Sunday, December 30, 2007

PPCI Christmas Party at Dominguez Hills

All Photos by Albert Vargas

Philippine Press Club International (PPCI) Christmas Party Group Photo

Taliba editor Manny Patolot with ace photographer & artist Vics Magsaysay

The muses of PPCI - Loi Hererra - Eileen Dario - Edith Andres and Pia Legaspi

Jay Fermin, Manny Ortega and Ver Penaranda

Karl Kohl of Simple Elements with TV18 Kababayan L.A. host Jannelle So

PPCI President Lydia Solis with author John Lacson

l to r - Alex Pascual - Lydia Solis - Suzette Lopez - Susan Rozal - Vics Magsaysay and Jay Fermin

The 3 Mannys - Patolot - Legaspi (of MyGringos.Com) and Ortega

Lara Andrea Avengoza belts out a song. She will star on her own Valentine Broadway Musical Comedy Show this February. She also played a role as one of the diwatas in the Filipino opera - Karim at Jasmin

Tony Vizmonte of Celebrity Chronicle - Romeo Balboa - Loi Hererra and hubby

Lea Salonga at San Manuel Casino January 03, 2008

She made her professional stage debut at the age of seven, recorded her first album at 10, and was winning multiple industry awards at 13. At 18, she won the starring role of Kim in the musical Miss Saigon”, for which she earned a Tony. Since then, Lea Salonga has appeared in countless musicals in both the states and her native Philippines. She also was the singing voice of both Jasmine (Aladdin) and Fa Mulan (Mulan) in the animated Disney classics.

Tickets: $40, $50 and $60
Doors Open at 6:30pm

Buy tickets now at Must be 21 or over to enter casino and see the show.

San Manuel Indian Casino, 777 San Manuel Blvd., Highland, California, 92346
Phone: (800) 359-2464

From the Los Angeles Area
Take I-10 E toward SAN BERNARDINO.
54.2 miles
Merge onto I-215 N toward SAN BERNARDINO / BARSTOW.
4.9 miles
Continue on CA-215 N toward CA-30 E / HIGHLAND / MTN RESORTS.
1.8 miles
Merge onto CA-30 E.
2.9 miles

Take the new 210 E. to San Bernardino
Take the HIGHLAND AVE exit.
0.2 miles
Merge onto E HIGHLAND AVE.
0.6 miles
0.9 miles

Colorado Blvd. Prepares for the 2008 Rose Parade

All white police cruiser checks on motorhome with Nevada license plate near parade route December 30, 2007. Editor's note: License plates on photo has been privacy protected.

View Larger Map
Stores are chain linked and boarded up along the Parade route.


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Police uses state of the art equipment and computers and checks on motorhomes along the parade route.
All mailboxes and newstands are removed all throughout the parade route to secure the area.

Grandstand to Heaven at $85.00 a pop. The fun part though is camping out on the sidewalk starting noon of December 31 and braving the cold on Colorado Blvd. to wait for the New Year and the 8:00 am start of the 2008 Rose Parade on January 1st.

Float drivers will navigate their float looking down and using this pink colored line in the middle of the parade route. Look-outs are stationed on either side of the float which communicate with the driver. Huge tow trucks are stationed on every other intersection of the route just in case a float engine fails.

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Police has deputized hundreds of motorhomes along the parade route to be volunteer "eyes and ears" for public safety and to call the police on any suspicious activity.
Colorado Blvd. at night with shoppers and diners all over Old Town Pasadena.

If you cannot read and understand this sign, you will lose your car to a towing company.

City of Pasadena are working around the clock to put up barricades on the five and a half mile stretch of parade route as well as the multiple float decorating sites and the post parade area.


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Warped me in Old Town Pasadena taking a walk. It is nice, cold and exciting.

(Photos and text by Jay Fermin ppp-usa)

"Jueteng Power" in Pampanga

Perry Diaz

The victory of Fr. Eduardo "Among Ed" Tongol Panlilio over two powerful political Goliaths in Pampanga last year demonstrated once again that "people power" would prevail when all other means would fail. But unlike the "people power" that toppled the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 and deposed Joseph Estrada in 2001, the "people power" in Pampanga was different -- it was done through the ballot.

"Among Ed," as he was affectionately called by his followers, brought down his two rivals who have close ties to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. One was 29-year-old Mark Lapid -- the incumbent governor at that time and son of former governor and now Sen. Lito Lapid -- who was referred to in some quarters as the "quarry-tax-theft king" for alleged corruption in the "lahar" quarry operations. The other was provincial board member and former Lubao Mayor Lilia Pineda -- Arroyo's town mate and "kumadre." Pineda was referred to as the "Jueteng Queen" because of her marriage to Rodolfo "Bong" Pineda, the alleged king of "jueteng" -- an illegal numbers game -- in at least nine provinces in Central Luzon. With formidable foes like Lapid and Pineda, Among Ed was never given a chance to beat Lapid and Pineda, both of whom were backed by well-oiled political machines and huge campaign war chests. But Among Ed did the impossible. Some people believed that his victory was a miracle.

Soon after he was sworn in as governor, Among Ed faced an uphill battle. Vice Governor Joseller Guiao -- as de facto head of the 10-member provincial board -- has taken an adversarial role against Among Ed. On September 21, 2007, the provincial board unanimously approved Ordinance 176 -- a measure filed by the Pampanga Mayors' League -- which would transfer the authority to monitor the extraction and payment of quarry fees from the provincial government to the mayors of the seven "lahar" quarry towns in Pampanga. When the ordinance reached Among Ed's desk on October 9, he vetoed it claiming that it violated the 1991 Local Government Code which clearly assigns management of the quarry operations to the provincial government. However, on October 15, the provincial board, by unanimous vote, passed a resolution overriding Among Ed's veto. Last November 22, Among Ed asked the Department of Justice to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Ordinance 176 claiming that it was "unconstitutional and illegal." Meanwhile, to avoid being accused of dereliction of duty and be subjected to administrative proceedings -- and possibly removal from office -- Among Ed issued an executive order to implement Ordinance 176.

It is interesting to note that in less than five months, from June 29 to November 21, 2007, Among Ed collected P97.41 million which was more than the P78.15 million collected from 2004 through 2006 by his predecessors. Assuming that the quarry production remained the same since 2004, where did P623.20 million go, or, to be more precise, whose pockets did it go to?

While Among Ed is faced with mounting opposition in his attempt to stop corruption in the quarry industry, his crusade against jueteng is turning out to be a "mission impossible." With the alleged "jueteng king" -- reputed to be the biggest and richest of the country's 16 known jueteng lords -- running his jueteng empire right in President Arroyo's "backyard" in Lubao, Pampanga, Among Ed cannot stop jueteng all by himself. He made a campaign promise to stop jueteng in six months. Five months have already passed. Unless a miracle happens again, jueteng would continue to thrive in Pampanga.

Clearly, Arroyo has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to what has been happening in her home province. In less than seven years that she has been President, Pampanga has become one of the most -- if not the most -- corrupt provinces in the country. Indeed, Pampanga is now the country's jueteng capital where "jueteng power" controls the body politic of the province and, to a large degree, the country.

It is estimated that the jueteng industry is raking in at least P40 billion a year in collections. A third of the collections would go to politicians and government officials, and the police; thus, ensuring the "protection" needed to keep the jueteng operations insulated and uninterrupted.

Now, let's play a different kind of numbers game. The Bible says that 777 symbolizes Yahweh (God) and 666 is the mark of the Beast (Antichrist). "Eduardo" consists of seven letters and his middle name "Tongol" and surname "Panlilio" together have 14 letters which would give two 7's. Thus, "Eduardo Tongol Panlilio" would be 777. And who is 666? The conjugal dictators Ferdie and Imelda Marcos would be the first 666 and Gloria and Miguel Arroyo would be the second 666. Intriguing, isn't it?

