FAPCNY Prez gets honor citation by Queens Borough Prez Katz
By Vanette Colmenares
New York – FAPCNY president Marivir Montebon was given a citation of honor by Melinda Katz, president of the Queens Borough Assembly in time for the celebration of the 121st Independence Day of the Philippines.
Put together by the office of Katz and Aida Bartolome, chair of the Foundation for Filipino Artists (FFAI), citations of honor were given to Montebon and four others, namely: young artist Julian Pigao, parish priest of the Corpus Christi Church Rev. Patrick West, Mary Seren Camino, and Annabelle Albano Lovendahl.
The celebration in honor of the Filipino community in Queens took place at the Helen Marshall Cultural Center in Forest Hills on June 11, 2019.
In her acceptance speech, Montebon said it was an honor to be accorded a citation, “as I continue to amplify the voices of Filipinos in Queens which is continually growing and responding to the challenges of our times.”
“As a writer I believe that I am in a serious position in society to chronicle Filipinos events as they unfold, write about issues that confront each of us. By writing the truth, hopefully we as a community and as individuals will be guided to make correct decisions,” she said.
Sharon Lee, deputy president of Queens Borough welcomed the guests in the jam packed auditorium. She was introduced by lawyer Maria Lara Gregory. Katz was unable to attend the celebration as she was on a public debate with District Attorney candidates for the Democratic primaries on June 25.
Lee acknowledged the contributions of Filipinos in Queens and encouraged them to actively participate in the 2020 Census in order to be counted. “The census is being weaponized to target undocumented immigrants. This is a concern. But we have to be counted, because the Census is a government instrument which serves as basis for budgets for social needs of our society,” she said.
Philippine Consul General Claro Cristobal shared his reflections on Philippine Independence Day, taking cognizance of the contributions of the immigrant Filipino in the US and the Philippines.
The diverse cultures of the Philippines took center stage during the celebration with child performers dancing the Tinikling, Pandango sa Ilaw, and a Muslim wedding dance, to name a few. A rondalla ensemble provided a festive mood music. The Kinding Sindaw, the United Staffing Registry, and the Knights of Rizal New York Chapter co-sponsored the event.
During the event, Filipinos artists Ann Beck, Marcelino Rodriguez, and Leonora Lim put up their works on exhibit. Artist Debra Simsek also displayed her work as a tribute to Filipinos in Queens.
“This is my watch. I am not ducking on this. For as long as there is democracy, Rappler will continue reporting. Silence is the enemy of democracy,” journalist Maria Ressa, CEO and executive editor of Rappler, made clear her resolve to do what she has to do in a soft, pristine voice.
New York – The FilAm Press Club of New York invited Filipino journalist Maria Ressa to a press conference with media colleagues and community leaders in the Big Apple on April 26, 2019.
The Time’s 2018 Person of the Year had an engagingly deep and brisk conversation on media repression at the Asian American Writers Workshop in downtown Manhattan, a day after Hollywood actor George Clooney and wife Amal threw in their support for her #defendpressfreedom campaign at the Time 100 dinner.
She said that Rappler filed an infringement of freedoms case against the Duterte administration which has slapped Rappler with 11 legal cases early this year. “We are doing this as a test for our judiciary if it stands by our bill of rights. It is time for us to stand up. For 14 months, Pia Ranada and our other reporters have been banned to cover Pres. Duterte. There’s a roving ban. I think this is a critical moment in our history. A moment where we decide to stand firm on our rights guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution. We demand the rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. For me, I have no choice. I think that you are seeing a precipitous death by a thousand cuts of democracy. It is time for us to see that we want the Constiution protected. We demand accountability and an end to impunity.”
As power transitions loom largely in the Philippines, Ressa spent a week in the city to accept another award from Time Magazine, as one of its 100 Influencers for 2019. She was Time’s 2018 Person of the Year.
While the Philippine government said it simply wanted to take legal action on tax and ownership cases on Rappler, it also meant media repression, along with other Philippine media organizations, that have reported the unabated killings in the name of the drug war policy since Pres. Duterte took office.
Ressa emphasized that these are crucial times for the Philippines, a time of power shift, with a midterm elections and a likely constitutional change in the near future. “I am just a journalist. My work ethic had always been clear. Now, the government would not even take a question anymore. I feel like I am Alice in Wonderland and a mad hatter is in charge,” she said when asked of the latest spin that Rappler, along with Vera Files and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, is involved in a plot to oust Pres. Duterte.
Ressa smiled while touching on the ‘fantasyland matrix plot’ early in the conversation. “I am not even opposition. I am just a journalist. I ask questions for accountability. The government has just been reduced to insults or joke. This is not how I want my country to be seen in the international platform. We Filipinos have so much to offer. We were one of the first countries to sign the International Human Rights bill,” she said.
