Friday, 27 August 2010

Filipino reinvents safer version of 'Jai-Alai'

SECAUCUS, New Jersey – A Filipino inventor has reinvented a safer version to “Jai Alai,” which he considered as the newest sport of the millennium.

Chris Deguzman’s “Arm Ball” was first sold in 2008. It is a catch-and-throw game similar to the Pinoy favorite, Jai-Alai. The Jai-Alai uses the cesta, a long wicker basket tied to one arm, to catch and throw the ball.

Deguzman designed and fabricated the arm ball scoops made out of lighter plastic materials compared to Jai-Alai’s bulky cesta. The scoop is manufactured in the Philippines.

To play the Arm Ball, the player must hurl the ball directly to the front wall and the opponent player should catch the rebound ball and return it back to the wall.

A Jai Alai player himself, Deguzman said Jai Alai can be dangerous so he invented a safer alternative.

“Mas safe sa Jai Alai kasi sa Jai Alai gumagamit sila ng ball na solid, mabibilis. Then yung cesta ng Jai Alai mahirap ibato ng adult lalo na sa bata hindi mo kayang i-throw. Kaya na-develop ko yang gadget na yan,” said Deguzman.

His Arm Ball scoop uses a rubber ball similar to the balls used in handball and racquetball.

An occupational therapist by profession, Deguzman said he invested 10 years of research and study to create the perfect scoop.

He said that playing Arm Ball using his high-tech scoop is not only fun but it has many health benefits as well.

“It develops eye-hand coordination, balance or control, especially your shoulder control, gives you endurance and upper extremities strength,” he said.

In 1996, Deguzman was diagnosed with Guillain Barre Syndrome, a rare disorder in which the immune system damages the nerve cells. He was in coma for a few days. His legs and shoulder were paralyzed for 18 months.

Wheelchair-bound while recovering from the disease, he designed the prototype of the Arm Ball Scoop. The disorder was life changing for him.

“Masyado ko ngayong binigyan halaga ang buhay. You know were lucky enough to walk right now and just to breathe, just to wake up every morning,” he said.

Today, the Arm Ball Scoop can be seen played in many courts around New Jersey.

A search on YouTube shows how many people have embraced this game re-invented by a Kababayan.

Deguzman already filed a patent on the game and owns the copyright for the name “Arm Ball Scoop.”

105 stranded OFWs, kids coming home from Saudi

A total of 105 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their children who were stranded in Saudi Arabia are returning to the Philippines Thursday night.

The distressed OFWs and their children are being brought home by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) from Jeddah through the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) accelerated repatriation program.

The group comprises 57 women, 22 men, and 26 children, according to OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon.

Dimzon added that an additional 500 other OFWs will be repatriated from Jeddah as soon as their employers waive their objections to their deportation.

She promised to lead an OWWA team in helping the OFWs clear customs and immigration procedures at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Under Saudi Arabia’s immigration laws, foreign workers who fail to fulfill their employment contracts are automatically considered as overstaying or illegal workers.

“The workers are required to settle their issues with their employers before they can leave Saudi Arabia,” the OWWA said in a statement. “Some Filipinos entered the Middle East as tourists.”

To accommodate a large number of Filipinos awaiting repatriation, the OWWA is renting space at the Hajj Terminal.and is subsidizing their meals.

Workers cleared for deportation by Saudi immigration are booked on earliest available flights.

According to the OWWA, the OFWs and their children will be offered temporary stay, meals, medical check-ups, and stress debriefings at the agency’s halfway house in Pasay City while awaiting transport arrangements to their hometowns.

The DOLE will also brief them on the various livelihood assistance programs being offered by the government.

Jackie Chan draws flak for tweets on Manila hostage-taking

Action star Jackie Chan's remarks about the recent hostage drama at the Quirino Grandstand may have been well-appreciated by Filipinos, but these apparently didn't sit well with some people from Hong Kong.

The action star, in his Twitter account, earlier asked the people of Hong Kong not to direct their anger at the Philippine government or to Filipinos who live in their country.

