Sunday, October 14, 2012


A get-out-and-vote campaign by Filipinos in Virginia’s Tidewater region is winning kudos from both Democrats and Republicans, as many see a greater role for Asian Americans deciding an increasingly tight race this November.

The FilAm Vote Coalition of Hampton Roads (FAVCOHR) was formed as a non-partisan voter mobilization project, tapping into the estimated 40,000-strong Fil-Am community in Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach.

But what’s drawn the attention to FAVCOHR is its creative approach to potential voters that has attracted even non-Asians, according to Manila Mail editor Bing Branigin, who is also FAVCOHR overall coordinator.

FAVCOHR is run by TravelOutlet’s Naomi Estaris, a founding president of the Southeast Virginia Fil-Am Chamber of Commerce.

The group has been animated by young Fil-Am volunteers who’ve held flash-mob events in stores and plazas (you can watch them on youtube). They have put up registration tables in private offices with a lot of Fil-Am employees.

Whacky internet personality Christine Gambito aka Happy Slip, has volunteered to perform in a Virginia Beach venue. More popular on the internet – her 2007 video Mixed Nuts won a YouTube competition for best comedy – Branigin said that many people do not know Gambito is a native of Virginia Beach.

“A lot of her audience doesn’t realize that she’s local,” Branigin explained, “She’s very excited but also concerned after learning about our low voter participation in past elections.”

“She wants to help,” Branigin stressed. “Having just had her third child, she says a live comedy show is much easier than trying to edit a video.”

To see her performance for free, audiences have to show their voter’s registration card (of course if they don’t have one, they can always register at the door).

They are organizing viewing parties (for the presidential and vice-presidential debates) and poetry reading for voting rights and responsibilities. They have enlisted DJ and hip-hop bands to join the voter’s list-up campaign.

FAVCOHR volunteers are also launching an online photo campaign, taking pictures of people with their voter’s card or blank voter registration forms. They would ask their subjects to answer this question “Why do you vote?”

Watch out for the gallery of participants in coming issues of your favorite paper, the Manila Mail.

But they still do “traditional methods” of heighten awareness about the coming elections – Branigin said they were working on a list of 1,000 names for phone-banking and door to door operations.

The FAVCOHR was apparently inspired by a similar campaign by Fil-Ams in Nevada. Filipinos in the Hampton Roads area grew by 33 percent in 10 years, according to the 2010 Census.

“There are clear choices this year and we’re all looking forward for a clear direction. But we have to be engaged and understand the importance of registering people to vote,” said Virginia House Delegate Ron Villanueva at the FAVCOHR launching last month.

The initiative has received the support of Fil-Am groups in the region, according to Nita Cacanindin of the Council of United Filipino Organizations of Tidewater – the oldest and largest community organization in the area.

Branigin said they have already registered more than 600 new voters but expect the number to rise further as FAVCOHR moves to carry the momentum to bring out the Filipino and Asian American vote in November.


A feared hurdle to sending the “Pamasko” to waiting relatives back home this Christmas was lifted – even if just temporarily – after a potentially crippling port workers’ strike was averted.

A strike by the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) would have affected ports all along the East Coast down to the Gulf. It was averted at the last minute with the union and port operators United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) settling for a 90-day extension of a collective bargaining agreement that expired last Sept. 30.

Maria Castro, who runs Lorton, Va.-based Manila Forwarders Corp. (MFC) said the strike could have spoiled the Christmas gift-giving plans of thousands of Filipinos from Boston all the way to New Orleans and Galveston in Texas.

It would have forced cargo consolidators here like Manila Forwarders to divert their shipments from Baltimore or Norfolk by adding an overland leg to the West Coast.

The popular “Balikbayan” box shipments could have become more expensive or worse, stranded in the ports.

The temporary agreement will run to Dec. 29. “In taking this significant step, the parties emphasized that they are doing so ‘for the good of the country’ to avoid any interruption in interstate commerce,” a statement from George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service said.

The strike could have spoiled the Christmas season all across America, bringing the supply chain to a standstill. It could have distorted retail prices and possibly impact the Nov. 6 elections.

A 2002 lock-out involving West Coast port workers cost an estimated $1 billion a day.

Some shippers have sped up freight deliveries in anticipation of the strike to avoid the possibility of goods languishing in East Coast and Gulf Coast ports. The ILA represents about 20,000 longshoremen. The USMX is an organization of container carriers and port associations.

“We will continue to keep a close watch on the situation,” Castro assured.

But she added that with or without the threat of a port stoppage hanging in the coming months, Filipinos who wish to send goods to the Philippines for Christmas are advised to do it early.

“We are still encouraging our kababayans to ship early just so we can avoid the holiday congestion plus the unpredictable weather we have back home,” she told the Manila Mail.

Many Filipinos traditionally send boxes of toys, foodstuff and other goods as Christmas gifts to relatives in the Philippines. It takes at least 5 weeks to ship the boxes from here so consolidators are entering the critical stage of the Christmas traffic.

Dollar remittances from Filipinos in the US is rising – they sent home $4.3 billion (P176 billion) in the first six months of 2012 compared to $3.9 billion (P160 billion) the same period last year. They traditionally spike during the Christmas season.


Medical missions to the Philippines will continue even as Filipino American physicians meet with the country’s top envoy here to discuss their concerns later this month.

