Friday, 18 May 2012

Adopted singer joins talent show in search of mother


LONDON - A Filipina singer, who was adopted when she was a baby, joined a talent competition to reach out to her biological mother through music and the press.
Aspiring singer Amly Gealone Lieder, 37, competed against dozens of performers in a talent search in London. She made it through and eventually finished at third place, delivering an emotional performance of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.
But Lieder is searching for something more important than a talent show title. As an adopted child, she has been looking for her biological mother known simply as “Edna”.
“It’s not about winning,” she told ABS-CBN Europe. “I joined this competition because I’m looking for my birth mother. She holds the key to my dad’s whereabouts. I would like this story to come out so people would know. Probably they know somebody that knows about my story, or probably Edna herself will hear about this.”
Born in July 1974, Lieder was adopted as a baby by a couple from Balintawak, Quezon City in the Philippines. Her adoptive parents, Josefina and Antonio Gealone, raised her as their own with their biological son, who came a few years later.
“I had a good life. Even though we were poor, we were surviving. But something was not right. There was always something missing,” she revealed, claiming she always knew she was adopted because of her mixed-race features.
“People behind my back were calling me names, like ‘ampon’ in Tagalog. That’s how I knew. If you’re adopted it’s like a taboo. Nobody wants to talk about it. It’s a hush-hush thing, even though I’ve always been different than most Filipinos. But I didn’t have the courage to talk about it before.”
She finally got the courage to explore the subject when her own son started to ask questions about their ancestry.
She recalled: “My son came home from school one day and said ‘family tree.’ And I thought ‘What family tree?’ With my husband’s side we can easily trace it, but with my side it’s really unfortunate. So when my (adoptive) mum visited four years ago, I gathered up the courage to confront her and ask her about it. Ever since, she’s been really helpful in locating Edna, my birth mum.”
“Amly is a good daughter,” said her adoptive mother Josefina. “She is kind, obedient and supportive. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to talk about her adoption. I was scared of pushing her away and loosing our bond. But ever since we opened up about it, we’ve become closer than ever. Nothing has changed. She calls us almost everyday.”
Josefina’s recollection of events is the only link they have to Lieder’s past, but at 66 years-old, her memory has started to fade.
“I don’t remember everything. Edna was a customer at the beauty parlor I was working in at Plaza Ferguson in Ermita in Manila. She came in regularly for a manicure from me, and sometimes she even came with what we thought was her boyfriend at the time, a black soldier. She was also pregnant and there were rumors that he was the father.”
Staff at the salon speculated about the mysterious Edna. They thought she was either a waitress, or even a dancer. Josefina became friendly with her and started to talk about the baby.
“I used to joke with her asking for her baby. But she would always refuse and say that the baby has a father. Then she suddenly stopped going to the salon, and the next we’ve heard is that she already gave birth. There were also rumors that she separated from the father,” she recalled.
Josefina and her colleagues also heard rumors that Edna’s baby was born at the Manila Doctors Hospital, but nobody knows for sure.
“Then one day she came into the salon with the baby. She left me the baby to look after for a while, and I told her to come back at the end of the day. But I never saw her again. I had no documents or anything, just a pair of clothes and a bottle of milk. I vaguely recall her giving the baby a long name, but I can’t remember it exactly. Something like the name of a Miss Universe at that time. Maybe Evangeline, after the beauty queen Evangeline Pascual. But I really can’t remember it now. Then my husband and I decided to name the child Amly to keep it simple.”
Edna has not been seen since. Josefina describes her as a “morena” from the province, possibly the Visayas region. She is approximately 5 feet tall, and roughly the same age as her, now in her 60s.
Lieder is hopeful that through her music, and the attention she gets from it, she will be able to locate her long lost mother from the Philippines.
Music has always been her saving grace, saying: “I’ve gone tough times. Thank goodness for the choir. I was involved in St Joseph’s Choir in Balintawak. They completely showed me the right path.”
With tears from her eyes, Lieder shared a message for her birth mother Edna: “All I want is to see you. I hope we can meet each other soon. I hope you remember me, even though I was still a baby when you gave me away. My only wish is to meet you. And if that happens, I hope I can have a place in your heart for you to accept me. I’m not blaming you for anything. I know it’s not your fault. I understand what you must have gone through at the time when you gave me up. I just want peace.”
Lieder is based in Fort William, Scotland, where she works as an account clerk at a hotel. She lives with her husband, a German national, and their son. She continues her search for her birth mother Edna.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Mother seeks help for son held captive in Somalia

