Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gifts of Life, Time, Love, Family and Opportunity

In an earlier comment on Facebook I wrote, “What we really have that we should be thankful for are the gifts of Life, Time, Love, Family, and Opportunity that only God Almighty could have provided. Let us use them to the fullest lest we lose them soonest!”

I am reminded of the event that my family attended last Sunday, November 25, 2012. It was the 70th birthday of Steve Ettinger, spouse of Ronnie Feria Nieva and father of J (Jonathan) and K (Ken). The Ettingers are close family friends who celebrate Thanksgiving with us every year.

The event was an illustration of how the gifts that I mentioned above were used to the fullest. Enjoying LIFE, Steve traveled to about 80 countries, many with his FAMILY who LOVE spending a lot of TIME with him. Every OPPORTUNITY afforded to Steve and his FAMILY to be together is a gift that they took advantage of in LIFE, in TIME and for LOVE!

I video-recorded most of the important parts of the celebration which was also attended by friends and relatives coming from different cities and countries. As J (Jonathan) said, “There are more guests today than what they had during their wedding – meaning, a great improvement.”

I watched my recording at home and indeed, even a non-attendant would notice how K (Ken) in his slideshow of photos reflected how his father enjoyed LIFE over TIME and how FAMILY displayed LOVE in every OPPORTUNITY. The photos spoke thousands of words. The Map that J created illustrating what his father and family visited made all the guests imagine the amazing company and adventures of this family during their travels.

As the slides of photos reflected the wonderful past, there was a live show of Ronnie, J (Julia) girl friend of J, and K (Kyla) girl friend of K, as great hostesses to the event happily greeting and welcoming the guests. Suddenly, Ronnie was not the lone woman in the family. GOD is good!

K (Kyla) sang beautifully one of Steve’s favorite songs, “You'll Never Walk Alone.” Many in the audience, me included, found a new American Idol.  

The roasting by friends and relatives told of interesting and funny stories that depicted Steve’s likes, dislikes, skills, talents, and other traits that are now commonly revealed on Facebook.

I enjoyed the wit, the humor, as well as the display of great love and admiration for their father by sons Jonathan and Ken in their respective toasts.

The response of Dr. Stephen Ettinger in limerick style was witty, humorous, and unforgettable.

It was an Affair to Remember, a celebration of one’s life story worth telling and even emulating, and, in digital parlance, the successful search, retrieval and presentation of one’s memories stored and bookmarked in a family’s server.

Most importantly, Dr. Veronica Feria Nieva efficiently and effectively managed the memorable event along what Jonathan called the  “Judeo-Christian-Atheistic” tradition.:)

I look forward to our next Annual Family Thanksgiving Dinner and many more birthday celebrations for Steve! He is a Pancreatic Cancer survivor.

Past photo of family (slideshow) and                   
event photo of Julia and Kyla greeting guests

Steve with kids Jon and Ken (slideshow) and Julia with Ken welcoming guests (event photo)


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ALEX ESCLAMADO: Thanks and Goodbye

Dear Alex,

In 1959, carrying a Chief Correspondent visa as the Manila Chronicle’s chief U.S. reporter, you arrived here in the US with your wife, Luli Mitra Esclamado, and family.

You wanted to run a newspaper, so you convinced Geny Lopez to publish the U.S. Edition of the Manila Chronicle. In August 1961, the first issue was printed from your home garage in San Francisco’s Sunset District.

In 1967, you decided to publish the Philippine News under its own name. To be viable you relied on advertising from car dealerships with Filipino salesmen, travel agencies, restaurants, and remittance agencies –businesses catering to the Filipino immigrant community.

In1972, Martial law in the Philippines was declared. Philippine News became an anti-Martial Law and anti-communist paper. Pressured by the Department of Tourism (DOT) of the regime, advertisers stopped doing business with you but you persisted.

In 1976, my family and I escaped and were stranded in Tawau, Sabah, Malaysia having been rejected entry by the Nixon-Kissinger-Ford regime that was supportive of the Marcos dictatorship. We received assistance from you with Steve Psinakis, and Manglapus by lobbying  Senators Kennedy and Cranston, Congressmen Don Fraser and Ed Koch, and most importantly, Former JFK White House Adviser Bill Bundy.

The latter called then Malaysian Senate President Ong Yok Lin who arranged with then Home Minister Ghazali Shafie to take care of us in Sabah. Your efforts helped us get paroled into the U.S. and declared as political refugees a few weeks after the election of President Carter whose campaign you actively supported.

