Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Last year, my daughter Ynez gifted her mom the keys to a condo unit near the outskirts of Metro Manila that she’s been paying off for the past 5 years.

My wife went home last September to fix up our new home and witness the birth of our 2nd grandson. They became compelling reasons for me to take my first vacation back home in 6 years, and our first Christmas together as a family in nearly a decade.

It would be a special homecoming for sure. My father, who turned 84 on Christmas Day, is hearty for his age despite the stroke he suffered about a decade ago. His memory is beginning to fade.

The last time I held my elder grandson Prince, he was barely a year old. He would sometimes call me at work in Alexandria just to say goodnight and we would greet each other on Skype on weekends. I promised him a tight, humongous hug when we finally meet again.

We arrived in time to attend the baptism of Prince’s younger brother Rafael Paulo whom he nicknamed Race. My parents and siblings didn’t know we’d be there – a surprise hatched by Ynez.

Our vacation, abbreviated though it may be, was a voyage of rediscovery.

I resumed my affair with sweet Philippine coffee, taking it with cream when I usually took it black and bland back in Virginia.

Struggling to shake off the jet lag, I was up at the crack of dawn, awakened by the crowing of fighting cocks and hymns from a still uncompleted church just outside the condo's walls.

When it wasn’t raining, I would watch the sun rise from the outline of the Sierra Madre mountain range and despite the smog, the view was breath-taking. There was no mistaking – I was home.

We celebrated my sister Bingle’s 45th birthday on Dec. 21 with lunch at a restaurant that I picked only because it carried “kare-kare” and “crispy pata” and “ginataang kuhol” in its menu; I had a chance to catch up with my brother Bing who remarried earlier this year. We visited my younger brother Bimbot’s grave at Loyola Marikina, offering candles and flowers and a stick of Marlboro I’d been saving for him.

We visited our “lola madre” – Sor Asuncion Jamerlan – my mother’s aunt who at over 90 years old retained her sharp wit and unshakeable faith. She lives at the Daughters of Charity retirement home in Paranaque. She asked if I prayed the Rosary, to which I could only respond with a sheepish smile.

When it was time to say our farewells, she seemed hesitant to let me go. She waved my parents off but motioned for me to hug her, again and again. Although I saw her only intermittently even before we moved to the US, I sensed that she was always well-versed about goings-on in my life.

There was no sadness in her eyes. Trust in God, she told me finally and as I kissed her a last time, she smiled and assured that she was praying for me. I was sure she knew.

As I watched TV news reports of the tragedy in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities, I couldn’t help marveling at the resilience of people who survived a truly harrowing ordeal.

Many suffered indescribable loss, spending Christmas Day burying loved ones. But the images that stuck in my mind were of survivors picking up pieces of debris wood and corrugated steel or plastic sheets to build makeshift shelters. They were trying to rush them so their family – whatever’s left of them – can have a place to gather and spend Christmas together.

To me that was reaffirmation that the best gift we can ever receive is the gift of home and family; that both in good times and through life’s frequent trials, they are a source of strength and the well that drives us forward.

This was the richest Christmas I’ve ever had.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


A chemical engineer who helped write literature on the use of umbilical cord blood to harvest stem cells, a multi-awarded poet, and the only newspaperman to become a police general are among this year’s outstanding “Thomasians” recognized by the University of Santo Tomas Alumni Association in America (USTAAA).

The achievement awards were handed out Dec. 3 at the association’s 1st Anniversary and Quadricentennial Celebration Year-End Ball in Arlington, Virginia.

The UST, founded in 1611, is one of the oldest universities and predates Harvard, America’s oldest university by about 25 years. It is also one of the largest Catholic schools in terms of enrolment in a single campus.

Philippine national hero Jose Rizal is perhaps its most famous alumni, but they also include 4 Philippine presidents – Manuel L. Quezon, Sergio Osmena, Jose P. Laurel and Diosdado Macapagal – and 6 Chief Justices of the Philippine Supreme Court.

This year’s crop of achievers include retired police general Crescencio “Cris” Maralit (AB Journalism ’68), who has the distinction of being the 1st and only newspaperman to reach star-rank. He co-authored the book “Constabulary Story” and received 47 medals and awards, including 3 Bronze Cross Medals, 3 Distinguished Service Medals and 6 Military Merit Medals, among others.

Maralit also finished courses at the Command & General Staff College in the Philippines, psychological operations at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and senior crisis management in California, among others.