Last October 11, 2007, at a meeting in Malacanang hosted by Arroyo, Among Ed received a brown bag containing P500,000 from another governor without any note or explanation. Allegedly, it came from an Arroyo aide. At another meeting attended by 190 congressmen on the same day in Malacanang, several congressmen said that they also received brown bags containing money. Two days later, Among Ed exposed the alleged "bribery" in a press conference. It was revealed later that seven other governors received similar brown bags from Malacanang aides.

A month later, all 21 members of the Pampanga Mayors League did not show up at a meeting of the Provincial Development Council convened by Among Ed. Was it a coincidence? Or was it a part of a concerted effort to neutralize Among Ed and strip him of his authority?

With the Vice Governor, the entire provincial board, all the mayors, the jueteng king and queen massed against him, Among Ed has his back to a precipice. Is he going to fight back and try to regain control of the province that he was elected to govern? Other than capitulation, that may be his only option. Should he do so, he should once again seek divine guidance to bring about another "people power" to combat the formidable forces of "jueteng power." Yes, it's going to be "people power" versus "jueteng power," good against evil, and 777 against 666. Indeed, a titanic battle is about to loom in the horizon.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Trip to Snow-filled Yuhaviat

If someone told you they had just spent a fun-filled weekend at a popular southern California resort called Yuhaviat, you probably wouldn't know what they were talking about. Yuhaviat is a Serrano Indian word that means "Pine Place," and it is the name Big Bear had for more than a thousand years.

Big Bear is no longer called Yuhaviat, because back in 1845, Benjamin Davis Wilson rode into Yuhaviat Valley with a posse of 20 men. They were chasing Indians who had been raiding their ranches in Riverside. As they entered the valley, they found it swarming with bear.

Wilson divided his men into two-man teams. Each team went out, roped a bear and brought it back to camp. They had eleven bear at the camp all at the same time. This prompted Wilson to come up with the name Big Bear Lake. However, it should be noted that Big Bear Lake is a man-made lake that didn't exist in 1845. The lake Wilson named Big Bear was actually the natural lake at the east end of the valley, now known as Baldwin Lake.

Ben Wilson is not only remembered for giving Big Bear its name, but he went on to become an important figure in Southern California history. Among his accomplishments, he is remembered as the first mayor of Los Angeles. He was also a two term California state senator, and he built the first railroad between Los Angeles and San Diego. Wilson died on March 11, 1878, but before he died, he donated land and buildings for the construction of a college. This new college eventually became the University of Southern California.

Wilson's energy and leadership qualities were passed down through his children to his grandchildren. One of those grandchildren was famous World War II General, George S. Patton.

Our own trip started as a conversation on Thursday evening December 27 over dinner. We wanted to see some snow and get out of greater Los Angeles even just for a day. We gas-up and packed our day-trip supplies including snow gloves, winter clothes and boots, food and wine, the always ready "survival bag" (just in case of an earthquake, or maybe a wrong turn on the mountain?) which included a 72 hour kit for six persons. The trip from Pasadena started around noon on Friday December 28 and one hour and forty-five minutes later, we were greeted at Big Bear with a pleasant and cool 35 degrees with 20 percent chance of rain. Snow was on the ground and all the ski lifts were open.

Snow Ball fights ensued in between the different stops between Snow Summit and Big Bear lake. I started drifting out of civililization to take photos of the beautiful pine all around including the spiky Jeffrey Pine and the Western Juniper pine. The Christmas tree like Pinon Pine is also plentiful and lends into the experience which just made me wonder how it was like during the 1800s. Live Oaks which are green in color contrasts sharply with black oak which has a dead leafy light yellow brown color but are still alive.

Encountering countless skiers in their eskimo outfits along the way, we drove to the other side of the lake to the Big Bear Discovery Center where I found the three Forest Rangers busy answering visitor questions as well as the never ending phone inquiries. Inside you can find the different taxidermied example specie of birds, wildcats, the American bald eagle, as well as the famous Grizzly Bear which once shared the Eastern lake with the Serrano Indians.

Big Bear Discovery Center showing the Forest Rangers at work

It was a fun-filled day trip to the mountain resort. Just another good reason of living in California. You can indeed go up and ski in the morning and head down and surfboard in the afternoon. Weather permitting though.

Happy Holidays.

(Text and Photo by Jay Fermin ppp-usa)


Rodel E. Rodis, December 28, 2007

If Terri Hatcher’s character in Desperate Housewives ever slips and breaks her spinal column while strolling on Wisteria Lane, she would be well-advised to seek treatment at the Memorial Hermann Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) at the University of Texas Hospital in Houston. If she’s really fortunate, she would be treated by Dr. Teodoro Castillo, a Spinal Cord Injury specialist who has a diploma from "some med school in the Philippines”.

Last week, on the Sunday morning before Christmas, Dr. Castillo was interviewed on ABC about Buffalo Bills football player Kevin Everett who suffered a life-threatening dislocation and fracture of his cervical spine during a home game with the Denver Broncos on September 27. After surgeons operated and repaired a break between the third and fourth vertebrae of his spinal cord, they announced that chances were slim that Everett would ever walk again.

But to everyone's surprise, on December 23, Everett appeared at the locker room of the Buffalo Bills players to greet them and wish them luck just before they were to play the New York Giants. The players were absolutely stunned that Everett was even able to stand up. That he was walking without any assistance was a miracle, they said.

Everett gave credit to his spinal cord physician at TIRR, Dr. Teodoro Castillo, for his recovery from an injury that would have otherwise rendered him a quadriplegic.

ABC News' TV reporter Dan Harris asked Dr. Castillo whether he thought Everett would ever walk again. Dr Castillo responded: “When I first met him, I knew he had the movement in the legs, and he showed me he had good recovery just from the time he had the surgery to the time he got to our facility, so I knew he was going to walk again. But the type of walking, the quality of walking, that remained to be seen.”

When asked about Everett’s determination, Dr. Castillo said that Everett’s mother told him that “he's always followed a rigorous training schedule and with that attitude, with his determination, family support, which he really has, and the team of clinicians he has to guide him and optimize his recovery, I think he will be successful… The key to Kevin's success is the determination he's had, and the family support and a team of clinicians to guide him through - he has all the necessary ingredients to guide him to a good outcome.”
Dr. Castillo received his medical degree from the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center in the Philippines. He completed his transitional year medicine internship at the Seton Hall Program in St. Michael's Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey. He is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. He is concurrently a Clinical Assistant Professor at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston and Adjunct Assistant Professor of PM&R, Baylor College of Medicine.

Kevin Everett never stopped believing in himself and Dr. Castillo never stopped believing in him.

"Don’t stop believing", the title of the hit song of 70s era rock band Journey, was played at the last scene of the final episode of the HBO hit, The Sopranos. The airplay revived interest in the band which had been performing without its frontman, Steve Perry, since the mid-90s when he quit. Journey’s journey back to the big time would be complete if they could only find a new lead singer.

It was difficult for the band to find a replacement for Steve Perry. “Those anthemic Journey power ballads, sung by Perry in his operatic tenor, have been known to shred vocal chords, and it takes an extraordinary talent to be able to sing them,” reported Paul Liberatore from Medianews.

After months of auditioning prospects without any luck, Journey’s Neal Schon tried the Internet. “I went on YouTube for a couple of days and just sat on it for hours. I was starting to think I was never going to find anybody.” That is until he chanced upon a video of Filipino singer Arnel Pineda singing Journey’s hit “Faithfully” with a Filipino cover band called the Zoo.

“After watching the videos over and over again, I had to walk away from the computer and let what I’d heard sink in because it sounded too good to be true,” he said. “I thought, ‘He can’t be that good.’”

He was that good. Before Pineda knew it, Journey had obtained a work visa for him and had flown him in to San Francisco to audition with the band in Marin. After a few songs, the band members were unanimous that they had found their lead singer at long last. The official announcement was made on December 5 after Pineda returned to record 11 new songs of Journey that will be released in the spring of 2008.

In his blog, Journey record producer Kevin Shirley wrote "Just got back from Vegas last night, after mixing seven new Journey songs. They are outstanding... For the record, I think Arnel is 'the business!' - the guy can really sing! He handles the ballads with SO much heart, and belts the rockers as hard, and melodically, as anyone I have heard. The songs are sensational - wonderfully crafted and deep, and so focused, you may wonder where they all came from."

