Monday, June 30, 2008

Pacquiao Knocks out Diaz in 9th Round

All Photos by Benny Uy (Fronliners Media Group)

Las Vegas, Nevada: Manny Pacquiao knocks out David Diaz at Mandalay Bay Casino & Resort in Las Vegas June 28. The 'Lethal Combination' showdown between ring idol Manny Pacquiao and WBC lightweight champion David Diaz ended with a knockout on the 9th round. If you missed the fight, enjoy the images taken by Fronliners Lensman Benny Uy.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gina Alexander and the Bag of HOPE

Article & photos by Jay Fermin PW

Los Angeles: A bevy of celebrities and hundreds of well dressed advocates and sponsors came out to the hip and trendy Twin Palms Restaurant in Old Pasadena one comfortable June evening to support a very good cause. Gina Alexander, the Filipina entrepreneur and designer made famous by her creation of “Photo Handbags” that have garnered a huge celebrity following including Penelope Cruz, Faith Hill, Halle Berry to name a few – has dedicated her business and success to helping the less fortunate children in the Philippines thru her very own GAPP project.

Gina Alexander Philanthropy Project (GAPP) hosted the 2nd Annual Center of HOPE worldwide Celebrity Benefit last June 1, 2008. Spotted at the red carpet and greeted by a constant barrage of camera flashes and TV cameras were Singer and former American Idol Season 3 finalist Camille Velasco, Chilli of the R&B group TLC, Janie Hendrix (sister of Jimi Hendrix and CEO of Experience Hendrix), Jelyn Rodriguez (Bar Starz), Jesse Brune (actor: Workout Bravo), Kelly Hu (Xmen 2), Lara Avengoza (Singer), Manny Guevarra (KISS FM), Mark Dacascos (Actor), the Disney High School Musical cast members composed of Eddie Kaulukukui, Jenny Schoone, & Evan Saucedo (Everwood), Monica Parales (Singer), Jennifer Braff (actress & Executive Assistant: Los Angeles Lakers), Rodel Gonzales (Singer, Side A), Sheila E. (Musician), The Basco Brothers, young pop stars The G*Girlz (Savannah, Keana & Destinee), Willy Santos (pro Skateboarder), Erik & Amber Gustafson (Just Off Turner) and many more.

Cher Calvin (KTLA Morning News Anchor) co-emceed the evening with actor/singer Michael Copon (That’s So Raven, Power Rangers, One Tree Hill). It was indeed different when 2005 Emmy Award recipient Cher Calvin greeted the guests with a pleasant “Good Evening”, quite different from her usual early morning greeting on KTLA Channel 5 morning news. Cher believes it is important to give back to the community. (She is also the spokesperson for A3M, The Asian Miracle Marrow Matches charity).

The GAPP project sponsored the 2nd Annual Center of HOPE worldwide Celebrity Benefit to send aid to underprivileged and abandoned children in the Philippines and the world. “Adopting my daughter Katelyn inspired me to be more involved,” says Gina Alexander. “I have a deep love for my people and strong desire to help more children in the Philippines. I always look at her (Katelyn) and ask myself where she would be if we did not open our hearts and minds as an act of love….” Gina stated.

And the night’s well-attended fundraiser dinner and silent auction attested to that passion and endeavor. Notable items at the silent auction tables were the Kobe Bryant autographed Basketball, autographed Na Leo CDs, Kingdom Gems, House of Blues ticket for four, a Janis Joplin painting, Pete Escovedo painting, Jimi Hendrix Leather Jacket (size XXL), High School Musical Gift Basket, prints of the band ‘Sting’ by photographer Michael Weintrob, a beautiful handcrafted bag by another Fil-Am Designer RAFE of New York (, painting by artist Judy Vandergrift, a collection of signature Gina Alexander Inc. handbags, and autographed copies of the new books by Jack Canfield (famous for his Chickensoup for the Soul series) namely ‘Key for Living’ and ‘Gratitude.’

Gina Alexander started designing bags for other companies 10 years ago after graduating from FIDM. She recounts that having no capital, she borrowed money from a friend from church and started to create the distinct handbags from her garage. She owned a kiosk at Hollywood and Vine and then opened another kiosk at The Grove. Now, her popular ‘photo handbags’ are sold at large chic retailers like Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, and Saks Inc. including other stores worldwide.

After a series of failed tries at motherhood from which she almost lost her life, Gina and her husband Richard adopted a now beautiful four-year-old Katelyn thru HOPE for Children Worldwide. Gina’s story of resiliency from failure to a now multi-million dollar business so inspired the author Jack Canfield so much that she is being featured in the infomercial world promotion of the author’s latest book entitled ‘The Law of Attraction.’

Recipients of the GAPP Humanitarian Award 2008 were handed out to (Black Eyed Peas) presented by Chilli of the TLC and was received in Apl’s behalf by Jeepney Music’s Nina Bautista accompanied by a video of their work among the poor in the Philippines. Other GAPP Humanitarian Award 2008 recipients were the ‘Search to Involve Pilipino Americans’ (SIPA) received by Mr. Benito Miranda & Mr. Joel Jacinto, World Emergency Relief (WER) received by WER CEO Dr. Joel McCollum and his wife Jan, and Hope World Worldwide received by HOPE Founder and Board of Director Patricia Gempel.

The fundraiser had ABS-CBN Global represented by Community Relations Manager Ms. Mitos Santisteban and Asian Journal represented by Publisher Cora Oriel as media partners and Production and PR flawlessly put together by TDRZ’s Mr. Ted Benito.

I spoke with Jun Velasco, one of the award presenters (accompanied by actress Kelly Hu) earlier in the evening. He is the Executive Director of Hope Worldwide Philippines and flew in to Los Angeles to attend the GAPP fundraiser. He had a lot of stories to tell about the children and the poor that needed the help. As he was telling me these, he was slowly unwrapping a very precious package. It was a painting done by the children in the Philippines. It showed a multicolored fish that is swimming among the signatures of the names of recipient children of the GAPP-Hope fundraiser. Jun told me that this piece of art is a gift and he hand carried it all the way from the Philippines. It was a gift for Gina Alexander from the children whose lives GAPP-Hope have touched.

I told Jun that the painting is beautiful indeed. From 7,000 miles away, in the middle of all the celebrities and performers this night, amid the glitz and the glamour, the painting reminded us that the need is still there. The poor and abandoned children are waiting for a loving hand. Tonight, GAPP-Hope showed the world once again that the children’s plea for assistance did not fall on deaf ears. Help is on its way, one bag, one child, and one fundraiser at a time. We are all reminded that it is indeed blessed to give as well as receive.

Singer Lara Avengoza debuts in Hollywood

Hollywood: Lara Avengoza hit it big last June 28 on her debut concert at Celebrity Center in Hollywood. Lara has now convinced the music community’s talent watchers that she has what it takes to be a major performer, if not a star.

Up-and-coming rising vocalist Lara Avengoza is hitting the music industry scene with her debut CD project simply titled, “Listen” released in 2008. But don’t let the ‘up-and-coming’ label fool you, she has been singing since the age of 3 and began formal training at the age of 7 as she learned various techniques and styles from the likes of Sarah Stokes, Clark Harris and recently with Annie Nepomuceno (group Three Of A Kind). She has been entertaining audiences all over the world. One of her first high-profile performances was in 2000 when she, along with a children’s choir, got to sing for Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Rome.

Her performances since then have ranged the gamut from being the lead role for musicals to opening act for international recording artists to singing back-up at major shows and concerts. Lara was the opening act for Jasmine Trias, Season 3 finalist on the hit-TV show juggernaut, American Idol and A.J. Tabaldo, another American Idol contestant. With that, she has also sung back-up vocals for recording artist singer-extradornaire Lani Misalucha (a Las Vegas perennial who sings with the popular and entertaining group from Hawaii, Society Of Seven). Also, Lara has performed with international vocal group, Three Of A Kind at the annual FAL (Filipino-American Library) Spirit Awards held at the lavish Biltmore Hotel where she shared the stage with Film & TV actress, Tia Carrere (‘Wayne’s World’ & TV’s ‘Relic Hunter’) and three-time Grammy Award winner, Daniel Ho along with Broadway and musical-theater veteran, Stephanie Reese. Also, Lara sang with the aforementioned group at the nationally televised annual Christmas Holiday Celebration at the famed and historic Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. In 2006, at The Eighth Annual Entertainment and Achievement Awards, Lara was honored to win both the Best Female Vocalist and Best Female Performer awards.

In her spare time, Lara has also enjoyed a flourishing career in the theater. As a leading lady, she played the role of Tina in the light-hearted musical-romantic comedy, “Tina and the Magic Mirror”, a spin-off from various popular Broadway musicals including, “West Side Story,” “South Pacific”, “Camelot” and “The Phantom of the Opera” among others as well as other popular pop ballads that are woven together which provides the romantic ingredient in the plot. Before that, she played the role of Diwata in the musical opera, “Karim At Jasmin” where it drew critical acclaim and toured on the West Coast. Also, other roles include the national tour in 2006-2007 for the very popular and entertaining children’s musical production of, “A Kid’s Life!” as the role of the owl, Bella.

With all of this experience under her belt, Lara wanted to concentrate as a solo recording artist. In 2005, Lara along with international performer, Kris Lawrence performed alongside together in Los Angeles called, “Back 2 Back” where the concert gave a glimpse into Lara’s varied musical influences such as Alicia Keys and Celine Dion among others as a recording artist and vocalist.

That concert back then was a pre-cursor which leads into her most recent CD titled, “Listen.” It’s a project that showcases her vocal prowess in rhythmic-pop tunes, ballads, and even a little flavor from the pop/rock arena. One of the first singles to be released is, “More Than I Should” where it will be released online through her MySpace page and various online music sites for her fans to gravitate towards with plans for a major radio and marketing push. Other hit singles include, “Hold On To My Love”, “Favorite Story” and the title track, “Listen.” Lara says about the first single, “This is one of my favorite songs on the CD, the lyrics spoke to me…” The CD is slated to be released in 2008 where Lara plans to promote and market the CD project nationwide with various appearances throughout the country.