Now a Baltimore resident, he helped organize a benefit golf tournament last year to benefit victims of the Maguindanao Massacre and other murdered journalists.

Educator Vickie Salera Lopez (BS Electronics and Communications Engineering ’77) travelled over 25,000 miles to help beleaguered Filipino teachers in Maryland find new jobs in schools as far away as Arizona and New Mexico.

She is a certified Math teacher in Maryland and a member of the Maryland Educators for the Gifted and Talented. In the Philippines, Lopez designed the “Bayani sa Loob ng Tahanan” which combines adult and 1st grade education, helping parents to teach their children reading, writing and arithmetic.

She spent almost 2 decades setting up new departments, Total Quality programs and managing lay-offs for semiconductor and telecommunication companies in the Philippines. Lopez also taught at the UST College of Engineering and College of Architecture, and part-time in San Beda College Alabang.

Amy Pascual-Quinto (Fine Arts ’74) designed the UST commemorative tags for Maryland vehicles, the 1st time this privilege was bestowed to a Philippine university. She is a member of the Rockville Art League.
She had lived in Spain, France and Germany where she helped establish Tipanan, a weekend home for distressed Filipino domestic workers in Madrid that spared them the ordeal of having to sleep in the streets.

Dr. Wilhelmina Gardose Camina has previously been named one of the Twenty Outstanding Filipinos Abroad (2007) and received the Women of Achievement Award from the United Cultural Convention in 2010, among others.

Luz Bagtas Ricafort (BS Chemical Engineering ’63) is a multi-awarded medical technologist in the US and co-authored papers on the use of umbilical cord blood as a source of stem cells in patients afflicted with diabetes, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson;s and other neurological disorders. She was one of the first members of the International Society of Cord Blood Transplantation.

Ike Santos (AB English, Pre-Law ’63) is one of the most active civic leaders in the Metro Baltimore area (he is president and chairman of the Taytay Association of America, Inc.). He had founded or managed various non-profits that help raise funds for community and livelihood projects in the Philippines. He is currently involved with First Act Inc. that aims to harness and develop Filipino American artists through workshops and staging shows for the visual and performing arts.

Susana Bonifacio Felizardo (Literature and BS Education) is a multi-awarded poet and 2-time winner of the Una Chapman Cox Award (in 1990 and 2010), the highest award given for a Language and Culture Instructor.

She is a certified Tagalog tester and language examiner at the State Department’s National Foreign Affairs Training Center – the premier training ground for foreign service officers being posted overseas. Felizardo is also a Tagalog translator at the State Department’s Office of Language Service and interpreter/transcriber with DC, Maryland and Virginia courts.

Dr. Catherine Panlilio Arzadon (BS Medical Technology ’89 and Medicine ’93) started her practice as a pediatrician in her home town of San Fernando, Pampanga. Even while studying at UST, Arzadon was already an active volunteer and launched in 1999 Project MuntingNgiti that was transformed into a foundation 5 years later. She is assistant chief medical officer of Medical Mission of Mercy USA, a non-profit that provides free medical, dental and optometric services to indigents in the Philippines.

Belan Woo-Siy (College of Architecture & Fine Arts ’74) has successfully mounted several exhibits in Texas since 1988. She has won awards in art competitions for her paintings but has also worked with ceramics. She also contributed a short story to the book Transforming Non-Fiction to Fiction.

Greg Abella is this year’s USTAAA president. A retired US Navy Chief Petty Officer, he spent over 22 years in the uniform and is now Director of the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration School, facilitator of Total Quality Leadership and Management, and a Master Training Specialist.

Fernando Mendez (Fine Arts ’74) is an advertising man. He was art editor of The Varsitarian, the official publication of UST, and has won various awards for poster design, illustration, painting and photography; aside from 30 other excellence awards in advertising, logo design and art direction. He worked for some of the biggest ad agencies in Manila, including as Art Director handling multinational accounts like Scott Tissues, San Miguel and Marlboro.

He immigrated to the US in 1982, continued to work for different companies and established a decade later Special Edition Press Inc. in New York City. In 1997 he launched Philippine Fiesta USA Inc. that holds one of the biggest Filipino cultural festival and trade exhibit in the East Coast.

Claudio Pedery (Liberal Arts) is a logistics engineer, system analyst and decorated US Navy officer. He serves as or has worked as human relations commissioner in Prince George’s County, Maryland; President of Grace Dagdag Foundation; member of the Philippine Centennial Commission coordinating committee in Washington DC; President of the National Asian Pacific American Heritage Council; Department Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars District of Columbia and Commander of VFW Post 5471, among many others.