Meeting in Newark, NJ, the Association of Philippine Physicians in America (APPA) voted to send a medical mission to Payatas, Quezon City in February. The group has had a longstanding commitment to this community that used to be garbage dump, after serving there in 1992 and opening a free clinic at Litex Village in 2008.

APPA president Dr. Jose Tejero said they decided to continue the medical mission, notwithstanding the dispute with the Professional Regulation Commission over new requirements for visiting medical missioners.

“The APPA’s House of Delegates under the leadership of its speaker, Dr. Carlos Patalinghug, Sr., had passed a resolution that APPA will serve as a reconciliatory body to interact between the various mission groups here in America and to the PRC and other local governmental agencies in the Philippines in the conduct of foreign surgical-medical missions,” the group’s statement said.

The PRC had relented from its June 21 directive that ordered foreign professionals – including Filipino-Americans conducting short-duration medical missions – to register and secure special permits and buy liability insurance, among others.

Following an uproar from Fil-Am physicians, the PRC suspended parts of their new rule.  

Dr. Alexander Fangonil, a former APPA president, told the Manila Mail that they are working closely with Philippine officials in the US. Consul-General Mario de Leon attended the APPA’s Fall meeting.

“The Philippine consulates have been helping the APPA through the years by authenticating, validating the medicines and sensitive equipment that we hand-carry,” he explained.

For foreign missions to better serve the needy Filipinos, De Leon urged the APPA to identify priority target areas in the Philippines, get the support and cooperation of the local government, and to identify local partners who are willing to work with the foreign missioners in their communities.

He revealed local government agencies are again meeting this month to discuss the situation of medical missions.

During the conference, the participants bared their experiences and problems in past medical missions –

*Mission groups by-passing the PRC and its requirements

*No local counterparts to follow through on medical and surgical complications when the missioners leave

*Donating expired medicines and defective medical equipment

*Invitation by provincial governors (or highly-placed families) giving blanket coverage to do missions in their province or place-of- influence

*Treating patients that has the ability to pay or has health insurance

*Local practitioners, dentists, pharmacists, and “herbolarios” view missioners as “livelihood-competitors”

*Paramedical, civic, and religious groups pay local “Doctors-for Hire” to handle the mission or give them the medicines, supplies and medical equipment for them to do one

*Local specialty organizations, like the Ophthalmologist, are mostly anti-missions, when hundreds of cataracts are operated on, leaving them months or even longer without patients to see

*Local physicians are already doing missions in their respective communities; foreign missions are not needed anymore

*Professional jealousy or envy towards foreign-trained expats

*Expats doctors are called disloyal or traitors in medical school curriculum

*Anti-mission/pro-mission local groups

Fangonil shared his own experience with Manila Mail, during a 2007 medical mission in Baguio City.  He was APPA president at the time, and brought 37 physicians , 23 nurses and 3 nurses, among others. 

The Baguio executives bluntly told the APPA missioners they were not welcome and were forbidden from using facilities of Baguio General Hospital although they would accept the Fil-Am group’s donation of medicines, surgical supplies and medical equipment.

However, another group welcomed the APPA missioners and allowed the use of the Benguet General Hospital. “The same fate awaited the Ohio mission in 2009 and Northern California in 2010.

Dr. Johnny Montero is scheduled to meet with Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. on October 19 to thresh out their concerns and ensure medical missions to the Philippines continue in the years ahead. 


Filipino-American teenager “OJ” Porteria is building a reputation as a potent striker in the Philippine national soccer team – delivering one of three goals on the way to capturing last month the country’s first football title in 99 years.

The Philippine Azkals beat Chinese-Taipei to emerge as champions of the Philippine Football Peace Cup (also known as the Long Teng Cup when it’s played in Taiwan). The last soccer title the Philippines held was the Far East Games in 1913.

Porteria – a son of Northern Virginia realtor and Manila Mail columnist Joceyln Porteria – is catching everyone’s eye not only because of considerable talent but more importantly, the skill he’s demonstrated at such a young age.

At 17, he played only for the first time as a senior starter in the Peace Cup. Sports scribe Rex Torreocampo described him as the “future of Philippine football”. Porteria grew up playing soccer in Falls Church, Va. and later joined the DC United training academy.

“Porteria, a mere 16-year old at the time, personified the football saying that if you are good enough, then you are old enough,” Torreocampo wrote.

Because of his stellar performance, Porteria has made to the line-up for the Middle East training tour this month.

Members of the 26-man lineup are Marwin Angeles, Misagh Bahadoran, Jeffrey Christiaens, Carli de Murga, Demitrius Omphroy, Patrick Reichelt, Matthew Uy and Denis Wolf of Global; brothers Phil and James Younghusband, Ref Cuaresma, Anto Gonzales of the Loyola Meralco Sparks; Eduard SacapaƱo and Nestorio Margarse, Jr. of Philippine Army;

Fritz & Macziol; Ian Araneta and Chieffy Caligdong of Philippine Air Force Phoenix; OJ Porteria of Kaya and Jason de Jong of Penson Stallion Giligan’s.

The Azkals also tapped a number of foreign-based players, namely Fil-Spanish brothers Angel and Juani Guirado, Fil-English Rob Gier, Fil-Danish Denis Cagara, Fil-Icelandic Ray Jonsson, Fil-Danish Jerry Lucena, Fil-German Roland Muller and Fil-Dutch Paul Mulders.

