Monday, April 28, 2008

Los Angeles Celebrates East West Players’ 42nd Visionary Awards

April 28, 2008, Los Angeles: The East West Players 42nd Anniversary Visionary Awards Dinner will be held tonight at the Universal City Hilton with master of ceremonies 'The Three Filipino Tenors'. The East West Players Visionary Awards is an event that salutes artists who have raised the visibility of the Asian Pacific American community through theater, film and television. Proceeds from the evening will benefit East West Players educational and artistic programs.

East West Players 42nd Anniversary celebrates the "Home" that many Asian Pacific Americans in the entertainment industry have found at East West Players. For 42 years, East West Players has been a place for the Asian Pacific American voice to thrive like awardee Carrie Ann Inaba, judge for 7 seasons now of 'Dancing With The Stars.'(Photo at left)

Masters of Ceremonies will be the THREE FILIPINO TENORS namely Lito Villareal, Randy Guiaya and Antoine Diel . This year's honorees include celebrated playwright VELINA HASU HOUSTON and television personality CARRIE ANN INABA (ABC's Dancing with the Stars) and the hot new dance group JABBAWOCKEEZ (pictured at right).

This will be a memorable evening of celebrating the Asian contribution to the performing arts here in Los Angeles.

For more information please call (213) 625-7000.

Chantry Flat Wildfire near Sierra Madre Rages On

All photos by 'Flora' / Sierra Madre-Arcadia

SIERRA MADRE, Calif. - Hundreds of fire crews battled a wildfire that started in the Angeles National Forest about 10 miles northeast of Pasadena that forced the evacuation of a scout camp and left hikers stranded in the biggest of several blazes on a hot, dry weekend in Southern California. It has also forced evacuations to 1000 residents in and around the hillside community.

The fire had grown to 400 acres by Sunday, but firefighters hoped to have it contained within 5 to 7 days, according to Elisa Weaver of the Arcadia Fire Department. Sunday afternoon's fire assault consisted mainly of four helicopter unitd and three fixed wing tankers dumping colored retardant on the 30 year old underbrush of the hillside because ground fire crews cannot navigate the steep terrain. The fire is concentrated on the steep canyon known as Chantry Flats, a popular hiking and biking trail with steep terrain.

The blaze was reported just after 1:40 p.m. in a wooded area off Santa Anita Canyon Road, Weaver said. 400 Fire crew personnel are fighting the ground assault to protect structures. One outhouse was destroyed but no injuries were reported. The fire is officially known as the 'Chantry Flats Fire', which is the name of the canyon designated a "Recreation Area" within the Angeles National Forest, about three miles into Big Santa Anita Canyon, and is closely associated with the town of Sierra Madre, CA.

The flat itself houses a large public picnic area, and is the starting point for several historic trails of the San Gabriel Mountains, including the 28.5 mile Gabrielino Trail. The US Forest Service estimates the road to Chantry as the third busiest entry into the Angeles, next to CA State Highways 2 and 39. Fire Crews have made a stand on Grandview avenue between Santa Anita Avenue in the east and Lima Street in the West to protect the houses at Sierra Madre. Ash fallout reached areas as far as Pasadena in the southwest.

Flames brought the evacuation of the Trask Boy Scout camp and left about 100 hikers were evacuated from Chantry Flats, Weaver said. A newly-wed couple were among the rescued evacuees who were escorted down by Sheriff's deputies and involved a few helicopter rescues.

Most of the Boy Scouts had already left the camp by the time the evacuation was ordered, Weaver said.

The fire was moving slowly northward, away from homes in nearby Sierra Madre and Arcadia. Fire crews were aided by a dozens of fire engines, three water tankers and four helicopters.

Temperatures in parts of Southern California hit the mid-90s Saturday afternoon, with mild but extremely dry winds which came from the south-southwest of the fire and aided in driving the fire uphill from the threatened homes. Evacuees are being housed at First Congregational Church in Sierra Madre and also at Hart Senior Center. Fire officials have reported 30 percent containment and expect to fully extinguish the wildfire which have separated into four different hot spots in about 5 to 7 days depending on the weather condition.

compiled by Jay Fermin
photos by Flora - Sierra Madre
Source: AP News, with reports from Fire Command Center
Last Modified: Saturday, April 27, 2008 at 9:52 p.m.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's Time for GK to Break Away from CFC

In my article, "Quo Vadis, Gawad Kalinga?" (September 21, 2007), I said: "Gawad Kalinga is not just an organization, it's a movement -- an ideal, I must say -- driven by an army of believers: volunteers, advocates, beneficiaries, and benefactors. Indeed, Gawad Kalinga has taken a life of its own. It's scope has expanded to become an all-inclusive humanitarian movement. But does that mean that evangelization cannot be a part of Gawad Kalinga's mission? Sure it can. But not within the context of Couples For Christ. At the end of the day, there is only one way for Gawad Kalinga to go: move forward…on its own."

At the time I wrote the article, Frank Padilla had already formed a breakaway group, the Couples For Christ Foundation for Family and Life (CFC-FFL). However, Gawad Kalinga (GK) remained with CFC. After the split, the two groups went their separate ways and the furor subsided. But underneath the appearance of civility between the two groups, the rivalry between their leaders continued underground, shielded from the scrutiny of the media.

About two weeks ago, a news article written by ABS-CBN News' Carmela Fonbuena titled, "Vatican admonishes Couples for Christ over Gawad Kalinga," struck like a 50-foot tsunami. Fonbuena said, "The Vatican has chastised the Couples for Christ (CFC) group supportive of Gawad Kalinga founder Antonio Meloto for the 'erroneous steps [it has] taken' when it decided to shift focus from the spiritual to the social. The group was instructed to make a public apology." Further, she said, "Central to the concern of the Vatican was the direction taken by CFC-founded social action group Gawad Kalinga (GK). The Vatican disapproved of CFC's 'overemphasis on the social work' and GK's openness to donations from groups that promote artificial family planning."

The basis of Fonbuena's article was a letter dated March 11 sent by Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Laity to CFC President Jose Tale which said that CFC should "counterbalance the overemphasis on social work…" And in regard to donations from entities who promote "artificial family planning" -- specifically, use of condoms -- Cardinal Rylko said, "Your decision to stop receiving this type of funding will help recover the good standing of your association Couples for Christ."

Fonbuena said that Cardinal Rylko's letter was the result of Tale's March 3, 2008 visit to the Vatican, where he "admitted [that] some mistakes have been made and a certain scandal and confusion [was] caused among the faithful."

It is interesting to note what William M. Esposo said in his recent article, "Tony Meloto's sanctification," to wit: "In a September 20, 2007 posting on (website of Frank Padilla's breakaway group), Padilla admitted having sought and talked to Cardinal Rylko. Padilla stated that he went 'to speak with Archbishop Rylko and apprise him of the situation of CFC. That is my responsibility as the one who got our recognition and as the one whose name appears in our recognition.' Now, do you think that Frank Padilla told Cardinal Rylko the whole unvarnished truth or did he try to sell to the Cardinal his slanted version of the controversy?"

If Tale indeed admitted that some "mistakes" were made, then it is presumed that Cardinal Rylko addressed only those "mistakes" admitted by Tale. I believe, however, that if Tale did not go to the Vatican, the rift between CFC and CFC-FFL would have remained underground and the Vatican would have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the imbroglio. In essence, Tale forced Cardinal Rylko to react to his admission that some "mistakes" were made.

So, what now? Before we proceed, let's take a quick look at the history of CFC: In 1993 Padilla together with several others broke away from another Catholic lay organization, the Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon (Joy of the Lord), to form CFC. In 2002, another split occurred when the Families in Christ Jesus (FCJ) was formed by a splinter group within CFC. The organizers of FCJ believed that CFC was veering away from its evangelistic mission when it started raising funds to build homes for the poor. They were of the belief that CFC should not be in the business of fund-raising. At that time, Padilla was the head honcho of CFC. Ironically, it was for the same reason that Padilla formed the CFC-FFL. It's amazing how history repeated itself in so short a time.

I said in "Quo Vadis, Gawad Kalinga?": "The CFC-Gawad Kalinga relationship was like a case of a square peg in a round hole: no matter how you try to fit it in, it won't fit in. Gawad Kalinga simply wouldn't work the way it was conceived or, more appropriately, the way it evolved into what it is today. One can argue that nothing is wrong with what Gawad Kalinga has been doing. Indeed, nation-building is one of the noblest missions to pursue. However, the Couples For Christ is not about building a nation; it is about building the Church. And that was the reason why the Vatican recognized and sanctioned CFC in 2000." It seems that Cardinal Rylko merely reinforced what the Roman Catholic Church is all about.