Manny Tan (BS Commerce ’66) was cited for his role in the Growling Tigers, the UST basketball team, that made it to the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) championship in 1963, and under coach Caloy Loyzaga, a back to back reprise in 1964 and 1965. He migrated to the US and 1982 and set up the Balikbayan Travel & Tours Inc.

Parents recognition awards were given to Rechilda Lumauig-Uy (Education ’64) whose husband, a doctor, and two children are all Thomasians, and Elisa Quintana, who ran a canteen near the Administration building and sent all 6 of his children to UST.

Special awards were also given to Eric David (Fine Arts ’74), CEO of Art Enrico Graphix; Bombie Reyes, an engineer with VR Group; and Manila Mail editor and ABS-CBN Washington DC correspondent Rodney Jaleco.

Monday, November 28, 2011


(This article appears in the Nov. 30, 2011 edition of Manila Mail, the longest running Fil-Am newspaper in the Metro DC region)

A full-blown melee has erupted between what is reputedly the biggest Filipino-American basketball league and members of a local hoops association that is hosting the championship in Washington DC next year.

The North American Basketball Association (NABA) has threatened to expel anyone playing for “Team Philippines” – a newly-formed group that aims to recruit young but talented Fil-Ams for international tournaments playing under the Philippine flag.

Russell Casapao, president of the DC-based Filipino Youth Basketball Association (FYBA), pitched for the establishment of “Team Philippines” reportedly without the knowledge of his board. But after the controversy broke-out, the FYBA members have come out to assail the threatened expulsions.

“The unity and harmonious relationship enjoyed by NABA members for the past 24 years has been challenged by the introduction of a new group, they call themselves Team Philippines,” Detroit-based NABA Commissioner Dr. Ron Damasco wrote in a letter to members posted in its website last month.

“The idea caused some confusion to some basketball players of NABA that started joining (Team Philippines). Their actions jeopardize the preparations of Washington DC franchise as host for the 2012 NABA tournament.

“I don’t have any other alternative but to enforce a directive to all NABA members that any city, team, player and coach that will join Team Philippines and any league other than NABA will be dealt accordingly with possible suspension or most likely expulsion,” Damasco warned.

In a letter by “The FYBA Organization” they announced that they will ask Dr. Damasco to reconsider his directive. “We are doing this to protect our players, coaches and more importantly the parents, to clear any misconception and confusion brought about by the establishment of Team Philippines and its impact to FYBA’s hosting of the 2012 NABA Inter-City tournament.”

The nucleus of “Team Philippines” reportedly come from the Metro DC region but also come from as far away as Florida.

The NABA has been holding yearly tournaments since 1986. The championships are held during the Labor Day weekend in either the US or Canada. With close to 2 dozen member cities from North America with 115 teams and over 1,700 athletes, the NABA tournament is perhaps the biggest Fil-Am sports event.

The FYBA is celebrating its 5th year (and NABA’s 25th anniversary) by hosting the Labor Day championship in Washington DC next year. That could be in jeopardy because many of the sponsors for next year’s tournament are parents of Fil-Am children in “Team Philippines”.

In a follow-up letter Nov. 18, Dr. Damasco said that “A member joining Team Philippines is not only committing conflict of interest but he is also at risk of developing a feeling of dejection, sadness and misery that could lead to his losing interest in basketball if in the end he is selected as member of Team Philippines.”

In a petition by about 40 parents of kids who’ve joined Team Philippines, they countered that “We believe that no child should be denied a chance to join any basketball organization and participate in their respective tournaments.”

“Parent should be able to freely exercise their right to choose whatever sports organization they believe will offer the best sports experience for their child. Whether it is Team Philippines, AAU or any school-sponsored sports program, the right to participate should be open to all who are qualified,” they stressed.

“Denying a child to play in an organization designed to promote pride in their heritage and to establish camaraderie among their fellow Filipino-American and Filipino-Canadian players across the nation and internationally is simply wrong and we will do everything within our power to correct this injustice,” the parents declared.

The Manila Mail learned that some are already contemplating a discrimination suit against NABA, threatening to blow the controversy even wider.

Meanwhile, they are also incensed that some ranking FYBA officers have refused or are unwilling to take the cudgels for their children. They are especially critical of Casapao whom Manila Mail sources say face his own “expulsion” by being pressured out of his presidency.

