Thursday, 30 December 2010

Pinoy Harvard grad facing deportation released

LOS ANGELES, California - A Filipino Harvard graduate detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for allegedly being an illegal immigrant has been released.

In a phone interview with ABS-CBN North America News Bureau, ICE said they granted a "deferred action" to Mark Farrales for one year to afford him "additional time to pursue his options."

Farrales, 31, was detained at the Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, California last October.

Farrales's supporters in the Filipino-American community were happy about his release.

The online petition against the deportation of Farrales was started by University of California San Diego students where Farrales is getting a doctorate degree.

Filipino organizations in LA’s Historic Filipinotown joined this effort. This is the place where Farrales grew up and graduated valedictorian of his high school class.

"When the community hears of one of its own, who went out and was doing really well, and being targeted unfairly, then of course, people will come out. There's the petition, there's the letter-writing to the senators in his support," said Jollene Levid.

"He has gone through so much and has come from nothing and been able to make a lot for himself," said Mark Ramos, a youth leader who supported Farrales.

In a statement he posted on Facebook, Farrales thanked his hundreds of supporters who actively contacted US government officials to help him.

“I am absolutely shocked and dumbfounded by this level of support. I cannot find the words to express just how I feel. It’s an overwhelming feeling, a transcendental feeling, a transformative feeling,” Farrales wrote on Facebook.

He added, “From a purely legal standpoint, my journey is far from over. My release from detention – as wonderful as it is – is but the first step. I face many months, probably years, of legal struggle. But at least I am out. And I am with my family on Christmas Day. And I have your love and support.”

“I truly feel blessed. I wish you all the best and hope that this holiday season you feel the love of your friends and family.”

Farrales was only 10 years old when his family flew to America. Jaime, Farrales’s father, filed for political asylum after he was nearly killed due to his political activities in the Philippines, according to Farrales's interview with The Los Angeles Times.

While his father's political asylum for the family was ongoing, Farrales went on to excel in school and graduated with top honors at Harvard University.

However, when his father died, Farrales's future as an American became unclear.

The Filipino-American community was dismayed when they heard about the Fil-Am Harvard graduate's immigration problem.

Filipino groups have been joining the call for US President Barack Obama's administration to consider the cases of exemplary young immigrants like Farrales.

“Every day they work so hard to try to battle and get good grades and go to college. That's what they came here for. They try so hard and all of sudden, everything can be taken away," said youth leader Ramos.

Community leaders are also asking the Filipino-American community to step up in this and other immigration cases.

"Stop your apathy. Be involved. There are 1.5 million Filipinos who have no papers or [are] undocumented. It doesn't matter if we're citizens here, it doesn't matter if we're Democrats or Republicans. Help other Filipinos. If you're a Filipino, you will help your fellow Filipinos," said Arturo Garcia, Historic Filipinotown community leader.

Because of the failure of the DREAM Act, the measure that could have paved the way for the legalization of the students who are children of illegal immigrants, many young Pinoys who have lived in America most of their lives are living in fear of deportation.

Some of them, like Farrales, are hoping to get green cards through private immigration bills that lawmakers can file for immigrants with extraordinary cases.

The US Congress and President Obama can approve these bills. Though it's a rarely approved immigration tactic, on December 22, Obama signed bills that granted legal status to 2 Japanese nationals. It was the first private immigration bill approval in 5 years.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

New-look Magic face Christmas test against Celtics

ORLANDO, Florida – The retooled Orlando Magic knocked off NBA leaders San Antonio on Thursday, and have their sights set now on the league's number two team when they host Boston on Christmas Day.

"We've only seen a glimpse of what we could be and how well we could play and what we could do," said Orlando's Jason Richardson, who joined the Magic on Saturday as part of two blockbuster trades engineered by the struggling club.

Orlando acquired Richardson, Hedo Turkoblu and Earl Clark from Phoenix, and Gilbert Arenas from Washington in deals that saw them give up Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and Martin Pietrus along with a 2011 first-round draft selection.

The new-look lineup lost their first two games before cruising to a victory over a weary San Antonio - ending the Spurs' 10-game winning streak.

"Boston will be another good test," Richardson said. "But time will tell how good we really are."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said he didn't know if Orlando match up better now with Boston.

"I'm not sure how, since they've gotten smaller, what sense that makes," Rivers said. "They've just brought more talent and they're a better team, to me, in the long run because they've added more talent."

Even Magic coach Stan Van Gundy isn't quite sure how the mid-season moves will pan out for Orlando against the Eastern Conference's elite teams.

"I think Miami and Boston are very, very good. Chicago, Atlanta and New York are all playing well and are good. And I think we're a total unknown," Van Gundy said.

But win or lose against the Celtics on Saturday, Orlando center Dwight Howard said the real test of the changes will come later, in the playoffs, when Orlando will be hoping to improve on their performance of last year when they were knocked out by Boston in the Eastern Conference finals.

"We're not playing for December or January," Howard said. "We're playing for June."

Lakers, Heat, downplay Christmas clash

LOS ANGELES – The defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers get their first face-to-face look at the new Miami Heat on Saturday, with many on both teams downplaying the significance of the Christmas Day clash.

"I don't think it's a measuring stick for us," said two-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James, who created a stir in the offseason as he linked up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form a superstar trio in Miami. "It's just another game."

Lakers star Kobe Bryant said much the same in a television interview last week, but the contest may have taken on more importance for Los Angeles after their shocking 19-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.

Bryant was ejected for two technical fouls in the waning minutes of that game and has since kept his thoughts to himself.

It was a disappointing performance for the Lakers, who own a 21-8 record but have often looked lackluster in taking on a series of soft-target teams.

"I thought their come-uppance might come against Miami, but Milwaukee delivered the blow," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "So maybe it got their attention so they can get focused on basketball."

While James and Bryant have denied the game has any extra significance, Lakers point guard Derek Fisher admitted it was an intriguing matchup.

"The personalities that are going to be matching up in this game, I don't know if it can get any bigger," Fisher said. "Although there will be other games in this regular season that can mean more, from a personality standpoint and a star-power point, I don't know if it can get any bigger."

Star-power notwithstanding, James insists the real tests will come in the playoffs.

James led Cleveland against the Lakers on Christmas last year in a Cavaliers victory that saw frustrated Lakers fans throwing souvenirs and water bottles on the court in irritation at their team.

But the Lakers went on to win it all and Cleveland failed to advance from the Eastern Conference playoffs -- prompting James to move to Miami.

"I was in Cleveland and we beat the two-time champs twice in one season, and it didn't get me anything," James said.

"It's one game," he said of Saturday's contest. "The media guys hype it up, but when that time is over and done with, we've got to move on to the next one."

OFWs campaign for justice in Canada

WINNIPEG – When Antonio Laroya, Arnisito Gaviola and Ermie Zotomayor left the Philippines for Canada in 2007, they never expected they would be jailed and face deportation 3 years later.

The 3 fathers came to Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) to work in a gas station in High Prairie, Alberta. Although it is illegal in Alberta for recruiters to charge workers a fee for finding employment, the 3 were charged $3,000 each for the jobs.

Like many other foreign workers, they went to Canada to escape poverty and to provide a better life and opportunity for their families.

“I am the breadwinner, not only of my own family, but also of my mother, 62, and my brother and sisters,” said Gaviola, 42.

As of 2009, over 280,000 foreign workers were in Canada, according to the Citizen and Immigration Canada, 2010.

From 2007 to 2009 alone, almost 50,000 foreign workers from the Philippines entered Canada via the TFWP.

3,900 Filipinos leave daily

The chronic unemployment and lack of opportunities in the Philippines has resulted in the daily exodus of approximately 3,900 Filipinos who find jobs outside the country, according to data from IBON Foundation in 2009. Many of these university-educated workers find employment in remote communities doing jobs which locals are unwilling to do.

Just last year, 3,649 foreign workers entered Manitoba to work in the service and agriculture sectors to fill the labor shortages in these industries.

After almost 2 years of working, the 3 were laid off from the gas station. They obtained work permits and employment at a restaurant in Peace River, Alberta where they lived together in a mobile home. They asked their restaurant employer if they could be sponsored under Alberta’s Provincial Nominee Program but unfortunately the employer could not, and the 3, once again, found themselves looking for jobs once more.

After a friend found a job at a gas station in Thompson, Manitoba, the 3 packed their belongings and headed to the distant town with the promise of new work permits and low-wage jobs. Their new employer insisted they start working at once and promised that the work permits would soon follow.

Unfortunately after waiting for 3 months, the employer still failed to obtain the new work permits as promised even after repeated follow-up.

This caused the workers to be "out of status".

Arrested for having no work permits

On June 24, 2010, the trio was arrested by the Canadian Border Services Agency and jailed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for not having proper work permits. When they were released, all their identification cards were confiscated including their Philippine passports.

Since their arrest, the 3 have not been allowed to work, which has caused great distress for their families.

“I’m also depressed because my daughter stopped studying. She’s a smart girl. She did not want to stop, but what can I do?” said Laroya, 45, a career overseas worker who worked in Israel for almost 3 years prior to coming to Canada.

The 3 tried to seek legal advice in Thompson after their release but the Legal Aid Manitoba office said they were not eligible.