A news article about Pineda reported that since English is his second language, he was provided with an accent reduction coach to work on his phrasing and diction. This was no problem for Arnel but he also had to deal with racism. “When there were rumors about me joining Journey, there was a lot of that,” Pineda told Liberatore. “One of the worst things I read on a fan message board said that Journey is an all-American band and it should stay like that. But I don’t care. I just say, ‘Hey, grow up.’”

“We’ve become a world band,” Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain said in reply. “We’re international now. We’re not about one color. I kind of like the whole idea of having a singer like him. It’s exotic.”

Don't stop believing in yourself. Have a happy exotic new year.

Send comments to or log on to or send your letter to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call (415) 334-7800.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Celebrate New Year the Filipino Way

New Year is a riotous, rowdy fiesta when, according to Filipino Chinese beliefs, evila and ominous spirits should be warded of by noise. Familes from all walks of life gather together at the stroke of mindnight for the salubong (Welcoming the New Year). They light firecrackers, or bet their drums and pans. Some toot their car horns while stringing along empty cans. Some also ring their bells or sound sirens.

Traditional Midnight Mass has been recently moved earlier in the evening so that family members are all gathered safely home by midnght where the sumptuous Media Noche (family midnight meal) is served. On the table one would typically find 12 types of round-shaped fruits such as oranges and grapes to represent the 12 months of the year.

For New Year everyone usually ware their new clothes, preferebly with polka dots or in "prosperity colors" of red and gold. Clothes must have deep pockets and be filled with new money bills and coins, that are jingled vigorously at the stroke of midnight for good luck.

To invite prosperity in one's home, all light in the house must be lit and coins are scattered throughout the window sills and door steps.

Crackers and Noise
During the whole day of December 31, children blow their plastic toy trumphets (torotot) and stamp on their watusi - a kind of small firecracker that when rubbed against a rough surface and released, crackles into a little sparkwork dance. Bamboo cannons boom, low and basso. There is, too, the sporadic bang of firecrackers.

After dinner these noises are joined by rowdier ones: the hiss of the baby rocket that ends with a burst-boom, the sudden explosion of a bawang ("garlic"), or a trianggulo ("triangle"). By 11 pm the air becomes charged with the rat-tat-tat of a "Judas belt", the ear-splitting BAM of a dinamita ("dynamite") or the shrill of a whistle bomb.

By 11:15 the air is shattered into smithereens, each bit charged with thunder. Some people fling their windows wide open, and beat on cooking pans or metal basins to drive malas (bad luck) out of every cabinet and corner of the house.

Cacophony goes mad as all the crackling, banging and booming rise to a climax that is joined by the honking/hooting of car horns, big and small, the wailing of ambulance sirens, and the clanging of fire truck bells. Absolute madness!

The year ends in cacophony, and it is that same discordant noise that welcomes the New Year. Ending and beginning are the same: not a whimper but a bang. Goodbye and hello are coterminous. And since they are, the dichotomy vanishes. The sliding out is the sliding in.

Around 12:15 am, the noise zenith starts its decrescendo. The human voice reasserts its presence. The air gradually fills with conversation. The New Year has arrived!

(compiled by Jay J. Fermin ppp-usa)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

119th Rose Parade to Be Broadcast Live on Nine Networks in U.S.A. and will be aired in the Philippines by ABS-CBN Studio 23

TV Production trucks line up December 27, 2007 at the Wrigley Mansion, Headquarters of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association

December 27, 2007. The 119th Rose Parade in Pasadena, California will be broadcast live by nine networks in the United States: ABC, NBC, HGTV, Tribune, Univision, Telemundo, Travel Channel, Discovery HD Theater, and Sky Link TV. Local California stations KWHY-22 and KTLA-5 will also provide live coverage. The Rose Parade will be viewed by millions of people in more than 75 countries including the Philippines where ABS-CBN Studio 23 will air the parade. Almost one million spectators will line the five-and-a-half mile parade route.

Honda with Special TORA Plates are the official vehicle of the Rose Parade.

The USET Foundation squad of 12 Olympians representing show jumping, dressage, and eventing is scheduled to be #47 in the line-up of 90 participating organizations in the 2008 Rose Parade. The U.S. Olympians will parade behind the Olympics-themed "One World, One Dream" float sponsored by Avery Dennison and the Roundtable of Southern California Chinese-American Organizations. The theme of this year's parade is "Passports to the World."

Pre-Show Broadcasts:

THE TRAVEL CHANNEL will provide a preview of the annual march in Pasadena, California, on January 1, starting at 9:00 am Eastern Standard Time/6:00 am Pacific Standard Time.

HGTV (Home & Garden Television) will air "The Making of the Rose Parade 2008" showing the preparations for the parade, starting at 10:00 am Eastern Standard Time/7:00 am Pacific Standard Time.

Rose Parade Live National Broadcasts Start at 11:00am EST/8:00am PST
The Rose Parade starts at 8:00 am Pacific Standard Time. The following networks will provide two-hour live broadcasts, from 8:00 am to 10:00 am Pacific Standard Time and 11:00 am to 1:00 pm Eastern Standard Time:
Discovery HD Theater
The Travel Channel
HGTV (commercial free)
Telemundo (Spanish speaking)
Sky Link TV (Chinese)

Rose Parade Local Coverage - 8:00 am - 10:00 am PST
KWHY-TV Channel 22, a Spanish Independent station owned by the Telemundo network/NBC Universal, a subsidiary of NBC. For details in Spanish, click here.

KTLA-TV Channel 5, an affiliate of the CW Television Network, is a television station in Los Angeles, California, owned by the Tribune Company. The parade coverage features Grand Marshall Emeril Lagasse, KTLA's Michaela Periera, and Bob Eubanks as hosts.

USET Foundation in Rose Parade
The mounted Olympians participating in the 119th Rose Parade are: show jumpers Margie Engle, Anne Kursinski, Beezie Madden, and Melanie Smith Taylor; dressage riders Sue Blinks, Debbie McDonald, Guenter Seidel, and Steffen Peters; and eventers Darren Chiacchia, Nina Fout, Kim Severson, and Karen Stives.

USET Foundation President and CEO Jane Forbes Clark and Mason Phelps, alternates on the U.S. eventing team at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, will lead the 12-member Olympic squad on foot as flag-bearers for the USET Foundation.

The non-profit United States Equestrian Team Foundation supports the competition, training, coaching, travel and educational needs of America's elite and developing international, high-performance athletes and horses in partnership with the United States Equestrian Federation. For more information about the USET Foundation or to make a donation, please call (908) 234-1251 or visit the USET Foundation website at

(Text and Photo by Jay Fermin ppp-usa)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Filipino Top Bloggers of 2007

