Thursday, 23 September 2010

PNoy goes for New York hotdogs, pizza

NEW YORK, United States (UPDATE) - President Benigno Aquino III said he is looking forward to having New York City’s world-famous hotdogs sold by street vendors.

The President arrived in New York early Tuesday morning and had breakfast with several Cabinet members at the Hotel Sofitel.

He said that he and the Philippine contingent’s lifestyle while in the US will remain simple, an apparent reference to allegedly lavish overseas trips made by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"Yung pizza may katapat dito, masubukan uli. Yung hindi [pizza] chain, more like 'mom and pop' ang dating,” Aquino said. “Pero yung hotdog is something I'm looking forward to.”

He revealed that the Philippine delegation had "In and Out" hamburgers in San Francisco when they arrived.

“Iyung aking mga secretary tuwang-tuwa. First time kong nasubukan masarap nga naman pala," he said.

Aquino also chose to stay at the Sofitel hotel in New York instead of at the Waldorf-Astoria, where his predecessor usually stayed when in the city, according to the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

Ready to meet counterparts

Meanwhile, Aquino said he is ready to meet his counterparts from other countries during his first official working visit to the United States.

"There are a lot of responsibilities, and it's my duty to ensure that I’m prepared before I meet all of them,” he said. “We have something like 12 attaché cases with all the briefing materials."

Aquino will attend the United Nations General Assembly, but it is not yet clear if he will have a bilateral meeting with US President Barack Obama.

Obama will address the UN General Assembly Thursday. On Friday, he will be hosting the US-ASEAN leaders' meeting, and there lies an opportunity for a bilateral meeting with Aquino.

However, Philippine officials said they are still awaiting confirmation from the State Department if such a meeting will push through.

"Even with that, it still is worthwhile and on the off-chance that I might have a chance with President Obama,” Aquino said. “Of course, that would be most welcome. There are a lot of concerns that can be taken up with President Obama."

He also explained the reason behind his decision to bring along former Senator Mar Roxas in his US trip.

He said Roxas will help the Philippine business delegation in meetings with foreign groups.

"These business figures were people that he got to work with when he was an investment banker, so there's something about a personal touch," the President said.

13 Pinoys fall in UK immigration crackdown

MANILA, Philippines – A total of 13 Filipinos were arrested in a series of crackdown operations against illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom.

In a press statement forwarded by the British Embassy in Manila, the Home Office UK Border Agency said it is taking the necessary steps to deport the 13 from the UK.

“Seven of the arrests took place during UK Border Agency raids on a number of addresses in Willesden, north-west London on Thursday, 16 September,” the UK Border Agency said.

It cited the operation in Willesden where authorities visited 3 addresses and found 50 people inside and in constructed accommodations.

Of the 50, 11 were arrested including 7 Filipino women and 3 Chinese for a variety of immigration offenses.

“The 7 Filipinos remain in detention pending their removal,” the Agency said.

The landlord of the property is also facing investigation by council planning and health and safety officials.

“This is the latest in a series of operations designed to find and remove those who have no right to live or work in the UK,” said Steve Fisher, head of the UK Border Agency’s Brent local immigration team.

“We continue to work closely with the police and other agencies to target those who are here illegally, and more raids like this are planned across the UK,” he added.

In 2009, 85 Filipino nationals were removed from the UK after being held in detention solely for immigration offences.

Meanwhile, Filipino travelers are urged to strictly comply with immigration laws when visiting UK.

“While the UK welcomes genuine visitors from the Philippines, we are also committed to tackling immigration abuse robustly, as evidenced by these recent arrests and removals. We also continue to work closely with the Philippines Government to raise awareness of this issue and to discourage people from offending,” said Ed Mackie, Regional Manager in the Philippines for the UK Border Agency.

'Is Obama PNoy's real boss?'

MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino migrant workers' group on Wednesday expressed disappointment over President Benigno Aquino III’s priorities in his first official US trip.