Media colleagues and community leaders asked questions that led to a vigorous exchange of information and insights, and here is the excerpt of our conversation:
1. Don Tagala: At this time, who is doing checks and balance for the government? Is there an independent body who is doing checks and balance?
Maria: As of now, our institutions in the Philippines have crumbled in so many instances. I have 11 cases and I have posted bail 4 times. I paid more than convicted plunderers. For this, I would say Pres. Duterte is the most powerful man. Perhaps even more powerful than Pres. Marcos. He controls Congress, he controls the Executive. The one independent body that has been pushed back has been the Senate. The May elections is absolutely important, because if you lose, you will have no checks and balance of governance in the Philippines.
That could mean that without an independent Senate, we could see within the year, a new Constitution. I’d call it a new form of “democracy” in quotes. Perhaps extension of term limits. A transition committee will be made. All of them made by President Duterte. I believe this is a transformative moment. Do we want to maintain democracy imperfect as it may seem? Or do we want to usher in a new era, like a back to the future?
2. Don: If there is an investigating body, what should it be investigating right now? What issues would Pres. Duterte be made accountable for?
Maria: The drug war. I see impunity on two fronts. First, the drug war, that’s huge, and of course, what are our agreements with China. And also the information operation that is manipulating Filipinos, that is exponential lies. When you tell a lie a million times, it becomes truth. How can you have a democracy when you don’t have facts? You don’t have discourse or debates. We have not really talked policies since the social media campaign policy of Pres. Duterte in the election campaign which was weaponized in 2016.
And the first targets were normal people who questioned the killings in the drug war. And the second target were the reporters. The end goal of that is to tear down the credibility of institutions. We need to go back to a fact based information ecosystem so we can have rule of law.
And who is supposed to be doing that? The judiciary. I am appealing to the men and women of our judiciary to look at our cases which I call ludicrous. We Filipinos coined people power. What the heck (sorry) are we doing today?
3. Troi Santos: What can you say about the state of the nation?
Maria: I think that like the United States, we’re disjointed. We’re one of the countries where a cheap army of social media have rolled back democracy. We are confused. And add to that the algorithms of the social media which divide us and we have a leader who is very macho. At best he is sexist, at worst, he is misogynistic. I used these words at the Time Dinner to describe Pres. Duterte and Pres. Trump.
It took us so long to win back the rights of women. Let us not lose it in a blink.
4. Rachelle Ocampo: Does it surprise you that you are getting more support from foreign journalists than from the Philippines?
Maria: No it does not surprise me because we have to understand that we are afraid. Fear is part of our ecosystem as well. In July 2016, our reporters were coming home from the night beat and there would be an average of 8 dead bodies. And then you have a president…I mean what names does he call the media that threaten us. These threats, they can be dismissed as jokes.
But Pres. Duterte attacked Rappler in his state of the nation address, within a week, we had those cases. In 14 months, 11 cases have been filed against Rappler. That is almost 1 case per month. Gosh, I wish they spent that money to come with a great foreign policy that will retain our land.
Governance is not easy. There is a lot to be done. I wish they spent more time with real issues like climate change. We are the third most disaster prone country in the world. We don’t talk about that anymore. What we see are mundane insults on social media. We yell and scream at each other and I am not so sure what we accomplish with that. We are tearing our society apart. We will need to rebuild. What will replace what we have?
I think we have lots of support in the PHilippines, but I think that anyone who stands up has a lot to lose. There are consequences to exercising free speech.
5. Boyet Loverita: What do you like about President Duterte as president?
Maria: What do I like about him as president? Why don’t I tell you what I like about interviewing him in October of 2015, ‘cause that interview was also used by John Oliver. In that interview, he admitted to killing three people. The last time I interviewed him was in December 2016 and in 1989 when I was still with CNN, and it was about the Davao Death Squad. How interesting ‘though that DDS, almost overnight, went from a pejorative, a human rights violation, became Duterte Diehard Supporters. That’s Astro-turfing on social media.
What I found refreshing in Duterte is he was very clear in his campaign. He would go after corruption and crime. He spoke like a CEO. But power and arrogance go hand in hand. Without checks and balances, we’ve seen how power grow. Now, we’ve seen an inability to even take questions. Why exclude Pia Ranada from the press corps? Why? Does this little slip of a girl threaten?
President Duterte as a man, I find him an interesting interview. I am interested in the way leaders think. Normally, a leader will come in to unite a society, because probably he had the least number of votes because it was a field of five. So again, what happens to the rest? In 2016, there were 54 million voters. So how do we heal society? You can maintain power by pounding the fracture lines, making people hate. But this politics of hate cannot build a society and deal with the real problems of governance. That’s what I am looking for.
6. Boyet Loverita: Your award from Time being one of the 100 Influential Persons, do you think this is a victory on your part?