Look out Hollywood. Lara Avengoza is the new shining singer to watch!

PGMA supports equity for Filipino World War II veterans

American Coalition for Filipino Veterans leaders (L to R): Manuel Cannu of San Diego CA, Rudy Panaglima of Arlington VA and Patrick Ganio of Jacksonville FL of greet Philippine President Gloria Arroyo as Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista CA) and Rep. Darrell ISSA (R-Vista CA), co-chairs of the Philippine-US Friendship Congressional Caucus look on in Cannon House VA Committee Hearing Room 334 on June 25, 2008.(ACFV photo by Eric Lachica)

WASHINGTON – June 25 – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo batted strongly Wednesday for equity for Filipino veterans who had fought and suffered alongside American forces in World War II including the infamous Bataan Death March.

Before two different fora held hours apart, the recurring theme of the President’s speech was equity for the Filipino veterans who fought and died under the banner of the Stars and Stripes in WWII.

At the reception for the Philippines-US Friendship Caucus at the Veterans Committee Hearing Room, US Capitol Building, the President said the history of the Filipino veterans’ role in WWII “remains incomplete; the last chapter is yet to be written.”

But, she added, it is not too late to “honor the service of all our fathers – American and Philippine – who fought for America and believed in the promise of America. To paraphrase another great American President, Abraham Lincoln: ‘We must now call on the better angels of our nature and set our sights high.”

She said that when then US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called on the Filipinos to serve in the US military after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, “our fathers of that greatest generation heeded the call. The President of the United States was our commander-in-chief.”

“Filipinos served as US soldiers, fought side by side with Americans, and died under the banner of the Star and Stripes. They suffered through some of the most brutal acts of World War II, including the notorious Bataan Death March. Yet they prevailed, and together we vanquished the enemy and brought freedom and human dignity back to Asia and the world,” the President added.

She thanked US Congressmen Bob Filner and Darell Issa, two stalwarts in the “Filipino veterans equity movement,” and the general membership of the Philippine-US Friendship Caucus for their support for the Philippines and the Filipino WWII veterans.

The President said that during this trip to the US, she is personally working to promote the interests of Filipino WWII veterans with “your colleagues in the US Congress,” referring to Congressmen Filner and Issa.

She told the Caucus that it is time “we honor the past as we build for the future. Equity for the Philippine Veterans of World War II is within our grasp. We thank you for keeping the faith. We hope we can find a way to set history on its proper course and do justice to the greatest generation.”

In another forum, the reception with the Filipino community held at the Willard Hotel, the President called on the Filipinos in the US to keep the fight for equity for the Filipino WWII veteran going.

She said that in her meetings with President Bush and members of the US Congress, the interest of the Filipino veterans was foremost in the agenda.

The President thanked the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations, the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans and other groups for pushing hard for the Veterans Equity Bill leading to the approval of the Senate version of the measure.

She wished them success in persuading opponents of the bill in the US House of Representatives to reconsider their position “so as to correct a lingering injustice to our WWII heroes.”

The US Senate has passed its versions of the Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement a
Act of 2007 by a vote of 96-1. The measure would provide pension to 18,000 Filipino veterans who fought alongside the US forces in the Philippines in World War II.

Under the bill, surviving members of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) and Filipino scouts living in the Philippines will receive a special monthly non-service disability pension of $300.

Filipino World War II veterans living in the US will receive the same range as their American counterparts whose monthly pension range from $900 to $1,400.

Out of the 470,000 Filipinos who joined the US forces in the Philippines at the outbreak of World War II, only about 18,000 are still alive, majority of them above 80 years old.

We thank Ambassador Willy Gaa, Minister Carlos Sorreta, Gen. Delfing Lorenzana, Maj. Percival Abu, Consul Rico Fos and their kind staff for their support and hospitality.

NEXT ACTION? Persuade House Speaker Nancy "Pay-Go" Pelosi to schedule a vote on S. 1315.

Stay tuned for our planned "Pay-Go" national action for the July 4th "Filipino American Friendship Day" anniverary to win Speaker Pelosi's heart & leadership.

American Coalition for Filipino Veterans, Inc.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


By Ronnie Nathanielsz

A 17 year old fresh high school graduate has been chosen to sing the Philippine national anthem at the “Lethal Combination” showdown between Filipino ring idol Manny Pacquiao and WBC lightweight champion David Diaz at the Mandalay Bay Resort Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on June 28.

Nicole Angela Judalena told Viva Sports/Manila Standard Today that Pacquiao’s business manager Eric Pineda discovered her through his son who is a friend and after she sent her CD to Pineda “he told me to audition for Manny” who himself has made some hit records.

Judalena said she went to the set of Pinoy Records at GMA and “there I sang to Manny and auditioned.”

When she was chosen to sing the national anthem, the young girl said “at first it was hard for me to absorb it. I couldn’t actually believe I got it with so many talented singers here. Its such an honor to be there (Las Vegas) and give glory to our country just by singing.”

Judalena conceded that she expects “to be nervous” but stressed that “as always I fight that nervousness and just go for it and I believe in God, that He will always help me wherever He will take me.”

She said she was amazed at how nice Pacquiao was considering he is a national hero. “He is so friendly and so smart” as she made reference to how Pacquiao beat his former business manager Rod Nazario in a game of chess she witnessed at the Century Park Hotel prior to Pacquiao’s departure for Los Angeles. In addition Judalena said “Manny is actually funny and very grounded."

Friday, June 27, 2008

M7 Magazine 2nd Issue release at Pacquiao - Diaz fight

By Jay Fermin PW

Los Angeles: The World Lightweight Title will be on the line as newly crowned World Boxing Council (WBC) super featherweight champion Manny Pacquiao battles WBC lightweight champion comeback David Diaz in a 12 round fight this Saturday, June 28, 2008 at the luxurious Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Bout Producer will be HBO and will air the fight starting at 9 PM ET / 6 PM PT live via HBO Pay-Per View. Fil-Am Media Photographers have begun their caravan to glitzy Las Vegas including Fronliners Media Group's very own veteran photographers Manny Ortega, Benny Uy, and Joe Cobilla to capture the fight blow by blow thru their lens.

Waiting for the expected huge crowd of boxing spectators at Mandalay Bay before the fight will be Issue # 2 of the newest magazine to enter the US market: “M7 MAG”. According to the publishers and editors, ‘M7 MAG started as an idea and now has become a mission.' They plan to showcase the rise of the Filipino American success in various fields including the film, television, fashion and business. The M7 Magazine family is led by Editor-In-Chief and very successful artist Antoinette Cherish Taus herself. Other members of the Editorial Staff are Rosetti Angela Robles, Joanne Khris Contreras, Sweet Anne Distrito, Priscilla Ledesma and Methusela Olimpo. Senior Graphic Designer is Stanlee Gonzalvo while photographers for the magazine are Joseph Dilag and Bren Evangelio.

The March debut issue looked very exciting and showcased an article on Manny Pacquiao. Also on the debut issue is one of the youngest Filipino-American legend in import car racing, RJ De Vera. The First Annual Filipino American Visionary Awards was also featured. The second issue to be distributed Saturday at the Pacquiao - Diaz fight will feature of the Black Eyed Peas on the cover.

I am excited for these young editors and staff of ‘M7 Mag’ and especially to the amiable Editor-In-Chief Antoinette Taus who will be accompanied to the Mandalay fight by of the Black Eyed Peas. Pubisher is Manuel Paez of Manila Forwarders / Travel PH.

Everybody is looking forward to the Pacquiao-Diaz fight. ‘M7 Mag’ issue # 2 will make sure that the spectators at Mandalay Bay will go home with one of the best and unique newest glossy magazine that will show the world the greatness of the Filipino people.

Congratulations to ‘M7 MAG’ and our best to the champion Manny Pacquiao

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Let your Voices be Heard: Call your Congressman to Pass SB.1315

Dear Friends:

This is an appeal on behalf of our surviving Filipino WWII veterans for the U.S. House of Representative to pass SB.1315 better known as the 'Filipino Veterans Equity Act.'

Out of the more than 400,000 listed after WWII, only about 20,000 remain. Time is of the essence as they are in their mid-80s and their numbers are dwindling. In a few years they will all be gone. For the first time ever, the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill has passed Committee levels of both Houses and has passed the US Senate. Now, we need the 260 congressman to say yes to SB.1315 at the House of Representative.

S.1315 was passed by the U.S. Senate on April 24, and it contains a range of benefits for U.S. veterans, as well as benefits for our surviving Filipino WWII veterans. We must all ask Speaker Pelosi to move S.1315 towards approval and we should contact our U.S. Representatives to support the House version of S.1315 and to ensure that the benefits to Filipino WWII veterans are not amended or removed.


The contact phone is 202-225-0100. Or email her directly here: Tell her: I AM [your name], A VOTER FROM [your home state]. I ASK THAT YOU LEAD THE HOUSE TO PASS S.1315, THE VETERANS' BENEFITS ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 2007, AND DO NOT AMEND OR REMOVE THE BENEFITS IN IT FOR THE FILIPINO WWII VETERANS.

The contact information for your Congressman is on Or email your message using the process below. Tell them: I AM [your name], A VOTER FROM [your hometown/city], [your home state]. I ASK THAT YOU SUPPORT S.1315 AND DO NOT AMEND/REMOVE THE BENEFITS FOR THE FILIPINO WWII VETERANS.