One of the leaders of FCJ told me: "CFC and GK are both right in their missions. However, the members have to choose between the two missions using their own personal charism." In other words, they have to choose between "winning the souls" and "building communities for the poor."

PerryScope: by Perry Diaz

I believe that it's time for Gawad Kalinga to break away from Couples for Christ and to stand on its own, without any ties -- directly or indirectly -- to the Vatican. By severing its ties with CFC, the Vatican cannot interfere with GK. GK can then work unrestricted with any group. It would then become a true humanitarian movement and in that capacity it can do more "miracles" in uplifting the poorest of the poor, not just in the Philippines but anywhere in the world where GK is needed.

CFC and CFC-FFL could then reconcile and reunite into one cohesive organization, and continue what they were mandated to perform when the Vatican recognized and sanctioned them in 2000. With a reunified -- an reinvigorated -- CFC, it can then extend its evangelical work in Gawad Kalinga villages. CFC and GK can then say that they're building communities for the poor as well as winning their souls. It's a win-win solution and I'm pretty sure the Vatican couldn't be happier.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Loboc Children’s Choir Performs in Riverside California

Stock photo:

The innocence of their youth is evidenced by the sweetness of their voices.

The Loboc Children’s Choir hails from the town of Loboc in the island of Bohol, Philippines. Composed of 30 boys and girls averaging about 9 to 13 yrs of ages.At home in Bohol, they sing for visiting dignitaries and tourists.

LCC (Loboc Children’s Choir) is a three time national champion for NAMYA (National Music Competition for Young Artists) in the Philippines. The group has traveled thru Europe bagging multiple awards in Spain, and besting 12 other international choirs to win grand prize in the European festival cup.

This superb choir has a repertoire of English, Spanish, Italian, and Filipino songs. Their singing is reminiscent of the world renowned Vienna Choir. The big difference is knowing that a choir of this quality is definitely a product of the Philippines. Not only do they sing well as a group but there are moments when a child steps forward and sings solo. This is when you realize the talent that is packed into this choir. It is a breeding ground for future Lea Salonga’s and Charmaine Clamor’s in the making. And the young boys, watch out Martin Nievera and Gary V !

The show was held at the University of California Riverside in the Humanities Building on Friday, April 25. Start time was 8:00pm and lasted thru 9:30pm. The setting was cozy with about 300 people in the mixed audience. Here again was a demonstration of how quality singing of Pilipino songs can mesmerize an audience of non-Filipino speaking audience. It is so refreshing to hear voices of talented young children merged together in wonderful melodies . This is the closest you can hear angels in Heaven singing on Earth. The choir combined dance steps with their singing. Again, the innocence exuded by young children as they perform wonderful music is a therapy of some sorts. It fills up the heart and heals the soul.

We smile and remember those years when we too were young and full of life.

The Loboc Children’s Choir is very much in demand. They are scheduled to perform in New York and Toronto Canada this year. This is Filipino talent that we can be really proud of. Be young and uncomplicated again. Watch them sing when you get a chance. It’s good stuff!

Check out more on the choir via their website

Written by: John F Lacson/

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mount Everest Expedition Team campaigns to stop Global Warming

Janet Belarmino Sardena, Carina Dayondon and Noelle Wenceslao (l-r), members of the Philippine expedition, say Mt. Everest is no longer blanketed with snow.

The Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition team is batting for the use of geothermal energy and other clean sources of energy to power the needs of the Philippines, warning that the threat of global warming is real and worsening.

The Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition team was in Los Angeles last year on a multi-city tour months before the all-women Phiippine Team achieved 2 world-record by completing a traverse climb from Tibet on the China-Tibet side to Everest Summit and down to Nepal and being the first all women team to do so.

The team was in the Visayas over the weekend to practice their endurance in preparation for a May 29, 2008 Mt. Everest Marathon and to continue advocating actions to further prevent global warning.

The members of the team are Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon, Pastour Emata, Dr. Ted Esguerra and Negrense Art Valdez – team leader and Fred Jamili.

“We have seen the effects of global warming in Mt. Everest where the glaciers have receded, and where stones and pools of water can now be seen at the base camp that was formerly blanketed with snow,” Valdez said.

"That is why we need to push for clean fuel and preserving the environment", Valdez said.

Esguerra and Emata, who are from Davao, said they had campaigned against the Philippine National Oil Co. Energy Development Corp.’s setting up of a geothermal plant in Mt. Apo out of fear of its damage on the forest, but they no longer opposes it today.

Esguerra said at first he was strongly opposed to PNOC EDCs entry into Mt. Apo and even went to jail for his advocacy, but he said now he sees that its has been beneficial to the area.

Image from Everest north side on Chinese Base Camp/

The massive tree planting effort of PNOC EDC in Mt. Apo, the Philippines highest peak, has actually contributed to the preservation of the environment we once thought it would destroy, he said.

Informed that fears have been raised that PNOC EDC’s entry into the buffer zone of the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park in Bago City and its cutting of trees to tap more geothermal power for its Northern Negros Geothermal Power Plant could hurt the rich biodiversity in the area, Esguerra said “sometimes something has to be affected for the greater good”.

Electric cooperatives in Negros Occidental plan to buy coal power from Kepco, a Cebu based firm after 2010 to augment the power needs of the province with the NNGPP so far only producing 5 megawatts.

Esguerra said using coal power will have more far reaching damage on the environment.

The more ideal clean source of power is geothermal, he said, because steam generated energy is perpetual.

Emata said when he climbed Mt. Apo before it was balding but with PNOC EDC’s entry into the area there has been massive reforestation.

He said while he had initially opposed the firm’s entry into Mt. Apo today he believes that had it not done so the forest situation there would be far worst.*CPG

Source; Carla Gomez & Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition team

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gary V Celebrates 25 at the Nokia Theater

Click poster to enlarge

Los Angeles: The Philippines’ prestigious total performer, Gary Valenciano, celebrates his 25th anniversary in showbiz at Los Angeles’ most prestigious and new show venue, the Nokia Theater. The momentous event will take place on June 7, 2008. It will be the biggest and most prestigious event of this year so far.

Nested in the revived downtown district of Los Angeles, the Nokia Theater, which opened on October 18, 2007 by the Eagles and Dixie Chicks, provides an all-new entertainment experience for concert goers. It is the preferred indoor venue for performers and fans with 7,100 seats offering intimate seating and great views of every angle from the audience.

The Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE hosted the "American Music Awards" on Sunday, November 18(ABC-TV), marking the first time the venue had been utilized for a national awards show broadcast. Other artists that have already played at NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE in the first two months include: Sugarland, Queens of the Stone Age, Neil Young, Anita Baker, Mary J. Blige, So You Think You Can Dance? Tour, John Fogerty, and La Quinta Estacion.

Popularly acclaimed for his singing, dancing and acting talents, Gary V. will share the concert stage with his two sons, Gabriel and Paolo, while showcasing the past quarter decade of his successful showbiz career. Also performing are Joshua and Jason Zamora of the Maneouvres and Mico Antonya of Anime. Mon Faustino will be directing the Powerplay Band.

Gary’s good friend and colleague, Martin Nievera, will be a very special guest. “Gary did it for me at my concert, so I will do the same for him,” shares Nievera. Both Gary and Martin are known as the Philippines’ top male performers for the past two decades.

The event is made possible by B&B Management, State Farm Insurance, Western Union, Alas Cargo, Tribune USA, PH Care, Home Sweet Home Remodeling and Repairs, and SM Realtors. It’s powered by the forces behind Kewlit Co and All Access. Also made possible by and

For more information about the concert and to purchase tickets, call toll free 1(888)937-1998 or log on to

After Gary’s show at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, Gary will be flying to Stockton, California on June 13 to perform at the Stockton Arena, and Seattle, Washington to perform at the Comcast Arena on June 15.

Monday, April 21, 2008

In My Pajamas© Show via BlogTalkRadio interviews jazzipino Charmaine Clamor

In My Pajamas© Show via BlogTalkRadio proudly presents the soulful Charmaine Clamor in an interview that aired April 21, 2008 on BlogTalkRadio

Listen to the hour long Interview

Charmaine Clamor is the first Filipina jazz singer to find success on American radio, achieving the rare feat of simultaneously making the top-5 on both JazzWeek’s World (#2 ranking) and Traditional Jazz (#4) charts.

