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Tagalog Lang: New Year’s Eve in the Philippines

Posted by FAN Admin in Back To Our Roots, Connections on 12 31st, 2009

New Year’s Eve in the Philippines

Bisperas ng Bagong Taon (“New Year’s Eve”) is a festive time in the Philippines. There are a lot of traditions that Filipinos follow in the belief of ushering in a prosperous New Year. Many of these customs you may recognize as showing a Chinese influence.


Special food is prepared, but not like the Noche Buena feast on Christmas Eve, although some families might be wealthy enough to prepare another lechon (roasted pig) after serving one on Christmas. For sure, pancit (noodles) are cooked to signify long life, as are eggs signifying new life. Traditional delicacies made from malagkit (glutinous or sticky rice) like biko are prepared — that’s so good fortune will stick around throughout the year. Fish and chicken are not served because these animals scrounge for food, and we don’t want to have to scrounge for food in the coming year.

Part of the fun in getting ready for New Year’s Eve is to come up with twelve (12) round fruits, each to signify a month of the year. Ideally, there should be twelve different fruits — grapes, oranges, clementines, cantaloupe, pomelo, watermelon… It’s a tough challenge, so half the fruits likely end up being non-circular like mangoes and apples. The fruit that Filipinos most associate with the celebration of the new year and will rarely be without is imported ubas, purple grapes that are very round.


The same way Americans enjoy Fourth of July fireworks, Filipinos go all out with the noise on New Year’s eve. Filipino paputok (firecrackers) come in so many shapes and go by very interesting names — judas belt (a string of firecrackers), super lolo (“grandfather”), kwitis (from the Spanish word cohetes meaning rocket), bawang (“garlic”), airwolf…

Children love scratching the dancing firecracker watusi against concrete sidewalks and cemented surfaces, although the government has been warning against it because of chemical poisoning.

Pots and pans are clanged to scare away evil spirits. A few men shoot guns in the air if they think they can get away with it. Cars and trucks are vroomed and horns are tooted to cause as much noise as possible. Empty cans are dragged all around, whistles are blown.


Before the clock strikes midnight to herald in the new year, all doors must be left wide open to allow good luck to enter. This includes cupboards, drawers, cabinets… windows!

Filipinos try to dress in polka-dots because the roundness signifies prosperity. Pockets are filled with round coins, which are jangled to attract wealth. Coins are also left on top of tables and in drawers.

At the exact moment of midnight, Filipino children jump as high as they can because they believe this will make them taller.

Whatever condition your wallet is in when the New Year arrives, so it will be the rest of the year. Make sure to put in the money your received on Christmas. The same goes for the neatness of your home.

Filipinos spend the last days of the year vigorously cleaning everything, especially of dust. However, on thefirst day of the new year, you are not supposed to do any cleaning. No cleaning on New Year’s Day itself!

And don’t start the year off by spending money. Frugality on the first day sets the tone for wise money management in the coming year.

Manigong Bagong Taon! Happy New Year!

Asian Journal: LifEASTyle Magazine’s Top News Makers of 2009

Posted by FAN Admin in News on 12 30th, 2009

LifeEASTyle's 2009 newsmakers

We began publishing LifEASTyle Magazine last July to celebrate the life and style of Filipinos in the East Coast, particularly New York and New Jersey. The journey though doesn’t just stop in Manhattan, Queens or even the Jersey Shore since our reportage knows no boundaries.

As we say goodbye to 2009, we can’t help but be grateful for God’s grace and faithfulness in this interesting and memorable year. Several misfortunes challenged the world like the recession and the swine/H1N1 flu. And some tragedies again tested the Filipinos’ resiliency (i.e. Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, the Maguindanao massacre). The Queen of England described 2009 as a year best forgotten, many say that maybe she had a point.

But there are some who have had a banner year in 2009, many of them Filipinos.

Indeed, there were many of our kababayans who prominently hogged the limelight in the world stage, earning them worldwide recognition and bringing honor to our country. Some of them are among the movers and shakers who made it to the cover of Asian Journal’s LifEASTyle Magazine.

Here, we present 9 newsmakers for 2009.

White House Executive Chef Cristeta Pasia Comerford

At the start of 2009, there were many talks about who the Obamas would pick as the new administration’s head chef. There were many names of candidates being presented as the choice of the First Couple. But on January 9, 2009, Obama’s transition team announced that Filipina Cristeta Comerford would be retained as the administration’s head chef.

“Cristeta Comerford brings such incredible talent to the White House operation and came very highly regarded from the Bush family,” Michelle Obama said in a statement released by the transition team. “Also the mom of a young daughter, I appreciate our shared perspective on the importance of healthy eating and healthy families.”

What an achievement—to be chosen by the President of the United States of America for a key post within the White House. Former First Lady Laura Bush, who highly recommended Cristeta, said she was delighted that Ms. Comerford had accepted the job. “Her passion for cooking can be tasted in every bite of her delicious creations,” Mrs. Bush said.