I just sent an email to my representative by following along with the very SIMPLE steps below. You should do the same NOW. Do each step as you read it now:

1. Open your web browser and go to
2. Enter your zip code and click on GO. You will go to a new page with the list of your elected officials.
3. On the bottom of the leftmost column, click on the name of your U.S. Representative.
4. You will go to a new page with your Representative's photo and contact information. Click on SEND MESSAGE in blue under the photo.
5. You will go to a new page where you will type in and send your message.
7. Click on the arrow on the Issue Area and select VETERANS AFFAIRS at the very end of the list
8. In the message box, enter: I AM A VOTER FROM [your home town/city], [your home state]. I ASK THAT YOU SUPPORT S.1315 AND DO NOT AMEND THE BENEFITS IN IT FOR FILIPINO WW2 VETERANS.
9. Type in your name in the Name box.
10. Complete Part 2 with your contact information. This is important. It will show to the US Representative that you are indeed from his voting district.
11. Make sure the REMEMBER ME box is checked.
12. Click the SEND MESSAGE in blue in the bottom. You will get an acknowledgement page that your message has been sent.
13. When you have sent your message, help each of your family and friends of voting age to do the same thing.
14. Add the web page to your list of FAVORITES so you can use it for follow-up messages later.
15. That is it. If you haven't been following along, go back to step 1, and DO IT RIGHT NOW!

Capitol Switchboard : (202)-224-3121

Call the House of Representatives today and help make history and help pass SB.1315

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Saga of Joc-Joc Bolante

PerryScope: by Perry Diaz

Seven years ago, Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante never had it so good. He was on top of the world. In my article, "The Joc-Joc Affair is No Joking Matter" (July 28, 2006), I wrote: "He was appointed as Agriculture Undersecretary for Finance and Administration by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2001, shortly after she assumed the presidency from deposed president Joseph Estrada. 'Joc-Joc' was 'right' for the job with his impeccable credentials which included membership and various leadership roles in the Rotary International, the prestigious service organization whose motto is 'Service Above Self.' Up to that point in his life, Bolante appears to have done everything right and maintained an unblemished business and professional reputation."

Four years later, in sudden turn of events, his world turned upside down. As Agriculture Undersecretary, Bolante had administrative and "discretionary" authority over the multi-billion peso fertilizer funds. In June 2004 -- following the controversial 2004 re-election of President Arroyo -- former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez filed plunder cases against President Arroyo and several Department of Agriculture officials including Bolante for alleged misuse of the fertilizer funds.

In 2005, the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Food, and Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon) initiated a series of joint public hearings to investigate the alleged fertilizer scam. Consequently, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism conducted its own investigation and discovered that a large portion of the P728-million fertilizer funds was released to fictitious -- or "ghost" -- foundations. In December of 2005, the Senate joint committees chaired by Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. issued a report which concluded that the fertilizer funds intended for farmers were diverted by Undersecretary 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.

Soon after the report came out, Bolante disappeared and became a fugitive from justice after failing to appear before the Senate joint committees. Senator Magsaysay said that Bolante was subpoenaed four times but his whereabouts were unknown. On July 7, 2006, Bolante was arrested after he tried to enter the United States with a cancelled visa. Unbeknown to Bolante, Senator Magsaysay had previously requested the US Embassy in Manila to cancel his visa. However, instead of refusing him entry into the US, he was detained by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit of the Department of Homeland Security.

To avoid deportation, Bolante sought political asylum claiming that he would be persecuted if he returned to the Philippines. On June 25, 2007, an Immigration Judge denied his application for asylum and was ordered deported.

Bolante did not waste any time in filing an appeal with the Federal Court of Appeals. His lawyers made their oral arguments before the court last February 11, 2008. The court is expected to make its decision by July. Meanwhile, he is detained at the Kenosha Detention Center in Wisconsin where he is treated like a common criminal. Should the Court of Appeals uphold the lower court's decision, Bolante can still exercise his rights to appeal his case before the U.S. Supreme Court. If he succeeds with his appeal, he would then become a permanent resident.

Recently, a leader in the Filipino-American community in the Midwest notified me of a rumor that has been going around. Accordingly, Bolante is pleading poverty and is also trying to be moved out of detention for health reasons, claiming that he is ill. The Fil-Am leader said that they are opposing his release and a letter-writing campaign was started to make the proper authorities aware of what he has done.

Indeed, the "Fertilizer Scam," of which he was named in the Senate report as the "master architect of the scam," has recently been mentioned as one of the reasons for the poor production of rice; thus forcing the Philippine government to increase its importation of rice. Today, the Philippines is the top importer of rice. According to the testimony of Chavez, the fertilizer funds were disbursed as follows: 25% to Bolante; 30% to a group of 26 mayors, 49 governors and 103 congressmen; 20% to the supplier of farm inputs; and 25% for Bolante's "runners." The biggest chunk for one individual -- a whopping P182 million -- went to Bolante.

With Bolante's deportation almost a certainty, his homecoming could jolt the political landscape and destabilize the Arroyo government. It is anticipated that the Senate would reopen the "Fertilizer Scam" investigation and summon Bolante to give his belated testimony. With nowhere to go, Bolante wouldn't have too many options. The question is: Is he going to sing like a canary and implicate government officials including those in Malacanang? If he would, it could be the mother of all scandals.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Ilonggo Association of SoCal Rushes Aid to Flood Victims

Los Angeles: Weather stations in the Philippines, Japan, and China monitored a low-pressure area east of Mindanao June 16 which was upgraded to ‘Depression Frank’ two days later as a tropical storm. On the 19th of June, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) upgraded it to Typhoon Status. The People’s Republic of China submitted the offical name ‘Fengshen’ which is the Mandarin Chinese name for the God of Wind.

Gathering strength, ‘Fengshen’ made landfall in the Philippine island of Samar last June 20 in central Philippines. It pounded the area with wind gusts above 122 mph and carrying sustained winds averaging 90 mph. It moved quickly towards the island of Panay in central Philippines, downing power lines, blowing off roofs of houses and establishments and pouring down a deluge of torrential rain that caused severe flooding and mudslides.

A ferryboat bound for Cebu from Manila, the Princess of the Stars, capsized near the island of Sibuyan with more than 700 people unaccounted for. A U.S. Navy ship based in Japan with helicopters onboard is now onsite to help in the search and rescue operations.

Typhoon Frank packed a lot of force and left a swath of destruction as it moved its way towards the north-northwest passing thru Metro Manila and exiting the Philippines on its way towards Eastern Taiwan some 1,300 kilometers north.

The tropical cyclone (number 0806) being the sixth storm to hit Southeast Asia this year, left a few surprises behind. For the first time in history, residents of the capital city of Panay named Iloilo woke up to fast rising floodwaters. By early morning of June 21, more than 155,000 people were affected and hundreds and thousands climbed up to the roof of their houses or on top of trees to escape the rising floodwaters. It was too much for the rescue teams of the city to handle.

Many people were stranded. There were initial reports of 124 dead and 320 missing. Most of Iloilo’s 180 barangays (village) were under water and in some areas, only the roof of the houses are above the floodwater. The worst hit cities are in the provinces of Iloilo and Capiz with respective capital cities of Iloilo and Roxas being the hardest hit. World famous Boracay Beach was also affected by the typhoon.

Panay Electric (PECO) lost its powerplant in Dingle town which resulted in total blackout. Cell Sites were blown down and hampered coordination of rescue efforts. Cell phone users found their batteries dead and no way of recharging them. Landline phones of PLDT and Globe also were dead. The rest of the four-province island, namely Aklan and Antique remained disconnected due to power outage, road were washed out and destroyed bridges isolated many areas.

But the hardest hit was the metropolitan area of Iloilo City as well as the neighboring cities of Sara, Maasin, Cabatuan, Pavia, Sta. Barbara, and Barotac Viejo.

Last night, we caught up with President Elect Eduardo ‘Butch’ Zaragoza (top photo) here in Southern California who was busy coordinating monetary aid on the phone while his fax machine was working doubletime. He is the newly elected President of the Ilonggo Association of Southern California (Inducted May 17). They have sent close to P.5 million with the assistance of Mr. Roger Florete who rushed the aid to Iloilo city to buy food and water.

Amidst report of panic buying, people fighting over food and water, and the physical and emotional strain of a mass-casualty event of this magnitude, the best community spirit still breaks forth. Ilonggo President Zarazosa calmly instructed his Association members that the priority now is food and water. The monetary aid was entrusted to a popular public service radio station, Aksyon Radyo Bombo, in Iloilo City.

When we left Mr. Zaragoza, his wife Erlyn was busy coordinating medical mission trip as soon as possible to Iloilo, anticipating the need after the floodwaters subside.

If you want to send in your donation or to inquire on how you can help, please contact Mr. Eduardo ‘Butch’ Zaragoza at (818) 831-4158. Now is the time. Iloilo needs you.

Amidst the confusion, the fear, and the devastation, there is the will to survive, the will to help, and the will to rebuild. After all, these are the greatest strength of all.

Article by Jay Fermin (
Top photo by Jerry Ubalde (Frontliners Media Group)
Storm Tracking screenshot courtesy of Japan Meterological Agency JMA

Sunday, June 22, 2008

And the new 'Miss Asia USA 2008' is: Diane Yoo representing Korea

Glendale, CA: The winner of the Miss Asia USA Cultural Pageant held June 21, 2008 at the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale is 26 year old Diane Yoo representing Korea. She stands 5'8" and will represent Miss Asia USA. The reigning Miss Asia USA will also be The Ambassador of Culture and Goodwill. The Queen will grace a myriad of special public appearances to promote culture and goodwill.

Here is a comment from 'Pageant Fan' at


I have been involved with pageants for over 7 years. I attended the Miss Asia USA pageant that is produced by Virgelia Productions last night. I could not beleive that Diane Yoo from KOREA was chosen as the winner!She represents everything that a pageant girl is not and one that should not have been chosen as the queen. In the parade of costumes Diane Yoo intentially stopped the production number when she walked out and to the front of the stage, stopped and did a shake and scream for about 10 seconds! This was not rehearsed and she stopped the other girls from coming out until she decided that she was through. When she was announced as the winner for best national costume the audience was silent. Confused and in disbelief!