He said that the 11-hour standoff, which led to the death of hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza and 8 Hong Kong tourists, was also hard for the Filipino people, particularly the police.

"If they killed the guy sooner, they will say why not negotiate first? If they negotiate first, they ask why not kill the guy sooner? So sad," Chan tweeted.

Hong Kongers weren't very pleased with Chan's comments. Moments after, they set up Facebook groups to criticize the actor, such as "Jackie Chan doesn't represent Hong Kong" and "Jackie Chan doesn't represent me."

The Associated Press reported that in the said Facebook accounts, netizens from Hong Kong "drew a slew of sharply worded attacks" against the veteran action star.

"Shut up! Hong Kong people don't need you. You side with outsiders and not your own. You will face karmic retribution for your disrespect for the victims," Iris Yau wrote.

Added user Violet Wing, "He just doesn't understand the pain of Hong Kong people."

For its part, the maker of the Facebook page said, "Jackie Chan's comment on the massacre in Manila is extremely abhorrent. The Hong Kong people does not agree with him and he certainly does not represent the 7 million people in Hong Kong."

Earlier, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda thanked Chan for "extending his hand of friendship" to Filipinos.

"We hope our friends there (Hong Kong) will extend their hand of friendship to's an unfortunate event," he said.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Family mourns murder-suicide victims

SPRING VALLEY, California - The family of a San Diego woman, whom police believe was killed by her former partner, is holding a memorial at the Santa Sophia Church in Spring Valley on Friday, Aug. 20.

Avitha Chua Rafael, 28, was found dead outside a Spring Valley home last Friday.

The main suspect in her death was Krisanto Barquiao Jopanda, 33. Jopanda was later found dead with a gunshot wound Friday night in an apparent suicide.

Police believe Jopanda tried but failed to hang himself earlier with shoelaces.

The couple leaves behind a 10-year old son.

Police said it was the boy who called them last Friday morning. The boy was found beside his mother’s body, unharmed.

Raj says clothes for Miss Universe original

LAS VEGAS, Nevada – The Philippines' bet for Miss Universe has denied reports that her wardrobe for the beauty contest was just borrowed.

Venus Raj said all her clothes for the Las Vegas events are new and especially prepared for her.

“Ang lahat ng outfits ko, galing sa Bb. Pilipinas Charities Incorporated. Sila yung nagpadala, sila yung nag-pack and lahat ng maleta na dala ko galing sa kanila,” Raj explained.

Bb. Pilipinas President Stella Araneta also said that Raj’s entire clothes are designer’s outfits from Italy and New York. Some are designed by Colombian Designer Alfredo Barraza.

Araneta is in Las Vegas for the pageant.

Meanwhile, the process of selecting the top 15 semi-finalists from among 83 beautiful women vying for the Miss Universe crown has begun.

As of this posting, the preliminary judging was still on-going at the Mandalay Bay Event Center, according to a report by ABS-CBN correspondent Dyan Castillejo.

“This competition is very important because the preliminary judges are all here, and after tonight, they will be selecting the top 15 semi-finalists although the decision will not be made known to the public,” Castillejo said on Friday.

Castillejo said that after the competition, organizers will know who among the 83 beauties will be included in the list of 15 semi-finalists.

She said the results will only be made public after the opening number of the coronation night on Tuesday morning (Manila time).

Castillejo said Raj received the loudest cheers inside the Mandalay Bay when the candidates did their opening numbers.

Some candidates admitted that the preliminary judging is going to be a tough contest.

“I think this contest will be the best contest in the history of Miss Universe because of the beautiful girls, and I think we'll have good memories about this day," Miss Ukraine Anna Poslavska said.

Earlier, the candidates invaded the Elvis 80’s show at the Aria Hotel. People flocked to the entrance to try and get some rare photos of the gorgeous women from around the world.

After the show, the beauties trooped to the new Aria Mall, did a walk and displayed their best assets.

Raj was glowing in her apple green pants suit.

