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.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


"You'll never find rainbows if you're looking down." Charlie Chaplin

The right road for one is the wrong road for another...The journey of life is not paved in blacktop; it is not brightly lit, and it has no road signs. It is a rocky path through the wilderness. ” M. Scott Peck

"Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment
is the only one you know you have for sure." Oprah Winfrey

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


The Filipino-American community aims to make this city a center for talented Fil-Am visual and performing artists similar to those already flourishing in the West Coast, Chicago and New York.

“We are pulling together all the talents in the Baltimore area so we can get organized as a performing group,” Ike Santos, chairman of the recently formed First Act, Inc. disclosed to the Manila Mail.

The 2010 Census showed that Filipinos posted one of the largest proportional increases of any minority in Maryland, their numbers growing by more than 65 percent. Indians remained the dominant Asian group but their numbers increased by only 59 percent over the last decade.

Most Fil-Ams here live or work in the Towson-Baltimore City corridor which is reputedly the fastest growing area in this corner of Maryland. The city is also home to about 600 Filipino teachers who were recruited for many inner-city schools.

“Right now the talent is all over the place but it’s not organized,” Santos averred.

“Sometimes when someone asks if we can do a folk dance, we have to go to different places just to put together a group,” adding that they’ve gotten calls from the Maryland Governor’s office to perform in state festivals.

“They asked for a Filipino participation because they already have Korean or Chinese groups performing, but we have to scramble to put one up for us,” he revealed.

Santos explained that Fil-Am talents in California, New York-New Jersey and Chicago already have theater or cultural troupes that can put up shows at a moment’s notice. They aim to create this same artistic environment in Baltimore where young Fil-Ams inclined to the arts can gather and receive training to further hone their skills.

“If we organize these talents under one organization, we can get an idea of where they are, how many they are; we can have an inventory of Filipino artists in Baltimore,” he explained.

“The group can also draw still undiscovered Fil-Am talent. Right now much of that talent is hidden because artists don’t have any group to join. We want them to come out and join us and show the native artistry of Filipinos,” Santos said.

Initially, he revealed, they are thinking of putting up 1 or 2-act plays for community theaters. A former director from the Philippines, Greg de Guzman, has volunteered to help start the ball rolling for the project, Santos disclosed. Dance instructor Nene Guanzon, originally from Chesapeake, Virginia has also offered to teach zumba, line-dancing and of course Filipino folk dances.

At the moment, the Pinoy talents are more involved in singing or dancing. “We want to expand this. We want to develop a community theater. A lot of Filipinos go to the Maryland Institute of Art; we can help put up shows in art galleries or exhibitions. They can get a lot of exposure and experience,” Santos stressed.

“This group can create the demand for the Filipino arts,” he declared. “When we see all this Filipino talent flourishing, it can be inspiration for others,” Santos averred, a venue for demonstrating the rich Filipino culture and heritage. (Manila Mail)


Filipino teachers who’ve lost their jobs in Maryland have gotten help from an old but influential friend – the Catholic Church.

About a dozen mentors terminated from Baltimore City public schools applied with private Catholic schools and have received R visas that is usually given to church members.

“Napaka minimal ng sweldo. Yung iba half lang sinusweldo kaya may iba nagbenta na ng bahay (The pay is minimal. They get just half of their previous salary forcing some to sell their houses)” disclosed Isabella Mangonon of the Association of Filipino Teachers in America (AFTA).

“Pero I tell them na okay lang yan. Yung papel mahirap hanapin, ang pera madali na lang habulin, (But I tell them that’s okay. Papers are difficult to come by but money problems are easier to solve)” she added. Finding jobs with Catholic schools, though temporary, will at least stave off possible deportation after their H-1B visa expires.

Labor Attache Luz Padilla tells the Manila Mail that they have met with officials of the Archdiocese of Washington. “We were trying to see if there were opportunities for Filipino teachers in Catholic schools,” she explained.

But they were told the Archdiocese, which runs 98 schools in the Metro DC region, do not sponsor H-1B visa workers. “They suggested we talk with the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) so they can refer us to some Catholic schools that need teachers,” Padilla averred.