The Filipinos will face Bahrain on October 12 in its capital Manama and Kuwait on October 16 at Kuwait City in their two-match training tour in the Middle East.

The Azkals are using the matches to prepare for the 2012 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup this November, where they look to duplicate their historic semifinal run in the same tournament two years ago.

The Philippines reached its highest standing in the global football ladder, according to the latest FIFA world rankings released late last month.

From 150th, the Azkals climbed to 147th to rank 21st among Asian countries and enjoy their highest all-time ranking since occupying the 148th spot last April, which came after finishing third place in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup in Nepal.

The country suffered its lowest ranking at 195th in September 2006.

Of the Middle East-bound roster, Porteria proved to be the surprise. For him to make the line-up instead of his older SEA Games teammates signaled he was excelling in training sessions to earn the nod from the coaching staff.

“There was far too much quality and experience in the team for Porteria to become anything but a fringe player during the tour.  However, to be called up at such a young age spoke volumes about how highly-regarded the youngster must have been by team management,” Torreocampo observed.

For now the rising star of Philippine soccer is deployed as a wingman, said to be a strategic move to allow Porteria to mature further with the Azkals. He will obviously continue to be a face to watch in the country’s quest for soccer glory.


The Philippine Navy will get newer and more powerful guns that could augment weapons for two patrol ships acquired recently from the United States.

The Pentagon recently awarded a $24 million contract to Kentucky-based BAE Systems Land and Armaments for 21 Mark 38 Mod 2 chain guns for the US and Philippines navies.

The Philippines is procuring the guns under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, a US Navy statement revealed.

The Philippine Navy acquired the 1st of two Hamilton-class all-weather patrol ships from the US Coast Guard last year. She was re-christened the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and is the spearhead of the country’s presence in the disputed Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

The US had stripped the ship of her more sophisticated weapons before turning her over. The Mk 38 Mod 2 gun is an improved version of the 25mm Bushmaster that was taken off the BRP Del Pilar.

A 2nd Hamilton-class cutter was turned over to the Philippine Navy last May (re-christened as the BRP Ramon Alcaraz). She is being refurbished and but her scheduled arrival in Manila has been delayed to sometime early next year.

Another Hamilton-class cutter was retired in San Diego, Ca. this month and a reliable source says the Philippines was seeing if it could get her as well.

The Mk 38 Mod 2 fires 180 rounds of 25mm projectiles per minute. Its 4-axis stabilized electro-optical sensor provides round-the-clock surveillance capability.

BAE Systems developed the gun with Rafael Armaments of Israel which manufactures the “Typhoon” stabilized marine gun system. The US Navy intensified procurement after the attack on the destroyer USS Cole. They plan to have the remote-controlled guns installed on most of its warships by 2015.

Navy officials say the guns provide improved protection against small threats close aboard and even help crews with more mundane tasks, such as finding channel buoys.

The brochure boasts that “Line-of-fire stabilization enables the crew to effectively engage target in great precision from safe stand-off distance and rough sea conditions.” Operators can follow and fire at a target automatically using electro-optical and infrared sensors and a computer-integrated laser range finder.

If the sensors are disabled, gunner’s mates can manually aim and fire the gun. It has built-in batteries that allow it to operate for 2 hours even after the whole ship loses power.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Filipino Americans in the Hampton Roads region of southern Virginia have vowed to come out in force and make their presence felt in the November elections.

“It’s all about building our political power as an ethnic community,” said Bert Dayao, Capital Region chairman of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA). “And that means translating our numbers in a way that they truly count.”

Political mobilization and empowerment were among the themes that emerged from the recent NaFFAA convention in Detroit, Mi.

The non-partisan voter mobilization project, dubbed “FilAm Vote Coalition of Hampton Roads” (FAVCOHR), aims to reach Filipino communities in Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach.

Filipinos in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area grew by 33 percent in 10 years, according to the 2010 Census – a rate of growth that has caught the attention of state and local elected officials and policy makers.
The region is home to nearly 40,000 Filipinos.

“The issues in this election – jobs and the economy, budget and taxes, education – directly affect our community,” said Virginia House Delegate Ron Villanueva.

“There are clear choices this year and we’re all looking forward for a clear direction. But we have to be engaged and understand the importance of registering people to vote,” he said.

Following Villanueva’s remarks, Gloria T. Caoile, former NaFFAA national vice chair and founding member of FilAm Vote, stressed that “we have an opportunity as Filipino Americans to shine in Virginia, a key, battleground state. Hampton Roads can make a difference. We will make it happen not only between now and November 6, but we will keep the fire alive after Election Day and continue to play an active role in this country’s political system.”

Caoile cited the example of Nevada where Filipinos grew by 146 percent in 10 years. “Politicians from both parties are heavily courting our votes and paying attention to our issues,” she revealed.

Gem Daus, an Asian American Studies adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, briefed those present about Census statistics, demographic data and recent findings by the Pew Research. “In addition to our growing numbers, we have a high rate of growth, high educational attainment, low poverty rates and income that’s higher than the national average,” he explained.

“But of the hundreds of community-based organizations in the country, there are only four that’s primarily organizing around political and civic engagement. It’s a deficit we need to correct.”

“There’s less than a hundred days before the elections,” observed Tracy Laguid, a member of the Filipino Young Professionals (FYP). 

“We need a lightning rod to move us into action,” she declared.

