Let Us Join This Journey!

brown girl

Sylvia Hubilla
Austin Texas

“The Journey of a Brown Girl”
That is the title of an upcoming stage production. The title raised my eyebrows and peaked my interest. The use of the color of the skin, stirs some emotion and concern about being politically correct whenever the topic is about race.

If it was intentional, it worked. The title catches one’s attention. So I clicked on the link, sent to me by my pretty, talented young niece, Leslie Hubilla, who is the choreographer for the production.

The link opened up and drew me in. It’s the beautiful story about the journey of a new generation of young Pinays, born and raised in America, seeking their identities by touching base with their culture and their roots.

brown girl    It’s wonderful to see the younger generation of Pinays, taking up and continuing the seemingly endless journey of the Filipino womyn to break the shackles of the image of Maria Clara, subservient and silent. It is hopeful to see the younger Pinays proudly rediscover our heritage of the warrior Gabriela Silang, and even deeper in our stories of strong womyn leaders, priestesses, and healers in the community.

These global Pinays undertake this journey of empowerment, not only for Pinays, but for all women and girls, in all circumstances. After all, there is a common thread that connects us all.  For aren’t all issues, womyn’s issues?

Using the powerful medium of Theater, this group of  Pinay artists, passionate about their craft, come together, with shared experiences woven in a powerful narrative expressed in multidimensional art.

As of this writing, they have announced a casting call for Pinay talents, at CAP 21, 18W 18th St., NYC.

“Fully designed, produced and performed by Pinay, this piece seeks to empower our community and create connections of empowerment and celebration of all womyn.”

Director & Creative Producer – Jana Lynn Umipig
Assistant Director           – Renee Floresca
Costume                      – Inez Galvez
Choreographer                – Leslie Hubilla
Lighting Director            – Tina Cocadiz
Set Designer                 – Vanessa Ramalho
Marketing Designer           – Karoleen Decastro

“We see “The Journey of a Brown Girl” as more than a production, but a movement. And our team seeks to submit the production to Independent Theatre Festivals and performance spaces for further production. And eventually publish the play and curriculum for further connection of the Pinay experience and celebration of all sisters and beyond.“

Note on use of “womyn”
Wom*n: The use of wom*n with a “*” is primarily used to remove the patriarchal constructs around language and be intentionally inclusive of all women and women identified persons in a way that does not limit them to representing an extension or creation of man. The “*” is also used as a wildcard to substitue one letter to search for alternate spellings.

Please help and support our project.  Thank you!

The Journey of a Brown Girl is continuing in our effort to encourage for the support of our community and loved ones in 3 ways:
1) GIVE- Please give to the project through our Indiegogo: bitly.com/14HMYud
We have amazing gifts for our monetary donors that reflect our culture, our intention to empower our community and the remarkable artistry of our collective and sisterhood circle! Check them out and contribute what you can!
2) SHARE- Link as many of your networks and family/ friends/ colleagues/ networks to the project! Let your social media support this movement, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, whatever you choose! Connection is key!
3)JOIN- Join the movement of the Journey of a Brown Girl, follow the progress of the artistic talents of our team as they grow this  project with deepened messages! Ask questions, give input, be a part of the process! thejourneyofabrowngirl.com, and we’re on facebook and tumblr!

Gail Banawis: The Stunner is Seventeen

gail6

On the runway, Gail Banawis at 17 looks stunning and every inch a full-grown woman. Standing at 5’7′ tall, this flawless morena is a head turner in anything she models for, since not too long ago in 2010.  She glamorized the fashion collections of Edgar Madamba, Leonard Co, Renee Salud, Dita Sandico, and a host of international fashion designers including Hugo Boss.

gail

Leonard Co

Edgar Madamba

Edgar Madamba

Gail is a bunch of talent and wit. She sings and is a member of her school’s Women’s Choir at the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts in Manhattan. She is also the 2013 Binibining Pilipinas for PAFCOM in New Jersey.

Emmanuel Cancer Foundation Fashion Show

Emmanuel Cancer Foundation Fashion Show

Renee Salud

Renee Salud

Despite the increasingly busy life, Gail goes home to the Bronx with her parents and catches on her studies and finishes her homework after a singing gig or a catwalk.

Renee Salud

Renee Salud

Leonard Co

Leonard Co

fairtradeproductsAD1A

http://thefairtradeshop.com.ph/category/cebu/

Rena Avendula: Gears Up for Filipino Artists in the US

Rena2

 By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City

On Woodside’s 52nd Street, Rena Avendula not only contends herself with promoting Filipino dishes in her restaurant called Payag (nipa hut in Filipino).  She is also in the thick of whipping up dreams to raise the bar of Filipino entertainment in New York, and eventually the whole of America. Along with fellow dreamers (and believers) Howie Clavite, Peter Obach, Ruby Lagare, and Jose Paulo Cortes, Rena has created the Pinoy Pride sa America (Filipino Pride in America) which intends to showcase the multi-faceted talents of Filipinos.

Filipino artists can create greater impact in the US.

Filipino artists can create greater impact in the US.

The Pinoy Pride sa America is a business entity that unites all non-profit organizations to create shows and cultural undertakings to raise their own financial resources, quips Rena. She observed that Filipino groups are too sporadically operating on their own thus creating limited impact in the community.

Hopefully, the Pinoy Pride will bind the organizations to create bigger visibility, she said.

On October 4, the Pinoy Pride sa America will kick off its first gig at LaBoom, with the famous rock band Aegis holding a concert along with three other bands (Filharmonic, Sheldon Magbanua, and Tony Gado), a fashion show featuring the works of Anna Puruganan and Darius Gibbs, an art exhibit by the GPENY.

PinoyPride

Brought together by the Gawad Kalinga USA, Philippine Jaycees, Payag Restaurant, Faldef, GPENY, Falcon, HRS Innovates, and We Talk, the concert-fashion show-art exhibit will be an event to watch.

Excerpts from the interview:

1.      What inspired you to form PINOY Pride sa America?

What has inspired me to form PINOY Pride sa America is my bilib sa Pinoy (my faith in the Filipino), dahil talaga namang BIDA ANG PINOY (because indeed, the Filipino is a star)!  We only need to provide an opportunity and the right venue for us to showcase or to stage this.  And what could be a better way of achieving this than collaborating with fellow the non-profit organizations here who have the same level of commitment.

The challenge is right here in the US.

The challenge is right here in the US.

2.      As a young entrepreneur in NYC, what challenges do you have in running a restaurant business?

Real competition is here.  This is the greatest challenge for me and this is the very thing that keeps me focused and going.  I work best under pressure.

3.      Is it much better to operate in the US than in The Philippines?

Yes, because I am here in the US for at least 310 days in a year.  (Laughs) Seriously, though, here in New York, I am in a better position to introduce the best of Filipino cuisine and culture in the US market, a stepping stone to globalize our brand.

4.      What are your hopes and aspirations for the FIL-AM Community in NYC?

I hope and aspire for the Fil-Am Community not just in NY but in the whole of America: unity in show-casing the best of the Filipino in everything that we do, unity sa makikipagtulungan sa kapwa Pilipino para sa ikabubuti ng lahat (helping Filipinos for the better good), and unity sa paglingun sa pinanggalingan (looking back where we came from) by reaching out and helping our countrymen back in our homeland especially in times of need.

5.      What events are we going to expect from PINOY Pride sa America in the coming months?

A lot of plans are being considered and we shall be disclosing these very soon.  But for sure they are all aligned with our mission which is to collaborate with US-based non-profit organizations in order to help promote and show-case the best of the Filipino talent.

In New York, I am in a better position to introduce the best of Filipino cuisine and culture in the US. market.

In New York, I am in a better position to introduce the best of Filipino cuisine and culture in the US market.

CLEANWORLD-AD

http://cleanworldnewjersey.com/

Biting the Big Apple at the Brooklyn Book Fair

517R-dY7szL

517R-dY7szLBiting the Big Apple: Memoirs of a Journalist Turned Immigrant will be on display and sale at the Brooklyn Book Fair on September 22, 2013, Sunday at the Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza on 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn NY 11201 from 10am-6pm.

Author Marivir Montebon will be there for an interactive session. She will be together with New York’s exciting writers affiliated with the National Writers Union-New York Chapter, led by Tim Sheard whose book A Bitter Pill, will likewise be on display.

The other books on display by NWU member writers are: European Son (Barry Stewart Levy),Lasting Memories (Alvina Soo Chan), Daughters of the Stone (Dahlma Llanos Figueroa), Asphalt Warrior (Kurt Boone), Silence: Story Telling and Madness (Jane Heil Usyr), Rumble in Brookyn (Joseph Trigoboer), Transitions of a Nuyorican Cinderella (Maria Aponte), Ascension, Soul Retrieval (Rose Whaley), From Fast Foods to Slow Foods (Yvonne Stafford), I Carry My Homeland Like an Apple in My Pocket (Ella Veres), Wail: The Life of Bud Powell (Peter Pullman), Love Means Second Chances (Susan Davis), Writes of a Passage (Susan Davis), The Woman Who Couldn’t Remember But Couldn’t Forget (Walli Leff).

Daphne Ceniza-Kuok: We Will Rise In God’s Grace

daphne4

By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
  Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain. (Psalm 127 A song of ascents. Of Solomon.)

daphne3

My hope is, there will be a systemic change as a result of the people’s united effort.

Daphne Ceniza-Kuok breezes to New York, from Hong Kong, at the time when homeland Philippines is raging mad over the pork barrel scam in Congress.  Two things prompt her visit. As a mom, she had to send off her two children to college here, and as an advocate for social change, she makes sure her voice to end corruption as well as that of the others, are heard.

A college friend, Raul Puentespina, had mentioned Daphne through Facebook, and requested me to meet her and cover the protest at the Philippine consulate.  It was to be the first leg of the hundred rallies envisioned to stop the scandalous billions worth of pilferage vis-a-vis the flash floods in Manila, an oil spill tragedy off Cebu, and the perennial increases in prices of commodities. Practically every Filipino is outraged.

Lovely in picture, but so much lovelier in person, I finally met Daphne at the rally on the last Sunday of August. She collected the signatures of those demanding to scrap the pork barrel fund and to immediately conduct an investigation into the scam. The petitioners also asked for the passage of the freedom of information bill.

She handed the signatures to Deputy Consul General Tess de Vega at the height of the rally which was participated by about 200 Filipinos from various organizations.

Deputy Consul General Tess de Vega receives the petition from Daphne Ceniza. Lumen Castaneda of the teachers group witnessed the hand-over.

Deputy Consul General Tess de Vega receives the petition from Daphne Ceniza. Lumen Castaneda of the teachers group witnessed the hand-over.

Daphne is a silent supporter of Filipinos (especially abused maids) in Hong Kong and has been quietly working with the  International Care Ministries (ICM) in lifting economic conditions of Filipino families. She has also relentlessly campaigned for the overseas absentee voting, being an issue close to the hearts of many immigrant Filipinos.

daphne2

We are all God’s stewards.

Interestingly, many of the board members of the ICM are not Filipinos, although its programs are fully focused on eight stations in the Philippines, with key interventions on values, health, and livelihood since 1992. Its founder was Sharon Tin Tan, a Singaporean interior designer living in Hong Kong who visited the Philippines with her Filipino maid. She was struck by a young and dying woman Josephine who asked for a coffin. The lady had her dying wish granted, and it flourished to something more, as Tin Tan organized what is now called the ICM.

Today, the ICM board is chaired by David Sutherland, and acting as full time. He was formerly managing director of Morgan Stanley-Asia.  Daphne sits in the ICM board of advisers and stirs the fund raising activities to be able to continue with the programs in the villages. At one time, she admits that getting the Philippine government involved in its programs had been difficult.

The ICM is energized by 150 full-time staffers. It continues to train pastors and church volunteers to manage its counseling and health programs.

My afternoon conversation with Daphne a few days after the rally at the consulate was relaxing than what I expected it to be, despite the depth of her concerns.

Excerpts:

daphne

All efforts for change must be God-centered.

OSM!: You have been helping quietly many Filipino immigrants in Hongkong and are passionately involved with ICM. Despite the many good efforts of Filipinos abroad like you, the Philippines seem to be unable to rise from its own problem, the most recent of which is pork barrel scam. Doesn’t that make you feel frustrated?

Daphne:  If we give up, who will do it for us? I am doing things that I can in my own personal capacity and faith.  Regarding the pork barrel scam, it is still too early to say if we could rise above it. But my hope is, there will be a systemic change as a result of the people’s united effort. We should focus on scrapping the pork barrel and realigning the national budget to real programs. The pork barrel institutionalizes patronage politics. That has to be changed.

OSM!: Do you think we can rise from all these corruption and define a stable and secure future to ourselves?

Daphne: Yes we need to rise from all these. But God has to get through all our troubles. I believe that unless it is in God’s grace and protection, nothing good happens. Let me share with you a Bible passage, Psalm 127 A Song Ascents. Of Solomon. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.

My point is, have we ever asked ourselves, have I seriously prayed for my country, for my president, for my congressmen? We need steadfast action and a lot of prayers to succeed.

OSM!: As a leader, I can see that you have evolved into the political and spiritual realms. What had been your turning point?

Daphne: It is amazing how at one point in our lives, God strips us of every aspect of our confidence. In my case, the purge at the radical left movement was it. I was hammered in the head. Nauntog ako. The organization had been broken, and many of my friends had been killed or maligned. It was a time of confusion and division. That was my awakening. All efforts for change must be God-centered.

The passage on Romans 8:38-39 says this: 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

OSM!: So you think the left-led revolution in the Philippines won’t succeed in bringing about change in Philippine society?

Daphne: No, it won’t succeed, unless it is built by God.

OSM!: Who are the leaders that you look up to?

Daphne: I have been blessed to have worked with the late Sen. Jose Diokno and Tanada. They were leaders with integrity.

OSM!:  Do you think the women’s rights movement makes sense?

Daphne: I believe there is no need for that if you believe that God has only one standard for us. We are all his stewards, and so there is no gender attached to it. We are all equal.

 

 

 

CLEANWORLD-AD

 

 

 

 

 

http://cleanworldnewjersey.com/

COCOFED Scholars: Laughter and Memories Reign

cocofed11

By Marivir R. Montebon
Rye, New York

cocofed7

A pleasant summer for memories in college

Summer came and went. But memories in college, once more, were re-lived by some 20 former scholars of the COCOFED (Philippine Coconut Producers Federation Inc.) who gathered one Saturday afternoon for a reunion of sorts, after many years since their college days in the Philippines.

The COCOFED subsidizes the National College Scholarship Grant Program which has supported about 8000 scholars nationwide (and graduated more than 5000) since it began in 1978. About 200 former scholars are now living the US.

At the east coast, it was the first time for a few batches of scholars to meet personally in the ‘old fashioned country’ house of gracious host Dory Imbo-Beary in the beach town of Rye. Dory was a scholar from the Visayas State University in Leyte. Months prior, they were just busy chatting with each other on Facebook. Instantaneously there was laughter when they met, which is typically Filipino, as if all were familiar with each other.

cocofed13

L-R: Rowena, Vianne, Isabelle, Dory, Hannah, and Marichu

Everyone brought something to the banquet table to partake, which made the reunion truly a feast.  There was baked salmon prepared by Faye Rubio Virtucio and husband Gil, pancit palabok by Connie Florentino Molvizar, pork barbecue by Robert Chan, empanada brought by Rowena Alorro Ranoco, the omnipresent bam-i brought by Isabelle Ferraren, and guest Elvira Joy Lorico brought Philippine pastries so terribly missed by everyone: food for the gods and cheese mamon.

There were rice muffins, chips, fruits, mango cake, and chicken macaroni salad. Marichu Gaid and Renato Angeles brought in the drinks to complete everything. The last but not the least to arrive was Rodulfo Cabuya. There was paparazzi too, Rudy Molvizar and yours truly, to fully document the fun.

Faye’s apple martini loosened up everyone some more. The quiet neighborhood of Bulkley Manor was filled with laughter and the drool-inducing smell of pork barbecue coming from the water well-converted-grill at Dory’s garden.

Scholars at the University of San Carlos

cocofed12

Ready for the apple martini.

Rowena, a graduate of BS Chemistry, shares fond memories of her days at the University of San Carlos in Cebu.

“There was a support system for Cocofed scholars from the guidance office. I will always remember the late Fr. Henry Schumacher of the USC testing center  who gave advice to freshmen students who passed the COCOFED scholarship and other scholarships.

He would present facts and perceived opinions to us: State scholars pay for their expenses first and get refunded by the end of the semester while COCOFED scholars enjoy their allowances on a monthly schedule and the uniforms and textbooks every school year. State scholars have higher marks to maintain while COCOFED scholars only needed to pass. So he would make us choose: Which would you go for? Glamor as a scholar or practicality?”

Rowena said that on the downside, the other scholars and some teachers would look down on the COCOFED scholars because of the academic requirement of a simple pass. But when the number of COCOFED scholars increased and the courses became diverse, the academic community witnessed the rise of real leaders and solid scholarly grades from the COCOFED scholars group.

She has a personal triumph to share on the first semester of her freshman year.

cocofed3

They have gone a long way from their scholarship grants.

“Every semester always culminated with a departmental exam for students taking Chemistry 1. That particular end of first semester (SY 1978-79), I was called by my Chem1 teacher Mrs. Joy Locaylocay to be congratulated at the faculty room. She said she was truly happy for me and the department because finally, a Chem major not only topped but got perfect in the departmental exam as the previous semesters have been lorded over by Math majors. I knew it was mainly hard work and partly luck that the good graces fell upon me but the bigger victory was that they have started to change their perception of what COCOFED scholars can deliver.”

Growing up Years, Great Friendships

For Gilda Racelis, without the COCOFED scholarship grant, going to the capital’s university and living in the city, would have been a financial struggle, especially that there were seven of them in the family.

Other than the financial assistance offered by the grant, the connection with varying age groups which comprised the COCOFED Scholars at the University of the East (UE) has helped her morph into a more socially, intellectually, and emotionally interactive human being.

She was lucky to have found two ‘sisters’ among the scholars, who literally spanked her to bloom into a lady.

cocofed2

Gilda and Isabelle

“Pubescent was the awkward, bewildering and confusing stage in our life. The stage when we also trekked the terrains of the college life. I remembered climbing down and up the fire escape stairs of the ladies dormitory to get back inside the building after the fun disco nights. Those were the jolts of hormones in the growing up years,” Gilda recalls.

“Being a late bloomer and a tomboy until I turned fourteen, my confused emotional and physical state was fortunate to have found an older sister in the midst. I remember Yeyen Bolunia, 4th batch, scolding me in a gentle way–reminding me to act more like a young lady and not as a boy. I have this bad habit, which I still am struggling to get rid of until now, of punching anybody close to me as a way of expressing my fondness and excitement of seeing him/her again.

cocofed1

Still feels like college.

Yeyen, was one of those lucky friends, who got beatings from me. To this day, I am still longing to see my Ate Yeyen again. If it weren’t for her, perhaps, you would have not seen the lady in me.

After Yeyen boarded the ship to her next journey after college, Mila Alvarez Bendiola, has been my constant chaperone on my dates. You heard it. When guys asked me for a date, my protective Sister Ate Miles would be there to accompany me.

Dates for me back then was nerve-wracking. And I had Ate Miles to alleviate that fear. I wonder what the young suitors were thinking when I showed up with Ate Miles. Did I get second dates from them knowing I would not be alone. You bet I did,” she laughs.

Vianne Labay Sillador, also from UE, remembers her four years of priceless fun.

cocofed4

Life has been good.

“It was an unlimited self-exploration. There was no map. The best memories were the ones I made, meeting friends who became your BFFs for more than three decades. There was pride in being known in the campus as the scholar and hobnobbing with people of authority in the university. That was priceless.”

After School Life

Rowena recalls that after college, she was not able to graduate on time due to a missing credit unit on thesis writing and for failure to sign up for the board exam.

cocofed8

Robert, the scholar is now a father of two lovely girls.

“I became active with NGOs and the anti-martial law struggle. I got married early at age 22 with a fellow Carolinian who was pursuing Law and is now a lawyer. But with the onset of technology where USC was one of the pioneers of the email phenomenon. That was in 1983, I guess. I was tracked down by classmates, schoolmates and in 1992 I finally communicated with my beloved mentor Mrs. Joy Locaylocay who was adamant that I finish my thesis so I can officially graduate. Without much ado, I did as advised even when I was heavy with the third child. And my diploma was finally released in 1993. This paved the way for me to pursue a career in education and after serving as teacher and school head for a combined experience of 13 years in Agusan del Sur, I accepted the recruitment offer to teach in Maryland in 2007. The rest is history,” she said.

For Vianne, the COCOFED scholarship was her ticket to a good life, and it has helped her appreciate life itself.

cocofed11

Cheers to you COCOFED, cheers to life!

cocofed5

Connie with husband paparazzi Rudy and son.

cocofed6

3Rs: Rudy, Renato, and Robert

 

Reconnecting the past for the future. Mixed media by Celso Pepito. In time for the COCOFED National Convention in Cebu on August 3-4, 2013. The scholars pay tribute to the coconut farmers.

Reconnecting the past for the future. Mixed media by Celso Pepito. In time for the COCOFED National Convention in Cebu on August 3-4, 2013. The scholars pay tribute to the coconut farmers.

LINGGO NG WIKA

wikalakandiwa

By Marivir R. Montebon

wikalakandiwa

Hindi ko akalain
At akoy nagagalak na
Ako ay makagawa ng tula
At hindi balita
Sa araw ng pambansang wika.

Halata na si ConGen Mario de Leon
Na nahihirapang lubos
Na magsalita ng wikang Pilipino
Ngunit masarap pakinggan ang
Kanyang pagbati sa mga dumalo.

wikakay

Kay tamis ng tinig ni Bb. Kay Habana
Na siyang umawit na pagka-akit akit
Na mga himig na ikinatutuwa ng puso.

wikatulagener

Masigla at madamdamin si G. Randy Gener
Na nagbigkas ng mga tula ng
Pag-ibig ni Corazon de Jesus,
Ako ang Daigdig ni Alejandro Abadilla,
Masdan ang Magsasaka ni Rio Alma,
Santong Paspasan ni Jose Lacaba,
at ang kanyang mga sariling likha
Paraiso ang Kubeto Ko, at
Sa Alaala ng Pagpanaw ni
Lolo Kong Mahilig sa Bayabas.

wikajessmar
Tuwang-tuwang ang mga bisita
Sa isang munti at magaling na mang-aawit,
Si Jessmar Ruel Bahian
Na kantahin bigla ng akapela ang kantang
Isang Lahi dahil nasira yata CD niya.

wikalakandiwa
Patuloy na naging masaya ang gabi
Sa Balagtasan nina Gng. Frances Dominguez
At Gng. Shirley Cuyugan-O’Brien
Si Gng. Sofia Garcia-Abad ang Lakandiwa
Na nagbalangkas sa usapin
Saan mas mainam na magretiro,
Sa Amerika ba o sa Pilipinas?
Ang mga dumalo ang silang humusga
Kung saan ng nila gusto.

Ganun pa man
Akoy ubod ng galak
Di ko akalain
Mas mabilis pa palang makasulat
Ng Tula kay sa balita
Sa sarili nating wika.

wikaobrien wikabalagtasaner

Emerging Filipina Artists Hold Traveling Shows

joan&bisai

joan&bisai

Catch the twin solo art exhibition of up-and-coming artists Joan Honoridez and Bisai Ya, visiting three city museum and galleries between August to December this year.