Her debut album, "Searching for the Soul" (2005), “announced the arrival of an impressive new vocal artist. When Charmaine Clamor’s warm, luscious contralto slips into a seductive rhythm or purrs through tender lyrics, there’s no doubt that a first-rate jazz talent is present" (Don Heckman, LOS ANGELES TIMES). Critics and disc jockeys have compared her “bedroom eyes voice" (ALL ABOUT JAZZ) to legendary vocalists like Sarah Vaughan and Cassandra Wilson, while recognizing her “amazingly individual instrument, which can be whisper-soft, grippingly forceful, earthy, romantic, and soulful” (JAZZ NEWS).

Charmaine's critically acclaimed second album, "Flippin’ Out" (2007), synthesizes the soul and swing of American jazz with traditional Filipino folk music, languages and instruments, instantly creating a new hybrid genre she calls jazzipino. Moving effortlessly from blues to bolero, "Flippin’ Out," a “mold-shattering breakthrough that will be claimed a classic in years to come” (URBAN NETWORK), introduces an imaginative singer daring to create a category all her own and “is the perfect bridge of two cultures… an asset to jazz music and a contributor to the continued traditions of women in jazz” (MUSIC FOR AMERICA).

Originally from the provincial town of Subic-Zambales, Charmaine Clamor began her singing career at age 3, entertaining passengers (whether they liked it or not!) in the back of buses traveling to Manila. As she grew, she began providing piano accompaniment while her mother sang kundiman (Filipino torch songs) and English language classics. From these early memories comes her love of the Great American Songbook.

Lauded by All About Jazz as "one of the finest singers to come around in a long time," Clamor uses her notoriety to aid other Filipino artists. One of the founding members of JazzPhil-USA, a nonprofit organization which promotes jazz artists of Filipino descent in the United States, Charmaine has been credited with introducing the Filipino culture to mainstream audiences, delighting music lovers with her “very honest stage presence” and vocal artistry that listeners describe as “a spiritual experience" and “utterly mesmerizing” (LA WEEKLY).

Thanks to her musical and cultural trailblazing, Charmaine was recently selected by The Filipino Women's Network as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipino Women in the United States

In My Pajamas© Show is a brain-child of four women, who are wives, mothers, women with day-jobs who are venturing on this journey together in pursuant on the “Women’s American Dream” of independence, success and self-fulfillment. And like what the title suggests, the show was conceived from the idea while we were working “in our pajamas.” Our show, while trying not to be feministic, will interview and recognize women from all walks of life and find out the story of their own “American dream.” We believe that everyone has a back story behind how they achieved their life’s dream.

BlogTalkRadio is the social radio network that allows users to connect quickly and directly with their audience. Using a telephone and a computer, the host can create free, live, call-in talk shows with unlimited participants which are automatically archived and made available later as podcasts. There is no added software required to produce a show. Listeners can subscribe to shows via RSS into iTunes and other feed readers. BlogTalkRadio network has produced tens of thousands of episodes since it launched in August of 2006.

In My Pajamas© Show is hosted by Trina, Amy, Yani, and Shanica who are all working from home and loving it.

compiled by Jay Fermin
Charmaine photo by Albert Vargas

Gloria, Eva and Juan

PerryScope: by Perry Diaz

The recent trips of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to rural areas doling out goodies to the poor reminds of me of Eva Peron during the reign of her husband, Argentine dictator Juan Peron. Eva Peron -- affectionately called "Evita" by Argentina's descamisados, the "shirtless ones" -- became popular with the poor Argentines. She could have been the next President after her husband. But fate was not kind to her for she succumbed to cancer at the young age of 33.

Born poor and out of wedlock, Eva's rise to power has been the subject of historians. But one thing that most historians would seem to agree on is that Eva was very much part of Peron's authoritarian style of government called Peronism. The workers and the poor were his base of support; however, it was the popular Eva who was credited for getting their support for Peron.

In 1948, Eva created the Eva Peron Foundation which she funded with 10,000 pesos from her personal funds. The foundation collected donations from workers' unions and private businesses. Within a few years its assets grew to more than three billion pesos -- or about US$200 million at that time. The foundation employed 14,000 workers including 26 priests. It distributed hundreds of thousands of shoes, sewing machines, cooking pots, and other household items. It gave scholarships to the poor and built homes and hospitals. Her supporters called her "Santa Evita." However, her critics accused her of using the foundation to divert government money into private Swiss bank accounts controlled by her and Peron.

In 1951, Peron was reelected with the help of Eva and her 500,000-member Peronist Feminist Party. It was the first time that women were allowed to vote in Argentina. On May 7, 1952, the Argentine Assembly, which was controlled by Peronistas, gave Eva the official title of "Spiritual Leader of the Nation." She carried that title until her death on July 26, 1952.

Peron, who was first elected President in 1946, was beset with problems during his second term. High-level corruption, economic problems, and conflict with the Roman Catholic Church had a destabilizing effect on his government. Once one of the top 10 richest countries in the world, its agricultural exports substantially decreased due to the conversion of agricultural lands for industrial use.

In June 1955, anti-Peronists staged a coup d'etat using navy planes. However, the coup failed. That same year, the Roman Catholic Church withdrew its support of Peron's government for a variety of reasons including the enactment of the controversial divorce law. When Peron expelled two Catholic priests, Pope Pius XII excommunicated him. On September 16, 1955, Peron was ousted by an Army-Navy coup. He escaped to Paraguay and then moved to Panama. He eventually settled in Spain under the protection of Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

The new Argentine government conducted an investigation into the corruption in the Peron regime. Of the more than 1,000 suspects, 314 cases were filed in the courts. A government investigation revealed a web of corruption from the top all the way down to the lowest level in the bureaucracy.

The TIME magazine issue of December 19, 1956 said that "Peron did his mother-in-law out of half of her bequest from the late Eva Peron, then with medieval flourish had Evita's brother, Juan Duarte, killed because he knew too much." Cronies of Peron profited immensely. In April 1956, the government investigation was abruptly ended without prosecuting anyone. It was believed that the reason for ending the investigation prematurely was that some people being investigated were in the new government.

It's interesting to note that there seem to be similarities between Gloria Arroyo and Eva and Juan Peron. Like Eva, Gloria has been projecting herself as "pro-poor." Whenever there is a calamity, Gloria would be there doling out relief goods to the people. At a recent trip to a barrio, Gloria addressed the rice shortage by invoking the Virgin Mary to perform a "miracle" to feed the poor. That's the Eva Peron in her.

On the other hand, there's the Juan Peron in her. Behind the walls of Malacanang and shielded by "executive privilege," Gloria has built -- as Romulo Neri has told Senators Ping Lacson and Jamby Madrigal -- an intricate web of corruption that permeated at all levels of her government. Neri also disclosed that Gloria's cronies -- he called them "oligarchs" -- controlled the Philippines' major industries. Like Juan Peron, Gloria's failed economic policies are causing havoc in the country. Like Juan Peron, Gloria is encouraging the conversion of agricultural (rice) land to other land use; thus, increasing the country's dependency on imported rice. Like Peron, her government reeks with corruption.

Recently, a Pulse Asia survey showed Gloria as the most corrupt president in the history of the Philippines. In another survey, by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC), the Philippines was tagged as having the most corrupt economy in Asia. What an inglorious distinction: Most Corrupt President, Most Corrupt Economy.

The looming rice crisis in the Philippines would be Gloria's biggest challenge in her political life. While the people may not be too concerned with corruption in high places, hunger is the one that would surely hurt them the most. With her lucky streak of surviving coups, impeachment, and a series of corruption scandals, the question is: Would she survive a food crisis?

Recently, she approved a request from the military to sell government-subsidized rice to soldiers, veterans and their dependents at a price lower than that paid by civilians. Gloria knows that her staying in power is contingent on the military's loyalty. She wants to make sure that the military remains loyal to her… at all cost. The last thing she wants to see happen are hungry -- and angry -- soldiers.


Telltale Signs/ TINA'S CHILDREN

by Rodel Rodis, April 21, 2008

The severe rice shortage that may yet result in food riots in the Philippines has forced the staunchly “Pro-Life” government of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to belatedly concede the need to raise public awareness of population control. After years of rejecting United Nations and USAID funding for family planning programs, the government has finally realized that maintaining current levels of rice production is not nearly enough when the Philippine population is growing by at least 2 million a year. In 1945, there were 20-M Filipinos. By 2000, the population had risen to 76.5-M. Less than 8 years later, it is now 88.57-M and is expected to break the 100-M mark in just 5 years.

According to former Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez, “the worst part of it all is that the people who are growing at a faster rate are Filipinos who could not afford it. And the rich who have the money, are actually not growing at all, with a growth rate of zero percent,” he said.

With less arable land available for rice production and higher costs for fuel, seeds and fertilizers, the government is straining to retain previous levels of productivity that, even if successful, will still yield little or no rice for 2-M people.