It’s hard to look at it like that. Let me look at it why I do what I do. I’m always known why I do what I do, right? I think this moment in time, I wish it wasn’t me. But Rappler came under attack, I almost felt that I spent my entire career to train for this moment. It’s not as if I went 20 years in CNN, I went to war zone training, and I know how to get my people in and out of difficult situations, I went through ABS CBN. My values and principles are very clear. I know what our role as journalists in society is.
When it was clear that it was coming at us and the cases were filed, I’m not a wilting violet. I’m not going to duck. I am not going to be silent. Silence, guys is consent. Silence is the enemy of democracy. So I always say, we shine the light. And if it is happening to me, I will tell you what is happening to me. So all I do is call a spade a spade.
Time was amazing because it gave a level of safety for me and for Rappler. They did not tell me I was one of the Guardians. I found out on Twitter at 6:30 at night. On the day that I posted bail 4 times in the morning. And then, we were trying to figure to what do we do, I saw it that night. I sent it to our social media head because I thought it was fake.
I think that we know that journalism is under attack globally. And the Mueller report shows you that the effort done by Russia in the United States. I am really grateful to international journalists who continue to shine the light on the Philippines. I think the Philippines matters because we are a democracy. And we are fighting to stay a democracy and we can win this battle. We are a cautionary tale for the US. If we don’t protect your rights, it can be taken away (just) like that.
7. Ledy Almadin: How do you keep objectivity in your reporting, given the way they treat you? I think Rappler needs to give information in an objective way. How do you balance that?
Maria: Thank for the question. I struggle with that all the time. First, objectivity does not exist. When I was in CNN, I used to say this. Don standing up has a very different of us than me sitting down looking at you. I replaced a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male who was so much taller than I was. I was Filipino American, which meant that reports coming from the Philippines, had my (Filipino) lenses. Our lenses were there.
I find that when people talk about bias and non-bias, it often shows there own bias. There is also context in reporting. I think that we have to replace the word objectivity with transparency. Be transparent. My guiding light right now, I call a spade a spade.
I am just a reporter. I am just a journalist. And the fact that so many state resources are being thrown at me, makes me truly wonder. What I am supposed to be truly finding? What makes the state so afraid to have real critical questions?
8. Ninotchka Rosca: What is the impact of media repression on Rappler, on the staff?
Maria: If you look at the attacks on media, it is an attack on business. We were not the first attacked. Philippine Daily Inquirer, the largest newspaper, was attacked and law suits were filed. Quietly, there was a sale made to someone friendly to the president. ABS-CBN was attacked. In November, Pres. Duterte said he won’t renew the franchise of ABS-CBN. What he says has a chilling effect. There is a Damocles sword hanging over you.
Rappler was the third to be attacked. But the difference with Rappler is, the single largest owner of Rappler are the journalists, not the businessmen. We made the choice, that come hell or high water, we made sure our business model evolved. So what we’ve done is have actually evolved our business model.
What happened was, advertisers were scared. We lost as much as 45% of monthly advertising revenues. But what we did, we involved a new business model that pushed up our revenues 200% versus revenues last year.
Second, we cut our budgets. We cut our spend. We wanted to raise the salaries of our people. The senior guys, we volunteered our salaries as much as 20 percent.
Crisis is opportunity, right? One of the most wonderful things that, I’m emotional. When I get tired. I look at what our reporters are doing. And what you see is for our young reporters, our team, the mission is most important. What you do matters. What you write matters. We live the mission. The mission is critical. The team is stronger than it’s ever been, because the mission is just so clear.
9. Lara Gregory: What is the best case scenario for the Philippines with the elections coming up?
Maria: We will end with a note of hope. Guns, goons, and gold won’t win. The elections are an individual battle for integrity. Each Filipino must fight back. That is my best case scenario. That Filipino values stand strong and we elect the government we deserve.
10. Luis Francia: I applaud your bravery in standing up to this madman. You were talking about the Catholic Church? What do you think it can do? What has it done?
Maria: We Filipino are very patient. Too patient at times. It took us a long time to reach 1986 (People Power). The Church plays a huge role. But I think what it has done is to step back. We don’t have a Cardinal Sin. No one has really demanded accountability.
The Church holds a lot of sway still. We are Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation. I think we need leadership. But it is not just the church. I think we need political leadership.
The people in the opposition have not galvanized the people in a meaningful way. Part of that is, there is a middle ground. They don’t want to lose the support or challenge Pres. Duterte. Maybe that is foolish. I think we are looking for leaders. This is the time to lead. This is the time to say it is wrong to kill without due process. You go from a nation ruled by law to a criminal state. That is not where we want to be. The Philippines is one of the first countries to sign the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I think our values as Filipinos, we need to go back to that. It is hard to say don’t be afraid. But the more we let that rule us, the more we let that create our reality.
