Saturday, May 28, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Lt. Raymond C. Gamboa is the only Filipino to graduate this year from a United States military academy, a feat his mother attributes to destiny after he was declared clinically dead as a young child and the peculiar way he got to take the entrance exams at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
Gamboa was the only Filipino and one of only 12 foreign cadets in a class of 1,021 that graduated from the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado on Wednesday (May 25).
Lt. Raymond Gamboa (5th from left) is the only Filipino in the 2011 graduating class of the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA. He is joined in this photo by (L-R): PAF attaché Col. Arnel Duco, Haidee Gamboa (his mother), Dr. Marlon Mangahas, Riva Rei Gamboa (his sister), C3C Ken Quijano (another Filipino foreign exchange cadet in USAFA) and TSgt William Soriano.
Unlike in past years, there were no Filipinos in the graduating classes of the US Military Academy at West Point or the US Naval Academy in Annapolis this year. Gamboa was immediately sworn in as 2nd Lieutenant of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) by Col. Arnel Duco, the Air Force attaché based in Washington, DC.
Only the top 20 academic achievers at PMA get a chance to take the competitive exams to enter American military academies, and they would have to turn in scores that can best those from other southeast Asian military academies. (There used to be slots reserved for PMAers when the US still had military bases in the country, but today, they have to compete for those slots with other US allies in the region.)
'Clinically dead'
Gamboa’s road to Colorado is a story in itself. He became severely ill during a family vacation in Batangas when he was just 4 years old, his mother Haidee, a consultant for Sofitel Hotel, told ABS-CBN News. He was foaming at the mouth and showed other signs of a seizure so they rushed him to St. Luke’s Medical Center where he was declared clinically dead.
But doctors didn’t give up and he was revived, pumping him with an assortment of medicines that his mother now jested, “seem to have made him brighter” – he was an honor student from pre-school all the way to high school at Ateneo.
“While he was recovering at the hospital, he seemed to take an interest in being a doctor one day. When he got older, he wanted to become a lawyer,” Haidee said. But in his senior year, he expressed an interest in entering PMA that his mother found odd since there were no soldiers in their family.
Gamboa surfed the Internet to learn more about PMA but for a time, couldn’t find a way to enlist for the exams and told his mother about it. Haidee said her son had about lost interest when one day she passed by Gateway Mall in Quezon City and stumbled upon PMA officers handing out application forms. “I think it was really God’s will,” she declared.
When Gamboa passed the week-long medical exams at the AFP Medical Center, Haidee lost any trepidation about her only son taking on the hazards of a soldier’s life.
Giving back
When he flies back next month, he will go back to teaching at PMA. “I will share what I’ve learned and I hope to improve academic and military training in the Academy,” he explained.
The Air Force is considered the most technical of the major branches of the military. “We had mostly academic work,” Gamboa revealed, “but we also had a chance to meet with people in US aircraft companies and do a solo flight in a T-52 (trainer plane).”
After his 6-month stint at the PMA, Gamboa, according to Duco, will need to earn his wings at the PAF Flying School in Lipa, Batangas. He will likely have to wait a year, though, because there is a long queue for aspiring PAF aviators. “We don’t have enough planes,” Duco stated matter-of-factly.
Years of budget constraints, accidents and obsolescence have depleted much of the PAF’s air assets. Lack of spare parts has forced them to cannibalize some aircraft to keep others aloft. The US is scheduled to deliver this summer a C-130 Hercules transport plane that’s now being refurbished at a facility in the Mojave Desert in California and complete the overhaul of engines to extend the operational life of MG-520 Defender helicopter gunships.
Gamboa is unfazed by conditions in the Air Force he’s investing the next years of his life in.
Right after the graduation ceremonies, we asked Haidee what motherly advice she gave him.
“I told him to pray and ask guidance from the Holy Spirit for any decision he has to make, and to pay back his country for the opportunity it gave him. Everything we have, we owe to our country,” she told her 23-year-old son.

Smoking ban in Manila public places starts May 30

MANILA, Philippines - Starting next week, smokers will be unwelcome in public places along major and secondary roads of the metropolis.  Officers from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), together with the 17 local government units (LGU) of Metro Manila, will prohibit lighting up in bus terminals, waiting sheds, schools, hospitals, recreational places and inside public utility vehicles starting May 30 as part of a joint campaign to protect Filipinos from secondhand smoke.  The smoking ban came just in time for the World No Tobacco Day celebration on June 1. New York-based Bloomberg Philanthropies has approved a P9.5-million grant for the program.  "We'll be launching an information campaign so people will know that smoking will be prohibited in certain areas of main roads of the metropolis," Dr. Loida Alzona, division chief of MMDA's public health safety and environment protection, said in an interview on ANC's "Top Story" on Friday.  MMDA's "environmental enforcers" will issue warnings to those who will be caught violating the provisions of Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 for the month of June.  Alzona said penalties, which include fines and community service, will take effect in July.  While it supports the smoking ban in areas like schools, hospitals and public facilities, the Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI) said it is against the smoking ban in major and secondary roads in Metro Manila.  PTI argued that the roads are not included in RA 9211's list of prohibited places, and hoped that the MMDA will reconsider its decision to implement the anti-smoking campaign.  Data from the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization showed that smoking kills 10 Filipinos every hour, or 80,000 every year. -- With a report from ANC