According to a study just released by the European Union (2008 Philippine Development Forum), "Continued rapid population growth in the Philippines is draining health and economic resources and slowing down economic growth. It also threatens the sustainability of rural livelihoods and is inexorably destroying the remaining natural forest and marine habitats. The poor are paying the highest price, both individually and collectively. The European Union therefore calls for the effective implementation of a comprehensive national family planning policy, promoting access to family planning methods."

But raising public awareness of population control is not enough if the only kind of birth control endorsed by the government is the “natural family planning method” where couples are encouraged to have sex only during certain “safe” periods in a woman’s menstrual cycle, a method otherwise known as “the Vatican roulette”.

Alas, even this wholly unreliable method cannot be effectively promoted because, according to Malacanang Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, the national government is “no longer involved in implementing the birth control program since this has been devolved to local government units (LGUs)” where the local chief executives are in charge of implementing birth control policies in their jurisdictions.

What compounds the problem is that even discussing the need for population control has drawn opposition from the Catholic Church and pro-lifers in the Arroyo Administration led by former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, currently Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources. Atienza believes that the solution to the present food crisis is a strong agricultural production program and not birth control.

When Atienza was mayor of Manila from 2000 to 2006, he issued Executive Order 003 (EO 003) banning the use of artificial contraceptives in all of Manila’s public health facilities. Although not oficially, this order was even extended to private pharmacies and drug stores in Manila which were prohibited from selling any artificial method of birth control, even condoms.

Although Atienza is no longer mayor, his ban still remains in effect. So in January of this year, 20 directly affected women filed suit to invalidate EO 003. One of the female plaintiffs, Tina Montiel, age 36, wanted to have only two children, according to her affidavit. Before Atienza was elected mayor, Manila had a health policy which allowed her to obtain contraceptive supplies from the Manila health system. After Atienza abolished this program, Tina gave birth to two more children. After 4 children, Tina asked to have her tubes tied (tubal ligation) so that she could no longer have babies, but this was not allowed because of EO 003. Tina now has eight children.

In her affidavit, Tina stated:

"Our daily income is 150 pesos from scavenging. My family’s breakfast includes three sachets of coffee and a few pieces of pandesal [bread rolls]. One kilo of rice is insufficient for lunch and dinner. We make do with soy sauce or salt if we can’t afford to buy ten pesos’ worth of cooked vegetable for lunch or dried fish for dinner. If our daily earnings only amount to below 70 pesos, we only have bread for dinner.

"My children are malnourished. Oftentimes, they miss a meal. My sixth child, who was underweight at birth, hasn’t recovered yet. I give each of my children five pesos for school allowance. I feel sorry for them because I can’t buy them school shoes. They miss lunch if they have to pay something in school. One of my children had to stop going to school.

"My eldest son died of rheumatic heart disease. Most of our earnings went to his medication. My husband lost his job as security guard, after he was unable to pay more than 3,000 pesos needed to renew his license.”

What kind of lives have Tina and her children been condemned to live? Is being pro-life being pro-miserable life?

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

Sunday, April 20, 2008

JabbaWockeeZ, MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, to Receive East-West Players Award

JabbaWockeeZ, Winner of Randy Jackson’s 2008 America’s Best Dance Crew

East West Players (EWP) announced a new honoree to the 42nd Anniversary Visionary Awards Dinner & Silent Auction. San Diego based JabbaWockeeZ, recently the winners of the 2008 production of Randy Jackson’s America’s Best Dance Crew, will be recognized with the EWP Breakout Performance Award. With a diverse dance crew comprised of five Asian-Americans and one African-American, JabbaWockeeZ is known for taking its acrobatic & synchronized hip-hop dance moves to the next level of artistry. In addition they will be performing a dance number at the EWP Gala.

The JabbaWockeeZ dance team consist of, Kevin Brewer, Ben Chung “B-Tek,” Jeff Nguyen “Phi,” and Fil-Ams Chris Gatdula, Ryan Shawn Paguio and Phil Tayag. Created in 2003, the group originated in San Diego, CA. Their first performance on national television was on America’s Got Talent, which premiered in 2006. The name of the group originated from Lewis Carol’s book entitled “Through the Looking Glass.” In this children’s book, Jabberwocky is a dragon who roamed the woods. The crew members wear white masks so that people will focus on their dance moves and not on the individuals.

The JabbaWockeeZ dance crew members won MTV’s $100,000 grand prize last March 27, 2008. The “Jabbas” went through eight weeks of grueling competition with dozens of outstanding dance crews. They impressed judges JC Chasez of N’Sync, hip-hop choreographer Shane Sparks and darling rapper Lil’ Mama. Over 38 million people voted at the Dance Crew Finals between JabbaWockeeZ and Status Quo.

“We’re very excited to honor another Breakout Performance to such a young and talented group whose artistry in movement defies description,” says Producing Artistic Director, Tim Dang. “You really need to see them dance and we are glad that they are performing for us live. We are also happy to outreach beyond actors, directors, and writers, and honor another form of performing arts, dance. We’ve been closely watching this young dance troupe since they were on the show and were happy to see them win.”

Presenting the Breakout Performance award to JabbaWockeeZ is MTV President of Programming, Brian Graden. He is also the President of Programming for VH1, CMT and LOGO. Discovering the talent of animators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, he was one of the supporters in the creation of the animated series, South Park.

Honorees on April 28th, previously announced are dancer Carrie Ann Inaba and playwright Velina Hasu Houston. Additional presenters and talent to appear at the event include, Jolene Purdy, Amy Hill, Alex Chester Iwata, George Takei and Keo Woolford.

East West Players’ 42nd Anniversary Visionary Awards Dinner and Silent Auction will be held on Monday, April 28, 2008 at the Hilton Universal City, 555 Universal City Drive, Universal City, CA 91608. The no-host reception and silent auction will start at 6pm. The dinner and awards program will start at 7pm. Limited Tickets are available at $175 - $1,250. All proceeds benefit EWP Artistic & Education programs. You donation is tax deductible. For more information on East West Players’ 42nd Anniversary Visionary Awards Dinner and Silent Auction please visit or contact Development Manager Lisa Tang at (213) 625.7000 x17 or

Posted by Maria Maria,

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pelosi Statement Welcoming Pope Benedict XVI to the United States

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement today welcoming Pope Benedict XVI to the United States:

“On behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives, I welcome His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on his first apostolic visit to the United States. Like millions of Americans, I look forward to hearing his message of hope and justice for all and his call to work together on the challenges that we face as citizens of the world.

“In his papal encyclical of April 2006, entitled ‘God Is Love,’ Pope Benedict wrote of the role of public servants and the need for government to promote justice. In these challenging times, there are many opportunities for the world community to work for justice and come together on issues such as human rights and climate change.

“On the crucial issues of global poverty and debt relief, I am proud that the House will act this week on bipartisan legislation to help relieve the crushing debt burden felt by the poorest countries and their people. Debt relief to poor countries is a priority for the Catholic Church, and it has the potential to save children from disease and hunger, to preserve natural resources, and to promote development and global security.

“As the Pope stated in his recent message prior to his visit, the ‘world has greater need of hope than ever: hope for peace, for justice, and for freedom.’ I look forward to embracing this message and in welcoming him to the nation’s capital.”

compiled by Jay Fermin

Office of the Speaker
H-232, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pope Benedict's US Visit Begins April 15

Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to travel to the U.S. for the first time since he was elected pontiff in 2005. The trip begins in Washington on April 15, 2008 when he will be greeted by President George Bush & Speaker Nancy Pelosi at Andrews Air Force Base 4 pm EST, and will end in New York on April 20 where he will address the United Nations General Assembly.

The following are highlights of his key public events:

Tuesday, April 15:

_ Arrives at Andrews Air Force Base and greeted by President Bush and wife Laura.


Wednesday, April 16 in Washington: (Pope's Birthday)

_ Meets President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, White House

_ Prayer service with U.S. bishops, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception


Thursday, April 17 in Washington:

_ Celebrates Mass at Nationals Park

_ Addresses presidents of Catholic colleges and universities

_ Meets with representatives of other faiths


Friday, April 18 in New York:

_ Speaks at the United Nations

_ Brief visit to synagogue near the U.N.

_ Ecumenical prayer service at historically German parish


Saturday, April 19 in New York:

_ Mass for Catholic clergy at St. Patrick's Cathedral

_ Meets with seminarians, young Catholics

Sunday, April 20 in New York:

_ Visits ground zero, site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center

_ Mass at Yankee Stadium

Upon arrival, the Pope was ushered into a motorcade to the Vatican Embassy in Washington D.C. Pope Benedict will also be celebrating his 81st Birthday on Wednesday but he will not attend the White House Birthday Celebration in his honor. Instead, he will be attending a prayer service with other bishops in a Washington Basilica.