MANILA, Philippines – A mother of a Filipino seafarer is seeking the help of government and nongovernment organizations and even the international community in helping rescue her son who is still being held hostage in Somalia for two years now.
Aurora Gonzales of Jaro, Iloilo City went to the Blas F. Ople Policy Center to follow up the case of her son, 31-year-old Gerald Gonzales.
Gerald, an engine cadet, was on board a hijacked cargo vessel owned by Dubai-based Azal Shipping & Cargo in 2010. He is the only Filipino onboard the Iceberg 1 ship.
Mrs. Gonzales said she received a call from her son at 2 a.m. on March 29, 2010 informing her that their ship has been hijacked.
Since then, the OFW’s family has been relying on updates from the local manning agency, Inter-World Shipping Corporation.
“We urge the Department of Foreign Affairs to go the extra mile in requesting for international assistance because the shipping company concerned has not been forthcoming with answers as to extraordinary delay in the release of Gerald Gonzales,” Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center said.
The manning agency, in turn, has been sending e-mails to the operations manager of Azal Shipping & Cargo in Dubai to request for information.
“Gerald’s mother showed us an e-mail thread filled with terse assurances from Azal Shipping & Cargo that the crewmembers are still onboard the vessel and are fine. If they are fine, then what’s holding up the negotiations? Two years is a long time to be in the hands of Somali pirates,” Ople added.
Gerald left the Philippines on April 7, 2009 on his first contract as a seafarer. The family has not received any allotment from the Dubai-based shipping company since the seafarer was held captive. Other Filipino crewmembers went home prior to the hostage-taking incident since their contracts have ended.
 

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Pinoy documentary bags top award in Dutch film fest




Marty Syjuco, director of documentary film "Give Up Tomorrow"

NETHERLANDS - A documentary film about a Filipino-Spanish teenager who was convicted in the 1997 massacre case in Cebu won the highest award in the "Movies That Matter" film festival in the Netherlands.
Pinoy producer Marty Syjuco's "Give Up Tomorrow," a documentary film with a controversial and sensitive theme, won the Audience Choice Vara Awards in
The Hague.
Syjuco was coy but very happy to receive the award.
“This is my first film. I was not a filmmaker prior to this film. We are so honored and grateful,” Syjuco told ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau.
“Give Up Tomorrow” centers on the case of Paco Larranaga, one of the 7 who were convicted for the kidnapping and murder of sisters Mary
Joy and Jacqueline Chiong in 1997.
Paco, the son of Spanish pelotari Manuel Larranaga and a member of the influential Osmena clan in Cebu, has been serving a life sentence for 15 years now.
It was on Feb. 3, 2004 when Paco and his other six co-accused were sentenced to death by lethal injection in a Manila court.
His death penalty was then commuted to life when capital punishment was abolished in the Philippines two years later.
Paco was then transferred to a prison in Spain in October 2009 under the Transfer of Prisoner Treaty between Madrid and Manila.
Apart from the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Paco’s appeals for a reinvestigation of his murder case and release reached the Fair Trials International and different human rights bodies in Europe.
The documentary film attempted to show the many loose ends in the trial of Paco’s case.
A young Dutchwoman who watched the film at the festival was very touched.
"I think he [Paco] is innocent especially if you look at what Amnesty International said and what the U.N. said about it and I believe he should be free,” said Jorinde.
Syjuco is related to Paco because his brother is married to Paco's sister.
Syjuco said that the VARA award is very meaningful because it comes from the very prestigious Movies that Matter Festival, which is associated with Amnesty International and one of the biggest and most important human rights festivals in the world.
“It also brings further attention to the injustice that Paco continues to suffer and our ‘Free Paco Now’ campaign. To receive the award in the international city of peace and justice is incredible, especially since we have a campaign to bring justice to an innocent man,” Syjuco said.
“Also this award means that our film will have a television broadcast in Holland and we're so thrilled that the entire country will get to see our film,” Syjuco added.
The documentary film received a huge amount of support from those who are petitioning for the pardon and release of Paco.
During the Movies That Matter festival, the “Free Paco Now” petition collected 500 signatures.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Pinoys skeptical of new transport security measures in Belgium


BRUSSELS – Operations of the city’s public transport is now back to normal after a 4-day strike.
Drivers and employees of the Societe des Transports Intercommunaux des Bruxelles (STIB) stopped working for days to demand the government implement measures that will ensure safety to all public transport employees.
They walked out in protest after one of their colleagues, a 56-year-old inspector who had been working for the company for 29 years, was beaten to death while investigating a collision between a bus and a car.
STIB also complained of a number of violent acts committed against its employees.
Gov't to adopt security measure
Belgium announced some measures which they hoped will help improve security on the Brussels Transport Network.
“We will hire 400 extra police officers. This is a strong signal and symbolizes our determination to step up security standards in Brussels,” Minister of Interior Joelle Milquet said.
She also stated that for the meantime, 100 policemen from the federal police staff will be deployed. On the other hand, STIB security officers will be given more powers. They will be allowed to demand from passengers ID documents and can hold the offenders for hours before policemen arrive.
Discrimination on new safety measures
While the government hopes the new security measures will minimize violence on the road, Filipinos in Brussels think otherwise.
“I think tama lang na magkaroon ng police sa mga nagko-control ng ticket sa mga public transports para na rin sa security ng lahat. Pero yung pagbusisi nila sa mga dokumento ng pasahero ay maaring maging mitsa para mapauwi ang mga undocumented workers sa kani-kanilang bansa,” Fil-Belgian Anne Kukenheim said.
Undocumented migrants fear there might be discrimination, especially to those who do not look like Belgians.
Instead of demanding proper documents from passengers, Pinoys believe that it is better if the government would implement stricter road safety rules and that offenders should be given heavier fines and be punished accordingly.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Filipina drummer a finalist in 'Hit Like A Girl'