After seeking the advice of a Philippine consular official, they applied for another job with the help of an immigration consultant who charged them $4,500 to process their permits.

However, because of their arrest and pending court hearing, the work permit, which they paid the consultant to process, could not be granted.

Migrante Canada is assisting the 3 in their campaign to stay in Canada and is asking for support from Filipinos and the wider community. About 100% of the proceeds from their campaign will go to help the 3 men.

Migrante Canada and the 3 are also asking Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney to consider their appeal to stay in Canada after their trial on December 23 in Winnipeg.

“We never had any intent to violate any laws. Our only wish has always been to work to provide for our families and one day be reunited,” said Zotomayor, 45.

Migrante Canada is an alliance of 16 organizations in Canada advocating for the rights and welfare of migrant workers.

Toyota pays crash victims’ family $10M

CALIFORNIA - Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corporation has agreed to pay a Filipino American family $10 million to settle a lawsuit over a car crash that resulted in the death of 4 people in San Diego last year.

California Highway Patrol officer Mark Saylor, his wife Cleofe Lastrella, daughter Mahala, and his brother-in-law Chris died on the spot after the Toyota Lexus they were riding went out of control and crashed in August 2009.

In accepting the settlement, surviving family members agreed to drop the lawsuit against Toyota.

Toyota has recalled millions of vehicles in 2009, most notably its best-selling hybrid Prius, due to complaints of sticky gas pedals.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The wretched of the sea: piracy's 600 anonymous hostages

NAIROBI - Huddled together in the dark sooty hulls of their ships, often abandoned to their Somali pirate captors by governments and shipowners, as many as 650 seamen await their fate on the edge of the Indian Ocean.

Last month's release of British yachting couple Paul and Rachel Chandler grabbed the headlines but the hundreds of Filipino, Yemeni or Ukrainian seafarers who are going to spend New Year as hostages are causing a storm of indifference.

The Iceberg, captured on March 29 in the Gulf of Aden, is a typically average catch: a 4,000-ton vessel flagged in Panama, owned by a Dubai-based company and carrying a cargo of generators.

Its crew is almost a perfect sample of the most represented nationalities on the thousands of merchant vessels plying the world's trade routes; they hail from Yemen, India, the Philippines, Ghana, Sudan and Pakistan.

"Diseases have appeared among crew members, some have hemorrhoids, one has lost his eyesight and another has serious stomach problems," the ship's Yemeni captain Abdirazzak Ali Saleh told Agence France-Presse by phone.

"The water we have is unclean and we have only one meal a day, boiled rice, that's it. The crew is suffering physically and mentally," he said, adding they had been locked up in a room of five meters square for close to nine months.

In October, the Iceberg's 3rd officer Wagdi Akram, a father of four, jumped overboard in a fit of dementia. The pirates fished him out dead.

A video shot last month and obtained by AFP shows two crewmen unzipping an orange plastic casing to reveal the Yemeni sailor's body kept in a freezer with a few bags of ice to keep it cold.

"The body is still in the freezer but we have no diesel to run the generators," the captain said.

Saleh said the crew was banned from calling their families.

The dead seaman's relatives cannot receive inheritance benefits without a death certificate and their demands for financial assistance have been rejected by the owner's agent in Aden.

While pirates are not politically motivated and have tended to spare the lives of their hostages, the crews' detention is no less traumatic and often lasts longer than needed to conduct a successful negotiation.

"The longer a hijacking lasts, the more money shipowners with the right insurance and their intermediaries can get paid," said Ecoterra International, an environmental and human rights NGO monitoring piracy in the region.

"If no party with the interest of the crew at heart is applying pressure, negotiations that could be conducted in a matter of three to four weeks can last many months," an Ecoterra spokesman told AFP.

In the case of the Faina, a Ukrainian ship hijacked in September 2008 with a controversial cargo of weapons and on which the captain also died, the ransom paid after four months was the exact amount demanded after two days.

Adding to the trauma, crews are often still onboard when hijacked vessels are used by the pirates as "mother ships" from which to launch fresh attacks.

Few seamen have access to counselling when they get home.

The MV Iceberg's crew is confined to its hold and no contact has been made with the ship owner for six weeks, the captain and one of the pirates said.

"When a yacht is caught, the sailors are worth more for the pirates than the boat. But in most piracy cases, the value of the vessel itself and its cargo is what guarantees to the captors that a ransom is paid," Ecoterra explained.

"The crew's welfare becomes a very low priority, with pirates wishing they didn't have more people to feed and shipowners sometimes wishing they didn't have a crew preventing them from pulling off an insurance scam and sinking the vessel," the spokesman said.

On Thursday, relatives of Kenyan seamen held on three different hijacked vessels organized a vigil in the coastal city of Mombasa to demand news of their loves and financial support.

Families are often kept in the dark by governments hiding behind a "no negotiation with pirates" policy and by the complex onion-layered ownership structures of many vessels.

Caregivers lose jobs as employer faces embezzlement charges

EL CAJON, California – These are the final hours of operation for live-in caregivers at Park Villa Care Center. The end of their work here came as a surprise as their administrator Maria Corazon Park was arrested and charged last week with embezzling over US$600,000 from former patients.

“We have no work. That’s the bottom line. We don’t have a job and Christmas is coming. It’s so sad,” Priscilla Cumilang, a caregiver at the site for 2 years, said.

Park is facing 26 counts of elderly financial abuse, embezzlement, and money laundering. Prosecutors said she endeared herself to former patients so they can grant her access to their money. They eventually gave her power of attorney. But when they died, instead of distributing the money as instructed, Park spread them throughout several of her bank accounts and went on extravagant shopping sprees.

In another incident, Park allegedly tried to withdraw money from a deceased patient’s bank account, which raised suspicions among bank employees.

The Department of Social Services has ordered a closure of the 3 care homes administered by Park.

Cumilang said none of them were employed during the alleged scheme, but they said they are the ones suffering. A total of about 10 caregivers, most of them Filipinos, will be out of work. They worry more about their elderly patients that will also be stressed from the sudden change in living arrangements.

“The seniors are used to this place. It’s sad because all of a sudden, they’re in a different environment.”

Today, all the patients were relocated to nearby care homes.

Park is due to appear before a San Diego County Superior Court on Monday for preliminary hearing. She is currently held in prison on a $500,000 bond

Pinoy jai alai player makes a name for himself in Florida

DANIA, Florida - A Filipino athlete is making a name for himself in a fast-paced sport that until recently was banned in the Philippines.

At a sports complex in Dania, 24-year-old Charlie Medrano plays one of the fastest and most dangerous ball games in the world—the jai alai.

"I'm very happy. I'm blessed. This is an opportunity and a dream come true for me. So I grabbed it," Medrano said.

It’s a court sport played with a ball using one's hand and a basket.

In a jai alai game, Medrano said the ball travels through the air at 180 miles per hour.

“Mayroon akong experience, tinamaan ako sa kaliwang tenga and talagang 6 stitches ang aking nakuha,” Medrano said.

Jai alai was banned in the Philippines due to illegal gambling in 1986, but it got reinstated in March this year in Cagayan.

Medrano was only 11 years old when he first learned how to play jai alai.

He turned pro when he was discovered by a Dania Jai Alai executive who was impressed with his performance at the World Amateur Championship Competition in Mexico where he represented the Philippines in 2007.

“He's a very solid player. He's very sure. He has good core positioning which gives him the advantage when he does catch an easy ball to put the point away,” said Dania Jai Alai players’ manager, Benny Bueno.

But it was a rough start for Medrano. In his first year, he lost his first 72 games. When he finally won game 73, his winning streak began.

Today, he is one of the strongest and most admired players in Dania. He ranked number 2 overall in the last 2010 jai alai season.

“He's improved quite a bit. He's put on some weight. Last year, I believe, he won more games than any other player in the United States. So that's quite a change for a kid who lost 72 straight games," Hal Lesser, a fan from Delroy, Florida, said.

Medrano's goal is to make it to prime time jai alai as a featured game player--the league of elite players in Dania Jai Alai.

He also plans on going back to school to become a businessman or an accountant.

“Jai alai is not forever. As long as you're young, you're competitive. But if your age is above 30, not like in the Philippines, they still compete at age 40,” said Medrano.

At the rate his career is going, fans say he could be the next big thing in the fastest sport in the world.

Friday, 17 December 2010

RP Azkals unfazed despite loss to Indonesia

RP football team coach Simon McMenemy a day after his team lost to Indonesia in the Suzuki Cup semifinals.

MANILA, Philippines -- The morning after a loss is normally one of the toughest ones to wake up to as you deal with the reality that the loss indeed happened.

But the Azkals we saw Friday morning looked far from devastated. It seemed that they knew what they have in their hands now, and they are not about to let this situation and opportunity slip away.

Phil Younghusband, one of the team's strikers who had 2 solid attempts early in the game that were saved by the Indonesian keeper, felt that more than the intimidation of the home crowd, it was the noise level that affected them.

Younghusband said he had never played in a stadium louder than that. Even if a teammate was just a meter away, they could not hear each other due to the nonstop screaming and cheering of 70,000 strong spectators at the Bung Karno Stadium.

