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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

100 OFWs with kids seek repatriation: Migrante

MANILA, Philippines - More than a 100 undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with children have been seeking repatriation since January.
This is according to John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante-Middle East, an alliance of Filipino migrants’ rights group providing assistance to distressed and stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
Monterona obtained the information from an official of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), who asked not be named.  He added that this number includes only the OFWs who have sought assistance from Riyadh and nearby cities in the central region of Saudi Arabia.
“The undocumented OFW mothers and children are temporarily staying at their friends and fellow OFWs’ rented houses,” Monterona added. The undocumented OFWs cannot stay in the embassy-run Bahay Kalinga, a Philippine government facility where female OFWs can seek refuge while waiting for repatriation.
Monterona was told by the POLO official that as a matter of policy, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration cannot admit the undocumented OFW mothers and their children to Bahay Kalinga.
“This is an outright disservice to undocumented mothers and children. If they could not be admitted to Bahay Kalinga, then the Philippine embassy should work for their repatriation and plead to the host government to treat their case as special for humanitarian consideration,” Monterona suggested.
According to the POLO official, OFW mothers and their children can avail of a special deportation process pending the approval of Saudi authorities. Monterona said, however, that this process is not being maximized as a means of sending undocumented OFWs back to the Philippines.
Monterona called on the Aquino government, specially Vice President Jejomar Binay, to attend to the concerns of undocumented OFWs and their children.
“One mother told us that her children have not been to school and they are growing fast,” Monterona said

Pinoy seaman dead after pirate attack

MANILA, Philippines - A Filipino seafarer was found dead aboard a Marshall Island-flagged ship, 4 days after it was attacked by pirates on the coast of Benin, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday.
Christopher Cortez Ceprado was found dead on May 11 after his vessel, the chemical tanker MT Sea King, was boarded by heavily armed pirates on May 7 at the anchorage of the port of Cotonou in Benin, the DFA said, quoting the vessel’s local manning agency.
Seventeen Filipinos man the vessel.
The pirates ransacked the vessel, stole its equipment and the personal belongings of the crew. No other crew was reported injured. 
The DFA did not say if pirates killed Ceprado.
The victim's remains were brought to a mortuary in Cotonou for autopsy, the DFA said. 
The ship is currently anchored in Cotonou, while authorities investigate the attack.
The DFA's Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) said it is coordinating with the ship's local manning agency on the repatriation of Ceprado's remains and the provision of benefits. 
It has also instructed the Philippine embassy in Abuja to coordinate with authorities there on the investigation of the incident and help repatriate the Filipino seafarer's body.
The local manning agency said it has contacted the victim's family and is coordinating with the vessel's principal and agent in Cotonou, maritime authorities, and the Protection and Indemnity (P&I) Club representatives.

The risks of oral sex

MANILA, Philippines - The chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is now under fire for his alleged sexual assault of a chambermaid in the United States.
Several publications reported over the weekend that Strauss-Kahn forced her to give him oral sex.
"According to the official, the man chased her, grabbed her and shut the door, locking it. He then pulled her toward the bedroom, the official said, and tried to attack her there," The New York Times said, citing a police source.
"He dragged her to the bathroom, the official added, and forced her to perform oral sex. The police said the woman eventually escaped from the suite and reported the attack to other hotel personnel, who called 911."
With his arrest in relation to the so-called sex scandal, some are saying that the Strauss-Kahn's dreams of power have been "terminated." Before the incident, opinion polls had shown that the IMF chief was likely to win the French presidency next year.
Indeed, humiliation and a tainted reputation are the price one has to pay when a well-known figure gets involved in a sex scandal.
Such is also the case for former US President Bill Clinton, who was said to have received oral sex from then White House intern Monica Lewinsky despite his marriage to now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The 1998 incident turned into a full-blown scandal, one of the factors that eventually led to Clinton's impeachment.
Another example is actor Hugh Grant, who was caught receiving oral sex from a prostitute in a car in Los Angeles.
Health risks
Oral sex, a sexual act that involves the stimulation of the genitalia using the mouth, is frowned upon in many cultures yet is commonly practiced by straight and gay couples across the globe.
It comes in many forms, and is said to be done even by animals.
Aside from the risk of getting humiliated, oral sex can also pose a number of threats to human health. US scientists said early this year that there is strong evidence linking oral sex to head or neck cancer due to HPV or the human papilloma virus.
The same virus causes cervical cancer, which is the second largest cause of female cancer mortality in the Philippines for the past 60 years. Worldwide, a woman dies from the disease every 2 minutes.
Aside from HPV, oral sex (and other forms of sexual contact such as vaginal sex, genital touching and the use of sex toys such as vibrators) can lead to a variety of sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes and HIV.
Some of these STDs are curable and not life-threatening. But if left untreated, some of these may lead to pregnancy problems or even death.
Why men like oral sex
About 40% of 77,895 women and men surveyed by Elle and in 2006 said they "rarely or never give oral sex." This as 58% of males said their partner does not like receiving oral sex, while nearly half of females said they do not like doing such.
Almost all men, however, said that receiving oral sex "boosts their sexual satisfaction."
So what do men see that women don't?
Men associate oral sex with different things, from intimacy to the feeling of being in, a blogger at the Yahoo! Shine page, asked this question to different kinds of males -- straight, gay, single and married.
Here are some of their responses:
"What seems to separate the men who like to give oral sex from those who dread it depends on one mitigating factor: good hygiene."
"It's a chance to get to know you without distraction and, in a way, it's even more intimate than intercourse."
"It involves all our senses -- sight, sound, hearing, taste, touch and scent. It's sensual and pleasurable."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pinoy on China death row hopes for commutation of sentence