In March 1977, we finally arrived in the U.S. together with the Muslim family of Gerry Jumat who escaped with us. Immediately, we joined you in this long and arduous struggle to free the Philippines from dictatorship.

In the latter part of the 19th Century history tells us about an exile group led by Jose Rizal, Graciano Lopez Jaena, Marcelo del Pilar and many other patriotic Filipinos. They belonged to the Propaganda Movement that espoused reforms in the Philippines and exposed the abuses of the Spanish rulers. They operated out of Madrid, Spain. It published a paper called “La Solidaridad”.

Like the patriots of the 19th Century, you, working with Raul Manglapus’ Movement for a Free Philippines, later joined by Ninoy Aquino, Bonifacio Gillego, Gaston Ortigas, Geny Lopez, Serge OsmeƱa, Sonny Alvarez, and many other patriotic Filipinos, unknowingly and unconsciously formed what I called, in my earlier column, the 20th Century Propaganda Movement.

Your Philippine News was the movement’s La Solidaridad during the period. It was the answer to the vaunted and awesome resources of Marcos’ propaganda machine. It was not as well funded but more powerful because it was armed with the Truth, and supported by men and women possessed with, as Ninoy described, the “Heart of a Lion”.

You set-up a Washington, D.C. Bureau in order to establish a stronger presence in America’s seat of power. You gladly appointed me as its Bureau Chief.

I wanted to write about the news and gossips at the barbershops and called it “Take It From My Barber” (Kuwentong Barbero). You published it as a regular column.

You wanted to show off the beauty, the talents, and the brains of Filipina women by promoting the Magandang Filipina project. You made me manage in Washington, D.C. the search, recruitment and the presentation and show.

In 1980, Marcos and Manglapus were invited to speak at the American Newspaper Publishers Association (ANPA) in Hawaii. The former delivered his defense of Martial Law. The latter responded with, “The Truth About The Philippines.”

You and the Philippine News headlined: “Manglapus eclipses Marcos before ANPA.”

When Ninoy Aquino, Nene Pimentel, and Lorenzo Tanada, Sr. formed the LABAN Party to launch a team that challenged the candidacies of Imelda and her Rah-Rah boys in Metro Manila Assembly, you and the Philippine News gave it full publicity countering the Marcos controlled press.

When our Movement exposed the Marcos abuses - imprisoning innocent nuns, priests, professionals, journalists, professors, students, labor leaders and political oppositionists; when the Task Force for Detainees of the Association of Major Religious Superiors detailed the torturing and  “salvaging” of political prisoners; and when the Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists reported the killing of political prisoners in secret summary executions; you and the Philippine News were there to give the whole truth full publicity.

When Ninoy Aquino came to the U.S. for medical treatment; then, for a Fellowship grant at Harvard; and later, he went around the country revealing the evils of the Marcos dictatorship, you gave him full coverage.

When David Valderrama exposed the lavish spending during the Marcos State visit, you and the Washington Post gave it full publicity.

When Boni Gillego in an extensive research documented the falsity of Marcos’ alleged heroism and the fakery of his War Medals, you made it front page news converting the former’s report into a series.

When Ninoy Aquino was killed under the custody of Marcos soldiers, you headlined and expressed the mourning of a whole nation, and the anger of all freedom-loving people.

When Cory Aquino ran against Marcos in a snap election, you and the Philippine News made sure that the former’s message was understood and delivered.

Meanwhile, you and the other members of the 20th Century Propaganda Movement lobbied strong and hard for the U.S. Government to change policies on Marcos.

You led the U.S. celebration of the People Power Revolution and Cory’s installation as President of the Philippines.

You welcomed, wrote about, and spoke of, with great pride and honor,  the State Visit of Cory Aquino to the U.S.

You likewise welcomed your new role under a democratic Philippines – utilizing your lobbying skills for Philippine causes.

You took the cause of the Filipino World War II veterans – first, for their naturalization, and second, for obtaining Equity. You succeeded!

For all the above, we, the beneficiaries of your selfless efforts thank you as you join the God Almighty in Heaven for a job well done.

You were also asked to unify the Filipinos in the U.S.  That indeed is an “Impossible Dream” and/or “Mission Impossible”. God signaled you have done enough!

You were a great gift from God to us on Earth. You are as great a gift to God for what you have become and for doing His work!

Our condolences go with our prayers to your wife Luli, and family!

With great appreciation and admiration,
Benjamin G. Maynigo

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Smokey Mountain, Tondo, and Priesthood.