AS IT IS showcases the lady artists’ take on Philipine contemporary art as seen from their pieces using distinctive abstraction styles.

Fresh from joining group exhibitions locally and abroad, these two emerging Visayan artists who have never met personally are finally holding a back-to-back solo art exhibition that will take their art pieces travelling around three major cities in the country: Bacolod, Cebu and Manila.

Art by J. Honoridez

Tropical Terrain by J. Honoridez

Joan Honoridez from Bacolod City and Bisai Ya from Cebu City only met on Facebook and since 2012 had been engaged in their art passion particularly abstract expressionism.

“Our show AS IT IS, was borne out of endless nights of online discussions, lectures, critiquing and hands-on application of learning from our online art mentor, Australia-based Filipino leading painter Arturo Cruz,” shares Bisai Ya.

Bisai’s works are ethereal and heavy between use of acrylics and oil. She plays a lot on light and shadow approaches using moderate strokes applied unto matte surfaces, many of which were made mostly in her transcendental moods, delving on the spontaneity of her subject with no pre-meditational rituals. “I’d like to create pieces that are uniquely individualistic yet distinguishable by my choice of light toned palettes. I would create pieces that does not utilize so much space, lines, curves or colours to accentuate my inner feelings. I stick to very minimalistic expression where less is more!,” she said.

Since January 2013, Bisai and Joan both went into serious art workshop under the close supervision of master painter Arturo Cruz who is based in Australia. An artist for more than 30 years, Cruz mentored the two artists in their quest to be considered as serious abstractionists. Experiment and discover were his guiding points.

Firedance, by Bisai Ya

Firedance, by Bisai Ya

“So the quest for the use of ordinary tools from the kitchen, hardware and other unlikely places became like an addiction. So much of my new pieces demonstrate gestural abstraction where by chance the end result allowed me to create distorted allegorical imageries from a variety of inspirations other than my own,” Joan said.

Having a day job as court legal researcher helps Joan sustain her childhood art passion that has become full-blown when she joined the Art Association of Bacolod in 2007.

Cruz said it was an honor to be chosen as their art mentor despite the fact that he lives in Australia.

“My location might become a hindrance to our studies. However these two ladies had been adamant in asking me to teach them what I know from my passion in art. I am only obliged seeing their persistence and enthusiasm to learn. After our grueling 5 months nightly online workshops, they have this exhibit.”

Cruz believes that Bisai and Joan are both equally promising with their individual styles and interests.

The three of them having only met and brainstormed on Facebook, their eventual meet up was also a historical feat in the Filipino artscape.

The art tour dates are August 13 to Sept 13 at the Negros Museum in Bacolod, then followed at Qube Gallery in Cebu from October 1-17 and the show will have its Manila leg in mid November, with venue to be advised soonest. In February 2014, GSIS Museum will be the major venue of the pair’s 2014 art show series.

For complete information on show dates and venue, please contact mobile numbers +63.9334042628 and +63.9064288156 or email at bisaiartcafe@gmail.com.

Lorli Villanueva: The Consummate Actress is an Educator too

lorlitouro

By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City

The definitive case of Maxima Labandera is that she will not easily be extinguished from your mind. I remember this tobacco puffing, astig (tough) laundry woman using Ajax detergent bar as the absolutely sparkling solution for soiled clothes.

Maxima Labandera

Lorli as Maxima Labandera

Maxima Labandera, the epitome of the feisty home maker, brought the Ajax to the peak of its popularity in the tumultuous days of Philippine television ads war in the 1970s – 1980s.

Maxima Labandera is of course the unforgettable Lorli Villanueva, the consummate actress who naturally brings the house down as a ludicrous comedienne, dramatic actress, or as a horrifying vampire. I can still remember how, as a child, she made me shiver in fear as a wide-eyed witch.

Lorli also directed Philippine television’s longest running soap, Flor de Luna, which starred the young Janice de Belen. She has made over 60 films in her acting career of 30 years, having been trained by prestigious international filmmakers in Europe. She had her best supporting actress award in 1972 for the film Lupang Hinirang by the late director Orlando Nadres.

LORLIoldpic1Lorli’s career as an actor started in the theater as a founding member of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA) which later became part of the political surge that toppled Pres. Marcos. Alongside the late director Lino Brocka, and other cinema stalwarts, Lorli took to the streets the movement to end 21 years of the Marcos regime.

For several years, Lorli chaired the Board of Judges for the prestigious Palanca Literary Awards. Being a graduate of Communications, Lorli ran her own media outfit, the Tri-Media Productions, which created commercial ads, education campaigns, and programs.

After many years of enjoying her presence on TV and the movies, we lost one of the substantial actors in the Philippine entertainment. Lorli Villanueva joined the exodus to the US, in search of better opportunities in life. At the time, the the entertainment industry had been plagued with the soda pop stars like Sarsi Emmanuel, Pepsi Paloma, and Coca Nicolas. It became quite sexist, she said.

“I couldn’t compete and can’t take how shallow it has become,” she chuckled in an interview in her office at the Touro College in Manhattan’s lower east side.

I met her for the first time in NYC in a forum on women in development at the United Nations NY Headquarters in the summer of 2010. And Maxima Labandera rushed back to my mind again.

The consummate actress has gone a long way since her entertainment heydays. She sits as dean of the Graduate School’s Education and Special Education Department of the Touro College, NYC’s biggest site for graduate studies in education and special education.

LORLIE1

Lorli the Actress in her office at Touro College, where she serves as Dean of Graduate Studies of Education and Special Education.

Recently, Lorli was awarded by the Association of Filipino Teachers in America, as the Most Outstanding American Filipino Teacher in America for Higher Education.

For this year, we are to expect from her a book of Philippine myths and legends which are culled from her personal experiences in her hometown in Iloilo. Plus there is an autobiography to watch for and a December concert in New York.

Looking back, the year was 1984, when life has taken quite a different course for Lorli, and left behind her four children to the care of her mother.

The interview, done in between the early morning office hours of 10-11 am, a Monday. The actress-educator was multi-tasking. Excerpts:

1. Why did you decide to leave the Philippines in the 1980s?

Lorli: It was the time when the Philippine movies became shallow. Mother Lily’s movies were. And there were the soda pop stars Sarsi Emmanuel, Pepsi Paloma, and Coca Nicolas which I could not compete. (Laughs). I had to go somewhere else.

LORLI2WORKI passed a Fullbright Hays Scholarship test, a grant for academic excellence in 1980 for two years in Northern Illinois. I was the only grantee for a full scholarship in Asia that year. So that was my ticket leaving the country.

Magulo na din. I was kidnapped by Marcos. Ooopps. I will tell this in details in my upcoming book, my autobiograph which will be coming out early next year.

But in the 1990s, my mom called me and said di na kaya i-manage ang mga anak ko, who were already teenagers. So I went home to be with my children.

2. So how has life been back in the Philippines in the 1990s?

Between 1990 and 1999, I went home to fulfill my mother role. That was truly the most important thing to do, to be with the children who were in their teenage years.

I set my career again, as always, both as an educator and actor. I worked with then congressman Butch Aquino as his ghost writer, and I focused on the cooperative movement for his program of action.

I also ran my own firm, the Tri-Media Productions. I had big projects in the Philippines and abroad.

3. And you did not have any serious relationship? Didn’t marry again?

Walang distraction. I lived life fully.

Walang distraction. I lived life fully.

I focused on my children and my career. So walang distraction. (Laughs) My spiritual health was perfect. I felt whole. I lived life fully.

Now I look back, all my seven children are professionals. And for me, one can only claim success when her children are successful. I am so. Parenting is actually modeling. You live by example. I dated, but set a good example to them.

Walang inggitan ang mga bata. They are confident and have thrived on their own, and are all professionals. I could not be happier.

4. But you went back to the US again, why is that?

It was a crazy time. I had a very busy and full life in our country. Then the US immigration department called me, and said I have to fly to the US or I will forfeit my permanent residency status.

LORLIE3WORKSo I had to go to the US. I flew on December 30, 1999, in the thick of winter and the snow was waist high and it was Christmas! I was crying all the time. I lived in Teaneck, New Jersey.

Ang hirap ng buhay sa America, ang lamig and you do all the chores. And also, New York is such a snob to job seekers.

I was afraid, but I had to be decisive. Well, you got to, considering you have children to feed! All those years, ginapang ko sila to join me in the US.

5. Why did you choose to create a path on teaching and not acting?

Well, you can’t rely on the uncertainty of the acting career in the US. Teaching was more promising. I remember my first job was at the Mt. Carmel Parochial School. Fr. Nicanor Lana, whom I knew way back in the Philippines, was my angel. He introduced me to the nuns of the school.

My first teaching stint was teaching Science for 4th Graders! The nuns asked me for a teaching demo. I was frightened. Anong alam ko sa Science (what do I know of Science)? I hurriedly researched for science experiments at Barnes and Noble and tried to internalize these.

lorlieCOVER

Teachers must be taught art. It is a tool for creative teaching. Learning must be fun for students.

I needed time to study some more, and had to call the nuns telling them that the snow was horrible in Teaneck and asked for a few more days before I could do my teaching demo.

My creativity was again finally put to use. I demonstrated flora and fauna, growing mongo on cotton. The kids were wide-eyed listening to me. Voila, I was accepted as Science teacher. That year, I was voted the Science teacher of the year!

Within that year too, I was also made to teach English. After a year, I passed all license exams in New York.

I was also teaching at the New York School of Business. That was a dare, because I was made to teach Computer Classes. I didn’t know much about computers. So what I did, I made all my students do all the reporting in class. I sat there listening to them. In the process, it was I who learned from them.

6. Did you also venture into acting in New York in the early days?

Yes I did. I directed shows and made commercials. I also was into marketing. I sold Sequel phone cards. I got exemplary employee award while selling these cards for the company. The good things never stopped happening.

7. What do you think is the key to your successful undertakings as a teacher?

lorli&sybilasiannews

The mother is a fan. Lorli watches daughter Sybil in awe as she guested in her 2012 concert at the Philippine Consulate. (Photo by Asia News)

I believe that teachers must be taught art. It is a tool for creative teaching. Learning must be fun for students. Hence all teachers must be trained to be creative in their teaching approaches. That was how I survived and shine teaching in the US.

I also used the best of our Philippine culture to survive here in the US. Our support system as a family is so reliable. I wouldn’t have survived without my mother’s help in raising my children. My husband passed away leaving me alone to raise the kids.

Also, we allow our kids to grow as they are. Here in the US, the kids are immediately labeled as special when they become so hyperactive. Then they introduce drugs.

That is not right. Kids will develop in their own pace. We have to just guide them and not label them.

8. What are you thoughts on the future of Philippine education?

I personally want to advocate the re-teaching of English, both spoken and written, in the Philippines. It is frustrating that the new graduates no longer have a good command in English. And this is very important.

KAY HABANA: An Angel’s Voice

kay2

By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City

kayhabanaThe lovely and petite Kay Habana, who once enthralled Montreal, offers two beautiful things now that she is in New York: an angel’s voice and her delectable dishes.

You can imagine a sweet operatic voice emanating from the kitchen, as she whips up delightful food, the most sought after of which is the chicken pork adobo. Such is a rare combination of talent that soothes the soul.

On August 11, the Performing Arts Philippines Inc. recognizes Kay as Ms Performing Arts 2013 at the Renaissance Newark Airport Hotel in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Kay sings with the San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir of NYC, which serves the Our Lady of Pompeii (Manhattan) and Mt. Carmel (Astoria) communities. She has produced an album “Sacred” which features, among others, a duet with tenor Rogelio Penaverde Jr. of Panis Angelicus. It is a remarkable, stunning rendition, enough to create goosebumps.

Kay’s singing stints included the Suites by Sondheim at the Alice Tully Hall of the Lincoln Center and the CD launch of Bituing Natatangi at the Philippine Consulate on 5th Avenue.

She lives in the Pelham area of the Bronx, and dotes on her only son, Kael. Being a mom she said, is the most rewarding of all her undertakings. “This little one makes me feel much needed. The privilege to nurture and love this tiny human being makes me feel humbled everytime.”

By September, Kay will release her CD and her home-made ice cream, two things I am excitedly awaiting to have.

Excerpts of our interview:

1. Who has been your mentor and coach in singing? What values you acquired from this teacher?

kay4In all honesty, I didn’t really acquire any formal training in singing. I just started performing in public at a very young age. It was when my elementary school teachers discovered that I have this “freak” voice that they suggested to my family I join singing contests. It was only during those competitions that I associated myself with many various coaches who’ve helped me chisel the art of performing, both in singing and folk dancing.

However, if I’d have to pick one person who stands out to this very day as an influence, it would be my Tita Edith (Ms. Editha Fedalizo). Tita Edith is the pianist of The Panday Tinig Chorale Ensemble of Montreal, the choral group I belonged to when I was still living in Montreal. I learned so much from her not just about singing, but life in general. I was just a young teen back then when I was still with Panday, a choir eclipsed by members who were much older than me. But with Tita Edith, I easily coalesced into the group. She made it so easy. I enjoyed grown-up conversations with her about the run-of-the-mill of life.

2. Favorite singer. Why?

My favorite singer… Sarah Brightman. She continues to inspire me. She hadn’t had formal voice training herself, but she sings like an angel. And in this competitive industry, at her age, she’s still very much out there. Of course, who can’t fall in love with that sweet British accent?

3. From Guimaras, you moved to Canada and grew up there. What is the difference in the lifestyle of living in Guimaras and Montreal? Was the transition difficult?

kay1Frankly, it wasn’t something I wished for. I lived a very happy and blessed life in Guimaras. I was content in the company of my sister and grandparents whom I love so dearly. Then out of nowhere, I was told that I’d move to Canada and live with my mom whom at the time, I hardly knew. Of course, for a kid, it was very difficult. I can almost vividly recall the transition to have been horrifying. An anguish.

Forget that I had to learn French and that I had no choice but to speak it in order to get around! (Laughs). It took about 4 years to overcome the homesickness, and 3 years out of the 4, I cried practically every day and night, no exaggeration there. In the end though, I understood God had a bigger plan for me and my life. So yeah, now, I can definitely say I’m grateful for that “move”. It has rewarded me with experiences so rich, beautiful, and fulfilling without which, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.

4. Why did you move to the US?

My move to NY wasn’t really planned. I had intended to come here for my auntie June who was battling ovarian cancer at the time. She and I were very close, thus, I wanted to be with her, to take care of her. We spent some precious time together until she eventually went home to the Lord.

kay2Then I caught sight of what NY could contribute to me in terms of career, that I could further nurture my singing craft here and put it to really good use. My grandparents are here, too, that was a deep-seated reason. Besides, I was always told, “if you survive NY, you survive anywhere else.” I wanted to challenge myself. And it’s been a good one, thus far. Overall, I find this city to be rich in arts, culture, and hey, I look around me and everything I see vouchsafes an education that is unsought. What more can one ask for?

5. What made you decide to choose the singing career?

I can’t fully say that I chose singing as a career any more than it continues to choose me. (Laughs). I think I’ve tried numerous times to escape it, but it re-introduces itself to me, time and time again. And believe me, I feel so blessed.

Singing, specially here in NY, has been worthwhile. The people have been very kind and receptive, too. I mean, I sing classical/opera songs. I know that not too many from my age group can appreciate that kind of music. But I’m humbled that there’s still a lot who appreciate what I do. That makes me happy and that pushes me to better my craft. I owe it not just to those who value my kind of music, but it’s a form of give-back to GOD who has loaned and entrusted me with this talent.

6. You have a catering business, which means you love the kitchen and cooking as well. Who is your inspiration for this? Who mentored you?

I have been catering since 2003. I was just quiet about it the whole time. I’m naturally a shy girl, and I get so embarrassed having to run after prospective clients. I was happy with the word-of-mouth kind of referrals. I didn’t feel that I needed to advertise. I only came up with the official name “Kaon” recently, with help from a couple of close friends. My friends were the ones who suggested that I introduce my catering business to the public. Glad I did. Business has picked up. And I don’t get to sleep anymore.

kay3Cooking, I believe, came naturally to me. I loved to stay in the kitchen with our cooks when I was a kid and just watch them concoct different dishes. Let’s just say, anything and everything interested me. I was a boring kid. I enjoyed staying home, always wanting to learn the grown-up stuff… from cooking, sewing, washing and ironing clothes, and painting. Well, all these came after my first love—reading.

I can remember my Auntie Fely being the only one who was eager and happy to stay with me in the kitchen to watch me devise my peculiar-yet-tasty culinary experiments.

7. What special dishes are we to expect from your kitchen?

Well, I’d like to think that everything I create in my kitchen is special, in that, each dish is prepared and cooked with genuine love. I believe that when you put in a lot of love into your cooking, the love intrinsically betides. One can’t explain it, really. It’s just there.

But Chicken-pork adobo and crab cakes are among those many dishes I pride myself for. Don’t forget my SweetHabana Icecream, too. I’m hoping to have ‘em out in the Fil-am markets and restaurants pretty soon. I’m crossing my fingers and toes.

8. What projects in the arts are we supposed to see as upcoming?

I’m trying to hatch a mini-concert with my friend and colleague, Mr. John Pio. We’d like to give our audience a fusion of pop and classical music. It should be interesting and challenging. I’ll be pitted right next to my friend who can sing almost anything. He is, without a doubt, one of the best voices we have in the tri-state area. I’m truly proud of him.

Moreover, please don’t forget to grab a copy of the album that I produced not very long ago, entitled “Sacred”. It features my tenor friend and colleague, Rogelio Penaverde Jr. Part of the proceeds will benefit the Carmelite Community in the Philippines. I’m also working on my solo album which is set to be released sometime this fall.

Kirby Asunto: Singing Her Way Back Home in NYC and to the Opera!

kirby2

By Marivir R. Montebon

kirby5New York City — The Payag Restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue was packed to watch Kirby Asunto sing her way back home again here in the world’s premiere city. Donning a red dress and her hair pulled up, Kirby was at her element, belting American and Filipino pop songs for a crowd that is captivated by her sweet warm voice and child-like giggles.

Seven months earlier, 15-year-old Kirby went home to the Philippines with her family to do a series of shows for the country’s giant media networks, ABS-CBN and GMA. She likewise performed for local politicians in their campaign sorties in the recent elections. It was a meaningful time touching base with her Filipino roots, and looks forward to going back to the Philippines in December, in time to escape the snow and to record her first CD album.

But a big project awaits Kirby in October, with the opening of the Noli Mi Tangere Opera at the Kaye Playhouse of Hunter College on the 4th, 5th, and 6th of the month. She plays the 12-year-old Basilio, the older son of Sisa who worked as an abused sacristan together with his younger brother Crispin. Kirby will be performing alongside stalwarts of Philippine Opera, led by Sal Malaki, who will portray the role of Philippine hero Dr. Jose Rizal. She will be under the tutelage of New York City-based stage director May Pamana.

kirby2The Noli Me Tangere Opera has Michael Dadap for musical director. Dadap is the Artistic and Music Director of the Children’s Orchestra Society (COS) New York since 1984. A seasoned and versatile conductor, Mr. Dadap has conducted, worked, and collaborated with the world’s legendary soloists and duo ensembles with orchestra, which includes Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Sharon Robinson, Violinists Christine Kwak, Sheila Reinhold, Soovin Kim, Stephanie Chase, Sarah Chang, and Cho Liang Lin and Jaime Laredo, pianists Emmanuel Ax, Helen Huang, and Cecile Licad among others.

Kirby said she has just finished reading the script of the Noli, and found the role very challenging, aside from realizing the inequities of Philippine society then and now. “This is another major break for me. I look forward to being Basilio,” she said giggling. Rehearsals for this young lady would commence next week.

Excerpts of the interview:

1. It was your first time to come home to the Philippines as a performer, wasn’t it? How did that feel?

Kirby: It was a nice experience. I made my adlibs with the audience stronger. I had to speak Tagalog before the Filipino audience.

2. Which audience are you more comfortable with, with the all-Filipino or with the Fil-Ams?

kirby3Kirby: I am comfortable with both audiences. In fact, I want to go back to the Philippines to perform once again.

3. On your upcoming role as Basilio in the Noli Me Tangere Opera, do you think being a young boy would be so much of a challenge?

Kirby: I think so. Especially because this is my first time to perform on a professional opera. Although I had performed before in school operas, this is going to be very challenging and in Tagalog.

4. Are you going to do a la Anne Hathaway and cut your hair for the role?

Kirby: I think I will just wear a wig.

5. Do you think it is difficult to sing and act like a boy?

Kirby: I think it is challenging. But Basilio is 12 years old, and normally, the voice range of boys and girls are just the same within that age. I will practice hard to really pull it off.

6. I think your voice is really suitable for musicals and opera. Do you think this project with Noli Me Tangere will lead you to be more serious with Opera music than pop?

kirby3Kirby: Probably. After this experience, I may be serious with musicals. But I really can’t tell, especially that I have an upcoming CD album too. But maybe I will be serious with both opera and pop!

(For tickets to the Noli Me Tangere the Opera, go to www.nolimetangerenyc.org)

Green Climate Fund: How Does One Make Sense of It?

IMG_20130708_170254_313-1

By Easter Canoy
Bukidnon, Philippines

350px-Ph_bukidnon_sumilao_alalumfallsIt’s my second time to observe, among the other civil society organisations, a board meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The first Board Meeting I witnessed was the meeting held in Berlin, about three months ago. Our purpose of coming to this Board meeting in Songdo, Korea, as Philippine civil society representatives, is to ensure that the GCF operates according to its vision. This vision is articulated in the GCF’s Governing Instrument to ensure that it follow the principles of fair, direct and equitable access for its intended beneficiaries, which are especially communities in the least developing countries that are adversely affected by the climate crisis.

Freedom of speech?
The challenge in operationalising the GCF is formidable – one that has never been set up before. The GCF will have to navigate with its own compass, its own course charted by the wisdom and guidance of its 24board members. Two Civil Society Organisations (CSO’s) representatives are theoretically permitted to intervene in precious 5-minute slots, allowing us to express concerns during every agenda item. But in practice, the CSO’s do not get to intervene with each agenda point, since the Board Members are prioritised.

IMG_20130708_170254_313-1Where will the money come from?
The meeting in Songdo has interesting episodes of disagreements, leveling-off sessions or prolonged discussions. Many issues are being discussed: the business model framework like private sector facilities; access modalities in grants and loan concessions; the use of financial intermediaries; the organisational structure; performance indicators and independent evaluation; and country ownership and accreditation procedures. Meanwhile, the topic on resource mobilisation is set aside, giving a gnawing feeling of absence of financial resources rather than abundance. And calling the GCF a “fund”, like most global funding, already triggered high expectations, especially on the progress of realising its mandate.

Hope amidst the cloudy days
Running on a treadmill, the GCF Board works hard to finish its pioneering tasks while preparing to hand over the workload to Secretariat, now headed by the Board’s first executive director. Simultaneous with the period of waiting is the nagging reality of onslaught disasters, which are reaching catastrophic scale. Take for example the tsunamis coming in various forms: in the sea (that hit Aceh and India), in the highlands (the cloud burst creating great floods in the Himalayans and in the Philippines), and the air strikes (like the haze in Singapore from Indonesia). Still, there is great hope amidst the cloudy days.

bukidnon_sunrise

(Easter Canoy is the executive director of the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs. This article is also published at http://www.bothends.org/en/News/Weblog/weblog/27/weblogmessage/139/Great-hope-amidst-the-cloudy-days)

 

Happy 4th of July, America!