“Now, his first trip abroad is primarily to meet with US President Obama and not with OFWs who have repeatedly called his attention for their woes. We wonder: is President Aquino meeting his real boss for more instructions?” said Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-Migrante-HK).

Balladeres-Pelaez said Aquino is more keen on meeting Obama and US investors than OFWs around the world who have been appealing for his help.

“He said we are his boss. In fact, overseas votes also delivered him the presidency. But why is it that his first order of business in his first overseas trip is not to meet us, OFWs, and respond to our demands?” she said.

She said Aquino has yet to show any significant act that would indicate improvement in the protection of the rights and delivery of services to Pinoys abroad.

She added that while OFW remittances help save the ailing economy, the president still did not bother to make trips to countries with large concentration of Pinoy workers to check on their situations and implement concrete actions to resolve their issues.

“When will he meet with OFWs rotting in jail in the Middle East? Or court host countries to provide better treatment to Filipino nationals and sign orders that will lessen the financial charges his government imposes to Filipino migrants such as the overpriced electronic passport?” she said.

According to her, OFWs have sent petition letters to Aquino outlining their demands, including the standardization of e-passport fees, repeal of mandatory fees, review of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s Omnibus Policies, and improved services to OFWs.

“What we got instead, in the name of belt-tightening, was the deplorable proposal to cut the budget for legal aid to OFWs and funds of the Assistance to Nationals for repatriation,” she said.

Charice's US fans rave over Glee Season 2 debut

MANHATTAN, New York - Filipino fans patiently waited to watch Glee’s Season 2 debut at Café 81, a Filipino Restaurant in Lower Manhattan Tuesday night.

Fans said it was Sunshine Corazon’s audition scene for the Glee club that is sure to make Charice a certified Hollywood star. She sang Beyonce’s “Listen."

“I know a few of her songs, I wasn’t really a big fan until I saw her tonight and I think she’s pretty amazing, she’s very good actually,” said Pinoy New Yorker Sergio Conrad.

Right after Charice’s most awaited performance on Glee, Kababayans cheered and clapped for the little Filipina with a big voice.

“I’m so happy that she made it to the Glee, and I hope more Filipino talents in the Tri-State area and all over the nation can be in the mainstream,” said Elvie Abordo, who came all the way from Rockland County, New York.

PJ Pascual, a New York fashion stylist and former assistant accessories editor for Oprah’s “O Magazine”, also gushed about Charice's performance.

“She needs a Filipino stylist like me, with all modesty, to guide her with all of these personal appearances and TV talk shows, but I believe that the way they casted her is a perfect role because you can’t make Charice Pempengco a glam girl in school because that’s not her personality,” said Pascual.

Kababayans who were first-time Glee watchers instantly became Gleeks. They say Glee is now their favorite TV show to watch every Tuesday night.

Anna Trinidad, another New Yorker, said: “Definitely I want to watch it every week to see how it progresses and her character if she gets offered other shows or even Broadway shows.”

Within a few minutes after Glee was aired, “Glee” and “Charice” became a trending topic on Twitter.

Charice tweeted on her official Twitter page and thanked her fans and all those who supported her along the way including her kapamilya at ABS-CBN.

Charice wrote, “Thank you Lord! and Thanks to all the people who watched Glee. Thanks to Ryan Murphy & Brad for the trust. Thank you to all the cast. Thank you to all my kababayan! Mahal ko po kayong lahat! Chasters!!! Thanks you so much for everything.”

Charice also tweeted, “ @ABSCBNNews thank you mga kapamilya for all the support!”

Fans in the Tri-State area believe that Charice’s national TV debut on Glee is only the beginning of bigger things to come for this little Pinay with a big voice, who is now a certified mainstream star.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Pinoys top Canadian immigrants

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos are the largest ethnic group migrating to Canada, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said on Friday.

He said there are now at least 500,000 Filipinos who have found permanent residency in the North American country.