MANILA, Philippines – A 25-year-old Filipina is among the 15 finalists of the international drumming contest for women, “Hit Like A Girl 2012”.
Karmi Santiago’s name was announced during the live webcast on DrumChannel.com.
“I’m not just your ordinary drummer girl. I’m a musician. A lover. An enthusiast. A teacher. And will always be a learner,” says Santiago’s short description of herself which she submitted to the contest along with her three-minute video entry.
The Hit Like A Girl website explained that the 15 finalists include the top 12 popular vote recipients, as well as three wild-card entrants chosen by the contest’s sponsors.
“The finalists’ videos will be judged by a panel of world-class drum artists, including Sheila E, Jess Bowen, Kim Thompson, Dawn Richardson, Suzie Ibarra and Hannah Ford, with the grand prize winners announced on May 1, 2012,” according to a contest statement.
Santiago has been playing the drums for 10 years and has covered almost all music genres, including jazz, classical, pop, soul, rock and alternative.
“When I grow old, I want to see myself still sitting on the drummer’s seat, doing my thing,” Santiago’s short biography on the contest website says.
But Santiago is not only aiming to win. She also wants to share her knowledge to other musicians like her.
“I also want to impart to others the things that I have and have learned as a musician. I want them to experience the joy of expressing my feelings and emotions as I play each beat,” she said.
Hours before the announcement was made, Santiago already thanked in advance all those who supported her entry to the contest.
“Sa lahat po ng nag support, thanks po! Ma-qualify o hindi, tuloy pa rin ang musika!. Let His will be done!” wrote Santiago on her Facebook account.
Aside from Santiago, the other finalists are:
Arianna Fanning,
"Pearl Girl" Mandy Tieman,
Adriana "Gata" Pinaya Johanssen,
Illari Arbe,
Monica (Moni) Del Valle,
Nikki Blout (NIKnSTIX),
Jess De Vries,
Drashti Thakkar (D.T.),
Taryn Lee Young (TarynDrumfire),
Janitra Priyanka Vaswani (JP Millenix),
Ankita Bhardwaj (Basement),
Lindsey Raye Ward,
Agnieszka Matuszczak (agadrummer), and
De'Arcus Curry (dbaby).
Contestants will get a chance to win more than $10,000 in drums and other prizes.
Contest organizer Phil Hood said they were overwhelmed by the response they received.
“With well over 350 entries from around the world, more than 300,000 votes cast, 10,000,000 page views thus far and as many as 12,000 visitors per day, what started out as the first contest for girl drummers became a global phenomenon for the women’s drumming community,” Hood said.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

PNoy wants OFWs to be 'treated with dignity'

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino urged labor ministers of different countries to ensure that Filipino workers abroad are treated with dignity, as well as workers from other countries. 
 
In his speech during the Abu Dhabi Dialogue among labor ministers, Aquino noted that 60% of Filipinos working abroad and 12% of all migrant workers are stationed in countries, who were represented in the meeting. 
 
“Suffice it to say: We all have a significant stake in this; and our discussions today will affect the lives of tens of millions of our people, at the very least, perhaps even more,” Aquino said. 
 
“What all of us want is clear: we want recruitment for our people to be both fair and efficient; we want workers to be treated with dignity; and we want to be able to go back home in a convenient manner, and to be successfully reintegrated in our respective societies. In other words, the idea behind our meeting today is to make sure of one thing: that the people do indeed come first.”
 
Aquino said that his administration’s objective is to attract more investments and create jobs here so that Filipinos would not be forced to look for work abroad. 
 
“Our reform efforts are focused on attracting more investments, creating more jobs and giving our countrymen reason to believe that a good life awaits them here, at home. In this regard, we have been quite successful. Investors are regaining their confidence and putting up more and more businesses here; and if we build on our momentum, I think we can achieve our dream of keeping more of our countrymen here,” he said. 
 
The Abu Dhabi Dialogue is a regional consultation composed of Asian countries of labor origin and destination, including the Colombo Process countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam) and 9 more countries of migrant worker destinations (Bahrain, Kuwait Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen).
 