Cristeta Comerford is the first female, first Filipina and first executive chef of ethnic minority to be in charge of feeding the first family. She not only plans and prepares the food for the First Family and the never-ending guests at the White House; she also creates menus for state dinners, holiday functions, receptions and official luncheons hosted by the President and the First Lady.

“Being a Pinoy at the White House, Filipino values and traits are innate in me. My faith and belief is an integral part of who I am now. It’s always there, always a part of me. Even if I prepare a French classical cuisine, it is Filipino because I am a Filipino,” said Cristeta.

And in the New Year, the world will witness Comerford take on a new exciting challenge. She joins forces with Chef Bobby Flay to battle against popular chefs Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali in a two-hour special episode of Iron Chef America on January 3, 2010 entitled Super Chefs Battle.

Considering her record of amazing feats, it would be no surprise indeed if Cris comes out a winner—again!

Rafe Totengco

New York-based fashion accessories designer Rafael Felix (Rafe) Totengco’s foray into the fashion world began way early in his life. His interest in fashion began when he was still in grade school in Bacolod City when he began sketching and illustrating.

He ran Schizo, a clothing business in Manila until he was 21. In 1989, he moved to New York to pursue a career in fashion design. He enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and gained experience working as a design assistant.

In 1994, a Soho boutique asked him to produce a collection of belts and watch- bands. When they sold out instantly, the boutique requested for Rafe to design a grouping of handbags to sell alongside the small leather goods. One year later, the first collection of Rafe handbags debuted.

It has been an arduous trek to the top from then.

The Rafe brand has grown to include women’s handbags, shoes and small leather goods. Known for its balance of fashion and function, Rafe blends uptown sophistication with downtown edge, while remaining classic enough to be worn for many seasons to come.

Over the years, Rafe Totengco has become one of the most acclaimed among the new generation of American designers, garnering awards and nominations from the Accessories Council, The Council of Fashion Designers of America, Fashion Group International and other award-giving bodies in the fashion industry.

Kevin Nadal

When one is described as a professor of psychology and a historian, the image that comes to mind is a serious, no-nonsense guy. Yet, Professor Kevin Nadal does not fit that description. In fact, he is also a stand-up comedian. Truly, Kevin Nadal is unique.

He describes himself as a one-man show.

A professor, psychologist, performer, activist, and author, Nadal received his doctorate in counseling psychology from Columbia University in 2008. As an assistant professor of mental health counseling and psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice- City University of New York, he has published several works focusing on Filipino-American, ethnic minority, and LGBTQ issues in the fields of psychology and education. He has been involved in the Pilipino American, Asian Pacific American, and ethnic minority communities for as long as he can remember.

A California-bred New Yorker, Kevin is also a stand-up comedian and spoken word artist who has performed across the United States since 2000. He was named one of People Magazine’s hottest bachelors in 2006 and has been featured in many TV shows and news magazines.

Nadal launched his first book, Filipino-American Psychology: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice in 2009.

Robert Lopez/Avenue Q

The Tony-award winning Avenue Q may have ended its six-year run on Broadway last September but there’s still a lot in store for Robert Lopez, co-creator of this critically-acclaimed musical.

Apart from Avenue Q ’s tour and ongoing shows in London, theater-goers will have new plays to see such as the musical adaptation of the Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo now playing at Walt Disney World, which Bobby and his wife Kristen, a lyricist co-wrote, and a new play Bobby is co-writing with South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

Not a lot of people know that Bobby is part-Filipino. “My grandmother, who’s half-Filipino and half-Scottish was on board the last ship of G.I.s that docked in Seattle from the Philippines. She was pregnant with my father, at that time, and actually, gave birth to him en route! ”

“And so I was always interested in finding out more about the Philippines, reading a lot about it in Encyclopedia Americana when I was little, although I have never sailed out to go. I’m not a globe trotter or anything, I think most of my family’s past generations have journeyed enough for me. Plus, we don’t have a nanny!” (Bobby and Kristen have a daughter Katie.)

“Such a shame though because I had wanted to see Avenue Q when it was produced in Manila in 2007! I didn’t find out about it until it was in the process and I was really anxious about letting them know I was part Filipino. I did meet with the director, Bobby Garcia, though, when he was in New York and I really liked what he did with it. ” Bobby (Lopez) also sent a letter in the Manila production’s program journal as a message to the audiences.

“There aren’t too many people with my exact heritage. So in terms of culture and tradition, I can’t say,’ Yes that’s exactly what it’s like!’ Maybe I can relate to people like President Obama who were born of different cultures and backgrounds…”

Ronnie Alejandro

Reynaldo “Ronnie” Alejandro, author of numerous coffee table books on the Philippines joined our Creator peacefully last August after battling cancer. He was 67.

Ronnie arrived in New York in 1969 and lived here for four decades. It is in the city where he morphed from a dancer to a librarian, from a choreographer to a gourmet chef to a cultural writer.

With his prolific work in very different fields, Ronnie was featured by both the dance and food critics of the New York Times.