Around 250,000 others, meanwhile, have secured temporary residency, according to Kenney, who is in the Philippines for an official visit.

At least 30,000 Filipinos acquired permanent residency in Canada in 2009, and the same number of applicants is expected to be approved this year, he said.

He said Filipinos enjoy a good reputation as a hard-working people.

"They show real compassion and real heart,” he said.

He expects between 250,000 to 265,000 people from various nationalities to become Canadian permanent residents this year.

He denied reports that his country has started limiting the number of foreign immigrants.

"We are not reducing, it’s just that there are more people applying than we can handle,” he explained. “We are just limiting the number of applications and managing new applicants but we have the same number of residents coming in."

Work opportunities are abundant in the country, according to the Canadian official.

Aside from a point system used in the immigration process, people can file applications for in-demand jobs.

Qualified applicants can be hired to work in Canada within 8 months, he said.

Migrant workers can also try and secure provincial nominations.

Kenney added that Canadian authorities want to fast-track the review and approval of immigration applications

Dutch-Pinoy achieves dream of becoming aerospace engineer

NETHERLANDS - A young Filipino wants to set an example for his compatriots in the Netherlands by pursuing higher education to succeed in today’s highly competitive world.

For John Paul Flores, it was worth burning the midnight oil because he finally achieved his dream of obtaining a Masters Degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Delft University of Technology.

His family and friends were so happy that they organized a picnic to celebrate his success.

But nobody could be prouder than his mother Lita, who, as a single parent, toiled hard to support Flores.

“Very proud po dahil hindi pala sagabal ang kahirapan ng isang tao at sa pagiging nag-iisang magulang nila dito sa Netherlands na makapagpatapos ng isang anak,” Lita said.

The Pinay added that parents can only do so much to encourage their children to finish their education.

Lita said that among her children, John Paul is the only one who finished college and pursued a master degree.

“Itinaguyod ko sila, nag-iisa akong nagtatrabaho. Gayunpaman nasa anak ko pa rin kaya siya nakatapos dahil kung hindi siya nagpursige wala din. Kaya nasa sa anak din, patnubay lang ng magulang,” Lita said.

The road to higher education was not smooth for the 28-year-old Pinoy.

Even if he secured a scholarship for his masters, Flores still needed to split his day as a working student for Heerema Marine Contractors and KLM Airlines in order to finance all his expenses.

“Nakita ko po yung hirap ng mga kapatid ko ngayon kasi hindi sila nagtapos. So talagang dapat silang mag-work with their hands and I thought kung gusto ko pong umasenso kailangan ko pong mag-invest sa aking studies,” Flores added.

But all the hardships such as tightening his belt and putting his social and love life on hold paid off because immediately after his masters, KLM offered Flores a permanent contract as a supply chain engineer, supervising 4 people.

Flores also serves as a role model for the youth in The Hague.

“I’ve known JP for a long time, so we always talk about our academic career. Now that he finally finished his masters, it has absolutely given me more inspiration to achieve mine as well,” friend Paolo Tomas said.

Many high school graduates here lose interest to go to a university because many are lured by the prospects of earning money at an early age.

“Kung may chance akong makatapos din syempre gusto kong matapos din. Kung mas bata ako ngayon, syempre sasabihin ko sa kanila na tapusin nila dahil mahirap ang competition dito sa Holland,” Flores’ elder brother Ron said.

Flores said that it isn’t enough anymore to get a Bachelors’ Degree due to the stiff and intense competition among job seekers and the rigid standard set by employers as part of the accelerated trend towards globalization.

He added that gaining higher education will help secure a person’s brighter future in this global economy.

Pinoy model a hit after posing naked for Givenchy

MANHATTAN, NY – When Filipino-Canadian Paolo Roldan came to the US for a work-related visit last year, he had no idea that his life was about to change.

Roldan was in New York last year working as a fashion buyer when he was spotted by Boss Models New York founder and owner David Bossman. It was a chance meeting that opened a door to the New York fashion scene.