On November 3, 2012, I attended the book launching of “Faith and Struggle On Smokey Mountain”, Hope for a Planet in Peril by Fr. Benigno P. Beltran, SVD. It is published by Orbis Books. The event was sponsored by PALM led by its President, Mitzi Pickard.

I bought the eBook version at Amazon before the event so I was able to read and appreciate its contents before joining the group at Sweet City Desserts – a Filipino-owned and the newly awarded Best Bakery in Vienna, Virginia.

The book is about a huge garbage dump called Smokey Mountain. It is a place where abject poverty and hunger are depicted in the lives of scavengers poring over whatever could be salvaged of what others “wasted” and dumped.

The book is also about the life and experiences of a selfless priest named Fr. Ben Beltran who lived, communed, dreamed and prayed with the scavengers for at least 30 years hoping for a better tomorrow.

I always had great admiration for priests and nuns.  Foremost reason was the commitment to Vow of Poverty and Vow of Celibacy. I have a first cousin  (Fr. Vic Arenas Maynigo) and a nephew (Fr. Cornelio Maynigo Casanova) who actually became priests. Fr. Vic is currently a parish priest at Staten Island, New York. Fr. Cornelio died dedicating his life, until his last breath, to the service of God and his fellowmen. My only brother and a few other relatives went to the seminary. They never made it to priesthood but all became happy and great “fathers”.

I knew I would never be called. A fortiori (with more reason) I would never be chosen. :) I could probably commit to Vow of Poverty, but definitely not to Vow of Celibacy. :)

I had some exposure to the garbage problem in Manila, to the Smokey Mountain, and to Tondo that hosts the garbage dumpsite  - for a brief period during my student days.

To focus on the garbage problem, students belonging to YCSP - the Youth Arm of the Christian Social Movement, for 10 straight nights followed and monitored the dump trucks that picked up the garbage up to the time the waste was dumped at the Smokey Mountain. We called it “Operation Basura”. We made a report on our findings and Armando Doronila of the Daily Mirror published it.

Our project culminated in a rally at the City Hall where Mayor Tony Villegas met with us and discussed our report. We told the Mayor that we were concerned not only with what we observed but also for the extremely foul odor. (Kami ay nababahala hindi lang sa aming nakikita kundi sa aming naaamoy.)

To make the City officials realize the seriousness of our cause, we dumped a pile of garbage in front of the residential houses of some selected officials the night before so that they would experience the sight and smell of a garbage dump.

Fr. Ben also discussed the housing project in Tondo.

My participation was in an earlier period where the squatters of Tondo were involved. President Marcos promised the residents who had been living in Tondo’s public lands, titles to the lands.  As a “Community Organizer”, I was one of those who developed a plan to force Marcos’ hand.

We planned to march to Malacanang carrying nipa huts and shanties to occupy the frontage.  Scheduled to march with us were children, babies and seniors who had lived there for years.

JUSTIFICATION: In the elections of 1969, Marcos was accused of cheating and therefore not entitled to occupy Malacanang – a public land. He was therefore a squatter.  The Tondo squatters were to join him.

Their leader, Restituto de Leon was originally from my home province of Pangasinan.  Cleverly, Marcos sent Agrarian Secretary Conrado Estrella who was also from my hometown Rosales, Pangasinan to talk to de Leon.  He also delivered a few titles and promised to process more.

More “persuasive” than the title giving was the detention of de Leon and other leaders on the eve of the march. With no leaders, the squatters gave up the march. A student “Community Organizer” like me could not match or counter Marcos’ awesome “persuasive” powers.

In the first election after People Power revolution, de Leon was a Barangay Chairman. He helped us in the winning campaign for the Senate of Raul S. Manglapus.  

One of my first dates with Tina who became my wife was in Isla Puting Bato in Tondo during what we called “Student Revolution”. :)

Friday, November 9, 2012


In all my columns that refer to Presidential polling, I always refer to the surveys conducted by the conservative Rasmussen, Gallup, and Real Clear Politics (RCP). I particularly like RCP because it averages all the latest polls.

 The final survey published by Real Clear Politics showed the following Electoral College Map and data:

As shown above, the polling predicted that Obama would get 303 electoral votes while Romney would obtain 235 electoral votes.

True enough; Obama indeed garnered 303 electoral votes in last night’s tally with the final results in Florida still pending. If Romney wins Florida, it would be exactly as predicted.

How amazing has been the accuracy of the polling prior to the elections and the exit polls conducted after the voters had just voted. Partial election results combined with the exit polls that were analyzed by poll statisticians allowed the network to project the winner in each of the States.