1. ABE “YUGA” OLANDRES 5.8 4.0 2.4 2.3 1.5 1.4 0.9

2. BRYAN BOY 5.6

3. CARL OCAB 5.6

4. RHIZA SANCHEZ 4.8 4.7

5. EUGENE “SEAV” VILLAR 4.8 1.3 0.8



8. RICKEY YANEZA 4.7 2.1

9. CONNIE “SASSY” VENERACION 4.6 4.2 3.5 3.5 1.5 0.8

10. KEVIN “KIVEN” CODAMON 4.6 2.3 1.3 0.6

11. SHAI COGGINS 4.5 3.2 1.8 1.6 1.3 1.2 0.8

12. ERIC SALAS 4.5 1.0

13. SUSTINES LAPLANA 4.4 2.9 1.3 0.8 0.7 0.5




17. SHARI CRUZ 4.4


19. JAYVEE FERNANDEZ 4.2 3.2 2.1

20. NOEMI LARDIZABAL-DADO 4.2 3.0 2.4 1.4 1.4 0.7

21. MARHGIL MACUHA 4.2 2.0 1.2

22. TESS TERMULO 4.2 2.0

23. MELISSA “ANP” ATIENZA-PETRI 4.1 2.9 2.8 2.4 1.8 1.8 0.5

24. MARKKU SEGUERRA 4.1 1.8 1.1 1.0 1.0 1.0 0.7

25. ANTON DIAZ 4.1

26. JANETTE TORAL 4.1 2.6 1.6 0.7


28. RICO MOSSESGELD 4.0 2.9 2.8

29. RUTH SCHAFFER 4.0 2.8 2.6 2.2 1.9 1.0

30. NOEL BAUTISTA 3.8 2.0 1.1 0.5

31. PAOLO MENDOZA 3.7 1.4 1.0

32. MELO VILLAREAL 3.6 3.1

33. RICHMOND “RETZ” RUIZ 3.4 1.6

34. DEXIE WHARTON 3.3 3.0 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.9 1.6 1.6

35. MIKE ABUNDO 3.0 2.9 2.7

36. GLORIA GAMAT 3.0 2.8 2.0 1.1

37. SASHA MANUEL 3.0 2.5 2.4 2.3 2.3 3.0/2 = 1.5 0.6 0.6

Congratulations to all the top Filipino Bloggers. Check out their interesting Blog content on different aspects of life. I know the list is too long but the content are all very interesting. What can I say but encourage them to keep on writing..... for the Year of the Rat 2008 and keep us abreast of anything new and different. Read on.
(Jay Fermin ppp-usa)

New Year's Resolution of a Blogger

It's almost 2008, so here are five New Year's resolutions you should consider:

1. I will spend no more than one hour writing each blog post. Harder than it sounds, but with practice, you can become consistently quick at publishing to your blog. More content means more eyes on your site.

2. I will figure out this podcasting thing. I'm throwing this one in for my own benefit, but I think it applies to all blogs. Grab a microphone, record yourself reading a new blog post, and upload the MP3 recording to your blog. That's podcasting, baby. You'll improve your image and reach more Web users by adding podcasts to your blog.

3. I will participate in others' conversations. Spend some time each day - even if only 30 minutes - searching the Web for blog conversations related to your market. Comment at other blogs to enhance their users' experiences, and you'll reap what you sow at your own blog.

4. I will hammer out a great 2008 themed approach. Without one, you're up the proverbial paddle without a creek. But I promise to keep up with the leading edge of new and relevant web content.

5. I will focus and prioritize nonstop. It's so easy to get lost in the sea of conversation. Make sure you have clear goals and strive to reach them, and your blog is likely to succeed.

I wish you all the best of success as bloggers and if you feel you have to respond, start your own blog. Happy New Year 2008 to all.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Here’s how to celebrate Pasko, the traditional Filipino Christmas:

Put up a Filipino Christmas “tree“.
Play Christmas tunes like “Pasko na naman” and “Pasko na sinta ko“.
Attend the “Misa de Gallo” - midnight masses that began on December 16.
(After church) buy Christmas foods like puto bumbong, bibingka, suman and hot ginger tea (salabat).

Display your Christmas parols, star-shaped lanterns made from colored chinese paper, capiz shells and brightened with either candles or lights.

Expect “cumbancheros,” or carolers, to visit your house with musical instruments to serenade you and your neighbors.

Watch the “Panunuluyan” in the town plaza (oops, no plaza here in the U.S.) on Christmas Eve. This is a re-enactment of the Holy Couple’s journey to Bethlehem and portrays the lack of hospitality they encountered along the way.

Gather with friends and relatives for “Noche Buena” after the Mass ends. Serve pandesal, queso de bola, home-made hot tsokolate and “mansanas na marami”. This is a festive meal followed by the exchange of gifts, which lasts through the next morning.

Arrange to visit family and friends on Christmas Day. Be ready with your new and crisp dollar bills, to give out to children as their aginaldos.

Celebrate the NEw Year with a bang, and don’t get out of your Christmas spirit until mid-January, when we celebrate the Three Kings.

Have a Joyful and Blessed Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Greetings from Mars

December 23, 2007 Los Angeles

(Click Photo to enlarge)

Did you notice the sunset and the moonrise earlier tonight...I wasn't able to take pictures though. It was soo beautiful. Then Noel G. called me to check out the "red dot" beside the moon. Malamig lumabas so I decided to shoot from indoors--took out the screen from my window and fire away. Used my D1X, with the 600 Sigma mirror lens, mounted on tripod. The second photo with a bigger moon (looked like cropped) was taken using a 2x on the sigma. No cropping. Did some post process in ps to balance the exposure.

(Click Photo to enlarge)

Tomorrow is full moon! Abangan ninyo.... what a way to welcome Christmas eve! See you.....somewhere.... ! Ilabas nyo na ang mga "kanyon" nyo!!!

Merry Christmas sa inyong lahat!



(photo and text by Ver Penaranda)

Not Best Buy After All?

December 23, 2007

The Connecticut attorney general's office sued Best Buy in May, charging the electronics heavyweight with using deceptive in-store websites to trick customers into paying higher prices than available on the company's actual site.

"We thought Best Buy had addressed this," Connecticut Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal said the other day. "That's what they said to us. Apparently that's not the case." Apparently not. Last week, Simi Valley resident Leigh Murphy, 53, went online in search of a new DVD player. He finally settled on a Toshiba model that he found on, marked down from $79.99 to $71.99.

He decided to stop by the store and buy it there instead. "I just assumed the same price would be available," Murphy said. "That's why I didn't order it online."

He found the DVD player at the store without difficulty, but it was selling for the full $79.99 price. Murphy asked a salesman about the discrepancy. He said he'd found it online for less.

The salesman guided Murphy to one of Best Buy's in-store kiosks, which displayed a page virtually identical to the website Murphy had seen at home. He called up the Toshiba device and, lo and behold, no more markdown. It was going for the full list price.

Murphy, an engineer, wasn't sure what to make of this. So he returned home and went back online. Once again he visited, and once again the DVD player came up at the reduced price of $71.99.

So Murphy purchased the player online and then returned to the store to pick it up. But the experience left him wondering. "It seems like they have one website online and a fake website that's available only in the store," Murphy said.

That's also what Blumenthal in Connecticut concluded after receiving numerous complaints from local residents. He called Best Buy's in-store kiosks "an Internet bait-and-switch" that allowed the store to charge higher prices once it got online shoppers through the door.

"Consumers seeking bargains were led to believe that lower online prices had expired or never existed," Blumenthal said. "Best Buy treated its customers like suckers."

Jerry Farrell Jr., commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, said in a statement that the in-store kiosks appear to be "an intentional effort to mislead."

The state's lawsuit is proceeding.

Sue Busch, a Best Buy spokeswoman, acknowledged that customers may encounter different prices on the company's website than may be available in the store -- and at the store's kiosk. " is the national price," she said. "Individual store prices may vary from market to market."

Busch said the in-store kiosks closely resemble Best Buy's website "for the sake of efficiency and to ensure that customers who were familiar with the national website could easily navigate the in-store kiosk to find what they were seeking." She said the kiosks were never intended "for price-match purposes," but admitted that "a small percentage of customers did not receive a price match when they should have due to errors in policy execution."

Busch said that in response to the Connecticut attorney general's investigation, Best Buy placed a notice on its in-store site making clear that prices might not reflect what was available on the company's Internet website.

On another note, I went to a local Best Buy early morning today with their 'weekly ad' (prices effective December 23-31, 2007) in tow to look for an HDTV on sale. Upon meeting Jeff at the TV department, he went on to point out that my ad was 'outdated'. So, I checked my watch date and it stated December 23, 2007. I told him that the weekly ad I had was just received the prior day at home and prices are effective from December 23rd to the 31st of 2007 on the loweer right of the ad cover. Without even checking, he told me bluntly that the date are only good for the "cover page" and does not include the inside cover of the 48-page weeky ad.

The controversial weekly ad dated December 23-31, 2007 printed on lower right of cover."