“He was very prodigious. He had a full-time job at the New York Public Library but he still found time to work on his other passions. He must hold the record of having the most number of coffee-table books, with 40 titles focusing on a variety of topics from dance to food to design to stamps,” Loida Lewis said during Ronnie’s memorial.

He has chronicled extensively an interesting array of Philippine history and tradition—from dance to music to art and fashion, travel and food. Before he died, Ronnie was in a hurry to finish his book on the 60s, among many other projects he had lined up.

Among the titles he authored were Selyo, Pasig: River of Life, Flowers of Baguio, Laguna de Bay: The Living Lake, The Adobo Book: Traditional and Jazzed Up Recipes, Sayaw Silangan-The Dance of the Philippines, Philippine Dance, Philippine Cookbook, The Flavor of Asia, Restaurant Design, and Classic Menu Design, along with two books about Filipinos in New York: Pinoyork and Pinoy Guide to the Big Apple.

Jaygee Macapugay

Filipina-American theater actress Jaygee Macapugay took on the role of a lifetime, that of the former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos, in the New York premier of Imelda, A New Musical last October.

“I am feeling really excited. This is an extremely challenging role because the character is equally loved and hated. We have been rehearsing for the past weeks and working hard to come up with a great show,” Jaygee told the Asian Journal a week before the opening of the musical.

Set against the backdrop of modern Filipino history, the musical traces the rise of a beauty pageant contestant to become First Lady of the Philippines. It is a story of a powerful and controversial figure and her fall from grace, with a parallel story line that follows the political dissent and assassination of Ninoy Aquino, and the rise of his wife, Corazon Aquino.

“This is the first Filipino musical that I have ever been a part of and I am just so glad to be a part of it. This is an all-Filipino cast and it is very important for us that we are playing Filipino roles this time around,” Jaygee explained.

Born in Chicago, IL to Filipino parents who are both Malolos, Bulacan natives, Jaygee had what she considers a life-changing experience in the Philippines when she visited last year.

It was her fourth visit, but the first time with friends and not her family. She told us that she had a show in Cambodia, so she decided to squeeze in a trip to Manila before flying back to New York.

“I know what it’s like to grow up as a Filipino-American, but I realized how little I knew about it. It was for me a short vacation where I got to know my relatives as an adult,” she related.

Efren Peñaflorida, Jr.

The CNN’s 2009 Hero of the Year is Efren Geronimo Penaflorida, Jr., the founder of Dynamic Teen Company in Cavite—an organization that is aimed towards educating impoverished kids through a pushcart classroom. Thus far, 1,500 kids have been given a chance at a good future through Dynamic Teen’s 10,000 strong volunteers.

He summed up the spirit of volunteerism and change with this message to the world, “I always tell my volunteers that you are the change that you dream and I am the change that I dream. And collectively we are the change that this world needs to be.”

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. 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.

Through his group, Peñaflorida has successfully mentored former gang members, addicts and dropouts, seeing potential where others see problems. In December 2008, someone from CNN got wind of Efren and his group’s efforts and got in touch with them, suggesting that they submit Efren’s story for CNN Hero of the Year. And in November of this year, Efren was proclaimed the winner.

Efren considers it a great honor to be regarded as a modern-day hero but believes that no one is too ordinary to be heroes. “We should all start the change from within,” he says. “All of us, we should open our minds and hearts to accommodate to the needs of the less fortunate and release the hero within. We are all capable of contributing to our community and to our country.”


She has been referred to by Oprah Winfrey as “the most talented girl in the world.” “She’s going to be the next superstar,” David Foster said as Charice performed during a private party he had with his friends last week.

Truly, ever since 2007, when a YouTube video made Charice an internet phenomenon, everything that happened to her has been nothing but remarkable. She was invited to do a recording for a music publishing company in Stockholm, Sweden, and to guest in the South Korean talent show “Star King.” Soon after, Charice was invited to guest in The Ellen Degeneres Show, The Paul O’Grady Show in London, England, and in The Oprah Winfrey Show. Through the recommendation of Oprah, music producer David Foster took Charice under his wing. Charice has performed onstage with top international stars like Celine Dion, Josh Groban, David Foster, Alicia Keys and Andrea Bocelli.

2009 saw Charice become an established international sensation. She performed at two presidential pre-inaugural events in Washington, D.C. This fall, she went on a successful 10-city concert tour with David Foster and Friends. She is part of the Chipmunks’ latest flick Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, and wowed Los Angeles as the special guest in the Christmas concerto, Handog ng FASO sa Pasko.

With her brilliant voice, Charice has affirmed that Filipino singers are some of the best in the world. With her international debut album slated for release in January 2010, Charice can look forward to another brilliant year in 2010.

Stephanie Reese

Last November, Stephanie Reese embarked on an undertaking she has always dreamt of doing, and became the first Filipino-American singer to perform at the Carnegie Hall. It is the same venue where Asia’s Songbird Regine Velasquez and Broadway star Lea Salonga wowed both American and Filipino audience in 1991 and 2005, respectively.