KIDAPAWAN CITY — An overseas Filipino worker jailed in China for drug trafficking has expressed the hope that his death sentence would be commuted to a 15-year jail term.

In a letter to Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco, Richard Bianan — who has been incarcerated since 2008 — said the Chinese court might commute his death sentence and lower his years in detention for “showing good behavior."

Bianan also said he was glad upon learning that the Cotabato government is making inquiries into his case. “Upon hearing the news, I and other Filipinos [here] rejoiced, for we see a glittering hope to our hopeless situation here."

Bianan’s letter reached the congresswoman’s office on May 12. 

Attached in Bianan’s letter were some documents from Pu Tian City Men’s Prison Administration Foreign Group Unit, including the criminal order from the Higher Peoples’ Court of Fujian Province of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

The Fujian Province court found Bianan guilty of drug smuggling. 

Heroin capsules

In July 2008, authorities extracted from Bianan’s body 91 oval capsules filled with heroin. The amount of the prohibited drug found on Bianan weighed 1,009.3 grams.

The court said the quantity of drug smuggled to China was “so large" that a death penalty had to be imposed. However, Bianan showed good behavior inside his prison cell, allowing the court to grant him a two-year reprieve.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr., in a letter to Catamco dated May 5, said the death sentence with two-year reprieve imposed on Bianan means that his sentence has been suspended for two years.

Bianan’s sentence could then be commuted to life imprisonment should he continue showing good behavior inside the prison cell.

Conejos said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has already made necessary representations with Chinese authorities regarding Bianan’s request to lower his sentence to fixed-term imprisonment, instead of life imprisonment.

“The DFA is still awaiting the feedback of the Chinese authorities on the matter. The Philippine Consulate opined that since the two-year suspension period of his sentence has yet to expire, the Chinese authorities might not be able to give concrete responses to the representations," Conejos said.

“Mr. Bianan is reminded to do his part in making the government’s representations feasible by showing good behavior, avoiding committing another offense in prison, and getting along well with jail guards and inmates while serving his sentence," he added. — AY/JE/VS, GMA News

It is impossible to predict doomsday — CBCP

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) spokesman Msgr. Pedro Quitorio III has refuted the May 21, 2011 end-of-the-world prediction a California-based Christian ministry has spread through the Internet and in the streets of Manila.

Quitorio said the end of the world cannot be predicted, recalling that, “In the Bible, it says nobody knows when the end of the world is, except God the Father."

“How can they predict the end of the world when no one can even predict an earthquake accurately?" the CBCP spokesman added.

From the Great Flood

Harold Camping, leader of Family Radio Worldwide, claims his reading of the Bible led him to one conclusion. "Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment," Camping said.

Some Family Radio volunteers have recently been walking the streets of Manila and giving their Judgment Day pamphlets to people they meet. Their ministry has head offices in Oakland, California. 

Camping caught the media’s eye many times before. One recent instance was via an article published in The Washington Post last March 24. 

In that report, it was explained that Camping got the May 21, 2011 date of Judgment Day using passages from the story of Noah’s Ark in Genesis and the Second Epistle of Peter, mixed with his interpretations of those passages. 

Camping had a previous doomsday prediction, which he made in his book entitled 1994?— With Earl Rosero/VS, GMA News