Reigning Miss Universe 2009 Stefania Fernandez said she has had the time of her life the past 12 months.

Fernandez said she visited over 30 countries, doing one photo shoot after another, and helped the poor children of the world.

The Venezuelan beauty is a little bit sad that it is all ending now, and that she will soon be passing the crown to the next winner.

Fernandez said this year’s contestants are extremely attractive and talented. She added that it will be very hard for the judges to pick the next Miss Universe.

CHED urged to act on nursing school scam

COSTA MESA, California – A former student of a bogus nursing school ordered closed by the California Attorney’s General Office is planning to file a complaint with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in the Philippines.

Former RN Learning Center student Leticia Nicasio is worried that other schools, knowingly or unknowingly, may be involved with the center’s alleged scam.

“I just want them to be aware of Mr. Jun Enterina transacting business to schools over there. Schools in Manila, schools in the Philippines, I’m not mentioning any schools, but I hope the CHED will issue a circular being explicit about the distance learning especially about nursing,” said Nicasio.

Nicasio sent complaints to the Attorney General’s office and the Board of Registered Nursing since last year, angry about the RN Learning Center.

Last winter, Luisa Najera spent $20,000 and joined a group of students along with the school’s founder Junlou Enterina for a month long trip to the Philippines.

She was expecting hands on clinical training, but instead, she found herself in the classroom.

“When we got there, they told us they’re not going to give us clinical. They give us algebra, they give us chemistry, both those classes, and they didn’t give us clinical,” said Najera.

When Najera returned to California, she said the school recommended she needed to take more classes to get her RN license. She quit the school instead.

Though one flier says the school is not accredited, former students claimed that school officials verbally promised them chances to take the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) test and get their RN (registered nurse) licenses.

Chau Nguyen said he was already skeptical about the school when they offered him a chance to go to the Philippines.

“They promised me after I finish over here; you can do the NCLEX, go to the Philippines, come back, and then take the NCLEX over here. But I don’t want to take too much risk because they told me you had to pay $20, 000,” Nguyen said.

Enterina denied any wrong doing, but has agreed to pay back $500,000 dollars to students. That penalty may increase as the attorney general continues to investigate the case. However, the attorney general’s office says Philippine schools are out of their jurisdiction and will not investigate the relationship that Philippine schools had with Enterina.

Obama family 'easy to please', says Fil-Am chef

HONG KONG - Serving meals for US President Barack Obama and his family is not as tough a job as outsiders like to think, according to White House executive chef Cristeta Comerford.

"The president and his family are very open to all different types of food. It's very easy to please them," Comerford, who emigrated to the United States from the Philippines in the 1980s, told AFP on a visit to Hong Kong.

"It's such a blessing to have that."

Obama's family love trying seafood such as Maryland blue crabs, and a wide variety of international cuisines, including Chinese dim sum and Vietnamese dishes, she said.

Comerford was appointed to head the White House's kitchen "cabinet" by former first lady Laura Bush in 2005, making her the first female and the first person of ethnic minority origin to hold the position.

Together with other chefs serving heads of states around the world including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Comerford was invited to Hong Kong by a hotel group this week to sample local cuisine.

The group will also visit Macau and Beijing.

In addition to leading a team of seven full-time chefs for the White House, the executive chef took on an additional task under the Obama administration: tending to the White House Garden.

The organic plot, on a secluded part of the White House's south lawn, was an initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama last year to promote healthy eating habits across the country.

School children and volunteers were hired to take care of the plot, which grows a large variety of vegetables and herbs, the chef said, adding that the produce is used throughout the White House.

"We harvested more than 100 pounds of vegetables last year from the tiny plot. We hope to turn it into a four-season garden."

Comerford admitted it was always a challenge to cook for large state dinners with guests having very different dietary needs.

"You have to be cognisant of all of their different dietary preferences. But you also have to be very even-tempered.

"At the end of the day, you try to make most of them happy."