When she Reese visited the Philippines to do volunteer work for Gawad Kalinga a couple of years ago, little did she know that she’d be creating a name for herself in her mother’s home country.

She was already known outside Manila, at least in the theater circuit as she has tackled the roles in Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, The King and I, and of course, as Kim in Miss Saigon.

Before she knew it, she was performing before audiences who were clamoring for encore numbers and who awarded her with much-deserved standing ovations. For her, there was no turning back.

It was not the first time that Stephanie performed at the famous concert hall. When she was younger, her choir participated in a show at the Carnegie Hall. This time however, the stage was hers alone.

“I was a small girl singing in a choir when I first performed at the Carnegie [Hall]. To be able to star in my own show on the very same stage has been my childhood dream,” she recalls.

What made the show more special was the fact that through the show, Stephanie generated funds which will be donated to Gawad Kalinga to build an entire for the poor in the Philippines.

Like these newsmakers of 2009 who all look forward to a brighter New Year, let’s join them and greet 2010 with very high hopes. Have a blessed and prosperous New Year

( )

( Published January 1, 2009 in LifeEASTyle Magazine p. 2 )

seeking tattooed asian american women for thesis project

Posted by lecrowder in News on 12 22nd, 2009

seeking tattooed asian american women for thesis project

Received an email from Dor Zhang, a senior at Pitzer College who’s putting the call out for some help. For her Gender/Feminist Studies senior project, she wants to interview and photograph tattooed Asian American women. Her goal is to create a tattoo magazine — think Tattoos For Women — with an Asian American focus.

As Dor puts it, “I don’t see a lot of Asian American women being represented in the media, let alone in tattoo magazines and in the tattoo community. In addition, I think it would be so interesting to see how gender and race (amongst other factors) intersect to shape the artistic and expressive choices of Asian American women.”

So… she’s looking for some participants. Are you a tattooed Asian American woman? Dor wants to hear your story. If you’re willing help her out, you can get in touch with Dor at or Your help is appreciated.

Korean Adoptees Dress Up to Raise Awareness

Posted by FAN Admin in Connections, Home, News on 12 22nd, 2009

Adoptees dress up to raise awareness

What sort of mission would a chicken have in Seoul Station? The Chicken Campaign organized by Jane Jeong Trenka’s group TRACK (Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea) set up on a cold Saturday afternoon in one of the busiest subway stations in Seoul to spread a message and, according to Trenka, “make the connection between overseas adoption and unwed mothers (where) 89 percent of the children who are sent overseas for adoption are the children of unwed mothers.” She attributes this to two main reasons: societal discrimination and lack of government support.

She said the idea for the campaign originated in conjunction with the group’s Korean volunteer group who all said they had never heard of these issues before working with TRACK, indicating the lack of awareness in the general Korean public that has stymied progress in both areas. As part of their campaign, they handed out information about issues pertaining to both international adoption and unwed mothers.

They also displayed easels that featured famous single mothers, such as writer and Pulitzer Prize nominee Maya Angelou and prominent children of single mothers, from artist Leonardo da Vinci to TV mogul Oprah Winfrey and musician Eric Clapton.

Why a chicken on rollerblades? “Adoption agencies get babies from vulnerable women in unwed mothers’ homes and send them overseas for adoption in a mass, commercialized process. We call this system a ‘baby farm.’ But farms are for animals, not people,” Trenka explained.

Cody Winter, an adoptee from Seattle who was a professional skater, donned the chicken suit and skates to create attention for the issue. Winter has lived in Korea for 13 years and said the reaction from the public was “quite positive.”

In a twist of kismet, other large Korean progressive groups also hosted a rally for “People’s Day” in the large area in front of Seoul Station, bringing hundreds more people through the station that day than the group had originally envisioned. Trenka said that the progressive groups’ agendas, who also emphasize social welfare spending over that of development projects such as the current Four Rivers Project, are the same as TRACK’s and she hopes that these groups will eventually realize that groups like hers also belong in the landscape of progressive Korean organizations. Adoptee groups, she says are often dismissed as foreign groups although “the circumstances that made us overseas adoptees are nothing but Korean domestic issues.”

While the progressive organizations have yet to acknowledge the group, TRACK is beginning to get more and more attention from individual Korean volunteers, indicating a shift of the issues from merely an “adoptee issue” or an “unwed mothers’ issue,” to an issue that affects Korean society as a whole. The collaboration of adoptees, international residents, and Korean nationals who were involved in the campaign also signals a cooperative spirit towards multiculturalism, in a society now eager to create such an environment.

Ahn Woo-jin, a Korean volunteer who wore the other chicken suit — there were two chickens for the day — said that after learning about these issues, he feels that “although it’s hard to change our society, we have to do this.” He admitted that before volunteering with TRACK, he also had a prejudice against single mothers due to a negative stereotype that is pervasive in Korean society. In the end, he said, “our society has to give them a chance to raise their babies.”