Is Best Buy not only misleading their customers online but also on their weekly ad? I asked for a manager and apparently Jeff the TV salesperson (officially called a CSR: Customer Service Representative) is too busy standing at his cash register doing nothing. I asked him pointedly, "Can I get the HDTV that was in the ad at the advertised price?" He bluntly answered "NO." Without even checking where the item is, he shrugged his shoulders and said with hint of humor (or was it a smirk?)"Merry Christmas", and sent us away.

So I went in search of a Manager and I finally ended talking with Jorge (one of the Managers on the floor). He clarified that yes the HDTV is still on sale but it was not at the TV section of the store, and yes he acknowledge that his TV sales people (CSRs) are not aware of it. This puzzled me alot. While we were now talking at the front of the store where I found him, I glanced to my side and behold, there in front of the entrance walkway is stacked countless HDTV of the exact type and brand that is on the ad. Amazingly, it was located near the front of the store together with the candies and the camera memory cards and not where a customer would expect, at the TV department !

Apologetically, Jorge (the Manager) was able to let one of the cashier complete the transaction. As I left the store, I had a bad feeling of a typical "bait-and-switch" tactic which left a bad taste on my mouth. "Bait-and-switch" is the practice of advertising an item and when you the customer get to the store, the item "is no longer availabe or cannot be found" and then you are stuck with the ones on "regular price." I hope this is not true of Best Buy otherwise they should change their name.

So I placed a call to their Corporate Customer Care in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I spoke to a nice lady by the name of "Jenny" which promised to do an internal review of the 'ad discrepancy' on the sales floor as she deligently recorded her incident notes on her computer. She listened and apologized and listened some more and ended by giving me a "Case Number." I asked her if I would get a reply and she nicely stated that customers do not get a response on "internal issues."

I know Best Buy is striving to create good customer service, but these holiday examples just perplexes me. I hope Santa Claus won't have the same problem on his last minute shopping spree. Otherwise Santa might get delayed, or worse, bankrupt.

Merry Christmas to all.

More Best Buy Stories

FilAm Doctors, Nurses Get Commendation from L.A. Council

Consul General Aragon addressing the Los Angeles City Council. Flanking her are Councilmembers Richard Alarcon and Eric Garcetti

LOS ANGELES — Consul General Mary Jo A. Bernardo-Aragon reported that the city of Los Angeles, during its City Council Meeting on Friday, 14 December 2007, presented several Filipino American health care workers with certificates of commendation for their exemplary work as health care professionals and as role models. The commendations were awarded by Councilmember Richard Alarcon of District 7 and Councilmember and current Council President Eric Garcetti of District 13 to 13 exemplary Filipino American doctors and nurses from the city of Los Angeles.

Councilmember Alarcon acknowledged Filipino Americans as an integral part of the health care workforce in the city who continue to meet the demands of an expanding healthcare system with their demonstrated skill, work ethic and passion. He added that everyone who encounters Filipinos in hospitals can rest assured that they are highly qualified professionals with unquestionable credentials.

For his part, Councilmember Garcetti thanked Filipino Americans for looking after the well-being of Los Angeles residents. He recalled that he sponsored the creation of Historic Filipinotown in Los Angeles in 2003 in recognition of the vibrant Filipino community in the city. In reference to the recent Desperate Housewives episode maligning Philippine medical schools, Councilmember Garcetti expressed his belief that the good record of Filipino Americans in healthcare will prevail over any misinformed comments about the second-largest Asian ethnic group in Los Angeles. Councilmember Bill Rosendahl (District 11), who proudly stated that he has visited the Philippines, recognized the Filipinos as the backbone of the U.S. nursing industry.

Councilmember Tom Labonge (District 4) echoed his colleagues’ high praise for Filipinos in helping the U.S. meet its healthcare needs.In her response to the Councilmembers, Consul General Aragon expressed her profound appreciation to the Los Angeles City Council for recognizing Filipino Americans who have distinguished themselves in the field of healthcare services in the city of Los Angeles. She added that over the years, Filipino healthcare workers have established a solid reputation in many parts of the world particularly in the United States in the services sector, most notably in health care provision.

She thanked Councilmembers Garcetti and Alarcon for continuing to champion causes concerning Filipino-Americans in Los Angeles. She added that she looks forward to working even more closely with the City of Los Angeles in attending to the needs of Filipino-Americans in Los Angeles. The awardees are: Dr. Francisco P. Quismorio, Jr., Dr. Robinson Villaverde Baron, Ms. Mila Velasquez, Ms. Lydia Roblow-Jimenez, Dr. Rolando Mercader, Dr. Noli Soza, Dr. Arnel Joaquin, Dr. Erwinn Sistoza, Dr. Mariedel Leviste-Mosqueda, Ms. Violeta Unabia, Dr. Edgar Bañez, Dr. Delia Cabansag, and Ms. Josie Jones. Before the awarding of commendations, Consul General Aragon met briefly with other Los Angeles City officials, namely Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Councilmember Tony Cardenas (District 6), and Councilmember Wendy Greuel (District 2).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

PerryScope: Quo Vadis, Filipino Veterans?

Perry Diaz

A year ago, at a summit held at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC, representatives of various groups of Filipino Veterans of World War II and their advocates met. The participants unanimously approved the formation of a coalition that would lobby for the passage of a full equity bill. More than 20 Filipino veteran groups and community advocates were unified under the banner of the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE). In February 2007, they formed a steering committee and hired a staff of three legislative consultants -- Filipino-Americans with strong ties to the Democratic Party -- to lobby for the Equity Bill.

By the summer of 2007, the 60-year legislative impasse was finally broken… or so it seemed. In my article, "Hope Brightens Up for Filipino Veterans" ( July 6, 2007), I said: "The U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee marked up -- or approved -- S.1315 which contains a modified version of the Filipino Veterans of World War II Equity Act of 2007. For the first time in 14 years since the Equity Bill has been repeatedly introduced in the U.S. Congress, the bill was voted out of committee and will move to the Senate floor. This is a significant -- and unprecedented -- first step towards the enactment of the bill."

At about the same time, Congressman Bob Filner, author of the House version of the Equity Bill and the new Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, was able to get the bill voted out of committee and sent to the House for floor vote. Finally, victory was within sight. One of the Fil-Am leaders said, "I can smell victory in the air." Indeed, there was every reason to be optimistic. "The Democrats will pass the Equity Bill. They promised us that," Filipino-American Democrats said. With both chambers of Congress controlled by the Democrats and the newly elected Speaker of the House, San Francisco Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, solidly -- and squarely -- behind the Equity Bill, how could they go wrong?

Then subtle things began to happen. In my article, "Filipino Veterans' Final Battle" (July 27, 2007), I said: "I just received a disturbing report that American veterans have been pressuring Speaker Nancy Pelosi not to pass the Equity Bill. Although Pelosi came out solidly behind the Equity Bill when she was elected Speaker of the House, the report I got was that her office is being bombarded with calls from American veterans who are concerned that the money that would be earmarked for the Filipino veterans would be taken away from the US veterans' budget." I brought this issue to the attention of NAFVE's Steering Committee but they shrugged it off.

In September, Congressman Filner told key Fil-Am leaders that there were not enough Democrats to pass the Equity Bill in the House. He said that 20 Republicans were needed to pass it and suggested hiring a Republican lobbyist. The Philippine Embassy contacted former Congressman Benjamin Gilman -- a Republican from New York who authored Equity Bills in the past -- for help. Gilman was willing to give his free time except for the incidental expenses associated with the lobbying which was estimated at $10,000.

The Philippine Embassy conveyed Gilman's proposal to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for approval. Arroyo approved the proposal but would not provide the $10,000 for incidental expenses. The Philippine Embassy then asked NAFVE for help in raising $10,000 but the NAFVE consultants rejected the request saying that any money raised should go to NAFVE's account for its own lobbying efforts. They also said that they did not need Gilman to get Republican votes. They were pretty sure that the Democrats would deliver the votes needed to pass the bill. To date, no progress has been reported on the Gilman deal and Filner still does not have enough votes to pass the Equity Bill. Meanwhile, Speaker Pelosi has clammed up. I wonder what would she tell her loyal Filipino-American constituents when she runs for reelection next year?