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Students hound nursing school for refunds

LOS ANGELES, California - Former students of the RN Learning Center have hounded the school owner for tuition refunds.

Junlou Enterina has been accused of misrepresenting his company, RN Learning Center, as an accredited nursing school.

Balitang America witnessed the confrontation. Enterina told one student, “If you want to refund the money, then you have to go to the Attorney General’s Office.”

The former students said they were disqualified from taking the registered nurse licensure examination, even after they had taken 18 months of classes.

Each had paid Enterina $20,000. They were not told that RN Learning Center and its affiliate school in the Philippines are not approved and accredited by the US Board of Registered Nursing.

Faced by his former students, Enterina denied all allegations of misrepresentation. The California Attorney General has ordered the shutdown of RN Learning Center, saying it was a fraudulent operation.

“I’m a learning facility. I’m an agent. I enroll students in the Philippines,” Enterina told the students.

“No, that is not how you presented it to us,” answered one student. “You said you are affiliated with a school in the Philippines.”

Another said: “You never said that you are just an agent. Do you think we are that stupid to pay you money (if you were just an agent)?”

In 2007, Enterina ignored a cease and desist order issued for the same violation. The court is expected to order Enterina to pay back his students and to restrain him from operating a nursing school.

Enterina last week said he was planning to go back to the Philippines now that his business has been shut down.

The Attorney General’s Office said Enterina is free to leave the country. But if he continues to operate a nursing school, then he can be criminally liable and can go to jail.

Students shopping for a reputable nursing school are advised to check the Board of Registered Nursing for all accredited schools.

Charice enrolls in online college

NEW YORK – Filipino singing sensation Charice is back in school after enrolling in an online college in the US.

Even with her busy schedule, Charice registered for a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, an online course at the Southern New Hampshire University in Boston, Massachusetts.

The young Filipina pride worked the runway and showed off her back-to-school look at the Macy’s “End of Summer Blowout Show” last Sunday in Manhattan.

Charice’s fans applauded their idol for making school a priority.

“Really, you have to stay in school, no matter how successful this is, it could end at any time so you have to have something as back up,” Chaster Jim Lee said.

Charice also earned praises from fellow stars.

“That girl is amazing!” said Victoria Justice, star of Nickelodeon’s “Victorious”.

Another show host said, “I always say, you should never try to sing a Whitney Houston song ‘coz you can never do it better than her, but I heard her sing Whitney Houston and she does it better than her.”

A fan from Queens, New York told Balitang America, “I’m here for Charice. My son is here for BTR (Big Time Rush).”

Charice shared the stage with Nickelodeon’s popular teen heartthrobs “Big Time Rush” as well as with YouTube sensation, Josh Golden.

While the press got to interview the Nickelodeon stars, organizers said Charice was not doing any press interviews that day.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Fil-Am stabbed 40 times by hubby

A Filipino-American woman has lived to tell her story of domestic abuse she suffered from her husband of 20 years.

Gemma Johnson thought she was going to die when her husband stabbed her more than 40 times.

“Akala ko talaga that's the end of it because yung feeling ko that moment, the way I breath, the way my eyes was closing, I didn't feel like I was gonna make it,” she said.

According to Johnson, the motive that drove her husband to stab her was professional jealousy.

She said her husband’s business closed 2 years ago while her beauty saloon continues to do well during the recession.

“Na-depress siya sa business niya kasi na-close yung kanyang car dealership, and besides that, ako lahat ang nagsusuporta,” she explained.

She said her 2 children were home when her husband stabbed her. She feared more for her children’s safety than her own.

“I was praying. I hope he would save me from that and also that my kids would be safe. If it's not gonna be me, at least my kids,” she said.

She said they had issues with domestic abuse in the past and went to counseling for it. But things took a turn for the worse when his business went under.

She filed for divorce from her husband while he is still in jail. Her legal counsel said her husband is facing a second-degree murder charge and could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted of the alleged crime.

She now struggles to keep up with her bills and is on the brink of losing her house. The Filipino community of Arizona fundraised on her behalf.