Volunteer Jo, Sung-woo echoed Ahn’s sentiment saying that before volunteering with TRACK he “really had no interest in adoption and didn’t know there were so many single mothers in Korea.” He admitted sheepishly that he had originally signed up for an opportunity to speak English. Through his TRACK experience, however, he came to realize just how many single mothers there are in Korea. Jo, now one of the most active volunteers of the group, said that he now believes it’s an important issue that needs government attention and policies to bring about positive change.

Another Korean volunteer, Kim Min-jung, got involved with TRACK after seeing the group featured on a TV program. She said that before seeing the program, she “wasn’t aware of the current reality of adoption” and had previously thought of adoption agencies such as Holt as “non-profit organizations, generally associated with love and goodness” but realized the true reality of adoption and single mothers after seeing the show and was moved to volunteer.

She brought along her daughter, 8-year-old Lim Hye-jin, the youngest volunteer of the day. She said she “came with her mother to spread information about adoption” and that the day had been “fun but hard,” a positive attitude that symbolized hope for change in future generations.

For questions about the information in this article, or for general inquiries about life in Seoul, please contact the Seoul Global Center’s hotline at (02) 1688-0120 or visit our website


By Shannon Heit

NYT: Lean Times, but No Rise in Adoptions

Posted by FAN Admin in News on 12 18th, 2009

Lean Times, but No Rise in Adoptions

Published: December 18, 2009

Just over a year ago, when the economy first took a nose dive, snatching the stability of countless families with it, the people who run Spence-Chapin Adoption Services, a New York-based adoption agency, prepared themselves for an influx of pregnant women seeking their help.

They were fully aware that finances were not the only reason women placed their children with adoptive families, but they knew that it was a big one, and so it seemed likely that widespread job losses might influence some women’s thinking about their future. Had their own financing not been so tight, recalled Helene Lauffer, associate executive director at Spence-Chapin, she might even have fought to hire another person to handle the anticipated uptick.

But that uptick, so logical, so seemingly inevitable, never came to pass. “We’re somewhat surprised,” she said. “But the numbers haven’t gone up.”

If anything, Ms. Lauffer said, even fewer pregnant women have sought the agency’s services this year. For domestic adoptions, the agency works with only as many adoptive families as it thinks it can help within a reasonable time frame, and she is finding that prospective parents have been forced to wait longer than usual just to begin the process.

At Friends in Adoption, a Vermont-based agency that works mostly with would-be adoptive families from New York, various board members predicted that the economy would increase the availability of babies. Dawn Smith-Pliner, who founded the agency in 1982, told them they were wrong. She was right. The number of placements made by Friends in Adoption has been on the low end of average.

“It’s like the longest pregnancy ever,” said Lynne Berman, a Friends client who lives in New Jersey and has been waiting for more than two years. “You set these ultimatums. You think, ‘This will be the last Mother’s Day, or the last Thanksgiving.’ But then another one rolls around.”

Ms. Smith-Pliner said the slight reduction in adoptions was consistent with other recessions over the past 30 years. And to some degree, the trend seems consistent with the pairing of poverty, generally speaking, and high birth rates. The dampening of a certain kind of hope can drive a fervor for motherhood.

“I think if some of these pregnant women felt their lives could be improved upon by being able to get on their feet and do well by themselves,” Ms. Smith-Pliner explained, “and have the baby they placed be proud of what they’d been able to accomplish, then it’s a different decision. It’s a difficult decision, but something about it might feel good.

“But if the achievable goal, a half-decent job, isn’t an option to work toward, then I might as well keep the baby — that’s tangible,” she continued. “You wake up every morning and there’s that beautiful baby.”

Although Ms. Lauffer did not rule out Ms. Smith-Pliner’s theory, she imagined the possibility of broader factors at work. With every passing year, she pointed out, single motherhood grows more socially acceptable; the declining numbers at Spence-Chapin, she further allowed, could be a matter of a changing marketplace.

“More and more people are connecting on the Internet, and, in some of those situations, people who are looking to adopt are offering to pay expenses for birth mothers in fuller ways than a nonprofit agency could do,” she said. “There may be an increase in women looking at those options in this economic time.”

Spence-Chapin, Friends and Bethany Christian Services, an agency that places 600 to 700 children a year, all said that the number of parents seeking to adopt had held steady.

“Even though the economic difficulty is there, family takes on an incredible definition, more than before,” said Cindi Fabozzi, director of Bethany Christian’s office in Clifton Park, N.Y. “I hear families talking about how they want more than the big-screen TV, how they want to invest in family.”

Those who work in the industry ultimately shrug their shoulders at trying to understand the fluctuations in supply and demand of such a personal transaction. “It’s basically a mystery to most of us who work in adoption, and we’re used to that,” Ms. Lauffer said.

And in a way, even that make sense: If the market apparently cannot be counted on to follow rational market dynamics, certainly families, the messiest, most emotionally driven, desperately desired units of human interaction, can’t either.