1011241_10151746961484402_170847202_n

MHC, Fil-Am Groups Join July 4th Parade in Philly

By Marivir R. Montebon

New York — The Migrant Heritage Commission joins with other Fil-Am groups in the east coast today in representing the Philippines in the July 4th Independence Day Parade in historic Philadelphia, seat of American independence.

More than a hundred Philippine participants will don colorful costumes of the Mountain province/Igorot Suite, Tribal/Ethnic Suite, Rural or Barrio Fiesta Suite, Southern Philippines or Muslim Suite, and Spanish or Maria Clara Suite in the only nationally televised parade today.

They will be joining an expected crowd of 5000 participants in celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th year of the civil rights movement.

“We’re lucky that the Philippines/MHC has been selected to join the July 4th Parade. So we’re enjoining all our kababayans to take part in this once-a-year celebration under the Philippines banner. This is the only televised parade because it is held in the city where American independence took place. This is our way of increasing visibility in the society’s mainstream,” said Grace Valera, MHC co-executive director and manager for its cultural development program.

IMG_20130704_080105_426-1

 

It has been MHC’s third year of joining the independence parade in Philadelphia.

Aside from the MHC, participating groups include the Ilocano Society of America, Inc. (ISA), ISA’s Miss Teen Philippines-America, Fil-Am Ministry of St. Michael of Silver Spring, MD, the Ultimate Eskrima International, the Association of Filipino Teachers in America (AFTA), Fil-Am Heritage Dance Ensemble, Mabuhay Inc., volunteers from various church-based Fil-Am groups, the Sunflower Int’l Cultural Institute, and the Aklan Ati-Atihan of Virginia.

From Philadelphia, the Filipino-American Association in Philadelphia (FAAPI), Philippine Folk Arts Society, the Philippine Nurses Organization of Philadelphia and Bucks County and from Delaware, the Philippine Nurses Organization of Delaware Valley, Inc. will join the parade.

Contingents from New Jersey and New York will attend as well.

The parade begins at 10 o’clock in the morning today at 5th and Chestnut Streets and ends at Front and Market Streets.

The Filipino-American Association in Philadelphia will host a Lunch Picnic and Street Line Dancing in the mid-day, and a spectacular display of fireworks will cap the celebration in the evening.

On July 4th, 1777, the Continental Congress formally adopted the Declaration of Independence, which had been written largely by Thomas Jefferson of the State of Virginia. Though the vote for actual independence took place on July 2nd by the 13 States (with New York in abstention), from then on the 4th became the day that was celebrated as the birth of American independence.

1011241_10151746961484402_170847202_n

ART FROM THE HEART OF AN ARTIST

Bisai2dailygrind

Bisai Ya

Artist Bisai Ya continues to make waves in the visual arts landscape and cyberscape. Recently, the New York Optimist featured her works, an awesome display of women and the places close to her heart.

Bisai’s artistic talent is a personal journey to self-healing, she says, and so wonderfully done by giving back of such incomes back to her chosen charities for education and the arts.

Her statement:

Bisai6-600x450manila hot summer nights“I utilize my art talent to be able to do my advocacies in education and art. Any sale i make, ten percent (10%) from proceeds go to my favourite charity (ALS Learners of Mandaue City) which my high school classmate Emilin Isahac is currently mentoring (check our website: http://www.wix.com/bisayababe/bisayababe). That way I am able to give back to the community that supported my art.

I also conduct bi-annual art contests for out of school youths in Cebu, Philippines to slowly introduce them into the world of visual art in my own small way. I collaborate with fellow Bisai5-450x600thepearlartists in conducting authentic art auctions to help raise funds for social worthy projects benefiting less fortunate members of society. (In 2012, I was blessed to have organised two successful charity art auctions online thru Bisai Art Cafe. One to benefit a schoolmate in high school Jean Manzanares Breast Cancer Fundraising (May 2012) and followed by another fundraising for an 8-year old girl stricken with leukemia (Lea Joven Leukemia Fundraising in July 2012). While Lea has expired and did not survive her illness, she continues to inspire us to do our art auctions to help other sufferers of long term illnesses benefit from our art sales and fundraising.

Through my gift of painting i was able to participate in several art causes to raise funds for sufferers of typhoon, those yearning for educational support and those seeking medication support. These are the very essence why my art is so special to me despite me not having enough monetary resources to contribute. Parting a painting on these activities is never a sorrow for me, but, builds in me more inspiration to use my gift of art towards good intentions and objectives.”

For more of Bisai’s works of art, please visit http://thenewyorkoptimist.com/HeidiRussellPresentsBisaiYaJune30_2013.html

Bisai2dailygrind

How’s It Going, Meki?

Meki Saldana, Filipina model and actress trail blazes in New York.

By Marivir R. Montebon

New York — It’s been eight months since OSM! first featured Meki Saldana, super fashion model who stepped into New York to interestingly charter a life on the runway, putting into the back seat a course in Nursing.

We took a peek at this fabulously doe-eyed and sweet Manilena again, and was in for surprises! The ramp model has ventured into acting, which is actually the first love.

She has recently worked with such big stars as Cameron Diaz, Don Johnson, and Leonardo DiCaprio a few months back, and the fall of 2013, she will definitely be conspicuous in commercials and movies.

Being signed in for One Management, Two Management LA, and Front Management Florida, Meki breezes for top brands in the American fashion world. Modeling she confides, is her entry to the movies. And what a fabulous front act she has done!

Meki did videos for Nars, Clinique for Nordstrom, Lancome, Matrix and Kenneth Cole and graced the runway for Baby Phat, Erin Wasson for RVCA, Bibhu Mohapatra, Zinke Swim, Monique Lhuillier, Isabel Toledo and Mara Hoffman.

She also modeled for the creations of Jill Stuart, Yeohlee, Devi Kroell, Yigal Azrouel, Diane Von Furstenberg.

At the Martha Stewart Show, Meki modeled the Marchesa Bridal gowns with the designers themselves, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig. She guested at the Good Morning America for the Marie Claire style forecast segment.

Her face is on the campaign and look books of Kate Spade, Kenneth Cole, Marc Ecko, Tracy Reese, Alfred Angelo, Belk, Target, Matrix, just to name a few.

Meki is constantly seen at Gilt Groupe, Ideeli and Belle&Clive websites and did fashion editorials for Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Zink, W style, Fanstastics, Elegant Bridal, Westchester Bridal, Bergen County and Women’s Health Magazine.

These past few months, however, Meki is shining even brighter, doing what she truly loves.

Excerpts:

1. Tell us about the latest projects you have been doing.

_HIN7233_v2-1I just filmed a scene with Cameron Diaz and Don Johnson in their new comedy movie directed by Nick Cassavetes, the same director as The Notebook and Alpha Dog.

And with my previous gig as well The Wolf Of Wall Street of Martin Scorsese with Leo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill. My TV commercial with Robert Pattinson for Christian Dior Perfume is coming out September!

2. What makes this project or event special or important to you?

It’s very important and huge for me because everything is happening and falling into place, and I’ve been only in the film/acting industry less than a year. This is God telling me I’m in the right path.

3. What do we expect in the next few weeks or months?

Christian Dior commercial with Robert Pattinson coming out September 2013.

The Wolf of Wall Street on November 2013.

The Other Woman on April 2013.

I’m planning to go to LA next year and pursue acting further.

4. How did you get into the acting world? Is it more exciting to act than to be a model?

_HIN6778I’ve always wanted to be an actress! I did few stage plays when I was in school. I tried auditioning in Philippines but my feedback was always “you’re too tall” or “you’re too skinny.” Most Filipinos are short and I was a stick when I was younger.
But I’m glad here in US there’s no height, weight, gender, race, age issues, as long as you have the talent and the drive, you can pursue acting. Modeling was my stepping stone, and yes acting is definitely way more challenging and fulfilling.
My acting agencies are Untitled Entertainment LA and Innovative Artists NY.

5. What type of actress would you likely be, comedienne, dramatic, action, horror, etc.? Do you have a particular favorite actor? Who?

I’m more drawn to dramatic characters, but also I love to do comedy and action. I want to be an all around actress, like Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lawrence. My favorite actors are Paul Newman, Christian Bale, Javier Bardem and Christoph Waltz.

6. Working with big time names like Cameron Diaz and Don Johnson, Robert Pattinson and Leonardo DiCaprio, you hit it big and working hard! Tell us how is it working with these guys?

Henrique_Schiefferdecker_-10It was such an amazing experience! Never in a million years have I ever thought I’d actually do scenes with them. One common denominator they all have is they’re very grounded and professional. On set they acknowledge all the crew and makes every cast feel comfortable, so everybody can get the most of each take!

(To get updates for her latest work, follow Meki’s Instagram and Twitter @Mekithappen and check her website www.MekiSaldana.com).

(Photos of Meki courtesy of Henrique Schiefferdecker)

TRAFFICKED

Jenny, like all other hard working immigrants, are hopeful for a new law to be passed this year.

By Susan Pineda
Legal Resources Program Manager
Migrant Heritage Commission

Susan Pineda

Susan Pineda

Washington, DC — Bel’s (not her real name) American dream turned out to be a nightmare the moment she landed at the Dulles Airport in 2008. She was going to be a Special Education teacher in one of the prestigious schools in Virginia, only to sense that there was something fishy going on when she arrived in the US. She was not picked up at the airport when she already paid $200 to her recruiter for her car service.

She had to frantically find her way to her recruiter’s place in the wee hours of the night, and the following day, she was taken to her employer who was surprised why she has made such a visit when there was no hiring being undertaken by the school.

The plot thickens for Bel when she was warned by the recruiter against telling her situation to anybody, or she will report to have her deported by authorities. Because there was actually no teaching job waiting for Bel, the recruiter brought her to a preschool where she was to work as teacher/babysitter to survive in America.

She had no other recourse but to take the job in order to pay her debt of $25,000 in the Philippines that covered her recruitment fees, airfare, and house rental fees. Bel is a victim of fraud. She worked as a babysitter, continuously paid her recruiter for her placement fees, and managed to send meager amounts of money to her family and debtors in the Philippines.

"Bel"

“Bel”

One morning, no longer able to bear her misery, Bel called the Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) and told me her story over the phone, sobbing hysterically as she asked for help. Her recruiter had threatened to have her deported unless she paid the balance of her recruitment fees. She could not continue to do so, after having been laid off from the preschool.

Distraught and in deep debt, regret, and shame, Bel often swings from entertaining thoughts of suicide to reporting to authorities about her condition.

She chose to ask for help. The MHC was the institution she had bravely gone to. Now, Bel and other teachers who were swindled by big time Filipino recruiters are up in arms for their battle for justice. They courageously testified before immigration authorities about their condition, despite the risks that their families in the Philippines may face due to retaliation by these affluent recruiters. They have also applied for T (Trafficking) visas.

Most people think that slavery has already been eliminated because it is often a hidden and invisible crime. But studies show that there are more people in slavery today than at any other time in human history. A conservative estimate is that there are 27 million people in slavery today. Slavery has existed since time immemorial, but changes in the world’s economy and societies over the past years have enabled its resurgence. As in the past, most slaves are forced to work in agriculture, mining, and prostitution. Their exploited labor flows into the global economy and into our lives. Within the United States alone, there is an estimated 100,000 children in the sex trade while between 14,500 and 17,500 people – mostly women and children – are trafficked into the US annually.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, where people profit from the control and exploitation of others. This syndicated crime strips victims their freedom to determine their own future and violates their basic human rights.

I have internalized the sad stories of survivors of human trafficking, from my firsthand experience working with them for more than four years in my volunteer paralegal work as the Program Manager of the Legal Resources Program of the MHC, and as the Senior Paralegal of the Law Offices of Valera and Associates.

IMG_20130626_104014_836Most of the cases we handled were agricultural, domestic, hotel workers and professional teachers. Most of them are desperate to find means for survival, lured by a lucrative promise of a well-paying job and instead end up being abused and exploited by their human traffickers or employers. These victims spend thousands of dollars in recruitment and processing fees in good faith, but are led to debt bondage and involuntary servitude.

Human trafficking is a lucrative industry, coming in second to drug trafficking as the most profitable illegal industry in the world. Different sources estimate profits from human trafficking is as high as $32 billion, increasingly at the hands of organized crime due to the high profits and the fewer risks compared to arms or drug trafficking, thus making human trafficking the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world at this time.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that that the largest profits – more than US$ 15 billion – are made from people trafficked and forced to work in industrialized countries, with almost one-third coming from Asia. Globalization has created a widening gap in wealth between countries and has made many people “victims of the excesses of a global economic system that rewards wealth and exploits the poor.”

Traffickers prey on the vulnerabilities of people who are aspiring for a better life, people who are poor, uneducated, neglected, unemployed, victims of sexual abuse, coming from unstable home lives, immigrants, or refugees. But educated people can be exploited as well.

Due to its international implications, to combat human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants, the United Nations underpinned the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (also referred to as the Trafficking Protocol or UN TIP Protocol) to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The Trafficking Protocol was adopted by the United Nations in Palermo in 2000 and was entered into force on 25 December 2003. As of March 2013, it has been signed by 117 countries and ratified by 154 parties.

In compliance with the Trafficking Protocol, the US Congress passed into law The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) in 2000, offering protection for persons in the country illegally who may be victims of human trafficking. The TVPA combats trafficking by promoting a policy of “3 Ps”: prosecution, protection, and prevention. It is through this law, that most of the victims of human trafficking, acquires legal status in the US.

Under the TVPA law, the US government grants T-visa to victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons. T visas offer the victims a path to freedom — and even citizenship — in exchange for their help putting modern day slave runners behind bars.

Thus, every person granted a T visa is given huge relief, a reaffirmation of the rightness of our approach to their cases and the development of a certain level of expertise in one of the very diverse federal immigration law fields of the US. We take an active role in pushing for stronger federal and state laws, and humanize the way that individuals and communities respond to human trafficking cases in the US and globally. Fighting modern slavery is one of the greatest human rights battles of our era. (Reprinted from the Migrant Heritage Chronicle, June 18, 2013)

Go Back, Be Whole Again

Patricia2

By Marivir R. Montebon

PatriciaThere is something deeper than the noble cause of fighting for justice. It is going back to the sacred self. It is what will truly heal the world, says Patricia Anne Davis, American Indian, Navajo wisdom keeper.

Listening to these words, underneath the expansive shade of the Dawn Redwood tree and the smell of pink roses and magnolias at Central Park’s upper west side, gave me a profound awakening.

“The world is imbalanced, broken. We make it whole again by going back to our sacred selves. Healing is a state of harmlessness. We do not fight war with war. The cycle of imbalance will continue. The three belief systems of religion, philosophy, and academic theory are responsible for this kind of parasitic system,” she said calmly.

The key, she said, is to go back to the sacred self thinking, the reverence that all in life is whole and holy and founded on love and positivity.

“The natural system is the one belief system. We are all part of the divine and the natural flow of things. And so we go back to the concept of the Divine Feminine, where there is no domination-submission, where the feminine as the giver of life is supported and protected by man. It used to be that way, until the parasitic belief system took over to subjugate Mother Earth.”

Patricia3She said activism is a limited and same level engagement to counter the status quo. “One has to be an advocate for a win-win situation. I am thus an advocate, not an activist. Activism only means to equalize force against force. One has to raise a political consciousness into the more sublime, holistic view.”

Patricia is setting the stage for world-wide consciousness of the wisdom of natural thinking, serenely in places that are felt to be sacred. Born in Arizona and raised in New Mexico, she became her father’s heiress of wisdom, through lineage, initiation, and training.

Through Patricia, more and more people – the young, the restless, the sick, and confused – are seeing things in a holistic manner to heal themselves and to understand life better. With this mindset, healthy eating sets in, mind de-stressing activities are being studied and applied, and a positive outlook and respect for others take place in each individual.

In many sacred spaces in the US, and in the world, the rebirth of the holistic thinking is taking shape. This for me is a beautiful transformation of humanity, slow but unpretentious.

Patricia2

WWII Veteran Honored in Biggest Gala in the US

jackie-speier-felino-coronel-punsalan-2011-1-10-19-0-0

By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City

punzalanIn 2011, WWII veteran Felino Punsalan was accorded a Lifetime Achievement Award during the 6th Annual People’s Ball of the Washington, DC-based Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) for his effort to have the USAFFE veterans under Gen. Douglas McArthur recognized and rewarded by the US government.
In May this year, he passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 95 in San Francisco, California, still very much involved in the campaign for justice for the veterans. Punsalan’s struggle would not be in vain, for the inspiration he left behind will energize those who shall continue with the quest.
The MHC will give Punsalan’s family his Posthumous Award during the 8th Annual People’s Ball, the biggest gala of Philippine immigrants and advocates in the US at the national capital’s Marriott Wardman Hotel on June 22, 2013.
Punsalan and all the other remaining Philippine soldiers have ceaselessly called on Pres. Obama to grant full benefits to Filipino veterans who until now have been denied the corresponding benefits as war heroes. All the other WWII veterans of the 65 allied countries were given full benefits by the US government, except the Filipino soldiers.
Punsalan called this institutionalized racial discrimination. He served the World War II but because his name was not in the Missouri List, he was unable to get any benefit from the US government as one of its freedom fighters. He died fighting for his right. His group, the Justice for Filipino Veterans, continue their campaign for equity.
Punsalan with Speier“We fought and won the war that made America the greatest country on earth. We have to be duly recognized, as the other allied soldiers were,” Punsalan used to say.
Born on June 1,1918 in Concepcion, province of Tarlac, Punsalan had been orphaned early. His father, Anselmo Punsalan, died when he was two months old and his mother, Bibiana Coronel, died when he was nine. A sister provided for his grade school education; an elder brother for his high school education.
Punsalan married Edith Refundo Ardena, an elementary school teacher, with whom he has six children: Imelda, Edgar (deceased), Renato, Susan, Brenda, and Alan.
He worked as stenographer at a private office in Manila in 1940-1941 and joined the army during WWII and was a member of the United States Forces Far East (USAFFE). He retired with a rank of Master Sergeant in 1966. He joined the Bureau of Customs- Piers and Baggage Inspection Division 1966- 1983 and received an award “Best Employee” in 1976.
He migrated to the US in November, 1983 and eventually took the advocacy campaign for equity benefits for the Filipino veterans.
jackie-speier-felino-coronel-punsalan-2011-1-10-19-0-0He may have been a good lawyer, but he dropped out on the third year at the College of Law of the Far Eastern University for economic and health reasons. He gives high regard to education and once said, “…after reading my story you may have noticed that in my family, I am the only one without a college degree. It is really difficult to be an orphan at an early age. It is very good for children to have parents who could guide them to the pathways towards good college education.”
The JFAV have lobbied for equal protection for two groups, one group belongs to the Filipino veterans and the other group is composed of widows and children of the veterans who passed away.
Recently, the veterans found an ally in the office of Democratic US Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid-NV who promised to work closely with equity champion Senator Brian Schatz-HI and other leaders to bring about the passage of S690, “The Filipino Veterans Fairness Act of 2013,” on the floor.
This came as a result of the week long lobbying by volunteers of the JFAV at the Capitol. The office of Senator Durbin recommended either to right away co-sponsor or vote for the bill when it’s on the floor.
Schatz was given the right to stand up and state support for the bill he introduced. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski- AK together with Senators Mazie Hirono- HI and Mark Begich- AK co-sponsored his bill.
In the House, Rep. Jackie Speier- CA introduced a companion bill with 33 co-sponsors including Republican Joe Heck- NV. Schatz called on his colleagues in Congress to join him in moving swiftly to pass this legislation, “so that we can finally fulfill the promise of equal rights for thousands of veterans across the country, and fully honor the men and women who served our country so bravely in a time of war.”
JVAC coordinator Arturo Garcia welcomed the bill of Sen. Schatz. “The Fairness Act by Senator Schatz provides
unconditional recognition and full compensation while the Promise Act by Senator Heller simply affirms the lump sum payment for pain and suffering, and minimizes benefits,” said Garcia.
JFAV is obviously supporting the Fairness Act.
Aside from lobbying at the Capitol, JFAV has filed a certiorari on their case before the Supreme Court, after the Court of Appeals in California affirmed the decision of the district court to dismiss their benefit claims in February this year.
As the soldiers continue to lobby for their campaign, Garcia said they will sorely miss the veteran Punsalan, who, at 95, still had the zest to belt out songs with his beautiful voice and the stamina to dance gracefully. (Photos by JFAV)

FIRST FILIPINO AFRICAN-AMERICAN Teener wins MISS TEEN PHILIPPINES-AMERICA TITLE

MissTeenISAMAIN

By Grace Valera Jaramillo

MissTeenISAMAINWashington, DC — After 28 years, a Filipino-African American won for the first time, the title of MISS TEEN PHILIPPINES-AMERICA, organized by the Ilocano Society of America (ISA).

Eighteen-year-old Chastity Centina, 5’6′ multi-talented tri-lingual young lady speaks Tagalog, Visayan and English. She impressed the judges with her witty answers during the Interview segment held the day before, captivated everyone with her well poised and graceful cobra-walk at the evening gown portion and made everybody glued to their seats as she did Beyonce’s “Crazy in love ” dance number as her talent.

Except for the question and answer portion, Chastity consistently topped the Judges scores making her win the prestigious title of MISS TEEN PHILIPPINES-AMERICA.

MissTeenISA1It was also a great emotional moment for Chastity that night for she met her Dad, Chris Barnes, for the first time after 18 years. Having been borne to teenage parents, her Dad only saw and held her briefly when she was born. At the age of three, she was brought home to the Philippines and was taken care of by her grandfather Popoy, who brought her back to the U.S. only last year prior to her grandfather’s demise. (AURELIO CENTINA, nicknamed “Popoy” was retired from LOCKHEED-MARTIN Corporation, NASA Communications Project.)

It was a touching , tearful reunion for Chastity Centina and her North Carolina-based Dad, who found her only through Facebook.

MissTeenISAFirst Runner-up and Miss Teen Philippines-Washington D.C. Hannah Cristine Delgado followed her closely (with a few points difference). She’s the youngest among the candidates having turned 15 only earlier this year. She was also voted by her fellow candidates as the friendliest hence she was given the Miss Teen Congeniality Special Award. Hannah is of Peruvian-American and Filipino parentage but she lost her father to lung cancer when she was 10 years old. Shyanne Carr, also of mixed Filipino African-American parents, was given the title Miss Teen Philippines Maharlika for her exotic royalty princess like beauty. The tallest of them all, Velarie Velasquez captured the Judges’ attention through her photos and was awarded Miss Teen Philippines Photogenic and was also given the title of Miss Teen Philippines-Visayas. Miss Teen Philippines-Luzon title went to Miss Niña Bonita Lapa who lived up to her name combining singing and dancing in her talent segment. Kathy Barnachea enthralled everyone with her elegant “tsunami” Binibining Pilipinas walk in her red gown. She has the title Miss Teen Philippines-Mindanao and garnered the two special awards of Miss Teen Popularity and Miss Teen Charity. And finally but not the least, the graceful lass Alyssa Avelino who got the Miss Teen Philippiness Maria Clara for her classic Filipina mestiza looks.

hannah delgado with momAll of the girls were trained by professionals, (among them was Miss U.S.A. Nikki Poteet) from speaking to modelling, dancing and to practice interview. Each of them was given scholarship cash prize with the top winner getting the highest value. Aside from, crown, sash and scepter, Chastity also won a roundtrip ticket within the continental U.S. from Alpha Travel and ISA, gift items from MACYs, Lou and Cho Ortega, MJD Traders, Dr. Ryan’s dental clinic, facial treatment from SPA.

