Sunday, May 30, 2010


We caught a glimpse of the world-famous Assateague wild ponies on a visit this Memorial Day weekend at the Assateague Island National Seashore.

The wreck of a Spanish galleon found recently off the coast appears to buttress the theory the horses landed after the vessel carrying them (possibly to Florida) sank.

They freely roam the beaches, pine forest and salt marsh of the 37-mile Assateague Island since the 1600s (they are said to be excellent swimmers).

There are over 300 wild ponies in the state park that straddles Maryland and Virginia (they are divided by a fence and each state has about 160 heads.

The ponies have become well-adapted to the solitude of the barrier island, feeding on marsh and sand dune grasses, rosehips, bayberry twigs and persimmons.

The National Park Service ensures the wild horse population is maintained at a level the seashore habitat can sustain. Some female horses are regularly shot with dart guns laden with contraceptive vaccines.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Faces and flavors of Asia in day-long street festival

Washington DC played host to Fiesta Asia, as it does every year to mark Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Police blocked off a portion of Pennsylvania Ave. between 3rd and 6th Streets NW near Capitol Hill for the Fiesta Asia Festival.

Close to 20 million US residents declared themselves Asian or part Asian in combination with one or more races in 2008, according to the Census Bureau.

Chinese Americans comprise the largest Asian American group, followed by Filipinos. Other major groups include Asian Indians, Vietnamese, Koreans and Japanese, respectively.

Over 3.6 million -- equivalent to 47% -- of Asian Americans voted in the 2008 elections.

Asian Americans -- mainly ethnic Chinese and Indian Americans -- owned 1.1 million business establishments/companies in 2002. Together they generated over $326 billion in revenues. Until the current recession, the number of Asian American businesses was increasing at about twice the US national average.

It is estimated the total number of Asian Americans in the will grow to about 41 million by 2050 -- representing close to 10 percent of total US population.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Ron Valdueza, ABS-CBN’s chief finance officer, shared a bit of good news about our “alma mater” last night.

Maloli Espinosa Supnet, a former colleague at ABS-CBN, prepared another sumptuous dinner – nilagang baka (complete with floating taba ng baka), inasal na talong and binagoongan ribs – at her home in Bethesda, Maryland.

Ron was visiting after attending a daughter’s college recognition in New Jersey (she was graduated with honors at a nursing college there).

Another former member of ABS-CBN’s Regional Network Group, Davao news anchor Jeffrey Manangan brought his family. He now works as a special education teacher in Washington DC. But we missed Aladin Bacolodan, another RNG original, who’s settled in Baltimore.

ABS-CBN, Ron declared, is back. Ratings are up and so are revenues. The company posted a nearly 470 percent jump in net income in the first three months of the year – buoyed by heavy spending on political ads for the May 10 elections.

Total political ad revenue was expected to exceed P1.5 billion (about $33 million).

Total revenues for 2010 is being projected to hit nearly P16 billion (about $350 million).

But it was especially heartening to hear Ron’s report that ABS-CBN Global, which runs The Filipino Channel (TFC) in San Francisco was now a major contributor to the parent company’s bottom line.

He said ABS-CBN Global, particularly its North American and Middle East operations, was now contributing about $1.5 million a month to the head office in Quezon City.

The rosy finances, he said, can be attributed to a balanced mix of higher revenues (higher rates and more air time sold) and reining in costs. He added this will enable ABS-CBN to repel any new challenges from competitors, especially the Manny Pangilinan-led TV-5.

We grew up with that ABS-CBN jingle proclaiming it as the “Philippine’s largest network” (the tune still sticks in our head like chewing gum on our shoes).

The recent Halalan election only seemed to reinforce that image of ABS-CBN, especially when you compared it to images of GMA-7’s “war room”. The corporate image ABS-CBN was trying to convey was unmistakable -- they’re big and formidable. Not exactly the picture that Ron was trying to convey, which was that of a “lean and mean” organization.

So which is it going to be – the elephant or the lion?

The biggest challenge, he added, was how to sustain the edge they now enjoyed.

This will redound to ABS-CBN’s thousands of employees and talents. Ron indicated they might even be able to afford a generous “var-pay” that could stretch all the way to Christmas. We can almost hear them asking, “ilang bagsak?”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Filipino-American rowers won all their races on the way to a two-gold finish at the 9th Dragon Boat Festival over the weekend.

The Filipino Young Professionals of Washington DC (FYP-DC) fielded two teams in this year’s staging of the Dragon Boat races on the Potomac River.

The Lapu Lapu Warriors won gold medals in the 250-meter and 500-meter Open Group A events.

They also took the Community Cup in the Open Group category. It was their best finish since they first joined the Dragon Boat Festival three years ago.

The Rizal Revolutionaries made their debut in last weekend’s races. They placed 2nd place in the 250-meter and 500-meter mixed group exhibition events.

George Faustino, FYP-DC president, said their motto is "always go for the gold" and expressed confidence their two teams will pose a double threat on the next Dragon Boat races next year.


The Obama administration has an opportunity to move relations with the Philippines up a notch by starting off strong with the new administration in Manila.

Over lunch at the plush offices of The Heritage Foundation in the shadows of Capitol Hill, we discussed the recent elections in the Philippines with Walter Lohman and Nick Zahn.

Lohman is director of The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center and counted as an expert on Asia.