In the Senate, Republican Senator Larry Craig -- a ranking minority member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee -- created a furor when he threw a monkey wrench into the Equity Bill by putting a "hold" on the bill because "a provision was added after it cleared the committee to reopen VA health care to new Priority 8 enrollees." Priority 8 enrollees are veterans who have no service-connected disabilities and no adequate income by government standards. Craig also made it known that he is opposed to giving Philippine-based veterans the same amount of pension given to US-based American veterans. He believed that $300 for Philippine-based veterans was too much but would support a lower amount of $100. He did not, however, object to US-based Filipino veterans receiving $911 a month which would be same as what American veterans are receiving today. The good news is: Craig indicated that he was willing to compromise.

In politics, "compromise" is the name of the game. It produces a win-win solution that would make all parties happy. What we're talking about here is a $200 difference for Philippine-based veterans. An easy way to a compromise would be to split the difference. That would give the Philippine-based veterans $200 a month, which was what has been floating around in the Filipino veterans community since the "demise" of HR 677 during the 108th Congress in 2004.

In my opinion, the major obstacle is not in the Senate but in the House of Representatives. If Speaker Pelosi would only use the power of the Speakership, the bill could pass. However, there is a small but powerful clique known as "Blue Dog Democrats" who have not indicated their support for the Equity Bill. Without their support, Filner would have difficulty in mustering the 219 votes necessary to pass the bill.

It's different in the Senate because of a blocking procedure known as "filibuster" which could only be ended by at least 60 votes. The Senate Democrats have a razor-thin majority of only one vote and it is very unlikely that they could get nine Republicans to join them in ending a filibuster. The only known obstacle at this time is a potential filibuster by Craig. But he's willing to compromise. If the Filipino veterans fail to compromise, they might as well kiss the Equity Bill goodbye.

Retired U.S. Major General Antonio Taguba had advised the Filipino World War II veterans to take "whatever comes our way for now and just work for an additional amount later." It's time for the Filipino veterans to bite the bullet and settle for a lesser amount.



Rodel E. Rodis, December 21, 2007

When I was in Washington DC last February, I sensed a palpable excitement among the veterans and their ardent supporters that the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill would be passed by the US Congress in 2007.

This optimism was fueled by the appointment of the two principal sponsors of the bill in the Senate and in the House, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Bob Filner (D-California), as chairs of the veterans committees of their respective chambers, thanks to the Democratic sweep in the November 2006 elections.

By April of 2007, both Sen. Akaka and Rep. Filner had conducted hearings on their respective equity bills and had garnered their committees’ approval. It had never advanced to this stage before and many believed that it would be just a matter of time before the bills are brought to a floor vote in the Senate and House.

The principle was one thing but the principal was another. How much should the Filipino WW II veterans (“Filvets”) receive in monthly pension benefits? Should Filvets residing in the US receive more than those in the Philippines?

Because of the difference in the costs of living, some contended that Filvets in the US should receive $800 a month while Filvets in the Philippines should get $100 a month pension. But many Filvets supporters opposed the proposal on the basic principle that there should be no difference in pension based on geography.

A significant compromise was reached when the veterans and their supporters agreed that all Filvets should receive the same amount – a minimum of $200 a month. Filvets in the US receive about $800 a month in SSI benefits anyway which would not be affected by the additional $200 pension while Filvets in the Philippines would receive the equivalent of the average monthly salary there.

Under Akaka’s guidance, the Filvets bill (S.57) was tacked on to an omnibus veterans bill (S.1315) that would cover other veterans issues. Akaka stressed that “as a matter of fundamental fairness and justice, Filipino veterans' benefits should be similar to those of other veterans.”

"S-1315 would fix a historical wrong,” Akaka said, “Filipino veterans served under the command of the US military during World War II. They were considered by the Veterans' Administration, the predecessor of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, to be veterans of the US military, naval and air service until that status was revoked by the Rescission Acts of 1946.”

At the Senate hearing last April, Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), the former chair of the Senate Veterans Committee, opposed the bill because he calculated the price tag of the bill to be almost $1 billion over ten years which he believes the US government cannot afford when “there are other pressing bills pending before the Committee especially benefits for veterans of the War on Terror.”

The US Department Of Veterans Affairs (DVA) under Secretary Jim Nicholson contended that additional benefit costs including medical and memorial benefits of $510 million in the first year would total more than $4 billion over ten years.

But the key to passing the Filvets bill was Sen. Craig. How could he be convinced to drop his strident opposition? Perhaps it would be too much to hope that he would just resign so the bill could pass.

On June 11 of this year, Sen. Craig went to the men’s room of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and did something there that led to his arrest by an undercover officer for lewd and lascivious conduct . On August 1, Sen. Craig pled guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge hoping no one would notice. But when news of the gay solicitation charge broke, which GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell described as “unforgivable”, Sen. Craig had no choice but to announce his resignation from the US Senate effective September 30.

This was the break the Filvets needed. Unfortunately, this was too much to ask as Sen. Craig reneged on his promise to resign.

On December 12, when Sen. Craig was asked to agree not to filibuster the bill so that S.1315 would not need 60 votes to pass, Sen. Craig refused to oblige.

Reflecting the anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner sentiment of many in his party, Sen. Craig spoke against providing benefits to Filvets in the Philippines. "First of all, they do not live in this country, they are not US citizens. They are taking money away from our veterans. That is the 'Robin Hood in reverse' effect. At least Robin Hood, when he took money, left it in Nottingham. He spread it out amongst his own. Here we are taking money from our own and sending it all the way to the Philippines," Sen. Craig the Grinch charged.

Perhaps the most eloquent response to Sen. Craig was the selfless sacrifice of seven of the grandsons of these “Robin Hoods” who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the service of the United States just in the last six months: Army Pfc. Victor M. Fontanilla, 23, Stockton, CA (5/17/07), Army Spc. Mark R. C. Caguioa, 21, Stockton, CA ( 5/24/07), Army Sgt. Richard V. Correa, 25, Honolulu, HI (5/29/07), Army Staff Sgt. Greg P. Gagarin, 38, Los Angeles, CA (6/3/07), Marine Sgt. Michael E. Tayaotao, 27,Sunnyvale, CA (8/9/07), Army Pfc. Paulomarko U. Pacificador, 24, Shirley, NY (8/13/07), and Army Specialist Lester Roque, 23, Carson, CA (11/10/07).

Sen. Craig should be reminded of what George Washington said in 1789: "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."

Will young Filipino Americans be as willing to serve and die for the US in future wars when their grandfathers who served honorably in WW II are disrespected by the US government?

Send comments to or log on to or send your letter to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call (415) 334-7800.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Charice Pempengco Performs On Ellen DeGeneres Show

Charice Pempengco, the now 15 year old talented Filipino singer from Cabuyao, Laguna, Philippines is the latest YouTube sensation. Her video performance clip of Whitney Houston’s "I Will Always Love You" when she appeared on ABS-CBN’s Little Big Star when she was 12 years old has garnered more than 700,000 page views and counting.

On this her first visit to US in which she was invited and performed on the Ellen DeGeneres Show which aired last December 19, 2007, the young Filipina singer wowed the studio crowd which gave her two standing ovations.

On the Sneak Preview of the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Charice Pempengco was described by Ellen as having a joyful voice in which "you got to see it to believe it!" Charice Pempengco entered the studio with a charming and lively countenance and hugged Ellen DeGeneres warmly. She belted out the song "And I Am Telling You, I'm Not Going," with the audience watching with awe and a standing ovation at the end. Charice was surprised with the standing ovation she received and the iPod Touch Ellen DeGeneres gave to her to replace the one she lost on her 13 hour flight to the U.S.

On the second part of the show, Charice sang "I Will Always Love You" senging the audience again on a standing ovation. Ellen invited her to come again. Her appearance on the show was kept secret with Filipinos worldwide wondering if she will be singing after all. Charice is truly amazing. Watch the Video and be awed.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Passport to the World's Celebrations: The 119th Rose Parade on New Years Day

The 119th Rose Parade themed Passport to the World's Celebrations, will take place on Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 8:00 a.m. (PST) featuring spirited marching bands from throughout the nation, majestic floral floats, and high-stepping equestrian units.