In swimsuit Diane Yoo walked on stage with a haughty -come F_ _ _ me attitude and did a sleazy strip tease in her two piece bikini. Acting on stage like she was climaxing displaying low class and an embarrassment to the Asian community. You could hear the audience laughing including myself. Evening gown she came out in a hugh blue puff of fluff that looked more like a Costume than an evening gown. Her train took up 1/4 of the stage and all the other contestants had to go out of their way to avoid stepping all over it. Diane showed poor sporstmanship in intentionally hogging the stage and walking to the front of the stage in Evening Gown and standing there even though it was not her turn. In her question and answer segment of the pageant - Diane Yoo never answered the question and came off as the most phony, insincere drama queen to ever participate in the pageant. It was a disappointment when she was announced as the winner and I can only imagine the reactions of the other contestants. I know the reaction of the audience was dismay and confusion. This girl is going to be representing the Asian Community? What an embarrassment to the Asian people!


@ Pageant Fan: Having met most of the candidates and interviewed some of them, I cannot believe that Productions let one of the candidates hug the stage as you reported. (One reason why I did not attend the main pageant; I was at the Miss Asia USA presentation to the Media May 18 at The Biltmore). I don’t like drama.

But if program cue and controls were in place (i.e. changing lights & sounds) by production, no one should really be allowed to ‘adlib’ moves on stage or do as they please.

Interesting but controversial outcome for the Pageant: Let us hear from Virgelia Productions on their side.

However, the criteria for judging should be fair and authenticated properly. Would a little overtly implied striptease and some ’sound effects’ as you reported sway strongly the scores of the judging panel in selecting the ‘Role Model’ of American Asian young women of today? Have our perception of what is a good role model for the American Asian women gone south?

Was the ‘action & sound’ done on stage the classic stereotype of the post modern American Asian women? If so, it is very degrading indeed. Forgive my interesting and controversial questions.

Thank you for your comment at PW.
Posted by Jay Fermin (PinoyWired) | June 22, 2008, 12:37 pm

For comments, please visit

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Who will be crowned 'Miss Asia USA 2008?

Photos and article by Jay Fermin

Los Angeles: Who will be crowned 'Miss Asia USA 2008'? 30 candidates representing the countries of the Asian Continent will be competing for the 'Miss Asia 2008' title June 21 at the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale, California. The Philippines will be represented by Geraldine Craig and Jackie Skelly. The candidates will be donning beautiful creations from the designs of Sherri Hill, Scala, American Apparel, and Malibu Dream Girl Swimwear. The prestigious event will have 'Padres Contra El Cancer (Parents Against Cancer) as the charitable recipient for this year's pageant.

The Miss Asia USA Pageant is the premiere Cultural Pageant participated in by Asian women in the United States, who trace their ancestry to the 58 countries considered part of the Asian continent. The 20th Annual Miss Asia USA 2009 Cultural Pageant will take place on Saturday, June 21, 2008 at the historical Alex Theatre in Glendale, California. The pageant will present over 30 delegates representing a majority of the countries in the Asian continent including two representing the Philippines to display their cultural beauty and the sociability of their country. Through this celebrating of Beauty, Culture, Elegance and Talent - we aim to unite the 58 countries of the Asian continent.

For the past 20 years, Asian women from all over the United States, between the ages of 17-28, gather in the name of friendly competition to vie for the coveted title, Miss Asia USA. The Pageant promotes leadership, personal and professional growth, enhances social skills, confidence and stage presence, strengthens cultural values and camaraderie. In addition to the rigorous rehearsals in preparation of the pageant, the Delegates go through a series of rigorous training workshops. They include workshops in poise, walking and modeling, public speaking, dining etiquette, fashion and wardrobe coordination, goal setting, health and fitness. They also listen to motivational workshops with speakers who excel in the field of the delegates’ interest. These are just some of the myriad of training activities that the delegates have to go through before the pageant day. The Delegate will not only be an epitome of beauty and intelligence, but a reflection of the unity and sociability of her country. The title is earned through hard work and demonstration of self confidence, intelligence, beauty and elegance.

Miss Asia USA Cultural Pageant displays the rich ethnic diversity of our society and gives us a glimpse into the multitudes of cultures that surrounds us today. The lavish parade of the National Costumes, grace and elegance of the Evening Gown Competition, and the sensational Swimsuit Competition create an atmosphere of excitement, surpassing the audience’s expectation, time and time again. The pomp and pageantry of this even extend throughout the year for the reigning Miss Asia USA - The Ambassador of Culture and Goodwill. The Queen will grace a myriad of special public appearances to promote culture and goodwill.

The 2008 Miss Asia USA will be hosted by actress, model Pilar Lastra and actor Hector Bustamante. KPMG Forensic Department, the world’s largest accounting firm, is the official tabulator for Miss Asia USA and has tabulated the pageant for the past 5 years.

However, the question remains: Who will be crowned 'Miss Asia USA 2008'?

La Gloria's U.S. Junket

PerryScope: by Perry Diaz

Six months ago, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo went on a three-country European junket with an entourage of 192 which included the entire First Family (nine persons), 34 congressmen and their spouses, and 50 business cronies. By the end of 2007, Arroyo had traveled to 18 countries -- one every 20 days! -- and spent P588.5 million. In 2006, she traveled to 13 countries and spent P398 million. In 2005, she traveled to four countries and spent P154 million. This year, the cost of her travels continue to rack up millions of taxpayers' money.

Her forthcoming "working" visit to the United States on June 23 to 29 once again manifests her high-flying addiction to junketing. Arroyo will meet with President George W. Bush at the Oval Office to thank him for "all the help he gave to the Philippines during the eight years of his term." The two leaders are also going to discuss ways of "strengthening" U.S.-Philippines relations. It seems to me that that is always the reason for a Philippine President to visit the White House. I wonder if Arroyo realized that Bush is now a lame duck President and will be out of office next January. Shouldn't she wait until John McCain or Barack Obama becomes President? Of course, that would be another opportunity for her to come back next year.

While in the U.S., Arroyo is also going to attend a dinner organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the ASEAN-U.S. Business Council. It will cost Arroyo $8,000 for a table for ten. As to how many of her retinue of politicians, government officials, and their spouses would attend, I wouldn't be surprised if all of them would want to go to the dinner. Of course, Gloria will pick up the tab which will eventually be paid for by poor Juan de la Cruz.

Arroyo's junkets and her other expenses have cost Juan de la Cruz a lot of money. A recent report by the Commission on Audit (COA) showed that in 2007 Arroyo's foreign and domestic travels totaled P622.6 million. That's 239% more than the all the salaries of the employees in the Office of the President which would include all executive offices, agencies, commissions, and committees under her.

In addition, the COA report showed that P618.6 million were disbursed as "donations" to unknown beneficiaries. And add to that another P531.9 million for all types of expenses such as confidential expenses, consultancy expenses, extraordinary expenses, representation expenses and allowances, other personal benefits, year-end bonuses, "cash gifts," and honoraria. The sum is a whopping P1.8 billion. That's a lot of moolah -- enough to build 36,000 Gawad Kalinga homes.

During the 110th Independence Day last June12, Arroyo cut the cost of the Independence Day program at the Rizal Park to show the people that she's willing to conserve money at a time of rising food prices. However, on the night of June12, Arroyo hosted a glitzy reception at the Malacanang Palace for the diplomatic corps and the country's elite.

What is appalling was the ostentatious display of pomp at the Malacanang reception, especially the revival of the elitist dance, the "rigodon de honor." Arroyo handpicked the 20 couples -- the country's rich and famous or, I might say, the cream of Gloria's "Enchanted Kingdom" -- who participated in the rigodon.

It is interesting to note that the last time the rigodon was performed in Malacanang was on June 30, 1981 during the third inauguration of President Ferdinand Marcos. When Cory Aquino ascended to the presidency after Marcos was overthrown in 1987, she prohibited the rigodon from being performed in all official functions, an oblique rejection of a dance considered to be fitting only for the high and mighty ruling elite. After 27 years of not performing this unnecessary display of power and affluence, Gloria revived the rigodon at a time when the people are in dire need and impoverished.

After all the speeches at the June 12th reception had ended, the media people were unceremoniously told to leave. Thus, nobody from the media witnessed the "rigodon de honor" except one -- outgoing Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye. Bunye disclosed and described the rigodon in detail -- including the names of the participants -- in his weekly newspaper column. Arroyo should have told him to leave the reception too.

Arroyo's junkets and high-maintenance lifestyle make a lot of people wonder if she realized that the country is in a state of chaos and decay. Recent polls show that seven out of 10 Filipinos cannot afford to buy food nor pay their electric bills. With the price of rice going up as high as P50 per kilo today, how can a family of five survive on a daily wage of P70? Yet, we have the country's leader squandering money left and right that could otherwise be used to provide shelter and food for the powerless poor. Is she likened to a modern-day equivalent of Nero who fiddled while Rome was burning?


Friday, June 20, 2008

PinoyGraphers Rock on their 2nd Anniversary Shootout

By Jay Fermin

Los Angeles: How does a group of dynamic and avid photographers congregate, shoot and have fun? By combining their perspective and talents into an online community website enjoying worldwide presence as well as cultivating clusters of photographers in now a number of cities worldwide in record time!

They are PinoyGraphers! As one of the founders Red Andal encapsulate it:

"Are you Pinoy and a Photographer? This is our catchphrase. We shoot and have fun, this is what we do. Different from most photography groups, our goal is to network, get together to share techniques, admire each others work and best of all to have fun. You will find in our website many talented Filipino photographers who are willing to share, teach and eventually learn more from each other. Find in our community Filipino photographers in your area and join us in scheduled shootouts and meetups. Ika nga "Basta Pinoygrapher Sweet Lover". Tara na join na! and be a part of this fast growing Filipino Photographer Community. We are Pinoygraphers!