(Photos by Troi Santos, Felix Manuel, Grace Labaguis, and Leani Auxilio. This article was first published at www.justcliqit.com)
We stand with Maria Ressa; We stand for press freedom
FAPCNY Statement on the Arrest of Rappler’s Maria Ressa
The Filipino American Press Club of New York strongly condemns the arrest of Filipino journalist Maria Ressa by members of the Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation on February 13.
Ressa, founder and CEO of the online publication Rappler, was charged with a cyber libel case for a story published in May 2012. Ressa was released upon posting bail and after spending a night in jail.
We view her arrest as nothing more than an attempt by the current Duterte administration to intimidate independent media that are critical of this government’s brutality, abuses and misinformation. We can cite at least two reasons why we believe that this arrest was merely an attempt by the Duterte government to silence Ressa and many other journalists who continue to speak truth to power.
First, the cybercrime law that was the basis of the libel charge against Ressa was enacted months after the supposed violation. The story in question was posted in May 2012. The law took effect four months later– in September of the same year. One does not have to be a lawyer to know that a person cannot be charged with a crime that was not yet in existence.
Second, Ressa and Rappler have been critical of the Duterte administration, especially its supposed War on Drugs. An estimated 27,000 Filipinos, mostly poor people, have fallen victim to these extrajudicial killings, according to the chairman of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights. By arresting Ressa, the Duterte government has demonstrated that it cannot and will not tolerate legitimate dissent and an independent press.
We believe that a free press is vital to the full functioning of democratic systems – it serves to keep the people informed by providing them with timely and accurate information and by exposing lies and misinformation. This is the way that the press can help the people make informed decisions and be better citizens and participants in society.
A critical press also serves as a counter-balance against those who wield economic and political power, and as a watchdog against abuse of power.
The Filipino American Press Club of New York stands with Maria Ressa and all our media colleagues in the Philippines in holding this President and his administration accountable to the people. We join fellow journalists all over the world in condemning this brazen effort by the Duterte government to shut down press freedom in the Philippines.
We call on freedom-loving Filipinos to stand side by side with beleaguered journalists in the Philippines who continue to hold the line in defending freedom of the press and expression.
The year 2018 began with feistiness and ended in gratitude
and hope. Looking back, the year of the dog in the Chinese calendar, went
through as a clearly dangerous one, but it was nevertheless met with grit and solidarity
The first engagement that the FAPCNY had gone into in
January 2018 was on giving out our official stand on the controversial case
against Manila-based Rappler and the revocation of its license to operate,
uneasy signs of press freedom being threatened. On January 16, 2018, we released our first
statement of solidarity (thumbs up to Noel Pangilinan who heads the committee
on public statements) for beleaguered media colleagues headed by international
journalist and Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.
A few weeks later, journalist Leilani Albano of Digital
Village in Los Angeles reached out to the press club where yours truly gave a15-minute
interview on the same issue.
In the deep of winter of 2018, the FAPCNY stood firm on the
profession of truth and in solidarity with beleaguered colleague Maria Ressa
As the political front had begun to heat up, the FAPCNY had worked in place its website fapcny.org and the privilege and press cards of its members. The privilege card meant an expansion of good will and support of FilAm entrepreneurs to the members of the press.
Conversations over Coffee
Stirring up community conversation was one of the deep and upbeat
things we did best. Chaired by Cristina DC Pastor, the FAPCNY Kapihan had done enlightening
media forums on human rights, freedom of information, and the like, tapping
local luminaries and engaging local leaders.
On January 22, our opening salvo for the Kapihan was on the
human rights situation in the Philippines with speakers Fr. Albert Alejo and Phelim
Kine of the Human Rights Watch. Titled How to Defend Human Rights in the
Philippines, the conversation revolved on human rights protection in the wake
of Pres. Duterte’s drug war.
A sequel forum was created on April 13 titled Implications
of the Philippines’ Withdrawal from the ICC with international lawyer Ruben
Carranza, Esq. as main speaker.
On May 17, we had the Kapihan on Freedom of Information Act
with Atty. Licelle Cobrador as speaker and one professional development session
on ‘how to lead your organization’ on June 22 with former FAPCNY president
In responding to the pressing issues of immigration,
especially deportations, the FAPCNY organized an immigration Kapihan on August
22 with Atty. Cristina Godinez and Bergenfield council president and lawyer
Arvin Amatorio as speakers. It was so far the longest forum this year because
of the immensity and complexity of US immigration concerns among Filipinos. That forum sent everyone thinking deeply, and
it could not have ended that night.
For 2019, immigration forums are in the offing.
Deep Ties with the Community
Members of the press club have always been immersed in community
activities of various Fil-Am organizations and the Philippine Consulate. This
is to eagerly highlight Philippine culture and arts in the Big Apple. Two new
big things happened in 2018, at least that’s closest to the FAPCNY.