It was indeed a tough job for the Board of Judges headed by Miss Nikki Poteet, 2012 Miss U.S.A. and 2011 Miss Virginia-USA, together with Phil.Embassy’s Jose Gentiles, Atty. Arnedo Valera, John Paul Hamilton, and MACY’s Mila Ford.

ISA President Grace Valera handled the entire Miss Teen production from the opening dance number to the minutest detail together with equally patient and versatile ISA Officers, parents, former Miss Teen beauties, MHC team and other ISA volunteers, most of whom have handled the pageant for the last 28 years !

All of the teenage beauties, who are in honor roll and are consistent achievers, will take their oath as MHC Youth Envoys for Unity and Service during the 8th Annual Migrant Heritage Ball on 22 June 2013 and will be part of the MHC Fil-Am Youth delegation to the Int’l Youth Assembly at the United Nations (UN) in New York. They will also be representing the Fil-Am community in showcasing the Philippines to the American mainstream during the 4th of July American National Independence Day Parade in Philadelphia, PA, the birthplace of American Independence.

MissTeenISAMAIN

 

(Grace Valera-Jaramillo is the co-Executive Director of the Migrant Heritage Commission which is based in Washington, DC)

PAFCOM Fundraiser for Philippine Projects

PAFCOMQUEENS

The Philippine-American Friendship Committee (PAFCOM) had a successful fundraiser event on June 1, 2013 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Newark Airport.

PAFCOMQUEENS1

L-R: Carol Llamas Kirby, Gracelyn F. Santos, May Raagas Tumulak Durano, Ruth Sityar Medina, Marian Reyes, Madeline Carpentiere, Gail Banawis and MiSook Mendonça.

Grand Ball chairperson May Durano led in pulling off the affair as targetted, raising funds to finance projects in the Philippines and to create a more widely participated Philippine Independence Day Parade in New Jersey.

PAFCOMQUEENS

MissTeenISA2

 

 

RICO FOZ: A Whole New Healthy World

RicoFoz&Meryl

By Marivir R. Montebon

RicoFoz1When life teaches a lesson, the greatest challenge is to learn it fast, otherwise one loses it. Educator, community leader, and human rights advocate Rico Foz, had to quickly take a grip of healthy living when his lesson was about losing to cancer.

Today, he is at the helm of the health care industry, as executive director of Care Group USA which he and his wife Meryl established in July 2011 in San Mateo, California.

Having dedicated much of his life to advocacies on health and human rights, Rico now enjoys living a life of deeper meaning when his family moved to California since two years ago, after his triumphant battle against cancer of the esophagus.

Public service and advocacy of issues now take a much better perspective for Rico who considers good health as the key to be able to efficiently serve and prolong one’s precious life.

He lived with his wife and two children most of their years in the East Coast, particularly in New York and New Jersey. Moving to the West Coast, where the weather isn’t as punishing, had truly helped him recover. “A new lease in life,” he said.

Rico’s leadership rests on more than 25 years of experience in profit and non-profit management. His managerial skills are on Business Development Management, profitability, marketing, policy and procedure management, human resource management, and strategic planning and management.

For the nonprofit management, he is well into advocacy and policy Development, alliance development, event planning, grant writing, and social media marketing.

Excerpts:

1. What is your lifestyle now in terms of diet and activities after having been declared cancer-free?

Although there have been no restrictions, I have taken pre-cautionary steps to my diet. Since part of my esophagus and part of my stomach were cut (and sewn back together), my food intake capacity became a lot smaller. Smaller but more frequent portions of meal is what I am now doing, every two hours. As for my activities, I try to exert effort to physically exercise. Pero hinay-hinay din, kasi pag nabibigla ako (But gradually too, because if I do it abruptly), for whatever reason my sugar goes down thus, I feel very weak. I have yet to establish my new normal in terms of physical activities.

RicoFoz2There are a lot of frustrations along the way. Sa diet, kasi akala ko nun, pag napuno na ang tyan ko, busog na rin ako. (On my diet, I thought that when my stomach is full, I feel full.) Reality is, puno na ang tyan ko, but I still crave for more pero hindi na kaya (Although I am full, I still crave for more but my stomach cannot take it anymore).

So I have to wait for an hour or two for my next bite. Torture. If I try to consume more than I should, my heart palpitates and again my sugar level drops fast, nakapanlalambot talaga (truly weakening).

2. Attitude-wise, what has changed in you?

Having survived a cancer is indeed a blessing for new opportunities, new life. My perspective definitely changed. Natakot ako (I was scared) for my loved ones, for my wife, Meryl and my kids, Mike and Gabby. They nearly lost me at a very young age. My priorities shifted too. Now, I take advantage of every moment spent with them. Most of the things I do now is dedicated to them.

The same with my community services and advocacies. I told myself, I would need to create concrete projects to benefit as many people as possible. I shifted priorities. Instead of pure advocacies, I put in concrete programs.

3. What realizations has life taught you after this triumph?

RicoFoz&FamilyThat no matter how long we live, our lives are short. Might as well do as much as we can to serve people…and while serving, our health must also be kept in tip-top shape. Hindi kasi ako naging maingat nuon (I wasn’t careful before).

Madalas, dahil sa dami nating gawain sa community, nakakaligtaan nating kumain then nalilipasan tayo ng gutom. Kahit na di na ako makatulog sa hapdi ng sikmura, binabale wala at iinum lang ng antacids, tapos na. (Often, because of so much work in the community, we fail to eat on time. Although I suffered from acid stomach that gave me sleepless nights, I just took antacids and continued the same lifestyle).

I never took advantage of my health benefits before, hence my health condition worsened.

RicoFoz&MerylI was diagnosed with GERD in 2007 after an endoscopy and I was prescribed medication and was asked to be scoped once a year. But when I felt better, I stopped my medications and chronically postponed my endoscopy procedures. To make matters worse, I smoked a lot, which is a risk factor of GERD. Hence, I had cancer.

So I realized, the mind and body have to be in good condition to be able to serve the others. Kung kotse nga konting problema nasa mekaniko tayo, ganun din dapat sa kalusugan. (When our cars had mechanical problems, we immediately go to the mechanic. The same attitude should be given to our health).

4. Is life a lot better in California than in the east coast? Do you enjoy it here better?

Rico FozThere is a big difference in the East and West coasts. Para sa akin, mas naging madali ang recovery ko sa ganda ng panahon sa California. (I believe I recovered fast because of the good weather in California).
In California, the winter feels like spring in New Jersey. I feel comfortable. I didn’t have to wake up early to shovel and clean the car after a blizzard. I can also dispose of garbage without the ritual of too many clothes to put on. (Laughs)

5. What keeps you busy these days? Any projects?

My wife, Meryl and I, recently put up a corporation here in San Mateo County, known as Careway Health Initiatives. It has six divisions to concretize our vision to be a “one-stop caregivers’ resource for elder care”. Fully operational na yung Careway At-Home, an in-home care and senior referral agency. We are in the process of putting up Careway Health Institute, private post-secondary training school for care providers. The other divisions are works in progress.

A nonprofit entity is also being established to complement these health initiatives. This keeps me busy these days.

WRITING ACROSS BORDERS: An Inspiring Breakthrough by the NWU

Writers-mainspeakers

By Tim Sheard
Chair
National Writers Union-NY

Writers-mainspeakersNew York City — Tears, cheers and laughter filled the room as the speakers in the opening plenary of the WRITING ACROSS BORDERS conference discussed how they write about the immigrant experience. Brought together by the New York chapter of the National Writers Union, Esther Armah, from Ghana & London, looked at the speakers and commented, “This is what a group of writers talking about immigration is supposed to look like: a black woman from Africa, a Mexicano from the American southwest, and a Filipino woman who has been in prison under the dictatorship in her home country. This is the diversity that represents writers who cross borders.”

The speakers went on to talk about the dominant narrative about immigrants, which robs them of their individuality and their dignity, and how writers can and must defeat that narrative with story. Sergio Troncoso read a brief selection from his latest collection of essay, Crossing Borders: Personal Essays, that brought tears to the eyes, as he described chatting in Spanish with two women sent to make up his room in a fancy hotel.

Writers-immigration&migrationWhen the women learned Sergio was a Chicano who had come from a humble background and worked his way up to become a successful writer, they confessed they had to work sixteen hour days and had no time to learn English. Sergio gave them a copy of his book and suggested they ask their children to read it to them so that they would see what is possible for an immigrant who has a dream.

The speakers talked about how publishers, school boards and book reviewers shun books by immigrant writers – even award winning authors – in favor of mainstream, white writers. The biased selection process reflects an exploitative system that uses immigrants for cheap labor, or, as transnational Filipina Ninotchka Rosca pointed out, for the unpaid, dehumanizing labor of trafficked women and domestic workers toiling for years with no political rights and no legal safeguards.

Writers-dhalmaWriters, Esther reminded us, can and must fight to change the social order by changing the dominant narrative. We must write the stories that bring immigrants into the light of individuality and dignity. “There is a morality of description,” Sergio pointed out. “If the protagonist is always an educated white male or white woman and the people of color are always crooks or invisible people with no personal lives, that narrative choice is an immoral use of language.” Esther agreed.
“Such writers refuse to call a thing what it is: it dehumanizes and de-individualizes a group of people – especially people of color – and the writing supports their exploitation and degradation.”

All agreed that when we write about immigrants with honesty and compassion we begin to change the dominant narrative and advance the cause of human rights and social equality.

A lively series of questions continued the discussion, which ran a half hour over the two-hour time limit. No one wanted the discussion to end. But with four more writers waiting to take their turn in the next panel, we closed the plenary with a round of applause for these courageous writers of color.

A video of the session will be posted by the Empire State College, which they will share with the National Writers Union and with the world.

IDLE NO MORE: Canada’s First Nations Struggle to Defend Mother Earth

Af3irm

By Marivir R. Montebon

“…To live in peace, friendship, and harmony on Mother Earth, the place that gave us birth…” – From Idle No More, by Alex  Jacobs, a Mohawk and a visual artist.

Sylvia McAdam

Sylvia McAdam

New York — Cree Nation leader Sylvia McAdam told her audience in New York City that Alex Jacobs one time approached her and asked what he can do for the ongoing movement of indigenous peoples in Canada who were voicing out to respect their lands against corporate encroachments.

“You know, one cannot underestimate the youth. I told this young person, just do whatever you can,” Sylvia, a lawyer, intimated.

“Two weeks later, he approached me, and showed me his poem, Idle No More. His search is over. As a young person, he knows he has to add his voice to our call to save Mother Earth. The poem has become the name of our movement to save Mother Earth.”

In the city that never sleeps, the Saturday of May 25, 2013, was one of those deep, meaningful gatherings I attended, to listen to two speakers from Canada, feisty and gracious women leaders in the indigenous people’s breaking of silence.

Kerry Coast

Kerry Coast

“There is such thing as acquiescence in Canada, meaning your silence is taken as a consent. But the indigenous peoples were never silent. They were silenced,” says Journalist Kerry Coast who wrote the book “Colonial Present”, a documentation of legal and social conflicts that hound the indigenous peoples of the Turtle island (the indigenous name of Canada), the Canadian government, and giant corporations.

Kerry and McAdams alternately pitched on the situation in their land, which they said, had been wrongfully reported by the press.

“I chose to be the media for my people, because the press in Canada has not reported the truth. In Turtle Island (Canada), many prayers are being said. Mother Nature is suffering. We are struggling to protect our lands for our children, and for seven generations more. We are taught that way,” said McAdams.

mohawk

Coast said that they hope to eventually translate the people’s movement into a political electoral voice. The First Nations say that an impending law, Bill C-45 impinges on the daily lives of the aborigines and disrespects all treaties and aboriginal lands. They also want to quash the FIPPA, an investment law, which grants corporations massive authority over resources.

The messages were compelling enough that immediately someone from the audience asked, “how can we help here in America?” The conference room of the National Writers Union – NYC where the forum took place, upon the initiative of the women’s group AF3IRM NYC, naturally turned to an assembly of fired up and enlightened citizens.

“There is every reason to take action and raise our voices together, because the water of Canada, for example, goes downstream to the US. There is too much toxicity and death of our rivers,” said McAdams.

One from Hawaii opined that peoples all over the world must rally around the implementation of the International
Indigenous Sovereign Law, and oppose the ongoing genocide of peoples and the devastation of sacred resources.

McAdams points out, “We have the technology for renewable resources to do that and live harmoniously with nature.
The multinational corporations don’t want that, they want fast money without regard to the effects on people and the
environment.”

Patricia Ann Davis

Patricia Ann Davis

American indigenous leader Patricia Anne Davis of Choctaw-Navajo from Arizona shared a reflection: learn to use the power within us. “We are all currently living in a parasite system, a global system in the world. But the age now is breaking silence, because in the tribal language, submission-domination does not exist. And it has been proven that the win-lose situation that is being propagated right now does not last long, it creates imbalance. We break our silence by using the power within us.”

Babaylan Ines Carinugan

ines carinuganBabaylan_by_bluemaxx

Stories We Were Told, Stories We Will Tell

By Ninotchka Rosca

New York City
The last major battle in Cagayan Valley, Philippines, against Spanish occupation was waged under the leadership of a woman, a babaylan (priestess) of the Itawes tribe, by the name of Ines Carinugan. A friend emails her story to me, apropos of what, I do not know. Ines was also a mandyadyawak (a healer who also conducts rituals and dances, as oppose to the
herbolario, who uses concoctions from plants and animals). I wonder now whether a mandyadyawak was ipso facto a babaylan, though the reverse may not hold true. In any case, the Itawes tribe contemplated rebellion on the heels of an uprising led by Magalat in the lowlands. Magalat’s mother had convinced him to forego Catholicism and return to tribal ways, making my friend suspect she was a babaylan as well. Magalat’s rebellion was so fierce it required treachery to defeat it; he was assassinated by “friends.”

ines carinuganBabaylan_by_bluemaxxUndeterred, Ines led the Itawes into battle. With Spanish troops augmented by local collaborators (which is how Filipinos are, to this time, defeated), Ines and her warriors were captured. She was hanged (likely as a witch, as Gabriela Silang would be, a hundred years later) and all who followed her, executed. To obliterate her memory and all of her teachings/sayings, the Spaniards concocted the story of the Virgin of Piat — a small brown statue brought by the Dominicans from Mexico to the Philippines in 1604. The statue, they claimed, instantly converted the Itawes (but only after killings and torture). Via this arrative of “superior magic,” they obliterated the memory and teachings of Ines, replacing it with what the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard would call a simulacrum of memory. There is a basilica in place now for the Virgin of Piat.

I had heard of the Virgin of Piat, of course, but knew nothing about Ines. How many constructs had I absorbed through the years and how many more do I still absorb, on a daily basis? When narratives are perverted for purposes beyond truth, or even against truth, how does one distinguish between a simulacrum of reality and reality itself? The eye, after all, doesn’t see; the brain does — and if the latter’s processes are perverted, if an automatic mantra rises in the brain that says that one’s thoughts are not sanctified and hence in error, inferior to the infallibility of those who create matrices, even one of smoke and mirrors, what happens then?

If Man were the tool-making species, Woman — I’d always thought — must have been the narrative-creating species. The paintings in the Caves of Altamira were likely made by women, as part of the effort to understand and survive nature. The earliest named poet (as oppose to ubiquitous Anonymous) was Ehenduanna (ca. 2300 B.C.E.), high priestess of the moon goddess Innana in that now unfortunate place called Iraq. Narratives, at the dawn of human time, were meant to explain and codify the values/perspectives/practices that enabled humankind to survive. In the hands of women of pre-history, the narrative was both integral to and integrating of communal life, inclusive, not exclusive. The narrative has become warped, of course, as most things female-invented have in the rise of sexual dominance and private property. The narrative began to serve other purposes. From the earliest slave society to the present, narrative construction evolved into the making of tales (and cultural products) cautionary of rebellion or of questioning the matrix.

The Iliad, whose core is an echo of the struggle between women’s rights and men’s rights (really a vivid illustration of how slave society consolidated itself), teaches the futility of defying the gods, of trying to weave a life outside the construct. Weep and learn, you who read this, is Homer’s message; Troy was destroyed because it accepted a woman’s right to decide. But our modern construct is that Helen was “the face that launched a thousand ships” (reflective of what we think should be women’s prime quality) rather than Helen, the woman who chose, who defied an arranged marriage.

Now we have modern constructs, trying to create acceptance of even the most unjust acts and actions, like war and invasion. Jessica Lynch and Kevin Tillman bewail before the US Congress stories imposed upon them: the first, as a supposed “female Rambo;” the second, of the supposed heroic death of brother, Pat. Jessica explains she didn’t even fire her gun; and only doctors and nurses were at the hospital where the US military allegedly mounted a death-defying rescue mission. Kevin Tillman, whose brother was practically a military recruitment poster boy, agonizes over the discovery that Pat had actually been killed by “friendly fire,” the whole incident covered up and a construct of bravery substituted. As he himself say, the narrative does not fit reality. The two try to delete these simulacra deliberately metastasized all over the world.

On the reverse side, Yoko Tojo in Japan is trying to change history’s and popular judgment on her grandfather, Hideki  Tojo, prime minister from 1941-1944, an architect of the carnage unleashed by that country upon its neighbors during WWII.

He ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor and was hanged in 1948 by US occupying forces as a war criminal. Ms. Tojo offers a different narrative, with the claim that Japan went to war “in self-defense,” since a US oil embargo threatened the country’s survival. For the moment, she is a lonely voice, calling for Japan’s re-arming, citing the Chinese threat. But who knows how far a “meme” could go, in its insidious assault upon consciousness? The grandfather of the current prime minister had also been a war criminal.

We think of the past as immutable but in the Philippines, some writers of children’s textbooks are attempting to change the verdict on Ferdinand E. Marcos and his regime. They make the claim that his intentions were good, that his desire was for the nation’s benefit, but he was just unsuccessful. Being a survivor of that unspeakable dictatorship, I suffer  extreme angst, wondering whether, in due time, this simulacrum of memory will prevail, and all the dead, the tortured and the dispossessed will be, not just ignored or forgotten, but non-existent.

Hope comes from an unlikely source. Our building super, perched on a ladder in the backyard while fixing a window in my apartment, thrusts his head through the opening and in that delightful accent of a migrant from Trinidad, bawls out: “IS THAT WOMAN WITH THE SHOES STILL ALIVE?”

I had to laugh. Imelda’s self-indulgence and lust for self-aggrandizement were just too loom-large; no construct wide enough nor thick enough could suffice to veil it. My super has just taught me that nowadays, one person’s narrative is hardly ever solely about him/her; it inevitably encompasses his/her spouse, children, people close to him/her, friends and foes alike, their acts and actions impinging upon the main text of the story, providing unforeseen paths and channels by which reality can either deconstruct or reinforce legends of infallibility; or render myths — well, less than interesting. It is a lesson both optimistic and cautionary.

In the shadow of the simulacrum that was the Virgin of Piat, the memory of Ines Carinugan was sheltered by a few who, under the lash of Spanish colonialism’s injustice and the arrogance and cruelty of its adjutants, the “black” friars, rejected the Dominicans’ “smoke-and-mirror” tale, choosing to honor Ines instead. Through 500 years, those who remembered dwindled to one, from whom an anthropologist got and wrote the narrative down in a book which itself was reduced by time to a single copy, which was fortuitously found and Ines became the name of a guerrilla squad operating in the area, both book and squad eventually lost in the turmoil of the post-Marcos era, but the story was remembered, jumping the ocean decades later, to this continent and, now, is sent to me who lives so far from the Valley. First, one mind held the narrative of Ines, then two; three now with me in the tally, and when you finish reading this…

(Illustration by AF3IRM; Reprinted from the Lily Pad of Miss Ninotchka Rosca http://ninotchkarosca.blogspot.com/2007/06/stories-we-were-told-
stories-we-will.html)

Josette Francia: A Promising Voice

josette

By Marivir R. Montebon

josetteChantilly, Virginia — One of the awesome perks in life is to wake up in the mornings to the lovely singing voice of a young girl. As she prepares for school with hurried footsteps to and from the bathroom, she belts out pop songs as well.

I smile to that, and in my mind, 10-year-old Josette Francia will be going places with this voice and personality.

Josette is the reigning Little Miss Migrant Heritage, a little ambassador of goodwill position for her to help promote the arts and culture of the Philippines. Bubbly and smart, Josette is friendly and can very well command an audience. She yells, “I want some noise!” and her audience roars. She begins to dance and sing in electrifying delight for them.

Josette’s father, Ronaldo Francia, coaches her to sing. He himself has earned the title “Elvis Presley in the Fil-Am community in Washington, DC.” Obviously, Josette takes on her father as a promising singing sensation.

fiestaasiajosette1She gets her dance lessons from the cultural development program head of the Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) and co-
executive director Grace Valera. Grace teaches her the native tinikling and popular dances. “Josette is an eager learner. Has a very good attitude at learning something new,” says Grace.

Although growing up to be a promising star that she is, Josette’s mom Bel makes sure she grows up in discipline and responsibility. Mommy carefully normalizes everything by supervising their home chores, while Daddy Ronald makes sure they did their homework in the evenings.

josette and jasmineAlong with her elder sister Jasmine, whose talents at singing, visual arts, writing, and modeling are also beginning to show, Josette helps set up the table before dinner, clean up the kitchen, and fold the laundry. “We want our kids’ talents to be developed so that their self-confidence is honed. But while growing up, they have to learn the value of discipline. I am making sure that my children are well-disciplined. That is very important to succeed in life,” quips Bel.

During the recently concluded Fiesta Asia in Washington, DC, Josette was the busiest little performer on behalf of the MHC. She was part of the floral parade for the Santa Cruzan Festival, she danced the tinikling, and sang some pop songs at the Rising Star booth. Her rendition of Respect and Rolling in the Deep wowed the audience. “She carried her duties with the jolly heart of a child,” dance coach Grace says with thumbs up.

When asked what she liked best in Fiesta Asia, Josette simply said, the food.

A BITTER PILL: A Book Review

abitterpill

By Marivir Montebon
New York City

Tim Sheard

Tim Sheard

In his 6th Lenny Moss crime novel, A Bitter Pill, Tim Sheard unravels a new boss who has turned the hospital private and is trying to decertify the union in order to crush it and layoff a third of the workforce. At the same time, he’s forcing unbearable working conditions on the nurses, who decide to join forces with the service workers and fight the attacks together. A Bitter Pill is a lovely story of solidarity and union building.

Discounted to $10 for unions and schools that purchase ten or more copies.

Please check out the first chapter at http://www.hardballpress.com.

