of Sharon Anne Santos was found inside her car's trunk but her family's search for justice continues.

"I still miss her. I still think of her everyday," her sister Sandra Santos says.

Although a suspect in her killing is in jail for unrelated charges, the fact that no one has been charged with her death adds to their pain. The family is hoping that the Filipino American community will help them in their quest to push the Burbank Police Department to actively pursue Sharon's case just like they did at the beginning when even mainstream media was reporting about the tragedy.

Sharon's mother Edna is living every mother's worst nightmare. Every day she can't help but think about Sharon's last moments as she fought for her life.

Please watch my complete story on Sharon Anne Santos tonight
on Balitang America.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Old-But-New Quest Crew Interview

The interview took place a few months ago but I never got the chance till now to upload this funny/revealing interview with D-Trix and Ryan, the amazing Pinoy boys from Quest Crew. I got to interview the other members of QC during Apl's label launching. Those guys are the most fun to talk to. Will post Extras from that event soon.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My interview with the Black Eyed Peas at's Jeepney Music Launch

Watch my interview with the Black Eyed Peas and the complete story about Apl's record label, Jeepney Music, on Balitang America, The Filipino Channel, on Thursday, August 13.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


If you get a call from someone saying that they are debt collectors from “Financial Accountability Association” or the “Federal Legislation of Unsecured Loans", the Better Business Bureau (BBB) says that you take extreme caution before you deal with them - even if they rattle off your personal information to get you to believe that they are legit.

Debt collector scammers might have your Social Security and bank account numbers, home addresses, driver's license numbers, employer information, and even the names of personal friends and professional references. They will mention them when the call you.

“Because the scammers have so much information about potential victims, BBB is concerned that this may be the result of a data breach,” said Steve Cox, BBB spokesperson, said in a press release.

The organization recently issued a national alert about calls coming from lawyers claiming to be from those two companies.

These callers say that the consumer has defaulted on a payday loan and will be sued and immediately arrested and extradited to California to stand trial unless as much as $1,000 is wired. They will ask for bank account or credit card numbers if you say you can't wire the money.

According to complaints online, phone numbers that the scammers are calling from include: 949-468-5107, 415-200-0274, 415-200-0274, 213-784-5745, 408-715-1614 and many others.

More info from the Better Business Bureau website
What to do consumers receive a suspicious telephone call about an outstanding debt:
• Ask the debt collector to provide official documentation which substantiates the debt.
• Do not provide or confirm any bank account, credit card or other personal information over the phone until you have confirmed the legitimacy of the call.
• File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission online if the caller is abusive, uses threats or otherwise violates federal telemarketing laws.
File a complaint with BBB online if you believe a debt collector is trying to scam you.
Photo credit:

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I feel awful for neglecting my own site due to my crazy schedule. I wish I have 48 hours a day. For those who drop in here and don't see anything new everyday, I'm sorry - but please leave me a note on Twitter - story requests, news tips, comments, what-have-you.


I update it daily (as of now) and I often mention the stories I'm currently working on.

This week, I'm doing a story on Sharon Anne Santos' case. It's become a cold case, unfortunately, and her family is still seeking justice for her death 5 years after. Watch for my story on Balitang America.

Next week, I will cover the Joseph Ileto 10th year memorial service.

After my run of fun features, it's a bit jarring to jump into serious stories again but it's important to tell these stories. As a community reporter, that's my primary responsibility.

But, I hope to do more features again soon. I'm going to pitch a number of fun interviews again and hopefully they'll get approved.

I might also be doing a regular series dealing with consumer advocacy. It's a project close to my heart. I hate scammers and wish to be able to warn and help our kababayans deal with them. More on that later this week.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My American Idol Interviews: Kris Allen, Danny Gokey, Matt Giraud, Lil Rounds, Scott MacIntyre

I've been getting great comments for these interviews that were posted on other websites and I realized I haven't even posted them on my own. Here they are. (Hey, I know they're not Filipinos but they have a lot of Filipino fans. My story on them where they greeted their Pinoy fans came out on Balitang America the other day.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Daughter of Filipino OFWs Wins Gold
in Hollywood

By Yong B. Chavez

"K. O. T. S. Kim Owns The Stage." That's what Kim Molina says to herself over and over again to conquer her stage fright before she sings. Last week in Hollywood, she did own the stage. The 18-year-old music student was World Championships of Performing Arts senior vocals gold champion. The annual competition attracts talents all over the world each year. Performers compete all week in elimination rounds as the best contestants move on to the finals.