June 21, PG will be celebrating their 2nd Annual Anniversary with a family get-together, meet and greet with new members, a few photo lighting seminars, and of course lots of food and fun. The Anniversay will culminate in a fun photoshoot.

Surely there will be fun and games for the kids, both young and old. PG promises an Anniversay like no other with live performance by Fil-Am Rock Band "Broken Chord" and the dance beat continued by PG member and DJ 'KATSI'.

My Congratulations to PinoyGraphers on their 2nd Anniversary. I have my camera ready and my weekend set for some fun shoot and meeting new friends who share the love of photography.

PinoyGraphers: Keep on shooting.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Featuring: Tia Carrere with Daniel Ho, Jennifer Paz and Mariko with The Music Co.

A benefit concert kicks-off a year-long 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Aratani/Japan America Theatre in Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles.


For more than two decades Downtown Little Tokyo Los Angeles has been home to a gem of a theater. The Aratani/Japan America Theatre, established in 1989 as part of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC), has become a symbol of artistic brilliance of Japanese, Japanese-American and Asian Pacific Islander cultural expression, preservation and innovation.

On Saturday, June 21st, 2008 from 7:30pm, a group of dedicated and talented artists come together to celebrate 25 years of excellence in the benefit concert "Sounds & Voices of J-Town".

This one-time concert event brings the sounds of classic Hawaiian songs from Tia Carrere accompanied by Daniel Ho, Jennifer Paz sings
inspirational new Broadway ballads while the Aratani/Japan America
Theatre welcomes community songstress Mariko with The Music Co. as she brings her classic dance songs to life on stage. Threaded throughout the evening are poetry and comedic sketches by local poet and performers Traci Kato Kiriyama, Keiko Agena and Alison De La Cruz. "Sounds and Voices of J-Town" illuminates the textured soul of these Asian Pacific American women.

Grammy nominated Tia Carrere (Wayne’s World, Relic Hunter, Lilo and Stitch) accompanied by three-time Grammy award-winner Daniel Ho will share some of her favorite classic Hawaiian songs from her newest solo album, "Hawaiiana".

Seattle native and musical leading lady Jennifer Paz (Miss Saigon,
Evita,The Fantasticks) will share selections from her solo album, Awakenings. Paz brings the bright lights of Broadway with this new collection of ballads and inspirational tunes.

Simply known throughout Southern California as Mariko, Mariko Nishizu has been a local singer at community dances and fundraisers throughout the Japanese American Community since the 1970’s. Sounds and Voices will celebrate her journey as an artist in this special homecoming to the Aratani/Japan America Theatre.

To round out the evening, Traci Kato Kiriyama, Keiko Agena and Alison De La Cruz will offer poetic and comedic interludes linking this amazing collection of textured voices.

Traci Kato Kiriyama has performed as a solo theater artist and as part of several productions in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and Miami.As a community based artist she has been the leading force behind Tuesday Nights at the Café – a local performing arts venue that began on the steps of the Union Center for the Arts in Little Tokyo.

Keiko Agena is probably best known for her roles as Leila Foster on
“Felicity” and Lane Kim on “Gilmore Girls”. Agena is also a big fan of the band Los Denudos and can be scene frequenting their shows and Tuesday Nights at the Café in Little Tokyo.

Alison De La Cruz is a multi-disciplinary artist who has toured her
solo shows Sungka and Naturally Graceful throughout the country. Locally she has performed at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, Highways Performance Space and the Aratani/Japan America Theatre. She is also the narrator and writer for the full length documentary, Grassroots Rising produced by Visual Communications.

There will be a Meet the Artists reception and benefit raffle (two
round trip tickets to any American Airlines desintation in the U.S.!)
immediately following the concert out on the Isamu Noguchi Plaza.

Proceeds from the concert and raffle will go towards theatre equipment upgrades which will help sustain the Aratani/Japan America Theatre’s ability to showcase extraordinary artistry to Los Angeles.

About the Aratani/Japan America Theatre:
Following the building of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC) in 1980, the 880-seat Aratani/Japan America Theatre was built in 1989 as the dream of visionary Issei and Nissei (first and second generation) Japanese American pioneers to create a permanent cultural center for the community and its future generations. Host venue to the very first Visual Communications Film Festival in 1989, the Aratani/Japan
America Theater stage has been blessed with performances by such groups and artists as Hiroshima, KODO, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Sadao Watanabe, Ravi Shankar and Hirokazu Kosaka..

Today, the Theater along with the JACCC at large, is still one of the
largest arts and cultural centers of its kind in the United States. The
Aratani/Japan America Theatre continues to play a crucial role in
bringing Asian Pacific Islander performing arts, music, word, and culture with extraordinary talent and shows such as Daniel Ho, Tia Carrere, Tamlyn Tomita, The Vagina Monologues, and World Festival of Sacred Music- Los Angeles.

For tickets and concert information,
call the Box Office at (213) 680-3700
(Mon-Sat, 12-5pm) or visit

Sponsorship opportunities are available for this concert. For sponsor
information contact Johnny Mori at (213) 628-2725, ext 139 or [ ]

What:SOUNDS & VOICES of J-Town featuring: Tia Carrere with Daniel Ho,Jennifer Paz and Mariko with The Music Co.
When: Saturday, June 21, 2008 7:30pm
Where: Aratani/Japan America Theatre
244 S. San Pedro St, Little Tokyo, Downtown Los Angeles
Tickets: $45 balcony, $50 orchestra, $100 VIP Seating
(213) 680-3700 or


by Rodel Rodis, June 16, 2008

“No Filipinos or Dogs Allowed” was a common sign that appeared in motels, boarding houses and night clubs in the 1930s in California. While Filipinos have made progress and are now allowed in places where dogs are still not allowed, the California Legislature is one place where dogs and Filipinos are still foreign creatures.

Unlike more recent Asian immigrant communities (Vietnamese-Americans, Indian-Americans and Korean-Americans), Filipino Americans have never been elected to the California Legislature. But that long curse was about to end on June 3 when West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon was set to win the Democratic nomination in the heavily Democratic 8th Assembly District.

Praised by the state capital’s premier daily, Sacramento Bee , as "one of the most intelligent, talented and hard-working elected officials in the region," Christopher Cabaldon has served an unprecedented six terms as mayor of the city of West Sacramento.and previously served as Vice Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, the largest system of higher education in the United States.

Cabaldon enjoyed the endorsement of every Democratic mayor and county supervisor, every state legislator, US Representative and City Council majority in the district which encompasses Yolo and Sonoma counties. He also raised more money than any Filipino American candidate for public office in the US has ever raised - $590,000 – double what his opponent, Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada was able to raise ($290,000).

If Chris Cabaldon couldn’t win, with all his experience and credentials, with all his endorsements and money, then no Filipino American could ever hope to have a shot at breaking the curse.

But alas, in what can only be described as a stunning upset, Yamada edged out Cabaldon, winning “razor thin” margins in both Yolo and Sonoma counties, garnering 18,519 votes to 17,435 for Cabaldon

As Sacramento political analyst Marcos Breton asked: “How did the brightest, most promising young political figure in Sacramento lose an election last week that he seemed certain to win?”

It was the unions, Breton charged, pointing especially to Bill Camp of the Sacramento Central Labor Council who decided that Cabaldon was "anti-union" because business interests were backing him, ignoring the fact that Cabaldon “oozed potential and is a Democrat admired in more than Democratic circles.”

“Union muscle trumped all that with a barrage of negative ads that made some of Cabaldon's molehills seem like mountains,” wrote Breton. “Many of you say you hate negative campaigns. But Cabaldon's loss to Mariko Yamada in the Democratic primary for the 8th Assembly District proves that going negative works.”

There are Fil-Ams in organized labor throughout the state but neither Cabaldon, nor his campaign consultant, Richie Ross, thought of contacting them to ask them to talk to their union leadership to dissuade them from derailing the most serious Fil-Am hope of breaking the curse.

It was also speculated that Yamada won because she is Japanese American and Cabaldon lost because he is Filipino American. While it is doubtful that voters seriously considered the ethnic backgrounds of the candidates, it may have subconsciously entered some voters’ minds that Japanese American officials, like Rep. Bob Matsui and his widow, Rep. Doris Matsui, have successfully represented the district but no Filipino American ever has. And now may likely never be.

Also running in the June 3 California Democratic primaries was Arlie Ricasa, Director of Student Development at Southwestern College in the City of Chula Vista and a Trustee of the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) Board. She ran for the Democratic nomination for the 78th Assembly District in San Diego.

Like Cabaldon, Ricasa was endorsed by numerous elected officials including members of Congress, State Senate, State Assembly, County Board of Supervisors, City Councils and local School Boards. She also earned the endorsements of the California Democratic Party as well as various labor, small business and community leaders.

But like Cabaldon, Ricasa lost placing 4th in a pool of 4, garnering just 4,499 votes (13.6%) to the winner Martin Block who obtained 12,054 votes (36.5%).

According to San Diego Fil-Am community leader Aurora Cudal, “the cause of Ricasa’s failed candidacy may be attributed to lack of financial support and lip service by those who advocate for Filipino American empowerment.”
In a message to her supporters, Ricasa said: “While we weren’t victorious in the election, we were victorious in involving so many people who have been historically underserved, underheard and underrepresented. Soon, our time will come. I have faith and so should you. It could be you or one of our supporters who will soon represent us at the State’s table of decision making.”

Cudal added: “In America, the voters have to support their candidate not only through their votes but through their financial support and physical presence at precinct walks, placing yard signs, knocking on doors, and making telephone calls on behalf of the candidate. These practices are so unlike in the Philippines where the candidates give money and feed the voters in order to win.”

