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.