He conceded that Indonesia had some great defense as well, particularly the goal keeper who saved both his shots early on.

"They pulled back a bit more than we expected and that took us a bit by surprise ‘cause we normally expect them to attack and we prepare with our counterattack," he said.

As for Coach Simon McMenemy who has seen the best football all over the world, he likewise admitted that

RP football team striker Phil Younghusband a day after his team lost to Indonesia in the Suzuki Cup semifinals.

Indonesia's crowd and noise level was out of this world.

He likened it to a disco where you have to scream at someone's ear to get a word across.

Coach McMenemy felt that was one of the reasons why they gave up the first goal when Goal Keeper Neil Etheridge bumped into defender Rob Jonsson.

Nevertheless Coach McMenemy is confident the boys are over the loss and they have what it takes to bounce back.

Younghusband believes a tweak in the offensive strategy may be needed in the second half of Game 2 if the score is still close as the Azkals need to win by 2 to advance to the Finals or win 1-0 and get to a penalty shootout.

The team had lunch with the Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Vidal Querol on Friday after a short limbering and swim session.

No practice has been set on Friday as team officials felt it is more important for the team to relax a bit and return to the pitch on Saturday before Sunday's Game 2.

Pacquiao all set for 32nd birthday party

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino boxing hero and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao is all set to receive his guests in his birthday bash in General Santos City on Friday.

The boxer-turned-politician is celebrating his 32nd birthday with a lavish party at the KCC Convention Center, which was set up with a modern Greco theme.

Pacquiao is expecting at least 1,500 guests, which will include politicians, celebrities, athletes and fans.

Among the “very important personalities” attending are boxing promoter Bob Arum and his wife; Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson, beloved boxing coach Freddie Roach, Puerto Rican boxing champion Juan Manuel Lopez and musician Lito Camo.

Already on display in the venue are prizes to be raffled during the party. The prizes include a Toyota Vios, 2 motorcycles and 3 flat screen televisions.

Also on display is a classic 1962 Lambretta motorcycle with the life story of Pacquiao drawn all over it.

Mommy D’s wish

Pacquiao’s mother, Mommy Dionisia, has already greeted her beloved son.

“Sabi ko sa kanya, ‘happy birthday, anak’… antok pa siya niyakap ko,” she said.

Mommy D said she will appeal to Roach to convince her son to retire from boxing.

She said she is afraid that his work might take its toll on his health.

Pacquiao’s children Queenie, Princess, Michael and Jimuel also greeted their daddy.

Jimuel, the eldest among the four, even made a birthday card.

“I wish you all the success in life, I love you so much,” said his message written in the card.

A good political career

Pacquiao’s wife, Jinkee, said she wants the boxing champ to have a good career in politics.

“Sa boksing kasi lahat nakuha na so kung ano iyong gusto niya pa gawin sa pag serve, iyon [ang hiling ko],” said Jinkee.

She said she is willing to support her husband all the way, even to the vice-presidential or the presidential seat.

“Kung God's will, why not? Hindi natin alam kung ano pa ang wish ni Lord,” said Jinkee.

All geared up to party

Pacquiao, meanwhile, is already wearing his birthday get up.

He is clad in Burberry polo, Hermes belt and an expensive Patek Philippe watch given to him by Arum.

Pacquiao also received a rose-gold colored Rolex watch as a gift from Jinkee.

Before heading to the venue, Pacquiao and Jinkee attended a mass in Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage church.

There he prayed for his birthday wish.

“Hiningi ko [sa Diyos] na gabayan ako kung anong gagawin ko para makapag silbi, makatulong ng tao…para malaman ko kung ano gusto niya, gagawin ko,” said Pacquiao.

Swedish version of Syjuco's 'Ilustrado' launched

SWEDEN – Multi-awarded Filipino writer Miguel Syjuco recently launched the Swedish version of his book “Ilustrado” in Stockholm.

Balitang Europe reported that this is the 15th time that his book was translated into another language. (Related story: Miguel Syjuco's 'Ilustrado' impresses UK critics)

“Very proud as a Filipino to know that we have Filipino representatives in literature and I hope we get more of these people," Angelo Fredriksson, Filipino Youth Organizer, said.

Filipinos and foreigners waited in line to buy his book and to have the novel autographed by the Pinoy writer.

“It’s the best gift for my family and Swedish friends," said conference hostess Jeannette Lunderg. The New York Times recently named it as one of the top 100 books for the year (Related story: 'Ilustrado' joins top 100 books of NYTimes for 2010)

Philippine Ambassador to Sweden Zenaida Angara Collinsson was likewise proud of the extensive media coverage that the book launch received.

“Ito ay malaking karangalan para sa atin. Ang coverage niya dito ay very extensive, and for the first time, we had major dailies writing positive news, mabubuting bagay tungkol kay Miguel Syjuco at sa kanyang obra maestra na 'Ilustrado',” Ambassador Collinsson said.

Syjuco is grateful for the warm welcome he received in Sweden. He said his novel mirrors the events that happened in the Philippines.

Furthermore, he is confident that President Benigno Aquino III will instill the much needed reforms in the country.

“Personally, I think he is the most qualified and the most well-meaning among all of them,” Syjuco said.

"Illustrado" won the 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize and the grand prize in the 2008 Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

Filipino-Belgian dancer makes waves in Europ

THE NETHERLANDS – A Filipino-Belgian dancer is making waves in the Netherlands for pioneering and taking contemporary urban street culture to a higher level through dance and theater performances.

Marco Gerris is popularly known as one of the members of the jury of the hit dance show “So You Think You Can Dance”. But he is also the founder and artistic director of “ISH”, a dance company which aims to train young people interested in underground disciplines like hip hop, break dancing, skating, martial arts and beat box. He adopts these disciplines and transforms them into dance and theater shows for the general public.

Gerris, who grew up in Belgium, is proud of being 100% Filipino. He was adopted by his Belgian parents from an orphanage in Cebu when he was only 3 years old.

Bringing street culture to the stage

Originally wanting to be an actor, Gerris got into dancing when he was kicked out of Antwerp’s Terleick School of Drama. Since moving to Amsterdam when he was 23 years old, he discovered street dancing and started his own company “ISH”.

“I felt that there’s too less hip hop and breakdance on stage and if you found it, it was always too little. And I said, I want to make a crew, a dance company, with all these underground skills like skating, martial arts, beatbox, hip hop, breakdance, what comes from the street and make a show with it. 10 years later we are still doing it and we are still developing and inspiring a lot of youngsters,” said Gerris in an interview with Balitang Europe.

“ISH” quickly jumped to popularity after its first show in 2000, and has since then gathered several recognitions. Their shows were a hit, not only in the Netherlands but also in the United States and Canada, as well as other parts of Europe.

Gerrris' life also inspired the award-winning documentary “Wheels of Fortune,” and he has played in several dance movies.

With an initial crew of 7 young people, Gerris strived to develop his company, and in 2005 achieved his dream of playing in Broadway at the New Victory Theater in New York together with his crew.

Helping youth through dance

From the US, Europe, India and Africa, ISH has been touring their dance workshop all over the world to develop kids with the same interest and teach them the value of standing up for themselves.

“The concept with these workshops with kids is we ask the kids, what are you thinking, what do you think is wrong with this world and how do you think you can change that? And together with the teachers and the dancers, we create a performance about these with them.”

Gerris is proud of his former students from the slums of Bangalore in India, who started a dance company with the same concept as theirs. These achievements continue to inspire him to bring his work all around the world.

“The youngsters always get our philosophy about believing in yourself, stand up for yourself, you have a voice try doing something with that,” said Gerris.

Both in the studio and in his circle, Gerris is considered a friend and a mentor.

“Not only that he recognizes your talent but he also gives you the space and freedom to develop something in your own style. And of course he will lead you and give you his advice and he will guide you through the process,” said Abdelhadi Baaddi who has been training with Gerris for 5 years now.

Meanwhile, another friend and colleague also have the same compliment for the Pinoy dancer.

“He is a really great guy, he is a really good choreographer. You can really see the difference between him choreographing in ISH and him being a friend. Outside, he is really a cool guy, levels with everybody--colleagues, friends--but in the work space, when he is working something, then he is really a choreographer.”

Acknowledging his roots

When he was 25 years old, Gerris visited the Philippines for the first time. He said that a whole new world opened up to him, something that is very different from what he was used to. And although he was not able to find his biological parents, Gerris was happy to have visited.

“My biggest goal was to see where I grew up, that was the nicest thing for me. I want to go back one day again. I think every 5 years I want to go there.”

It was also during this visit that Gerris discovered where some of his talents came from.

Bringing his tools with him, Gerris played with some street kids. From there, he noticed how talented the Filipinos are.

“Filipinos are so creative, so talented. When I was there, I was playing with them and they pick it up in split seconds. Oh, so, there’s my talent from, I recognized it,” he said.

Gerris is also enthusiastic of bringing ISH’s dance workshops in the Philippines if there is an opportunity to collaborate with local companies.

“I think if we will ever have the opportunity to come to the Philippines with my concept, with ISH, I think we will blow them away. I think they will be very enthusiastic and will keep on doing it.”