It was heartwarming to have been treated specially by DOT
Attache Susan del Mundo in a FAPCNY-DOT get together on April 26 at the
Kalayaan Hall. That exquisite party themed to be ‘by the beach’ had established
the needed camaraderie and ease. As we journeyed throughout the year, major events
like the Filipino-American restaurant week (which got extended for one more
week due to popular demand), had never been so much fun.
The Explore Islands Philippines Exhibition on May 9 at the
Vanderbilt Hall of the Grand Central Station, another first, was given
enthusiastic support by individual members. A brainchild of Edwin Josue and
Jerry Sibal, it showcased the different islands of the Philippines with all
their natural magnificence.
Patikim: Our 7th Anniversary Party and the
On November 16, it was the press club’s turn to be glitzy.
In celebration of our 7th anniversary, we organized a cocktail party
called Patikim (or taste) to celebrate our presence in the community and to
steadfastly remember to uphold and protect press freedom.
Two major breakthroughs were celebrated in that party. One,
we had nine Fil-Am caterers and restauranteurs supplying our sumptuous array of
food and drinks for free! I could not believe it myself, how generous they have
all been. We only asked for one dish as a promotional platform, and they ended
up donating at least two.
The second breakthrough was the official launching and
awarding of winning essays of the first Fil-Am History Month Essay Writing
Contest. A campaign hatched in August, ran
in September and October, and awarded in November brought out the Ninja in all
of us at the Board. But we made it.
The most heartwarming realization is – yes, there are great
potential writers in our midst. Despite the short notice, we garnered 12 highly
reflective entries, 5 of which made it to the top.
Our screening panel was the entire Board, who were all
amazed by the eloquence of the participating millennials. Momar Visaya did the
official tallying, saving many of us who were pained at our lack of
In 2019, we may reinforce ourselves official tabulator, because
for sure, the entries would increase as we will campaign for entries at a much
A New Consul General
We welcomed a new Consul General in 2018 in the person of
Amb. Claro Cristobal. ConGen Claro is refreshing new leader for the Filipinos
in the East Coast. He is a deep, reflective conversationalist who also has a
disarming sense of humor.
In the midst of the growing political and social tension in
the community, ConGen Claro remains congenial and fair, giving everyone their
side of the story.
At the 2018 Philippine Independence Day Parade on June 5,
which saw the human rights rallyists as the biggest contingent, the good Consul
General calmly remarked: if we all could march together like this, then this is
democracy at its best.
2018 will end in two hours. The FAPCNY has continued to
cover events in the community that reflected the best and worst in us,
Filipinos in America. Hopefully our reportage, based on best effort truthiness and
ethics, would be our contribution to the community building through an
enlightened, informed decision-making of individuals.
When Maria Ressa won the Person of the Year by Time and another by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists late this year, I personally looked back and said to myself, persistence is key to protecting the truth. Solidarity makes us strong in the face of trolls and fakery.
Thank you, 2018, and looking forward to a 2019 of truth,
compassion, and good health of mind, body, and spirit to us all.
Editor’s Note: This essay written by 14-year-old Leouna Feih Hidalgo was an entry for the 1st Fil-Am History Month Essay Writing contest launched in October 2018 by the FilAm Press Club of New York.
Feih is currently on her first year at the Cardinal Spellman High School. She graduated from St. Raymond Middle School as a Class Valedictorian 2018. A well-traveled young leader (been to Europe, Asia, and the Philippines), Feih also has the makings of a visual artist.
There were always talents hidden in the shadows, the people who were taken over and hidden in history, these people are called Filipinos. I am a Filipino, except I am different.
I am a Filipino- American who has lived in America from birth to where I am now, and I am still partaking an ongoing journey being one.
Living in a neighborhood where the majority are Hispanic and Italian, there was a minority of Asians, specifically Filipinos. It did not bother me growing up, but there was always a curiosity of what it would be like to live in a Filipino community.
I was born with a lighter skin tone than what an average Filipino would look like, so I was always mistaken for being Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. Having knowledge of my own ethnicity at a young age, I explained to them that I am a Filipino and that we are made up of thousands of islands, off the southeastern coast of Asia.
Many people think being a Filipino- American means you are completely white-washed into the American culture, but that depends on how you were raised! I am the offspring of my parents who immigrated from the Philippines to America and I was able to experience a lot of Filipino things.
For example, I was able to learn a fair amount of Tagalog from watching TFC, experienced a boodle fight, and wore an alampay to special occasions.
I am honestly proud to be a Filipino- American because it represents the people who were born from immigrants that came from the Philippines. It also means to be a meaningful sign of being a proud pinoy, despite being apart of a minority.
I never felt ashamed to tell my friends what Filipino culture was like and how we are not that different from Hispanics! Tagalog has some form of Spanish incorporated into it, and many of our dishes are similar to Hispanic dishes.