Part of the discussions would be the adoption of the 2012 Framework of Regional Collaboration of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue, which would include a pledge to “respond effectively to problems inside and outside workplaces by improving inspection and enforcement of labor standards, laws, and adopt specific protocols for resolving most common problems/ disputes.”

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

S.Korea party concerned over racial attacks vs Jasmine Lee

MANILA, Philippines - South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party (New Frontier Party) is becoming increasingly concerned about the racist attacks against Jasmine Lee, a Filipina who became the first naturalized Korean to win a seat in parliament.

Yonhap News reported on Tuesday that the party is concerned about the false rumors about Lee being spread on social networking sites, as well as negative comments against her.

"The party is expressing serious concern over the spread of false information regarding Lee Jasmine and attacks against her on social networking services," Saenuri spokesman Hwang Young-cheul was quoted by Yonhap as saying.

Lee, who is originally from Davao City, was elected as a party-list candidate of the Saenuri Party last week.

Since her win, Lee has been the subject of racist comments attacking her ethnicity and background. False rumors have also surfaced that Lee promised free medical care for illegal immigrants and preferential treatment for children of multicultural families in South Korea.

The 35-year-old widow is a well-known advocate for multicultural families and the Filipino community in South Korea. She met her husband Lee Dong-ho when she was still a college student at Ateneo de Davao, and moved to Seoul in 1995. She became a naturalized Korean citizen in 1998. Her husband died in 2010.

Monday, 16 April 2012

OFWs warned against using PH backdoor to work abroad

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has warned prospective overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) against using the country’s backdoor to work abroad.

POEA chief Hans Leo Cacdac said workers, mostly women who were deployed after leaving through the southern backdoor, usually end up stranded without work permit or are forced to accept low paying jobs.

“Human traffickers use exit points in the southern provinces to deploy workers without proper work documents to countries such as Malaysia, South Korea, China, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, and other Middle East countries,” Cacdac said.

He said that from the southernmost parts of Mindanao and Palawan, traveling by sea to Malaysia is the more convenient way for a human trafficker to move his victims to their final country of destination.

Recently, Cacdac said the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Kuala Lumpur reported that five Filipino women were being held in a nightclub in Malaysia, which is controlled by a large syndicate involved in human trafficking for prostitution.

It was learned that the syndicate transported the victims through the Zamboanga-Sandakan-Kota Kinabalu-Johor Bahru route.

Cacdac added that based on recent studies, most of the human trafficking victims in the Philippines were travelers deceived by their recruiters about their real jobs or the conditions of their employment overseas.

“Hence, I would advise aspiring OFWs to be doubtful when recruiters offer Mindanao and Palawan as exit points,” he said.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Pinay sold to another employer breaks down

MUSCAT, Oman – Filipinos at the Filipino Workers Resource Center in Muscat are concerned about the condition of a 51-year-old household service worker who allegedly became mentally unstable after her agency sold her to another employer.

“Nancy,” not her real name, first arrived in Dubai in August of last year. The Ozamiz City native worked for an Emirati employer who brought her back to her agency in Al Ain.
Last January, Nancy said her agency sold her to another employer who is based in Oman. This is allegedly to recoup the expenses paid by her agency.
But after only two months, Nancy was fetched by personnel from the Philippine Embassy’s Assistance to Nationals and brought to the custody of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO).
“May mga observations kami sa kanya at dahil sa mga observations na iyan, kinordinate natin don sa ATN [Assistance to Nationals] para masabihan yung kanyang sponsor who happens to be a government employee of Oman,” said Labor Attache Ernesto Bihis.
Nancy was able to tell ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau how she ended up in Oman. But after further questioning, her answers allegedly made no sense.
“Medyo siya nga po ay nagkaroon ng problema, atubili siya di namin ma-describe ang kanyang pagkilos at ang mga kasama po niya ay hindi niya pinatulog noong unang gabing nandito siya. Marami daw po siyang nadidinig, nakikita na wala naman pong nakakadinig kung di siya lang,” said OWWA Officer Erick de Jesus.
Her present state of mind has been making her fellow wards at the FWRC worried. They fear that she might harm herself when left alone.
“Umakyat siya sa bintana sabi niya may humahabol sa akin. Sino humahabol sa iyo? Yung amo ko! Yung amo ko ang humahabol sa akin,” said Evelyn Monte de Ramos.
Reports said there were several wards that came from the border of Oman and the UAE who were allegedly possessed by evil spirits.
But Bihis explained this could be due to depression, because the workers were not prepared when they left the Philippines to work overseas.
“Siguro may mga dala-dala siyang problema galing sa Pilipinas tapos pagdating dito, yung working environment niya malaki yung adjustment, pagbabago, maari di siya naka-cope,” he said.