Wednesday, June 22, 2011


The United States is asking the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to include the growing dispute in the Spratly Islands taken up at a major regional meet in Indonesia later this year, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has revealed in Washington DC.

“The East Asia Summit is important to us because ASEAN is in the driver’s seat, it’s strategic and it’s leaders-led,” Del Rosario told Fil-Am newsmen referring to the Oct. 21 conference in Jakarta. The US, along with Russia, are joining the EAS for the first time.

“It’s a source of great satisfaction that Russia and the United States are joining for the first time,” Del Rosario averred.

Del Rosario, who was Philippine Ambassador to Washington for over 5 years, is scheduled to meet tomorrow with State Secretary Hillary Clinton and top Pentagon officials on Thursday.

The Philippines has been designated as the US's point of contact with ASEAN.

“ASEAN has an agenda that it’s trying to push. China is saying they like the agenda which includes such concerns as energy, education, finance, disease and disaster mitigation but the US wants to include political and security issues,” he explained.

“When you talk about political and security that includes maritime security because they want to make sure freedom of navigation is part of that discussion. Of course when China thinks of freedom of navigation they immediately think Spratly Islands which is actually the desire of many of the parties concerned,” Del Rosario added.

The EAS will be attended by President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, the Prime Ministers of Australia, India, Japan and New Zealand, and the heads of state of ASEAN member nations Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore.

There has also been a growing clamor for a more robust American naval presence in the South China Sea with various US leaders voicing this position.

The debate spilled over to a two-day conference on Maritime Security in the South China Sea organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) that ends Tuesday at Georgetown University. Tempers rose as Filipino and Chinese experts clashed on the basis of each other’s claims over the Spratly Islands.

In a separate forum organized by the conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation, Asian Studies Director Walter Lohman said, “The security situation in the South China Sea is deteriorating in a way unseen since the mid-1990s. And given the growth in China’s military power and global influence since then, it is a much bigger problem for the United States.”

He noted that freedom of navigation was the “bedrock, non-negotiable interest of the United States”. It also has legal security obligations in the region because the Philippines is an American treaty ally, Lohman pointed out.

Del Rosario reiterated his belief that the 60-year-old PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty can be invoked in case Filipino forces are attacked in the Spratly Islands.

A senior DFA official travelling with Del Rosario disclosed that two exchanges of letters between top US and Philippine officials make this clear. In 1979, US State Secretary Cyrus Vance wrote DFA Secretary Carlos P. Romulo declaring that the MDT covers not only attacks on the “metropolitan areas” of the Philippines (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao) but also the “Pacific Area”.

She added an exchange of letter between US Ambassador Thomas Hubbard and DFA Secretary Domingo Siazon in 1999 further defined the MDT’s scope by affirming a declaration by US Defense Secretary William Cohen that the South China Sea was part of the “Pacific Area”.

Del Rosario also backed the growing cacophony of opinions from Filipino officials and the public at large on the Spratly Islands dispute with China.

“My view is people are following the lead of the DFA and to the extent that people appreciate that view and to the extent people speak about this frequently and loudly I think it benefits us,” he said.

Friday, June 17, 2011


"Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad." A.A. Milne

The tickets at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland were sold out days ago and we’re not sure our wallet is deep enough to buy one from scalpers when the price of off-site parking (if you can find one) already goes at $50 a pop.

Their website come-on quotes former champ Johnny Miller: “This is for tough guys. There’s guys that are sort of made to win a U.S. Open. There are some guys that maybe kind of luck into winning a U.S. Open, but not too many guys can look you right in the eye and say, ‘I can win it.’ ”

Yeah, you could say that too for another golf game happening this weekend.

President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are teeing off Saturday (Vice Pres. Joe Biden and Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio completing the foursome) for about 4 hours of “golf summit” at an undisclosed location somewhere in the Metro DC area. (The Secret Service is certainly more discrete than the Presidential Guards in Manila who virtually invaded the National Bilibid Prisons for an aborted “surprise” inspection by President Aquino)

Most reports say Boehner is the more accomplished and experienced player but following tradition, scores in a presidential golf match are as much a closely-guarded secret as the nuclear missile launch codes. (Golf Digest puts Boehner’s handicap at 7.9 while estimating the leftie President’s at 17)

Many are hoping they can somehow bridge their gap over raising the $14.3 trillion debt limit and find compromise in the deadlocked budget negotiations by the time they hit the back 9. If the White House fails to convince Congress to raise the debt limit, the US could default on its obligations and trigger what most experts say will be an economic Armageddon that will be felt around the planet.

