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CNN Heroes: Efren Peñaflorida – Pushcart classes help break gang chain

Posted by lecrowder in Home on 10 28th, 2009
Efren Peñaflorida's Dynamic Teen Company offers Filipino youth an alternative to gangs through education.

Efren Peñaflorida’s Dynamic Teen Company offers Filipino youth an alternative to gangs through education.

CAVITE CITY, Philippines (CNN) — At 16, Rhandolf Fajardo reflects on his former life as a gang member.

“My gang mates were the most influential thing in my life,” says Fajardo, who joined a gang when he was in sixth grade. “We were pressured to join.”

He’s not alone. In the Philippines, teenage membership in urban gangs has surged to an estimated 130,000 in the past 10 years, according to the Preda Foundation, a local human rights charity.

“I thought I’d get stuck in that situation and that my life would never improve,” recalls Fajardo. “I would probably be in jail right now, most likely a drug addict — if I hadn’t met Efren.”

Efren Peñaflorida, 28, also was bullied by gangsin high school. Today, he offers Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership through education. Vote now for the CNN Hero of the Year

“Gang members are groomed in the slums as early as 9 years old,” says Peñaflorida. “They are all victims of poverty.”

For the past 12 years, Peñaflorida and his team of teen volunteers have taught basic reading and writing to children living on the streets. Their main tool: A pushcart classroom.

Stocked with books, pens, tables and chairs, his Dynamic Teen Company recreates a school setting in unconventional locations such as the cemetery and municipal trash dump.

Peñaflorida knows firsthand the adversity faced by these children. Born into a poor family, he lived in a shanty near the city dump site. But he says he refused to allow his circumstances to define his future.

“Instead of being discouraged, I promised myself that I would pursue education,” he recalls. “I will strive hard; I will do my best.”

In high school, Peñaflorida faced a new set of challenges. Gang activity was rampant; they terrorized the student body, vandalized the school and inducted members by forcing them to rape young girls, he says.

“I felt the social discrimination. I was afraid to walk down the street.”

Peñaflorida remembers standing up to a gang leader, refusing to join his gang. That confrontation proved fateful. At 16, he and his friends “got the idea to divert teenagers like us to be productive,” he says.

He created the Dynamic Teen Company to offer his classmates an outlet to lift up themselves and their community. For Peñaflorida, that meant returning to the slums of his childhood to give kids the education he felt they deserved.

“They need education to be successful in life. It’s just giving them what others gave to me,” he says.

Today, children ranging from ages 2 to 14 flock to the pushcart every Saturday to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and English from Peñaflorida and his trained teen volunteers. Video Watch Peñaflorida and his group in action with their push cart classroom »

“Our volunteers serve as an inspiration to other children,” he says.

The group also runs a hygiene clinic, where children can get a bath and learn how to brush their teeth.

Since 1997, an estimated 10,000 members have helped teach more than 1,500 children living in the slums. The organization supports its efforts by making and selling crafts and collecting items to recycle. Video Take a look at the slums where Peñaflorida and his group spend their Saturdays »

Through his group, Peñaflorida has successfully mentored former gang members, addicts and dropouts, seeing potential where others see problems.

“Before, I really didn’t care for my life,” says Michael Advincula, who started doing drugs when he was 7. “But then Efren patiently dug me from where I was buried. It was Efren who pushed me to get my life together.” Video Watch Advincula describe how he met Peñaflorida in the slums »

Today, Advincula is a senior in high school and one of the group’s volunteers.

Peñaflorida hopes to expand the pushcart to other areas, giving more children the chance to learn and stay out of gangs.

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Orphanages hit by Typhoon Ondoy: How you can help!

Posted by FAN Admin in Home on 10 14th, 2009


On September 26, 2009 Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) dumped approximately 19″ of rainfall or an equivalent of one season’s worth in within hours; battering many villages of Metro Manila with 15 feet of water. Hundreds of Filipinos lost their lives while hundreds of thousands were displaced, losing their livelihood. Word quickly spread of orphanages that were affected by the typhoon on adoptive parent list serves and other networks.