“A gentleman who was David Bossman, tapped my boss on the shoulder and basically like, are you this gentleman’s agent?…Bossman asked me to come in to take some test shots, so basically, from then on, a week after I left New York, I was already back in New York working,” said Roldan.

Roldan signed up for Boss Models New York, the modeling agency that invented the male supermodels.

Next thing he knew, he was modeling for Givenchy, a French brand of clothing whose popular clients include Audrey Hepburn and the Kennedy family. He even closed for Givenchy’s fall winter collection fashion show in Paris last January.

It was his full frontal naked editorial photo for Givenchy in the June issue of Vogue Paris magazine that brought him worldwide fame.

“They just told me alright we’re gonna shoot it. Take your robe off, take your underwear off. I was like, OK yeah sure, so I took everything off, next thing you know I was shooting it full frontal nude, it was hilarious, it was nerve wracking but it was a good experience,” he said.

His Vogue magazine “exposure” became a big buzz in the fashion world making him Givenchy’s favorite on and off the catwalk.

Roldan said his biggest break so far is landing a Givenchy ad campaign.

“That I’ve been told, it’s pretty good considering I’ve only been in the business really for a about a year and a half,” he said.

Roldan is in New York for Fall Fashion Week walking the runways for designers Phillip Lim, Michael Bastian and Copper Wheat.

But he said a model’s success can’t be gauged on their fashion week gigs alone. “Fashion Week is not really a thing that you can gauge your career on, you do shows and there’s a certain look that some people look for and you might not necessary fit the description for every show…”

Roldan said while being a man of color still has its ups and downs in getting a modeling gig in The Big Apple, he said the modeling world is fast becoming color blind.

“There’s more Asian, there’s more African-American models walking the runway, showing up in campaigns. I mean it’s gonna take some time but change is coming, and I believe that we all have to believe that,” he said

Noynoy promises more jobs for Pinoys from US trip

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III is expected to bring home more than a thousand jobs for Filipinos from his trip to the United States next week.

“We are not talking a hundred, two hundred jobs. We are not even talking a thousand. We are talking more than that,” President Aquino said.

Aquino is scheduled to meet with executives of big companies in the US like the IBM and Hewlett Packard in the hopes of encouraging them to invest in the country to create more jobs in the Philippines.

The President will also give a speech in the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

He is also scheduled to meet with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) leaders and US President Barack Obama.

However, it is still unsure if Aquino will get a one-on-one opportunity to talk with the US President.

“Principally, we are hoping to get [to] talk to President Obama but we are sure to be able to talk to the Prime Minister of Malaysia. As you know, they have been helping us with our issues with MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] in Mindanao. And we think we can say with optimism that we are even exerting greater effort to achieve that lasting peace,” Aquino said.

While in the US, Aquino will formally receive the US$434-million grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The grant will be used to fund projects of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Department of Social Work and Development and for highway repairs in Samar province.

Aside from meeting world leaders, Aquino will meet with non government organizations to tap their help in improving the science school system in the country.

He will also receive an award from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in New York where his mother, former president Corazon Aquino, studied.

Aquino will be accompanied by more than 30 businessmen and some members of his Cabinet

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Another US lawmaker supports full equity for Filipino vets

SAN FRANCISCO – Filipino World War II veterans and their supporters have more reason to celebrate.

Last July, United States Congresswoman Jackie Speier pledged to introduce legislation that would give them monthly pensions.

On Tuesday, Congressman Mike Honda committed to co-sponsor the full equity bill.

“We are glad there are members of Congress that recognize our rights and our fight for recognition,” said veteran Apolonio Ladia.

For full equity to pass, the Justice for Filipino Veterans (JFAV) said they need to get the support of lawmakers seeking re-election this year, in areas where there is a large number of Filipino voters.

JFAV said that to get the Filipino votes, politicians also have to support full equity.

“Out of convenience, they will have to take our side,” said JFAV coordinator Ago Pedalizo.