"It is an opportunity for me and John to talk about some issues that are of importance to the American people," Obama said in a TV interview.

But Boehner retorted, "Saturday is about golf and I hope it's just about golf."

With the match’s outcome a secret anyway, some have taken to wagering on the sidelights – such as which player is going to light up first, closest to the pin? Both are known cigarette smokers although the President claims he’s quit. This “summit” is probably going to be the most interesting, intriguing, exciting unwatched golf match this year.

Golf has always fascinated us, not only because of the level and discipline it demands rather how it’s able to bring people together. In Manila, as we guess most other places, businessmen negotiated and closed multimillion-peso deals in between swings. Disgruntled colonels planned and plotted coups in the 1980s and 1990s on the greens and in the clubhouse.

"Playing golf with someone is a great way to really get to know someone,” Boehner said in an interview over public affairs show “60 Minutes”. “You start trying to hit that little white ball. You can't be somebody that you're not because all of you shows up."
“I expect it could get interesting out there, like, when do you call a penalty stroke on the other guy or what are the rules for conceding putts,” Reuters quoted Nathan Presnal, general manager and head pro at Lake Presidential Golf Course in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

“It could be a real good exercise in bipartisanship, or it may just tell us what we’re in for for the next few years,” he added.

The President could look up “the other” golf match in Maryland this weekend. Four of the last six winning scores in U.S. Opens were even par — or worse.

Phil Mickelson, a three-time Master champ comparing the Congressional to Augusta, “Here the whole process is just to minimize the miss.”

Guess a golf game is a golf game and it doesn’t matter if you’re a novice, pro or the president of the United States – the fun is in the play.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


The Library of Congress will host a program and display its collection of rare books on Jose Rizal to help mark the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Philippines’ most revered hero.

The Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and serves as the research arm of Congress. It is also the largest library in the world.

It has more than 300 books, manuscripts and other literature about Rizal in its catalogue.

The Asian Division of the Library of Congress will start showing off the books tomorrow (June 17) and run until June 27. They include:

An 1890 copy of “Sucesos delas island Filipinas” annotated by Rizal and prologue by his friend, Professor Fernando Blumentritt.

“One Hundred Letters of Jose Rizal to his Parents, Brother, Sisters, Relatives” published by the Philippine National Historical Society in 1959. They contain original handwritten plates with corresponding translations.

The book’s editor Jose Apostol notes that Rizal gave instructions to his sister Maria in December 1882 that all letters in Spanish that begin with “Mis queridos padres y hermanos” be sequestered because there he tells all that has happened and will explain if and when he returns home.

The Frontispiece photograph was signed by Rizal. The appendices include a letter dated Dec. 25, 1896 on the letterhead “Josefina” to Trinidad Rizal and a separate document titled “Description of My Life dated 22nd February 1897” both allegedly written by Josephine Bracken. The latter is signed “Josephine Bracken de Rizal A Widow”.

“Lineage, Life and Labors of Jose Rizal, Philippine Patriot” by Austin Craig that was published by the Philippine Education Company in 1913. Heavily illustrated with sketches by Rizal and portraits at different times in his life.

“Jose Rizal” by Antonio Iraizoz (in Spanish and part of Limited Edition No. 782). This was published by Habana Molina & Company in Cuba in 1929.

“Maria Makiling, A Philippine Folk Tale” by Dr. Jose Rizal with foreword by Austin Craig and translated by Charles Derbyshire; published July 1916.

The display includes several versions of the novels “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo”, including one “edicion completa con notas” that includes his poem “My Last Farewell” and a journalist’s description of the crowd that gathered in Luneta during his execution written for the La Correspondencia in Puerto Rico on December 30, 1901 to mark Rizal’s 5th death anniversary.

A 2nd Rizal display will be held at the Library of Congress in December. This will include the Spanish newspapers that featured his trial and monographs on his execution and martyrdom.


