Saturday, December 11, 2010

Filipino Nurses Sue Over English-Only Policy

By Yong Chavez

Here's my exclusive report on Filipino nurses suing a California hospital for discrimination.

And here's the Tagalog, TV Patrol version.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Primetime Emmys report

By Yong B. Chavez

For the first time, a Filipino TV crew was at the Primetime Emmy's red carpet. Here's my Balitang America report featuring interviews with Glee stars talking about Charice and the Filipino fashion designers, Monique Lhuillier and Oliver Tolentino.

Below is the the Tagalog (TV Patrol) version.

I was also featured by Asiance Magazine in their photo spread of Asians at the Emmys. These photos were taken by Hollywood photographer and kababayan, Sthalee Mirador.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Venus Raj: "No matter how poor you are, it's not a reason to give up"

By Yong Chavez

Miss Philippines-Universe Venus Raj, 22, is an interviewer's dream. She's open, smart, and gracious.

In the extended version of my one-on-one interview with her in Hollywood, Raj, talked about her plans after Miss Universe (politics, journalism, showbiz) and the childhood trauma that still affects her to this day. She also shared the challenges she faced being born out of wedlock as well as her desire now to inspire other Filipino children with similar background to believe that their dreams can come true. Venus also talked about the P-Noy policy she admires most, and her love life and celebrity crushes (JLC!).

And even though, she has experienced losses in life - one of them, an ill-advised run as a councilor in her town when she was a teenager, an experience that she says gave her valuable lessons - in the interview, she shows what many Filipinos already know: Venus Raj is a winner.

Below is the news report I did for Balitang America. My story about her also appeared on TV Patrol.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ARNEL PINEDA: "I just want to give back"

Arnel Pineda's New Journey 
Includes Philanthropy

By: Yong Chavez

I recently interviewed Arnel Pineda, the lead singer of Journey. His amazing voice is already well-known, but what not a lot of people know about him is that Arnel is doing a lot of charity work to help Filipino kids in need.

"It takes one person to care, to make a difference in another person's life," he said. "People helped me to be where I am today, so I want to help others, too."

The Arnel Pineda Foundation is funded mostly through Arnel's solo fundraising concerts. Once his Journey commitments start, he plans to auction off his memorabilia to keep the program running, with the help of other big-hearted kababayans.

In my extended interview above, he talks about his foundation and his upcoming Journey projects. Candidly, he also shares the price of his fame and he also talks about what he misses from his old life back in the Philippines.

And here's the news report I did about him which aired on The Filipino Channel in July.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Filipino American Costars in a Movie About Hollywood Ups & Downs

By Yong Chavez

LOS ANGELES-- Dion Basco comes from a showbiz family. Originally from Northern California, they moved to Los Angeles to follow the performing interests of the Basco siblings. Dion's first acting job at 8 years old was with the late great Michael Jackson in Moonwalker. His credits include NBC's City Guys, Biker Boyz, and The Debut.
Dion's latest movie is Why Am I Doing This?, a comedy depicting the trials and tribulations of struggling actors. Making it in Hollywood is a tough thing to do for anyone, but more so for Asians. In the movie, the subject is deftly handled with a comic touch and infused with realism as many of the scenes are based on the actors' and the filmmaker's experiences in La-la-land. 
"That scene where (writer/director/lead actor Tom Huang) was being asked by the casting director to say the lines in an Asian accent? That happened to me," Dion says with a laugh.
Dion and I talked recently about his movie, his dream role, and his upcoming trip to the Philippines.