Simbang Gabi kicks off in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, California - Parols, singing priests, and Philippine attire. It’s the countdown to Christmas in Los Angeles.

About 2,000 Filipinos from all over southern California kicked off Simbang Gabi at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles. From now until Christmas eve, Catholic Filipinos will be going to church every night, sometimes during the late evening.

“It’s our culture and tradition over there so I’m reminded and I’m very much happy,” explained Feli Emmons of the Bukas Loob Sa Diyos Prayer Group.

Liberty Unciano added, “It’s a Filipino tradition. We always do it every year, all 9 days, at 5 o’clock in the morning.”

Many of the faithful stopped by The Lady of Pe├▒afrancia statue with their Christmas wishes. With this year’s theme of family and being together, many of them prayed for each other's well-being.

Ana Duenas prayed for good health, good jobs, and good business.

“Mama Mary always listens to our prayers. She’s a mother to us,” she explained.

The Anunciacion family has a son deployed in Kuwait who will spend the holidays on military duty. They are praying that he comes home soon.

Susan Anunciacion said, “I guess war would be over soon. I have an older son who’s in the military serving overseas, so I’m praying for them, and praying for their safe return. “

Simbang Gabi has become one of the biggest yearly events at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles since the downtown church first opened in 2002.

This year's Simbang Gabi, though, marks the last one for Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, a priest well-liked by the Filipino community.

Mahony will be retiring next year.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Living on the edge: Vulnerable workers in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines - While trying to take in as many passengers as he could, Arthur Crisostomo, 45, skips lunch and bites from a P6 bread to ease his hunger.

As a jeepney driver plying the route from Pacita Complex in San Pedro, Laguna to Alabang in Muntinlupa City, Crisostomo must be on the road for 12-13 hours a day to earn for his family.

Bawal po kaming magkasakit, kasi walang kakainin ang pamilya namin [We can’t afford to get sick or else, our families will starve],” said Crisostomo.

Jeepneys are the famous symbol of the Philippines’ mode of transportation since post-World War II but those behind the so-called King of the Road live like paupers because their daily earnings can barely feed them for a day.

Crisostomo, who has been on his job in the last 16 years, said his daily income of from P400 to P1,000 may be just enough for the needs of his family. But when he or any member of his family gets sick, they must borrow money from relatives and friends. He only uses one jeepney unit and when this bogs down, he also has to borrow money from friends and neighbors so he can bring food on the table.

The number of those in the vulnerable employment sector— those who don't have decent employment, social security, health benefits, etc. —reached 14.9 million, or 42.6%, of the 35-million actively employed, or salary and waged people in 2009.

The father of 5 complains about frequent joint pains, particularly in the legs and feet. He suffers from lingering coughs and back aches because he has to bear dry and cold weather in long hours of driving.

As most of them have to stay on the road for long hours, jeepney drivers suffer from work-related ailments such as gall bladder stones, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, as well as ulcer and arthritis.

But since they lack the necessary social protection such as health insurance, as well as medical benefits available to regular workers, jeepney drivers do not go to hospitals or medical clinics for checkup and treatment, as such would eat into their meager income.

Roberto Parro, 25, puts it matter-of-factly: “If we spend for our medical needs, there will be no more money left to feed for our families,” he said, adding, “nagtitiis na lang [we just have to bear with our sickness].”

Vulnerable sectors

Jeepney drivers in the Philippines belong to the vulnerable employment sector who do not have social protection like health insurance, medical benefits and unemployment insurance given to wage earners and regular salary workers.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) counts 153,260 registered jeepneys nationwide from January to August 2010, of which 38,282 are in Metro Manila. There are also 17,082 public-utility buses nationwide, of which 5,365 are in Metro Manila.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines vulnerable employment as the sum of own-account workers and contributing family workers. They are less likely to have formal work arrangements and lack elements associated with decent employment such as social security, health benefits and recourse to social dialogue or effective collective bargaining mechanisms.

In the Philippines, the number of those in the vulnerable employment sector reached 14.9 million in 2009, or 42.6%, of the 35-million total of salary and wage-earning people, based on figures of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

The ILO also considers working poor people under the vulnerable employment sector. It defines the working poor as those employed persons living in a household whose members are estimated to be below the national poverty threshold.

The working poor people are those who earn less than $2 a day, not enough to lift themselves out of poverty. In the Philippines, they comprise more than 30%, or 9 million, of the total 35 million actively employed, or salary and waged people in 2009.

Vulnerable employment has been used by the ILO as a proxy name to the informal economy sector to emphasize the very poor quality of jobs and no representation to social platforms for engagements.

The ILO said the global financial crisis in 2008 deepened the concern over the social impacts of globalization. It urged governments to take measures, particularly support to the vulnerable workers like youth and women. It argued that governments need to create decent jobs through effective labor-market policies as well as productive investments to achieve a sustainable economic growth.

The ILO warned in January last year that the global financial crisis is expected to have an adverse impact on developing countries where an estimated 200 million workers could be pushed into extreme poverty.

As a middle-income country and heavily dependent on the remittances of some 8 million Filipino workers abroad, the Philippines takes pride in having been relatively resilient amid the global financial turmoil.

Vulnerable employment has been used by the ILO as a proxy name to the informal economy sector to emphasize the very poor quality of jobs and no representation to social platforms for engagements.

With the record increase of remittances from Filipino migrant workers reaching more than $19 billion in 2009 and an average gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 6%in the last 5 years, there seems to be nothing to worry about.

But the situation is not the same for Flora Acebedo, an unskilled vendor of pearl accessories in Puerto Galera beach resorts in Mindoro Oriental.

Catching her breath while she treads on huge rocks that divide White Tamaraw beaches, the silver-haired woman, who never knew her age because she did not have a birth certificate, complained she has not sold any item.

Wala pa ’kong maisaing kaya tingnan ko sa kabila kung may maibenta. [I don’t have money yet to buy rice for our lunch, I will try if I can sell these items on the other beach].”

At 45, Rowena Asuncion had to resort to offering massage services on the beach for P200 an hour, braiding girls’ hair for P150, and stitching nylon accessories from P5 to P50 to feed five children. Her husband, a boatman, accompanies tourists on island hopping.

The couple used to work as rice farmers but were forced to work on White Beach because they became heavily indebted to the farm owner as their wages were never enough to feed the family.

Rowena’s dilemma was similar to that of Flora’s. On the day she was interviewed, she had been walking on the beach for more than three hours and no one had availed of her services. At around 4 p.m., she finally got a customer for massage and earlier on, somebody bought a personalized nylon bracelet which she stitched for more than an hour, bringing her total earnings to P250 for that day.

Many jobs, not enough skilled workers

ILO director in the Philippines Lawrence Jeff said there are a lot of jobs available in the country but there are not enough skilled workers to fill up the needs, prompting unskilled ones to be absorbed by the vulnerable employment sector like Rowena, Flora and the two jeepney drivers.

Among the unexplored industries that badly needed skilled workers, Johnson said, are agribusiness, animation, medical transcription, and hotel and restaurant management. The country also needs more call-center agents but there are more business-process outsourcing (BPO) engineers and accountants in the labor market.

He said the biggest challenge for the Philippine government is to address the current and future labor-market demands and create a labor market that matches the skills requirement of industries.

Johnson said the weakening social-dialogue mechanism in the Philippines, just like in many countries, has contributed to the mismatch of skills and work available in the country.

“Social dialogue is a critical mechanism” to boost productivity and employment growth, said Johnson. “The government should set the stage for an effective social-dialogue mechanism between employers and workers’ organizations to address the mismatch.”

Government intervention is crucial in “trying to get people to decent employment,” as many occupations are available in the Philippines’ labor market. He echoed President Aquino’s inaugural speech: “going for jobs abroad should be an option and not a necessity.”

The lingering impact of the global financial crisis, he warned, could aggravate the problem of the increasing numbers of the vulnerably employed.

Globally, there are 3 billion economically active people or those salary and wage workers, but those in the vulnerable employment sector account for half of the employed people, or 1.5 billion, which is more alarming than the current 210-million globally unemployed people.

At least 80% of those in vulnerable employment live in the poor provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The labor-market trend at the global level is also reflected in the Philippines. Those in the vulnerable employment sector continue to increase from 13.5 million in 2004 to 14.9 million in 2009. The number of working poor reached 8.9 million in 2006 from 7.9 million in 2003.

The lingering conflict in Mindanao that has caused hundreds of thousands of people there to live in dire conditions has swelled the ranks of people in the vulnerable employment sector.

At least 80% of those in vulnerable employment live in the poor provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The ILO also noted a continuing rise in vulnerable employment in the agriculture-based provinces of Bicol, as well as Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental and Marinduque.

The ILO Employment Policy Convention 122 adopted by ILO members in 1964 is one of the 8 core ILO Conventions that promote decent work, which is critical in reducing incidence of poverty and hunger, and a means to meet sustainable growth.

On January 13, 1976, the Philippines ratified the convention which emphasizes the need to implement an effective employment policy as a means to achieve economic growth and development.

The treaty, in effect ensures that there is job for those qualified and seeking for it. It also guarantees that the work is productive and there is freedom of choice for each worker to maximize his skills.