When US Navy Capt. Raquel Bono gets her first star, she and her admiral-brother will have the distinction of being the only Filipino-American siblings holding flag officer ranks simultaneously.

Capt. Bono was nominated for promotion to Rear Admiral last April. Her younger brother is Rear Adm. Anatolio B. Cruz III, deputy commander of US Naval Forces Southern Command and concurrently deputy commander of the Florida-based 4th Fleet that operates in the Caribbean and South American waters.

The US Navy Personnel Diversity Directorate said the siblings’ grandfather, an obstetrician in the Philippines, was commissioned as a US Army Colonel during World War II.

Their parents immigrated to Minnesota in the 1960s and later settled in San Antonio, Texas. Their father was physician in the US Navy and retired with the rank of Captain.

At the prodding of her father, Bono availed of the US Navy’s Health Professions Scholarship program, earning her medical degree at Texas Tech and kicked off her naval carrer with a general surgery residence at the Portsmouth, Virginia Naval Hospital.

She was the first woman to graduate from the program.

"Service to others; service to country," Bono explained. "It was ingrained in us by our father and mother in gratitude to their adopted country, the United States."

"I had tremendous support from the department,” she said. "What I enjoyed about being in the Navy was that I always felt confident that my ability to be advanced was going to be based on my capabilities and my performance. I felt that I had an equitable opportunity to succeed."

She was deployed to Saudi Arabia to help manage Fleet Hospital 5 during the first Gulf War. After three years commanding Naval Hospital Jacksonville in Florida (the 4th largest in the US Navy), Bono was appointed chief of staff of the TRICARE Management Activity in September 2008.

In 2010, she became the deputy director of medical resources, plans and policy for the chief of naval operations.

She was named as one of the 100 most influential Filipino women in the United States in 2009.

On the other hand, Cruz graduated from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in 1980 and was assigned to the Knox-Class frigate USS Gray. In 1982, he earned the Pacific Fleet Shiphandler of the Year Award.

He returned to Annapolis two years later as an admissions and congressional liaison officer. He transferred to the Navy Reserve in 1986 but remained active in academy admissions for the next 22 years with particular interest in promoting diversity.

"I've seen first-hand the strides we've made over the years," he declared.

Cruz completed six command tours, much of them in special operations assignments. Units he commanded earned the Leo Bilger Award for mission effectiveness and the Meritorious Unit Commendation for exceptional performance, the report said. He was appointed to his current position in February 2010.

But he has always looked up to his sister. "She was the smart one and very disciplined at everything she did," he enthused. "Dad set the bar and she raised that bar. Quite frankly, she deserved to make flag before I did."

Both Bono and Cruz are proud of their Filipino American heritage. "The Navy has been a great place to pursue a career and still maintain the essence of who you are as an individual and a member of a particular ethnic group," Bono said.

"It's an environment that values the different, representative groups to enhance and promote the people who are serving."


No Filipino is perhaps more recognized and revered than national hero Jose Rizal. His likeness appears in virtually every Philippine town, and Rizal markers have been placed from Barcelona, Spain to San Francisco, California. That distinction extends even to the American military.

At the end of World War I, the bicameral Philippine Legislature voted to donate a destroyer to the US Navy that eventually became known as the USS Rizal, the only American warship named after a Filipino hero.

The USS Rizal, which bore the hull number “174” was launched on Sept. 21, 1918 and commissioned the following year.

The Jones Law of 1916 paved the way for the establishment of the Philippine Legislature patterned after the US Congress, composed of a House of Representatives and Senate.

Shortly after, it passed a resolution that called for the construction of a warship for the US Navy, which in gratitude, named her after the Philippine’s national hero.

The USS Rizal was Wickes-class destroyer, over 314 feet long and nearly 32 feet wide that had a top speed of 35 knots – much faster than many current Philippine Navy ships. She was armed with 4-inch and 3-inch guns, and could fire both torpedoes and depth charges.

She was initially deployed with the US Pacific Fleet to patrol the West Coast until 1920 when she was converted to a minelayer and sent to the Far East.