Yong Chavez: Your movie asks, Why Am I Doing This? -- as an actor, do you ever ask yourself that?
Dion Basco: (Laughs.) Of course. All actors ask themselves that. But I have an answer: "I'm not good at anything else. I love it. I can't stay away from it." So I'm even more determined to grow as an artist. I'm going into writing and producing.
You're writing scripts?
Yeah. Basically, like our director Tom (Huang),  it comes to a certain point, especially if you're a Filipino actor or an Asian actor, when the roles that come your way are for things like "Sidekick #7"... I've been fortunate to have played a lot of roles but I've never had a lead role. So I'm, like, if I want it I'm gonna have to write it for myself. I wanted to have a role that's not the stereotypical Asian smart guy or the best friend.
What's your most memorable audition so far?
I've had a lot of good auditions. One was in Race The Sun which starred Halle Berry and Jim Belushi. They already hired an actor but they got me after my audition. There's also another one, in City Guys, where the role was originally for a Puerto Rican. So I had my test and there was this Asian young executive. He told me he thought to himself when I came in, "Oh, he'd better be good, I don't want him to ruin my people." (Laughs.) I'm glad I didn't because I got the part. 
Auditioning is tough.
Yeah, but sometimes you're just not right for a part. I'll tell you a horror story. I went to this dance movie audition. So they asked me to dance, but then my shoes were sticking to the carpet so I felt like the most uncoordinated person. Then they said they're actually gonna see me for another role, the older wise guy. They wanted like an Asian Morpheus-type. They asked me to read in an Asian accent, and I did a Filipino accent. They said, "That's not the kind of Asian accent we're looking for." Then they said, "We're gonna put a long, white wig on you and a Fu Manchu mustache. And you're gonna be blind. So read this like you're blind." (Laughs.) They asked me to return several times, each time asking me to do a bunch of other crazy things. And I didn't get the job! But honestly, at that point, I didn't want the job anymore. (Laughs.)
I recently interviewed your brother (Dante Basco, who was the voice of Prince Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon series). We talked about the Last Airbender film, the casting controversy. What's your take on it?
I haven't seen the movie, but someone told me recently that even in the (script) breakdown, they even specified "Caucasian" for the roles, so that's interesting that they totally switched it around from the cartoon. Some of the Asian parts were made into East Indian, which is part of Asia, so I can't hate on that totally. (Director) M. Night (Shyamalan) is Indian so I could see why he did that, but I haven't seen the movie so I can't say if it's a bad choice. It's just tough to see things that are definitely Asian and they have a big, wide audience, and then Hollywood makes it a white version and they don't give the Asian actors a chance to do it. Unless you're a Jackie Chan or a Jet Li, but that's different.
There was a really funny line in Why Am I Doing This? that goes something like: "The cool Asian roles come only once a year, and John Cho usually takes the first pass at it."
Yeah. It's tough. Plus, casting-wise, John Cho is different from me. He's more strait-laced than I am... I have more of an edge. So they're writing roles for John Cho, and I'm not like him, so it's tough.
Your movie is sort of a funny cautionary tale. It might inspire and warn aspiring actors. What would you tell someone who wants to go to Hollywood?
You better love acting. It's "either you're gonna do this or you're gonna die" type of love. There are so many hardships, so much rejection, so this better be something you really love. And you better be good.
What's your dream role?
A lot. I'd love to play a doctor, a bad guy, a love interest in a great movie, like The Notebook-type character. The guy who falls in love, goes to war, struggles, becomes a man... It's a really good role. I'd also love to do a romantic comedy, an Asian leading role. We don't always have to be the best friend. We could be the guy that the girl wants. It happens in real life. (Laughs.) I have very good-looking Asian friends. We do get the women in real life so why can't it happen in Hollywood? (Laughs.)
I heard you're also shooting a documentary about a trip to the Philippines.
Yes. My brothers and I are going together for the first time. The project could be about our social lives there. Also, my grandmother is, like, the head person in a community in the middle of nowhere. I don't even know the name of the place but I wanna see that, and I wanna go to the beaches.
"Why Am I Doing This?" is now available on DVD at,,, and

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Kobe Bryant Sponsors Filipino Kids to Attend His Basketball Academy

Here's my TV report on a wonderful project by Kobe Bryant, Fil-Am bag designer Gina Lopez Alexander, and the Black Card Circle Foundation.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What Jane Monreal Knows For Sure

Fil-Am TV Personality Competes to Become Reality Show Host

By Yong Chavez

Los Angeles, CA-- Jane Monreal, 39, was laughing while apologizing for a technical glitch during an interview.

She was just talking about her show, which she proudly dubbed "high-tech," when the snafu occurred. "Ugh, forget high-tech now," she laughs.

But she quickly recovers, gathers her thoughts, and completes her story. She's good with recovering, a master adjuster who can quickly make the most out of every situation. Naturally she's in entertainment.

Monreal's family moved from the Philippines to the U.S. when she was 7. Her engineer-dad pursued good work opportunities where he could find them so the Monreals moved a lot. This, Monreal says, instilled in her a love for traveling. For her, the adventures and the people she gets to meet at each place make any travel inconvenience worthwhile.

This willingness and capacity to embrace change helped her when, a year ago, she was let go by KABC-TV Eyewitness News. Monreal became one of the casualties of the U.S. recession and the changing media landscape, now a far cry from the traditional broadcast journalism world where she came from. Her departure came as a shock to her and to fans, especially Filipino-Americans, who used to tune in to ABC-7 to see her traffic and features reports everyday.

She admits that she broke down and grieved for the job loss, "for a day, I think."

"I thought, 'This moment is making me; it's not breaking me.'"

The next day, she made plans to launch her new venture, enCompass Entertainment, LLC, which "specializes in the creation, development, production and packaging of original content for multimedia distribution, including network, cable, syndication, radio, and online media." In effect, she was embracing the emerging media world that cost her her job.

"I think a healthy amount of grieving was necessary, but I was really pragmatic about it. I said, 'Let's go, let's do something else.' Life moves on. Someone gave me an analogy, and it made me go, 'That's what happened to me,'" she says. "When you're coming up the stairs, you always have one foot ready to take the next step. Sometimes, that bottom step needs to be taken away so you can literally step it up. I needed to step it up."

So for her next employer, she decided to dream big.

How big? Try the biggest: Oprah.

When Monreal learned that the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has launched "Your OWN Show Reality Competition", she submitted her 30-minute show, See Jane Run.

See Jane Run is currently an online show self-produced by Monreal and her enCompass team. Its tag-line, "Passport to Life," aptly describes what it is: "all about life’s adventures: the joy of being a passenger, pedestrian and voyager," and making cultural connections, using social media to encourage their participation in each journey. As its website declares: "This is Eat, Pray, Love – in Jane’s high-tech world."