Benedict, then-Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger before becoming Pope in 2005, was head of the Vatican agency that encourages adherence to Catholic doctrine. He was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and stamped his "imprimi potest" (it can be printed) to the written book entitled "Catechism of the Catholic Church", a collection of theological reasoning on the Catholic Faith published by 'Libreria Editrice Vaticana' for the Catholic faithful in the U.S.

Pope Benedict is known to urge believers to return to fundamental Christian values in response to increasing de-Christianisation and secularisation throughout the post modern world. He was theological consultant at the Second Vatican Council to the late Pope Paul VI. Pope Benedict is also open to dialogue with other religious groups, and has sought to improve relations with them throughout his pontificate.

The United States is home to 65 million Roman Catholics. Pope Benedict XVI is expected to engage in world issues including world peace, the threat of terrorism, the issue of abortion, as well as apologize for the sex scandal that has plagued the U.S. Catholic Church. However, he has expressed that he wants to give "moral guidance" to Roman Catholics located in the United States, a pilgrimage he described as a journey to meet a "great people and a great church."

Compiled by Jay Fermin

Video courtesy of Christian Broadcasting Network CBN

Olympic Torch Dims Over Tibet

Chinese President Hu Jintao holds the Olympic Torch on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, 31 March 2008. The Olympic Torch arrived from Athens on a special plane and begins a worldwide tour on 02 April when it leaves Beijing, travelling 30 days overseas and 100 within China before lighting the flame at the opening ceremony of the 29th Olympiad in Beijing on 08 August 2008. EPA

PerryScope: by Perry Diaz

When the 11th Olympiad was held in Berlin in 1936, it provided Hitler with a grand opportunity to make Nazi German look good. He tried to project his Third Reich as a peaceful, non-aggressive, and a tolerant society. For two weeks, Germany and Nazism glowed in the limelight. But as soon as the Olympiad concluded, the Nazis were back at their old ways: persecuting the Jews and anyone whom they considered as "non-Aryan." Within a couple of years, Germany invaded its neighbors and sparked World War II.

The Nazis believed that the mythical Aryan race was real and superior to other humans. In 1938, Hitler sent a anthropological expedition to Tibet to search for the origin of the Aryan race. However, many believed that the expedition was more of a political nature than "anthropological." After all, the expedition was sponsored by no other than the second most powerful man in the Third Reich, Reichfuhrer Heinrich Himmler. Himmler was the leader of the dreaded SS and architect of the "Final Solution" which systematically annihilated more than six million Jews -- the worst genocide the world has ever known.

Christopher Hale in his book, "Himmler's Crusade: The Nazi Expedition to Find the Origins of the Aryan Race," revealed that the purpose of the expedition was "to examine Tibetan nobles for signs of Aryan physiology, undermine the British relationship with the ruling class, and sow the seeds of rebellion among the populace." Himmler was obsessed in his search of the remnants of the lost Aryan "master race."

A decade later, Tibet was once again in the limelight. On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong took total control of mainland China and established the People's Republic of China. He then declared that the People's Liberation Army -- formerly Red Army -- must liberate all Chinese territories, including Tibet.

On October 7 the following year, Mao sent an invasion force of 80,000 troops to Tibet. The 8,000-strong Tibetan militia was no match against the battle-hardened communist troops. Within two days, Tibetan resistance collapsed. Consequently, Mao imposed a treaty that declared Tibet to be a part of China.

On November 17, 1950, the Tibetan National Assembly installed the 14th Dalai Lama --who was 16 years old at that time -- as Tibet's head of state as well as head of government with full political power. In April 1951, the Dalai Lama sent a delegation to Beijing to negotiate for peace. However, The Chinese told the Tibetan delegation to either sign an accord -- the "Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" -- or face a Chinese military offensive. On May 23, 1951, the Tibetan delegation, who were prevented by the Chinese from contacting their Tibetan government during the negotiation -- acquiesced and signed the agreement. As Mao once said, "Power comes from the barrel of a gun." Yes, indeed.

In March 1959, the Tibetans revolted but were brutally crushed by China. The Dalai Lama went into exile in Dharamsala, India. More than 80,000 Tibetans followed him into exile. It was at Dharamsala where he established the Tibetan government-in-exile.

For almost half a century, the international community has turned a blind eye to China's oppression of religion and genocide against the Tibetan people. Statistics show that more than 17% of the Tibetan people have been killed and 6,000 monasteries have been destroyed in Tibet.

With the upcoming 39th Summer Olympics in Beijing this year, Tibet is once again at the forefront of international debate. The term "Genocide Olympics" is being used by the "Free Tibet" movement to highlight their opposition to China's repressive rule and genocidal campaign against the Tibetan people and their culture. The issue is the Tibetan people's right to self-determination. Indeed, "right to self-determination" is the fundamental right of all peoples which is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. In 1961, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution upholding the Tibetan people's right to self-determination. It was reaffirmed in 1965. Various countries including the European Union have supported the Tibetan people's right to self-determination. It is sad to say, however, that all this expression of support for the Tibetan people is nothing more than lip service.

Recently, the Olympic Torch relay started in earnest. It was intended to circle the globe as a "symbol of peace and unity." However, instead of creating global harmony, it has ignited worldwide protests. Indeed, the Olympic Torch run has turned into an event that people use to express their support for the Tibetans' struggle for independence or to signify their abhorrence of China's human rights record in Tibet.

China was hoping that the Beijing Summer Olympics would give her the respectability that she wanted so badly. China put forth an expensive public relations and marketing blitz to show the transformation from a dreaded past into an economically progressive and peace-loving nation.

An ancient Chinese expression says, "Evil prevails when good men fail to act." Well, the good men (or people) of the world have long forsaken Tibet where evil has prevailed for almost half a century. Today, the Beijing Olympics has rejuvenated the "Free Tibet" movement. Inside Tibet, the young Tibetans are more vocal than their passive elders. The question is: would China see the light and allow the Tibetan people to exercise their right to self-determination? Or would China harden her stance and pursue a "final solution" to the prickly Tibetan problem? It's kind of weird, but somehow history always finds a way of repeating itself.



by Rodel E. Rodis, April 14, 2008

Russ Sandlin, an American businessman in the Philippines, recently closed his call center in Manila because he said he could not find enough English proficient workers. “Not even 3 percent of the students who graduate college here are employable in call centers,” he complained.

Sandlin cited a Philippine Department of Education report disclosing that 80 percent of secondary school teachers in the Philippines failed an English proficiency test last year. “English is the only thing that can save the country,” he wrote, “and no one here cares or even understands that the Filipinos have a crisis.”

Sandlin’s discouraging comments came in the form of an an email blasting the Philippine Daily Inquirer for publishing the op-ed article of Ateneo English Prof. Isabel Pefianco Martin, president of the Linguistic Society of the Philippines, who criticized the “persistent efforts of lawmakers to institutionalize English as the sole language of learning in basic education.”

“Good luck to the Inquirer. It needs to reevaluate its writers,” Sandlin wrote, “unless it supports such a misguided set of ideas. God save the Philippines. I hate to see the country falling ever deeper into an English-deprived abyss.”

Prof. Martin’s op-ed piece, which was published on April 8, 2008 (“Myths about languages in the Philippines”), criticized the narrow thinking behind a bill in the Philippine Congress (House Bill 305) mandating the use of English as the medium of instruction in all academic subjects from Grade 3 onwards and encouraging the use of English as the medium of interaction outside the classrooms. It also proposes English as the language of assessment in all government examinations and entrance tests in all public schools and state universities and colleges.

The bill which was sponsored by Cebu Rep. Eduardo R. Gullas and co-sponsored by 207 other legislators (more than 2/3rds of the House membership) was approved on its third and final reading in the Lower House late last year. The Senate is slated to take up the bill in June.

If enacted into law, the bill will repeal a 33-year old policy of bilingual teaching in Philippine schools which encouraged the use of English and Pilipino (Tagalog) as mediums of instruction.

“Targeting the learning of two languages is too much for the Filipino learners, especially in the lower grades. And if the child happens to be a non-Tagalog speaker, this task actually means learning two foreign languages at the same time, an almost impossible task,” Gullas said.

Prof. Martin’s op-ed piece criticized the bill for its underlying premise that “if you don’t know English, you simply don’t know”. She explained that the link between intelligence and English language proficiency is very flimsy. “In this world, you will find intelligent people who cannot speak a word of English, as well as not-so-smart ones who are native speakers of the language,” she asserted.