The veterans and their supporters said the more legislators support full equity, the bigger the chance that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would commit to co-sponsor the equity bill.

“People who did not commit to support full equity in the past will see the growing support for it and they might change their minds,” said Pedalizo.

Veteran Restituto Ibanez said: “I hope Pelosi does not forget about us because we sacrificed a lot to fight for America during the war.”

Besides increasing congressional support for full equity, JFAV is also filing a lawsuit against the Veterans Affairs on October 8, which pushes for monthly pensions for the veterans and their widows.

“Widows should also get monthly pension because our husbands suffered just like the rest,” said widow, Ramana Battung.

“Out of the 66 nationalities that fought for America during World War II, the Filipinos were the only ones left out. This is an outright racial discrimination,” maintained Pedalizo.

To add the growing list of full equity supporters, JFAV said Filipino-Americans should personally convince their own representatives in Congress to give justice where it is due.

Hostage drama could affect job security in Holland

THE HAGUE – Filipino security workers in The Hague are worried that the poor handling of the Manila hostage crisis will have a negative impact on their careers and to aspiring Filipino applicants.

Many Pinoys here are working as security staff to several big international organizations in The Hague. Most of them were recruited from the police and military in the Philippines.

Some Pinoys are starting to worry that the hostage crisis would lead stereotyping, which may affect the recruitment of their fellow kababayans here.

Two Filipinos who wanted to remain anonymous were interviewed by Balitang Europe.

“Dito sa aking unit, nararamdaman namin nung day one pa lang na parang iba ang pagkakakilala sa amin ngayon kasi kapwa Pilipino ang na-involve sa crisis na ito. Ang tingin nila sa amin ganun din ang training na dinanas namin at ganun din mentalidad meron kami bilang pulis kaya nahihiya kami sa nangyari na maapektuhan din ang aming career,” said a former member of the Philippine National Police.

There is a big demand for workers in the security profession here because The Hague, being the legal capital of the world, houses many big international organizations. But a mandatory job requirement is of having a military or police background.

Most of the Filipinos working here as security personnel were either hired straight from the Philippines or from mission posts as peacekeepers with the United Nations.

With the embarrassing handling of the hostage crisis, the Pinoys fear that there will be bias towards Filipino applicants just because of the bad image of the police.

“Parang nakikita nila ang ating image kulang sa ano ang mga pulis sa atin. Kung paano mag-handle sa crisis na ganyan. Nakikita nila parang kulang. Saka pumalpak talaga so ibig sabihin hindi maganda ang ating training. Hindi updated sa mga bagay at pati sa mga gamit,” said a former member of the Philippine Army.

The Pinoys who were formerly from the PNP and AFP admit that the handling of the hostage crisis was really unprofessional.

“Sa nakita ko medyo parang bumaba ang klase ng training at responsibilidad na dapat nilang gawin,” said the former PNP member.

He added that he has been in the Netherlands working as security guard for more than a decade now yet he could still remember his local training when he was following the hostage crisis on The Filipino Channel.

“Basic training sa police kagaya yung nakita natin ang suspect na nakatayo sa steps o sa stribo ng bus which I say mga 5 seconds that time. Yun ay clear shot na sa mga SWAT team na i-takedown ang suspect na hindi ginawa. Ang nangyari na-prolong pa ang drama,” he said.

For his part, the ex-Army member, who also followed the crisis on TFC, was shocked and irritated at the behavior of the police after the tragedy.

“Nagpa-picture pa doon pagkatapos doon sa bus na kinakailangan parang background nila. Ano ba ginawa nila dun nagpa-picture pa? Ano ba sila? Turista ba sila din?” he complained.

The Pinoys also fear that the crisis will also affect their careers, particularly their future promotions or extensions of their contracts.

They are afraid that there will be discrimination against them and that they will have to be forced to be extra careful and pay attention not to make any error in their jobs or else be branded as "the incompetent Filipino police."