Monreal has big hopes but she remains realistic. Going after your dreams is never easy, she says. 

"The shoots can be grueling... I use a skeleton crew, and I'm currently using my own funds to finance the show, and let me tell you, it's becoming more and more challenging as the days go by," she says, momentarily sounding pensive. But she quickly recovers her verve. "But I am doing what I love!"

For See Jane Run, she travels to places, local and international, and features interesting stories and people. "I don't think there's a place I won't go. Or something I won't do. Oh! I won't jump out of a plane! Or eat a snake. That's Fear Factor. That's something I won't do, for sure."

To celebrate her Oprah bid, Monreal shares the other things she knows for sure.

5 Things JANE MONREAL Knows For Sure
1.  There is nothing more powerful in human life than faith. Faith guides our decisions in all things from business to matters of the heart. Faith enables us to openly receive and give love. And faith keeps us focused and on our feet when life throws us a curve ball.

2.  In time, people always show their true colors. They may not show you who they are right away, but the truth will eventually emerge.

3.  Something I’ve learned through my yoga practice: Clarity is a very good thing.  If we can tune out the noise and find clarity in our lives, we will make wiser choices.

4.  We don’t have to travel 10,000 miles or spend a ton of money to experience the world. We can discover, learn and live an adventure in our own backyards, simply by stepping out of our comfort zone and trying something new.

5.  We have only this one, short life on earth. We must make the most of it!

To VOTE FOR JANE, follow the link below. DEADLINE is JULY 3.  Five participants with the highest number of votes will become finalists to be considered for the program.

Copyright © 2010 All rights reserved.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kobe Bryant and Filipina Businesswoman to host charity event for Philippine kids


 Los Angeles , CA-- For the first time, the Kobe Bryant Family Foundation and the Gina Alexander Philanthropy Project will host 10 underprivileged children from the Philippines with scholarships to attend the Kobe Bryant Basketball Academy in Santa Barbara, California next month. In a special event to raise funds for this partnership, the Black Card Circle Foundation, a volunteer-run organization created to assist other non-profit groups, will spearhead a special Reception on July 5, 2010 at the Americana in Glendale along with Nike.

“We are so excited and honored that Kobe Bryant has provided us with this opportunity” beamed Gina Alexander. “The kids that we are bringing over from the Philippines will actually get to interact with Kobe Bryant daily and will have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn the leadership skills that has brought Kobe 5 NBA Championship rings and distinguishes him as probably the greatest basketball player of all time.” Part of the mission statement of the Kobe Bryant Family Foundation is to raise leaders and teach children to be champions.

“Raising leaders is a sentiment we echo with each of our projects,” says Black Card Circle Foundation Founder and Chairman Lotay Yang. “We are honored to be able to part of this endeavor to help Gina and Kobe with their goals.” The Black Card Circle Foundation exists to attract influential donors, supporters and corporations to promote and spotlight non-profit organizations who empower individuals who otherwise may not have access to opportunities and resources to reach their full potential in life. “Charity is the backbone of BCCF. We want to emphasize that giving back to the community or helping philanthropists and worthy causes is our priority,” says Yang.

The event will include appearances by some of Hollywood ’s top celebrities, a gourmet selection of foods and live entertainment and proceeds will go directly to the Gina Alexander Philanthropy Project. To purchase tickets and for further information, please log on to

“A Reception for Underprivileged Children”
MONDAY, July 5, 2010
6:00 pm – 10:00pm

Katsuya at the Americana
589 Americana Way, Glendale, CA. 91210
Ticket prices: $300, $150, $75

Available only at
No tickets available at the door. This is a pre-sale event.

Charice Will Be on GLEE Next Season!

By Yong Chavez

It's official - Charice will be joining the cast of Glee next season!

The international star - who had to deny premature announcements that she will be on the hit show a few weeks ago - has confirmed that she will be harmonizing with TV's most popular show choir.

"Charice will have a recurring role. Multiple episodes," said Karen Moss,  Charice's press agent in the U.S. The star's mother, Racquel Pempengco, also confirmed the good news via text.

Charice is currently in London. She has been performing all over the world and promoting her chart-topping album.

Earlier this month, no other than singing legend Patti Labelle called her "phenomenal" and "will be the biggest artist in the world."

Entertainment Weekly reports that Charice will be playing a "foreign exchange student" with killer vocals.  She's expected to give Rachel, New Directions' resident diva, some competition!

Picture: from

Stay tuned for more Charice news - Glee's scripts will be written in July. More information about Charice's role will be available then.

Copyright © 2010 All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Seeking children ages 9–12, with a maximum height of 58”, who can sing, dance and act to play the African lion cubs Simba and Nala. We encourage children of all backgrounds to attend. No performance experience necessary.

Be prepared to be taught the last verse of Just Can’t Wait to be King. All children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Parents or guardians must remain at the audition site at all times. Be ready to wait.