A premier conservative think-tank, The Heritage Foundation promotes policies anchored on free enterprise, individual freedom, strong national defense and traditional American values to Congress, the White House and key decision-makers.

Lohman said who President Obama sends to represent the United States at the new Philippine President’s inauguration next month will give clear indication of where he wants to take RP-US relations.

Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino is the presumed winner of the May 10 presidential race; though still to be proclaimed, he nevertheless carries a seemingly unassailable lead over his nearest rival.

The names of State Secretary Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden were mentioned as “ideal” representatives of Pres. Obama.

Sending high-level officials to Philippine inaugurations is nothing new.

Vice President Spiro Agnew led the US delegation at the inauguration of President Ferdinand Marcos in 1969 (but that's a distinction that Mr. Aquino may not especially relish).

US Agency for International Development (USAID) director Elaine Chao led the American delegation to the inauguration of President Fidel Ramos in 1992.

President Bush dispatched Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi to lead the US delegation at President Arroyo’s inauguration in 2004.

In contrast, Lohman noted that President Obama sent US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson to the inauguration of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last October.

This despite the fact President Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, which also happens to be the 4th largest and most populous Muslim nation in the world.

But Lohman said the US and Philippines have a “special relationship” that demand a special approach, and perhaps even more with President-apparent Aquino.

“Americans love Cory,” he told us. Many in the US remember former President Corazon Aquino as the woman who restored freedom and democracy in the Philippines, inspiring other People Power movements around the world.

President Obama, he added, should extend an invitation for him to visit Washington DC as early as possible.

He believes there is plenty of residual goodwill from the American public for Mrs. Aquino’s only son and political heir.

He believes there are new opportunities in RP-US relations that should be explored and pursued, hinting at the need for the two leaders – who both campaigned on a message of change and share the same generation – to establish a personal relationship.

But he added they are also watching at how hard Mr. Aquino will go after outgoing Pres. Arroyo and how the tight contest for the vice presidency is resolved. They are also interested in seeing how the new president will consolidate his influence on both chambers of the Philippine Congress.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Many see the “green card” as the ticket to life in the United States.

But it hasn’t been green for a long time (it’s white, and for a time it was also colored pink) until now that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will begin issuing a truly green “Green Card”.

The Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) is redesigning the Permanent Resident Card – the innocuous green card – to incorporate new security features aimed at preventing fraud.

“State of the art technology incorporated into the new card prevents counterfeiting, obstructs tampering and facilitates quick and accurate authentication,” the USCIS statement said.

The size of a credit card, the “green card” identifies a legal permanent resident (LPR) of the United States.

It used to be colored green until 1978 when a new version was unveiled that was actually mostly colored white.

USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas said it “makes a critical contribution to the integrity of the immigration system.”

Among the new features are the use of holographic images, laser engraved fingerprints and high resolution micro-images that officials boast will make the card “nearly impossible to reproduce.”

They will also have Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology that will allow immigration agents to read the card even from a distance, giving them more time to compare the embedded data with their files.

The USCIS said they want to make the card’s nickname more appropriate so they decided to color it green for easy recognition (in contrast, for instance, with immigrant cards issued by the European Union that are colored blue).

Close to 600,000 Filipinos were holding “green cards” at the start of 2008, according to the Office of Immigration Statistics (OIC), making them the second biggest LPR group in the US, next only to Mexican immigrants.

About 1.7 million Filipino “green card” holders eventually won citizenship as of 2008, according to data gathered by the Washington-based Migrant Policy Institute (MPI).

Saturday, May 15, 2010


The Filipino Young Professionals of Washington DC (FYP-DC) fielded two teams at the Dragon Boat Festival this year.

The Lapu Lapu Warriors won the gold in the 250-meter “A Minor” and silver medal in the 500-meter “A Major” events in last year’s races. This was a marked improvement from their silver and bronze finishes at the 2008 Dragon Boat Festival.

The Rizal Revolutionaries made their debut in this weekend’s races. This is only the third year the FYP-DC is joining the regatta that traces its roots to China.

They formed the second Fil-Am team to accommodate other members who wanted to compete in the Potomac River races, explained FYP-DC president George Faustino.

The Dragon Boat Festival is timed with the yearly observance of Asian American Heritage Month in Washington DC.

Faustino said the river race helps build camaraderie among Fil-Ams in the Metro DC region. “This is good exposure for us,” he declared.

The FYP-DC is one of the most active Fil-Am organizations in the region. It mounted one of the largest calamity relief campaigns in northern Virginia following the massive floods that devastated the Philippines last year.

They hold regular “happy hour”, charity shows, career workshops and other events designed to help aid Fil-Ams and also strengthen links with other Asian American communities.

The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the life and death of Chu Yuan (340-278 BC) who according to folklore became so despondent over the inept administration of his native state that he drowned himself in a river. The people tried to rescue him but failed so every year, on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month, there is a re-enactment of the frantic race to save Chu Yuan.

The Dragon Boat race was not introduced to the world until the 1970s. Today, some 50 million join the competitions across the globe. Its success has been attributed to the low cost, ease of getting started in the sport and power to bond people together.

Many Dragon Boat teams are sponsored by corporations as a way to build teamwork among their workers.

The Washington DC Dragon Boat Festival also has a number of breast cancer survivors participating in the races as a way to help raise awareness.