AP: Foreign adoptions by Americans hit 13-year low

Posted by lecrowder in News on 12 17th, 2009

Foreign adoptions by Americans hit 13-year low

By DAVID CRARY (AP) – Dec 17, 2009

NEW YORK — The number of foreign children adopted by Americans plunged more than a quarter in the past year, reaching the lowest level since 1996 and leading adoption advocates to urge Congress to help reverse the trend.

Big declines were recorded for all three countries that provided the most adopted children in the previous fiscal year. In China and Russia, government officials have been trying to promote domestic adoptions, while in Guatemala, a once-bustling but highly corrupt international adoption industry was shut down while reforms are implemented.

Figures for fiscal year 2009, released by the State Department on Thursday, showed 12,753 adoptions from abroad, down from 17,438 in 2008 — a dip of 27 percent and nearly 45 percent lower than the all-time peak of 22,884 in 2004.

The last time there were fewer foreign adoptions to the U.S. was in 1996, when there were 11,340.

China was the No. 1 source country in 2009 — but U.S. adoptions from there dropped to 3,001, compared with 3,909 in 2008. China has been steadily cutting back the numbers of healthy, well-adjusted orphans being made available for adoptions; a majority of Chinese children now available to U.S. adoptive families have special physical or emotional needs.

Guatemala was the No. 1 source country in 2008, with 4,123 adoptions by Americans. But the number sank to 756 for 2009, virtually all of them in the final few months before the Central American country’s adoption industry was shut down while authorities drafted reforms. It’s not known when adoptions to the U.S. will resume.

The biggest increase came from Ethiopia — 2,277 adoptions in fiscal 2009, compared with 1,725 in 2008.

Russia was No. 4 in the new listing with 1,586 adoptions, a 15 percent drop.

Adoptions from Vietnam — where the industry, like Guatemala’s, has been plagued by corruption allegations — dropped from 751 to 481. The bilateral U.S.-Vietnam adoption agreement expired in September and has not been renewed.

Chuck Johnson, chief operating officer of the National Council for Adoption, said the new figures dismayed him and other advocates of international adoption.

“This drop is not a result of fewer orphans or less interest from American families in adopting children from other countries,” he said. “All of us are very discouraged because we see the suffering taking place. We don’t know how to fix it without the U.S. government coming alongside.”

According to Johnson, the State Department considers its current adoption mandate to be assisting U.S. citizens with foreign adoption procedures and monitoring the integrity of foreign countries’ adoption industries.

Johnson said he would like the mandate expanded to give the department explicit authority to encourage more international adoptions, and he suggested a first step could be made if Congress passed a proposed bill called the Families for Orphans Act.

Johnson also said all parties who have tolerated corrupt adoption practices bore some of the blame for the dwindling numbers.

“People in the practice of adoption worldwide have made ethical blunders that have cast a shadow over intercountry adoptions,” he said. “It’s highlighted how difficult it is for some of these countries to adequately supervise the adoption process, and led some countries to decide it’s just not worth the effort.”

Thomas DiFilipo, president of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, predicted the numbers for fiscal 2010 would be even lower — down to about 9,800 — if adoptions from Vietnam remained suspended by the U.S. government and China continued to cut back.

DiFilipo said he’d like to see the State Department become a more active promoter of international adoption.

“One of their primary functions is to help potential adoptive parents, when their focus should be on children in need of adoptive families,” DiFilipo said. “The Families for Orphans Act would fill that void.”

Adoptions of Chinese children by Americans peaked in fiscal 2005 at 7,906 and have fallen steadily since then. Some U.S. families have been waiting roughly four years for their adoption applications to be completed.

At Great Wall China Adoption, based in Austin, Texas, spokeswoman Kelly Ayoub said the agency placed nearly 1,000 children from China in 2005 and would probably place only one-fifth of that number this year.

“Of course families are frustrated by the wait,” she said in an e-mail. “Families that are being matched right now have waited 45 months — an investment of time that no one expected.”

Like some other agencies, Great Wall China is branching out geographically — advising families to consider Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mexico and the Philippines, among other places.

Among the Americans engaged in a long wait for an adoption from China is Steve Curtis of Millburn, N.J. He and his wife applied in October 2007 to adopt a second child as a sister to Amelia, whom they adopted from China the previous year.

“Unfortunately, we are STILL waiting, with no end in sight,” Curtis said in an e-mail last week. “We’re thinking of throwing in the towel but are keeping the faith.”

Fili-Islander Shirts: Christmas Sale

Posted by lecrowder in Back To Our Roots, Connections on 12 14th, 2009

Need a gift to express (your) Filipino heritage? Look no further!

Fili-Islander is one of several t-shirt companies that promotes Filipino pride with their distinct designs. Some of which uses common or emerging symbols and images that represents the Philippines.

Here is a collection of shirts that are currently on sale at Fili-Islander. If you miss out on their sale join their listserve to receive information on new designs, sales and events they will be attending.