The other major Fil-Am candidate to run for public office on June 3 was three-term Milpitas Mayor Joe Esteves who ran for the Santa Clara County District Three Board of Supervisors against San Jose Vice Mayor Dave Cortese and Sunnyvale City Councilman Otto Lee.

Both Cortese and Lee raised $250,000 each while Esteves was only able to come up with $70,000. Cortese garnered 12,980 votes (42.6%) to Lee's 9,075 votes (29.8%). Esteves trailed Lee by 691 votes, as he received 8,384 votes (27.5%). As no candidate won more than 50% of the vote, Cortese and Lee will face each other in the run-off elections in November.

Esteves said he was disappointed in the outcome, attributing his loss to the low voter turnout in Milpitas, Berryessa and other parts of the district where he expected to draw votes. "Of course it's not the best, but I'm just happy because, with the limited resources that we had, I did a good showing," Esteves said.

Esteves’ predecessor, Henry Manayan, ran in 2004 for the 20th Assembly District after also serving three terms as mayor of Milpitas. He failed to break the curse then as Cabaldon and Ricasa also failed to do now.

Will the curse ever be broken?

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.


Hollywood: The G-GIRLZ, DESTINEE, KEANA, AND SAVANNAH, are a combination of 3 very special, very talented girls from an extremely diverse, multi-ethnic background. Destinee, 14 is a combination of African-American, Filipino, and Mexican; Keana, 13 is Filipino, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, Irish, and Cherokee Indian; and Savannah, 13 is Vietnamese and Dutch. The girls combine their natural yet glamorous looks, multi-cultural talents, and unique sound into one awesome package!

The G-GIRLZ not only want to impact the pre-teen/teen music and fashion industry----they aim to be genuine role-models for girls of all ages, bridging cultural gaps with their music. Their unique look combined with their passion for singing, dancing and genuine love for their fans will redefine the meaning of what a girl group should be.

We will be posting new updates, photos, and videos so you, the fans can have a first look and behind the scenes access to all of G-GIRLZ & trade upcoming projects! Make sure to check our blog for the latest on Destinee, Keana, and Savannah THE G-GIRLZ just completed filming their debut music video in Santa Barbara with award-winning MTV/DISNEY director Marty Thomas and will be debuting it along with the song on I-TUNES in May 2008!

WATCH OUT FOR THE G-GIRLZ ....."Glamorous but Real".....

The G-Girlz Premier Party celebrating the launch of their single and music video for their debut song "G-Girlz Purze" will take place on Saturday, June 28th, 2008 at the AMC Theater in Downtown Disney in Anaheim, CA.

Popstar! Magazine is the official sponsor and will be present to cover the event.

Invited celebrities include: Vanessa and Stella Hudgens, Joey Page, Selena Gomez, Girlicious, Jasmine Villegas, Demi Lovato,, Michael Copon, Chilli (from TLC), and more!

Please visit the G-Girlz on

For more information, please contact Terri Tex at 310-909-6453 or

Friday, June 13, 2008


LOS ANGELES, CA- Tony Award Winner Lea Salonga has been captivating audiences around the world, and now she will take the stage at the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall on Friday, July 11, 2008 at 8:30 pm, for one show only.

On November 7, 2005 she sold out Carnegie Hall in an all new show directed by Richard Jay-Alexander and, just prior to that, launched her first major U.S. city concert tour with performances in San Francisco, Atlantic City, Honolulu, Maui, Chicago, Norfolk, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, grossing over one million dollars in ticket sales. Salonga gained international stardom for her award-winning lead role as Kim on Broadway in the 1991 production of Miss Saigon.

Having created the role of the orphaned “Kim” in Miss Saigon and brought to life the singing of the title role in Disney’s Mulan (“Reflection”) and Princess Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin - it’s truly “A Whole New World,” for Salonga and her angelic voice.

Salonga has captivated audiences the world over - playing packed houses from Carnegie Hall to Hong Kong’s Opera Hall and has become the treasure of her Philippine homeland.

In this, her final North American 2008 show, Salonga will perform in Walt Disney’s prestigious namesake theatre. Thereafter she will embark on her Asian tour of Roger’s and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” in the starring role.

Salonga has been singing since the age of ten when she made her theatrical debut in the King and I. and has gone on to release three studio albums. She began an illustrious career in Broadway musicals when she was cast to play Kim in Miss Saigon after a world-wide talent search. Additional Credits Include Les Miserables, My Fair Lady, Grease, The Sound of Music and Annie among many others.

Earlier this year, Lea was presented the Order of Lakandula, rank of Kumandante (Commander), by the President of the Philippines. This is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a Filipino civilian.

In the field of musical theater, she is recognized for having won the Olivier, Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, and Theatre World Awards, and the first to win various international awards for a single role. She was also the first Asian to play Eponine in the musical Les Misérables on Broadway.

She not only won a Tony Award for “Outstanding Performance by an Leading Actress in a Musical,” but also the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award and the Laurence Olivier Award (in London where Miss Saigon originated). Her vast array of theater credits also include Les Miserables as Eponine, the Witch in Into The Woods, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, The Goodbye Girl, They’re Playing Our Song, Grease, The Fantasticks, Paper Moon, The Bad Seed, The Sound of Music and Annie.

In Fall 2002, Salonga made another splash on Broadway starring in the hit revival of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammersteins’s Flower Drum Song, with a re-imagined book by David Henry Hwang, earning her another Tony nomination as Outstanding Leading Actress in a Musical.

In March 2007, Salonga returned to Broadway to star as Fantine in the 2006 revival of Les Miserables and in July 2008 she will embark on a 39-week tour of Asia and the Philippines starring in Rodgersand Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Originally from the Philippines, Salonga is a bona fide “Disney Princess”, she can be heard on screen as the singing voice of Princess Jasmine in Disney’s blockbuster smash Aladdin. A specific note was made on her version of A Whole New World in Southwest Magazine. She is also the singing voice of Mulan in Mulan and Mulan 2. She can be heard on the original cast recordings of Miss Saigon, Flower Drum Song (Broadway Revival), The King and I (with Julie Andrews and Ben Kingsley), The Nutcracker, Mr Producer and the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert. Lea has recorded over a dozen solo CD’s including Lea Salonga, Lea…In Love, By Heart, Songs from the Screen, Songs From Home, Lea…Live!, Lea Salonga: The Broadway Concert and, most recently Inspired. Salonga has also made several notable appearances on such television shows as ER, As The World Turns, Mr Producer and Russell Watson: The Voice for PBS and the PBS special Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert.

Tickets are priced at $115/ 95/ 75/ 60/ 45/ 30 and will be available at the Walt Disney Concert Hall Box office,, and by phone at 213-365-3500.

*Tickets may be subject to additional fees and service charges.
For more information, visit:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Betrayal of the Filipino Veterans

Photo slideshow by Jay Fermin - Los Angeles

PerryScope: by Perry Diaz

Just as the U.S. House of Representatives was about to vote on S.1315 -- known as the "Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007," introduced by Sen. Daniel Inouye -- a group of Filipino-Americans from San Francisco drove a polarizing wedge that could potentially impede the passage of the bill. Indeed, what was almost a certainty two weeks ago is now in jeopardy.

Sixty-two years after the infamous Rescission Act of 1946 was signed into law denying benefits to more than 200,000 Filipino veterans of World War II, the surviving 18,000 aging veterans came within arm's length to finally getting the recognition and benefits that they deserved. Last April 24, 2008, S.1315 was overwhelmingly passed by the Senate on a 96-1 vote. On May 22, 2008, the House of Representatives was scheduled to vote on the bill. The game plan was to get 290 bipartisan support to ensure passage under "suspension of rules," which means that a "killer" amendment could be stopped from being introduced on the floor; thus, averting any attempt to remove the benefits for Filipino veterans.

Supposedly, 230 Democrats had already been lined up to vote for the bill. That would then require 60 Republicans to reach a 2/3 supermajority in order to suspend the rules and pass S.1315 without amendments. As of 5:00 pm on May 21, the Office of Congressman Darrell Issa (Republican, Chula Vista, California) released a list of 74 Republican congressmen who were committed to vote for S.1315. That's 14 more votes needed to suspend the rules and pass the bill.

But on the designated day of the historic floor vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi removed the bill from the calendar. Words went around that the "Blue Dog Caucus" members -- consisting of 51 conservative Democrats -- were reluctant to support S.1315 because they were worried that their re-election might be jeopardized for "giving money to foreigners." It was also reported that Speaker Pelosi wanted to confirm individually the 74 Republican supporters on the Issa list. Can't Pelosi take the word of Issa who had been working diligently for the past several years for the passage of the equity bill? Why didn't she strike while the iron was hot? Hmmm…

Meanwhile, a group of aging Filipino veterans who trooped to Congress for what they believed would be the culmination of the long and weary battle to regain their benefits suffered a stunning blow right under the dome of the Capitol. They must have felt the same way when the Rescission Act of 1946 depraved more than 200,000 young Filipinos of their benefits… and dignity. The surviving 18,000 fragile old men were hoping each day that they would just live a day longer to see the day when America would finally recognize them for their heroism in defending America during World War II. But, alas, that day remained as elusive as it had been for the past 62 years.

The Filipino veterans must have felt the pang of betrayal once again, this time not only from the representatives of the American people in Congress but from their own people. The Filipino-Americans who claim to be "advocates" for full equity for the Filipino veterans have once again played the only game they have been playing for the past eight years, "All or Nothing." They would rather see the Filipino veterans get nothing unless it was "full equity."

The core of the issue was a letter sent by Mr. Regalado Maldonado to Speaker Nancy Pelosi on the eve of the floor vote asking her not to support S.1315. Mr. Baldonado sent the letter without the authorization of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP) and U.S.-based Filipino veterans organizations. He claimed that he merely signed the letter prepared by leaders of the San Francisco-based organizations, Veterans Equity Center (VEC) and the Students Action for Veterans Equity (SAVE) . Mr. Baldonado's act was, in my opinion, an abuse of his responsibility as "San Francisco Veteran Affairs Commissioner." He was appointed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, a local agency that has nothing to do with S.1315.