The Pinoys hope that President Benigno “Nonoy” Aquino III will take a more drastic step in order to finish the investigation fast and uplift the reputation of the PNP for the benefit of the Filipinos who are applying or who will apply for security jobs in the Netherlands as well as for those competent and efficient Pinoys who are already in the security work force in the different parts of world.

2 Pinoys get nod to rejoin family in Norway

OSLO - Two Pinoys will finally be allowed to rejoin their family in Norway after the government gave its nod to their application for family reunification.

Roberto Enconado, husband to Heidi Fai Enconado, a Norwegian missionary who used to work in the Philippines, will soon join his family in Drammen after the Immigration Directorate overturned its earlier decision to deny his application for resident visa in June this year.

The Directorate denied Enconado’s earlier visa application citing his wife earns too little as a missionary to be able to support their family in Norway. The Norwegian government requires a minimum income requirement to grant family reunification visas.

The Enconado couple had been married for 15 years and lived mostly in the Philippines with their 3 children, Tabitha, Daniel and Jonas. The couple worked as missionaries.

In an interview with Drammens Tidende, a local paper, Heidi Enconado said, “my husband Roberto couldn’t believe it when I told him the good news. We have been talking about him joining us this Christmas but we have been disappointed many times.”

Enconado and her 3 children are temporarily staying at the Filadelfia Christian Ministry in Drammen while waiting to be reunited with her Filipino husband.

She also said that she is not sure why the government finally relented in letting her husband join her family in Norway.

In July this year, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg announced that the government is changing the rules regarding family reunification following a controversial case involving a Filipina who was ordered deported after violating terms in her work visa. The new rules stipulate that families with children will be given consideration in granting resident and work visas to spouses of Norwegians.

Recently, Arne Seland, counsel to Laila Navrud told Drammens Tidende that the Immigration Directorate has sent them a letter assuring them that Laila’s case is now a top priority and that her residency is being granted soon.

The assurance was happy news for Ole Kristian and Laila Navrud who had been traumatized by the earlier decision of the Directorate to expel Laila Navrud and her then 6-month-old son, Kent Oscar, last month from Norway after she was found to have violated the terms of her work visa.

The couple has since amassed huge debts in addition to their house loans after Laila was forced to quit her job at a café following the decision. At some point in their struggle to fight the decision, they have decided to put their house on sale.

The Navrud couple has since placed ads in the job section of the local paper and are both trying to move on from their harrowing experience.

Belgian-Pinay makes it to Miss Brussels semis

BRUSSELS - Just like Miss Universe 4th Runner Up Venus Raj, Bernadette Saonoy de Leener is determined to bring honor to her countrymen.

This Belgian-Pinay beauty is one of the 20 semi-finalists in the Miss Brussels beauty pageant. De Leener believes that her advantage over other candidates is having 2 different cultures.

“The advantage over other competitors is first being a Filipino and second, being Belgian. The combination of these 2 cultures and traditions has developed my well-rounded personality and inner strength,” she said.

Though de Leener was born and raised in Brussels, she maintained that her mother, who hails from Mindoro, has instilled in her Filipino values such as respect for elders and close family ties.

“In fact pagmamano is very common for me. I eat Filipino foods such as pansit and adobo. I listen to Filipino music a lot and I watch TFC (The Filipino Channel),” de Leener proudly said.

Tough fight

De Leener, who stands 5'8", admitted that it will be a tough competition as everyone is beautiful and tall. But she assured she’ll give them a good fight.

“Though the competition is tough, I am determined to make our kababayans proud,” she exclaimed.

“Ang karangalan ko ay karangalan nating lahat. Ipagdasal ninyo po ako. Maraming salamat po," she added.

Miss Brussels beauty pageant will be on September 19. Judges will pick out 7 out of the 20 semi-finalists.

Online voting is already open for those who want to support the candidates. Kababayans who want to help de Leener win may log on to and cast their votes for candidate number 15.