The daughter of Saudi Arabia overseas foreign workers (OFWs) took the grand prize in her category by singing "New York, New York," a song she learned only a week before her performance.

"I don't even know the lyrics to the whole song. I just learned one minute of it," she says.

She was the lone contestant from Saudi Arabia, although the Philippine team fielded 20 contestants. In the end, Filipino singers got 25 golds in different categories. Rhap Salazar was the biggest winner, taking home the Junior Grand Champion Performer of the World prize.

Molina's voice has attracted talent scouts and has people calling her the next Charice Pempengco.

"Parang I'm still floating actually, I don't know what's happening now but I'm really thankful to God for everything, for all the blessings. Just really thankful," Molina says.

She almost didn't make it to the competition because the trip to the U.S. was expensive. But through the support of OFWs in the Middle East where she sang at fundraising shows prior to her departure, she was able to go.

Watch TFC's "Balitang America" tonight for my full story on Kim's victory.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Filipina Girl Needs Liver Transplant

By Yong B. Chavez

Two years ago, I wrote a story about Meraly, the brave, funny and adorable girl who needed a heart surgery to save her life. Many responded with help and Meraly got her operation and a new life.

Now, another girl is fighting for her life. I'm hoping that good-hearted individuals and organizations would also help Janine Victoria.

Here's her mother's letter:

My name is Johanna Tejada-Medalla and I am a mother of two young boys and daughter named Jorge Rafael, Julian Hanns and Janine Marie Victoria. We are living in my parent’s house at 40 Kennedy Drive Tandang Sora Quezon City 1116, Philippines.

I wrote this letter to ask for your support to our only daughter Janine Marie Victoria. My daughter Janine was born with a life threatening disease called “Biliary Atresia” . It is a congenital condition characterized by the absence or closure of the bile ducts that drain bile from the liver. Biliary Atresia is a progressive inflammatory process that begins very soon after birth. In Janine’s case, she was diagnosed initially with Neonatal Hepatitis at 2 1/2 months and after two weeks of medication nothing changes with her color and stool that make her paediatrician decided to have another biopsy, eventually it turned out to be Biliary Atresia. During that time, there was already a significant amount of damage to her liver. White blood cells invaded the ducts, which became damaged or closed completely, bile was then trapped inside the liver and rapidly caused liver cirrhosis.

An operation called “KASAI Method” was done on Janine by Dra. Esther Saguil at the Philippine General Hospital last April 14, 2009. It is an operation that removes the damaged biliary ducts ouside the liver. Then, the small intestine is directly attached to the liver at the spot where bile is found or expected to drain. This procedure is not a cure but rather a temporary solution to be able to give Janine more time to find the necessary funding for her operation and the matching liver type. Unfortunately, although the operation was done, her liver continued to fail. Our doctors told us that there is no other course but to have a liver transplant.

Unfortunately, liver transplant is not yet available locally but it can be done in Taiwan for P3 Million pesos (approx. $60,000 USD). This amount is simply beyond the means of our family. If my daughter will not be able to have a liver transplant soon, she will die. All we want is to see our daughter live that’s why we are appealing for you charity and compassion.

We are entrusting Janine to God’s hand and we believe that He will deliver Janine from this ordeal, through your help and prayers. Thank you for your time in reading my letter and we are hoping for your kind help. God Bless.