It was never hard to fit into the majority, but there were times when people would make fun of me. In those cases, I would always laugh with them and say in my head, “Always be proud of what you are and how unique your own culture is.”
Saying this was always an important thing to me because it kept me from being ashamed of being a Filipino, and it helped me to not push aside my own culture in a majority’s culture.
Filipino- Americans are given an opportunity to make their future brighter for their parents. To me, that is an amazing goal to fulfill because it makes you strive for a better life that your parents gave you the opportunity for.
My parents are always telling me to work hard and how lucky I am to be in America, because I have so many things to look forward to.
Life as a Filipino- American shows the world that we can be big achievers, and we are making a statement living here!
We do not need publicity to show everyone what Filipinos are, rather, we are representing them all around the globe. I am proud to be a one of the many Filipinos around the world. I am proud to be the child of my parents who immigrated here. Most importantly, I am proud to be PINOY!
Luis Francia: Solidarity is Key to Keep Press Freedom Alive
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – A celebrated Filipino literature and history professor, writer, and poet emphasized the need for solidarity among journalists and writers with the mounting challenges on press freedom in this digital age.
Luis Francia, professor at Hunter College and author of History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos, said that this solidarity “born of our unwavering dedication to the principle of universal free speech to ensure the continued existence of a free press.”
Francia was the special guest invited to speak on press freedom as the hallmark of democracy during the 7th Anniversary of the Fil-Am Press Club of New York on November 16, 2018. “I am honored to be part of this gathering, to celebrate the profession of and freedom to practice journalism. We have every right to be proud of what we do, for without a free press, there can be no democracy, which is why there have always been attempts to erode this freedom.”
Attacks on press freedom here and abroad
In his substantial and brave speech, delivered before at least 100 guests at the Philippine Center on 5th Avenue, Francia cited several incidents on the dangers of exercising free speech in the journalistic field.
The premeditated murder and dismemberment of Jamal Kashoggi, a columnist of Washington Post and citizen of Saudi Arabia at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, was one recent example cited by Francia. “Kashoggi’s assassination was shocking because of where it happened, in an official establishment that is supposed to look after the interest of its citizens, not harm them.”
Francia also mentioned the revocation of the press credentials of CNN’s Jim Acosta as another press assault by the White House “on clearly unconstitutional grounds.” He criticized Pres. Trump’s continued labeling of the free press as the “enemy of the people” and as disseminators of fake news while at the same time “spewing falsehoods almost every day.”
“Clearly a truly free press wields tremendous power by the simple but courageous act of speaking truth to power, giving credence to the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword, even when those who practice journalism are put to the sword.”
Quo vadis, Philippine press?
Francia noted that Philippine journalists, under the 22-month-old presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, experienced the rise of online harassment made by bloggers and social media pages who were involved in the electoral campaign and until his presidency.
Quoting from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines, Francia said that these harassments were perpetuated mostly by Duterte supporters. “When he won the presidency, these same bloggers and pages continued to function as disseminators of his every word and even of false information. This they do while demonizing, along with the political opposition, his critics, dissenters, including journalists doing their mandated duty of reporting the truth.”
“I personally can attest to these threats of violence,” said Francia in his speech. “Every time I write my online column in the Inquirer that is critical of Duterte’s policies, inevitably Duterte trolls, or Dutards, respond with vitriol and sometimes the promise of physical harm.”
Beyond verbal attacks, Francia mentioned that Duterte has also threatened media institutions like the ABS-CBN and The Inquirer. The Philippine president was quoted as saying, “he is open to not renewing ABS-CBN’s broadcast license.” He also had been critical of the Inquirer owners, forcing their eviction from the property leased from the government.
Additionally, Francia cited the case of Rappler which the Securities and Exchange Commission had ordered the revocation of its license to operate in January this year. Currently, publisher Maria Ressa is facing tax evasion charges.
Media organizations like the CFMR, PCIJ, NUJP, and the Philippine Press Institute, there had been nine murders, 16 libel cases, 14 cases of online harassments, 11 death threats, 6 slay attempts, 6 cases of harassments, 5 cases of intimidation, 4 cases of website attacks, revoked registration or denied franchise renewal, verbal abuse, strafing, and police surveillance of journalists and media agencies, said Francia.
Freest in Asia
The Philippines once had the freest press in Asia, quipped Francia, which helped topple the Marcoses and impeached President Estrada. With the advent of digital technology, he said that the need to protect press freedom continues more than ever. “We should be cognizant of the larger picture. If free speech is denied one group, then what guarantee is there that the denial will not be extended to other sectors as well? Only through solidarity can we as journalists and writers ensure the continued existence of a free press.”