Prof. Martin criticized the narrow goal of the bill which is “to produce English-proficient graduates for contact centers, hospitals and medical transcription offices, never mind if these graduates are unthinking products of the schools.”

“The ability to speak like an American will certainly not ensure excellent performance in the contact center jobs,” she wrote, if the students lack “the ability to manage culture-diverse environments,” she wrote.

Even if there was universal agreement that Filipinos should aspire to English proficiency, there is still the question of how best to reach that goal. According to Prof. Martin, “research studies prove that learning a language becomes more effective when emotional barriers are eliminated.” She cited Linguist Stephen Krashen who taught that the formula for success in learning a language is painfully simple: the lower the feelings of fear (low affective filter), the higher the chances of learning

California adopted a policy of bilingual education in public elementary schools to help non-English speaking students transition to regular classes that were taught in English. The Filipino Education Center (FEC) on Harrison Street in San Francisco, for example, was set up by the San Francisco Unified School District in 1976 to offer bi-lingual classes to newly-arrived Filipino immigrant students in aprogram where Tagalog-speaking teachers would teach the traditional elementary courses in both Tagalog and English so that the students would not fear English and not be traumatized by native American students ridiculing their accents.

My friend, Marivic Bamba, immigrated to the US with her family when she was 5 and couldn’t speak English. Her parents enrolled her in the FEC and she then transitioned into the regular school curriculum after three years of bilingual education. Marivic went on to graduate from college and obtain a master’s degree and be appointed by San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to be a department head (Director of the SF Human Rights Commission).

Studies showed that immigrant students (Latinos, Chinese, etc.) who went through bi-lingual education learned English more effectively than students who were enrolled directly into regular American English-speaking classes without the benefit of a bi-lingual transition program.

Prof. Martin points out that most Filipinos speak at least three different languages and English might not even be one of them. “So when English is first introduced to them, it should be introduced slowly and gently, with much respect for their first languages,” she urged.

“Teaching and learning English in the Philippines may be a difficult task, but it need not be a frightening experience,” Prof. Martin wrote. “So much has already been spent on testing the proficiency of teachers and then training these teachers to become more proficient in the language. But simply focusing on testing and training, without recognizing the multilingual context of teaching and learning English in the Philippines, only reinforces fear of the language.”

English proficiency should not be viewed as the measure of a nation’s success. How can we explain the economic ascendancies of Japan, China, and Korea where English is hardly spoken? Those countries educated their populations in their native languages using their languages as tools of communication. English should be similarly seen as a tool of communication, not as the goal of education.

Contrary to Sandlin's impression, Prof. Martin was not opposed to the use of English as a medium of instruction in Philippine schools (she's an English professor at the Ateneo) but the reservations she expressed concerned the lack of thought given to how to best teach English to the population. The goal is the same (an educated English-speaking population), it is the path (bilingual or monolingual) to the goal that is in dispute.

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

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mar Roxas: We need a 10 Year food security Plan

Transcript of Senator Mar Roxas speech on the rice crisis:

“We must now convert the current crisis into a genuine opportunity for agricultural reforms. What we need is a ten-year food security plan done quietly but competently in consultation with experts and stakeholders, attuned with global trends and realities but with very clear domestic targets and a realistic to-do list. Otherwise, we will continue to muddle our way through a global regime of soaring food prices. The well-meaning recommendations of different groups during the one-day Summit can be integrated into this ten-year plan.

“A ten-year food security plan must be done soup-to-nuts style, meaning from seed distribution to market access and with social programs to help farmers in between cycles. It must identify the number of driers that the DA will purchase for our farmers per municipality to prevent spoilage and wastage. It also must include a nationwide irrigation plan and funds for R&D attuned to specific rice productivity targets for the next ten years. It should include a detailed plan for other non-agricultural food sectors as well.

“We must also consider the fiscal sustainability factor as we are confronted with a humongous rice import bill for the coming months alone. I reiterate my call on the President to convene the LEDAC so we can reach a consensus on interim and long-term solutions to the current food crisis and its impact on our country’s fiscal and economic situation.

“As to public accountability, let’s start with the government’s rice importation program. How much in totality are our rice imports? When were they negotiated, for how much per metric ton, and when will these rice imports actually arrive in Manila? The release of such information is the best assurance to our people that there will indeed be adequate supply of rice in the country for the coming months. I ask the DA and DBM to present this bill of particulars to the people as a sign of their commitment to transparency and accountability in the use of agriculture funds.”

Telltale Signs/ IMAGINARY RICE

By Rodel E. Rodis:

I asked a friend in Manila what he was doing nowadays and he replied that he wasn’t doing much, just waiting for GMA (Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) to fall. I asked him if he was at all concerned about the rice crisis we had been hearing so much about. He said that he thought it was just a ploy used by GMA to divert attention from the many scandals facing her government.

The irony is that GMA just announced that there is no rice shortage in the country and that talk about such a shortage is “imaginary”.

The reality is that talk about the crisis has pushed the Philippine Senate hearings on government corruption out of the front pages of Manila’s dailies which are now filled with stories about the “imaginary” crisis.

The other reality is that there is a real rice crisis that has been brought about by external and internal factors within and without the control of the government. The world-wide skyrocketing of food and fuel costs has been exacerbated by the government’s actions and inactions.

In 2003, the world price of rice was $200 per metric ton. Four years later, in 2007, it jumped to $300. In less than a year since then, the price has doubled to $600 per metric ton, and it is expected to rise to as much as $1,000 per metric ton within a year.

The Philippines consumes approximately 18-M metric tons of rice a year to feed its growing 90-M population. But the country only produces about 90% of the rice it needs requiring it to import about 1.8-M metric tons, making it the world’s largest importer of rice.

Less than a month ago, the Philippines signed an agreement with Vietnam to purchase 1.5-M metric tons of rice for the year. But the agreement has an escape clause that would allow Vietnam to back off from the deal in “circumstances of natural disaster and harvest loss.” One major storm in Vietnam could easily precipitate a major rice crisis in the Philippines.

According to Sen. Mar Roxas, president of the Liberal Party, the Philippines is facing a metaphorical “perfect storm" with the steep rise in the price of rice being compounded by skyrocketing fuel costs (oil at $110 a barrel) and a recession in the US economy. The latter is certain to dramatically reduce the remittances of overseas Filipinos which the country has relied on to stabilize the economy.

To avert the impending rice shortage, the Philippine government has asked fast food chains like Jolibee and MacDonald’s to lessen the rice served with their meals in order to conserve.

One serious solution is to improve the country’s post-harvest facilities. According to Rep. Abraham Mitra, “post-harvest losses in rice hovers around 14 to 25 percent.” If the country invested in more modern post-harvest facilities, there would be no need to import rice. At a cost of $600 per metric ton of rice for a total of 1.8 million metric tons, which the Philippines will be purchasing in the open market, the government will spend about $1 billion (P40 billion pesos), more than 100 times the Philippines annual post-harvest budget.

An official of the Philippine Department of Agriculture told the Manila Times that the country spends only 1,000 pesos per farmer, which is low compared to the equivalent of 3,000 to 4,000 pesos per farmer spent by countries like Thailand, Japan and other developed countries.

Former President Fidel Ramos blamed part of the problem on the conversion of farmlands into subdivisions and industrial zones. He said the government should change its land-use policy and prohibit the conversion of arable lands to commercial and industrial use.

But even where the land remains agricultural, much of the rice land has been converted into banana plantations, notably in Mindanao, because the price for banana exports is higher than the price of rice on the domestic market.

The Comprehensive Agricultural Reform Program (CARP) has also caused problems as millions of hectares of land have been divided up into small parcels of land where farmers can’t afford to buy and use tractors and machineries to improve production because of the economies of scale so they use carabaos instead, producing the average current yield of 2.5 tons of rice per hectare, the lowest in Asia.

Of the 8.5 million hectares of arable land in the Philippines, about 6.5 million hectares have been distributed under CARP to 4 million farmer-beneficiaries, about half of the area devoted to rice and corn. More than 3 million of the farmer beneficiaries have not received the support services and access to the credit they were promised and which they need to maximize the production of their land. The government spent 157 billion pesos to purchase the lands but has precious little to help the farmers once they own the land.

Former Pres. Ramos pointed out another problem exacerbating the rice crisis - too many mouths to feed. “The population issues, of course,” he said, “must also be revisited because the government has prohibited artificial family planning methods to be supported by the budget and therefore this is a very big withdrawal of support to the poorest families especially those in the countryside.”