“It’s a long-standing policy according to the Archdiocese that they don’t sponsor H-1Bs but the fact that they referred us to somebody who may be in a position to help is good enough,” she stressed.

The NCEA is the largest private professional education organization in the world representing 200,000 educators serving 7.6 million students in Catholic elementary and secondary schools, religious education programs, in seminaries and in colleges and universities.

Padilla pointed out that “the Church understands what happened to our teachers is not fair.”

Mangonon said Baltimore City school officials will meet with international teachers and they don’t expect good news to come out of it. There are about 600 Filipino teachers in Baltimore public schools.

Some of the teachers have crossed state lines and found jobs in schools in Philadelphia, Arizona and New Mexico.

Mangonon said teachers from Baltimore are often prized by schools in other parts of the US. “Para sa marami kasi kung galing ka Baltimore schools which are very tough, alam nila ang teachers kahit papaano medyo mas mahusay, walang problema (For many if they see you come from Baltimore schools which are very tough, they know the teachers are better so there’s no problem),” she explained.

She also revealed that the Baltimore public school system has started refunding fees collected from the teachers that the US Labor Department declared illegal and that got the Prince George’s public school system in hot waters earlier this year.

The Labor Department had ordered the PG schools to pay back over $4 million they got from their Filipino teachers and barred them from hiring foreign teachers for the next 2 years.

Filipino teachers from PG county have protested the Labor Department order because instead of helping them as victims, it actually gives PG county school officials justification to stop hiring them. Many of the more than 800 Filipino teachers there will be forced to return to an uncertain future in the Philippines.

“The Baltimore teachers are in a better shape than PG county,” Padilla said. “They’ve started refunding the money so they don’t suffer the same fate as PG county.”

“Some have gotten the reimbursements, there’s about 90 but sabi nila next pay day meron na (they said next pay day the rest will get it),” Mangonon said. (Manila Mail)


Washington will host next year one of the largest Filipino-American sporting events in the East Coast, organizers revealed.

“The excitement is building up. My own kids are already excited,” said Anne Tabligan of the Filipino-American Youth Basketball Association (FYBA). Washington DC sent 9 teams to last Labor Day’s North America Basketball Association (NABA) tournament in North York, Canada.

Five of the teams went on the finals and one emerged champion, according to Noel Asinero, FYBA vice president.

The United States and Canada alternate hosting the NABA tournament which drew 120 teams this year, including one from London, England. It’ll be DC’s turn next year and the FYBA is leading preparations for the big event.

“The Washington FYBA holds 2 tournaments every year, one in the Spring and another in the Fall,” Asinero explained.

The FYBA, which broke away from the Filipino-American Basketball Association (FABA) in 2007, said next year’s tournament will be doubly significant because it will mark the 25th anniversary of NABA and the FYBA’s own 5th birthday.

“It’s only our 5th year but we’ve become a powerhouse in NABA,” Asinero declared.

“We did what other cities haven’t done – emerged champions in the Open Division and runners-up in the Tykes, Peewee, Girls and Seniors Divisions, respectively,” he added.

Their campaign was aided in large part by former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) superstar Abet Guidaben who was earlier diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, a rare muscle ailment that impairs speech and vision, leading to weakness and in the most serious cases, respiratory distress.

“He’s doing good; he looks great after what he’s been through,” Asinero reported, “With the help of NABA and other organizations we were able to help him out with his medical bills.”

The Detroit-based NABA is a Fil-Am organization established in 1987 to promote basketball in Canada and the US East Coast. They hold the Inter-City Tournament on the Labor Day Weekend. Players are divided into 10 age divisions as well as Open categories for Men, Women, Seniors and Masters.

Asinero explained players have to be at least 1/8th Filipino to join the tournament. Some of the Fil-Ams who join NABA eventually play with popular college teams both in the US and Philippines.

He said they are now scouting at least 4 venues in the Metro DC region. “As much as possible we want to hold all the games in just 1 venue,” he said, “but the league has grown so big that you can’t really hold it in just 1 place anymore.”

“We need at least 15 hard courts and there’s no place like that in the area. The biggest one is actually in Maryland,” Asinero added.