I carefully followed the data as broadcasted by the CNN’s John King, NBC’s Chuck Todd, and other sources. At 10:13 p.m. on election night, using available data, I was tempted to project Obama’s victory.  I resisted because I thought that I should at least wait for the closing of the polls in California at 11:00 p.m.  (EST).

I made the projection on Facebook at 11:03 p.m. NBC News did it at 11:12 p.m. I was very proud of myself.

What is more revealing for me is what the exit polls also revealed. I got interested in how the minorities voted. The polls showed that 93% of the Blacks; 71% of the Hispanics; and 73% of the Asians voted for Obama.

As I commented on Facebook and in my other column, Filipinos are mostly identified as Asians but in some cases as Latinos because of their last names, their language and culture. Sometimes they could also be considered Blacks due to inter-marriage and the color of their skin (tall, DARK, handsome).

Filipinos in this election can really take credit or claim victory in so many ways.

The Presidential battle was indeed exciting and challenging for the protagonists. In a previous column I wrote that the determining factors would be Resources, Organization, and Image.

Both the Obama and Romney camps had the Resources. They were awash with funds that were used maximally up to the last minute. They both had efficient, effective and strong organizations. But as proven in the results, Obama seemed to have the better grass roots ground organization.

Image wise, Romney was able to project a better image as President after the first debate. It would seem that the momentum was his until stalled a little bit by the better performance of Obama in the second and third debates but, more so, by what we now know as a natural October Surprise.

The Super Storm SANDY created a deadly, damaging, and disruptive disaster. It gave the opportunity for President Obama to display Commander–in–Chief moments. He earned high bipartisan praises. New Jersey Republican Governor Christie worked with President Obama in this moment of crisis creating an image of bipartisanship in the highest level. The entire American electorate could see it, hear it and dissect it on national TV.

The “Act of God” displayed the needs, benefits and practicability of having a higher power like the Federal Government working with State and local governments in dealing with personal and individual problems.

While SANDY rendered many citizens without power, Romney was equally rendered powerless, helpless and virtually irrelevant for a few days before the elections.

Suddenly, the natural constituencies of Obama such as women, Blacks, the Hispanics, the Asians, and the young were inspired and motivated to move not only human hearts but human minds in order to protect their future.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


According to the National Asian American Survey,* conducted and updated on October 15, 2012, the following is the Presidential vote choice among likely Asian American voters:

OBAMA – 52%    ROMNEY – 19%    UNDECIDED – 28%  OTHER – 1%

Even if all the undecided voters choose Romney, which is unlikely, it looks like the Asian Americans will be choosing Obama again in these 2012 elections. In 2008, 62% of them went for Obama. So, the latter must capture 10% more among the undecided to obtain a similar percentage.


The survey also shows that Asian Americans have identified certain key issues that are important to them, and which candidate is closer on the key issues as reflected in Figure 2.

The proximity of either candidate on the issues that are key to Asian Americans should explain why.

How about their party identification? The data in the survey reveals the following:

                          Democrat     Republican   Independent /Non-Partisan

            Chinese          29%                9%                  58%

            Indian             50%                3%                  47%

            Filipino           24%                27%                45%

            Vietnamese    16%                20%                64%

            Korean           46%                18%                34%

            Japanese        37%                18%                45%

            Cambodian    26%                5%                  68%

            Hmong            52%                7%                  41%

Native Hawaiian        41%               14%                40%

            Samoan          57%                16%                24%

As shown above, a substantial portion of Asian Americans are really independent or non-partisan. In the case of the Filipinos, for example, while 27% of them are Republicans and only 24% are Democrats, 45% are independent or non-partisan. In California, it is a little different: 34% of Filipinos are Democrats, 25% are Republicans, and 42% are independent or non-partisan.

How will the Filipinos vote in this Presidential race? According to the survey, 32% will vote for Obama, 38% for Romney, and 28% are still undecided. I suspect that many of those who say they are undecided have actually decided, but preferred not to reveal their preference openly. This way they can say they voted for the winner later.

The majority of Asian Americans as a group are voting for Obama. With the help of the Filipino Democrats, they can ensure that Obama wins in swing states Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, and Florida. It is okay for the Asian Americans to claim credit if Obama wins.

But if Romney wins in Virginia and in the other swing states, Filipino Republicans should be given more credit, as they are the one ethnic group among Asian Americans who worked for Romney the hardest.

Regardless of who wins the Presidential race, Asian Americans and Filipinos would have played some role.
*The National Asian American Survey is the collaborative effort of Karthick Ramakrishnan at University of California-Riverside and Taeku Lee at University of California-Berkeley.