Fittingly, the USS Rizal was assigned to the Philippines where she became the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet’s Mine Detachment unit based at Sangley Naval Station in Cavite City (although she was more often seen docked at Subic) for a decade.

With a nearly all-Filipino crew, she often anchored in the Chinese ports of Shanghai, Chefoo and Chinwangtao (modern-day Yintao and Qinhuangdao near the Yellow Sea and across what is today North Korea), and Hongkong. The ship also sailed as far as Guam and Japan.

In December 1930, the USS Rizal was ordered back stateside where she was retired in August 1931 and sold as scrap 6 months later under the London Naval Treaty among the US, United Kingdom, Japan, France and Italy that aimed to regulate submarine warfare and put ceilings on naval shipbuilding.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to congratulate the people of the Philippines on the 113th anniversary of your declaration of independence this June 12.

The United States and the Philippines are long-standing friends and partners. We stood together during World War II to defend liberal democratic values.

Today, we are working together on many new fronts. Whether we are working to find ways to catalyze economic growth, helping victims of natural disasters, combating extremism, or calling for greater protection of human rights, our two countries share a vision of a better world.

We support the Philippine government’s commitment to fight corruption, promote judicial reform, reduce poverty, and create opportunities for its people. Our two countries are cooperating in new ways on everything from the Partnership for Growth joint effort to boost prosperity in the Philippines, to the Open Government Partnership initiative to improve governance and transparency around the globe.

Together through our Millennium Challenge Corporation compact we are working to reduce poverty through economic growth. The Philippines is a committed partner on so many issues.

Please accept my sincere thanks for your friendship and best wishes for your continued success and prosperity on this special day.


The number of undocumented Filipinos in the United States has decreased since the start of the economic recession, a US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report has revealed.

Another report showed that fewer Filipinos immigrated to the United States in 2010 compared to past years.

Data from the agency said the number of undocumented Filipinos increased from 270,000 in 2009 to 280,000 last year – but actually declined from 2008 when the DHS estimated there were 300,000 undocumented Filipinos (some experts put the number even higher at one million).

2008 marked the first time the number of undocumented Filipinos posted a decline since the year 2000 when there were about 200,000, according to the DHS. A housing mortgage crisis exploded in 2008, nearly taking down the country’s financial system and whose lingering effects are weighing down recovery efforts today.

Data from the DHS showed this was part of bigger trend that’s being fueled by America’s continued economic woes. Unemployment is hovering at 9 percent and recovery has been sputtering. The number of unauthorized immigrants, DHS statistics showed, remained constant at 10.8 million in 2009 and 2010, but this was actually down from the 11.8 million reported in 2007.

“Between 2000 and 2007, the unauthorized population increased by 3.3 million,” the DHS report said, “equivalent to an average annual increase of 500,000 per year. The number of unauthorized residents then decreased to 11.6 million in 2008 and 10.8 million in 2009.” The agency said the difference of 1 million could not be attributed to “sampling error” and suggested it may have be the result of the economic recession.

About 80 percent of illegal immigrants come from the North America region, including Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America. The Philippines was the top source of unauthorized immigrants from Asia, followed by India, Korea and China. Of this group only undocumented Koreans showed an almost consistent decline in numbers from 180,000 in 2000 to 170,000 in 2010, following a peak of 240,000 in 2008.

Illegal immigrants appeared to be concentrated in border states like California (with an unauthorized population of nearly 3 million), Texas and Florida.

A separate DHS report showed 58,173 Filipinos immigrated to the US in 2010, making them the 4th biggest group of immigrants, a drop from 3rd place in 2009. Mexico was the top source of immigrants although their numbers have dropped from 189,989 in 2008 to 139,120 in 2010. They were followed by immigrants from China and India.

The greater numbers of new Filipino immigrants are 25 to 44 years old and work in white-collar occupations as professionals, managers, and office and service workers. One noticeable change is the decrease in number of employment-based admissions, which fell from 17,182 in 2007 to 6,423 in 2010.

Of total new Filipino immigrants, 4,559 settled in the Washington DC-Maryland-Virginia region. California remained the top destination, followed by Texas, New York, New Jersey and Florida. One noteworthy change is that Hawaii dropped out as a favorite destination for Filipino immigrants in 2010.