The following orphanages were gravely affected although relieved to report all the children, staff and volunteers have been rescued.

Heart of Mary Villa in Malabon

Rehoboth Children’s Home in Sampaloc

House of Refuge in Marikina (The children, mostly older are currently being hosted by a basketball celebrity until they find more permanent facility)

Since the first reports of Ondoy, Filipinos world wide have been staging relief efforts by hosting fundraisers, collecting material goods to be shipped by balikbayan and sending money.

A couple American based adoption agencies have set up donations through their website. Again contact your agency to determine what relief efforts you can support.

Wide Horizons for Children (MA) is collecting donations for Heart of Mary Villa here or you can send checks to:

WHFC, Attn: Philippine Emergency Relief, 38 Edge Hill Rd, Waltham, MA 02451

Filipino Adoptees Network has partnered with Sagip Tulong sa Pilipinas ( loosely translated as saving the lives of the Filipino people) relief effort and has agreed to send one box to HMV and two to Rehoboth Children’s Home. Your donation is tax deductible over $50. Please send an email to for more information.

The fee for shipping has been a difficult task for people sending balikbayan boxes due to the overwhelming response and unfortunate selfishness of shipping companies that have increased their costs to make extra money.

With that being said, the STP Campaign, part of Damayan started the “sponsor a balikbayan box. Fee for shipping has increased to $60 plus. You can sponsor an entire box or for half the cost – $30. Your donation is tax deductible after $50. If you you would like to sponsor a balikbayan box – you can send the check to:

c/o Metro Baptist Church, 406 West 40th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, New York, 10018, United States Again. Please write in the memo: HMV Orphanage.

To date FAN supporters have raised $305 to help with the shipment of the three boxes and has collected an equivalent of $500 in material donations (clothing, formula, pampers, toys) thanks to the assistance of Little Master’s Art in New York City.


Thank you again to Damayan Migrant Workers, STP, Little Master’s Art and especially the adoptive parents who sponsored the shipment of balikbayan boxes!

For more information please contact:

People Magazine: Katherine Heigl: Adoption ‘Was Going to Have to Happen’

Posted by FAN Admin in Uncategorized on 10 14th, 2009

People Magazine: Katherine Heigl: Adoption ‘Was Going to Have to Happen’

Katherine Heigl, best known for her role on Grey’s Anatomy recently traveled to Korea to meet her newly adopted 9.5 month old daughter they have named Nancy Leigh. Her sister Meg was adopted from Korea in the 1970’s, which heavily influenced Heigl and her husband to adopt.

Read more here.

Welcome back!

Posted by lecrowder in Home on 10 14th, 2009

After a brief hiatus the Filipino Adoptees Network is back on line!

Previous content of the site will slowly be integrated back into the new site. Please browse the site and return back regularly. If you have any questions, suggestions for stories/content please email:

Thank you to Kenny Leibe for his programming expertise.

NYT: Reveling in Pork, Filipino-Style

Posted by FAN Admin in Home on 10 8th, 2009

Katie Orlinsky for The New York Times

BUSY GUYS Engeline’s draws fans of adobo to Woodside.

Inside Engeline’s slide show

“I’M experiencing pork vertigo,” a dining companion said.

We’d barely started our meal at Engeline’s Restaurant and Bakeshop, one of New York’s few outposts of Filipino cooking, under the No. 7 train in Woodside, Queens. But already our table was crowded with three platters of pork.

On one end was chicharon bulaklak ($7), pork cracklings made from the ruffle fat that surrounds the intestines. They looked like frilly doll collars that had been deep fried, and are meant to be dunked in a spicy vinegar sauce and popped one after another into your mouth.

The centerpiece was sizzling sisig ($9), a dish traditionally made with pig snout and cheeks. At Engeline’s it features pork belly, chopped finely to maximize crisping, in a hash of raw onions leavened by a squirt of lemon. It comes seething on a hot cast-iron plate with an egg freshly broken on top, the yolk shimmering. A miniature shovel allows mixing.