Contact Info:
Phone: (02)9368516
Cell: 09228291299/09177943673
40 Kennedy Drive Tandang Sora
Quezon City, Philippines

Monday, June 1, 2009


By Yong B. Chavez, 

LOS ANGELES-- Fil-Am human rights activist Melissa Roxas, who was abducted in the Philippines by masked gunmen last May 19 according to a police report, is back in the United States. "She arrived last night in Los Angeles," Kuusela Hilo, Bayan-USA vice-chair, confirmed. As to her physical condition, Hilo said that she has yet to see Roxas personally but she was given the information that Roxas "is injured." "I think she's okay...but she'll be needing support," Hilo adds. 

Below is the report I did for ABS-CBN which came out first on Balitang America last May 28.

UPDATE: Bayan just released a statement telling Melissa Roxas' captivity story for the first time. Scroll below for the full statement.

RP Gov't Says Abduction Staged, Activists Outraged
By Yong Chavez, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau | 05/29/2009 7:33 AM

LOS ANGELES, CA—Filipino-American activists are outraged at a statement from the Philippine government, suggesting the abduction of Melissa Roxas and two companions was staged by leftist rebels. Demonstrators led by the leftist groups Karapatan and Bayan-USA screamed their outrage outside the Philippine Consulate yesterday, demanding justice for Roxas, the Los Angeles native who was one of the three abductees. “Am I angry? Yes I am! My own personal friend has disappeared! We know what you’re doing!” screamed one demonstrator towards the Consulate building’s fa├žade. Read more


Abducted Fil-Am activist tortured, files Writ of Amparo
Now it can be told. 

Abducted Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas, who was forcibly taken by armed men in La Paz, Tarlac last May 19 and surfaced six days later, was subjected to physical and mental torture during her captivity. She now seeks the protection of the Supreme Court for herself and her relatives here in the Philippines. 

Roxas is a member of BAYAN-USA , the overseas chapter of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. She arrived in Los Angeles, California Monday morning June 1, Philippine time, to be reunited with her family. She has not faced the media or issued any statement since her release because of the trauma left by her abduction.

Based on her petition for a Writ of Amparo and based on her sworn testimony, Roxas was held for six days blindfolded and in handcuffs in an area suspected of being a military camp in Nueva Ecija, possibly Fort Magsaysay, headquarters of the 7th Infantry Division. It is a short distance from La Paz, Tarlac where she was abducted. During her captivity, Roxas said she heard radio communications where people were addressed as “Sir”. She also heard what she believed to be was a firing range as well as the sounds of aircraft. 

Respondents in the petition for a writ of Amparo include President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, AFP Chief of Staff Victor Ibrado, Philippine National Police chief P/Dir. Gen. Jesus Verzosa and Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, commanding general of the Philippine Army.

During the time of detention, Roxas was denied counsel, subjected to torture via asphyxiation using a plastic bag and was hit repeatedly by her interrogators. She was forced to admit that she was a member of the New People’s Army and was asked to return to the fold of law. 
Roxas was dropped off in front of her house around 6:30am on May 25. Her captors left her with a SIM card and phone as well as the handcuffs they used on her. One of her interrogators even called her on the phone after she was dropped off. 

“There is credible basis to say that Melissa was abducted by the military as part of the government’s counter-insurgency operations. The abduction and torture were clear violations of her rights. It is despicable and those involved must be made accountable,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. 

“The Arroyo government must now address this issue. For the past few days, it has systematically attempted to cover up the incident. The Ermita-led Presidential Commission on Human Rights has called the abduction a ‘fabrication’ by Bayan and Karapatan. Defense secretary and presidential aspirant Gilbert Teodoro has not conducted any investigation in the military’s involvement,” Reyes said. 

Bayan said that the matter has also been brought to the attention of the United States government through its embassy in Manila. 

“We cannot just let this incident pass. We do not raise these issues simply because we want to discredit the government, as the PHRC alleges. We raise these issues because we want an end to these abductions, torture and other extra-legal activities being undertaken by state security forces,” Reyes said. 