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Housekeeper says billionaire discriminates against Filipinos

JERSEY CITY, NJ – Jersey City resident Esther Winkley has been a housekeeper for New York’s rich and famous for 25 years.
But when the 55-year-old Filipina applied for a head of housekeeper position for New York billionaire Len Blavatnik early this year, Winkley claims she was not hired because of her ethnic background.
Blavatnik is the 31st richest man in the US. Blavatnik recently bought Warner Music, but most of his wealth comes from his company called Access Industries, that owns 50% of energy giant TNK-BP.
Winkley said she applied for a job at the Russian billionaire’s $50 million dollar residence on 64th Street in New York last February.
Winkley also worked with Blavatnik’s butler Wilfredo Balmaceda for a trial day in March.
She said, “Wilfredo called from his office and said everything went well today, actually the housekeeper likes you very much, she enjoyed working with you.”
But in a complaint Winkley filed at the New York Commission on Human Rights, the document states that on March 15, Blavatnik’s butler – Wilfredo Balmaceda – declined to offer Winkley the job stating in an email to Winkley’s agent that she was “not the right fit for the family.”
Winkley said her employment agent was about to send another Filipino domestic helper to the Blavatnik’s for interview…when the butler Balmaceda sent an e-mail back to the agent saying, “No Philippines, Thanks.” He further went on to say that, “Sorry new directions, no Philippine.”
Winkley said, “I was furious, I said what? No Philippines? I said, what do they think of Filipinos?”
In an e-mail to Balitang America, the billionaire’s representative Mike Sitrick said, the Balavatnik’s are not available for interview but sent this statement instead.
“Any charge of discrimination by the Blavatniks is ludicrous. The fact is, employees at the Blavatnik residence come from various background including individuals from the Philippines. Mr. Smith, Winkley’s agent – had been sending unqualified candidates for months.”
Winkley said she filed a complaint at the New York Commission on Human Rights to fight not only for her own right but for the rights of Filipino domestic workers in New York as well.
Winkley said, “It’s discrimination. They don’t have any Filipinos working for them, they not only do not want to hire Filipinos, they don’t even want to interview Filipinos.”
In a phone conversation with Balitang America, the Communications Director of the Human Rights Commission said Winkley’s complaint is now under investigation and there may be other Filipino domestic workers involved in this case.
The first hearing is scheduled on June 9 at the Commission on Human Rights office in New York.

Fil-Am accused of stalking women in Starbucks bathroom

GLENDORA – A Filipino-American in Glendora, California was accused of filming women in a Starbucks restroom with a hidden camera.
A worker at a Starbucks coffee shop found a camera hidden in purse hooks placed in the women's restroom in April.
Police said surveillance footage showed 25-year-old unemployed aviation student William Velasco sneaking into the bathroom.
Velasco would allegedly sneak back into the restroom to download the video into a laptop. They found Velasco in possession of video of over 40 women.
Police said the incidents happened on April 14 and 15.
Police said Velasco, who's had no prior criminal record, is now also a suspect in a stalking case.
Police said he may have followed a girl for several days before breaking into her apartment and stealing her underwear.
Velasco is out on a $50,000 bail but police warned the public that he may be a threat.
"From our investigation, what we see is a clear escalation of behavior, it went from simply videotaping and watching this himself to then following young college girls to the point of following the girl and breaking into their apartment to stealing personal items," said Glendora Chief of Police Rob Castro.
As of posting, the crime would be charged as a misdemeanor.
However, if some of the victims filmed in the bathroom are found to be under 18 years old, the crime would become a felony.
Glendora police are now asking possible victims to contact them at (626) 914-8250.

Pinoy missing after jumping off cruise ship

LONDON - A Filipino aboard the Celebrity Eclipse made headlines here in Europe after jumping off the cruise ship.
According to reports, an unnamed 31-year-old Filipino crew member of the cruise ship jumped from the ship into the English Channel on Friday night, May 20, at 10:15 in the evening.
A travel company confirmed the incident but did not give details of the missing person except for his nationality and age.
The Telegraph reported that vessel was 8 miles north of Cherbourg, France, when the incident happened.
A rescue operation was done by the French Coast Guard overnight, but no trace of the Pinoy cruise worker was found.
The company that owns the cruise ship, Celebrity Eclipse, has promised to provide support for their missing crew member’s family.