The Grand Marshal for the 2008 Tournament of Roses is Emeril Lagasse (pictured with TORA President CL Keedy). On television, Lagasse is known for his light and jovial hosting style as well as several catchphrases, including "BAM!", "Kick it up a notch", "Feel the love", "Oh yeah, babe", and "Spice it up", usually said before or after adding something spicy to a dish, or after the reaction to adding something, respectively. For instance, often when he adds garlic to a dish, the audience cheers enthusiastically. He commonly refers to food that is not seasoned as "not happy" and will add seasoning to make it "happy". When frying or making dishes like sausage, Lagasse advocates using genuine lard, boasting "Pork fat rules!" This style developed fully and Lagasse became more comfortable when a live studio audience was added in the change from Essence of Emeril to Emeril Live. He is also known for the unusual sentence constructions he uses on his show, such as "And now we're going to beginning to start."

Lagasse calls his cuisine "New New Orleans". He describes it as using local (Louisiana) ingredients in new and different ways. It should be noted, however, that the styles of cuisine from Lagasse's many restaurants vary a great deal. Tchoup-Chop in Orlando is "Pan-Asian" while Delmonico Steakhouse at The Venetian in Las Vegas is a traditional steakhouse.

Lagasse can be found in his restaurants' kitchens a good part of the year and can often be seen at his flagship restaurant, Emeril's New Orleans.

Rose Queen and Court:

A place of honor is reserved in each Rose Parade® for the float carrying the Royal Court. Every September nearly 1,000 young women vie for the honor of riding that float - participating in a month-long interview process designed to find those participants with the right combination of poise, personality, public speaking ability and scholastic achievement.

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses crowned the 90th Rose Queen, Dusty Gibbs, in an official Coronation ceremony last October 2007 at the Tournament House presented by Citizens Business Bank. As her first official act, Queen Dusty helped Tournament of Roses President CL Keedy unveil Roses on Parade, a new initiative designed to provide art for the public and funds to support art in Pasadena-area schools.

“I can’t think of a better way for Dusty to begin her reign than by joining me on stage to usher in this exciting art program,” said CL Keedy. “Rose Parade floats are a unique American art form. Supporting art education for our children through Roses on Parade will help us foster their unique and creative talent and hopefully inspire the next generation of local artists.”

Queen Dusty and the six Rose Princesses were selected from more than 1,100 Pasadena-area young women based upon a combination of qualities, including public speaking ability, poise, academic achievement and community involvement. Dusty is only the fourth Rose Queen to wear the recently designed crown made by Mikimoto featuring 10 white South Sea pearls, 632 Akoya pearls and 6.09 carats in diamonds set in sterling silver. The handmade crown is valued at $100,000. Each of the six Princess tiaras are valued at $45,000, bringing the total value of the crown and tiaras to $370,000.

As an official ambassador of the Tournament of Roses, Queen Dusty, a 17-year-old Senior from Arcadia High School, will participate in approximately 100 community and media functions along with Rose Princesses Zena Brown, 18, Alverno High School; Chloe Ghoogassian, 17, Pasadena High School; Kelsey MacDougall, 17, La Cañada High School; Katie Merrill, 17, Pasadena High School; Courtney Rubin, 17, San Marino High School and Gaelen Stanford-Moore, 17, South Pasadena High School.

The Rose Queen® and six Rose Princesses will reign over the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game®. They will attend nearly 150 public and media functions during their year in the spotlight, spreading the word about the Tournament and Pasadena wherever they go.

Tournament of Roses Association (TORA) President Keedy revealed Passport to the World’s Celebrations as the theme for the 119th Rose Parade. “I chose Passport to the World’s Celebrations as the theme for this coming Rose Parade because New Year’s Day is a global celebration of the year to come,” says Keedy. “The Rose Parade provides the perfect opportunity to showcase traditions from around the world. I am passionate about this because growing up overseas I was exposed to a variety of different cultures. It made me appreciate foreign traditions and celebrations as well as those within the United States.”

“Every year on New Year’s Day, the Rose Parade provides the world with a passport to our celebration and I want our Parade to give people a glimpse at other festive traditions around the world,” he adds. “It will be fun for our global audience to see the traditions of their culture parade down Colorado Boulevard on New Year’s Day.”

CL Keedy has been a volunteer member of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association since 1975 and was elected to the Tournament of Roses Executive Committee in 2000. Throughout his extensive Tournament career, Keedy has served on, and chaired, various committees including Budget and Finance, Business Development, Game Policy, Government and Community Affairs, Guest Luncheon, Membership, Music, Parade Operations, Personnel, Post Parade, Public Relations, Queen and Court and Real Estate. He has also served on the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Foundation Board and has been at the helm of the Tournament’s recent strategic planning process.

In addition to his many years as a Tournament of Roses volunteer, Keedy’s community involvement includes being a member of the Optimist Club of Pasadena, a former member of the Pasadena Rotary, AYSO referee and a graduate of the Pasadena Police Department Citizens Police Academy. He also serves on the Board of Directors and is a Medical Council Member for the Huntington Medical Research Institute. Professionally, Keedy is the owner of a Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Franchise.

Born in Norfolk, Virginia, while growing up, Keedy spent two years in Heidelburg, Germany and five years in Hong Kong and has continued to travel internationally for business and pleasure. Keedy earned his Bachelor of Arts in History at the University of California at Irvine. He then went on to earn a Masters degree in International Relations and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Southern California. He and his wife of 27 years, Adrienne, reside in Pasadena, California. The Keedys have two children, Amanda, 20, and Neil, 17. An avid history fan, Keedy enjoys collecting King Arthur books, reading, golf and skiing.

Stay tuned for celebrity, behind the scene and extensive event coverage of the 119th Rose Parade by the pool reporters and photographers of and who will be reporting from Pasadena on the final preparation up to the end of the five and a half mile stretch of the historic Rose Parade and anything that happens in between.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Prosperous New Year 2008 to one and all.

(Compiled by Jay Fermin ppp-usa)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hearts Pound

Los Angeles is home to some of the best street artists in the world. Street art is fast becoming the choice for artists and activists to voice their opinions. In the past graffiti and street art were considered to be nuisance, but as more artists choose to display their works on the streets, a growing sense of legitimacy has been building. The streets offer a more dynamic canvas for the artist to showcase their work to a diverse community, and reach more people than they usually would. Check out this photo gallery for a sample of amazing street art.

By Ryan Jesena

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Health Reform Measure Gets OK

Joined by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and a diverse coalition of labor, business, elected officials, and health care professional groups, Governor Schwarzenegger applauded today's successful Assembly vote of AB x1 1, the Health Care Security and Cost Reduction Act.

Assembly bill faces tough fight in Senate
By Mike Zapler, MediaNews Sacramento Bureau
Article Launched: 12/17/2007 11:39:56 PM PST

The state Assembly on Monday approved a sweeping health reform plan that could be a model for the nation - if it ever happens.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez celebrated the "historic" deal, which culminates nearly a year's worth of negotiating that has dominated the Capitol this year. But the plan is far from reality.

Senate leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, insisted again Monday that he will not allow the Senate to vote on the plan, which would provide insurance to more than two-thirds of the state's uninsured, until after the state's independent legislative analyst examines its impact on the state's budget deficit, now estimated at $14 billion.

The plan also still must be approved by voters because it proposes a number of taxes to fund it, including a requirement on employers to either provide insurance or pay a tax on payroll that would go into a state pool, as well as a hefty cigarette tax. An election campaign is sure to be costly and contentious.

Schwarzenegger and Nunez, however, appeared confident.

"California has taken a giant step forward today on something that many people thought could not be done," Republican Gov. Schwarzenegger told hundreds of people assembled in the Capitol rotunda after the vote.

"This is truly an historic effort," added Nu ez.