Helena Worthen, Emeritus Professor of Labor and Employment Relations, University of Illinois, reviews at the UALE Digest:

abitterpill“A Bitter Pill is a short, fast, tight book, giving us what we like best about Lenny Moss, hospital custodian and union steward. It’s an awful situation: JamesMadisonHospital has been sold to a for-profit chain called Croesus and the boss, on a rampage to cut labor costs, has instigated a decertification campaign. Speed-ups result in injuries to patients but also spur an organizing campaign among the nurses, who are at first dubious about joining the service workers’ union. In the midst of this, a hospital employee who is trying to escape the city — and his drug problem- is found hanged by the neck , an apparent suicide, except for what is revealed by the autopsy. What does his death have to do with the new regime at the hospital? Lenny Moss, the person everyone talks to, figures out what happened. Along the way he’s suspended, beat up…This is a great book for labor studies students who want to experience the intensity of a big fight vicariously but realistically. The piling-on of stressors culminates in a happy ending when Lenny finally gets a night’s sleep.”

When Love Comes, Adventure Follows (After Reading My Christmas Story)

mychristmasstory

By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City

mychristmasstory

JUNEPASCAL1

June Pascal

I heard myself singing… sometimes the snow comes down in June, sometimes the sun goes ’round the moon… after reading the memoir “My Christmas Story” by June Pascal. It is a one year journey of love, which usually comes as a sweet surprise, among two people. In this case, in Manhattan, at the thick of winter.

June Pascal writes her memoir in an unpretentious manner, upbeat and full of wit. At best, she made me giggle, and brought me to the splendour of the countrysides of Canada, and delightful food and respectable and adventure-filled friendships.

June offers a mix of poetry, paintings, and sketchings to color her story of love. Pretty much like a roller coaster, her relationship with Simon, the handsome river guide who looks like the sexy St. Francis who is 40 years her junior, continues to unravel into a remarkable friendship.

For lovers of all ages, it is a must read.

 

Flowers of May

osm!yellowtulips

The month of May is dedicated by the ancient world to the Roman goddess Flora, considered a minor goddess to symbolize spring and new life. To the Roman Catholics, May is dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, where children gather and offer flowers to her altar at Catholic Churches.

Jewish communities in the US observe special customs on Shavuot in May. These activities include reading the Book of Ruth or staying up all night to study the Torah (the five books of Moses). Many Jewish people also eat dairy foods during Shavuot. Many homes are decorated with various plants, including those with flowers.

May is indeed a merry month, when her flowers bloom, one cannot help but marvel at their beauty.

Oh the Wonderful Colors of Asia!

fiestaasia-bbq

By Marivir R. Montebon

fiestaasiaMHCbannerWashington, DC — The streets of downtown Washington DC burst in colors and delectable scents with the parade and street fair of Fiesta Asia on May 18, 2013, celebrated in spring and now on its 8th year.

Community organizations showing off Mediterranean dances, Philippine tinikling dances, Martial arts, and yes, delectable unique cuisine filled the streets with fun and great spirits, despite the rain.

fiestaasia-jasmineThe Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), a not-for-profit organization providing comprehensive social and legal services to immigrants, was one of the most active contingents from the Philippines. Major attractions were the floral parade of the Little Mr. and Miss Migrant Heritage prince and princesses, teenage brain-and-beauty queens, the interactive Tinikling dance, delectable food, cooking demonstrations by a popular Mama Sita, an array of Filipino traditional fashion, as well as Atiatihan and Igorot tribal dances, and Fil-American talents in modern entertainment.

The stage on 6th Street featured Rising Young Stars Justin Fronda and Christian Leja. There was the martial arts Eskrima and Parol (lantern) making tents which provided spectators the awesome artistry of self-defense and home-made lanterns.

fiestaAsia-nedo&bethA tent for immigration consultations was up for the Legal Resources Program of the MHC, headed by lawyer Arnedo Valera, in order to provide quick information on the impending immigration bill being discussed right now in Congress.

The one day event was sponsored by the Asia Heritage Foundation and brought out the different Asian cultures and tradition in Spring, aimed to foster understanding and unity among diverse cultures that make up America.

fiestaasia-animegroupSpearheading Fil-Am community participation was MHC co-executive director Grace Valera, also original co-Founder/Board Director of the Asia Heritage Foundation’s Fiesta Asia together with AHF’s Executive Director Wuiping Yap of Sutera Malaysia who first brought in the idea of putting up the festival 8 years ago. The two cultural advocates mobilized the Asian immigrant community and were later joined in by Asian- American volunteers who share a common passion for the performing arts and for propagating Asian cultures to the American mainstream and preserving Asian identity. Among them were (Chinese) Stella Choi and Mon Lau ; (Filipinos) Jesse Gatchalian, Antonio Calaro, Mike Favila, Arnedo Valera and Carl Abella; (Indian) Shruthi Mukund; (Afro-Asian-American) Sifu Rahim Muhammad; (Vietnamese) Tini Dihn; and (Korean) Christian Oh.

(Photo Credits: Elizabeth Babiera, Bel Francia, and Merlinda Weber)

Continue reading

Rosca, Montebon to Speak in International Writers Conference NYC

Ninotchka.7774135_std
Ninotchka Rosca

Ninotchka Rosca

New York City — Two Filipino writers will speak at the International Writers Conference in New York City on June 1, 2013, Saturday. “WRITING ACROSS BORDERS” will be a gathering of writers of different nationalities where issues on immigration and social concerns will be tackled from the perspective of writers.

Writer/novelist Miss Ninotchka Rosca is one of the main speakers of the conference and OSM! editor/publisher and managing editor for the Migrant Heritage Chronicle Marivir R. Montebon is among the panel of discussants for race and gender.

Organized by the National Writers Union (NWU) – NYC, the conference is timed when immigration is being hotly discussed at the halls of Congress. Esther Armah and Sergio Troncoso will also be in the main panel of discussants writing across borders.

Rosca is a feminist writer and novelist. She was a political prisoner at the time of the Marcos dictatorial rule in the Philippines. Her novel Twice Blessed won the American Book Award in 1993.

Montebon, a journalist, recently published her third book, “Biting the Big Apple” and was recipient the of Woman in Media award by the New Jersey-based organization Pan-American Concerned Citizens League. She founded OSM! (awesome), an online magazine which debuted on March 18, 2012.

Marivir Montebon

Marivir Montebon

In its website, the NWU writes: “At a time of unprecedented migration, when families are divided and communities shattered, writers can provide a vital historical record, a public voice of protest at social injustice and a healing balm.

Writers are able to bridge the gaps among communities through depicting the experiences of diverse people that often prove to be more similar than different, while, at the same time, attempting to fight widespread injustices of forced deportation and economic migration.

The conference will explore all of these issues, as well as engage the writing community in a discussion of our role and responsibilities at this moment of economic upheaval and unprecedented movement across borders.”

At the migration and immigration concurrent panels, Dhalma Llanos Figueroa will moderate discussions on writing about leaving home, establishing new communities, and adapting to new cultures while holding on to your own. Speakers will be Danielle Georges, Elsie Augustave, and Titziana Rinaldi.

On the panel on race and gender, Miss Montebon will speak along with Patrick Delices and Marva Allen. Herb Boyd moderates.

Tim_LoRez.85140707_std

Tim Sheard

A panel discussion on book publishing and internet use will provide writers additional tools of Internet publishing and social media opportunities, which provide a window on the world, enabling the virtual crossing of borders. NWU NYC co-chair Tim Sheard will moderate the panel.

A panel discussion for new writers, with Peter Benjaminson and Cecilia McCall as resource persons, will be opened in the afternoon. An interesting discussion on language through “Lost in Translation” will likewise take place with Adam Wier, Alta Price, and Barbra Jungwirth as speakers.

Conference fee for the whole day affair is $30.00 and includes continental breakfast, lunch and cocktail party. There is a cap to the attendees, so register as soon as possible.

The venue is at the Empire State College, Harry Van Arsdale School of Labor Studies on 325 Hudson Street (entrance on Van Dam Street), NYC. To learn more, email info@nwuny.org or go to nwuny.org to register.

Two Memoirs and A Children’s Book

IMG_20130511_170706_361-1

By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City

Three members of the National Writers Union (NWU) will launch their books in the auspices of the NWU-NYC in mid-Manhattan on June 17, 2013 at six o’clock in the evening. “A Launching of Three Books” will feature the works of Filipino authors Marivir R. Montebon and June Pascal, both from New York and Bart Davidoff, from New Jersey.

flyerJUNE17BOOKLAUNCHINGOF3BOOKS

Biting the Big Apple

marivirpublisher_1.79171800_stdBiting the Big Apple is a memoir of a journalist who came to the US to seek a new, safe life after the murder of her husband in the Philippines. It is an inspiring story of an immigrant single mom’s struggles in the city that never sleeps. Written in poignant, funny, and insightful manner, this memoir relates the personal life with the reality of Philippine diaspora and culture, as well as having a keen eye on the American life.

Author Marivir R. Montebon is currently Managing Editor of the Migrant Heritage Chronicle where she mainly writes about immigration and social issues. In March 2012, she published her own online magazine called OSM! (Awesome). She was recipient of the Woman in Media Journalism Award by the Pan-American Concerned Citizens Action League in 2012. Marivir lives in New York City with her daughter Nikki.

Momsie’s Book

Bart & Madonna Davidoff copyMomsie’s Book, a children’s book, is a collaborative effort of husband and wife Bart and Madonna Davidoff. The story, a book within a book, includes a memoir entitled “Natie and Me” handwritten and illustrated by Muriel Shutan-Davidoff in which she describes her childhood adventures growing up in New Haven in the late 1920’s with her younger brother Nate. New Haven Connecticut was a different world in the 1920’s. It had delis with real pickle barrels and gas-lit candy stores.

Bart Davidoff is the author and publisher of Momsie’s Book. His mother, Muriel Shutan-Davidoff Muriel has been living with Alzheimer’s disease for the past 5 years and since she is unable to write nor paint anymore, Bart decided to publish the book, not only to make it a part of Muriel’s legacy but also to shed some awareness about the disease to children. He graduated from the University of California, Riverside.

Madonna Davidoff is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer who use traditional and digital methods to create her whimsical and lively children’s illustrations. She has illustrated for international publishers and one of her biggest breaks is being the illustrator of Barack the Anointed, a picture book based on President Obama’s home place, published by BlackBook Press. Madonna is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, where her work was one of the 10 finalists in the SCBWI 2003 Artist Showcase Award. She graduated with a Fine Arts degree at the University of the Philippines and studied Illustration at School of Visual Arts in New York City. She lives with husband Bart and daughter, Bianca Marmy, in New Jersey, and has also lived in Switzerland, Singapore and Manila.

My Christmas Story

JUNEPASCAL1My Christmas Story is about a New York City artist who falls in love with a young river guide from Quebec City forty years her junior. He declares undying but purely platonic friendship. She in turn offers him a kind of love he can’t refuse, agapeic love, the unconditional kind, love for love’s sake. He gladly accepts, prompting the artist to sit up and find for herself what exactly that entails.

Born and raised in the Philippines, author June Pascal studied Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines. New York City has been home for more than thirty years where she has raised a family, traveled and continually functioned as an artist, a dreamer and an optimist.

The Philippine Elite Dancers of New York Conquers at the Multinational Cultural Fest

OSMWEE43elitedancers

By Virgil Rafael
Long Island, New York

The top dancers of the Philippine Elite Dancers of New York represented the Philippines at the 2013 Multinational Cultural Festival. The festival was sponsored by the Asian-American Cultural Circle of Unity whose mission is to foster awareness and appreciation of the many different groups represented here in the United States.

The event, held on April 27, 2013 at the Roosevelt Hall of the Farmingdale State College in Farmingdale, New York featured a puppet show, martial arts and yoga workshops, multicultural booths, live performances, art and photo exhibits, outdoor food court, children’s activities, raffle drawings, corporate and small business vendors. The raffles were actually won by the two Elite dancers.

Standing from l-r: Heide Briffa, Emie Panganiban, Josie Martil, Virgil Rafael, Cristi Ras, Aileen Reyes, Donna Manzella. Seated from l-r: Marissa de Guzman, Giselle Limbo Edgar

Standing from l-r: Heide Briffa, Emie Panganiban, Josie Martil, Virgil Rafael, Cristi Ras, Aileen Reyes, Donna Manzella.
Seated from l-r: Marissa de Guzman, Giselle Limbo Edgar

The Elite dancers who performed two Philippine national dances, the Subli and Tinikling are Giselle Limbo Edgar, Heide Briffa, Cristi Ras, Emie Panganiban, Donna Manzella, Aileen Reyes, Josie Martil, Marissa de Guzman (master choreographer) and Virgil Rafael (director).

The group will do special Tahitian and Hawaiian performances on May 18th at the Tanglaw Hawaiian Luau in Queens, and another Filipiniana performance on June 2 on stage after the Philippine Independence Day parade in Manhattan.

Tea Cups from Sharon Murphy

sharoncup2
Sharon Murphy

Sharon Murphy

At the weekend Green flea market on 79th Street and Amsterdam stands an awesome display of tea cups, pots, and saucers that are conspicuously delicate and rare. Sharon Murphy’s tea cup collection never fails to attract the curious and the collector. Her cups are distinct, and clearly a collection from time knows when and from the old worlds of Europe (England, Hungary, Germany, Portugal and France) and Asia (China, Japan, and India). Usually pricey, but oh, the cups are worth a treasure.

Sharon, who used to be a nurse before deciding to be a full time entrepreneur, handpicks these treasures, mostly hand painted porcelain, China bone, Vintage English bone, and Limoges hand painted cups, saucers, and plates. Every collector will delight at the wide array of choices at Sharon’s nook at the flea market. Check it out in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

(For more of Sharon’s tea cups, go here)

Search for the First FALDEF’s Defend Serve and Educate (DSE) Awardees

FALDEF-Ilfill3

New York — The Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (FALDEF) announces its search for its first Defend Serve and Educate (“DSE”) awardees which will be featured on FALDEF’s First Annual DSE Gala Night on Saturday, October 26, 2013 at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel (formerly Sheraton) in Newark Airport.

The DSE Gala is an opportunity to encourage our members and community to live out FALDEF’s mission to defend, serve and educate for the greater good. It is also an opportunity to recognize individuals who have shown a deep commitment to these values in the spirit of public service.

The DSE awards will honor trailblazers in the legal profession, the arts, the business world and the civil rights community whose extraordinary work and achievements have contributed to advancing FALDEF’s mission to defend, serve and educate members of the community.

The event’s keynote speaker is Sherrilyn Ilfill. Ms. Ilfill, a long-time member of the Legal Defense and Education (LDF) family, and is the seventh President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP LDF. Ms. Ilfill is a graduate of Vassar College, and received her J.D. from New York University School of Law. After graduating law school, Ilfill served first as a fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union and then for five years as an assistant counsel in LDF’s New York office, where she litigated voting rights cases. Ilfill is a highly regarded national civil rights strategist and public intellectual whose writings, speeches and media appearances enrich public debate about a range of political and civil rights issues.

A critically acclaimed author, her book “On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the 21st Century,” reflects her lifelong engagement in and analysis of issues of race and American public life. Ilfill’s scholarly writing has focused on the importance of diversity on the bench, and she is currently writing a book about race and Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Ilfill is the immediate past Chair of the Board of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Institute, one of the largest philanthropic supporters of civil rights and social justice organizations in the country. (Source: http://www.naacpldf.org/sherrilyn-ifill )

FALDEF, is the only Filipino American legal defense group, of national scope, in the United States. Based in New York, it provides pro bono legal services to Filipinos and members of the Filipino-American community who are suffering from legal injustices, is equally committed to voter education and protection, and focused on fighting human trafficking through prosecution, training, education and victim support in the Philippines. For more information please visit http://www.faldef.org

(L-R: Lito Pernia, Patricia Astorga, Jose Ramos, Jr., Marie Aunio, JTS Mallonga, Sherrilyn Ilfill, Cecilia Mejia, Merit Salud, Nimfa Tinana)

(L-R: Lito Pernia, Patricia Astorga, Jose Ramos, Jr., Marie Aunio, JTS Mallonga, Sherrilyn Ilfill, Cecilia Mejia, Merit Salud, Nimfa Tinana)

 

I Miss My Mom!

cherry&mom

By Cherry Marmes Smyth
Pachaug, Connecticut

cherry&momMy Mom, Luz Lambujon Marmes, passed away September 11, 2009. She was the best mother in the world! My best friend and my best mentor. She was super graceful and had a very happy personality. I love my Mama Luz so much and miss her so badly. But I know, she is happy in heaven and is now my guardian angel. I can feel her presence sometimes and smell flowers in my car. I can tell, she is watching me and guarding me everyday.

I keep all the wonderful and best memories of my Mama in my heart. How I wish she is still around. She’s a sweetheart. She had this quality that when you see her, you feel it is so easy to be with her around and seems like she knows you beforehand.

Mama was very kind, loving, caring, generous, patient, responsible, and happy to be with. She was good decision maker and great planner. We all went to church together, and Mama would wake us up. We were a happy family.

I remember she would wake me up every 4 o’clock in the morning to study when I started high school. Got a good grades!

I called the Philippines when I arrived here in the US. My day wasn’t complete if I didn’t hear my mother’s voice, even for just a short phone chat.

Our last conversation and her last goodbye was when she said, as if seeking my permission, “Gikapoy nako Dai, mopahulay nako” (I am tired now. I will rest). And to which I replied, “Okay Mang, you can rest now.” I never thought that would be our last conversation.

The saddest moment of my life was when she passed away. I miss her so much.

With this photograph, you can see her beauty inside and out. She is smart, beautiful and good hearted Mother. I am blessed to have her in my life.

Much of what I am today, I learned from my Mom. Much of what I do and say, or what I think and feel, is a reflection of my Mother Luz. My Mom lives in my heart. Her spirit is in me. I love my Mother Luz always and forever!

Mom'sDay2013mrs.phils.america2013

Hope Floats…for Mother Earth

HOPE FLOATS for mother earth

By Easter Canoy
Bukidnon, Philippines

EASTERCANOYAs I step into the big and solid Ministry buildings here in Berlin where the board meeting of the Green Climate Fund takes place, I imagine what it would have felt like if the grand elders and shaman of the mountains of Kitanglad would have joined me. True, in my lobbying for direct access to the Green Climate Fund I will be searching for allies and listeners to our cause. But what would THEY do to make sure that on this meeting, the basic fundamental rights will not be lost in debates and translations?

My good friend Bae Inatlawan told me that ‘there’s got to be something very human and spiritual in this pursuit’. I always keep that in mind whenever we are together in Manila looking for donors and volunteers to sustain our small undertakings to save the last forests of Northern Mindanao. Here, just like back home in the Phillipines, I only have my stories with me, my bullet truths so to speak.

Last Tuesday we met the rest of the climate activists of the Civil Society Organizations from the North and South. In these meetings, I was looking for allies for the indigenous peoples because that’s what my organization in the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs (KIN) is all about. It’s a relief to discover that Indigenous People, just like women (gender) and concerns for the most vulnerable and affected with climate change are at the core of CSO advocacy in GCF.

The presence of CSOs in every GCF meetings serves as a constant reminder of the actual purpose of the Green Climate Fund. That it’s not a development funding, nor a business enterprise, or even a fund raising campaign –waiting for another pledge from the rich countries extending its pity to the disaster torn countries of the South.

The reason for this North and South dialogue and alliance is that over centuries, somewhere along our way to the future, a massive concentration of greenhouse gases has caused the dangerous climate change. A global phenomenon woke us all to remind us that we are Earthlings and no matter if rich and poor we are going to be affected of such massive consequences that harmed the planet. North and South countries have different responsibilities but they must proceed with a common vision of our future.
HOPE FLOATS for mother earth
In the Philippines, down in Mindanao, we’ve been struck by two unusual storms: typhoons Washi in December 2011 and Bopha in December 2012. These incidents have changed our reality: we’ve seen how responses from international donor agencies arrived much faster than how our Government could act. We’ve also seen the rise of local scientists classifying what could be autonomous and planned adaptive measures.

I had meetings with tribal elders narrating how their wildlife sanctuaries, native plant material stocks, and mini-forests (managed by clans) were ravaged by typhoons. We’ve heard stories of Filipina women who need support for their small gardens to install little greenhouse so that their seeds will not dry out with too much sun exposure. There’s still fifty thousand Indigenous Peoples in Compostela Valley, victims of Bopha who still need shelter, food, potable water and medicines.

The GCF Board will not find the above stories unique because such climate crises keep occurring in many parts of the world. I do believe though that here in Berlin, the outcome of todays and tomorrows conclusive meeting can make a difference. In the GCF Board meeting, one can see a global conduct of leaders whose minds and hearts we need to trust. At the end of the day, when all of us will return home and face our local realities, we need to take home something that could spark hope to the voiceless and powerless.

(Easter Canoy is executive director of the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs in Bukidnon. This article first appeared at http://www.bothends.org/en/News/Weblog/weblog/27/weblogmessage/111/Maria-%E2%80%9CChy%E2%80%9D-Santos-Canoy-Taking-home-a-spark-of-hope and is reprinted with permission by the author.)

ED SANTOS: A Filipino Immigrant’s Son Runs for NYC Council

Ed Santos Headshot

By Marivir R. Montebon

Ed Santos HeadshotTwenty- seven-year-old Ed Santos is rolling his sleeves up for the upcoming local elections in New York City in September. He is the first Filipino American to run for New York City council, representing the 8th district’s Harlem area, under the Democratic Party.

The electoral fight is a tough one, as he is pitted against the incumbent Melissa Mark-Viverito who has both resources and experience. But there is no let up to this young fellow, born and raised in Detroit by feisty mother Emilie Santos who defied being deported by asking help from all the political leaders in Michigan.

-3(Interestingly, mother Emilie has her own story to tell. Senators Levin and then Senator Vice President Jo Biden sponsored a local bill for her, saving her from deportation and granting her a Green Card, a permanent resident status, thus keeping her family intact).

Such bravery must have been imbibed by Ed too, as he proudly introduces himself as the son of a nanny and the first Filipino to run for public office in the city that never sleeps in his campaign trail.

Ed graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in Statistics and finished his Master’s in Teaching from Pace University in New York City. Ed taught Math at East Harlem schools in 2007.

He says coming from immigrant working parents, immigration issue to him is not only political but personal as well. Ed’s mother has been working in Michigan and in New York for many years while his father, Ed Senior, a waiter, lives with his two siblings in Detroit.

Being a teacher himself, Ed focuses on education as his platform of leadership. Excerpts from the interview:

1. What is your policy platform for NYC council?

As a former public school teacher, I believe I am uniquely qualified to address the barriers to educating our children in NYC. I was raised in a working class, immigrant family and my parents knew the way for their children to succeed was through a quality education. I am able to run for office and achieve because of the value my family placed on education. Education opened doors for my students – allowed them to go to the best colleges, but they were the exception in schools across the city.

I am running to ensure our children are getting the quality education they deserve so that they can seek out opportunities otherwise not available to them. But that also means, once they graduate from school and we prepare them for the world, that there are jobs waiting for them.

2. Harlem has its share of economic and social problems. How do you reconcile that with education reforms?

Economic development will breathe new life into my district which suffers from chronic joblessness and 17% unemployment. It will be my priority to make sure our kids are educated, but that they are also employed along with the other residents in my community. And though my district has one of the largest public housing communities – a community under attack by NYCHA’s In-fill development plan – more work will always make more homes affordable.