As a concession to the powerful Catholic Church, the Arroyo government has refused to accept millions of dollars in aid from the United Nations and the USAID in support for population and family planning programs. Ramos denounced the rejection of UN family planning assistance “because we are going contrary to what is being practiced in the most Catholic countries in the world, like Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Austria, Ireland, which is enjoying a population growth rate of less than one percent,” he said.

Ramos said the country’s birthrate is three times of those countries mentioned, “so that this infringes on all of these new problems that we are now encountering including rice, and potable water.”

A growing Filipino population cannot be fed with imaginary rice.

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

Rice Shortage: Real or Imagined?

PerryScope: by Perry Diaz

Recently, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said that there is no rice shortage; however; she said that the people will just have to pay more. She claimed that all this talk of "rice shortage" is imaginary. Well, last year the government imported 1.4 million metric tons of rice from Vietnam to fill a 10% shortage in domestic rice production. This year, in an unprecedented call to the Vietnamese president, Arroyo asked for a guarantee of 1.5 million metric tons of rice. With a rapidly diminishing domestic production, the government has to import 20 percent -- about 2.5 million metric tons -- this year to avert a rice crisis.

It is interesting to note that the world price of rice in 2003 was only $200 per metric ton. Last year it was around $300. Currently at $700 per metric ton, the market price is anticipated to soar to as much as $1,000 per metric ton. That would peg the price of commercial rice in the Philippines at P40 per kilo. Currently, the price of domestic rice supplied by the government-owned National Food Administration (NFA) is P18.00 per kilo and commercial rice is P31.00 per kilo. The question is: Once the supply of domestic rice is depleted, could the people -- particularly the poor -- afford to buy commercial rice at exorbitant prices?

A few days ago, Vietnam lowered its rice export quota this year from 4.5 million metric tons to 4.4 million metric tons in order to increase its own rice reserves. To date, almost 4 million metric tons have already been exported leaving only half a million metric tons to be sold through December of this year. Obviously, Vietnam would not be able to supply enough rice to the Philippines this year. Where would Arroyo get the rice she needed to prevent a rice crisis?

The rice crisis in the Philippines was bound to happen because of the failed economic policies of President Arroyo. Once a rice-exporting country, the Philippines today is the world's top importer of rice. A series of events that transpired since Arroyo took over the presidency in 2001 have been discussed as the reasons for the declining domestic rice production. In my opinion, the following were the causes of the looming rice crisis:

1) Hybrid Rice Farming - In 2002, the Arroyo government launched the Hybrid Rice Commercialization Program to increase rice production and thereby achieve rice self-sufficiency. In 2004, at the 4th International Crop Science Congress held in Brisbane, Australia, a group consisting of Flordeliza H. Bordey, Jesusa M. Cabling, Cheryll B. Casiwan, Rowena G. Manalili, Alice B. Mataia, and Guadalupe O. Redondo presented their study titled "Socioeconomic Evaluation of Hybrid Rice Production in the Philippines." The study showed that hybrid rice farming has higher gross income than the traditional inbred farming. "However," they said, "the hybrid rice cost of production is significantly higher due to higher seed, fertilizer, pesticide and hired labor cost. Because of these offsetting factors, net profit from the two types of rice farming did not differ significantly." In 2004, it was reported on that a farmer from Isabela province spent "more than P170,000 for seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, and recovered nothing from a local rice hybrid Magilas." In its report, "Fiasco in the Field: An Update on Hybrid Rice in Asia," it showed that hybrid rice is being rejected by farmers across Asia.

2) P3-Billion Fertilizer Scam - In December 2005, the Senate joint committees chaired by Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. issued a report which concluded that the P728-million fertilizer fund intended for farmers were diverted by then Undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc-joc" Bolante for the 2004 electoral campaign of President Arroyo. According to the report, collaborative testimonies from Agriculture officials, 13 farmer groups, Commission on Audit officials, the Budget Secretary, and alleged "runners" of Bolante indicated that the "farmers did not get a single farm input or implement" in 2004. The report named Bolante as the "master architect of the scam." He negotiated the release of funds from the Department of Budget and Management and then authorized the funds' release. He also wrote the congressmen and local officials of the availability of the funds. According to the Commission on Audit, the "funds went through a circuitous route thus resulting in fragmented accountability." The joint committees revealed that the P728 million fertilizer fund is just a portion of a larger fund -- P2.806 billion -- released during the 2004 elections.

3) P3.1-Billion Irrigation Fund - A few days ago, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Movement of Farmers in the Philippines or KMP) asked local government officials to account for P3.1 billion that were released to municipalities for the repair, rehabilitation, and restoration of irrigation systems. KMP said that its chapters have been reporting since June 2007 that no irrigation repair work were done in their regions. KMP claimed that the fund is "missing" and asked Congress to investigate what was done with the money. According to KMP, the Department of Agriculture and the National Irrigation Administration have at least P8.8 billion in irrigation fund but could not explain where the funds went.

4) Biofuels Act - Republic Act 9367, the Biofuels Act, was enacted in 2006 to maximize the production of sugarcane and coconut to supply the needs of bioethanol and coco-biodiesel. The law is perceived to be beneficial to large landowners. To meet the demands, the country needs to convert 177,400 hectares to sugarcane and coconut plantations to augment the existing 167,300 sugarcane farms. Here is the stinger: the law allows large farm owners to get land-use exemption under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

5) Jatropha - In 2006, Arroyo threw her support for the mass plantation of Jatropha tree whose oil can be converted into bio-diesel. In 2007, the government entered into several agro-fuel deals with Chinese companies. The largest was the $3.83-billion contract with Fuhua Group in which 1.2 million hectares of agricultural land -- a tenth of the total agricultural land -- would be converted into jatropha plantations; thus, drastically reducing rice production.

It is evident that Arroyo's policy of shifting into biofuels at the expense of rice production and the scams involving the P3-billion fertilizer funds and the P3.1-billion irrigation funds have caused rice production to decline.

At the end of the day, it is not the 7.3% GDP growth that is important, it's the well-being of the people, particularly the poor. A recent survey conducted by Pulse Asia in February 2008 showed that 71% of Filipinos considered themselves poor or very poor. The survey also showed that 66% of the respondents believed that the economy has worsened in the last three years. Only 11% believed that the economy is better today than in 2005, and 23% said that there has been no change. Something is wrong with the picture.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008


LOS ANGELES, California, April 10, 2008 -- International singing star Anthony Castelo will receive the prestigious "President's Volunteer Service Award" during ceremonies organized by the Volunteer Center of Los Angeles called "Celebrate LA 2008" on April 27, 2008 at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena. The award is issued by the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation, a committee formed by President George W. Bush in 2003 by Executive Order. It recognizes outstanding efforts of individuals and organizations towards their community and country. The Council brings together leaders from the worlds of business, entertainment, education and non-profit organizations. Among the members of the President's Council are Patricia Heaton of "Everybody Loves Raymond", multi-awarded Christian recording artist Michael W. Smith, Jean Case of America Online (AOL), Hollywood actor Stephen Baldwin and Roxanne Spillett, President of the Boys and Girls Club of America.

It will be recalled that the Philippine born singer/composer was welcomed to the White House by the U.S. President in 2002 to present a copy of his 9/11 inspired musical composition entitled "Long Live America". In 2004, through a non-profit organization Castelo established, the singer helped secure for Engracia Gutierrez a humanitarian visa to come to the United States. Engracia is the sister and only living next-of-kin to U.S. Lance Corporal Jose Gutierrez, an immigrant from Guatemala who died in Iraq. Likewise, with the help of city officials from Lomita and Carson, Castelo organized a 2004 Fourth of July event honoring Gutierrez and another immigrant soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their adopted country, U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Menusa, a native of the Philippines. The singer also donated part of the proceeds of his patriotic CD to the soldiers’ families.

"On behalf of Long Live America Foundation, it is a privilege for me to receive this recognition and I share this honor with all Filipinos around the globe", Castelo said. "Through the years, America has shared its blessings of freedom and prosperity with the nations of the world. As a thankful immigrant whose native Philippines was liberated by the United States in World War II, it is truly an honor to be of service to this great country", Castelo stressed.