Nita Cacanindin, a board member of the Council of United Filipino Organizations of Tidewater (CUFOT) – the oldest and largest community organization in the area – also expressed support for the project and offered the use of the Filipino American Cultural Center to host voter outreach events.

“We may belong to different political parties,” she said, “but this non-partisan effort of everyone working together will make a long and lasting impact.”

Dr. Johnny Montero, a long-time community leader, agreed: “Our ethnic community badly needs this bipartisan FilVote public service. This is the key to our empowerment and I am glad to see much enthusiasm, especially our youth.”

Other organizations participating in the launching of the FilAm Vote Coalition are: Bicol Association, Filipino American Chamber of Commerce of South East Virginia, Filipino American Historical National Society (FAHNS), FilAm Civic Action Group (FilAmCAG), Fil-Am Friendship Committee and Ilocano Association.

Naomi Estaris, former CEO of Operation Smile and now COO, The Travel Outlet of Virginia, Inc. and Founding President of South East Virginia’s Fil Am Chamber of Commerce, was designated to head up FAVCOHR and run the day-to-day operations of the voter mobilization project. 

NaFFAA Capital Region Vice Chair Bing Branigin is overall coordinator, with Gloria T. Caoile as adviser. Funding was made possible from a grant from Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIA Vote), a national institution focused to encourage and promote civic participation of Asian Pacific Islander Americans in the electoral and public policy processes at the national, state and local levels.


He propped himself with a cane, breathing heavily from apparent exhaustion. At 95, Celestino Almeda valiantly works to remain visible – braving heat, sleet and snow – to remind the United States about her unfulfilled promises to an ally over half a century ago.

In California, a group of Filipino World War II veterans gave back their old uniforms and service medals in symbolic protest over America’s failure to grant the same benefits given to her allies at the end of the war.

But the US indicated it was also caring for the aging Filipino World War II veterans in other ways, pouring in $192 million (about P8 billion) in disability benefits for about 8,000 Filipino veterans or their family members this year.

President Obama signed in 2009 the stimulus package that contained the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC), providing a one-time lump sum payment ($15,000 for those in the US and $9,000 for those in the Philippines) for Filipino World War II veterans.

Paying the money – meant to make up for an injustice when Filipinos who served under the US Commonwealth Army and American-led guerilla forces during World War II were arbitrarily stripped of their benefits in the 1946 Rescission Law – is predicated on fulfilling stringent requirements.

Almeda, who earned American citizenship in 1996 by being a “bona-fide” US war veteran, is still fighting to get the lump-sum. “I had an appeal and 3 days before the hearing, I was able to get a record of my service at the NPRC (national personnel record center) in central Missouri, and the appellate judge remanded the case to the regional office in Manila for proper disposition,” he told the Manila Mail.

Since 2009, 18,350 Filipino war veterans or their survivors “have received a total of $221 million in one-time FVEC payments. This exceeds the 18,000 veterans estimated prior to the FVEC benefits becoming law,” according to the US Embassy in Manila.

But about 24,000 have had their applications rejected for various reasons. Some 4,389 have filed appeals, mostly to question the strident reliance on the NPRC, the so-called Missouri List.

“I don’t know why the appellate judge remanded the case to Manila because I got the record of my service at NPRC,” he added testily.

His tone turns sad, “That was 8 months ago now. I have not heard anything about it. I don’t know what will happen now.”

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Manila reported that last year, the Department of Veterans Administration in Manila disbursed $187 million in compensation and pension payments; $15 million FVEC payments; nearly $11 million for medical services; and over $2 million for education and vocational programs.

The statement noted the funds had “sizeable economic impact on the Philippines and a significant positive impact on the thousands of veterans and beneficiaries it serves in the Philippines.”

But for aging veterans like Almeda, the wait – and the struggle – continues. Perhaps one of the most recognizable Filipino World War II veterans on Capitol Hill, he is present in most major Washington DC events for veterans, providing a face to America’s broken promises.


Filipino and Vietnamese Americans here have found common cause in pushing back against China’s belligerence in the South China Sea.

“We want to tell China that they need to observe international law but we need to do everything peacefully,” Ginie Nguyen, a spokesperson of the Viet-Am community told the Manila Mail at a prayer rally at the Martin Luther King monument last Aug. 21.

She said they are joining the Filipino-led boycott of Chinese goods.

“From the East Vietnamese Sea to the West Philippine Sea, China is creating problems in many places. Since we are a small country, we want to tell them the weak, poor and small people have ways to fight back peacefully,” she explained.

About 50 Viet-Am and Fil-Am activists participated in the prayer rally. Eric Lachica, one of the convenors of the anti-China movement, said this was just the start of mass actions across the globe to protest China’s “creeping invasion” in the South China Sea.

He said they plan to stage pickets during the visit of top Chinese government officials in Washington DC. Lachica told the Manila Mail they received reports that ranking Chinese leaders were scheduled to visit in the next few weeks.

“We’re going to give him a warm welcome,” Lachica promised.

But the Chinese may already be a step ahead.  A ranking Chinese military official flew in from Beijing unannounced to meet with US officials. Cai Yingting, deputy chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was the 2nd senior Chinese military official in visit the US in the last 3 months.

Neither China nor the US announced Cai’s visit. He reportedly discussed escalating tension between China and her neighbors, particularly Japan. The US and Japan is holding a month-long naval maneuvers in the western Pacific.