"Selling flowers, you know. Donations that people, you know, literally do not know me, but giving away some money to donate to help me,” she said.

Her friends believe that her will to survive and her faith saved her.

“God was with her and is going to be with her all the time because of her kids and she has a goal. She wants to survive and she did," said her friend, Tess Menendez.

She wants to move on, but continues to fear for her and her children’s safety.

“Just in case na makalabas siya, natatakot ako, maybe this time, alam niya na buhay ako, he would really, definitely finish me and my kids. So yun ang aking kinakatakutan ngayon,” she said

Fil-Am band CD launch a family affair

WASHINGTON DC - Ivy Rose’s maiden CD debut last Saturday turned into a family affair, typical perhaps for a rising all-girls band comprised of teenage Filipino-Americans.

Ivy Rose is composed of 3 sisters – Isabelle, Sarah and Kristine de Leon, and vocalist Martina San Diego.

They launched their new CD “This Adventure” in a rousing party at the Jaxx Club in Springfield, Virginia, attended by about 200 family members, friends, fans and classmates.

The CD features 11 original songs written and arranged by the girls themselves. The songs are also available on iTunes.

Ivy Rose is just a little over a year old, born in the basement studio of Tito de Leon, an engineer by training but now working almost full-time as the band’s manager (his wife Lynn is the band’s marketing manager).

If you happen to watch an Ivy Rose concert, Tito would be the one working feverishly before the show making sure all the microphones, music instruments and amplifiers are hooked up and ready to go.

The weekend launch party also featured three bands – another Fil-Am band, Apriori; the Baltimore-based Three Tree Experience; and the remarkable Mad Brenda that’s composed of Tom Foster and his two talented daughters Torie and Sam.

“We were established by our dedication to creating music,” Foster said, “We may not be the typical definition of a rock band but we certainly take pride in the fact that we are unique.”

Foster says Tito de Leon has often made them part of the line-up during Ivy Rose performances.

If there was an underlying theme that evening, it was music and family.

Incidentally, another common strand that binds the Ivy Rose girls – their mothers hail from Cebuano-speaking provinces back home.

A number of Fil-Am community leaders joined the CD launch party as a show of support although we did not exactly belong to the targeted demographic of the bands’ repertoire.

Ivy Rose caters to a young crowd who, gauging from the crowd’s response, have enthusiastically accepted their music.

Vocalist Marti (who also plays the rhythm guitar) is a high school sophomore and consistent honor student; she has been performing in front of audiences since she was 5.

Drummer Isabelle is already a member of the Cum Laude Society in her freshman year at the University of Maryland where she is pursuing a double major in Computer Science and Jazz Drums Performance.

Lead guitarist Sarah has been playing the guitar since she was 7; a high school junior, she is in the top 10 of her class.

Bass guitarist Kristine is a sophomore at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC where she a pursuing a major in architecture; she is also one of the leaders of CUA’s Filipino organization.

They say Ivy Rose has been influenced by groups like The Cranberries, Meg & Dia, Muse, and The Cure, among others.

They have spent their first year joining one competition after another. They topped the Quest Battle of the Bands in Damascus, Maryland this year and placed 2nd at a battle of upcoming bands in the 9:30 Club – considered the premier live-band destination in Washington DC. That earned them an opening spot at the Art Attack XXVIII that featured Ben Folds and Weezer.

They’re young, they’re hot and the road is wide open for Ivy Rose. Little wonder the Fil-Am community here is rooting for their break-out in the US market.

James Yap wins 2nd MVP award

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) superstar James Yap ran away with his 2nd Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in his professional career on Wednesday, besting 7 other nominees.

The 6-foot-3 shooting guard, whose marriage to Kris Aquino was on the rocks again during the current season, led the B-Meg Derby Ace to the Fiesta Cup semis.

He was emotional when he received the MVP honor for the 2009-2010 PBA season at the awarding ceremonies at the Big Dome.