Rounding off the threesome was tokwa at baboy ($5), slivers of deep-fried pig ears matched incongruously with tofu. The ears were crunchy, with a yielding interior, not chewy at all. Despite the overabundance of oily and bland tofu, the dish was the best iteration of pork we had had.

Then the crispy pata ($9.50) arrived.

Advertised as pork knuckles, it turned out to be a whole pig hoof — again, deep fried — with a steak knife stabbed in, standing straight up. It was enormous. (You wouldn’t want to meet this pig in a dark alley.) The pork, when scraped off the bone, had a lush creamline of fat. It was the meal’s crowning glory.

We paired it all with glasses of iced calamansi juice ($2.50). I had a calamansi tree in my backyard when I was a kid, and I’ve always thought of the fruit as a miniature orange, although it’s really much tarter. (Full disclosure: my mother is Filipina.)

Not everything touched by pork was golden. Lechon kawali ($7.50) — fried pork belly plus a rich sauce with puréed chicken livers — was almost all fat, and gummy rather than liquescent.

I couldn’t quite take bopis ($8), pig’s heart and intestines, or dinuguan ($7.50), pork with pork-blood gravy, but maybe those more passionate about offal would enjoy them.

One member of our party was a vegetarian. But of the 11 dishes listed under “vegetables” on the menu, 9 named pork, beef or shrimp as an ingredient.

The vegetarian said she was content with the lumpiang sariwa ($6), two floppy crepes loosely swaddling a sauté of jicama, carrot and celery, doused in peanut sauce. The rest of us found it too sweet.

Too bad she couldn’t try laing ($8): taro leaves, which have a flavor and texture like kale, saturated with coconut milk and heaped with shrimp and ground pork.

A worthy non-porcine option at Engeline’s was the chicken adobo ($7), the finest rendition of the Philippines’ national dish I’ve ever had. (Sorry, Mom.) Dainty drumsticks are stained nearly black by a simple and potent marinade of soy sauce, vinegar, peppercorns, garlic and bay leaf.

Kare-kare ($9.95), an oxtail and tripe stew, was smothered by the taste of peanut butter. It got better with some of the accompanying condiment, bagoong, tiny red shrimp preserved in brine.

Engeline’s, which opened in 2007, seems to cater primarily to local Filipinos. On several visits, my friends were the only non-Filipinos there.

At lunch, the TV’s are tuned to “Wowowee,” a popular Filipino variety and game show featuring girls with bare midriffs, song-and-dance routines and competitions for cash prizes. Sometimes the waiters sing and dance along.

A bakery counter up front displays electric-violet sponge cakes made from purple yam. Bibingka, a flat rice-flour cake that’s fluffy and slightly gooey at the same time, isn’t on the restaurant menu for dessert, but you can get it to go from the bakery. It comes embedded with two whole hardboiled eggs that peek through a crack in the surface.

Filipino food has never quite caught on in the United States. It lacks a breakout hit like pad thai or pho. But since the nation is in the grip of a pork mania, the time for Filipino food may have come. “Top Chef” contestants sport bacon T-shirts; hipster chefs flaunt pig tattoos; foodies swoon over suckling pig and pork-belly buns.

Engeline’s sees your pork-belly bun and raises you a pig’s heart and pork-blood gravy.

Engeline’s Restaurant and Bakeshop

58-28 Roosevelt Avenue, Woodside, Queens; (718) 898-7878.

BEST DISHES Sizzling sisig; tokwa at baboy; crispy pata; chicken adobo; laing; pancit bihon; Bicol express.

PRICE RANGE Appetizers, $4 to $9; main courses, $6.50 to $11.95.

CREDIT CARDS All major cards.

HOURS Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS Front half of restaurant and wheelchair-accessible restroom are on street level.


ALCOHOL Beer and wine only.