Japan-China ties have deteriorated over a territorial dispute in the Diaoyu Islands.

Nguyen said China’s neighbors are increasingly facing the same problem. “Today is the launch of boycott,” she averred, “we are doing this for the long term until we reach our goal to stop violence in the South China Sea, and for China to honor the code of conduct and observe the sovereignty of other countries.”

“Prayers are action events to get community leaders engaged,” Lachica argued.

But he feels that a boycott was something China can feel in more tangible terms. “This is going to be a long drawn out affair but if we can just make a 1 percent dent that would mean billions of dollars to the Chinese government.”


The Philippine Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) has suspended implementation of part of a recent order governing the activities of visiting foreign doctors, nurses and other professionals in the country.

The June 21, 2012 directive stipulates that foreign professionals – including Filipino-Americans conducting short-duration medical missions – must register and secure special permits and buy liability insurance, among others.

Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO Chair Imelda Nicolas said the PRC and Health Department Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa have agreed to suspend at least two provisions of PRC Resolution 2012-668 involving the increased fees for special temporary permits and the requirement to buy liability insurance.

“You have expressed both to CFO and DOH your vehement objections to several provisions of the PRC resolution,” Nicolas said in her letter to the Fil-Am community.

“It was then a very pleasant surprise when during the meeting PRC announced through an authorized representative of PRC Chairperson Teresita Manzala that PRC is suspending immediately the implementation of Sections 5 and 17 of the PRC resolution,” she explained.

Nicolas added that because of this, guidelines covering these two sections reverted to a 2009 joint administrative order.

“Please to all of you, please do not cancel your scheduled medical missions to the Philippines,” she implored.

There was a strong backlash from the controversial PRC circular that actually set the implementing guidelines for a 12-year-old law that aimed to modernize and beef up the PRC.

Maryland-based Dr. Zorayda Lee-Llacer predicted fewer physicians would volunteer for medical missions. “To me this is R.I.P. to our enviable, proud tradition of giving back to our less fortunate countrymen,” lamented Dr. Juan Montero II of Virginia.

The rules covered foreign nationals in the Philippines through international treaty or agreements, including those working for foreign companies or aid organizations, and “former Filipino professionals”.

The special temporary permits are valid for only one year but can be extended. The permits can be obtained by paying a P3,000 ($73) application fee, P8,000 ($195) for the cost of the ID itself and the purchase of liability insurance.

Foreign doctors need to produce a copy of their passport, an authenticated copy of the professional license issued by their country of origin, proof of purchase of liability insurance in the Philippines and the Special Temporary Permit.

Various Fil-Am groups have postponed or cancelled scheduled medical-surgical missions to the Philippines early next year.

Every year, hundreds of Fil-Am doctors, nurses, engineers and other professionals visit their hometowns in the Philippines, partly for leisure and also to share the fruits of their success in America.

They go beyond playing tourists, spending much of the year in the US collecting medicines, surplus medical equipment and even food, toys and used clothes that they give away to the poor, usually in the weeks before and after the Christmas holidays.

Dr. Lee-Llacer says that while she agrees aggrieved families should be compensated for medical malpractice that could be a tempting target for opportunistic lawyers.

“Malpractice insurance is the red meat for tort lawyers. Haven't we learned that in US and guess what has happened to our unaffordable healthcare system?” Dr. Montero asked.

“When we go on surgical missions, we spend our own money for the air fare to the Philippines. We bring a significant amount of surgical supplies that we give to the hospital. We spend our valuable time collecting and packing these supplies. We spend money from our own pockets to ship these supplies. This is a labor of love,” Dr. Lee-Llacer stressed.

She added that proof of a valid license especially those issued in the US should suffice to establish the competence of visiting Fil-Am professionals. “Those are not easy to get,” she argued, “The US requires many proofs of training and specialty certifications. All states monitor the practice of every physician.”

Nicolas, who received an earful from Fil-Am doctors at the recent NaFFAA convention, said the DOH will continue to oversee the implementation of foreign surgical and medical missions in the Philippines.

They urged the PRC to convene in October, together with the CFO, DOH and the Interior and Local Government Department a “multi-stakeholders’ strategic workshop” to discuss the growing field of surgical and medical missions in the Philippines.

“We would like to thank PRC and DOH for helping us resolve this issue, and all of you for speaking out and for having the patience to wait for the results of this process,” Nicolas said. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


New rules governing foreign medical missions in the Philippines are dampening the enthusiasm of some Filipino-Americans at a time when Philippine officials are precisely calling on them to “give back” to the mother country.

Many are complaining that helping Filipinos back home just got more complicated.

“When the requirement becomes too difficult, less physicians will volunteer their time to join medical missions,” Maryland-based Dr. Zorayda Lee-Llacer told the Manila Mail.

“To me this is R.I.P. to our enviable, proud tradition of giving back to our less fortunate fellow countrymen,” rued Juan Montero II of Chesapeake, Va. in an email seen by the Manila Mail.

At least one Fil-Am group has already decided to put-off a scheduled medical-surgical mission to San Jose, Antique in mid-January 2013.

The Philippine Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC) started to implement last July a new set of guidelines that puts into motion a law signed by then President Joseph Estrada, among the last bills he approved before being ousted in a People Power revolt almost 12 years ago.

Efforts to spare Fil-Am physicians doing volunteer work in the Philippines have apparently been ongoing for the past several years. Now they are upset that the PRC is actually pushing through with the new requirements.