Volunteer Center of Los Angeles Executive Director, Jim Leahy will present the award to Castelo during the April 27 Sunday event. Entrance is FREE and the place will be open to the public from 11 am to 5 pm. Activities of the day include live concerts, carnival games, giveaways, awards, arts and crafts and much more. Castelo, who continues to travel the globe doing concerts and special appearances, will be signing autographs for fans at an assigned booth and where his CDs, DVDs and souvenir items will be available for sale. Part of the proceeds will go to charity.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Jazz Explosion At The Grill

Photos by Albert Vargas

7PM April 5, 2008. Location is Catalina Bar and Grill Jazz club on Sunset blvd in Hollywood, California. The weather is superb and we are in a party mood. Ted Benito, friend and manager to Ms Charmaine Clamor, welcomes us and leads us to Ms Clamor’s dressing room for the press interview. We are impressed by her down to earth personality. No Attitudes, and quite accommodating. There is no evidence of the talent and power this person carries within her during the interview. Our dialogue lasts fifteen minutes and we are happy with the outcome.

The jazz aficionados begin to sprinkle in. The Catalina Bar and Grill is a perfect setting for this event. It is cozy and romantic. Candle-lit tables with dimmed indirect lighting creates the ambience. Waiters were everywhere ready to take orders. Excellent customer service. Jazz lovers tend to be higher end. The genre being that of successful baby boomers and former yuppies now thinking of early retirement. Jazz reflects a mindset. It is someone who has been there and done that. Give me some fine music that does not jumble up my thought process. Give me sounds that soothes and accentuates the soul. Yes!

The audience is a mixture of different ethnic groups. It is clear that Ms Clamor has a following. The well dressed spectators cheer exuberantly as Charmaine enters stage. Her dazzling attire accentuates her fit, slim figure.

The concert starts out with her singing “My Funny Brown Pinay”. The song is a torch for all Filipinas to be proud of the way they look. Accept yourself and be happy. Explore your potentials and achieve your dreams. This composition mirrors Charmaine’s thoughts about her homeland, the Philippines.

She continues. From a mellow start, it begins to pick up with “Sugar in My Bowl”. This is a naughty, naughty song. Sultry, sassy, and provocative. But she delivers it with such control, power, and most of all, personality. Felt like blushing while listening to this song.

The night progresses. Her rendition of “Dahil Sa’yo” is impressive. Forget Imelda Marcos’ rendition. Ms Clamor’s version of this Filipino classic was so jazzy and sung from the heart. The non-Filipino audience where transfixed, mesmerized by the feelings imbedded in the delivery, and the beauty of the melody. Being a Filipino-American, I felt a bit choked up. Goose bumps when she hit those high notes. I felt that way because we Pinoys have this sensitivity. Ya Baby!

Charmaine, backed by master guitarist Ric Ickard, presented some of her harana songs. It is amazing how one great vocalist and an excellent classic guitar player can captivate a roomful of music lovers. And that they surely did. It was apparent that Jazzipino was the new drug being introduced into the veins of all jazz lovers.

Then along came Michael Konik and Mon David. Their vocal jamming with Charmaine was hilarious. It was a duel of musical skills, taunting and teasing each other to the point of making the audience crack up. Mon and Charmaine did a song entitled “San Mig and Balut” which reflected the Filipino eclectic ways. Like, whatever works, we will take it. And Michael Konik kept on coming in indicating he wanted none of that balut stuff but wanted some of Mon David. This was all done in jazz.. almost hip hop jazz but not quite.. a tinge of Al Jurreau.. and should I say bebop? You should have been there. Three masters playing at it. Who could ask for anything more. The spectators not only enjoyed the presence of these talents but also witnessed the birth, the melding of Filipino words into South American melodies and beat, other than classical jazz. Ted Benito referred to this musical hybrid as taganova or bossalog (tagalog bossa nova). Hey, its Pinoy power however way you want to say it.

Time flies when you’re having fun. It was 10PM when the Charmaine Clamor concert ended. The fans stayed around to have their CD’s autographed and photos taken with the celebrities. Please make it a point to see one of her shows. It’s so much better than staying home and watching television. With her, you witness the rise of the Filipino culture on an international level via talent and personality. Charmaine Clamor, Mon David, and Ric Ickard. These are countrymen who represent the capabilities of our culture. Mabuhay!

Charmaine’s website: Check it out!

Written by: John F. Lacson/

Photos by: Albert Vargas/
Slideshow: Ver Penaranda/

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Charmaine Clamor: Jazzy Pinay Power

The passion of singing manifested itself early. At age 3 and being an only child, Charmaine Clamor was singing at the back of buses entertaining passengers on their way from hometown Subic Zambales to Manila. Her mother was the role model then. Young Charmaine provided piano accompaniment while mom sung kundimans. In family parties, singing with cousins and friends was part of the entertainment fare. Quite normal activity for a Filipino party then and now.At age 16 Charmaine left the Philippines and migrated to the United States. She is a board certified Physical Therapist in California. Originally, that was going to be her day job until she got into singing again. Ten years back, she co-founded CRESCENDO which is a foremost American Jazz quintet. Being the vocalist, her indoctrination towards American Jazz was kindled. Her group started performing at the CATALINA BAR & GRILL located on Sunset blvd in Hollywood.

This baptism into American Jazz prevailed and Charmaine Clamor was transformed from your talented singer into a full pledged jazz artist. Her parents did not approve of this transition. Like most Filipino elders, they wanted their daughter to keep on doing the Physical Therapy thing, and make sure there was money for food on the table and the bills paid. However, the passion to sing was too strong and Charmaine kept on doing shows.

This successful breakthrough into the American jazz scenario would have been enough for most to lay their laurels on. However, there was a part of Charmaine that remembered those growing up days in the Philippines. It’s true that in the old country, most women were looked down upon if they were brown and lacked the mestiza features which was a legacy of our Spanish conquerors. Quite frankly, to be a fair-skinned and sharp-nosed was and still is a symbol of aristocracy. Society snobbed a Filipina who was brown and flat-nosed. Even the TV ads and billboards in Manila hawked products that would make women whiter skinned and more western looking.

At 5′7 with a well defined nose, Charmaine is tall for your average Filipina. However, she associates herself with those dark-skinned Pinays who have undergone prejudice because of their color. She remembers childhood days when she was teased for her being Pinay. Ms Clamor wants those Pinays to be proud of their looks. To do away with this colonial mentality that brown is poor. And to realize that wealth lies within us. She believes in kindness. Kindness accompanied with a smile makes a person much more attractive. Charmaine has this killer smile that just melts the heart!

True to contemporary jazz, her style is reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and Cassandra Wilson. Once in a while, she throws in a twist of Anita Baker. My opinion is that her range of style is equivalent to the female version of Michael Buble. She is a bundle of great jazz artists rolled into one persona. I am proud to be Filipino when I hear Charmaine Clamor deliver her stuff.

Going back to her cause to uplift the brown Pinay. She created Jazzipino.

This is a fusion of American jazz melodies sprinkled with Tagalog words. This music praises the dark skinned Pinays and encourages them to be proud. Charmaine co-wrote the song “MY FUNNY BROWN PINAY” which reflects her roots. It is amazing how the power and quality of her voice can mesmerize an audience that do not speak a work of Tagalog. Yet they sit still, enthralled by her hypnotic spell.

Charmaine Clamor is here to stay. For now she has two CD releases. The first one titled “SEARCHING FOR THE SOUL” was cut during her earlier years as a Jazz artists. The cuts are all in English and shows the promise of an uprising star. Her second CD is titled”FLIPPIN’ OUT”. This album reflects her crossover from contemporary jazz to Jazzipino.

She is in the process of cutting her third CD which will delve into HARANA. In the Philippines back then, a guy attracted to a certain girl would bring a guitar and serenade the lass at night. If her window opens and she listens, that would signify acceptance of the guy. If it remained closed, then forget about it! This third album would pay tribute to Ms Clamor’s mother who sung kundimans in Filipino vernacular which included love songs. And by the way, news flash! Her parents have finally accepted the fact that their daughter is more successful in singing than doing physical therapy. So for one and all, follow your passion. Go for it!

Please check out more on Charmaine Clamor via

Written by: John F. Lacson/ Photos by Albert Vargas

Friday, April 4, 2008

Night of the Champions Encore Concert

Photos pool coverage by:
Joe Cobilla, Benny Uy, Phillip Ner & Noel Guinto. All rights reserved.

Featuring Christian Bautista, Rachelle Ann Go, Sarah Geronimo and Mark Bautista, at the Heritage Forum, Anaheim, CA last March 29, 2008.

This event was sponsored by ABC and VIVA, in cooperation with Tancinco Law Offices, Tribune USA, Marissa Entertainment, Bahay Kubo Natin, Kalesa Grill, Eggroll Etc., ABS-CBN The Filipino Channel, Wilshire Travel Center, Globe Express, Intl., Broadway Court Apartelle and California Wok.

Supervising Producer - Jonathan Algada; Technical Director - Jet Montelibano and Musical Director - Marc Lopez.