Last May 25, 2008, VEC Chair Atty. Lourdes Tancinco, in an article she posted in FilAm Star, remarked that the National Network for Veterans Equity (NNVE) and VEC "are leading the community in calling and urging the office of Pelosi to stand uncompromisingly behind the Filipino veterans' clamor for full equity." It is interesting to note that her "uncompromising stand" for "no equity if not full equity" for the last eight years has yet to deliver a single piece of legislation for the Filipino veterans. This year, the Senate resoundingly passed S.1315. Had the House of Representatives voted and passed S.1315 last May 22, President Bush, as he recently promised, would have signed it into law this month.

On June 3, 2008, Atty. Tancinco wrote another article, "No Veteran Left Behind in Final Battle," and declared, "As long as there is a veteran alive, the fight for full equity and recognition lives on." Claiming that the "real issue here is the injustice perpetrated in 1946 and which can be corrected only through the passage of an Equity Bill," Atty. Tancinco should already know that, at this point in time, "full equity" is a dream lost in the labyrinth of political reality. Atty. Tancinco should have a "reality check" and come to terms with the politics of life. The long battle for full equity in Congress has come down to a "compromise" -- the only game in Capitol Hill. The lobbyists and advocates for the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE) and the American Coalition for Filipino Veterans (ACFV) knew the "politics of compromise" very well and that was one of the reasons why S.1315 passed the Senate and would have passed the House of Representatives had Speaker Pelosi proceeded with the floor vote.

It's ironic that those who professed to advocate for "full equity" would, in the end, become the reactionary force that would deny the surviving 18,000 aging warriors the victory that they have been waiting for more than six decades. At the rate the Filipino veterans are dying -- 10 per day -- there would only be one Filipino veteran left standing in less than five years. At that time, the "All or Nothing" group would realize -- albeit too late -- that they have missed the noblest act that they could have done for the Filipino veterans: give them back their dignity.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Rodel Rodis, June 9, 2008

There is an inherent conflict in writing a weekly opinion column, as I have done for the last 20 years, and in being an elected public official in San Francisco, as I have been for the last 17 years. It is an occupational hazard that from time to time, I have expressed opinions which offended certain individuals who happen to be San Francisco voters.

Most recently I wrote two columns about the need for the Filipino community to express our unequivocal support for the Filipino veterans equity bill, S.1315, which passed the US Senate 96-1 on April 24, 2008, and which is currently pending in the US House of Representatives.

In one column, I wrote about the expected House vote on S.1315 that was set for May 21 but which was delayed. I speculated that the delay may have arisen from doubts by Speaker Nancy Pelosi about whether she had the 290 House votes needed to pass S.1315 with a Suspension of the Rules call. Were there 230 House Democrats and at least 60 Republicans ready to vote for it?

I also reported that after the vote was delayed, Filipino veterans in Washington DC questioned whether “a letter from San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commissioner Regalado Baldonado to Speaker Nancy Pelosi denouncing S.1315 played a role in the vote delay.”

The "Baldonado" letter to Speaker Pelosi and to Philippine Ambassador Willie Gaa declared S. 1315 to be "woefully insufficient" as it would provide the 12,000 Filipino veterans in the Philippines with $300 a month pension while the 6,000 Filvets in the US would receive $900 a month.

The DC veterans told me that they spoke with Baldonado and that he explained that the letter was prepared for him to sign by members of the Veterans Equity Center (VEC) and the Student Action for Filipino Veterans (SAVE).

In response to my column, Roy Recio, secretary of the VEC and an active member of SAVE, issued a press release this past week entitled “Call for Apology and Retraction After City College Board Trustee Rodel Rodis Attacks Student Coalition”.

The press release stated that my “article included a diatribe of speculations disguised as facts, including a claim that a letter prepared by SAVE caused Speaker Nancy Pelosi to postpone the vote for the proposed Veterans Enhancement Bill, S. 1315. However, the fact remains, Speaker Pelosi and her offices have never confirmed the exact grounds for such postponement.”

The Recio press release contends that “a careful read of the letter drafted and circulated by SAVE’s organizations… would have revealed that the undersigned was not against S. 1315, as Rodis vehemently portrays.” What part of “S.1315 is woefully insufficient” did I misconstrue as “not against S.1315”?

Recio did not deny that the “Baldanado” (consistently misspelled by Recio) letter was written by SAVE, only that Speaker Pelosi “never confirmed the exact grounds for such postponement." That's what he wants me to apologize for? Is Recio naive enough to actually believe that Speaker Pelosi will acknowledge the exact grounds for the postponement?

In her article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer published on June 3, 2008 (“No veteran left behind in final battle”), VEC board chair Atty. Lou Tancinco wrote that if S.1315 is passed, it will mean that “those residing in the Philippines will get only about one-third of those benefits instead of the full benefits. This is discriminatory treatment of the veterans based on residence.”

Tancinco believes that S.1315 will not correct the “historical injustice” of the Rescission Act of 1946 and that what is needed is “for the US Congress to pass another bill to revert their status back to US veterans and afford the Filipinos the same treatment as other veterans who fought under the US flag in World War II. The economic part of the bill should be incidental to the principle behind full equity.”

Tancinco further declares that "for us who have worked hard to attain equality for Filipino veterans, holding a firm position for equity does not necessarily mean we are not in favor of veterans’ benefits." So what does it necessarily mean?

This is the heart of the conflict which has divided the Filipino community on the veterans issue from the outset. Tancinco, the VEC and SAVE believe, as the Baldonado letter unequivocally declares: "we cannot waiver in our position or tolerate any deviation from equal treatment for all of our Filipino WW II veterans."SAVE’s website,, states its fundamental principle is “commitment and support to fight for nothing less than FULL EQUITY for Filipino WWII Veterans “

Since S.1315 is not "full equity" as it only provides $300 a month for the 12,000 Filipino veterans in the Philippines, instead of $900 a month, Atty. Tancinco, Recio and their supporters are simply unwilling to compromise even if S.1315 is the “last best chance” to get a Filipino veterans equity bill to pass the US Congress.

Interestingly enough, the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill (HR 760) introduced last year by Rep. Bob Filner, a bill supported by Tancinco and VEC, is also not full equity because it only provides $500 a month to veterans in the Philippines. Rep. Mike Honda suggested to me that after S.1315 is passed, supporters of full equity can push for a bill that would "compress" the $300 a month over 10 years to $600 a month over 5 years for the Filipino vets in the Philippines.

The 12,000 remaining veterans in the Philippines need the $300 a month ($370 with dependents) to help them deal with skyrocketing fuel and food costs. Passing a $900 a month “full equity” bill for them when they are dead makes no sense to them. S. 1315 is a bird in the hand.

While I respect Atty. Tancinco for her principled belief in “full equity” above all, I question the motives of Roy Recio and his band of true believers. Recio is an active member of Bayan USA (, an organization that supports the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Philippines, and I believe that he and his cohorts will be truly disappointed if S.1315 passes because they will be deprived of an ideological issue with which to organize the masses. The Rescission Act has been a perfect issue for them because it depicts the US as betraying its promise and causing the poor elderly veterans to suffer. To Recio, the veterans serve a useful political purpose, their sacrifice for principle will be greatly appreciated by the masses.

But many seasoned activists like Lillian Galedo, co-chair of the National Network for Veterans Equity (NNVE), wholeheartedly believe that we must do everything we can to pass S.1315 now. In an email sent out to various e-groups on June 6, 2008, Galedo attached my most recent column (“Unequivocal Support for S. 1315 Needed”) and wrote:

“For the people organizing on the ground, it is absolutely clear that we have unequivocal support among the long-time advocates and those who have more recently taken up the cause to restore U.S. veterans status to Filipino WWII veterans. Our center of attention should be focused on getting the final 50 or so votes to pass the House version of S. 1315, in the House of Representatives.”

P.S. to friends: I am running for re-election to the San Francisco Community College Board this November. I fully expect Roy Recio and his cohorts to actively oppose me which is why their press release highlighted the fact that I am a City College Board Trustee. I would appreciate your support. Please send your non tax-deductible check made out to "Re-elect Rodel Rodis, College Board" to 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127. Thank you. Please send comments to

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Gary V @ 25 to rock Nokia Theatre Los Angeles June 7

Panoramic photo by Ver Penaranda

By Jay Fermin

Los Angeles: It was very good seeing Edgardo Jose Martin Santiago Valenciano briefly again last night in Glendale. And I can’t believe it has been 25 years since Gary V, as he is popularly known, went solo from the de La Salle ‘Kundirana’ as well as the ‘Hotshots’ days of 1983 and the first solo concert at the Araneta Coliseum in April 1984. His popularity was being felt throughout the Philippines (there was no internet then) when news from Manila would sometimes hit the provinces weeks late.

I can still remember when family and friends of mine decided to bring Gary V to Bacolod in Negros Occidental for his first ever Bacolod concert! I was put in charge of security and crowd control. I took the job thinking it was easy. I underestimated his then fast growing popularity with the droves of young fans. When he went for a ‘live’ radio interview at Bacolod’s Magic FM 103.5, I have to reroute his exit to the back of the radio station as we cannot move thru the huge throng of excited fans waiting in front!

One of the concert sponsors then was the sugar bowl of Asia, Victorias Milling Co. (VMC) and so Gary had to go on an out of town drive to Victorias which is 35 kilometers due North from Bacolod City. I assigned the security hands-off point from the Bacolod side to the Victorias side at the landmark Malogo Bridge just outside of VMC enabling the Bacolod detail to prep the concert venue, San Agustin Gym, for the night’s concert. Little did I know that the adventurous Gary was literally driving towards VMC. He was in the driver’s seat of the concert producer’s Opel Manta (with the producers as passengers), a car that’s a little too fast for the police cruisers that were to escort him. Gary arrived at the VMC luncheon a good 15 minutes early than his security escorts to the delight of the waiting fans!