The guidelines are contained in a resolution approved last June 21 that stipulated, among others, non-Filipino professionals who intend to practice a profession in the Philippines – including those joining short-duration volunteer missions – to register or secure special temporary permits from the PRC and the respective Professional Regulatory Boards.

The rules covered foreign nationals in the Philippines through international treaty or agreements, including those working for foreign companies or aid organizations, and “former Filipino professionals”.

The special temporary permits are valid for only one year but can be extended. The permits can be obtained by paying a P3,000 ($73) application fee, P8,000 ($195) for the cost of the ID itself and the purchase of liability insurance.

Foreign doctors need to produce a copy of their passport, an authenticated copy of the professional license issued by their country of origin, proof of purchase of liability insurance in the Philippines and the Special Temporary Permit.

Balikbayan Filipino physicians may opt to renew their Philippine licenses by showing their old PRC identification card, a copy of their license or registration issued by their adopted country and payment of a penalty equivalent to the number of years they allowed their Philippine license to expire.

Pablito Alarcon said he’s been trying to renew his Philippine geodetic engineer’s license but one requirement is to attend a seminar and join the Geodetic Engineer Association of the Philippines.

But he noted the seminar is not available on-line which poses a major stumbling block for engineers like him who may wish to use skills and experience, honed by years of working in the US, to help countrymen back home.

Dr. Lee-Llacer says that while she agrees aggrieved families should be compensated for medical malpractice, that could be a tempting target for opportunistic lawyers.

“Malpractice insurance is the red meat for tort lawyers. Haven't we learned that in US and guess what has happened to our unaffordable healthcare system?” Dr. Montero asked.

“When we go on surgical missions, we spend our own money for the air fare to the Philippines. We bring a significant amount of surgical supplies that we give to the hospital. We spend our valuable time collecting and packing these supplies. We spend money from our own pockets to ship these supplies. This is a labor of love,” Dr. Lee-Llacer stressed.

She added that proof of a valid license especially those issued in the US should suffice to establish the competence of visiting Fil-Am professionals. “Those are not easy to get,” she argued, “the US requires many proofs of training and specialty certifications. All states monitor the practice of every physician.”

“My husband and I have been members of the Maryland Medical State Board, each one of us served 8 years which is a total of 16 years,” she pointed out.

Dr. Lee-Llacer added that in most instances, medical-surgical missions by visiting Fil-Am doctors and nurses are pre-approved by medical organizations in the targeted beneficiary areas, and they submit reports to local government and village officials before leaving.

“We do not want to compete with the income of local practitioners,” she told the Manila Mail.

The need for help from overseas Filipinos couldn’t have been more relevant with days of torrential rains flooding large parts of the Metro Manila region and surrounding provinces.


After 32 years, the Philippine Association of Metropolitan Washington Engineers (PAMWE) has a woman at the helm with a vision of steering one of Metro DC’s most active Fil-Am organizations to new directions.

Hilda Leuterio Gigioli is the first PAMWE president with an Information Technology (IT) background so it’s small wonder that she wants to take the group global. “I have tremendous respect for the past officers who contributed to maintaining this organization,” she said in a written interview for the Manila Mail.

“My vision for this organization is to embrace technology,” she explained, expressing the wish that more Filipino IT engineers would join and become active partners in growing PAMWE.

And she hastened to add, “I would like to see more women engineers in our organization”. There have been only three female presidents of PAMWE.

PAMWE was born in 1980 as essentially a gentlemen’s club for Filipino immigrant engineers who’ve settled in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Pepito Solis, one of its founding members, recounted how Carlos Alvano invited a group of engineers to their house where they decided to form the organization and wrote its guiding principles.

PAMWE, the merry band declared, would be a group that establishes “bonds of unity and friendship”, laid down a job referral system, help its members prepare for State Professional licensing examinations, formed as PAMWE Foundation to raise funds for scholarships, and promote the professional advancement of its members.

Solis, a native of Lemery, Batangas, epitomized the early immigrant engineers in the Metro DC region. “I immigrated to the US in 1965 when the cost of gas at 25 cents per gallon was considered high, apartment rent was $125 a month and wages at $1.25 per hour,” he reminisced.

An electrical engineering graduate from Feati University, he “networked” with other Filipino engineers in the area to land jobs with consulting, architect and engineering companies and federal agencies like the Voice of America and Federal Aviation Administration where he retired after 26 years of government service.

Although he wishes PAMWE will continue doing what it’s done for over 3 decades, Solis realizes that the future of their organization lie in infusing new blood and fresh directions. “This is happening now by the active participation of younger engineers especially the presidency of daughters of a former PAMWE member,” he declared.

He was apparently referring to Gigioli and sister Hedy Leuterio Thomas, who was the group’s president until 2010 and currently sits as its chairperson.

“My father, Mariano Leuterio, was one of the early officers of PAMWE (he served as vice president). This organization was very dear to his heart so that when he passed away in 2007, my sister and I vowed to continue his legacy,” she explained.

 “We need to do away with the notion that engineering is a man’s field,” Gigioli averred.

Incidentally, PAMWE is also proving to be a cradle of future leaders – her immediate predecessor, Aylene Mafnas left because she had to take over leadership of the Philippine American Foundation for Charities (PAFC), a broader-based Fil-Am organization that does critical work for indigents in the mother country.