Saturday, June 26, 2010
9:30am - Sign-in begins
10:00am - Auditions begin
11:00am - Sign-in ends

Screenland Studios
10501 Burbank Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91601

Casting children for the Broadway, Las Vegas and National Touring companies. Minimum weekly salary is $1,605. Payments subject to applicable state laws regarding trust funds for minors.

FOR AUDITION INFORMATION: • Audition hotline: (212) 827-5450

If you are unable to attend this audition, send a HEADSHOT and resume ASAP to: Binder Casting • Attn: The Lion King Kids 321 W. 44th Street • Suite 606 • New York, NY 10036

Job Opening: UCR looking for Tagalog Lecturer

Temporary Academic Position

Tagalog Language Lecturer
University of California, Riverside

The Department of Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages at the University of California, Riverside invites applications for a part-time lecturer position in Tagalog language for 2010-2011 academic year. Candidates must have at least an M.A. degree in Tagalog, teaching experience at the college or university level, and a dynamic classroom presence. Duties include teaching five courses in beginning or advanced Tagalog, pending final funding. Salary per course is $4,959.56. The Fall Quarter begins September 23rd.

Please send cover letter, curriculum vitae, teaching evaluations, two or three letters of recommendation, and (optional but recommended) 20-minute VHS/DVD teaching demo to: Chair,

Tagalog Lecturer Search Committee, Department of Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521-0321

Questions/inquiries please email:

Review of applications will begin June 4, 2010; the position will remain open until filled. The successful candidate must show proof of employment eligibility. The University of California, Riverside, is an AA/EEO employer.

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

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hollywood Awards Show Host Picks Oliver Tolentino

“Dancing with the Stars” & “Clean This House” star Niecy Nash chose Filipino fashion designer Oliver Tolentino to dress her when she hosted the New Now Next Awards 2010.

The show will air June 17th on the Logo channel. The awards show, now in its third year, is about discovering today what will be trending next year. To that end, the New Now Next Awards gathers icons and stars-on-the-rise to crown the next "big things" in TV, music, film, print and new media long before they hit the mainstream.

Through its past discoveries, has proven it's one step ahead of the hype by calling out some of today's hottest pop culture phenoms long before they were on the mainstream radar. Highlights include Lady Gaga's first ever televised performance with a sizzling rendition of "Just Dance." Hit drama series "True Blood" received the "Best Show You're Not Watching" award months before its Emmy© nominations. Wendy Williams won "Best New Indulgence" before her daytime talk show "The Wendy Williams Show" went national. Leona Lewis received "The Kylie Award: Next International Crossover" as she was just emerging onto the U.S. music scene with her hit "Bleeding Love" and now she is a household name.

Niecy wore a black Oliver Tolentino stretchable beaded long gown for the red carpet arrival ceremonies and then changed into two other gowns for her on-air hosting duties. One was a champagne sequined gown and the other has been described as a “red cloud with shimmering, electric top.”

“Niecy told me she wanted a very dramatic entrance so I’ve tried to provide her with one,” Tolentino said.

Since launching his shop in the U.S., Tolentino has been making waves in Hollywood. His celebrity fans include Kimora Lee, who wore his dress on a cover shoot, Lea Salonga, and Patti Austin.

Fil-Am Boy Needs Donor To Live

Jamison Vincent Abrenica was diagnosed with a severe case of Aplastic Anemia last May. Jamison has undergone test after test, including a bone marrow biopsy and spinal tap. Throughout all of this he has stayed strong and happy. Despite all of the poking, prodding, and needles, he still carries a beautiful smile.

Jamison will undergo chemotherapy and will need a bone marrow transplant. Because he is Filipino it may difficult to find a match for him. His only sister Malia and both of his parents are not a match for Jamison.

Jamison will be turning 2 in August. He loves to play with monster trucks and adores his older sister, Malia.

He also misses being with the other kids at daycare. This is the time of his life where he should be growing and learning and exploring the world. 

His parents are hoping that kind hearts would teach him the beauty in selflessness and humanity by becoming a registered bone marrow donor today and possibly saving Jamison's life.

Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches | 244 S. San Pedro St. #503 Los Angeles, CA 90012 
(213) 625-2802

A3M is affiliated with Be The Match Registry, operated by the National Marrow Donor Program

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Hollywood in Asia: A Film School in Cebu for International Film Students

The International Academy of Film and Television (IAFT) in Cebu is actively recruiting students interested in filmmaking. Here's the extended version of my interview with Elgin Zulueta, IAFT's account executive in Los Angeles.