The treaty also intends to address the growing number of workers in the vulnerable employment sector, particularly in developing countries like the Philippines.

Philippine framework

As part of its commitment to Convention 122, the Philippines implemented a unified policy framework for 2004-2010 aimed at creating a decent and productive employment for every Filipino worker. The policy aims to address lingering poverty and hunger by creating 6 million to10 million jobs within six years.

In 2008 the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations asked the Philippine government how its targeted economic growth will produce decent jobs, considering the magnitude of the informal economy in the country.

Article 2 of the ILO Convention indicates that a signatory can decide on the measures, within a coordinated social and economic policy to achieve the goals indicated in Article 1 that seeks to design a policy that promotes full, productive and freely chosen employment.

The ILO Committee of Experts asked the government to describe measures taken to collect and analyze statistical and other data concerning the size and distribution of the labor force, the nature and extent of unemployment and underemployment and trends, as a basis for deciding on measures of employment policy.

In its response, the Philippine government cited the Labor Force Survey (LFS) being conducted quarterly by the National Statistics Office. The LFS provides statistical information such as economic structure, Filipino overseas, overseas employment and investments and employment opportunities.

The government also cited the DOLE’s Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) as another source of statistical information in drafting employment policy. BLES conducts national surveys on labor and employment being sourced from business companies.

Manila’s report to ILO

In its report to the ILO Committee, the government aired concern that the trend in employment was lagging behind economic growth.

Data showed that from 2004-2007, the country suffered from the so-called jobless growth where the GDP grew at an average annual growth rate of above 6%, but the average annual growth in employment lagged behind at 2%.

But the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said the average GDP growth rate from 2004 to 2009 was 4.4%.

“Underemployment is a more serious problem than unemployment as it affects one in every five Filipinos and cuts across age and sex groupings,” said the DOLE in its reply to the ILO Committee of Experts.

The DOLE also noted that underemployment is more prevalent in less developed regions where the farm sector and self-employment predominates.

With the rising number of BPO companies in the country, the DOLE cited a 4.1% increase in the service sector and a modest 2.5% increase in industry employment in 2007; but it noted marginal growth at 0.6% in the combined agriculture, fishery and forestry sector.

With a 2.9% growth in the wage and salary employment sector, the DOLE said jobs were created for 474,000 individuals in 2006.

Scourge of underemployment

Meanwhile, underemployment remains the country’s weakness in the labor-market policy approach.

From 2004 to 2006, underemployment rate rose from 17.6% to 22.7% or by 682,000 to 7,467,000 individuals.

The ILO explained that the informal or the vulnerable employment sector comprises an important part of the economy and the labor market.

In countries with high rates of population growth or urbanization, the vulnerable sector tends to absorb the expanding labor force particularly in urban areas.

As population growth outpaces the capacity of industry to absorb new labor, urban unemployment and rural underemployment are compounded.

“Informal-sector employment is a necessary survival strategy in countries that lack social safety nets, such as unemployment insurance, or where wages especially in the public sector and pensions are low,” said the ILO report on Key Indicators of the Labor Market.

Statistics from the Labor department showed that from 2004-2009, the number of wage and salary workers rose from 31.6 million to 35 million. But in the same period, the number of those in vulnerable employment also rose from 13.5 million to 14.9 million.

The working poverty rate in the Philippines also increased by 3.1%, between 2003 and 2006, from 7.9 million to 8.9 million.

Director Nicon Fameronag, head of the Communications Division of the DOLE, said the country’s high population growth rate at 2.36% every year puts a heavy pressure on a deficit-stricken government.

Population growth should not be a problem, he said, if the government had enough resources to provide more people with public services, employment and housing. “But in a country where the budget is already stretched and where poverty is high to begin with, population growth becomes a major issue,” said Fameronag in an interview at the DOLE office in Manila.

He asserted that, “rapid population growth hinders development” for two interrelated reasons: First, it reduces growth in per-capita incomes—and thus savings, cutting the funds available for investment in productive capacity.

“This underinvestment in turn reduces overall economic growth and prospects for poverty reduction.”

Second, as population growth outpaces the capacity of industry to absorb new labor, urban unemployment and rural underemployment are compounded.

The worsening concern over more people joining the vulnerable employment sector may be addressed through an effective employment policy that will provide sustainable and productive jobs for farmers and farm workers.

ILO explained that poverty as a policy issue overlaps with the informal or vulnerable employment sector. “There is a link [although not a perfect correlation] between informal employment and being poor.”

In the Philippines, majority of the vulnerably employed are in three regions whose people suffer from abject poverty and the source of livelihood is agriculture: the ARMM, Bicol and 4-B or Mimaropa (which stands for Mindoro Oriental and Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan).

Neda official Dennis Arroyo said a third of the poor are in agriculture. At least 33% of the population, or 4 million families in the Philippines, live under less than a dollar a day, according to the Neda.

But the growth areas are driven by the services and industry sectors that require highly educated and skilled people and more investments.

The worsening concern over more people joining the vulnerable employment sector may be addressed through an effective employment policy that will provide sustainable and productive jobs for farmers and farm workers.

According to Director Fameronag, the Labor department has been implementing a number of interventions to retrain and retool people in the vulnerable-employment sector to boost their skills and knowledge and facilitate their entry into formal employment.

A number of programs are also being implemented to provide livelihood assistance to the working poor so they can start up their small businesses.

Five years since they left the farm in a remote and rebel-infested town of Mamburao in Mindoro, Rowena went through a series of skills training by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda). Although trained to provide services like body massage, hair-braiding and stitching nylon-made beach accessories, Rowena’s life did not improve and her family remains quite poor because she does not have a stable income as well as the benefits associated with formal employment.

Recognizing these and other trends, the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda engages governments to adopt an employment policy that pushes economic growth while generating sustainable, productive and freely chosen employment.

Decent work goals reflect the aspirations of people for better opportunity and income; recognition of their rights, as well as family stability and personal development.

Expert groups at the 2005 review meeting of the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals have developed a new target that integrates the goal of eradicating poverty and hunger with providing productive and decent employment.

Under the MDG target 1 that eradicates extreme poverty and hunger, governments need to achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all.

The MDG “target 1B” directly addresses the rising number of those in vulnerable employment and working poor sectors as part of eradicating poverty and hunger.

Millions of those in the vulnerable employment sector like Rowena and Arthur, meanwhile, face each day with determination to earn a decent income for their families even to the detriment of their health.

Decent work goals reflect the aspirations of people for better opportunity and income; recognition of their rights, as well as family stability and personal development.

They face uncertain futures and keep working hard without social benefits, as well as health and medical insurance. Most of them are seen as eyesores—particularly those pushing carts and rickety vending machines in busy streets and in the corners of high-rise buildings.

In the case of the thousands who earn a living plying the streets of Manila with the improvised tricycles called kuliglig, last week’s violent dispersal by policemen, that left two people dead, reflects the perils of those in trades that have been tagged illegal. One ex-convict, shouting at the top of his voice, told a TV reporter driving a kuliglig was his last shot at a decent job, and warned authorities they were driving people back to a life of crime.

Maliit ang tingin ng tao sa’min [people look down on us],” said Rowena sadly. She said most tourists, both local and foreign, would usually shoo her and her fellow workers at the beach when they offer massage and hair-braiding services.

Rejection is just the first tragedy. Around the globe, billions of people like Rowena live on the edge each day, because the margins are never flexible enough to let them in.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Jazz thumps Heat in OT

MIAMI (3rd UPDATE) - Paul Millsap scored a career-high 46 points, including a rebound basket to force over-time, and the Utah Jazz edged Miami 116-114 on Tuesday despite stellar showings from Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

The Jazz rallied from a 22-point deficit and pulled level at 104-104 on Millsap's basket at the final buzzer of the fourth quarter. Utah claimed the victory on two free throws by Francisco Elson with 0.4 of a second remaining.

"It's speechless, to be down like that to a team like this and to come out with a win," Millsap said. "We clawed our way out of it. But this says a lot about our team."

Wade scored 39 points and James produced his 29th career triple double - double-digit totals in three categories - with 20 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds, but the Heat still suffered their first home loss of the season.

"I think we panicked a little bit as a group," Wade said.

James produced the first triple-double for the Heat since Shaquille O'Neal in 2006 and his seventh in a losing cause, a defeat he credited in large part to the skills of Utah's Jerry Sloan, the longest-tenured active NBA coach.

"Jerry Sloan is one of the best coaches we have in our league," James said. "He kind of figured out what we wanted to do."

The Heat, 5-3, missed five shots in the last two minutes of over-time to equalize or seize the lead, the last by Eddie House at the concluding buzzer.

Utah's Deron Williams scored 21 points and added 14 assists while Andrei Kirilenko contributed 16 points for the Jazz, who had lost their six prior games at Miami.

"At some point in the year, unfortunately, we have to go through something like this," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Chris Bosh added 17 points for the Heat and lamented his team's inability to shut down the Jazz at the start of the second half.

"We came out flat in the third quarter," Bosh said. "We didn't have the sense of urgency that we needed. We had a chance to put them away and we didn't."