Gigioli herself, a computer science and engineering graduate from the Catholic University of America with a Masters in systems engineering from Boston University, has the distinction of being one of only two Filipinos and PAMWE members (the other was her father) to serve as President of the prestigious District of Columbia Council of Engineering and Architectural Societies.

Gigioli has already carved a path to where she wants to take PAMWE. That includes increasing the number of their scholars, expanding membership especially for those in IT field, heightening awareness of PAMWE especially among female engineers and aligning the group’s thrusts with other Filipino organizations in the Metro DC region.

She wants to increase grants to scholarship foundations by soliciting universities for the partial or total waiving of tuition fees and sponsorships from private businesses. She also intends to mount a Young Membership Campaign that will go to universities and provide awareness about PAMWE to graduating seniors; as well as leading PAMWE to celebrate National Engineers’ week by focusing on the advancement of women in engineering.

To increase the group’s visibility, she plans to send members to various school awareness programs in science and math, and volunteer as judges in science competitions.

She has also set her sights farther down the road with plans to expand the group’s scholarship program to include technical training in the Philippines and opening membership to engineering students.

“Ten years from now PAMWE will embrace the globalization of technology,” she declared, like helping Filipino engineers and engineering firms participate in the global economy.

While that may sound like overly lofty goals, PAMWE already has rich history of achievement that Solis outlined for the Manila Mail. They include technical support to the Philippine Embassy ranging from surveys and designs for the renovation of the Chancery to putting up Christmas lights at the Embassy.

The PAMWE has also established an engineering scholarship program at the University of Maryland along with 10 perpetual engineering scholarships in various Philippine universities. Solis revealed they have financed the construction of a classroom building in Legaspi, Albay as well as 11 similar classrooms sponsored by PAMWE members in their individual capacity as volunteers of Feed the Hungry Inc.

The group has also organized seminars on business opportunities in the Philippines at the Smithsonian and George Washington University.

As part of their calendar of activities, PAMWE is holding a benefit ball on Aug. 25 at the Fairview Park Marriott in Falls Church, Va.


Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr. exhorted Filipino-Americans to realize their true power by going out to register and vote in November as the nation’s largest Fil-Am organization vowed to intensify efforts to bring more Fil-Ams to the voting precints.

“Since Day 1 I have been telling them that for us to have a potent voice in the US Congress, Fil-Ams would have to go out and vote,” Cuisia told the Manila Mail.

In Detroit, Mi. the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) held its 10th Empowerment Conference to renew its long term goal of mobilizing Filipinos of voting age in the US to go out and vote in local and national elections.

Vowing to seize the opportunity made possible by their growing numbers in the US – 3.4 million, according to the 2010 Census – the Fil-Am community leaders reaffirmed their commitment to register their family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and newly-naturalized citizens and get them to the polls in November.

Now in it’s 6th year, NaFFAA’s FilAm Vote project is undertaking aggressive voter education and voter registration, notably in states with large Filipino populations.

In Nevada, for instance, the number of Filipinos grew by 146 percent in 10 years. Other so-called battleground states, like Virginia and Florida, have drawn the attention of both national parties because of the rapid growth of the Asian American community.

“This was in the minds of our founding fathers when NaFFAA was formed 15 years ago,” said NaFFAA National Chairman Ed Navarra in his keynote address at the opening of the conference on Aug. 3. “An ethnic community that is able to translate its numbers into political muscle and influence national policies that affect our interests.”

He recalled how NaFFAA’s founding chairman, Alex Esclamado,  rallied the community to press Congress to pass the Filipino Veterans Equity  bill. “Alex believed in harnessing our numbers to correct an historic injustice. It may have been an ‘impossible dream,’ but he knows it takes political action to make it come true.”

Cuisia suggested that American policy- and lawmakers have not really responded to the political potential of the Fil-Am community because of its virtual absence in elections. 

“Unfortunately in the last 2 presidential elections less than 10 percent of Fil-Ams actually cast their votes and that’s why we don’t have a potent voice in the US Congress,” the Philippines’ chief envoy pointed out.  

“Legislators look at that and say anyway the Filipinos don’t vote,” he added.

In the 2004 presidential elections, only 594,000 Filipino Americans voted - a decline of 7 percent because 122,000 registered voters did not cast their ballots,” said Gloria Caoile, former NaFFAA national vice chair and co-chair of FilAm Vote. 

"It didn’t get any better in 2008. Potentially, 40 percent of our total number can be mobilized to go to the polls. But we need to register them if they haven't done so and educate them on issues that directly affect our community so they will appreciate what's at stake, especially for our children and families."

Parallel to the get-out-to-vote campaign, Cuisia explained that more Fil-Ams should pursue political office or at least consider a career in American politics.

He pointed to Alexander de Ocampo who is running for a seat in the Los Angeles, Ca. city council. De Ocampo belongs to the pioneering batch of the Filipino American Youth Leadership Program (FAYLP) which recently returned from a working tour of the Philippines where they met with top Philippine political and business leaders.

As his project for the FAYLP, de Ocampo reportedly wants to promote political empowerment because, as the Philippine envoy averred, “he’s eventually going to run for higher political office; he’s quite young and it’s good he’s starting early.”

Cuisia noted that Rep. Steve Austria, the first 1st generation Fil-Am to win a seat in the US Congress, is not running for re-election in November.