The group supporting Team Philippines has already met with NABA’s executive adviser Larry Albano in New York to apologize for the confusion arising from the group’s sudden appearance. “It is our hope that we can find and agree on a resolution that is fair to the players and their family who are currently supporting both organizations,” they reported.

But this attempt to mend fences apparently fell on deaf ears after Dr. Damasco issued his expulsion threat. “NABA is a self-governing, self-reliant and self-supporting association whose primary concern is the well being of every member,” he stressed.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Thousands of Filipino World War II veterans are hanging by a piece of paper that could spell the difference whether they receive compensation for a 6-decade-old injustice.

Eric Lachica, executive director of the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans (ACFV), said the problem of more than 4,000 veterans whose applications for the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) fund were rejected is no longer within the purview of the Department of Veterans Administration (VA) to resolve.

In a chance meeting with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta during a Veterans Day breakfast event at the White House, Lachica said they sought his help to help arrange a meeting with Secretary of the Army John McHugh.

He said Panetta was aware of the Filipino veterans “especially the Philippine Scouts, there’s so many of them in California” but did not know about the plight of those left out of FVEC benefits.

ACFV executive director Eric Lachica with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at the recent Veterans Day breakfast at the White House. Photo courtesy of Eric Lachica.

“He said he’ll look into it,” Lachica told the Manila Mail.

In a letter addressed to President Obama, ACFV president Patrick Ganio Sr. pointed out “All are in their 80s and 90s and are in frail health. Many are United States citizens. Most reside in the Philippines and are cared for by family members. Sadly, many have died and their surviving spouses have tirelessly pursued their claims under the FVEC law.”

Lachica said he handed the letter to the President’s military aide.

McHugh has control over the US Army personnel records, including those presumably destroyed by a fire at their main repository in St. Louis, Missouri in 1973. The National Personnel Record Center (NPRC) contains service information for US military personnel who served after World War I.

The fire destroyed about 80 percent of the records for US Army personnel discharged between 1912 and 1960. According to its website, they have not yet determined “exactly what was lost in the fire because there were no indices to the blocks of records involved”.

An estimated quarter of a million Filipino soldiers and guerillas who served and fought under the US Armed Forces during World War II were disenfranchised by an act of Congress in 1946. They have been fighting for recognition ever since.

“We are pursuing the appeals,” Lachica said, “the Secretary of Veterans Affairs has told us the problem lies in the recognition of these veterans and that will depend on the US Army confirming that they actually served.

As of Oct. 1, the VA said 42,713 applications were processed. Of these 9,334 were approved for Filipino veterans in the Philippines and 9,165 for Filipino veterans in the US. A total of 24,214 applications were rejected.

Philippine-based veterans were entitled to a single lump sum payment of $9,000 while those in the US stood to receive $15,000. The VA reported that $221 million from the FVEC has been paid out already.

Some 4,389 of those rejected have filed notices of disagreement (NODs) but of this number, only 193 cases have been reopened. After lodging a NOD, a claimant will be provided a hearing either through video conference or face-to-face meeting.

Lachica revealed that retired Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, head of the Philippine veterans office at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, has been pressing the NPRC for whatever records they could find to help the veterans.

He cited the case of Virginia-based Celestino Almeda, 94, who had original copies of his discharge papers and payroll records from the US Commonwealth Philippine Army but was still turned down because his name did not appear in the so-called Missouri List.

Almeda used those same documents to acquire US citizenship in the 1990s.

Lachica there is still about $44 million in the FVEC fund that could be used to pay the veterans. “That’s why we have to make sure the appeal process is resolved for most of our veterans who believe they are legitimate US veterans,” Lachica declared.

“We want to meet with the Secretary of the Army or his staff to ask them to review individually, case-by-case the paperwork of these 4,000 because if the Secretary of the Army will release a paper certifying they served based on the records, they will get the equity compensation,” he explained.

In addition, they continue to lobby for passage of the family reunification bill to speed up immigrant petitions filed by veterans for their children to join them in the US, and “medical portability” that will allow aging veterans to “carry” their Medicare benefits back to the Philippines if they wished to spend their remaining years there.

“They all go hand in hand,” Lachica said, conceding “We have our hands full”.


Young Filipino-American supporters of President Obama have begun mobilizing to work for his re-election bid next year.

“We have been rebuilding our base, reconnecting with Filipinos,” Ben de Guzman revealed. He said they’ve been knocking on doors in New Jersey and are planning a large campaign kick-off in December to convince Fil-Ams to register and vote in 2012.