Arcadia Publishing: “Filipinos in __________________” – Series

Posted by FAN Admin in Back To Our Roots, Connections on 12 9th, 2009

The “Filipinos in _____” series have been authored by community members who provide a unique glimpse chronicling experiences and archival images of  Filipinos in America.

Arcadia Publishing is best known for its collections of history publications in the United States. It currently has over 5,000 titles and releases 100’s within a year.

Established in 1993, Arcadia has blended a visionary management approach with the innovative application of state-of-the-art technology to create high-quality historical publications in small local niches.”

Filipinos in Washington, D.C. FILIPINOS IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
Author(s): Rita M. Cacas, Juanita Tamayo Lott

ISBN: 9780738566207

# of Pages: 128
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing
On Sale Date: 11/23/2009

Book Description:
Filipinos arrived in the Washington, D.C., area shortly after 1900 upon the annexation of the Philippines to the United States. These new settlers included students, soldiers, seamen, and laborers. Within four decades, they became permanent residents, military servicemen, government workers, and community leaders. Although numerous Filipinos now live in the area, little is known about the founders of the Filipino communities. Images of America: Filipinos in Washington, D.C. captures an ethnic history and documents historical events and political transitions that occurred here.

Author Bio: Rita M. Cacas is a native Washingtonian and daughter of one of the Depression-era pioneers. A longtime federal government
employee, Cacas previously worked at the National Gallery of Art and currently works at the U.S. National Archives. Juanita Tamayo Lott was raised in San Francisco, but her adulthood has been spent in the Washington, D.C., area. She is a retired federal senior demographer, policy analyst, and special assistant to the U.S. Census Bureau director. She cofounded the first U.S. Filipino American Studies at San Francisco State in 1969 and the Filipino American Studies Program at the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2007.

Below is a full list of the “Filipinos in” series

Carson CA Images of America Available $19.99 9780738531045
Daly City CA Images of America Available $19.99 9780738528670
Filipinos in Carson and the South Bay CA Images of America Available $21.99 9780738570365
Filipinos in Chicago IL Images of America Available $19.99 9780738518800
Filipinos in Hollywood CA Images of America Available $19.99 9780738555980
Filipinos in Los Angeles CA Images of America Available $19.99 9780738547299
Filipinos in Puget Sound WA Images of America Available $21.99 9780738571348
Filipinos in Stockton CA Images of America Available $19.99 9780738556246
Filipinos in the East Bay CA Images of America Available $19.99 9780738558325
Filipinos in Vallejo CA Images of America Available $19.99 9780738529691
Filipinos in Washington, D.C. DC Images of America Available $21.99 9780738566207
Jersey City NJ Images of America Reprinting $19.99 9780738538150
Los Angeles’s Historic Filipinotown CA Images of America Available $21.99 9780738569543

Tis the Season to make your own “Parol” (Lantern)

Posted by FAN Admin in Back To Our Roots on 12 7th, 2009

Make your own project is a  wonderfully cultural and festive activity to do with your kids in preparation for Christmas! The Christmas lantern known as the “Parol” is commonly used as a decoration, which symbolizes the true spirit of the holiday in the Philippines.

Excerpt from

“The word parol (pronounced “pah-roll” with a rolling “r”) comes from the Spanish word for lantern, farol. According to World Book’s Christmas in the Philippines, the roots of the parol can be found in the Mexican piñata. The piñata came to Spain from Italy in the 1300’s, spread to Mexico and finally came to the Philippines when the Spaniards brought Christianity to the islands. The book A Child’s Pasko: Christmas in the Philippines explains that the parol was originally used to light the way to church to attend the daily Misas de Aguinaldo, or Gift Masses, which begin on the 16th of December, and ends with the Misa de Gallo, or “Mass of the Rooster” at midnight of Christmas eve. The midnight mass is followed by a usually lavish meal at home, which is always anticipated by the kids. The first Misa de Aguinaldo that is held at dawn on December 16th marks the official start of the Christmas season.

“The earliest parols were traditionally made from simple materials like bamboo sticks, Japanese rice paper, crepe paper, and a candle or coconut oil-lamp for illumination; although the present day parol can take many different shapes and forms. Around Manila, parols made of Capiz shell or plastic illuminate the city. One of the most spectacular innovations can be found in the city of San Fernando where 20 foot tall parols with kaleidoscopic blinking lights are paraded through the streets on truck beds. Whatever the material or shape, the parol is a recognizable symbol to all Filipinos and represents the star of Bethlehem that guided the Three Wise Men to the manger of the newly-born Jesus Christ.

The word parol (pronounced “pah-roll” with a rolling “r”) comes from the Spanish word for lantern, farol. According to World Book’s Christmas in the Philippines, the roots of the parol can be found in the Mexican piñata. The piñata came to Spain from Italy in the 1300’s, spread to Mexico and finally came to the Philippines when the Spaniards brought Christianity to the islands. The book A Child’s Pasko: Christmas in the Philippines explains that the parol was originally used to light the way to church to attend the daily Misas de Aguinaldo, or Gift Masses, which begin on the 16th of December, and ends with the Misa de Gallo, or “Mass of the Rooster” at midnight of Christmas eve. The midnight mass is followed by a usually lavish meal at home, which is always anticipated by the kids. The first Misa de Aguinaldo that is held at dawn on December 16th marks the official start of the Christmas season.
To see the peak of the Festival of Lights in the Philippines, one must travel at night from December 16th up to January 6th. There you will see all kinds of parols.