1983-84 were good years for Gary as his songs steadily climbed the charts with the release of his first album entitled ‘Gary’. This has been followed with more than 24 albums thru the years including the latest release (May 2008) entitled ‘Rebirth’ which includes songs like ‘Mary, Did You Know’ and ‘Natutulog ba ang Diyos’ reflecting Gary’s strong Christian faith. Listening to Gary’s podcast on his son Gabriel’s remix of Gary’s all time hit “Shout For Joy” included in the ‘Rebirth’ album is also quite fun and exposes Gary’s strong love & commitment to his family, engaging them in his projects.

The next time our paths met again from those nostalgic early days was here in Los Angeles. It was the first ever Filipino concert at the world famous Universal Amphitheatre in 1994 (well, ok, it’s called the Gibson Amphitheatre now). I remember it well because my role that time was to photograph (using film cameras - no digital cameras yet) the concert for various Los Angeles Fil-Am newspapers I was writing for. Gary demonstrated his international appeal to the world-wide stage, I was in awe as there were a lot of mainstream American musicians & record producers at the 'orchestra pit', the first few rows of seats at stage center where I was shooting from.

Going back to the Philippines for a short sabbatical from 1997 to July 2001, I was able to work with Gary on countless projects again in Bacolod. I did photography in a concert he did at De La Salle University Bacolod Coliseum in 1998. And when a local Christian radio station needed a new AM transmitter for broadcasting, Gary did another Concert in 1999, and I again was in charge of security. I picked him up from the plane at the tarmac (airports still used actual stairs at that time) and it was like seeing a good friend once again. Gabriel was smaller then and boy was I surprised when I met Gabriel last night, he is so much taller than me now!

That concert in 1999 also threw in a few challenges for the production crew and I was privileged to see behind the scene how Gary & Angeli, inspite of the ups and downs of the career they both have decided to take, have managed to glue it all together amidst the sudden storms on the concert road away from Manila. Their secret: Prayer. Really intense prayer. And Gary is a living testimony to that.

Everybody knows that Gary suffers from Juvenile Diabetes - what they call Type 1 diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes which has the potential to damage the eyesight, heart, kidneys and nerves if it is not properly controlled. Angeli daily make sure that Gary has the right diet at each waking moment and especially onstage during performances so that his body has the correct amount of sugar. Not too high, neither too low. Emergency Medical Teams (EMT) are usually near the backstage at all of his performances. But the strongest medicine so far that I have seen to work thru the years is ‘covering prayer’ from Angeli and the family as well as the network of prayer partners worldwide!

Coming back to Los Angeles, we met once again at the ASAP Summer Caravan at the Rose Bowl in 2005. Gary winded down the rehearsals the night before with the all star cast of singer / performers forming a circle onstage and being led in prayer by Gary under the enveloping light of the Rose Bowl. For Gary, I know this is the perfect way to end the day and the best way to start one - in prayer.

Seeing Gary, Angeli, Paolo, and Gabriel, even briefly at Glendale last night was truly hearthwarming, even for just a short moment. Having worked with Gary and Angeli (in different roles) thru time and seeing the difficulty amidst the glory is truly amazing. I know that as Gary celebrates his 25 years in the performing arts as a musician, composer (he loves best to do movie soundtracks), actor, producer (with Angeli & Manila Genesis Productions which handles also 35 other famous talents), gospel singer, dancer, and being a husband to Angeli, and father to their three children Paolo, Gabriel, and Kiana, this is only a small landmark on a great and continuing mission.

June 7, Gary together with sons Paolo and Gabriel will be celebrating a ‘Special 25th Anniversary Concert’ with special guest Martin Nievera, ‘America’s Best Dance Crew’ - the Jabbawockeez, and of the Black Eyed Peas at the newest venue in town, Nokia Theatre Los Angeles. This will be a concert moment to watch. Gary has proved thru the past 25 years that it is not the length of time that matters, it is what happens in the series of tiny moments that can create lasting legacy forever. Continue on Mr. Pure Energy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Rodel E. Rodis, June 2, 2008

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), the national vice-chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s "point man" on the Filipino veterans equity issue, expressed great disappointment at news of the lack of unity in the Filipino community’s support for S. 1315, which he described as the “last best chance” to get a Filipino veterans equity bill to pass the US Congress.

“I can understand the sentiments of those who support full equity,” Rep. Honda told me in a telephone conversation on May 28, “I support full equity myself. But it just won’t happen.” There are major political and fiscal reasons why a bill that would grant approximately $900 a month to 18,000 Filipino WW II veterans will have no chance whatsoever of being passed by the US Congress and signed into law by Pres. George W. Bush.

A “full equity” bill would cost about $194-M a year and almost $2-B over 10 years. Even the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill (HR 760) sponsored by Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), stoutly supported by proponents of full equity, only provided $500 a month for Filipino veterans in the Philippines.

S.1315, the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Bill, which passed the US Senate with an overwhelming 96-1 vote on April 24, 2008, provides $250-$300-M over 10 years for the Filipino WW II veterans.

Under the bill, which would take effect on April 1, 2009 if passed, about $50-M would be allocated for Filipino veterans in the first year and would steadily diminish over a 10 year period ($46-M year 2, $42-M year 3, etc).

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which prepared the estimate, took into consideration the fact that many of the Filipino veterans living in California (4,000 out of the total of 6,000 vets in the US) may elect to keep the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) that they are currently receiving about $650 a month plus $200 from the state of California rather than the $900 a month they would receive as US VA pension because the veteran and his spouse would receive a higher monthly total SSI benefit of $1,500. They would not be entitled to combine both.

Because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi adopted the “Pay Go” (Pay as you go) rule, no bill appropriating any amount could be passed unless the sponsors of the bill identified the source of the funds. The sponsors of S.1315 identified the source of the funds which has been fodder for Republican opponents of the bill.

According to a memo distributed by Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Indiana), the ranking Republican on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, S.1315 “would eliminate special monthly pensions for many severely disabled veterans over 65 who are also receiving pensions for wartime service. It would use $156 million of the funds saved by this unprecedented cut in veterans' benefits eligibility to provide budgetary offsets to fund oversized pensions for non-citizen, non-resident World War II Filipino veterans.”

Riding on the anti-immigrant sentiment among Republicans, Buyer alleged that the benefits that would be cut from “those elderly, poor, disabled U.S. veterans” would be awarded instead to “non-citizen, non-resident World War II Filipino veterans.. (which) will put their average annual income 1400% above of the poverty rate in the Philippines…Sending this over-generous benefit to non-American citizens is not the best use of American taxpayer dollars in this time of economic downturn.”

To get S.1315 to pass the House, Speaker Pelosi will need all 230 House Democrats to support it and at least 60 House Republicans to reach the magic number of 290 (2/3rd of the 435 total number of House members) in order to call for a Suspension of the Rules that would avoid killer amendments that would delay, if not altogether kill the bill.

While the majority of House Republicans will accept Buyer’s recommendation and vote to oppose S.1315, there is hope that Rep. Darryl Issa (R-CA) can gather enough Republicans to join the Democrats in reaching the number of 290.

But to get all 230 House Democrats to support S.1315, there must be unprecedented unity in the Filipino community behind the bill. This is the cause of the general consternation about the letter that was sent to Speaker Pelosi by Veterans Equity Center (VEC) board member Regalado Baldonado where he thrashed S.1315 as “woefully insufficient” and asserted that "we cannot waiver in our position or tolerate any deviation from equal treatment for all of our Filipino WW II veterans.”

S.1315 is admittedly a “deviation from equal treatment” (just as the Filner bill was) as it would pay $900 a month to veterans in the US and $300 a month to veterans in the Philippines. “But it’s the best that we can get,” explained Rep. Honda. The realities of US politics require us to “tolerate” a bill that would discriminate on the basis of residence.

But it is not just the realities of US politics, it is also the reality of life and the cost of living. It is simply easier to live in the Philippines with one’s family in one’s home on a monthly pension of $300 a month (12000 pesos) plus 5000 pesos veterans’ monthly pension from the Philippine government than to live in the US on $900 a month.

Rep. Honda told me that supporters of “full equity” like the VEC can focus their attention, after S.1315 is passed and signed into law, into pushing for a subsequent bill that would seek to “compress” the 10 years of the pension allocation for Philippine-based veterans into 5 years. The actuarial reality for most of the veterans who are now 88 years (if they were 21 at the outset of the war in 1941) is that they will likely live for less than 5 years. “Compressing” the bill from 10 to 5 would allow Philippine veterans the opportunity to receive $600 a month over a 5 year period rather than $300 a month over 10 years.

These are incredibly difficult times now for the 12,000 veterans in the Philippines who are all eagerly awaiting passage of S.1315 to help them cope with skyrocketing food and fuel costs. While the young activist members of the VEC and the Student Action for Veterans Equity (SAVE) should be admired for sticking to their principles, the veterans in the Philippines know that they cannot eat their principles or fill their gas tanks with them.

When Major General Antonio Taguba (ret.), one of the highest-ranking Filipinos in the U.S. military and internationally known for his scathing report on Abu Ghraib, met in San Francisco with members of the Filipino community including members of the VEC, he urged them to be united in getting S.1315 passed and not to just dwell on the issue of “full equity”.

“Don’t make it a bumper sticker. Why do we have an East Coast set of circumstances and a West Coast set of circumstances?” asked Gen. Taguba. “It makes us look like we’re divided on the issue. What is our position today? To get this legislation passed through, that’s our only position.”

Members of the Filipino community are urged to email Speaker Nancy Pelosi and their representatives in Congress to express support for S.1315 by logging on to the website: 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.