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.