Jason Lagria, national co-chairman of Kaya Filipino Americans for Progress, told the Manila Mail that they’ve started identifying “key targeters” in the community who can serve as volunteers. “We’re making sure the infrastructure is in place so we’re launching Filipinos for Obama 2012 in December and have our first events by January,” he explained.

Veterans of the Filipinos for Obama campaign in 2008 are reunited at the recent Dakila Awards ceremonies in Arlington, VA. From left, Marita Etcubanez, Irene Bueno, Vida Benavides, Jon Melegrito, Ben de Guzman, Charmaine Manansala and Jason Lagria. Photo by Bing Branigin.

They concede that with the tough economic times, they have their work cut out for them. “The political climate is obviously very different. The environment is more polarized now which is why it’s important for people to be out there and have the conversation person to person,” De Guzman told the Manila Mail.

“You just really have to engage the people whether you agree with them or not and that’s part of what we’re doing,” he added.

Lagria said one advantage is that they are able to mobilize earlier than they did in 2008. “It’s a year out right now and we’re already planning,” he said, “In 2008 the nomination for president wasn’t even done until December but now we have a whole year and we’re going to make sure the entire Asian American community is working together and every Asian American will be voting.”

The Filipino American Journal conducted a poll of its readers last month and concluded that “Obama is in trouble”. It quoted Professor Albert Celoza, head of the Liberal Arts department at the Phoenix Colleges, as predicting “voters’ frustration will work against his chances of being re-elected.”

Celoza said he voted for Obama in 2008 but is still undecided for 2012.

“It’s the hard economic times,” Lagria explained, “obviously we’re going to be aggressive. We believe the job plan Obama has for the economy and the country is the right way for us; it’s going to make sure all Americans are going to prosper in this economy and not just for some people.”

A pre-election survey by the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) and Federation of Philippine-American Chambers of Commerce (FPACC) in 2008 revealed that 36 percent of the Fil-Am respondents favored then Sen. Obama while 30 percent was inclined to swing for his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain. The breakdown revealed that a significant portion – about a third – were undecided a week before the last presidential elections.

“I think Filipinos, like any other Asian group, are the quintessential movable middle. We have higher rates to decline party affiliations so if you make the argument for us, we will vote our conscience and not necessarily based on party but on what’s right,” De Guzman averred.

Lagria argued that Pres. Obama has been good to Asian Americans. “Look at his record on diversity – he’s nominated 8 Asian-Americans to federal courts when there were just 7 ever before that. He’s basically doubled the number of Asian Americans in the judiciary and he’s done the same thing in his Cabinet and throughout his administration.”

“We should always make sure that our leaders are thinking about everybody. I especially believe he’s thinking of all Asian Americans and Filipino Americans,” Lagria said.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The work of Philippine communist spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, starting in the tumultuous 1980s, spurred the military to invest nearly as much man-hours drowning out his voice as it did to actually hunting him down.

According to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), Rosal died last June 22 from a heart attack. The government reported his death so many times that his actual demise seemed anti-climactic.

“Ka Roger rose to prominence in the decade of the 80s in the Quezon-Laguna area,” recalled Brig. Gen. Rolando Tenefrancia, the former Philippine Army attaché in Washington DC and now Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio, Makati.

He was then a young captain at the Civil Relations Service (CRS), the psychological warfare operator of the Philippine military that was principally tasked to counter rebel propaganda.

“He was a good spokesman for the CPP because he had a grasp of the issues,” Tenefrancia told the Manila Mail, “He had a way of swaying public opinion because he was good at networking with media.”

Born in Ibaan, Batangas, poverty forced Rosal to quit school at an early age, working as a servant in their landlord’s house and later selling mosquito nets to make ends meet. He was a student activist at the Golden Gate College in Batangas City when then President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in 1971.

He was arrested in 1973 but escaped from a police jail in Calamba, Laguna, and quickly joined the New People’s Army (NPA), the CPP’s military arm. Rosal suffered his first stroke in 1997 and his health slowly deteriorated.

The military publicly offered to treat him but he refused and the government intensified the manhunt against him.

Tenefrancia said Rosal maximized his contacts with the press, especially with radio that at the time was the predominant form of media particularly in the rural areas.

“Every time there was an issue, there he was on DZRH (one of the Philippine’s top radio stations). DZRH was heard nation-wide so he was effective in raising the morale of their army,” he averred.

