Luis Francia: Solidarity is Key to Keep Press Freedom Alive

Luis Francia: Solidarity is Key to Keep Press Freedom Alive

By Marivir R. Montebon

FAPCNY President


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

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

FAPCNY at 7: Great Food, Winning Essayists, Vow to Protect Press Freedom

By Marivir R. Montebon

FAPCNY President


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.

FAPCNY President Marivir Montebon welcomes guests: Journalists try to conquer fear with truth. We are bound to tell or write the truth.
Prof. Luis Francia

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.

Lindy Rosales, Consul General Claro Cristobal, Loida Nicolas Lewis, Cristina DC Pastor, and Grace Labaguis.

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.

Enjoying great food: Dulce Barangan, Ann Beck, and Juliet Payabyab

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.

Essay champ Jessica Jacolbe with Lindy Rosales, party chair (right), party host Rachelle Ocampo and Pres. Marivir Montebon (left).

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.

Project chair VP Cristina DC Pastor with some of the essayists (l-r): Marq Lungayan, Jeanne Jalandoni, Jessica Jacolbe, Derick Hidalgo (on behalf of daughter Feih), Carlo Ceballos, and Shea Formanes.

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.

3rd placer Carlo Ceballos receives trophy and cash award from Atty. Lara Gregory

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.

Most fabulously dressed couple: Fernando Mendez and Laura Garcia
Don Tagala in tuxedo
Undisputed glam: Felix Manuel, queen of queens.
Most coveted prize goes to Melissa Alviar: PAL round trip ticket JCK-Mla-JFK.

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.




FAPCNY Celebrates 7th Year in a Just-Crazy-Not-So-Rich Asians Cocktail Party

By Marivir R. Montebon





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.


It will be fun and stylish through its dress code ‘just Crazy but-not-so Rich Asians.’ We will all wear our fabulous best, just to balance off the seriousness of our responsibilities as journalists.  The event also aims to raise funds for the club’s programs. (To attend our party, please go to Eventbrite


“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.


During the party, FAPCNY will award the winners of the 1st FilAm History Month Essay Writing Contest with cash prizes and trophies. We are still open to entries for “What it means to be Fil-Am.” (Email entries to; Read details at


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.

Grace Labaguis, new Board Secretary; Lindy Rosales, new Board Member

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 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.

Makilala TV Turns Five! Congratulations!

We are happy and proud of our FAPCNY colleagues whose cable TV show Makilala (Get to know in Pilipino) turned five years old this year. Congratulations to co-hosts and producers Jen Furer, Rachelle Peraz Ocampo, and FAPCNY vice president Cristina Pastor for this engaging, fun, and insightful show.


It is produced at the Manhattan Neighborhood Network (MNN) and airs every other Thursday on MNN, BronxNet, and QPTV.


A gratitude party was held at the MNN on June 9, 2018 which was participated by select guests. In photo with Rachelle, Jen, and Cristina (right-most) is Zenaida Mendez (second from left), the director for MNN El Barrio Community Center.  Cheers for the next five years and beyond!

Lindy Rosales Gets Health Reporting Fellows

Congratulations to FAPCNY’s Lindy Rosales for being chosen one of the Health Reporting Fellows for Spring 2018 of the Center for Community and Ethnic Media, a unit of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Lindy is a freelance reporter and occasionally writes for The FilAm magazine. As a fellow, she will be developing story ideas and writing about them, which is a good fit because Lindy is also a registered nurse. Congrats from all of us in the press club!

Don Tagala Bags His 11th Telly Award

Don Tagala Bags His 11th Telly Award


Congratulations to our very own Don Tagala of ABS-CBN TFC and membership committee chair of FAPCNY for having won the 2018 Bronze Award in the 39th Annual Telly Awards on May 25, 2018.

Don won the General-Food and Beverage for online category for the story: Pinay Top Chef Frances Tariga Cooks for Prestigious James Beard House. This was aired on August 2, 2017 and is his 11th award from The Telly.

The Telly Awards is the premier award honoring video and television across all screens. Established in 1979, The Telly Awards receives over 12,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents. Entrants are judged by The Telly Awards Judging Council—an industry body of over 200 leading experts including advertising agencies, production companies, and major television networks, reflective of the multiscreen industry The Telly Awards celebrates. Partners of The Telly Awards include NAB, StudioDaily, Stash Magazine, and Digiday.



FAPCNY elects new set of officers for 2018-2019

FAPCNY elects new set of officers for 2018-2019

 By Tambi Wycoco


NEW YORK (iiNNS) — The Filipino American Press Club of New York (FAPCNY) recently voted digital magazine editor Marivir Montebon President of of the six-year-old organization.
Also elected along with Montebon, editor of OSM magazine, are Cristina Pastor, Vice President; Tambi Wycoco, Secretary; and Momar Visaya, Treasurer. Voted to serve as members of the Board of Directors were Grace Labaguis, Noel Pangilinan, Lambert Parong, and Don Tagala. Immediate Past President Ricky Rillera is also a member of the board as stipulated in the FAPCNY bylaws.

The FAPCNY is a community of reporters, editors, photographers, bloggers and marketing/advertising executives. It was formed in 2011 recognizing a need for producers of news to organize themselves and professionalize their ranks. One of its flagship projects is the Journalism Scholarship Program for high school seniors entering Journalism.

Newly-elected President Montebon began as a campus journalist in her alma mater, the University of San Carlos (USC) in Cebu, Philippines. She has a degree in Psychology from USC in 1988 and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree Program in Not-for-profits at the Unification Theological Seminary in Manhattan. In 2012, she received a Woman in Media Award from the Pan-American Concerned Citizens League of New York and New Jersey. She has published five books, two in Cebu and three in New York City. The latest, “In the Belly of the Beast,” about human trafficking, is published by the University of San Carlos Press.

Pastor, who was elected Vice President, is the founding editor of the online news magazine The FilAm. She is also a co-founder and co-host of Makilala TV, the first online talk show for Filipino Americans in the New York Metropolitan Area.

The members of the board are:

Grace Labaguis is a Marketing Consultant for GMA International, as well as Marketing Director for Synergy Production & Marketing, Inc.

Noel Pangilinan is the Editor of Open City Magazine, a publication of the Asian American Writer’s Workshop. He is an adjunct faculty at the College of Mount Saint Vincent, teaching Filipino language and Philippine history courses.

Lambert Parong is a freelance photographer. He established Kababayan Media Corp., a NYC-based multimedia start-up. It highlights news and events affecting the Filipino community in Metro New York.

Don Tagala is the award-winning video journalist of ABS-CBN North America’s “Balitang America.”

Momar Visaya is the Editor in Chief of Asian Journal. He is also a food blogger.

Ricky Rillera is the Executive Editor for USA of the Philippine Daily Mirror and was the immediate past president of the Press Club.

(Tambi Wycoco is the Editor of IINS news service and the FAPCNY secretary.)