Only seven other players have scored as much as Millsap did in one game against the Heat, a list that includes James, Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Alex English and Gilbert Arenas.

"He got easy buckets, a lot of easy buckets," Bosh said of Millsap. "I had never seen him hit a three before."

Kirilenko's 3-pointer with 1:50 remaining in over-time gave the Jazz, now 4-3, a 112-111 edge but the Heat pulled level at 114-114 on a Wade 3-pointer with 17 seconds remaining.

Elson was fouled by Wade near the basket on the final Jazz possession and Elson made the winning free throws inside the final half-second.

Millsap had averaged 6.9 points in eight prior games against Miami, but beat the Heat by sparking Utah to 42 points in the fourth quarter with 11 of his own in the last 28 seconds, including two 3-pointers in the final 12.1 seconds.

"The man was on fire," said Wade, who connected on only 12 of his 23 shots.

"I guess when it rains, it pours," Millsap said.

The Heat ran off 15 consecutive points at one stretch in the first quarter on the way to a 51-32 half-time lead.

Pacquiao begins last training leg in Texas

MANILA, Philippines – Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao kicked off his last training leg in Texas, where he will face Mexican Antonio Margarito on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) for the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) super welterweight belt.

Filipinos, Mexicans and Americans watched the 7-division world champion train at the Gaylord Texan Convention Center in Dallas.

Prior to his public workout, the pugilist-turned-congressman jogged in the morning.

His trainers said they want Pacquiao to take it easy during his training.

The reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion, however, still exerted effort as he did numerous footworks.

According to Pacquiao, he wants to maintain his speed because he believes that it would be the key to his victory.

“Tijuana Tornado” Margarito, meantime, arrived in Texas earlier than Pacquiao.

He said that his clash with Pacquiao, dubbed as “The Event,” is the biggest fight of his career.

He added that he will do everything that Pacquiao’s previous opponents were unable to do.

Pacquiao and Margarito will face off at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Federer leads seeds into Paris Tennis Masters 3rd round

PARIS – Top seed Roger Federer, defending champion Novak Djokovic and third seed Andy Murray all hit form on the super-quick courts at the Bercy arena to reach the Paris Masters third round on Wednesday.

Federer breezed past home favourite Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-4 and Djokovic comfortably defeated Argentina's Juan Monaco 6-4, 6-3, but Murray had to battle back from a set down to overcome former champion David Nalbandian.

Federer, who received a first-round bye, served imperiously against Gasquet and secured the decisive break of serve in the third game of the first set with a typically deft forehand drop volley.

He broke his opponent in the opening game of the second set and went on to close out victory in a leisurely 68 minutes, teeing him up for a showdown against unseeded Czech Radek Stepanek for a place in the last eight.

"It's always dangerous playing Richard here," said Federer, who has never gone beyond the quarter-finals at the event.

"Apart from a couple of games, there wasn't much between us.

"I've had injuries and problems with tiredness here before, and I hope I can change that this week."

Second seed Djokovic fought back from an early break in the first set against Monaco and then saw off break points in his opening two service games of the second before completing a routine win.

"He was taking the balls early and being aggressive, and he was the better player at the start of the match," said Djokovic, who lost to Federer in the Basel final on Sunday.

"I was lucky to get the break. When I did that I regained confidence and control of the match, and felt better on the court."

Djokovic, defending the title he won against Gael Monfils last year, will face Michael Llodra in the third round after the Frenchman upset American 16th seed John Isner 6-3, 6-4.

Murray never got going in the first set against Nalbandian, who won 88 percent of the points on his first serve to take the set 6-2.

The Scot raised his game in the second set, however, and required just one break point opportunity to level the tie, with Nalbandian putting a forehand beyond the baseline at set point.

Nalbandian has a fine record at the Bercy arena, having won the event in 2007 and lost in the final in 2008, before missing last year's tournament following hip surgery, but he blinked first in the deciding set.

Murray needed treatment on a wrist injury at 2-2 but he took a 5-3 lead when the Argentine sent a forehand long and then calmly served out for a hard-earned 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.

"I struggled at the start," admitted Murray.

"He didn't miss the ball for a set and a half. I haven't played on such a quick court since I've been on the tour.

"But I changed the tension in my racquets by four or five pounds and I felt much more comfortable at the end of the second set."

Murray's next opponent will be Croatian 13th seed Marin Cilic, who came through 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 against Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky.

Swedish fourth seed Robin Soderling completed the third round line-up late on Wednesday when he eased past France's Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-0.

Earlier, Spain's David Ferrer, the seventh seed, overcame a first-set wobble to beat Italian Fabio Fognini 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4).

Eighth seed Andy Roddick swept into the third round with a comprehensive 6-1, 6-4 defeat of Finland's Jarkko Nieminen, while Russian 10th seed Nikolay Davydenko -- the 2006 champion -- beat Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci 6-3, 6-0.

Cilic's countryman Ivan Ljubicic, the number 15 seed, became the third seed to exit the tournament when he fell 6-4, 6-4 to Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka.

BI: Illegal wokers hide visas in their panties

MANILA, Philippines - Immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) stumbled upon a new modus operandi of human traffickers with the recent arrest of 3 prospective overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who concealed their travel documents in their underwear in an attempt to hide their true destinations.

Bureau of Immigration Officer-In-Charge Ronaldo Ledesma said the 3 female “tourist workers” were intercepted at the NAIA last October 25 as they were about to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Singapore.
The 3 were queuing for clearance at the NAIA immigration counter when they were invited for questioning by members of the bureau’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU).

Lawyer Arvin Santos, BI airport operations division chief, said the women, who pretended to be tourists, started panicking while being questioned. “They pulled out their visas and plane tickets from their underwear after we managed to bluff them into revealing their final destinations,” Santos said.

The hidden travel documents showed that from Singapore, the passengers have connecting flights to Beirut and Dubai. From there, the women would then go to Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. The government bans the deployment of female workers to Lebanon.

“It appears that the illegal recruiters and human trafficking syndicates are using all tricks so their victims can avoid detection by immigration officers,” Ledesma said.

He said the new modus operandi is a sign of desperation on the part of the syndicates whose operations are reportedly severely crippled by the BI’s intensified drive against human trafficking.

Immigration officers at the NAIA and other airports have offloaded thousands of departing “tourist workers” since August when the government, through the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), launched its aggressive anti-human trafficking drive.

The IACAT is headed by Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, who is also the undersecretary in charge of the Bureau of Immigration.

Advisory on Saudi's 'no smoking policy' in airports

SAUDI ARABIA – A Filipino migrant group urged the Philippine posts detailed in Saudi Arabia to issue an advisory regarding the “no smoking policy” in prohibited areas in domestic and international airports in the kingdom.

“We are urging the concerned Philippine posts officials to issue an advisory so that the Filipino community and the various Filipino organizations will be informed of this latest airport authority's policy of 'no smoking' in prohibited areas,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

Monterona said anti-smoking signages are expected to be displayed in the coming days in the kingdom’s 27 domestic and international airports.

The smoking ban, which covers travelers as well as airport and immigration employees, is reportedly aimed at protecting the smoker’s health and reduce harm caused by second-hand smoke.

Monterona said smoking in airports is not totally prohibited. There are actually designated smoking areas in the terminals.

Sixteen smokers have been nabbed so far at the Jeddah International Airport during the first day of its implementation. The violators were fined 200 Saudi Riyals.

The Migrante leader said an advisory is necessary to caution arriving Pinoy migrant workers and those who will be departing for the Philippines next month.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Juvic Pagunsan leads Mercedes-Benz Masters Indonesia

JAKARTA - Juvic Pagunsan put himself in the perfect position to claim the 80,000 dollar Mercedes-Benz Masters Indonesia after taking the third round lead on a day of high drama.

The Filipino enters the final round with a two shot lead over compatriot Antonio Lascuna, Malaysian Nicholas Fung and Namchok Tantipokhakul from Thailand.

Pagunsan fired a four-under-par 68 at the Emeralda Golf and Country Club for a tournament total of 13-under-par 203.

It was another impressive round by the talented 32-year-old but was somewhat overshadowed by a two shot penalty handed to playing partner Fung for tapping down a spike mark on the 17th.

The pair had both birdied the par-five 17th with similar putts from 10 feet and later finished tied for the lead.

However, Pagunsan pointed out to Fung that he had touched his line with his putter and after careful discussion with officials the Malaysian's four was changed to a six.

"It is a pity that happened but it is still wide open with everything to play for. I am playing really well and came here to win the Merit list," said Pagunsan.

"The Mercedes-Benz Tour is really growing and one day will be really big and I so it would be great to say that I finished as the top ranked player."

Pagunsan, who won the Mercedes-Benz Masters Thailand by seven shots in June, started the day two behind leader Lascuna and took the lead with a round made up of seven birdies and three bogeys.

He leads the tour Order of Merit list with earnings of 22,450 dollars with Fung in third place just 1,000 dollars behind.

Fung, who signed for 70 as opposed to a 68 after the penalty, said: "It is disappointing what happened. I honestly cannot remember touching the line and if I did it was not intentional. It certainly makes me determined to play well tomorrow."