Put simply, the best way to promote affordable housing in District 8 is to promote economic development and jobs. No home is affordable for someone who is unemployed, and no education, no matter how exemplary is useful without a purpose. Better schools will encourage business development, business development will bring jobs, and more work will make homes affordable again in District 8.

3. What distinction do you make? Why should people vote for you?

I believe my experience as a public school teacher sets me apart from the other candidates in the District 8 City Council race. I am the only candidate in District 8 with experience in the classroom and there are currently just two sitting members on the City Council who have experience working in New York City Public Schools with one of those members leaving office at the end of this term. Given this fact, I would bring a unique background and perspective to New York City Council.

The political environment surrounding mayoral control of NYC public schools is likely to lead to the City Council playing a larger role in shaping the present and future policies that address public education in New York. That is why I believe my first-hand experience as a New York City public school teacher will be valuable toward creating the kind of education system in our city that truly leaves no child behind.

4. What is the most glaring problem which the city that never sleeps faces today?

Underperforming schools. Underperforming schools hurt our families and fail to promote economic development. Children are trapped in failing schools across this city. Parents are caught in a catch 22 between sending their children to bad schools and worse schools. Teachers are rarely provided the professional development they need to support them in addressing the needs of their students, which often extend beyond the classroom.

There is no doubt, that teachers can make a huge difference in the life of children. It was a first grade teacher that taught me English. It was because of her and those like her that led me to become a teacher. But when you are faced with students that come to class hungry, sleep deprived because they live in shelters, or distracted by concerns for their safety on their way to and from school, teaching becomes a real up-hill battle. Professional development and support of teachers can help teachers as they address the daily lesson plans and core curriculum but also the wider concerns of the community in which they teach.

5. In what capacity would you be able to help solve this problem?

I believe publishing the budgets of schools will allow parents to see the priority each school places on education in the classroom relative to other school expenditures. Spending the same dollar, some schools might spend it wiser than others positively impacting the educational experience of the students. Parents have a right to know which of those schools their child attends. Principals also can learn from the experience of others schools and examine how other schools spend their budgets. Imagine if school administrators were allowed the opportunity to learn from one another.

-4Also, implementing universal pre-k to NYC four year olds will help get our kids on the right track early. We know pre-school has a durable, long lasting positive impact on the well-being and opportunities available to students who attend pre-school. It gets children into the habit of learning at a young age and immerses them into the educational environment we expect them to attend for the next 20 years of their life. ‘Learn early and learn often’ is a theme we should set for our children now. And that theme should hold true for higher education as well.

For every dollar spent by the city of New York, one penny is devoted to higher education. That is one pathetic penny. While other cities are leading to make higher education achievable and affordable, New York City is being left behind. New York City should be a leader on these very issues and make a greater commitment to higher education.

Also, I believe we need to promote and support afterschool programs and stop the frequent attempts to cut back on these vital programs for kids. After school programs not only provide opportunities for a more rounded education beyond the classroom, they encourage achievement in the classroom by requiring strict standards for students to attend. I had a student, who was nearly failing all of his classes. But when he joined the basketball team, because he had to maintain a certain grade average, he caught up to the rest of the students. He came to school early to study and prepare, and eventually he went on to college, all because of the basketball team. His story is just one of many that time and again prove to us teachers and parents the benefit of afterschool programs. But politicians at City Hall who have no experience teaching in classrooms would have no knowledge of this, which is why too many are half-hearted advocates of many of the issues I have described as profoundly impacting the well being of our kids. Education affects all of us. The sooner we learn that, the sooner we can begin to confront these barriers to learning and success in our schools and communities.

6. What is your take on the immigration bill being discussed in Congress right now?

Growing up with immigrant parents, my family has been touched by the issue of immigration enforcement in the United States. When my mom’s visa expired and she faced deportation we worried about what that would mean for our family. It wasn’t until she decided to appeal to Senator Carl Levin that her fortunes changed. Senator Levin sponsored a bill introduced by Senator Joe Biden in the Congress that was signed by President Reagan granting my mother American citizenship.

The issue of immigration reform and the importance of keeping families together is not just a political issue for me: it’s personal.

As Congress debates immigration reform, they should take seriously the benefits that immigrants provide the economy and the role immigrants play within the fabric of communities across the country. Recent reports about the contents of the new immigration reform proposal make me feel both encouraged and concerned. I’m encouraged by the fact that more congressional Republicans seem to finally want to address immigration in a comprehensive way beyond simply closing the border. A pathway to citizenship is absolutely critical, and I’m glad that some reasonable Republicans have joined with Democrats to endorse this measure.

7. Do you have practical ways to strengthen the immigration system of the US, especially on the city level?

I support the bi-partisan effort to address our failing immigration system. However, I am concerned about what the requirements might be for the pathway to citizenship. I’m concerned that too many people are being left out, because anyone here after December 2011 will not be eligible for citizenship and will still be vulnerable to deportation. I’m also concerned about the excessive fines and back taxes that current undocumented immigrants will be required to pay. I hope as the initial draft proposal is seen and heard, it will be amended to better reflect the needs of communities like the ones in District 8.

I believe the City Council can do a number of things to help undocumented immigrants. One idea I support would be to create a “Big Apple ID Card” that will serve as an identification option for all NYC residents. The card could be used as a library card and for banking services. Additionally, I support efforts to protect more New Yorkers from unjust deportations and support efforts to place limitations on local law enforcement in complying with immigration detainer requests. These are common sense ideas that I will fight for as the next council member for District 8.

Did You Know that the First Computer was a Woman?

eniac_5_1women

By Marivir R. Montebon

Top-Secret-Rosies-Cover

The first computers were not machines, they were women. And they were important as the soldiers who won World War II for America to become the world’s dominant world power. However, recognizing their contributions had a long time coming.

Leanne Erickson

Leanne Erickson

It took 67 years for women mathematicians to be recognized through a historical documentary presented by Leann Erickson, a professor of Film and Media Arts at the Temple University in Philadelphia. Having been a film maker for more than 20 years, she is a recipient of regional and national production grants for her work from such funding sources as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Jerome Foundation and the Leeway Foundation.

Titled Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of WWII, Erickson’s documentary centered on these young female “computers” who took a short and intense course on ballistics calculations before they began work in 1942. So precise, they could calculate whether the soldiers were standing or laying on the trenches.

Way back in the 1940s, a computer was not a machine, but a job position held by someone who was excellent in math and science could readily fill in. At that time, young women did the work.

eniac_5_1womenErickson featured twins Shirley and Doris Blumberg, Marlyn Wescoff Weltzer, and Jean Jennings Bartik, who were then high school students who excelled in mathematics, for her documentary which was finished in 2010. They were among the recruits of the government’s frantic effort to hire mathematicians for the war.

In the documentary, Bartik said all the ballistics programmers at that time were women who worked with the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), created by Penn scientists John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert Jr. She said that they demonstrated to the military brass how the computer worked, with the programmers setting the process into motion and showing how it produced as answer, debugging every vacuum tube.

Bartik, who passed on in 2011, said computers were useless without programmers in the documentary. However none of them was invited to the recognition dinner. They were also just thought of as models who showed off the machine. In their many years of work, all the programmers had were a shared certificate of commendation from the military.

jeanbartik1924-2011It was only in Bartik’s twilight years that she was awarded merits of recognition for her work as a human computer. She was inducted into the Women in Technology Hall of Fame in 1999 and became a Fellow Award honoree at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California in 2008, three years before she died.

Erickson said, “We just don’t pay attention to what women do. Despite the fact that women helped the war effort, we don’t know.”

Erickson has launched a tour of her historical documentary and is pleased by the overwhelming response of the schools and universities in the country.

Women’s groups and leaders in the US have continuously sustained their work at educating the younger generation and innovating ways to empower women through Math and Science. These relentlesss efforts always make the faceless, voiceless contribution of WWII computer Rosie Jean Bartik recognized. (Photos by Leann Erikson)

Jean Bartik

Jean Bartik

Featured Post: WOMEN WIN!

bethroa

bethroaCongratulations to Ms. Beth Mabie Roa for having won in the Women Win contest sponsored by Bisai Art Cafe in commemoration of the International Women’s Day in March.

Launched on Facebook, participants were asked of their comments about empowered women artists and their significance in today’s society.

Ms. Roa, based in New York, had this post: “Women artist from around the world create gorgeous art. These women use their skills to support their families, create social change, and improve conditions in their communities. Women artists not only create art but they also create history that will be immeasurable as time goes by.”

Maribeth won Php4000.00 and an oil pastel portrait of her own choice and rendered by Bisai Art Cafe resident and celebrated artist Joan Honoridez.

Lent: The Many Shades of Purple

osm!week37bantayanisland

Sylvia Hubilla
Round Rock, Texas

“For dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.” Lent begins with this stark reminder of one’s humble beginning, and end, in the ritual of what we call Miercoles de Ceniza, or Ash Wednesday. In the Philippines, where 80 percent of the population are Catholics, almost every person you meet on the street, or anywhere else on this day, have crosses of black ash on their foreheads. After work and school hours, churches are packed with people lining up to “receive the ashes,” as we say it.
This day ushers in the Season of Lent, replete with ritual and color. Purple is the liturgical color of Lent. Churches take on the color purple, on the altars, and the priests’ vestments. On this day too, everyone abstains from eating meat, and adults fast, meaning they can only have one full meal, and have only liquids throughout the day. And this is done every Friday thereafter for the whole period of Lent, culminating on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Penance and sacrifice is the order of the day – for 40 days!
But this is easier said than done. I must confess, I try really hard to hold fast to the rules, but still fall short a lot of times. It was easy growing up under my mother’s strict supervision, and growing up in a Catholic school. But as soon as adulthood and independence came around, so did the real struggle to “be good.”
As the color purple can have many different shades, and still remain purple, I have seen Catholics become creative and inventive in the interpretation of and adherence to the rules, and still remain practicing Catholics. The practice has morphed (heaven help us!) from the comic to the bizarre. Some try to go around fasting, and still believe they are fasting. A friend told me, “Fasting is one full meal, right? I define one full meal as the time I sit down at the dining table until the time I get up after I finish eating. So, as long as I remain seated at the table, I am still having just one full meal.”

 

Binignit

Binignit

To some people in Cebu, for instance, fasting means a huge pot of “binignit,” a delicious popular snack of sweet potatoes, cooking bananas, sago, ripe jackfruit, purple yams all cut into cubes and boiled in coconut cream sweetened with muscovado sugar, kept on the stove, hot and ready for everyone in the household all day, on all Fridays of Lent, and most especially on Good Friday. Everyone just helped themselves with this throughout the day, and is considered to be fasting, the reason being, that it is not a full meal, only a snack.
The best example, (or should I say, the worst. depending on which side of the fence you are on) is having your town fiesta fall on Good Friday itself, so you are absolutely exempted from fasting and abstinence, and sacrifice! This is the case for Bantayan Island, located on the northernmost tip of Cebu. It is not only known as a paradise island of white sand beaches and crystal waters, but also as a popular destination for people looking for a way to get around the fasting and abstinence rule for Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday, without committing a sin.

 

Bantayan Island

Bantayan Island

Bantayan Island celebrates The Crucifixion of Christ as their town fiesta. The story goes, that Bantayan Island, being a fishing community, could not follow the abstinence from meat on Good Friday because, to honor the Crucified Christ, the fisher folk would not go out to sea to fish on Good Friday. There would be no fish for the community. This did not go unnoticed. Bantayan Island received a Papal Dispensation no less, from Pope Leo XII in 1843. This document is still on display in the museum in the town’s Church of Saints Peter and Paul.
The Dispensation allowed pork to be eaten on Good Friday, the Town Fiesta. Perfect! What is a Fiesta without “lechon?” (Roasted pig) Knowing this, tourists from other regions of the Philippines, wanting to take advantage of the week-long holiday, would flock to Bantayan Island. Of course, most still tried to fulfill some of the religious rituals, like the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross), and meditate on the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ, and join the procession of the image of the Crucified Christ. But I suspect the spirit of sacrifice and self-denial is lost in the Fiesta atmosphere, and in the partaking of the irresistable, incredibly delicious lechon. And we haven’t even factored in the fun and joyful experience of the frolic in the white sand beaches.
Despite all these ingenious maneuvers, and no matter where we are in the whole spectrum of the many shades of purple, I still believe the true spirit of the Season of Lent, and the essence of the spiritual preparation of oneself for Easter is never diminished or entirely lost. Because finding myself here in the USA today, I miss and long for the way we celebrate the Season back home. I miss the procession of the images of the tableau of the Passion and Death of Jesus, the dawn procession we call, “Sugat” or “Salubong” depicting the women searching for Jesus’ body. I miss the “Visita Iglesia” on Maundy Thursday, where families visit at least 7 churches, praying for their departed members in each stop, to obtain plenary indulgence for their souls.
But I have these memories, and now I can be creative and inventive about how I work around what is available to me in this different environment and circumstance.
At this moment, I am looking forward to getting together with my six grandchildren, for our family Easter Egg Hunt on Easter Sunday. HAPPY EASTER, everyone!

MRS. PHILIPPINES AMERICA 2013: Beauty Inside and Out

Magnificent 7withNK anderno

By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City

When I suffered from excruciating back pain on the first week of the rehearsals, I said that was it for me, goodbye pageantry. This was due to wearing six inches stiletto for the first time in my life. The medical term for it was unusual exertion of effort, hence creating a back ache. I was scolded by my doctor for being stubborn and prescribed to me two of the most powerful painkillers and anti-inflammation medicines.

Rehearsal Giggles with the Candidates

Rehearsal giggles with the candidates

I sent a mass text message to the ladies: Lyne, Heide, Cherry, Grace, Belinda, and Annie, saying I’m quitting, I will miss you all. And guess what they all said? NO.

I exclaimed, Jesus Christ!

Cherry Marmes Smyth, now crowned Mrs. Philippines America 2013, said in our dialect in the text message: “Ayaw resign resign diha!” (This is lost in translation, but in essence it implies: don’t even think about it).

Lyne and Grace were one in saying, we will back you up if you needed to wear platform shoes, not stiletto. “It’s not worth it if you break your back for anything,” said Grace in closing.

So our relentless shopping for six inch shoes began in the thick of winter.

On the noble quest of searching for shoes!

On the noble quest of searching for shoes!

Flashback: a little over a year ago, Nena Kaufman, the indomitable chairperson and founder of the Philippine Hearts and Hopes Society (PHHOSO) invited me to join the beauty contest. She never stopped asking everytime we met! Finally, like the proverbial slow, persistent drops of water that could break the hardest of rocks, I gave in to her prodding. In the back of my mind, I asked myself  this constantly: what am I getting into?

I became contestant no. 2 among the seven magnificent ladies – Belinda Aquino Cervas from Maryland, Lyne Simpson from New Jersey, Annie Copo, Grace Cornachiullo, and Heide Briffa, all from New York, and Cherry from Connecticut. I garnered the Best in Personal Interview Award.

The journey towards the contest proved to be challenging, exhilarating, and most of all, it created a wonderful friendship among all of us.

BFFs.

BFFs.

We did not only become ambassadors of goodwill and humanitarian causes, we all became good friends. To me, the friendship shared by seven lovely women, in a single place and time, and in the oddest of circumstances (a beauty contest where most women normally become bitches and claw each other in competition) was the best gift in my life in New York.

I must say that our search for comfortable high heeled shoes and gowns, up to the last week of rehearsals, has helped strengthen our bond.

 

Belinda Cervas

Beautiful Bee

Beautiful Bee

We decided that the Mrs. Philippines Green Earth Ambassador is also the friendliest among us all. Our Miss Congeniality is warm, crazy and upbeat. Not a hint of a broken heart or bitterness, after surviving a failed marriage and receiving the reward of a divorce order just weeks before we pulled off stage for the contest.

Belinda served booze for us (which Grace brought in) during our lengthy make-up session at the backstage. In between quick rehearsals, magical hair styling and make up, fast meals, and self-practice for the dreaded talent portion, we sipped alcohol to embolden us and conquer our fear.

In reckoning, Bee said she earned her self-respect, after going through her harrowing divorce, during the entire process of the pageant. “After an abusive relationship, I earned respect for myself and found my self-worth through the pageant. New friends, networking and new dresses were the bonus part of it.”

Bee will focus her good will work with military service people.

“I’d like to promote and help the military services and their family here in USA and our home country Philippines. For me, the sacrifices of the men and women of armed forces are most of the time under seen and not recognized. I’d like to help out the forces by means of giving to their family support and help as much as they needed. Being able to send care kit packets to the military services that are deployed overseas, would be one of these efforts I have in mind.”

Currently working as administrative secretary in a school in Maryland, Bee was raised a city girl in Quezon City, but nonetheless loved the country life in her mother’s hometown in Pangasinan.

Lyne Simpson

Lyne, the dusky, voluptuous beauty from Biliran drives from Princeton, New Jersey to the heart of the city for rehearsals. Six beautiful weeks into perfecting our dance and catwalk, Lyne was the ever supportive lady to all of us.

Voluptuous Lyne

Voluptuous Lyne

Bee aptly calls her ‘the boss’ because she naturally emerges as the initiator leader, managing discussions of meetings and things to do as a group. I think she is instinctively maternal.  She would guide us what to do during rehearsals, like an impromptu director.

A mother to twin daughters Mary and Felisa, Lyne proudly flaunted her belly while we were shopping for gowns. My twins stretched my belly, she said laughing. One could care less about flabs looking at Lyne and her twin daughters, as we were seeing triplets of lovely women.

Miss Talent (Taekwondo and Ballroom Dancing rolled into one) and Second Runner Up thinks she is not a pageant material (she always smiles big at that!) but she earned beautiful friends from the pageant, which to her was the greatest gain from joining the contest.

Pressure motivated Lyne to join the contest. “I wanted to stop my friends from bugging me to join. They have been asking me to join for a long time.”

The larger reason was, of course, to be able to reach out to people some more. “I wanted to go back to my hometown to continue helping my old elementary school. In the past, I built a playground for the school children and a butterfly garden. I donated children’s encyclopedia and books and helped renovate a two-classroom building. I feel like I should do more.”

She has recently raised money to help in the surgery of children with cleft lips and palates.

Lyne, a certified substitute teacher, is likewise the consummate wife and mother. And add to her cap of this beauty titlist some feathers now, a silver and bronze out of 15 competitors in a Taekwondo Tournament a week after our beauty contest.

Continue reading

Just Having Fun

naam-yoga-miami-img

By Wendy Friedlander

So there’s this boy. And you like him. A lot.

“Oh that Johnny! He is hot! I really like him. We have so much fun together.”

You decide to let things progress and you and Johnny sleep together.

You and Johnny are having so much fun that before you know it, your fun times are getting serious in your mind and you start fantasizing about doing more with Johnny than hanky-panky.

Trouble is, you aren’t sure Johnny is thinking the same thing.

You ask your girlfriends what they think. You go through his behavior and look for hints that he is getting as serious about you as you are with him.

But then, as time goes on and the only thing Johnny seems to be around for is fun, you start to realize that maybe he’s still just having fun.

And you, you’re committed.

“That Johnny is a player.” You tell yourself. You cry to your friends about it. You wonder when you will ever meet a guy who wants to get serious.

“Why does this keep happening?” You wonder as you go through all the other Johnnies who have slipped away.

You try to take an objective look at yourself. You wonder why you keep falling in love while every guy just wants to have fun.

You are not alone. This happens to women all the time.

It’s a pattern. An unhealthy pattern that puts your most vital organ in harms way, your heart.

Energetically speaking, a woman’s reproductive center, her uterus and cervix, is connected to her pericardium, which is a sac that contains her heart.

And what is your heart? It’s your center of love.

naam-yoga-miami-img

When a woman has sex, she has an energetic exchange that leaves a mark on her heart.

Quite literally, a woman falls in love through sex.

Men, lacking the same reproductive organs, do not.

Men can have all the sex they want and it in no way creates the same feelings of love that affect woman.

So, as a woman, it is your responsibility to protect your heart.

Does that mean avoiding sex?

Not necessarily.

It means understanding the risks of having fun. Every time you have sex, you are opening your heart, an opening that does not happen automatically for your partner.

It means that if you want to be in a serious relationship know he loves you before you take that step.

When a man loves you. You know it. A man in love is dedicated. He comes after you.

So, instead of having fun and seeing where it goes, wait for him to come to you and then have some fun.

Sat Kriya

Sat Kriya is a fundamental Kundalini Yoga meditation that re-channels sexual energy around your body. In other words, it’s a meditation that makes it a little easier to postpone having fun when that loud voice in your head says “Come on! It’s been too long! Just one time! He’s not going to wait for you! Go for it!”

1. Kneel on the ground and then sit on your heels (this is known as rock pose)
2. Raise arms above head and interlace fingers
3. Extend the index fingers to point straight up and touch fingertips. Try your best to keep your palms touching, your elbows straight and inline with your ears.
4. While remaining in this position chant “Sat Nam” repeatedly for 3 minutes, working up to 11 min.
5. Rest on your back for at least a minute

Note: Pull in on your navel with “Sat” and then release with “Nam.” Pull in so tight you get a bonus stomach workout without doing any sit-ups!

Recommended music:
Track #4 on Bhakti Naam by Dr. Joseph Michael Levry (http://www.rootlight.com/music-bhakti-naam.htm)

About the author: Wendy is a single mom, cancer survivor and yogi. She traveled the world to find health and is grateful to share the tools and knowledge she gained on the way. Learn more athttp://wendyfriedlander.c

——-
About the Author:
imageWendy is a single mom, cancer survivor and yogi. She traveled the world to find health and is grateful to share the tools and knowledge she gained on the way. Learn more athttp://wendyfriedlander.com

You can reach Wendy at wendy@lovethroughwisdom.com; her website is notesofgratitude.me

ANNIVERSARY FEATURE Merly Barrete-Barlaan: Awesome New Yorker Comes Home with Big Dreams

Bursting in colors, life in the village

By Marivir R. Montebon

At a fund raiser in the summer of 2011, Merly Barette Barlaan profusely thanked her donors for having shelled out some cash and checks for her school project in her hometown in Carmen, Bohol. “Your money goes a long way. You know a cup of Starbucks coffee, which is about three dollars, is 120 pesos and enough to buy one live chicken. Your four cups of coffee could buy four chickens which is a good start for a family to domesticate and raise their incomes,” she said so sweetly.

“But that sent many into thinking, of course, and pushed the generosity button in them.”

Mom and kids Hyo Won, Shin Won, Jasmine, and Lily Rose

Mom and kids Hyo Won, Shin Won, Jasmine, and Lily Rose

More than a year later, Merly decided to bring all her four children back to the bosom of her home, right smack in the rural mountains of Carmen where the famous Chocolate Hills, to establish her dream…a village of development and peace. Kicking off with a library and learning center, she, along with this writer, a co-dreamer, drafted a 10-year-development plan for community development.

Merly went home to pursue these goals. And voila, before our very eyes, we now see little tots graduating from preschool and sent off to the public schools already able to read and write.

We also see the kids’ families increasing their incomes by making their lands productive with vegetables, and rice, and even flowering plants.

Merly’s message is…it can be done. No traditional politics here, just sheer faith and effort to increase your community’s economic life. The world is at her command, so it seems, with the full support of her husband Mar and her family. Even her work environment (she works in an NGO for the United Nations), has agreed that she will bring her office (made up of laptop and cell phone) to the rural world of Bohol.