Yong Chavez: How is the school able to help the local economy in the Philippines?
Elgin Zulueta: There is a 50/50 ratio of Filipino and expats working at Bigfoot Corporation which is the parent company of IAFT. Our head in the Business Development for all companies is Caesar Ditan who is Filipino, an industry professional who has a masters in management program from UP Cebu. Also, we are able to reach out to the community by establishing the Bigfoot Asia Pacific Foundation which provides and supports social and educational opportunities including computer education to underprivileged public school children. The first project was build the Cotcotan Youth Center in Cebu.
What's the goal of IAFT this year?
We want to let aspiring filmmakers and actors know that there is another avenue for them to fulfill their dreams at top quality, hands-on education. I think that this is a great opportunity for Filipino-Americans to come back home and study. You not only train with the best mentors from all over the globe, you also get to experience your own roots and help build the Philippines as a destination for filmmaking.
You mentioned mas konting Pinoy students than other nationalities?
There is a 50/50 ratio when it comes to students. Most Filipino-Americans are also not aware that there is a great film school back home. Since the school also puts a "hands on" policy, the ratio of student - teacher is only 1-10. 1 teacher per 10 students. Students will get a chance to get real time review and mentorship from the teachers.
What is the Paul Ben-Victor event?
We do workshops in our LA office in Venice Beach. On July 17 we are having the acclaimed actor Paul Ben-Victor to teach the "Character / Chameleon" acting workshop. Paul's valuable workshop will focus on the process, technique, and preparation in acting that has allowed him to work consistently in TV and film for more than 20 years. He is widely recognizable from his current role in USA Network's "In Plain Sight", "The Wire", "Entourage", "John from Cincinatti". It is perfect for Filipino-Americans who wants to pursue an acting career.
Are there more Hollywood people becoming involved with IAFT?
Always. Our teachers / mentors are from Hollywood and have been in the industry working for top production outfits. I even work with a Hollywood actor, Christian Meoli our marketing consultant for the school. He appeared in Hollywood movies and one of his noted movie was the film "Alive" where he played the role of Federico Aranda.

Any success stories among the students?
We have an IAFT Filipino alumni, Steve Flor who won a Platinum Remi Award at the Worldfest Houston Film Festival last April 2010. His 3 minute short film "Breakfast with Lolo" won the judges over it's simplicity and moving story on family values and the inseperable bond between a diabetes stricken grandfather and his grandson.
Does the school give support to its graduates?
We have always supported our students and alumni in whatever way we can. There are possible internship opportunities in any of our company affiliates like Bigfoot Entertainment and FashionOne though not a guarantee. It is also an advantage to network and build relationships with the school mentors and other students from all over the globe.
Any upcoming IAFT events?
We are having our Filmmaking and Acting intakes in Aug and October for the remaining year. So for those interested to live their dreams, please let me know and I can help them. They can call me at 310.593.4734, email me at andcheck our website www.filmschool,ph. And as I have mentioned, we are coming up with the master Acting workshop this July 17 with Hollywood American actor Paul Ben-Victor. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pinay in Hollywood: LIZA LAPIRA

Watch out for this Filipino-American actress. I have a feeling she's going to have her big Hollywood moment soon.

Liza Lapira is best known for playing one of the leads in the 2008 film 21, and as the duplicitous agent who dared take on Agent Gibbs in NCIS. Her recent work include guest-starring in Joss Whedon's Dollhouse as Ivy, Topher's assistant.

She's one of the stars of a new Fox series, Mixed Signals.

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Filipino Veteran Remembered

NEW YORK - On Memorial Day millions of American families and friends remember and honor the sacrifices of their fallen warriors. Filipinos in the United States also fondly recall their fallen like World War II veteran Pacifico “Tatay” Timbol, who passed away on May 18.

Timbol was the longtime commander of the American Legion Douglas MacArthur Post in Woodside NYC with more than a dozen elderly Filipino veteran members. Over the past decade, Timbol and comrades were regular parade marchers in the Philippine Independence Day festivals on Madison Avenue. They often visited Capitol Hill in Washington to lobby for their equity benefits and family reunification bills.

Timbol's widow Rosalina and two daughters, Marilu and Carolyn, welcomed more than seventy guests during his May 21 farewell mass in a funeral home in their immigrant neighborhood.

According to the widow, "Tatay" Timbol was born Dec. 5, 1922 in Concepcion Tarlac. During World War II, Timbol was wounded in leg in battle and was held as a prisoner-of-war. There was also a movie script entitled "Kilabot ng Hapon" (Feared by the Japanese) featuring Timbol’s WWII exploits. Rosalina remembered their first meeting and feeding him as a guerrilla when he visited her family. They have seven children and “about eighteen grandchildren.” He worked after the war as a rail inspector for the Tutuban railroad and became a business man in real estate. One of his four sons is Edgardo Timbol, a current town mayor in Davao Del Norte province.

Father Neil Villaviza, a close friend and kabayan from Tarlac, officiated the mass. In his homily, Villaviza said, “Tatay has finally surrendered to God, even his sins. He has returned to his beginning.” Villariza asked his audience to celebrate Tatay’s life and legacy with the loving family.

Legionnaires: Rafael De Peralta, Jesus Novoa, Paul Hipolito, Elpidio Ramos, Mario Lumida and Sonny Sampayan paid their respects to their departed commander. Sampayan, a retired US Air Force Desert Storm veteran, tearfully eulogized Timbol’s dedication and caring leadership in serving his low-income comrades to win US government recognition and veterans pensions. In previous years, Timbol organized his team who were dressed in blue Legion satin jackets to proudly march several blocks on Madison Avenue to draw attention for their campaign during veteran day parades.