The 20-year-old rookie claimed the Mercedes-Benz Masters Vietnam earlier this month for his maiden win as a professional.

Leading third round scores (Par 72):

203 -Juvic Pagunsan (PHI) 64 71 68
205 - Namchok Tantipokakul (THA) 68 69 68
Nicholas Fung (MAS) 69 66 70
Antonio Lascuna (PHI) 68 65 72
206 - Mohd Sukree Othman (MAS) 69 70 67
Atthaphon Prathummanee (THA) 69 70 67 207
Wisut Artjanawat (THA) 68 70 69
209 - Artemio Murakami (PHI) 68 73 68
210 - Ferdie Aunzo (PHI) 69 73 68
Mohd Rashid Ismail (MAS) 74 67 69
Passamet Pogamnerd (THA) 70 69 71
211 - Mars Pucay (PHI) 72 71 68
Pawin Ingkhapradit (Am) (THA) 69 73 69
213 - Gene Bondoc (PHI) 73 72 68
Panuphol Pittayarat (THA) 74 70 69
214 - Nakul Vichitryuthasastr (THA) 74 71 69
215 - Rey Pagunsan (PHI) 73 74 68
Anthony Fernando (PHI) 76 67 72
216 - Pravee Visalkit (THA) 72 73 71
Lam Zhiqun (Am) (SIN) 74 69 73

Austria's Ouschan wins Women's World 10-Ball title

Austria's Jasmin Ouschan holds her trophy after winning the 2010 Yalin Women's World 10-Ball crown.

MANILA, Philippines – Austria’s Jasmin Ouschan became the second woman to win the Women's World 10-Ball title by beating Ga Young Kim of Korea, 10-6, in the tournament finals at the Robinsons Galleria.

The billiard beauty from Europe battled her way out of a 3-rack deficit after gaining confidence against Kim midway the Race-to-10 finals.

“I can’t believe it, I’m so happy. I’m waiting for this for so long. I’ve been close [to winning] for so many times,” said an ecstatic Ouschan.

The Austrian thanked the spectators, mostly Filipinos, for supporting her campaign in the Yalin Women's World 10-Ball.

“To win here in the billiard capital of the world, in front of my favorite fans, it is the best way to win a championship,” she said.

Ouschan bucked a slow start against her Korean foe, who scored 3 straight racks for a quick 3-0 lead.

But Ouschan’s cue stick caught fire in the 4th rack, digging out the Austrian player from the deficit to tie the game at 4-all.

Ouschan continued to take advantage of Kim’s inconsistencies on the table as she extended her lead to 7-4.

The Korean bounced back in the 12th rack to trim the lead to 7-5 but Ouschan fought back to win the next frame, 8-5

RP's Rubilen Amit (right) with fellow semifinalist Kelly Fisher.

After Kim’s wins in rack number 14, the Austrian brought herself closer to the title, 9-6.

Ouschan won the battle of the nerves in the 16th rack to take away the title and the $20,000 prize.

Amit fails to reach finals

Erstwhile champion Rubilen "Bingkay" Amit of the Philippines fell short in efforts to retain her title after yielding to Kim in the semifinals, 9-5.

Kim jumped the gun on the Mandaue City native by zooming to a 6-1 commanding lead in their Race-to-9 affair.

Amit won 3 straight racks to cut the lead to 4-6 but Kim pushed her lead to 8-5 in the 13th frame.

Amit’s bad preparation in the following rack allowed Kim to run the table and win her ticket to the finals.

Ouschan, meanwhile, disposed of Ireland’s Kelly Fisher to forge a championship duel with Kim.

Both Amit and Fisher received $5,000 each for reaching the semifinal round.

Kim, meanwhile, took home $9,000 for finishing second place.

Video of Pinay nurse in ventilator blooper goes viral

MANILA, Philippines – The video showing a Filipina nurse who accidentally switched off the ventilator of her tetraplegic patient in the United Kingdom is going viral on YouTube.

The United Kingdom Nursing and Midwifery Council suspended nurse Violetta Aylward’s license.

Aylward’s patient, Jamie Merrett, suffered brain damage due to the incident. (Related story: Nurse in 'ventilator accident' a Pinay)

The Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) is concerned over the possible effects the incident and the circulating video may have on Filipino nurses working in the UK.

“This is negative for us. However, like in any other profession, or nationality, there are good practitioners and not so good practitioners,” said PNA President Dr. Teresita Barcelo.

Barcelo was also shocked to learn that Aylward had no training in handling patients with ventilators.

“An RN or registered nurse would know how to handle a patient with a respirator unless she’s been out of practice for awhile,” she said.

The doctor hopes that the incident will not affect the hiring of Filipino nurses to the UK.

“I hope people would think that one not so good example cannot be representative of everybody. Filipino nurses, in general, are competent nurses,” she said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it attempted to reach out to Aylward but she allegedly refused to talk to them or the media.

Jobless OFW in Saudi wants to come home

DAMMAN, Saudi Arabia – A Filipino migrant worker in Damman has been relying on his friends for food and shelter.

"Binibigyan nila ako para makakain man lang. Pero sa pamilya ko, hindi na ako nakapagpadala ng pera,” said Aladino Rebalde.

Rebalde had been a car electrician for more than 20 years. However, he was not lucky in the past four years.

Rebalde ran away from his employer because he was not being paid right. In 2008, the OFW was arrested and detained for 2 weeks in Riyadh.

The Philippine embassy helped him settle his case but he no longer has a job to return to because the shop had closed and his employer abandoned him.

Since then, he has been wandering and looking for extra income for himself and his family back in the Philippines.

Without a job and money to send back home, the education of his 3 children suffered. They were forced to stop going school.

“May anim na taon pa akong anak na hindi din makakapasok dahil syempre, alam mo naman ang kahirapan sa Pilipinas. Ako naman dito, walang naibibigay na sapat sa kanila dahil pahinto-hinto at palipat-lipat,” said Rebalde.

Rebalde wants nothing more than to go back home to his family. “Ilang taon ako ritong hindi nakikita ang mga anak ko, pamilya ko,” he said.

He appealed to the government to help him reunite with his family.

“Humihingi ako kay Vice President (Jejomar) Binay, Sir, tulungan ninyo naman po ako,” he appealed

Missing Pinay OFW found dead on roof of exhibit hall

KUWAIT – The decomposing body of a missing Filipina salon worker in Kuwait was retrieved from the roof of an exhibition hall in Mishref, Balitang Middle East reported.

Jenny Dechosa was identified through her fingerprint. Her body was found on the roof of the Kuwait International Fair Grounds in Mishref on October 16.

According to Dechosa’s housemates, they last saw the 33-year-old Cebu native on October 10.

“Huling araw na nakita namin si Jenny on October 10 ng umaga. Nandito pa siya sa flat namin. So around 5 to 6 yun na yung time na lumabas siya dahil pupunta daw siya sa Mishref para mag-part time. Kinabukasan yung kanyang room mate na si Mercy nagsabi sa amin na hindi pa umuuwi si Jenny," said housemate, Gina Montalban.

Dechosa’s housemates decided to inform her Kuwaiti sponsor that she failed to come home.

Five days later, they saw in the news that authorities recovered a decomposing body of an Asian woman.

“Nagkaroon kami ng pagiipon sa isang kwarto. Iba-ibang opinyon, iba-iba ang sinasabi na baka nga iyun, o baka hindi," said Montalban.

Dechoso’s Kuwaiti sponsor informed them a week after she went missing that the body discovered in Mishref was that of the missing OFW.

"Hindi pa rin ako makapaniwala na talagang si Jenny yun,” said Gina Ponce.

Egyptian confesses to the crime

Meanwhile, an online report by the Arab Times stated that an Egyptian caretaker of the exhibition hall in Mishref was arrested for Dechoso’s murder.

Authorities found the suspect based on the victim’s mobile phone records.

The report also stated that the unidentified Egyptian admitted killing the OFW.

Pinoy roots help shape Fil-Canadian’s art

VANCOUVER, Canada – Filipino-Canadian artist Lanie Maestro recently presented her latest exhibit at the Centre A Gallery in Vancouver titled "Her Reign".

Maestro used poetic and visual language to address current social conditions like homelessness and drug addiction in the Hastings area where the gallery is located.

Maestro's work included an installation titled "No Pain Like This Body," which, she said, summarizes the emotions she feels whenever she walks through Vancouver.

Maestro believes her roots as a Filipino greatly contributed in the kind of social understanding expressed through her art.

“I always say I come from the country of making art. Everything I do comes from there. I don't even have to say I am Filipino, it is Filipino. I breathe all of that,” Maestro said.

Pacquiao to endorse Nevada senator

LOS ANGELES – Manny Pacquiao put his speed on display at the Wild Card gym on Wednesday afternoon. The pound-for-pound king said he’ll be ready for his November 13 fight against Mexican Antonio Margarito.

“So far so good, maganda naman yung training natin. Sparring at training maganda so Team Pacquiao is happy,” described the boxing champion.

Coach Freddie Roach said Pacquiao’s first few days of US training have been successful, and will be ready to knock out Margarito in the 8th round.

“The way he performed yesterday, the way he stuck to the game plan yesterday, he knows exactly where he is,” said Roach.