“We demand that the incident be investigated and that the PHRC withdraw its earlier statements that the incident was a fabrication,” he added. ####

FO FYI: US Green Card Production Delays

USCIS is announcing that applicants may experience up to an eight-week delay in the delivery of their permanent resident card while USCIS is in the process of upgrading card production equipment.  USCIS Field Offices will issue temporary evidence of permanent residence in the form of an I-551 stamp to applicants approved for permanent residence at the time of their interview.  You will need to take your passport to your appointment.  If you do not have a passport, you must bring a passport-style photo and government-issued photo identification to receive temporary evidence of permanent residence.

If the application is approved subsequent to your interview or by a Service Center or the National Benefit Center, bring the above documents to an INFOPASS appointment to be issued temporary evidence of permanent residence in the form of an I-551 stamp.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Update on Melissa Roxas' case

Fil-Am activist Melissa Roxas, together with co-workers John Edward Handoc & Juanito Carabeo were abducted last May 19 by masked gunmen, according to reports.

They were doing volunteer health mission in Tarlac when they disappeared. After 5 days, in which time Philippine and international groups actively spread the word about the incident, Roxas surfaced. She has not talked about what happened to her yet. Handoc and Carabeo have also surfaced.

Last night, a group of people sympathetic to Roxas held a rally at the LA Consulate demanding justice for Roxas.

Roxas is a UC San Diego graduate and a U.S. citizen. Her family is based in Los Angeles. She co-founded Habi Arts, a cultural organization in L.A.

The Philippine government has denied involvement in the disappearances. Here's a link to their official statement:

[video taken by Janine Chavez]

ASK A KABABAYAN:"How long can a US greencard holder stay abroad?...

...I've checked the documents that USCIS give out to new residents and it says 1 year, but a recent immigrant told me that during first-time immigrant processing at the airport, the immigration officer told them that if they plan to travel abroad after they get their greencards, they have to return within 6 months. My mom is abroad and can't come back till August (her 7th month abroad) due to personal reasons so I want to find out if USCIS will revoke her greencard if she's not here before then."

Here's the response from which provides FREE answers to legal questions:
The answer isn't really as simple as "how long" - overall it isn't a question of time spend abroad by itself; there are other factors, with time abroad being only one part of it.  The question is: what would cause a determination that a person has "abandoned" a green card - a determination made when the person tries to come back to the U.S. based on the officer's determination of the person's subjective intent. This is a fancy way of saying "what the officer thinks you were thinking" with regard to abandoning the green card based on the facts presented, whether or not that was actually what you were thinking.  As a general rule (and this is the only point where time spent abroad can really be a guide, without anything else), if a person is abroad six months or less, they rarely question intent and make a determination of abandonment.  Six months to a year abroad (like your mom), and the person can still be OK if they can prove that they still have very strong ties to the U.S.: property here (real estate or personal property, such as bank accounts, a car, etc.), family living in the U.S., a job to return to, etc. When returning, your mom can bring evidence of her ties to the U.S. - you might want to consult an attorney about her specific situation to discuss ideas for ways to prove this.  If the person is abroad a year or more without returning, there is a presumption that the person meant to abandon. Even here, though, very strong ties to the U.S. can overcome the presumption. If someone knows that they will be out of the U.S. for that long, it's a good idea to apply to a Reentry Permit - essentially, advance permission to stay out a year or more without abandoning the green card - before leaving.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Quest Crew! Yup, America's Best Dance Crew was the highlight of the East West Players' party. I have so much more info about them that is not included in this report, but I hope to do a follow up soon.

[videographer: Janine Chavez]

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Vets Receiving Checks From Government

By Yong B. Chavez

After President Obama approved the lump sum payment for World War 2 veterans, many of them have been anxiously awaiting for their checks in the mail. They did receive something from the government recently, but it's not for the money they've been waiting for.

Instead of rejoicing, Jim Catral became worried when he recently got a letter from the federal government saying that he will be receiving $250.

"Nagkaroon sya ng confusion, na-confuse sya...'what about the $15 thousand, you think I can receive that?'" Cora Boyd, Catral's caregiver said.

Catral thought it was from the Veterans' Compensation Fund.

In recent weeks, senior citizens receiving Social Security benefits have been getting checks.