OSM! brings up close Merly, in an interview, on how she realized her vision. Excerpts:

1.How is the library and preschool doing one year since their establishment? (how many students hv graduated to elem school?

Tricycle ride...so nice to squeeze in sometimes

Tricycle ride…so nice to squeeze in sometimes

Merly: The library is doing well and is evolving to a wider role in the community. Since the completion of the bamboo cottage early this year, the LLC name (meaning Library and Learning Center) has changed to LTC (Library and Training Center). We are now capable of accommodating stay-in workshops with capacity of up to 30 participants. In fact, this coming March 18-April 8, 2013, CWaCE LTC will be hosting the 20 American participants for the GPA project to construct a local school cafeteria.

With regards to the Pre-school program, we will be wrapping up our third school year in couple of weeks. Our third batch pre-school graduates will bring our total to 30. All of our graduates have gone on to study in the public elementary schools with high marks and top honor students.

2. Has the community, your home place accepted and supported this development idea? How?

Next year, a farmers' trading coop will rise

Next year, a farmers’ trading coop will rise

Merly: So far, most of the community members have positive attitudes and are cooperative with me in my endeavors. CWaCE is working in partnership with the PTA, the village school officials and the local government unit on a project to promote good health and optimum educability for the children. CWaCE was able to secure a grant worth $6,000 from the Generation Peace Academy and provide free accommodation for two weeks for their 20 American volunteers to construct a school cafeteria in Montesunting. It’s the first major collaboration mobilizing the parents and the community. I feel that the community is very supportive and proactive. They look forward with excitement to welcome our American donors. It will be the first time that our community can welcome such large number of foreigners.

3. As for the other anti.poverty projects, how far has it gone?

Fabulous farmer!

Fabulous farmer!

Merly: With the start of program implementation, we currently have 15 families gaining employment from the HOPE program-related projects. The HOPE program has a ten-year development plan. It’s a long term plan. We are just on our third year of implementation – the first three formative years. It’s a very slow process, it’s all about laying foundations, conditioning the environment which means clearing old dormant mindsets and implanting new productive ones. Introducing to the community new sets of values and leadership paradigms so that by the time we reach the completion stage of our development plan, the community and its citizens are empowered to be competitive not just locally but also in the global market.

4. What other aspects of the development program are to be implemented?

Land and bounty...fresh tomatoes!

Land and bounty…fresh tomatoes!

Merly: Next year, we will start on product development and packaging, and hopefully by 2016, we can be ready and start on the marketing phase. Our product actually is not just one spot of the village, but the whole village itself and some neighboring villages as an agri/eco tourism destination.

In order to accomplish these goals, I am investing in the youth resources. One project is investing in providing scholarship for 10 high school students who are under-privileged but intellectually-gifted. CWaCE would like to raise these potentials to be the catalyst of a new generation of conscience-driven, incorruptible leaders of the community and country. Another project in progress is our partnership with the academe in educating the educators and the youth on the “Five Principles of Peace” as a way to curb the rate of moral and political corruption.

We are working on a partnership agreement with the International Peace Leadership College (IPLC ), and Bohol Island State University (BISU) to raise awareness and empower students with new leadership paradigms centered on the “Five Principles of Peace”. In October last year, CWaCE launched our signature project called “Nation without Corruption (NWC)”. Its goal is to raise new generation of young leaders who are responsible and incorruptible steward of our country and its resources. We will be partnering with local and international institutions, NGOs to achieve maximum support and reach our end goal. I strongly believe that the teachers have the critical role in implementing and transforming values system in the society. Without adhering to absolute standard and principles, no matter how much material resources we invested, all of our development agendas will just go down the drain.

5. What challenges are there to be dealt with?

Glamorous farmer!

Glamorous farmer!

Merly: In the beginning, it looked as if the mountains of challenges are as high as the lofty goals. But as we move forward to what I call to “an uphill climb to development”, more and more I can see the general view of the situation. By living with them, the more I get to know and understand by heart the daily struggles of people and the community because I am experiencing it myself with my own children. The quality of life in my village is below the sub standard level.

The UN’s so-called “social protection initiatives” becomes an obscure cry in the wilderness – the concept is not even heard of and does not exist yet in peoples’ consciousness. Even as basic of a need as drinking water supply is a big challenge. Not to mention the muddy and rocky roads – it really looked like a “cursed road to forever” in my own experience.

Having lived half of my life in the US, it’s a major challenge is to understand the mindset of the political leaders and equally challenging to understand is the peoples’ default acceptance of a corrupted system . I cannot, for one reason understand how the mighty, powerful and wealthy government leaders, can be so far detached to the reality of the daily lives and the needs of the people in the villages to the point that they become so powerless in terms of providing solutions to the very basic needs of the communities.

There are no existing laws that protect the interests of the farmers. Prices are very unpredictable. The farmers and their produce are in the mercy of the mercenary-like middlemen. Most of lobbyist would only lobby laws in favor of the interest of urban interests. Having said all that, and knowing that as a NGO, partnership with them is critical in getting things done, I pray every day to have the unconditional love and wisdom to work productively with them.

6. Your children, all born in the USA, are in your hometown and living in the project area. Why is this?

Taking a peek at the kitchen. Where is the glorious food?

Taking a peek at the kitchen. Where is the glorious food?

Merly: There are three reasons behind my decision to move my children to my village in Montesunting. By God’s blessing, all of my children were born above-average intellect and keen awareness of their surroundings. With parent’s guidance and support, I believe the American education system would empower them to become the best in whatever fields they want to pursue. However, the Western educational system puts so much weight on the academic side and competiveness in achieving material success. I feel that in order for my children to be wise future leaders, they need to spend some of their childhood years experiencing the other side of the spectrum so that they can have both experience being raised in the values of the Eastern culture. Then they can have a well-balanced approach in dealing and solving their lives’ challenges.
Secondly, I would like them to spend their childhood and grow in the beautiful environment provided by nature. Nature is the best teacher. There are so many things in nature that are not printed and cannot be describe in textbooks. First-hand experiences are priceless. I believe that children who grow up surrounded by nature will grow to become more peaceful and loving adults.

I myself was a farm girl, when I think back of my childhood memories in the farm, playing by the slopes and hillside and flowery meadows, walking everyday to and from school, it gives such nostalgic and therapeutic feeling to my spirit. I would also like my children to have such beautiful memories of their hometown when they grow up. The third and most important reason is that I would like my children to witness, understand and inherit by heart (not just intellectually) the value of the important work that my husband and I have started.

Bursting in colors, life in the village

Bursting in colors, life in the village

All the investments and labor of love would not mean anything if our second generation cannot inherit and continue with the same degree of love and connectedness. I feel that by seeing and experiencing certain level of difficulties that other children and families in the village are experiencing, when they become adults and choose their passions and professions in life, they will integrate their childhood experiences in deciding who they will be and what role they will play in solving the problems of society.

I would like to pave a way for my children to be able to think and deal with global agendas with local issues in mind. It’s about securing a strong foundation so that our legacy of love and peace can be inherited, practiced, and enjoyed by many more generations to come.

ALI EWOLDT AND ADAM JACOBS: Broadway Actors Proud of Their Philippine Roots

By Marivir R. Montebon

IMG_20130209_171016_587Adam Jacobs and Ali Ewoldt will pull it off again on stage in a Valentine Concert at The Town Hall on Saturday, February 23 at 8 o’clock in the evening.

The concert, titled “A Heart Full of Love,” is sponsored by GMA Life TV, GMA Pinoy TV, the TOFA-New York, the Filipino Reporter, and the Mindoro Healthcare Consulting.

Starting their career at a young age in musicals, Ali and Adam have recently performed together on the musical Les Miserables, with Ali as Cosette and Adam as Marius.

Although she finished Psychology at Yale University, Ali chose the entertainment career at this time, despite the stiff competition.

IMG_20130209_165404_240IMG_20130209_165423_583She has shown her persistence in every artistic undertaking, which is the key to breakthrough in every show, which kicks off in auditions.

For the past 10 years in her performing career, Ali has shown her versatility in the roles she plays on Les Mis, the King and I and host of other popular shows which she has toured with in the entire US.

Adam, for his part, started out early as pianist and finished a degree in Theater at the New York University. He performed in big musicals since his younger days in California, in Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, the Lion King, and many more.

Both Adam and Ali attribute their singing abilities to half their roots. Their mothers are Filipinos who love music and encouraged them to pursue their passions.

Do you ever consider the Philippines home, I asked. In chorus, they said no. It is more of our roots, and “I am proud of that,” beams Ali. And Adam smiles, and says, “yeah.”

After the hurried interview, they ran up stage to do the sound check prior to an intimate concert with Broadway Barkada, a group of Filipino actors in the Broadway musicals, in Manhattan’s lower east side of the city.

(Check out the websites of Ali and Adam on http://www.aliewoldt.com and http://www.adamljacobs.com)

FILIPINO ARTISTS SHINE AT CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY ETHICAL FASHION, ART SHOW

Ethical Fashion & Art Show

By Bisai Ya

Select Filipino artists will debut in a group exhibition at the prestigious Cambridge University Ballroom in the city of Cambridge, England on November 21.

Razel Gonzales Gstrein, a Filipina artist based in Spain and Austria, organized the art exhibition and fashion show entitled “Art Relieves Poverty” for the benefit of underprivileged children in the Philippines and in Vietnam.

A self-taught artist with very humble origins, Gstrein who prefers to be known as Razel Gonzales, aims to help the less fortunate but talented and deserving children succeed in life through learning how to rely on their talent as artists.

Her organization, the International Self-Taught Artists Association, is making baby steps towards the realization of this dream of building a children’s artists village where the beneficiaries can learn how to express themselves through various art workshops and exhibitions in a venue that will be established from the proceeds of this charity show.

The Filipino artists she has chosen to exhibit with her are likewise self-taught artists because she believes that experience is the best teacher and she has seen from the works of the artists she has chosen the power of expression only the heart can discern. They are Vincent Christopher Gonzales, Joan Honoridez, Fritz Silorio, and Bisai Ya.

Meanwhile the fashion show will feature Cambridge University students modelling the dresses created by Gonzales under her signature brand Immortality. This project is in collaboration with a Vietnam-based charity worker for the benefit of physically impaired women trained to sew quality apparel for the European market.

“This is not just the usual art exhibition, Gonzales explained. “This is a real promotion of the Philippine arts to the world.” She happily disclosed that the Cambridge University Society will sponsor the show which will also be touring other major cities in Europe such as Madrid and Vienna. She said that “this event is yet to be the closest any Filipino group of artists can get to the Queen of England.”

Gonzales was born in Sagay City, Negros Occidental where she spent her early childhood drawing and daydreaming. She later went to Cebu and married at an early age. Fate brought her to Europe where her exposure in the art world inspired her to develop her own signature style, PureStrokes a powerful and rapid abstractionism of pure and brilliant colors inspired from Edvard Munch, Wassily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock, Marc Chagall and Mark Rothko.

She said that her patrons are amazed at her use of colours as being so complex and intricate, saying, “I am fascinated with the speed of futurism and rayonism and that is how I define my personality, the modern woman, rebellious but loyal, impatient, ambitious stubborn, fast and brilliant.”

 

 

FILIPINO ARTISTS SHINE AT CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY ETHICAL FASHION, ART SHOW

Ethical Fashion & Art Show

By Bisai Ya

Select Filipino artists will debut in a group exhibition at the prestigious Cambridge University Ballroom in the city of Cambridge, England on November 21.

Razel Gonzales Gstrein, a Filipina artist based in Spain and Austria, organized the art exhibition and fashion show entitled “Art Relieves Poverty” for the benefit of underprivileged children in the Philippines and in Vietnam.

A self-taught artist with very humble origins, Gstrein who prefers to be known as Razel Gonzales, aims to help the less fortunate but talented and deserving children succeed in life through learning how to rely on their talent as artists.

Her organization, the International Self-Taught Artists Association, is making baby steps towards the realization of this dream of building a children’s artists village where the beneficiaries can learn how to express themselves through various art workshops and exhibitions in a venue that will be established from the proceeds of this charity show.

The Filipino artists she has chosen to exhibit with her are likewise self-taught artists because she believes that experience is the best teacher and she has seen from the works of the artists she has chosen the power of expression only the heart can discern. They are Vincent Christopher Gonzales, Joan Honoridez, Fritz Silorio, and Bisai Ya.

Meanwhile the fashion show will feature Cambridge University students modelling the dresses created by Gonzales under her signature brand Immortality. This project is in collaboration with a Vietnam-based charity worker for the benefit of physically impaired women trained to sew quality apparel for the European market.

“This is not just the usual art exhibition, Gonzales explained. “This is a real promotion of the Philippine arts to the world.” She happily disclosed that the Cambridge University Society will sponsor the show which will also be touring other major cities in Europe such as Madrid and Vienna. She said that “this event is yet to be the closest any Filipino group of artists can get to the Queen of England.”

Gonzales was born in Sagay City, Negros Occidental where she spent her early childhood drawing and daydreaming. She later went to Cebu and married at an early age. Fate brought her to Europe where her exposure in the art world inspired her to develop her own signature style, PureStrokes a powerful and rapid abstractionism of pure and brilliant colors inspired from Edvard Munch, Wassily Kandinsky, Jackson Pollock, Marc Chagall and Mark Rothko.

She said that her patrons are amazed at her use of colours as being so complex and intricate, saying, “I am fascinated with the speed of futurism and rayonism and that is how I define my personality, the modern woman, rebellious but loyal, impatient, ambitious stubborn, fast and brilliant.”

 

 

East Meets West: GISELA DOHERTY BITZ

417698_3342844696803_1279322652_n

Life is Awesome

By Marivir R. Montebon

Some things never change. Gisela Doherty Bitz, fondly the Brooke Shields of her high school batch at the Colegio dela Inmaculada Concepcion in Cebu, Philippines was lovely, friendly and accessible. Today she still is, as a sales engineer in East Bay California, running off in flip flops with friends if the need be, just for the sake of laughter and being together.

OSM! seized that accessibility and now she shares how her life has been, little high, little low, nonetheless meaningful. “If women can learn from my words, that will be very fulfilling.”

1. When did you relocate to the US and what pushed that decision? How old were you then?

I’ve always been a very independent person. When I was a kid during summer time, I ran off in my flip flops with friends just wandering around, exploring and having such a grand ol’ time, all the time.

So, when I was 19, I decided it would be a good idea to finish my studies in the States, I was going to Cebu Doctor’s University then. My sisters were already here living on their own with their respective husbands. All by myself, I went to Manila and filed for my visa, My Dad and Grandpa were Americans, we automatically get a green card. Bravely and very much alone, I flew to California, joined my sisters and started my new life.

2. Did you study here or work here as a young adult? Tell me how this happened.

The boyfriend I left behind did everything in his power to get a Visa and came after me! He came after a few months and I decided this was devotion enough, so I married him. A month before my 20th birthday, we got married and then a few months later, had our first baby! I was in love with my new husband and more in love still with my new baby boy Adrian! But times were hard for a couple of young immigrants. We lived with my sisters for a couple of years and bought our first home together. My second son Alfie was born the next year. It was hard juggling work, school and kids! I had to work full time justl to help make ends meet and achieve our dream of owning our own house. When Alfie turned 5, we bought our very own house! It was a dream house!!! We worked hard to achieve our own American dream! We reached our goals, to be together, have a family and amazing home and a place on earth we can call our very own.

3. Based on your experience, would you ever promote marrying early, that it is beneficial to both individuals?

Getting married at our age might not be the wisest decision, but we were both so much in love and it was the only thing to do. To be together was the most important thing for us. And our children were just a great bonus! I have NO REGRETS, except for the fact that I should have known then what I know now. And I’m sure he feels the same way. The maturity level was not there at 19 and 23 years of age. I believe, in any marriage, one must reach a maturity level to be able to live harmoniously with each other. After 15 years of marriage, we had so many differences and reached a point where we had to divorce.

4. On being a young mother, how was it? As a parent, we have conscious effort at how we want our kids to grow, in your case, how did you consciously raise your boys to become?

My boys turned out just fine, they are both professionals now. My only regret about raising them was not being able to have more time with them because I was at work. I wish that I could’ve been a stay-at-home mom and be there for them 24/7.

I would like to think that we had great memories as a family. We made sure we took lots of vacation to Hawaii, Philippines, to Disney World in Florida, a Caribbean Cruise. We even bought a boat and jet skis so during the weekends, we can spend family time together and ride our boat and skis at the lake. It was a fabulous time of our lives! What went wrong? Personality conflicts between me and him. I was headstrong and so was he; we were like two rams butting heads all the time because we disagreed so much. Again, I attest that to lack of maturity.

5. Was there difficulty in raising them in a mix of Filipino and American cultures? How did you resolve that? Please cite instances.

American versus Filipino was not an issue for me because having an American grand-father and father, I was raised like an American. Although I was Filipino in so many ways, I wasn’t 100% Filipino by any standards. I’ve always loved the American culture and learned so much about it, through books and media.

6. Many years later, you became a mom again, would you say you are an expert at raising boys at this time? Has your parenting style changed or improved?

So, my life went on. I met my soulmate and partner Larry Bitz, who accepted me for the whole that I am, he said I’m perfect in my imperfections! I thought that was devotion enough so at the age of 37 years old, I married him! Funny how our priorities change as we grow older. We had a baby after a couple of years of marriage and our perfect baby boy Zachary brought so much joy. I haven’t done anything different to parent Zachary. The plus side is now I have Larry to help me with so much when it came to raising him. He is such a hands on Dad! I consider myself a great parent, and my children can tell you the same. I so love my boys with all my heart and I know that they love me back as much! I might not have been perfect but I am an awesome mom!

The only downside is, I have to be a working mom. This was taking a lot of time away from them. But I had to be a working mom to help financially and maintain a lifestyle.

7. On profession, why choose this job? Who honed you, inspired you?

I love my job as a sales engineer at Puretec Industrial Water. It is a family owned corporation making it a very personalized and intimate work setting. As a Sales Engineer, my profession requires a great deal of technical knowledge, a good understanding of water chemistry, an outgoing, gregarious personality with great communication and prospecting skills. I love interacting with people and winning that account gives me a great adrenaline rush I just want to win some more! I’m having so much fun! I plan to stay with this company for a long time. I feel blessed to have this opportunity and I’m giving it my 100%! The accounts that I take away from our competitors are the best wins since our competitors are two of the largest water companies in the US, Siemens Water and GE Water.

The sales people I compete with are seasoned sales people who have been in their profession for 40+ years. Me, being a rookie and winning those accounts against them is a great feeling, indeed!

8. Did you ever have to deal with racial discrimination at work? How did you deal with that?

Racial discrimination is a product of ignorance. I have not encountered a lot of racial discrimination but the few that I’ve seen are from people who are so much less educated and so much less traveled with not a lot of culture and breeding. I consider that just another nuisance and ignore it not losing any of my confidence as a talented and outspoken professional.

I’m very lucky that my parents are able to afford the best schools for me and my siblings. My education at Colegio de a Immaculada Conception helped me tremendously to mold me into the woman that I am now. I’m bilingual, speaking fluent Filipino and I speak English very well. That alone gave me an edge ahead of so many other immigrants. The impeccable curriculum at CIC and the colleges I attended, STC and CDU, gave me a tremendous edge not only with immigrants but also other peers who were born and raised in the US. I can say that with great confidence.

9. What makes you happy the most?

What makes me happy the most is my family, my husband, my children and the fact that I’m one of the luckiest people on earth to live in such a wonderful country with great opportunities and luxuries! One just needs to work hard for what they want to achieve. Be it a career, a wonderful home or a great lifestyle. The sky is the limit! It’s an amazing life! I have wonderful friends, great co-workers and wonderful children. I have to also mention, my witty, intelligent and beautiful step-daughters Melissa and Brianna who had helped make my life full, who are achievers and upstanding citizens as well a true testament to my husband Larry’s great parenting!

10. Any plans for career move or major project at hand?

Next stop: RETIREMENT! Aren’t we that age where we have to plan for it now?

11. Would u have changed anything that happened in your life? why?

I wish I would’ve have taken some financial classes to learn how to handle money more efficiently! I guess it’s not too late, I can still do that, life after all is full of opportunities and I’m one not to  take advantage. Things happen for a reason, I have no regrets and I wouldn’t change anything in my life. I feel fulfilled and I can only achieve for more.

//

East Meets West: GISELA DOHERTY BITZ

417698_3342844696803_1279322652_n

Life is Awesome

By Marivir R. Montebon

Some things never change. Gisela Doherty Bitz, fondly the Brooke Shields of her high school batch at the Colegio dela Inmaculada Concepcion in Cebu, Philippines was lovely, friendly and accessible. Today she still is, as a sales engineer in East Bay California, running off in flip flops with friends if the need be, just for the sake of laughter and being together.

OSM! seized that accessibility and now she shares how her life has been, little high, little low, nonetheless meaningful. “If women can learn from my words, that will be very fulfilling.”

1. When did you relocate to the US and what pushed that decision? How old were you then?

I’ve always been a very independent person. When I was a kid during summer time, I ran off in my flip flops with friends just wandering around, exploring and having such a grand ol’ time, all the time.

So, when I was 19, I decided it would be a good idea to finish my studies in the States, I was going to Cebu Doctor’s University then. My sisters were already here living on their own with their respective husbands. All by myself, I went to Manila and filed for my visa, My Dad and Grandpa were Americans, we automatically get a green card. Bravely and very much alone, I flew to California, joined my sisters and started my new life.

2. Did you study here or work here as a young adult? Tell me how this happened.

The boyfriend I left behind did everything in his power to get a Visa and came after me! He came after a few months and I decided this was devotion enough, so I married him. A month before my 20th birthday, we got married and then a few months later, had our first baby! I was in love with my new husband and more in love still with my new baby boy Adrian! But times were hard for a couple of young immigrants. We lived with my sisters for a couple of years and bought our first home together. My second son Alfie was born the next year. It was hard juggling work, school and kids! I had to work full time justl to help make ends meet and achieve our dream of owning our own house. When Alfie turned 5, we bought our very own house! It was a dream house!!! We worked hard to achieve our own American dream! We reached our goals, to be together, have a family and amazing home and a place on earth we can call our very own.

3. Based on your experience, would you ever promote marrying early, that it is beneficial to both individuals?

Getting married at our age might not be the wisest decision, but we were both so much in love and it was the only thing to do. To be together was the most important thing for us. And our children were just a great bonus! I have NO REGRETS, except for the fact that I should have known then what I know now. And I’m sure he feels the same way. The maturity level was not there at 19 and 23 years of age. I believe, in any marriage, one must reach a maturity level to be able to live harmoniously with each other. After 15 years of marriage, we had so many differences and reached a point where we had to divorce.

4. On being a young mother, how was it? As a parent, we have conscious effort at how we want our kids to grow, in your case, how did you consciously raise your boys to become?

My boys turned out just fine, they are both professionals now. My only regret about raising them was not being able to have more time with them because I was at work. I wish that I could’ve been a stay-at-home mom and be there for them 24/7.

I would like to think that we had great memories as a family. We made sure we took lots of vacation to Hawaii, Philippines, to Disney World in Florida, a Caribbean Cruise. We even bought a boat and jet skis so during the weekends, we can spend family time together and ride our boat and skis at the lake. It was a fabulous time of our lives! What went wrong? Personality conflicts between me and him. I was headstrong and so was he; we were like two rams butting heads all the time because we disagreed so much. Again, I attest that to lack of maturity.