Now an American citizen, but still with a heart of a Pinoy
An essay by Herman Marq P. Lungayan
(The writer is an 11-year-old who is turning 12 this coming November 30 and the 5th placer of the 1st FilAm History Month Essay contest conducted by the FAPCNY. He goes to school at IS141Q The Steinway School and lives in Astoria, New York. He was the youngest of all contestants who wrote about what it means to be Fil-Am. FAPCNY announced the winners on November 16, 2018 during its 7th anniversary Patikim party.)
What does it take to be a Filipino-American? In a search for greener pasture and a secured future, my Tatay decided to leave his permanent job and all its perks behind, and move to the United States of America as an immigrant only carrying a bag of clothes and me as a child.
Throwback, 12 years ago, I was born on November 30th in Cebu City, Philippines, from a simple family, my Tatay was a policeman and my Mama was a news reporter. We lived in a good neighborhood, where everybody knows everyone, and everybody helped one another on everyday activities. I was having so much fun as a child, playing with other/ neighbor’s children and enjoying our childhood then. One day, I was told that we were going to America.
I didn’t know how to respond, knowing that it meant leaving my mother and my friends, but also, it meant a new beginning. On the other hand, I could finally go somewhere else other than my country and experience winter season and enjoy the snow. Then the day came when I was leaving, with many tearful goodbyes to family and friends, I hopped in a Korean Airlines plane and went on a 24-hour ride to America and arrived on November 19, 2011.
I met my new relatives whom I have never seen before(my two lolas, my tito’s, tita’s and cousins.) I played with my cousins and we got along pretty well. Little did I know, I was going to Kindergarten in two days. Here, I had a hard time being myself since I wasn’t used to doing tons of art and play time. I was used to the hard, “pay attention and write everything down,” style in the Philippines. School time here is from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM compared to a whole day period then. As days passed by, I made new friends to help me out, but most of the fun I had was playing with my cousins at home. You know what, you didn’t read this for my life story. You read this to know what it means to be a Flipino-American.
Being a Fil-Am means to be someone who has a mixed Pinoy and American traits. I am now an American Citizen but still with the heart of a Pinoy. , I still hold on to my native tongue (Bisaya and Tagalog) and speak English at the same time. Furthermore, I studied and learned American culture and history yet, I still can recall some story of Filipino heroes that were taught in my old school. And yes, I still practice our Filipino values like respecting our elders answering them with “po” and “opo”, and kissing their hands. Over here, we are thought to observe and respect diverse culture, religions, customs, and practices since America is an immigrant country. I really enjoy the snow in the winter here, but I still missed the beautiful beaches and waterfalls during the summer in the Philippines. Compared here in America, we go apple picking on a farm and swimming in an indoor pool in Atlantic City, NJ. Furthermore, even though I now eat a lot of “American food” (burgers, fries, etc.), I still visit Woodside to eat Jollibee, Inasal and a ton of other meals.
There are some things I don’t like about other people’s reactions to Filipino foods. For instance, I brought Filipino-made corned beef to school once and my classmates were like, “Eww, it stinks! Hurry up so we don’t have to smell it,” and whatnot. Because of this, I stopped bringing food to school and just eat regular “American” food instead.
I don’t really like what they are saying about it since it hurts saying that Filipino food is bad, it’s just that they never tried it before. Furthermore, when I bring “American food” for lunch in the Philippines, they think it’s normal. That may be because they actually tried it. With so many adjustments to adapt to the American way of life, little by little, I was being transformed into a growing-up Fil-Am, in the way I speak mimicking their accent and interacting with people, my daily diet of pizza, burger, and fries and my everyday routine of fast pace, subways and buses.
For now, I am the only Filipino in my grade who is a member of the National Junior Honors Society, a national organization that recognizes outstanding middle-school students.
In the future, I intend to fulfill my childhood dream of being a successful FilAm doctor, to share whatever expertise, knowledge, and blessings that I may have to by way of leading a medical mission to serve my beloved country of origin, the Philippines. To this extent, I will do my best in order to do what’s best for them.
FAPCNY at 7: Great Food, Winning Essayists, Vow to Protect Press Freedom
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – Subscribing to a glitzy dress code, the cocktail party Patikim (taste) marked the 7th year of FAPCNY, where more than a hundred guests came dressing up like ‘Just crazy but not that rich Asians’ at the Philippine Center lobby on November 16, 2018.
It was a fun Friday night with great food, glitzy guests, winning essayists, and the vow to continue protecting press freedom, a day after the city was battered by a freaky autumnal snowstorm.
The up-dressing was meant to perk up an otherwise heavy theme of press freedom as a cornerstone of democracy, ably tackled by guests Consul General Claro Cristobal and Prof. Luis Francia. Cristobal, who was installed as Consul General just this summer, emphasized the need to protect press freedom for the pursuit of truth. Francia, a Hunter College professor and Philippine historian/novelist, did an indepth, outstanding speech on the state of media in the Philippines and the US. He emphasized the importance of press freedom for the people’s right to know.