A case of modern-day slavery so close to the nation’s capital has resulted in federal grand jury indictment against a Maryland couple who allegedly lured a Filipina to work as their maid but used her virtually as a slave for over a decade.

Alfred and Gloria Edwards of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, about 45 minutes’ drive from Washington DC, have been charged with human trafficking and violating immigration laws.

The indictment was announced yesterday (June 8) by US Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez of the Justice Department Civil Rights Division.

According to the five-count indictment, the couple enticed the Filipina, who was not identified but was described as an “impoverished, uneducated, mother of eight children” with “false promises of a salary” to support her family in the Philippines.

The Edwards allegedly secured a visa, that prosecutors say was fraudulent, that allowed the Filipina to enter the US.

But when she arrived, the couple seized her passport and visa card, and forced her to work 13 hours a day for over 10 years under a “peonage contract” that was allegedly accompanied by threats, assaults and withholding of pay.

“Human trafficking robs victims of their freedom and dignity and it will not be tolerated in our nation,” said Assistant Attorney General Perez. “We will prosecute all cases of human trafficking to the fullest extent of the law.”

"The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and federal and state agencies and nonprofit organizations, in conjunction with Maryland’s Human Trafficking Task Force, to locate human trafficking victims and prosecute perpetrators,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod Rosenstein.

The charges in the indictment are merely accusations and all defendants are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law.

If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of up to 50 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

This case is being investigated by the Baltimore Division of the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner and Senior Special Counsel Susan French of the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


The Henares family of Avon, Connecticut has made two trips to the Scripps Spelling Bee competition since 2007 when his eldest son, then 14 years old, finished third.

The Spelling Bee is held every year in the Metro DC area.

This year, it drew 275 contestants from around and outside the United States, including about a dozen Filipino-Americans and one Japanese-Filipino.

The kids beat about a million other Spelling Bee aspirants to earn a place in the national championship.

Among them was John Paul Henares, the youngest son of John Henares who originally came from Bacolod City. “We home school our children and one of the things we do is network around the community, not just for the Spelling Bee or other academic contests but also in sports so our kids can get together with the other children, and it just happened that were was home schooling group in Connecticut involved with Spelling Bee, so we joined,” John tells us.

His eldest son Joseph finished third in the 2007 Spelling Bee championship. His daughter got as far as third place in the regional competition. “I never expected to get as far as I did,” explained Joseph who is slated to enter Notre Dame where he plans to major in history.

Joseph reveals he made it to the national championship on his 4th attempt. For many contestants, they’ve been here before. It was Andrea Mirasol’s 3rd sortie to the national championship.

Her parents – Amelia and Avelino Mirasol of Vernon, Texas (who proudly proclaim they are town-mates of President Aquino in Tarlac) say it would Andrea’s last because she already hit the age limit.

But for Ricardo and Marivon Secular of Dingman’s Ferry, Pennsylvania, their daughter Isabel still has a crack next year – if she can hurdle the local, state and regional competitions again.

“It’s tough,” Andrea conceded, as she noticed the continued rise in the level of competition in the times she’s made the championships. “There’re a lot of smart, talented kids out there.”

“Out there” includes places outside the US. Yuichi Yoshioka, whose Filipina mother used to join Spelling Bee contests back home, travelled from Tokyo where he won the spelling contest there.

The Scripps Spelling Bee championship in Japan was originally scheduled March 12, the day a powerful earthquake and devastating tsunami struck the country.

After two postponements, the contest was finally held on May 14 which the 12-year-old Yuichi topped, giving them just a few weeks to prepare for the US championship at scenic National Harbor in Maryland.

“We could still feel after-shocks when we left Tokyo,” Ellen Yoshioka told us.

Yuichi speaks Japanese and English with ease and a smidgen of Pilipino. He is one of 29 spellers who didn’t speak English as a first language.

The Filipino spellers didn’t make the final cut although one boy, J. D. Malano of Barstow, California fell just a point short.

“I didn’t make it,” Yuichi explained. “I only got 24 out for 31. I’ll take my revenge next year,” he declares with a straight face.

Then borrowing sunglasses from another contestant nearby, he tries to mimic Arnold Schwarzenegger with his cute, young voice, “I’ll be back!”