5. Was there difficulty in raising them in a mix of Filipino and American cultures? How did you resolve that? Please cite instances.

American versus Filipino was not an issue for me because having an American grand-father and father, I was raised like an American. Although I was Filipino in so many ways, I wasn’t 100% Filipino by any standards. I’ve always loved the American culture and learned so much about it, through books and media.

6. Many years later, you became a mom again, would you say you are an expert at raising boys at this time? Has your parenting style changed or improved?

So, my life went on. I met my soulmate and partner Larry Bitz, who accepted me for the whole that I am, he said I’m perfect in my imperfections! I thought that was devotion enough so at the age of 37 years old, I married him! Funny how our priorities change as we grow older. We had a baby after a couple of years of marriage and our perfect baby boy Zachary brought so much joy. I haven’t done anything different to parent Zachary. The plus side is now I have Larry to help me with so much when it came to raising him. He is such a hands on Dad! I consider myself a great parent, and my children can tell you the same. I so love my boys with all my heart and I know that they love me back as much! I might not have been perfect but I am an awesome mom!

The only downside is, I have to be a working mom. This was taking a lot of time away from them. But I had to be a working mom to help financially and maintain a lifestyle.

7. On profession, why choose this job? Who honed you, inspired you?

I love my job as a sales engineer at Puretec Industrial Water. It is a family owned corporation making it a very personalized and intimate work setting. As a Sales Engineer, my profession requires a great deal of technical knowledge, a good understanding of water chemistry, an outgoing, gregarious personality with great communication and prospecting skills. I love interacting with people and winning that account gives me a great adrenaline rush I just want to win some more! I’m having so much fun! I plan to stay with this company for a long time. I feel blessed to have this opportunity and I’m giving it my 100%! The accounts that I take away from our competitors are the best wins since our competitors are two of the largest water companies in the US, Siemens Water and GE Water.

The sales people I compete with are seasoned sales people who have been in their profession for 40+ years. Me, being a rookie and winning those accounts against them is a great feeling, indeed!

8. Did you ever have to deal with racial discrimination at work? How did you deal with that?

Racial discrimination is a product of ignorance. I have not encountered a lot of racial discrimination but the few that I’ve seen are from people who are so much less educated and so much less traveled with not a lot of culture and breeding. I consider that just another nuisance and ignore it not losing any of my confidence as a talented and outspoken professional.

I’m very lucky that my parents are able to afford the best schools for me and my siblings. My education at Colegio de a Immaculada Conception helped me tremendously to mold me into the woman that I am now. I’m bilingual, speaking fluent Filipino and I speak English very well. That alone gave me an edge ahead of so many other immigrants. The impeccable curriculum at CIC and the colleges I attended, STC and CDU, gave me a tremendous edge not only with immigrants but also other peers who were born and raised in the US. I can say that with great confidence.

9. What makes you happy the most?

What makes me happy the most is my family, my husband, my children and the fact that I’m one of the luckiest people on earth to live in such a wonderful country with great opportunities and luxuries! One just needs to work hard for what they want to achieve. Be it a career, a wonderful home or a great lifestyle. The sky is the limit! It’s an amazing life! I have wonderful friends, great co-workers and wonderful children. I have to also mention, my witty, intelligent and beautiful step-daughters Melissa and Brianna who had helped make my life full, who are achievers and upstanding citizens as well a true testament to my husband Larry’s great parenting!

10. Any plans for career move or major project at hand?

Next stop: RETIREMENT! Aren’t we that age where we have to plan for it now?

11. Would u have changed anything that happened in your life? why?

I wish I would’ve have taken some financial classes to learn how to handle money more efficiently! I guess it’s not too late, I can still do that, life after all is full of opportunities and I’m one not to  take advantage. Things happen for a reason, I have no regrets and I wouldn’t change anything in my life. I feel fulfilled and I can only achieve for more.

//

BisayaBabe: A Neophyte Takes Her Art to Times Square

bisai-ladies club arabia

BY MARIVIR MONTEBON

She describes herself as an “Artist in Progress” and would rather be addressed as Bisayababe (read: bisaya babe). Bisaya is an ethnic group in the Visayas islands in the Philippines.

For someone who did not have any formal training or schooling in visual arts or painting, she has gone a long way to celebrate her foray into international art exhibition via the huge group art exhibition called ART TAKES TIMES SQUARE, touted as the most immense exhibition of arts in New York City for 2012.

Organized by a US-based company called Artists Wanted, the ART TAKES TIMES SQUARE competition will present artists from around the world an opportunity to display their works on a massive scale on the most iconic billboards of Times Square on June 18, 2012.

Bisai submitted nine pieces from her art oil and acrylic portfolios, for which online viewers “collected” (or voted for) her pieces and in reaching the requisite number of votes at 77.

She received a premium entry to the VIP Viewing site where her works, along with thousands of art by other global artists will be displayed on the massive LED billboard screens of Times Square.

The same competition will also see the “highest collected” artists awarded with $10,000 in cash as grand prize.

Delighted that her works are included in this massive group exhibition in Manhattan, Bisai is humbly gratified to be selected as one of the few Filipinos that perhaps managed to enter the challenging art contest. “ I know there are so many great artists vying for the top prize, just being here and getting my work exposed to a larger audience and a bigger venue is more than enough for me.”

A self-taught artist who started dabbling in arts at a young age, Bisai has always been fascinated with palettes, paints and paintbrushes. She started with caricatures and sketching then experimented with charcoal and progressed onto mediums like acrylic, oil and quite recently coffee.

In 2010, her piece, a part of the Kinamut ni Bisai series entitled “Ladies Club Arabia,” was recognized as one of the Top 5 artwork for the first Best of Asian Art (BOAA) competition in Singapore, besting over 125 other entries from all over Asia.

In one of the hotels she worked in UAE, Bisai in 2001 painted a wall mural of the hotel’s staff cafeteria as a token of her talent for being a part of the five star hotel’s opening team.

It was from that time on that Bisai Ya’s creative works were slowly exposed to media and public activities. Her works were often written about, reviewed and featured in local UAE publications.

A member of select art groups in Philippines, Bisai Ya shunned away from turning professional and instead became an art hobbyist where she is comfortable at being a Sunday painter (one who paints on weekends) being a busy home school mom to her sons Angelo and Miguel, and who are now also taking the creative inclination on themselves.

Bisai counts Vincent van Gogh, Freida Kahlo, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso as having influenced her painting style. Her vivid use of palettes and playful strokes are few indicators of the kind of art she paints.

Many of her private works are now hanged in many villas and homes in UAE and in the hands of top hoteliers who had shown interest in her brand of art.

Her passion for art has resulted to her setting up an online art gallery ‘Bisai Art Café” where emerging artists can exchange works, promote art exhibits, trade art and conduct online art auction to aid charity groups and individuals in their art related events and initiatives.

In May 2012, through her online gallery also organized the first ever Online Art Auction for the student alumnae of her high school alma mater Cebu’s Colegio dela Inmaculada Concepcion’s class 1986 to benefit the Breast Cancer Treatment care of one of the member.

Bisai Ya gathered a total of eight oil and acrylic pieces, which were auctioned off, to the highest bidder online. Bisai Ya’s piece will be joined by works of emerging Filipino women artists namely Glenda Demafeliz, Yolanda Cabuco. Joan Honoridez, Marivel Galang, Jo Balbarado, and Ella Hipolito in the ongoing auction that ends on June 5, 2012.

“I am yet to learn many things about painting and my humble knowledge is not enough and I am just as excited to paint each time. Competitions such as this give us avenues to launch our pieces and network with fellow artists. That’s all I ever wanted and anything else above that are bonuses. I thank God for making me no different than what I am now. To God be the Glory,” Bisai gratefully says.

Check her entries at: http://www.facebook.com/BisaiArtCafe.

BisayaBabe: A Neophyte Takes Her Art to Times Square

bisai-ladies club arabia

BY MARIVIR MONTEBON

She describes herself as an “Artist in Progress” and would rather be addressed as Bisayababe (read: bisaya babe). Bisaya is an ethnic group in the Visayas islands in the Philippines.

For someone who did not have any formal training or schooling in visual arts or painting, she has gone a long way to celebrate her foray into international art exhibition via the huge group art exhibition called ART TAKES TIMES SQUARE, touted as the most immense exhibition of arts in New York City for 2012.

Organized by a US-based company called Artists Wanted, the ART TAKES TIMES SQUARE competition will present artists from around the world an opportunity to display their works on a massive scale on the most iconic billboards of Times Square on June 18, 2012.

Bisai submitted nine pieces from her art oil and acrylic portfolios, for which online viewers “collected” (or voted for) her pieces and in reaching the requisite number of votes at 77.

She received a premium entry to the VIP Viewing site where her works, along with thousands of art by other global artists will be displayed on the massive LED billboard screens of Times Square.

The same competition will also see the “highest collected” artists awarded with $10,000 in cash as grand prize.

Delighted that her works are included in this massive group exhibition in Manhattan, Bisai is humbly gratified to be selected as one of the few Filipinos that perhaps managed to enter the challenging art contest. “ I know there are so many great artists vying for the top prize, just being here and getting my work exposed to a larger audience and a bigger venue is more than enough for me.”

A self-taught artist who started dabbling in arts at a young age, Bisai has always been fascinated with palettes, paints and paintbrushes. She started with caricatures and sketching then experimented with charcoal and progressed onto mediums like acrylic, oil and quite recently coffee.

In 2010, her piece, a part of the Kinamut ni Bisai series entitled “Ladies Club Arabia,” was recognized as one of the Top 5 artwork for the first Best of Asian Art (BOAA) competition in Singapore, besting over 125 other entries from all over Asia.

In one of the hotels she worked in UAE, Bisai in 2001 painted a wall mural of the hotel’s staff cafeteria as a token of her talent for being a part of the five star hotel’s opening team.

It was from that time on that Bisai Ya’s creative works were slowly exposed to media and public activities. Her works were often written about, reviewed and featured in local UAE publications.

A member of select art groups in Philippines, Bisai Ya shunned away from turning professional and instead became an art hobbyist where she is comfortable at being a Sunday painter (one who paints on weekends) being a busy home school mom to her sons Angelo and Miguel, and who are now also taking the creative inclination on themselves.

Bisai counts Vincent van Gogh, Freida Kahlo, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso as having influenced her painting style. Her vivid use of palettes and playful strokes are few indicators of the kind of art she paints.

Many of her private works are now hanged in many villas and homes in UAE and in the hands of top hoteliers who had shown interest in her brand of art.

Her passion for art has resulted to her setting up an online art gallery ‘Bisai Art Café” where emerging artists can exchange works, promote art exhibits, trade art and conduct online art auction to aid charity groups and individuals in their art related events and initiatives.

In May 2012, through her online gallery also organized the first ever Online Art Auction for the student alumnae of her high school alma mater Cebu’s Colegio dela Inmaculada Concepcion’s class 1986 to benefit the Breast Cancer Treatment care of one of the member.

Bisai Ya gathered a total of eight oil and acrylic pieces, which were auctioned off, to the highest bidder online. Bisai Ya’s piece will be joined by works of emerging Filipino women artists namely Glenda Demafeliz, Yolanda Cabuco. Joan Honoridez, Marivel Galang, Jo Balbarado, and Ella Hipolito in the ongoing auction that ends on June 5, 2012.

“I am yet to learn many things about painting and my humble knowledge is not enough and I am just as excited to paint each time. Competitions such as this give us avenues to launch our pieces and network with fellow artists. That’s all I ever wanted and anything else above that are bonuses. I thank God for making me no different than what I am now. To God be the Glory,” Bisai gratefully says.

Check her entries at: http://www.facebook.com/BisaiArtCafe.

Love Asks for Faith: THORNBIRD

Editor’s Note: The writer, SIMEON DUMDUM, is a Cebu-based columnist of the Cebu Daily News, a celebrated poet, and used to work as a Judge at the regional trial courts of the city. He is every editor’s favorite. OSM! reprints his essay with his permission.

Valentine’s Day being just days ago, I thought that, during lunch at an eatery inside a mall, we might talk about love instead of business, and for starters asked the wife if she had read Oscar Wilde’s “The Nightingale and the Rose.” Actually, I myself came across it just the day before, when rummaging in the shelves for some old magazine to read in private, and so did not expect her to have a one-up over me in this regard.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Love is better than life. (Photo by N. Athanas)

My expectations met, I began to tell her about a young Student (Wilde upper cased the “S”), who was infatuated with the Professor’s daughter. The Prince was giving a ball the next night, and the girl promised the Student that she would dance with him if he could bring her a red rose. At this point the wife picked her choice from the menu chart, by previous agreement automatically my choice, and called for the food attendant to take our order.

When the wife looked at me again, I continued. But there was no red rose in the garden, and his eyes filling up with tears, the Student, who was versed in Philosophy, was disappointed that happiness should depend on such a little thing as a red rose.

The Nightingale heard the Student and commiserated with him. The bird saw in him the true lover that she had sung about to the stars night after night. (The order came—roast chicken with sauce on the side and egg noodles. I could not wait for grace to be said.)

I kept on between mouthfuls. Understanding the secret of the Student’s sorrow, the nightingale thought of the mystery of Love. The bird flew to three Rose-trees to ask for a red rose in exchange for her sweetest song, but they turned down its offer, because one bore only white roses and the other only yellow roses, and a third lamented that the winter and frost and storm had robbed it of its year’s quota of red roses.

But the third tree (henceforth the Tree) let on a secret to the Nightingale: “If you want a red rose, you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with your own heart’s blood. You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn. All night long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow into my veins, and become mine.”

Here the wife, herself a writer of Chekhovian fiction, interjected and declared that she knew exactly how the story would end, and that the Nightingale would do what the Tree prescribed. She was right, except that there was a twist in the closing stages. In due course, the bird transfixed itself on a thorn, because “Love is better than Life.” But before that, it cried out to the Student to be happy because he would have his red rose, but asked something in recompense, “All that I ask of you in return is that you will be a true lover, for Love is wiser than Philosophy, though she is wise, and mightier than Power, though he is mighty.” But the Student did not understand the Nightingale, “for he only knew the things that are written down in books.”

Ominous, said the wife, referring to “for he only knew the things that are written down in books.” Those who would rather lose everything except their reason are his like. And their common fate is disappointment.

After the Nightingale’s supreme sacrifice had yielded a red rose, and this without delay the Student brought to the object of his fascination, the girl refused to accept the flower, saying, “I am afraid it will not go with my dress and, besides, the Chamberlain’s nephew has sent me some real jewels, and everybody knows that jewels cost far more than flowers.”

Who knows what goes on in the mind of a woman, if the girl was not just testing the Student, offering him an experimental thorn, so to speak. But instead of letting this pierce his heart and him singing about love all the while, he threw the red rose away and snapped at the girl, calling her ungrateful and rude, and then returned to his customary pursuits, his books, his Philosophy and Metaphysics, muttering, “What a silly thing Love is. It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything…”

And the wife, to whom I am deferential, she being the wiser and truer lover, commented, “The Student failed to do that which the Nightingale asked of him—to be a true lover. How could a rational and scientific man such as he accomplish this, since love asks for faith and not for reasons?”

The author and the wife, strolling in Europe.

The author and the wife, strolling in Europe.

Fashion Lifestyle: Petite in Singapore

You met Petite when OSM! featured her in the world-famous Boracay beach. The highly energetic, passionate, and fashionable lady in the corporate world of insurance makes practical, alluring fashion as part of her lifestyle.

This week she takes us to Singapore. The fashionista is a tourist. Or call her tourist fashionista. Whichever. She is.

Her words:

I was at Harbourfront Tower, following some directional signs leading to the Singapore Cable Car station. You can see above me cable cars on their way to Sentosa. It’s not the cheapest way but it is the best way to go to Sentosa which gives an aerial view of the island, including the entire Resorts World Sentosa, Universal Studios, and the Singapore City Skyline and Harbour.

Cool in pink

Cool in pink

At the Old Parliament House, now known as the The Arts House in Singapore is where most of the artists display their work. The art house enables the people in Singapore from all levels of society to enjoy local art. Singapore has made art accessible to all.

Enjoying art in a blue

Enjoying art in a blue

I love this place. My favorite. For me, this is the best Botanical Garden. It takes probably around two and half hours to walk around it. You will see a large variety of flowers and plants here and you will really enjoy if you like nature. If I head back to Singapore for another holiday, I will be here first.

At the Botanical Garden

At the Botanical Garden

The special gazebo is an iconic sight of the Singapore Botanic Garden. Its nickname is “The Bandstand,” sitting there since the early 1930s. I really took a few minutes to enjoy the tranquil surroundings.

Shopping in the night

Shopping in the night

Lady in red strolls

Lady in red strolls

The ground in Singapore is perfect for an evening stroll. There are so many shopping malls. According to some locals,  Singapore is synonymous with shopping. It is an ironically expensive place, where, no matter the time of day, rain or shine, you will find Singaporeans enthusiastically walking downtown with bags, bags, and more bags!

OSM! Vlog: Tiziana Rinaldi

Hello, readers! Here is a welcome SURPISE…the OSM! Video Blog. This is co-produced by Tim Sheard of the Hard Ball Press and the National Writers Union – New York. Our debut guest is Italian-American journalist Tiziana Rinaldi who has just created a TV show titled Life in the New World at Bronx TV.  Check it out, and enjoy! You can also visit www.nwu.org, www.hardballpress.com, lifeinanewworld.com

Tiziana Rinaldi, host and creator of Life in the New World, a TV talk show on at the Bronx TV.

Tiziana Rinaldi, host and creator of Life in the New World, a TV talk show on at the Bronx TV.

MTT

OSM! V-Log host and publisher Marivir Montebon with V-Log director Tim Sheard and guest Tiziana

Valentine’s Day 2014

By Sylvia Hubilla

Round Rock, Texas

         

          Flowers and chocolates, sweet nothings whispered, or scribbled on fragrant cards caress fluttering hearts.  Valentine’s Day conjure up warm feelings of love.  A magical spell all but whips up the heat globally on this day of hearts.

osm!rose

          And then, technology happens.  The world deliriously welcomed it, basked in its joy of virtual interconnectivity, irregardless of physical distance.  This one too, heated up the globe as social media and its devices entrenched itself into life, as we know it.  E cards displace the red envelope in the mailbox.  We no longer have to waste time to spell out the four letter word LOVE.  We can just hit the emoticon and a heart is sent as fast as you click “send.” No time wasted to give hugs, or blow kisses, just choose the emoticon, and click “send.”

          Unknowingly it seems, as we reveled in the frenzy of the newness of  this  technology, something cold and insidious was creeping into our day to day life, until before we knew it, it was engulfing us like the crippling cold of an arctic blast.  We are not unlike Princess Anna, Frozen.  We have become virtual prisoners in this polar vortex we call technology.  We are, as it were, afflicted with…..

                                                         

                                                           Digital Disconnect

 

          across each other in a coffee shop, sitting,

          heads bowed, eyes transfixed

          fingers on devices, tapping.

 

          steam from the cappuccino rising

          the creamy foam so inviting.

 

          talk at each other,

          or not talk at all,

          lol and omg

          it doesn’t matter after all.

 

          The steam has turned into mist.

          The foam has gone flat to the taste.

 

         

          relationships so quickly built, <3

          and just as quickly broken :-(

          in the tweet of a second

          in acronym and emoticon.

 

          Words unsaid, hands unheld. feelings on hold,

                                                The coffee has gone cold.

With digital divide, the coffee has gone cold.

With digital divide, the coffee has gone cold.

 

 

 

                                                                                       

Fili-festivals: Filipinos Know How to Celebrate

A Photo Journey by Arlene Donaire

 The Filipinos surely know how to celebrate no matter what the adversities are! Throughout history, Pinoys have demonstrated a unique sense of unity through their shared optimism and love for life, an admirable trait that is depicted in all the festivals and fiestas that are celebrated across the country year-round. The diversity that divides the Philippines into its many geo-political, ethnic, and religious communities is the same thread that unites the Filipinos in their shared yearning to celebrate. There is always a reason or basis to celebrate.

Sinulog in Cebu, the biggest of festivals in the Philippines.

Sinulog in Cebu, the biggest of festivals in the Philippines.

Philippine festivals and fiestas, as numerous as they are, offer a unique source of pride and joy, for the folks in each locality where they are held. They are a welcome respite from the humdrum of daily life but more importantly a collective mark of a nation whose communal psyche is boosted by its strong faith, resilience, and aspiration to rise from the adversities that beset the country year in, year out. The festivities can range from simple to grandiose, solemn to frenzied, and sometimes even elevated to an official holiday category, depending on whether it coincides with a government proclamation like the “chartering” or creation of a city or honoring a person who figured significantly in the country’s history.  Festivals are made more attractive in that they naturally set off a chain of benefits for the locales where they occur as they trigger the local economies into action, even months ahead of the actual event, spurring commercial investments, engendering government support for public infrastructure, and enhancing tourism. 

Aliwan in Manila

Aliwan in Manila

For the year 2014, as in past years, the Filipinos continue to enliven the country with a celebration of long-held traditional festivals that are religious and ethno-cultural in nature and those that have been promoted in recent years in keeping with the country’s tourism and economic programs. For the many Filipinos who live and work abroad and foreign tourists that plan to visit the country this year, here is just a sampling of the more popular festivals with their tentative dates and venues. There usually is a dedicated website for these events, so make sure to check online for final details.

It’s more fun in the Philippines; celebrate at least one Fili-festival this year!

January        

·         Feast of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo, Manila; 9th)

·         Sinulog Festival (Cebu City; 13th to 19th)

·         Ati-Atihan Festival (Kalibo, Aklan; 19th to 26th)

·         Dinagyang Festival (Iloilo, 26th)

February

·         Philippine Hot Air Balloon Festival (Clark; 13th to 16th)

·         Panagbenga Festival (Baguio City; 26th)

Maskara Festival in Bacolod City

Maskara Festival in Bacolod City

March

Paraw Regatta (Iloilo; 2nd)

Sandugo Festival (Tagbilaran, Bohol; 15th)

April

Moriones Festival (Marinduque; 14th)

May

Pahiyas Festival (Lucban; 15th)

June

Mudpack Festival (Murcia, Negro Occ; 14th)

Parada ng Lechon (Balayan, Batangas; 29th)

Pintado/Kasadyaan Festival (Tacloban City; 29th)

July

Bocaue River Festival (Bocaue, Bulacan; 1st Sunday)

August

Kadayawan Festival (Davao City; 23rd to 24th)

September

Penafrancia Viva La Virgen (Naga City; 20th)

October

Talulot Festival (St Therese of Cjild Jesus Parish, Pasay City; Oct 6th)

Lanzones Festival (Camiguin; 18th)

Masskara Festival (Bacolod City; 18th to 19th)

November

Higantes Festival (Angono, Rizal; 23rd)

Grand Cordillera Festival (Baguio City; 23rd)

December

Immaculate Conception (Intramuros, Manila; 8th)

Giant Lantern Festival (San Fernando, Pampanga; 20th)

Panagbenga in Baguio

Panagbenga in Baguio

(Originally published in FilJap Magazine January 2014. Visit Arlene’s Facebook page Foto Zubuano for more of her photos.)