The plan would create a new requirement that people carry insurance or potentially face a fine. To help ease that burden,

Lower-income people would be eligible for free or subsidized coverage depending on their income. To pay for the estimated $14.7 billion plan, new taxes would be levied on hospitals and tobacco, and the state would attempt to draw billions in new dollars from the federal government. Altogether it aims to cover more than 70 percent of the roughly 6.6 million million Californians uninsured for all or part of the year. It also requires insurers to accept all customers regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.

But as ambitious as the plan is, it may not make it farther than Monday's 46-31 party-line vote. Perata - echoing a concern voiced by Assembly Republicans - said it would be a mistake to create a new health care program with the state's finances in peril. Perata is especially concerned about existing health programs potentially on the chopping block.

If Perata does not relent soon, it could doom the proposal. Supporters are already running behind schedule to meet a series of deadlines to qualify an initiative for the November ballot. Beyond that, the political dynamics could shift dramatically next year, as the budget dominates the statehouse agenda to the detriment of other issues.

Flanked by labor and business leaders, Schwarzenegger and Nunez hoped to build momentum for the bill that Perata would have difficulty resisting. Among those on hand were Andy Stern, president of the nation's largest union of health-care workers, SEIU, and Steve Burd, chief executive of Safeway.

"I'm not telling Senator Perata how to do his job," Schwarzenegger said, "but I know he will do the right thing."

The governor maintains that the health care plan is "revenue neutral," meaning that it would not affect the state's general fund. But skeptics doubt that claim, given the high and fast-growing cost of health care.

Perhaps the most far-reaching part of the plan is the so-called individual mandate to carry insurance, much like drivers have to carry auto insurance. The goal is to push as many people as possible into the insurance market, lowering costs for everyone. But the governor spent months debating how to make it fair for families already struggling.

They settled on a series of subsidies and tax credits. The state would provide free or heavily subsidized care to people making up to 250 percent of the poverty line - just under $52,000 for a family or four. People in that income bracket who still had to spend more than 5 percent of their income to obtain insurance would be allowed to opt out of the mandate.

In addition, those who earn between 250 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level - between $52,000 and $83,000 for a family of four - would be eligible for a tax credit if the cost of insurance exceeded 5.5 percent of family income.

The state would also consider case-by-case requests for an exemption to the mandate if a person or family was experiencing financial hardship.

If the proposal does make it through the Legislature and on to the ballot, it is sure to trigger a major battle. Although the governor has enlisted significant business backing for the plan, opinion is far from unanimous, and opponents are expected to spend millions to defeat it.

Blue Cross, the state's largest insurer, says the measure would bring steep premium increases to millions of people, mostly young and healthy, who buy insurance in the individual market. The company opposes the provision that would require insurance companies to accept all applicants, regardless of previous health conditions, saying premium rates have skyrocketed in other states that enacted the idea.

A $1.50 to $2 per pack cigarette tax could also draw heavy opposition from tobacco companies. And the pharmaceutical industry is against another provision that would allow the state to buy prescription drugs in bulk.

In the debate leading up to Monday's vote, Assembly Republicans gave a sample of the criticism likely to come, calling the plan a "massive tax increase on California businesses."

"We are in a budget hole," said Assemblyman Roger Niello, R-Sacramento, vice chairman of the budget committee, "And the first rule when you find yourself in a hole is, stop digging."

An estimated 6.6 million people in California - about a fifth of the population - go without health coverage for all or part of the year. The number of chronically uninsured is approximately 5.1 million. The plan would extend insurance to more than 70 percent of the uninsured, supporters said; excluded would be roughly 1 million illegal immigrants, and another 500,000 low-income people who don't enroll in coverage or can't prove they are legal residents.

Mercury News

Monday, December 17, 2007


Rodel E. Rodis, December 17, 2007

Santa Claus will have more problems delivering gifts to kids all over the world this Christmas because his home in the North Pole is melting away and his worker elves are all virtually homeless. According to a new scientific study, the frozen sea ice within the Arctic Circle could disappear entirely by 2040.

It is getting hotter in the arctic regions and colder and wetter in the tropical zones. This is the phenomenon known as climate change.

Despite the Bush administration’s repeated insistence that climate change is "unproven conjecture" (the position of the oil industry which produced George W. Bush and Dick Cheney), more than 10,000 delegates from some 190 countries around the world gathered in Bali, Indonesia for two weeks in early December of 2007 to discuss the reality of climate change.

Even before the Bali Conference began, scientists from all over the world, including the US, were already unified in their view that climate change is indeed taking place and that the world needs to act now before its too late and that there are technologies available and affordable to tackle the problem.

The conference venue was significant because, as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman noted, “Indonesia is now losing tropical forests the size of Maryland every year, and the carbon released by the cutting and clearing — much of it from illegal logging — has made Indonesia the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, after the United States and China. Deforestation actually accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars and trucks in the world, an issue the Bali conference finally addressed.”

Friedman interviewed Barnabas Suebu, the governor of Papua, home to some of Indonesia’s richest forests, who explained that his villagers cannot earn anything close to what they get from chopping down a tree and selling it to smugglers, who will ship it to Malaysia or China to be made into furniture for Americans or Europeans.

This is the same problem in the Philippines where virgin forests are being continuously raped by illegal loggers with connections to Philippine military and government officials. In last week’s column, I wrote about Ensign Philip Pestano who, according to a 1997 Philippine Senate report, was murdered in 1995 because he objected to his Philippine Navy vessel being used to load illegal timber from Tawi-Tawi and to off-load them in Cavite. That timber probably wound its way to China for products that were then exported to Wal-Mart stores all over the US.

International agreements that would seek to limit greenhouse emissions which cause holes in the earth's ozone layer (which create climatic changes) have long been opposed by the Bush administration which believes the limits would hamper American competitiveness with countries like China. Using China as an excuse is ironic because China’s rapid economic development has been largely fueled by American consumers’ insatiable demand for its goods. Net exports from China to the US accounted for 23 percent of Chinese greenhouse gas emissions.

The Philipppines was a major source of discussion at the Bali Conference after the environmental group, Germanwatch, released a report citing the Philippines as the world's top climate change victim in 2006 for the strong typhoons which caused the Legazpi Mudslide and the Southern Leyte Landslide. They were the world's 2nd and 3rd deadliest disasters of 2006 claiming the lives of 2,511 people and rendering almost 800,000 families homeless.

The natural disasters inflicted on the Philippines were always exacerbated by man-made disasters like the illegal logging which deprive the country of valuable forest trees that could stop the rain waters from flooding the lowland areas.

The Bali Conference delegates called on the Philippines to pass the Renewable Energy Bill, sponsored by Sen. Dick Gordon, which has in various forms languished in the Philippine Congress for almost 10 years. The bill will actively promote the development of renewable energy sources abundant in the country like solar, wind, tidal and geothermal and setting time-bound renewable energy targets. It will ensure that the Philippines will wean away from overdependence on power generated through fossil fuels like oil and coal which have been identified as major contributors to climate change.

Passage of the Renewable Energy bill is especially critical because of the rising price of oil which now costs more than a US$100 a barrel. “With the RE Bill,” Jasper Inventor of Greenpeace said, “the country will utilize its massive renewable energy potential. The Philippines' wind energy potential alone reaches up to more than 70,000 MW. Solar power is abundant in the country and is capable of producing 1500 hours of power annually at 5 kilowatt hours per square meter per day."

There is very little time left. Pass the Renewable Energy Bill now!

On a personal note, I would like to express my condolences to the family of Charles Mosser, a philanthropist and environmentalist who died in the Philippines on October 17, 2007 at the age of 82. Charles and his wife, Annabelle Indemne Mosser, amassed a fortune in San Francisco real estate, a part of which they used to invest in Annabelle’s home province of Negros. They bought or leased more than 20,000 denuded hectares of mountain land and funded the planting there of their goal of 18-M trees of which 2-M have already been planted.

In 2005, the Philippine Congress granted Charles Mosser the Philippine citizenship he had long sought.

On that note, I wish you all the happiest of holidays.

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