Eric Lachica, the executive director of the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, an advocacy group based in Arlington Virginia, also eulogized Timbol’s optimism and untiring leadership. Lachica recalled his last phone call three weeks earlier with Timbol who was released from the hospital. Despite his weak voice and failing health caused by prostate cancer, Timbol pleaded for ACFV’s to continue to assist his elderly members get their pension applications approved and to pass their Filipino Veterans Family Reunification bills in Congress this year.

Lachica urged the audience to honor Timbol’s memory by continuing his fight to persuade New York Senator Charles Schumer and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney to champion the Filipino Veterans Family Reunification bill S. 2757 and H.R. 2412 now languishing in Congress. More than 20,000 sons and daughters of US citizen Filipino veterans have been waiting for more than 10 years with approved immigration petitions including several of Timbol’s children.

For details, visit the ACFV website: or e-mail:

American Coalition for Filipino Veterans
(This Memorial Day, let's also thank people like Eric Lachica for their commendable and tireless advocacy for the veterans. -Yong)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Charice and Lea Salonga on Glee: Make It Happen, Please!

No, as you all know by now, she won't be on Glee.

Yesterday, I was one of those who rejoiced when a Philippine Daily Inquirer article reported that Charice Pempengco will be a Glee castmember. I really thought it was legit because the article quoted Charice's Philippine manager and the Inquirer is a well-respected publication.

"Yay!" We all said. I sent her U.S. manager an e-mail and contacted his office in Los Angeles to confirm. I also called Fox's publicity department. Haven't heard back from them. But it's all moot now, because Charice herself tweeted yesterday afternoon - hours after the Charice-on-Glee news has been posted even by non-Filipino media including Perez Hilton -that it's all just rumors, sadly.

I hope to interview Charice soon to get more info on what really happened. Glee or no Glee, her career is soaring (she's on Billboard 200 Albums at No. 8, after selling 43,000 copies of her debut album) and I hope to get details on her current and upcoming projects.

Anyway, last night's Glee was awesome and the Idina Menzel/Lea Michele number made me think how awesome it would be if Charice AND Lea Salonga get to duet on the show. Come one, Glee, make it happen!

Here's my most recent interview with Lea Salonga. I haven't posted it here; this was done end of April at East West Players Visionary Awards night, before the Philippine elections. Below is my report last year where EWP's leader credits Lea for inspiring other Asians to make it in the mainstream.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

FO FYI: What to do if you get counterfeit money

By Yong Chavez

Do you carefully check the cash you receive from anyone? Especially if it's a big amount - you always should. An LA Times story recently exposed the frustrating experiences of a local man who said he got fake money when he cashed a money order at a US Post Office, of all places. Turns out, no place is safe when it comes to counterfeits.

So what do you do when you get counterfeit money? Contact the authorities IMMEDIATELY so it will be established that you are the victim (if you didn't know that the money you got was fake when you got it), not the one passing it off.

Here are the steps, per the US Secret Service, the government branch that deals with this issue.

1.) Do not return it to the passer.
2.) Delay the passer if possible.
3.) Observe the passer's description, as well as that of any companions, and the license plate numbers of any vehicles used.
4.) Contact your local police department or United States Secret Service field office. These numbers can be found on the inside front page of your local telephone directory.
5.) Write your initials and the date in the white border areas of the suspect note.
6.) Limit the handling of the note. Carefully place it in a protective covering, such as an envelope.
7.) Surrender the note or coin only to a properly identified police officer or a U.S. Secret Service special agent
Per Secret Service agent interviewed by the LA Times: "Anyone who receives questionable cash to stop by a bank and ask what the money pros have to say. If a bill is indeed counterfeit, contact the Secret Service and turn it in to authorities. Maybe they'll be able to find out where it came from, maybe not."

Using fake money is a felony - punishable by up to 20 years in prison - and you could be arrested if you get caught passing it off.

Yes, by surrendering the money you'll lose it but, hey, the alternative is prison so think carefully and do the right thing.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Part of my latest interview with the Jabbawockeez for ABS-CBN shows

Ask A Kababayan:
"I'm undocumented & I got jury duty summons"

A reader who calls herself "Pinay in LA" asks: "I am an undocumented immigrant. I received a Jury Duty summon months ago that I ignored. Recently I received another notice saying that I have to call the court because I I failed to report for the jury duty. They said I will pay $1500 if I don't respond. What should I do? Can they report me to ICE?"

Dear Pinay,
Below is what Atty Jemela Nettles, a kababayan immigration lawyer in LA, said about this question. Good luck, and I hope you'll be able to get your papers in order soon. -Yong

"A person can not 'ignore' a jury duty summons. Everyone summoned is required to register by phone within 5 days of receiving the summons, even if that person cannot serve.  No. 1 question is: "I am a citizen of the United States".  In your reader's case, the answer, of course is: NO. By reason of that answer, the person summoned is not qualified to serve. I am not personally aware of anyone being reported to ICE on jury duty summons matters.  But who knows? In these turbulent immigration times, there are no iron-clad guarantees. Good luck to your reader."