The money is part of the stimulus bill which 55 million American seniors are receiving, not just Filipino WW II veterans, as Catral thought.

Catral was relieved when he found out that there's hope that he could live to see and enjoy his $15 thousand check.

The latest data released by the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund has this information:

Claims received: approximately 31,000

Number of claims in process: 15,962 Phils. /7,407 US

Number of claims completed: 2,011

Payments made: 1,661 checks sent, plus 242 approved

Disapproved: Less than 200

Average days to process: 46.6

Source: US Dept. of Veterans Affairs

Out of 31 thousand claims, almost two thousand checks have been sent and approved.

The idea that one of those checks could be his delights Catral.

He was a former prisoner-of-war who alter became a Philippine Constabulary general.

A widower, Catral says that apart from getting calls from his family, getting the check is one of the few things he still looks forward to when he wakes up each morning in the retirement home where he lives with his caregiver.

The veteran says that he has memory lapses and sometimes forgets the details of his compensation claim but there is one thing he is always sure of: the simple things he would buy when he gets his money.

"I think I have enough for something to eat, our food here," Catral says.

Catral is turning 90 in a few months. More than money, he says that he cares more for what the check symbolizes: the pride and glory of being a finally fully recognized war veteran while he's still alive.

[video taken by Janine Chavez]

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fil-am family in a fatal car crash

Fil-am family in a fatal car crash

Authorities are still investigating the cause of a freeway accident in Hacienda Heights, Calif. that took the lives of a Filipino family.

Maynardo "Boy" Romey was driving the car that crashed with another vehicle in a busy Los Angeles freeway last saturday morning. 

The 59-year-old bank employee, his wife Lucy, and their teenage son Patrick were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Patrick was supposed to attend his senior prom on the same day that the accident occurred.

The driver of the other vehicle was a 60-year-old man.

No arrests were made in connection with the crash.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


After Manny Pacquiao's stunning knockout against Ricky Hatton, the Pacman partied it up with Filipino celebrities in Los Angeles. Here's my report:

Monday, April 6, 2009

PasyaLAn: Bauer Daffodil Gardens

By: Yong Chavez

If you're in the Los Angeles area and have some free time this week, go to the Bauer Daffodil Gardens in Ranch Springs. It's about an hour-and-a-half away from Los Angeles but in terms of tranquility, it might as well be a different planet.

After 40 years of offering visits to their gorgeous mountainside garden, the Bauers are closing the place to the public on April 12.

My family drove up there yesterday and I swear, until now, I can still smell the flowers. The place is so peaceful and pretty. We saw several kababayans there and we were greeted back with a hearty "Mabuti!" when we said "Kumusta!" to every Tagalog-speaking visitor we encountered.

Parking and admission is free. The highway going up the mountains is curlier than Cheez Curls so if you get dizzy easily, be warned. Here's the address to St Anne's Church where you will park: 30480 Fredalba Road Running Springs, CA 92382. Hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily.

[photo credits: Flowers/A Visitor at the Garden by Janine Chavez]

Monday, March 16, 2009

When it comes to Manny Pacquiao,
fans are just knockout-passionate

[photo credits: Janine Chavez]

By: Yong B. Chavez

He enters a room, and immediately, loud applause and cheering break out. And that's just the press room.

As soon as Manny Pacquiao was sighted at a public appearance in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, the boxing superstar, who was looking dapper in an Amerkana, was besieged by the most tenacious sort of crowd: the autograph seekers and picture-posers.

They jostle and jockey to get his attention, shoving a piece of paper, a picture, a pair of kiddie gloves, even a guitar, in front of him. The clamoring appeared interminable.

"Manny, pa-sign! Manny. Manny! MANNY!" They yelled louder when he had to stop signing and posing to go do his previously arranged celebrity chore.

On that particular day he was accepting a plaque of recognition from no less than the mayor of the second largest city in the United States. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, possibly the next "celebrity" California governor after Arnold, has plenty of public and camera appeal. He just won his reelection without breaking a sweat, previous marriage scandal notwithstanding. Villaraigosa is just that successful and popular.