“Alam naman natin ang pinagdaan ko sa personal kong buhay, talagang nagpapa-thank you ako kay God at binigyan niya ako ng strength and focus every game,” said Yap.

Yap, also the 2005-2006 PBA season MVP, thanked his numerous supporters, the B-Meg management, his team mates and his manager for their unwavering support.

He dedicated the win to the person he loves the most.

“Gusto kong ide-dicate itong award na ito sa pinaka-special na tao sa buhay ko, walang iba kundi ang anak ko, si Baby James. Para sa iyo ito. I love you, miss na miss na kita,” he said.

Aquino announced last month that she would seek to annul her marriage to the basketball star.

Yap, however, said he would do everything to save his marriage.

"As I said, I will fight to save our marriage. Gagawin ko ang lahat para ma-save ang marriage namin at mabuo uli ang family namin," he said in an earlier interview with ABS-CBN.

Credits former coach

Yap also thanked outgoing B-Meg coach Ryan Gregorio for developing him into the player he is today.

Gregorio has joined Manila Electric. Co. (Meralco), which is fielding a team in the next PBA season.

“Siyempre kay Coach Ryan na alam nating hindi ko na magiging coach next conference. Pero talagang siya yung nagtitiwala sa akin para mabigyan ng break. Siya ang gumawa ng James Yap,” said Yap.

The B-Meg superstar edged several nominees for the award.

Other players nominated for MVP were Kelly Williams and Macmac Cardona of Talk ‘N Text; Asi Taulava of Coca-Cola; Gabe Norwood of Rain or Shine; LA Tenorio of Alaska; Arwind Santos and Jay Washington of San Miguel.

Yap, Conference MVP for the 2009-2010 Philippine Cup, was also included in the league’s 1st Mythical Team selection the season. Other members of the mythical group were Tenorio, Washington, Santos and Sonny Thoss of Alaska.

Yap’s colleagues, meanwhile, admired the way he handled himself on court despite his marital woes.

“I hear a lot of stuff every time but he never shows it on the court," said Alaska import Diamon Simpson.

“Matindi ang trinabaho niya for the team, he deserves to be the MVP," said B-Meg Team Manager and former PBA star Alvin Patrimonio.

“I’m so proud of James and his efforts,” said Rene Pardo, B-Meg board representative.

Pacquiao-Mayweather in May 2011?

MANILA, Philippines – The face-off between boxing megastars Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. will most likely not happen in 2010 but possibly next year.

This was mentioned by Pacquiao’s promoter, Top Rank, Inc. CEO Bob Arum, in an interview with

“It’s too late for the fall. So Pacquiao-Mayweather would be something in the spring,” Arum told Lem Satterfield. “Floyd has not signed officially with [promoter Don] King, but when he does, I'm sure that Don will talk to me and we’ll work it out.”

Mayweather is rumored to be joining the stable of fighters under Don King Productions. The undefeated American fighter was slated to face Pacquiao on November 13 but negotiations fell apart.

“My recommendation is that we do the fight in May, in which case, if Pacquiao is successful in November, that will give us six months to promote the fight,” added Arum, who currently ironing out the details of Pacquiao’s bout against Mexican Antonio Margarito on November 13.

Arum disclosed that he is set to meet with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).

Pacquiao’s promoter said he is considering the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas as the venue for the Margarito clash. He added that the fight will not be staged in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

“Jerry Jones, I consider a friend. I think that we’re going to make a deal. Jerry Jones knows that North Texas has a huge Hispanic population, and, particularly, a large Mexican American population,” stated Arum.

Pacquiao fought for the first time at the Cowboys Stadium last March 13 against Joshua Clottey of Ghana. He beat the Ghanaian by unanimous decision.

Arum even predicted that the Pacquiao-Margarito fight will be a “tremendous draw.”

“Pacquiao was already a tremendous draw. So if the fight happens in the Dallas Cowboys’ Stadium, the attendance will exceed the previous fight with Joshua Clottey, who really had no following in North Texas,” he added.

Margarito and Pacquiao will dispute the vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) junior middleweight title.