The parol is a main component in the Filipino celebration of Christmas, which has become a Festival of Lights. The festivities cover the months ending with “BER” which are September, October, November and of course December. Christmas music can be heard sporadically in the beginning of September, and one could feel an increasing sense of the coming of Christmas as more and more Christmas songs are played on the radio, and as more homes, businesses, streets and parks become brightly lit with wonderful colors. The malls and department stores are the first ones to decorate, and showcase their mangers and beautiful parols.” Boxer Ana Julaton is making championship belt work for her

Posted by FAN Admin in Connections, News on 12 4th, 2009

The Philippines may have Manny Pacquiao in their corner although the Filipino Americans have rising female boxer  Ana Julaton!

Boxer Ana Julaton is making championship belt work for her.

Ana Julaton had planned to stop boxing by her 30th birthday. That has become unrealistic now because she’s a world champion, but she sees a short shelf life for her burgeoning pro career.

“At most, two more years,” Julaton, 29, said earlier in the week, before her final workout for tonight’s 10-round World Boxing Organization super-bantamweight title fight against veteran Donna Biggers at HP Pavilion.

“I know I originally said 30, but with so many potential opportunities on the horizon, I just want to see where it will go.”

After becoming the Bay Area’s first female boxing headliner in July, when she claimed the vacant International Boxing Association title with a majority decision over Gilroy’s Kelsey Jeffries at HP Pavilion in her seventh pro fight, Julaton has dramatically improved her profile.

much at stake, Julaton is taking nothing for granted.

“I know she’s an experienced fighter, she’s been in with a lot of the top female fighters in the world and she’s durable,” Julaton said. “For her, it’s a title shot, so I know she wants to take it to me.”

Now promoters are excited about “The Hurricane” headlining tonight’s five-bout Fight Night at the Tank card, even though her competition probably isn’t as formidable as Jeffries. Biggers has knockout power, but she’s 36 and has lost six of her past seven fights, albeit against top competition.

Realistically, this bout figures to be a celebration of Julaton’s mushrooming popularity as a world champion. Julaton (5-1-1) drew about 3,500 for her last fight at HP Pavilion, and with her growing legion of fans in the Bay Area, the Daly City native hopes she will draw more this time.

“Now that I have a title, I feel like I’m doing all the same things I was doing before I won it,” she said. “But winning the belt obviously gives you a lot of credibility. So as long as I have it, I just want to be able to take advantage of the opportunities I have in front of me. There are a lot of champions who have the belt but don’t ever do anything with it.”

Julaton has a variety of causes. As a Filipino-American, she is active in Philippine typhoon relief. She is involved in campaigns against domestic violence. Perhaps more than anything, she views herself as a role model for young female athletes — specifically boxers — and continues to work with youths as an instructor at WestWind’s martial arts schools in Alameda and Berkeley — where she also trains.

Julaton recalled that when she was coming up as an amateur, there were fighters of many nationalities, but she was almost always the only one of Filipino descent.

But she has seen that change with the rise of Manny Pacquiao as one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters and her own accomplishments in the sport. At a recent appearance, she encountered three teenage Filipino girls, all boxers, who were excited to meet her.

“I was tripping out because I could tell right away they were kind of identifying with me,” she said. “I thought it was pretty neat. I’ve been able to use boxing as a tool not only to help myself get more involved in my community, but to have other people become aware of my sport.”

In short, she hopes to elevate boxing for generations of American girls.

“There’s still a lack of awareness about women’s boxing in this country that I’d like to help change,” she said. “Outside the U.S., female boxers are like rock stars. They’re treated really well. That could happen here.”

To be sure, if women’s boxing needs a face, it couldn’t pick a better one than Julaton, an articulate young woman who has the added bonus of being able to ride Pacquiao’s fame to gain exposure. During her first year as a pro, when she was trained by Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, Julaton was able to observe Pacquiao prepare for one of his title fights and gained valuable perspective. The two keep in touch.

“Manny’s tried calling me a couple of times, but we keep missing each other because of the time difference between here and the Philippines,” she said. “But he did leave me a message recently, encouraging me for the upcoming fight and telling me to go kick her butt.”

If that happens, Julaton will have many options. There are other super-bantamweight belts to pursue, and she hopes to expand her circle of fans. She hopes to stage at least one fight in the Philippines, which she has never visited. She also wouldn’t mind sharing a card with another recently crowned local world champion, Oakland super middleweight Andre Ward.

“Boxing is hot in the Bay Area right now, and you’ve got to go with it,” she said.