Coach Roach even provided some comic relief during the open workout. He put on metal gloves to mock Margarito’s one-year suspension for illegal hand wraps.

The Pacman told reporters that he hasn’t thought of his possible retirement yet. But politics are clearly on his mind as he trains.


Congressman Pacquiao will go to Nevada after Friday’s workout to endorse a fellow lawmaker, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid.

“After training puntahan ko, balikan lang, one hour, balik din dito, because I believe he’s a good leader,” he said.

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said after this fight, they will continue to pursue a possible dream match with Floyd Mayweather Jr. depending on the results of Mayweather’s domestic violence case.

Arum reiterated,”People say what is Manny going to do after this fight? And I’ll say what I always say: our first priority would be, if Manny wins, [is] to do a Mayweather fight.”

Whichever way, plans for that anticipated fight may go. Arum is already predicting an even bigger win Pacquiao--as president of the Philippines

Pinay teen wins top prize in talent show

HARLEM, New York – Lianah Sta. Ana won the “Child Stars of Tomorrow” grand championship for kids at the Apollo in Harlem, New York Wednesday night.

Organizers said in its almost 76 years of existence, this is the very first time a Filipino has ever won the Super Top Dog prize at the Apollo’s Amateur Night.

“It was hard, but it was also fun… it was hard because there’s so many talents that it’s hard to compete with,” said Sta. Ana.

Sta. Ana’s mother, Nyla added, “To win all four levels of competition and to win the finals, she’s the first Filipino to do that – straight from the Apollo historian.”

The Apollo Theater is known as the place “Where stars are born and legends are made.”

The legendary venue has launched the careers of icons, many of them started out as amateur night winners like Sta. Ana. Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Lauryn Hill and then 9-year-old Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5 in the late 60’s to name a few.

Another Filipino-American who made history and made it to the “Top Dog Grand Finals” in the adult category is Hawaii native, Matthew Suyat.

Suyat said he is more than happy he made it this far. “It’s rough! The Apollo is rough but it is what it is, the more people that you bring, the better it is for you,” said Suyat.

Sta. Ana said she will be donating part of her $2,000 prize money to her favorite charity in the Philippines.

She is also set to grace and ride the Apollo’s first ever “Top Hat” float at the Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade on November 25. Balitang America

Thursday, 7 October 2010

'Pacquiao-Margarito will be a long fight'

MANILA, Philippines – The trainer of Antonio Margarito is confident that his Mexican ward will go the distance against Manny Pacquiao when they face off for the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) super welterweight title in November.

“Manny has proven he’s best in the world pound-for-pound,” Garcia told Yahoo! Sportsreporter Kevin Iole.

“I know that. You have to give him credit for what he’s accomplished, because he’s done so much. But he’s going against a fighter who is so much bigger and who is going to be on him every single second for all 12 rounds,” he stated.

Pacquiao and Margarito will fight in the $1.2-billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on November 13 (November 14 in Manila).

“A guy who is that much bigger is going to be on him the entire night. Manny has fast, powerful combinations, but once Margarito takes those and keeps coming, it’s going to be a long night for Manny,” said Garcia.

The Filipino boxer-turned-congressman is currently training in Baguio City while the Mexican fighter is holding his training camp in Oxnard, California.

According to Garcia, Margarito’s preparation for the Pacquiao clash has been good.

“Camp is going great; Margarito is looking really good, really strong," Garcia told Ricardo Conde of

"His conditioning is great, very impressive. It’s a real pleasure working with Margarito, we’re very happy to have him here with us and I’m confident we’ll win November 13th,” he added.

Pacquiao, on the other hand, skipped training on Wednesday after suffering from sinusitis

San Sebastian, JRU battle for last finals slot

MANILA, Philippines – Defending champion San Sebastian battles Jose Rizal University (JRU) on Friday’s knockout game for the remaining finals slot in the 86th NCAA men’s basketball at The Arena in San Juan City.

The Stags hope to get past the Heavy Bombers and arrange a championship rematch with their tormentors, league leader San Beda Red Lions.

San Sebastian is coming off a 90-82 beating in the hands of San Beda, whose victory last week completed an unprecedented 16-game sweep in the NCAA.

However, playing against JRU won’t be a walk in the park for San Sebastian.

The Heavy Bombers are coming off a stepladder 60-54 win over the Mapua Cardinals.

JRU is expected to ride on this momentum going into Friday’s game against San Sebastian.

The winner between the Stags and the heavy Bombers will face San Beda, who enjoys a thrice-to-beat in the finals.

The unbeaten Red Lions need to win only twice in the Finals to reclaim the NCAA title while their opponent will have to beat them thrice.

Abuse of maids in Kuwait rising: HRWs

KUWAIT CITY - Abuse of domestic workers in Kuwait is rising, and maids in the Gulf emirate face prosecution when they try to escape, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

The New York-based body said migrant domestic workers have minimal protection from employers who withhold salaries, force them to work long hours with no days off, deprive them of adequate food or abuse them physically or sexually.

"The number of abuses has been rising," Priyanka Motaparty, HRW research fellow in Middle East and North Africa, told a press conference announcing the a report, which details specific cases.

"In 2009, domestic workers from Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines and Ethiopia filed over 10,000 complaints of abuse with their embassies," she said.

The HRW data does not include Indian maids who represent almost half of the 660,000 domestic workers in the oil-rich emirate. Domestic workers, almost entirely Asian, form one-third of the 1.81 million foreign employees in Kuwait.

The 97-page report "Walls at Every Turn: Exploitation of Migrant Domestic Workers Through Kuwait's Sponsorship System," describes how workers become trapped in exploitative or abusive employment.

"Employers hold all the cards in Kuwait," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW.

Domestic workers in Kuwait are not covered by any law to limit working hours or a rest day or even basic rights, the report said.

"They are forced to work for unlimited hours, 10, 12 or 18 hours with no breaks, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year," Motaparthy said.

Main abuses include physical and sexual abuse, non-payment or delay in payment of salary, long working hours, no weekly rest day and others, the report said.

The report placed the blame squarely on the so-called sponsorship system, which bonds labourers to their employers and put them under their mercy.

The Kuwaiti government said it plans to abolish the system in February.

Taiwan city hiring 'monkey chasers'

TAIPEI - Chasing monkeys has been added to the jobs on offer in Taiwan under a government-sponsored programme to boost employment, an official said Wednesday.

Kaohsiung city in southern Taiwan is offering 17,600 Taiwan dollars (560 US) a month for staff charged with keeping the primates from developing too disturbing behavioural patterns, said the official at the city's labour bureau.

"The 'monkey chasers' will tell people not to feed wild monkeys, as that will lead them to develop abnormal behaviours such as grabbing people's food or invading homes," he said.

Many people have inquired about the positions, he said, adding only those aged 45 years or older will be eligible under the scheme.

Taiwan's jobless rate was 5.17 percent in August, down 0.03 percentage points from last month amid an economic recovery, according to government data.

Caregiver caught on cam abusing Filipino lola

JERSEY CITY, NJ – A shocking video of a caregiver caught on camera physically assaulting a 91-year-old Filipino woman in her home in Jersey City, New Jersey made headlines when it was posted online.

Catalina Obaldo was slapped, smacked in the head, pushed and thrown around like a ragdoll. Food was forced into her mouth and her hair pulled by her caregiver, Carmen Pereira.

Pereira, of Loving Care Agency, had looked after Obaldo for 11 years.

The defenseless woman is suffering from various health ailments, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Local news reports say that Obaldo’s family set up a webcam to check on their Lola at any given time, but when suspicious bruises appeared on her, they started recording it.

The family could not believe what the webcam captured.

In a YouTube video, Obaldo’s daughter Bernardina Samin said, “I’m furious! It’s heartbreaking to see your own mother abused by a person whom you trusted for so many years.”

The family wanted the video released by the police to serve as a warning for others

Once the video was posted on online, some upset YouTubers immediately uploaded their video reactions.

Archie Masibay of Brentwood, California said, “You’re not supposed to do that to someone, imagine you when you get old, being tossed around like that and being banged in the head or being slapped, it’s just not right, I mean you’re working as a caregiver so you have to take care of your patients not abuse them.”

In San Francisco, Yoko Kurotani said, “It was really heartbreaking because I was thinking of my grandma…”

Pereira, the 52-year-old home health aide, was arrested by New Jersey Police around the same time she was fired from her job in September.

The Loving Care Agency’s spokesman Abe Kasbo issued a statement to Balitang America via email.

The statement read: “Loving Care Agency recognizes the gravity of this situation and wishes to convey its unequivocal position that this action committed by its former employee is reprehensible, unacceptable, and has resulted in the immediate termination of the employee.”

New Jersey Police said Pereira was charged with aggravated assault with extreme indifference, endangering the welfare of an incompetent person and neglect of an elderly. Police also said Pereira is now out on bail and is not clear yet when she will be arraigned.

The family has told authorities that they have the situation under control now with their Lola.

Balitang America is still trying to get in touch with the family with the help of Philippine Forum of Jersey City.

Likewise, Balitang America also tried to speak to Loving Care Agency but they did not provide any additional information and refused to talk about the case in person.