The 1980s was the peak of the modern communist insurgency in the Philippines . The NPA fielded “Sparrow Units” – hit teams that assassinated ranking government, police and military officials in capital cities, including Metro Manila.

US Army Col. James Rowe, a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran, became the highest-ranking US official to be killed by the communist insurgency. On April 21, 1989, a “Sparrow” hit team ambushed his bullet-proof car in broad daylight in one of Quezon City ’s busiest streets, fatally shooting him in the head. He was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery here.

It was also the decade when the communists mounted a deadly purge that killed thousands of cadres suspected of being government spies in campaigns that had such innocuous codenames as Operation Missing Link (in Luzon) and Cadena de Amor (in the Visayas) and Ahos Zombie (in Mindanao).

“In the ranks of the NPA only Ka Roger was allowed to speak on behalf of the group,” Tenefrancia said.

“It was probably because he had a lot of contacts in media,” he added, “and with what was happening in their organization, it wasn’t wise to have too many spokesmen.”

One measure of Rosal’s effectiveness, according to Tenefrancia, as his health deteriorated, so did the intensity of communist propaganda.

“He was not really a threat in the purely military sense but we had to counter the issues he was raising in the press. His problem was not everything he said was true. It was normal for us to answer the issues but we soon learned not everything he said needed to be refuted,” he explained.

“He’s died so many times in the newspapers,” Tenefrancia noted, “but no one from their ranks has actually emerged to take his role. In fact, ever since he got sick, they (NPA) have also fallen silent.”


Nothing kicks up the proverbial storm than getting a bunch of “bogo-bogo” together in a room where they invariably slide to reminiscences of years spent at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

“Bogo-bogo” is how PMAers like to call themselves. They are flourishing in the Metro DC region where there are now about 50 active members of their alumni association, according to Harold Ochoco (Class 81), who hosted the get-together in his handsome home in Fairfax, Virginia.

Richard Gubatan (Class 92) drove 9 hours from Johnson City, Tennessee to see Vice Admiral Alexander Pama (Class 79) who stopped over in Washington DC on his way to an international symposium in Rhode Island.

His eyes bloodshot from fatigue, he was getting ready to make the long return trip after spending just 3 hours to party with old classmates.

They left their military careers for various reasons. Louie Maligat (Class 82) resigned as an army 1st Lieutenant after the 1986 People Power revolt and joined the US Navy as an enlisted man. He eventually won back that rank, rising to become a Lieutenant in the US Navy – proof perhaps that Filipinos can excel wherever they are.

“I left because although there was a change in administration, things were not going to change overnight,” he said. “I think I’ve been proven right in many instances and in some, things have gotten worse.”

Maligat retired early from the US Navy, joined the Census Bureau and is presently a management and program analyst with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Former Special Forces Maj. Gabriel de Dios (Class 81) has found his 2nd vocation in America. He swapped his Armalite with brush and palette, and is now one of the top Fil-Am artists in the area, his work featured in dozens of Washington DC exhibits.

Dan Jimenez (Class 77) left the Navy in disgust over the way former President Marcos manipulated the military. He’s still known in the Fil-Am community as an activist, organizing protests over a wide range of issues, from the perceived racial slur against Filipino doctors in an episode of the TV soap Desperate Housewives to the alleged corruption and excesses of then Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Max Oligani (Class 79) got a ribbing from his “mistahs” for bringing “inihaw na bangus” all the way from his home in Pennsylvania, a 3-hour drive away. The dish from Pennsylvania, his classmates teased, “tastes just like the bangus in Washington DC”.

Former Navy Capt. Jun Tucay (Class 65) was the most senior in the group and appeared immune from the good-natured mockery.

Ochoco left in 1986 after graduating with a computer science degree from the George Washington University. He now heads a section in the IT department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“I thought it was the right time to move into IT,” he averred but also confessed to occasional pangs of regret, seeing his classmates who are now senior commanders, some becoming generals.

“I’ve never been away from the PMA. My 1st love is still the military and it was my goal at the time to reach star rank but obviously I’ll never attain that but perhaps in terms of self-fulfillment, I think I’ve also succeeded in the career I eventually chose to pursue,” he argued.

Their numbers have gotten a boost from the police and military continent in the Philippine Embassy. Police attaché Arman Ramolete is part of Class 82, naval attaché Tony Habulan is Class 81 and air force attaché Arnel Duco is Class 86.

Some like Gubatan are already dreaming of the day when they can go back to the Philippines. He is eligible to start getting his pension in 5 years.