Broadway singer Cutuy Herrero and newly discovered talent Carla Angeline perked up the party along with the music of DJ Ernie and Marilou Bugarin. Patikim was the first community party fully supported by nine Filipino entrepreneurs with their popular signature dishes.
FAPCNY had sought for only one dish from each restaurant, but most of them ended up donating more than one dish. The cocktail party turned out to be a gastronomic feast, thanks to Carol Restaurant, Victory Chicken, Ugly Kitchen, Herb-a-Base, Mountain Province, Elena’s Kitchen, Flipeats, Popsie’s and Kabisera Kape. Herb-a-Base’s goat cheese wrap was to die for, Kabisera Kape’s ube cupcake was swooped so fast, Carol’s Restaurant’s meatballs were heavenly, and the potota gratin of Flipeats was a delightful surprise.
Seeing that the media party was a platform for business and goodwill, the nine caterers were on board early on. The good Consul General Cristobal approached me at the party and asked, really they all agreed to donate? I replied on the affirmative, we promised to pay for delivery cost and media mileage, ConGen.
I whispered to VP Cristina DC Pastor about how the ConGen was amazed at the generosity of the nine restaurants, and she replied, “Now the ConGen knows you’re a hustler.” And we burst laughing.
The party raged on through the cold night and the brand of cool under pressure is evident in party committee chaired by Lindy Rosales with teammates Grace Hufano Labaguis and Cristina DC Pastor. And it went well with Muriel GI, editor of Pinas USA, and Felix Manuel queen of queens of Philippine Star who were at the registration table. Notable fundraiser Myrna De Guia-Gutierrez raised money from raffle tickets more than enough to pay for our space rent!
The most inspiring thing at the party was the emergence of 12 budding writers in the community who participated in the 1st FilAm History Month Essay Writing Contest. Project chair Pastor said that it came as a surprise that on the last two days of the one-month campaign, the entries reached a dozen.
The FAPCNY Board had picked up the top five essayists to be awarded: Marq Lungayan, the youngest of the contestants was fifth, trailing Shea Formanes, Carlos Ceballos, Jeanne Jalandoni, and Jessica Jacolbe, the first champion. The winners received trophies and medals and cash prizes courtesy of Atty. Lara Gregory ($200), Fernando Mendez ($300), Atty. Loida Nicolas Lewis ($500), and Qudos for the 4th and 5th prizes.
Fifth placer Lungayan, the youngest among the contestants, said he was happy to have made it to the top 5 and plans to join again next year. Derick Hidalgo, who received the certificate of appreciation on behalf of his daughter Feih, said the essay writing contest was a great opportunity for his daughter to share her thoughts as a Filipino-American. “I think next year, the essay writing contest should grow much bigger,” he made an encouraging note.
FAPCNY intends to make the essay writing contest, a brain child of Pastor, an October tradition.
Toward the end of the night, the FAPCNY Board chose the most fabulously dressed guests who were given prize tickets to a jazz concert of Dr. Kevin at the Sheraton Flushing. Glamour couple Fernando Mendez and Laura Garcia was the popular pick among journos.
Great supporter Philippine Airlines raffled out a free round-trip ticket from JFK to Manila which the jetsetter Melissa Alviar had won. Her reaction was an electrifying way to bring the party to a close. “I have never flown on PAL. I won, I won. Excited to go home soon,” she roared.
New York – Expect the 7th anniversary of the Fil-Am Press Club of New York (FAPCNY) to be fun, stylish and substantive in a community party on November 16, 2018 Friday at six in the evening.
The press club is now seven years old, and we are committed to continue our vibrant community press coverage in the East Coast. The “Patikim” (or taste in Pilipino) cocktail party will be in solidarity with friends and guests, including the Consul General Claro Cristobal and better half Ms. Marilou Cristobal, at the Grand Lobby of the Philippine Center on 556 5th Avenue, NYC 10036.
“Patikim” will be definitely substantive. To deliver the special message on press freedom and responsibility as the cornerstone of democracy, we have Consul General Claro Cristobal and a special media personality as well.
We will have elegant, vibrant music by DJ Ernie Bugarin and a special sultry singer.
For a donation of $40 per ticket, you will definitely taste delectable cocktail provided by our generous sponsors Popsie’s, Mountain Province, Grace Carol Restaurant, Kabisera Kape, Ugly Kitchen, Flipeats, Herb-a-Base, Victory Chicken, and Elena’s Kitchen. So please, come and join us in this media-community solidarity party.
The Fil-Am Press Club of New York has a new Board Secretary and a Board member. Grace Labaguis, a pioneering member and marketing director of Synergy Production and Marketing Inc. and press club member and writer for The FilAm.net Lindy Rosales have been conferred by the Board as Secretary and Board Member, respectively, on June 26, 2018.
Congratulations! With the two women leaders, the FAPCNY is sure to reach greater heights in community journalism and public information.