Energized by the day’s discussions, delegates caucused separately as Democrats and Republicans and mapped out strategies to mobilize their base. “But our common goal is to build political power for our community,” said Caoile.

“So much is at stake that we can’t afford to simply stand by and not be politically engaged.”

At the 3-day NaFFAA conference delegates also addressed immigration reform, the DREAM Act, the SAVE Act, medicare portability, medical and trade missions to the Philippines, pending issues related to Filipino World War II veterans, and the legal defense of Filipinos who need assistance.  

The Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FALDEF), a NAFFAA affiliate, was set up four years ago for this purpose. It is providing legal counsel and assistance to Jose Antonio Vargas, the acclaimed Pulizer-Prize winner who recently disclosed his status as an undocumented immigrant.  


The son of a Filipino-American couple from Waldorf, Md. recently won the gold medal at the 21st Pan-American Junior Badminton Championships in Canada.

Don Henley Averia, who turned 9 last February, topped his division in the under-11 age group at the junior badminton tilt held in Edmonton, Canada on July 25-29.

The games drew the most promising shuttlecock players in the Under-11 to Under-13 categories from 16 countries.

It was his first Badminton World Federation (BWF) tournament, mother Treldy enthused. “I am very proud of this win,” she said.  

“He feels victorious because he was up against a 10-year-old Peruvian boy who was about 3 inches taller than him,” his mother revealed, adding that the gold medal was a “big reward” for all the preparation that required daily practices for the past 3 months.

He was the only Fil-Am in the US badminton juniors team. He earned the slot by winning the qualifying trials held in Boston, Ma. last April via a 7-0 sweep of his games.

Don has been playing badminton since he was 5 years old and likely adopted the sport from his father who plays it for recreation and exercise.

The family is currently based in Qatar so Don goes to the international school there.

“We would bring him to the badminton court with us whenever we had time to play,” she recounted. “He was fascinated by the quick moves of the game and how one could outsmart his opponent.”

He later joined the Qatar Badminton Academy where he swept games in the singles and doubles categories for both the Under-10 and Under-13 age groups.

“He has always been praised for his excellent footwork and intelligence in the court. During his first tournament outside Qatar, he was voted Most Promising Player,” Treldy told the Manila Mail.

Don points to 28-year-old Chinese 4-time world and reigning Olympic badminton champion Lin Dan as his biggest sports hero.

“Badminton is something would love to pursue professionally,” she averred. “He hopes to uplift the level of badminton in America.”

“Most Americans regard it as a backyard sport – something anyone could play while cooking barbecue on a hot summer day. There are very few badminton courts in the East Coast although Treldy says its fast gaining popularity in the West Coast, especially in California.

“It’s his dream to play for the US team in the Olympics,” the boy’s mom stressed. “He would love to play for the Philippines we have not had the chance to try-out for the junior squad.”

She confessed they seldom visit the Philippines anymore so it was difficult for Don to participate in tournaments so he can qualify for the national team. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Filipino veterans assailed the alleged inaction of the Pentagon on an 8-month-old Obama directive to look into the possibility of using documents other than the so-called Missouri List that can make them eligible to get a one-time lump sum payment.

Filipino World War II veterans belonging to the American Coalition of Filipino Veterans (ACFV) led by its two top leaders – Patrick Ganio, 91 and Franco Arcebal, 86 – railed against the White House last July 26 to draw attention to their plight.

They called on President Obama to deliver on his promise to help the aging Filipino World War II veterans after thousands were turned away because their names could not be found in the official US Army roster in St. Louis, Missouri.

They complained that their petitions have largely been ignored by US Defense Undersecretary for Policy James Miller who was apparently tasked to look into President Obama’s directive last November to “update and simplify” procedures for recognizing Filipino World War II veterans.

Instead, the elderly veterans lamented, a US Army policy declaration last May 2 determined that Philippine Commonwealth military records at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis was deemed “not official”.

This appeared to contravene the spirit of the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation – tacked into the 2009 American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (aka stimulus bill) which had at least recognized the validity of the Missouri List, they noted.

The equity compensation provides $15,000 for Filipino World War II veterans living in the US and $9,000 for those in the Philippines. The amount was settlement for the 1946 Rescission Act that deprived Filipino soldiers and guerillas who served under US military command in World War II of veterans benefits, including those given to other American allies.

An initial amount of $198 million was set aside for the one-time lump payments for 18,000 veterans who were believed to be what was left of Filipino soldiers and guerillas who fought under American command during the Pacific War.

But it turned out the number was much bigger, prompting the US Congress to replenish the fund. Today, a total of $221 million have been paid out to Filipino veterans here and in the Philippines. There is still $44 million reportedly in the kitty.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs said they received a total of 42,713 applications but rejected 24,220 for various reasons. Only 4,430 of those applicants filed appeals and challenged the grounds for rejection.

Eric Lachica, ACFV executive director, and other veterans activists have blamed the VA’s rigid certification requirements for the large number of denials.

Of the thousands of cases now being looked into by the Board of Veterans Appeals, only 189 (about 4 percent) have been reopened.

They sent copies of letters to various US officials, including one from Nevada Sen. Dean Heller to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta dated July 18 to underscore how hard they’ve been trying to reach out to the Pentagon.

“We are working with the staff of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV) and the White House Commission on Asian Pacific Americans to update this US Army policy. They look forward to your kind assistance and prompt action as commander-in-chief,” the letter said.