But even the shine of the mayor's star in his own city was easily eclipsed by Manny's.

It was interesting to see Villaraigosa get a bit flustered when an insistent Manny fan kept on egging his idol to sign a shirt while Villaraigosa was making a speech. Later, while addressing the crowd onstage, the mayor had to gently shush the enthusiastic cheers for Manny so that he could finish his own tribute to the boxer.

In Pac-land, that ever-growing space that Pacmanians call home, there's never a question of who the star is and how far they would go just to be near him.

Exhibit A: Pushing her way into a tight circle of reporters chronicling Pacquiao's every move, a lola was nonchalantly risking suffocation and multiple fractures just to be near the boxer.

"MANNY!" She screamed like a tween girl at a Jonas Brothers concert. It was over the top and completely normal at the same time. That's just the way it is for Manny Pacquiao and his adoring public.

And who could blame the fans' enthusiasm? Pacquiao is a bona fide megastar, and not just to Filipinos.

He is now part of American pop culture. At a recent Flashpoint episode, one of the leads in the CBS TV show mentions that he spent his weekend watching a Manny Pacquiao fight.

"It was brutal," the character said, seemingly surprised. Well, any boxing follower can tell him Pacquiao's fights always are.

But one of the things that make Pacman so darn likable to fans is that he keeps his brutal moves inside the boxing ring. In person, he gives off a completely non-threatening, friendly and polite vibe.

Exhibit B: At the same event, I sort of winced when a too-excited guy tapped Manny's shoulders with a little more force than he probably (I hope) intended to get Manny's attention. Dude, the man has beaten up boxing legends, what were you thinking?

But Manny just looked over his shoulders and shook the man's proffered hand. All in a day's work.

He's funny, too. After seeing what must have been a lengthy prepared speech, he said with his mic on, "Sasabihin ko ba ito lahat?"

When his audience laughed, he added that public speaking makes him much more nervous than boxing for his life during his bloody fights.

To see him interact with his fans – signing and shaking hands and smiling likes there's no tomorrow – is to understand why he is so idolized. He never seems to intentionally ignore anyone, a wicked trick found in some douche-y celebs' goodie bag. And when he connects, there's a sincerity that looks as if it naturally oozes out of him. It must be his humble roots or the God-fearing way he was raised by his nanay. Or maybe he's just a really decent guy.

Others can say that, sometimes, he can be detached and unengaged, and they might be correct, too. He is human, after all.

But one thing he isn't is a trash-talker. For us reporters always looking for good sound bites, that isn't exactly good news. But it is a refreshing celebrity attitude.

Told that his upcoming fight opponent Ricky Hatton downplayed his victory over boxing legend Oscar dela Hoya, Pacquiao's famously mustached lip just curled up into a smile.

"Hatton said that he's better than dela Hoya," a reporter presses, "do you agree that he is better than dela Hoya?"

"Totoo naman na magaling s'ya at hindi pwedeng i-underestimate. Pero pareho rin siguro. Boxer din s'ya, at may dalawa rin lang kamay," is all a still smiling Pacquiao would say about Hatton. The two are slated to go mano-a-mano on May 2 at the MGM Grand garden arena in Las Vegas.

Well, here's hoping Hatton doesn't think the same way and treat Pacquiao like "another boxer with two hands" because that would be a bloody mistake. I don't think the British bruiser will do that, as all evidence point to him as being a savvy fighter.

But apart from Pacquiao's might, he should also be prepared to face a tough crowd of Pacmanians come fight night. They will be there, autograph paraphernalia and unceasing devotion on hand.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fraud Prevention Tips

(This is FilipinOnline's second in a series of posts about avoiding fraud. The first one dealt with fraud victim resources. Below is a Balitang America story I did about alleged fraud victims. - Yong B. Chavez)

And now, from the police, here are a few prevention tips to help minimize your risk of becoming a victim to a scam or other scheme:

Residents are reminded never to participate in street transactions, as they may involve lost/stolen property.

Call 9-1-1 if you are approached by anyone on the street regarding a transaction or business arrangement (i.e. car dent repair, painting, or lawn fertilizer services), especially if they are asking for money upfront. Check with the California Department of Consumer Affairs at (800) 952-5210 or for the license status of any contractor.

Call 9-1-1 if you are approached by anyone on the street regarding a transaction or business arrangement (i.e. car dent repair, painting, or lawn fertilizer services), especially if they are asking for money upfront. Check with the California Department of Consumer Affairs at (800) 952-5210 or for the license status of any contractor.

Seniors should be weary of strangers engaging them in conversation as you exit the bank, grocery store, or shopping area. Thieves specializing in real estate fraud, credit card fraud or other scams target the elderly at these locations looking for their next victim. Be cautious of any unsolicited stranger that offers "caretaking services" such as medical or financial errands. If you hire anyone as a "caretaker" always check references and discuss it with a family member, neighbor or trusted friend.

Refrain from accepting checks from unsolicited Internet based communications. Thieves scour Internet auction sites and draw victims in under false pretenses. Report any suspicious Internet fraud schemes to the National White Collar Crime Task Force at (800) 352-3221 or

Residents should be reminded never to let people they don’t know into their homes under any circumstances, unless they can verify their legitimacy. If residents observe any suspicious persons or activity, they should call police immediately.

Now that summer has arrived, residents are encouraged to keep their windows/doors locked at all times, and to invest in window/door securing devices that allow for proper ventilation.
· Keep track of your bank ATM/Debit card(s) and purchases. “Skimming” is a scheme where a device is used to capture account and personal information encoded on magnetic strips, which has become prevalent throughout the country. Make sure the cashier or restaurant server returns your card in a reasonable time frame. “Skimmers” are mostly used in restaurants and bars.

· When entering your “PIN” number, shield the keypad with your hand so others do not see what you are keying

· If you opt to donate to a charity, initiate the gesture on your own and beware of charity organization phone solicitors. State laws and Long Beach Municipal Codes prohibit the collection of unlawful donations. When in doubt of the truthfulness of a donation being solicited, you may ask the petitioner to present an identification card, which confirms that the solicitor has been validated. You may also request a written receipt for your contribution that is to be signed by the solicitor. This does not apply to a person who is soliciting on their own property or evangelical, missionary, or religious organizations.

If you are contacted by anyone claiming to be from the lottery, simply state they are not interested and hang up. Personal information should never be released or confirmed over the phone. If contacted by a bank, phone numbers provided by the caller should never be relied upon to verify their identity. Legitimate phone numbers can be obtained from bank statements and then called to verify the caller’s name, employee number, and purpose for calling.

The Long Beach Police Department suggests that you check and confirm the identification of anyone who requests to enter your property. Call the Police if you suspect any fraudulent or suspicious activity is occurring and keep an eye on any of your elderly neighbors who might be targeted by unscrupulous criminals preying on unsuspecting residents.

With the surge of reported identity theft cases, consumers are urged to take extra precautions to secure their personal information:
· Do not imprint social security or driver’s license numbers on your personal checks
Never give out your social security number or credit card account over the telephone unless you initiated the call
· Do not write your PIN number onto your ATM/Debit card or other credit cards
· Shred financial documents, including promotional “pre-approved” credit card applications
· Shred your printed ATM and sales receipts that list your account number
· Do not leave outgoing mail at your mailbox for the postal carrier to pick-up
· Keep track of and review all of your bank/credit card statements for irregular activity
Order a copy of your credit profile annually from all three (3) credit bureau reporting agencies, Experian (888) 397-3742, Trans Union (800) 680-7289, and Equifax (800) 525-6285, and review for unusual activity

If you suspect you or a loved one is an elder abuse victim (either financial or physical), please contact the Long Beach Police Department’s Forgery/Fraud Detail at (562) 570-7330 and/or Adult Protective Services at (877) 477-3646 and report the incident. California Penal Code section 368 defines an elder as an individual over the age 65 or a dependent adult (mental or physical limitations that restricts normal activities) between the ages of 18 and 64.