About Atty Nettles:
Law Offices of JEMELA AGRAVIADOR-NETTLES  700 South Flower Street, Suite 1100  Los Angeles, CA 90017  Phn: 213/234-9591  Fax: 213/234-9589  Txt: 213/675-1281

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fil-Am Transgender Sues Macy's

Fil-Am Transgender Sues Macy's for Wrongful Termination

By: Yong Chavez

A former cosmetics department employee of Macy's Torrance, Calif. is suing the company for wrongful termination and various gender-related grievances, including verbal abuse, being ejected from the women’s restroom and being ridiculed by both management and other employees.

Jason “Jazz” Araquel, 21, is alleging three years of sex gender humiliation, harassment, discrimination, intimidation, coercion, and emotional distress.

The case was filed today at the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Per Business Wire: "According to Ms. Araquel’s attorneys, Eric E. Castelblanco of the Los Angeles law firm of the Law Offices of Eric E. Castelblanco and Kelly Y. Chen of the Law Office of Kelly Y. Chen, the plaintiff is a pre-operative male-to-female transgender individual whose sexual status was known to store management at the time she was initially employed in a part-time capacity in November 2006. She subsequently became a full-time employee in March 2008 and worked there until September 1, 2009, when she was terminated.

Ms. Araquel alleges that she had repeatedly been subjected to “unfair treatment and humiliation.” This included having to work as a part-time employee for nearly a year-and-a-half during which she sought full-time work, only to witness others being continually hired from outside the store. She received full-time work only after threatening a lawsuit against Macy’s.

Castelblanco said that Ms. Araquel was ultimately terminated by Macy’s for alleged insubordination and use of foul language."

Araquel believes that the termination was in retaliation to her numerous complaints to the management about harassment incidents.

She is seeking general and punitive damages and compensation for emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of dignity, legal costs and attorney’s fees.

(Note: In 2005, I did several reports on a legal case involving another Fil-Am transgender woman. Pic of typical cosmetics counter from

Thursday, May 13, 2010

EVENT: Make-Up & Model like a PRO



Elgin Zulueta


“Make-Up and Model Like a Pro!”

LOS ANGELES (April 23, 2010) - Calling all make-up and model enthusiasts. ‘Tis the spring workshop season and an elite group of successful make-up artists, international model and photographers in Los Angeles and Asia will be having a one-day makeover workshop on May 15, Saturday at the famed film school IAFT (International Academy of Film and Television) at the chic and urban Abbott Kinney Rd in Venice Beach.

‘Make-up and model like a pro’ workshop is a combination of lecture and guided practical application in make-up and modeling. Hollywood based make-up artist, Eugene Conde, who has done several music videos, films and commercials, together with fashion make-up artists Paula Mauricio and Rod Alcover will share their beauty secrets in make-up application that will enhance your natural beauty. International model, Zara, who has done numerous TV and print ads all over Asia, will give tips on how to look best in front of the camera. There will be an after party capping the day’s workshop with VIP’s from different industries such as film, fashion and entertainment. All artists will personally handle everything; so expect to rub elbows with gorgeous models and modeling insights directly from the experts.

Boost your confidence, overcome shyness and identify your best angles, be with the pro! The workshop fee is $99 per person all inclusive of an IAFT Certificate of Completion, 5 professionally shot studio photos, a $50 worth beauty gift bag, and an after party ticket. So, mark your calendars!

This workshop is a collaboration of IAFT, FilAmNation, and M&P Design House and is sponsored by Red Glass Photography, Design K Studios, Terry’s Essence of Beauty, VuQo Premium Vodka, Good Buzz, and Human Heart Nature. For tickets please call Au at 949.331.8328 and Manny at 310.384.1586.


YONG's note: This event is organized by enterprising Fil-Ams, so come and support - and get gorgeous! - this Saturday.

See you there.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SoCal Pinoys on Election Day

How did Southern California Pinoys participate in the recent Philippine elections? Here's the story I did for ABS-CBN.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Allison Iraheta: ‘Idol’ finalist talks about ‘firsts’ – including first trip to Manila

By Yong B. Chavez
Philippine News

LOS ANGELES -- She breezed into the interview room all-smiles and with none of the diva attitude that emerging stars seem to wear as a uniform in young Hollywood.

Possessing one of the most unique voices in the recording industry today, Allison Iraheta, American Idol season 8's raspy-voiced rocker, has won the respect and admiration of fans and music industry players alike since taking the Idol stage last year and finishing as the best-performing female contestant in one of the show's most memorable seasons.

With her fierce, emotionally-bare performances and sunny disposition off-stage, Iraheta is a refreshing talent, someone that stands out in an era of auto-tuned and manufactured performers.

Prone to speaking her mind and unwilling to be anyone but herself, the young singer is proud of how much creative control she was able to assert in making her debut album, "Just Like You".

"I had a lot of control, and I was definitely grateful for that. They sent me songs that they thought suited me, and I chose the ones that I could really relate to," she says. During recording, she also gave a lot of feedback on which tracks she thought worked best with her voice and which didn't.

Iraheta says being able to come out with a good debut album contributes to her long-term goal: longevity. "Ten years from now, hopefully, I'll still be singing and will be known for the music I write."

She recently made a stop in the Philippines for a promo tour. "It's my first trip abroad on my own. I'm 18! I'm so stoked," Iraheta said. She turned 18 on April 27, a week before performing to Manila.

In honor of her first international concert as a recording artist and her first trip abroad since turning 18, the singer shared her other firsts in an exclusive interview.

Yong Chavez: What was your first memory of singing?
Allison Iraheta: (At) La Curacao (laughs). It was called Dias delos Ninos. They closed the parking structure. It was a huge stage, and there was a bunch of people. They had me sing “Mi Ranchito, My Little Ranch.” I was 7, I think. I remember my dad recorded it and when we looked back at it, it was shaking so much, and we were like 'What's going on?' And he said, 'I was so nervous.' It was the first time for me and I will never forget it."

What's the first big mistake that you ever made?
Jeez. And this is anything? Eat wasabi. It was so gross! I can't handle it. No, thank you.

What was your first paycheck? How much was it?
Um, La Curacao (laughs). Actual first real good paycheck... Don't remember. The only thing I can remember was the $50 thousand for Telemundo (TV reality show) QuinceaƱera, the one that I won.

You were supposed to get a recording contract from them, too, right? Didn't happen?
To read the full article: Philippine News

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Here's an announcement/invitation from my reporting mothership, The Filipino Channel's Balitang America.


Until May 10, ang ating Isyu Ngayon ay ang ELEKSYON!

Bilang Overseas Filipinos, lahat po tayo ay may saloobin tungkol sa mga kandidato, sa halalan at sa bayan.

Ano ang inyong opinyon?

Tell us!


1. Record your comments on video, then upload to Keep it short (10 - 15 seconds is best!)

2. E-mail the youtube link to

3. Tell us your name, city, and state where you're from.

4. Watch yourself on Balitang America (TFC 5:05 PM PT/8:05 PM ET) or check *

*Submissions may be edited for length.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Free Medical, Dental & Vision Care Event in Los Angeles

If you don't have medical, dental or vision insurance, plan to go the Remote Area Medical (RAM) free clinic this coming April 27. It runs till May 3.
RAM's all-volunteer medical professionals will provide free medical, dental and vision care to thousands individuals in the Los Angeles area.

The free clinic will be held at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, 3939 North Figueroa Street, near USC.

Right now, they are expecting to treat about 1,200 people a day, but they could see more patients depending on the final number of volunteers and participating organizations. Fil-Am medical professionals/groups, sign up to volunteer at

They need California licensed/certified specialists: ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians, dentists, registered dental hygienists, certified dental hygienists, and triage RNs/LPNs.

Free care will be provided to anyone who needs it, without cost of any kind to the patient, the taxpayer or the government. No income test, no insurance requirement, and no restriction of any kind.

Medical and non-medical personnel will all be volunteers; supplies and equipment will be donated or provided by RAM. There will be at least 100 dental stations, 45 medical exam rooms, 25 eye exam stations.

The event is planned and operated by Remote Area Medical, a Volunteer 501(c)(3) charity providing free care to uninsured, underinsured, and indigent Individuals throughout the United States .

I read about someone who has insurance but went to a RAM event last time they were here because his dental insurance is the largely worthless kind: the HMO one. He has been postponing getting dental treatment because of the prohibitive cost so he was very grateful to finally get much-needed dental attention.

For more info, visit:


I will try to update this blog more often. I know I've said that before but this time I think I have a better plan.

I'm working to get several interesting interviews - stories of Fil-Ams doing well and doing things that matter, as well as those whose lives can serve as inspirations and even lessons for the rest of us.

Also coming: more consumer-related posts and news you can use.

Most of these posts will be FilipinOnline exclusive. It's the only way I can do some of these stories - some of them I won't be able to do for TV or print due to various reasons. There are a few that I've pitched and hopefully will be approved for TV but now I won't stop pursuing a story if the show can't approve it. I understand that TV reaches the widest number of people and I would love for some of the stories to end up there but due to the show's budget constraints or editorial decisions (such as when a subject has already been featured in a short report by a colleague), that is just not possible at this time. This way, I can do more comprehensive stories and try to provide more information and hopefully inspire or caution kababayans as needed.

It won't be easy. Blogging doesn't pay - not for me, anyway. I don't have a sponsor; I've never really looked for one. Maybe soon, but for now, I'm okay with doing this because I feel it's important not because it will give me something back. This is on my bucket list: to be able to make a difference to someone's life even in the smallest way through the opportunities I've been given. I won't wait till it's too late to do this.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My 2009 red carpet interviews: some of my faves

In 2009, I got to do so many amazing stories and interview quite a few stars. Due to time constraints I have not been able to update this blog whenever I have a story, so here are some of these celeb interviews.

Oftentimes, because the show I do reports for (Balitang America on ABS-CBN's The Filipino Channel) is a news show, some of the other interesting soundbites are cut for time so I try to post these longer versions on YouTube when I can.

Other videos are available on my YouTube channel -

Cat Deeley of SYTYCD:

Twilight series' Billy Burke:

Harry Shum Jr. of Glee:

Adam Lambert & Kris Allen at AMA & PCA nomination announcements: