The Filipino-American Press Club of New York (FAPCNY), together with other organizations committed to freedom of speech and the press, stand in solidarity with the journalists and employees of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. and ABS-CBN International’s The Filipino Channel.

As a community of working Fil-Am journalists and communication professionals in the New York Tri-State, FAPCNY is calling on the Philippine Government to respect the role of a free press in creating a sustainable democracy and prosperous society.  We urge Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his political allies to renew the franchise of ABS-CBN, for no other reason other than, it’s the right thing to do.

Over the years, ABS-CBN’s News has played an important role in bringing news to Filipinos around the world, empowering them to make informed decisions. This must continue.

ABS-CBN News has given voice to Filipinos by enabling conversations on relevant issues, holding those in power to account. This must continue.

ABS-CBN’S entertainment programs on the other hand, continue to provide Filipinos around the world an emotional connection to their homeland. This must continue.

Through the years, the network has also been an avid supporter and promoter of homegrown Filipino talent; providing platforms such as talent shows celebrating our countrymen’s love for music, and for creating original Filipino music. This must continue.

While it is not a perfect organization, ABS-CBN has assured the public that it will strive to maintain the highest level of integrity in the conduct of its work. We believe them.  And we also believe shutting down the network for its perceived imperfections is not the ultimate solution.

An attack on ABS-CBN is an assault on all of us who believe in freedom and democracy.

It is also an attack on history – ABS-CBN brought Television to the Philippines at a time when the only other country that had the capability to broadcast entertainment and news in Asia was Japan. 

Filipinos across the globe, including those of us in America, are enjoying news and entertainment because of ABS-CBN’s 65 years of service to the Filipino. 

We are calling on the Philippine Congress and the Philippine President to allow ABS-CBN to continue their service to the Filipino people wherever they may be. 

Winston Churchill once said, “A free press is the unsleeping guardian of every other right that free men prize; it is the most dangerous foe of any tyranny.”

We the People,

The working journalists and media professionals of

The Fil-Am Press Club of New York

 Disclosure: FAPCNY is a press club whose members are comprised of community media professionals and is currently headed by Don Tagala as President and Chairman of the Board. He is a multi-awarded video journalist employed by ABS-CBN International’s North America News Bureau.

Consul General Cristobal holds ConGen Hour with FAPCNY

Consul General Cristobal holds ConGen Hour with FAPCNY; Calls on FilAms to Participate in Census 2020

New York – Consul General Claro S. Cristobal met with the members of the Filipino-American Press Club of New York (FAPCNY) during the ConGen’s Media Hour at the Philippine Center on September 12, 2019.

Cristobal said that Filipinos should participate in the Census for it is a tool that ensures equal opportunity and protection, Federal affirmative action plans and funding, and a way to understand the demographic changes of a locality.

“The idea is to make our impact better known to society, to attend to our basic needs, raise our profile, and family welfare through the Census. We in the Philippine government need a solid ground as to the real numbers of Filipinos here,” he told members of the FAPCNY.

Consul General Cristobal listens to a question raised by FAPCNY President Marivir Montebon. Also in photo: FAPCNY treasurer Momar Visaya, editor of the Asian Journal.

Cristobal explained that if Filipinos wanted to make waves in the American political arena or their voices heard in policy advocacy, they should start with responding to the Census. “Political leaders would know if we are a force to give attention to if the Census shows the numbers,” Cristobal said. Federal and state funding for socio-economic programs are also dependent on the Census, he added. 

The 2010 Census roughly estimated Filipinos in the US to be 4 million, with an estimated 360,000 Filipinos in the East Coast.  In Queens neighborhoods, program undercuts were particularly high in immigrant populations, such as East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, because of non-participation of residents during the 2010 Census.

Members of the Pres Club with Consul General Claro Cristobal

The inclusion of the citizenship question in the upcoming Census has already created a cautious attitude among Filipinos here in participating in the population count. Of late, the Supreme Court has struck out the question on citizenship from the questionnaire. 

During the ConGen Hour, Consul General Cristobal also shared his experiences in connecting with the Filipino communities in Egypt where he served as the Philippine Ambassador and in Hong Kong and Tokyo where he was Consul General. He entertained questions raised by the media on various topics like the usual problems of Filipinos overseas and how he assesses the Filipino community in the US East Coast, his most rewarding post.

The members of the FAPCNY thanked Consul General Cristobal for his time and the information he shared during the meeting. (From the press release of the Philippine Consulate General New York and an article of OSM! Online Magazine; Photo by Lambert Parong)

FAPCNY Prez gets honor citation by Queens Borough Pres Katz

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.

L-R: Sharon Lee, deputy president of the Queens Borough Assembly, with the honorees, Consul General Claro Cristobal (middle), Atty. Lara Gregory, Potri Ranka Manis, Aida Bartolome, and members of the KOR New York.

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.

Maria Ressa: Silence is the enemy of democracy

Maria Ressa: Silence is the enemy of democracy

By Marivir R. Montebon

“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.”

Ressa with members of the FAPCNY: Fernando Mendez, Vanette Colmenares, Ricky Rillera, Marivir Montebon, Lumen Castaneda, Grace Labaguis, Rachelle Ocampo. At the back: Don Tagala, Felix Manuel, Lambert Parong, Boyet Loverita. Not in photo: Noel Pangilinan and Leani Auxilio

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?

Ressa with FilAm leaders and journalists

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

2018: A Year of Persistence and Many Firsts

2018: A Year of Persistence and Many Firsts

By Marivir R. Montebon

President, FAPCNY

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 among journalists.

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 early on.

As the political front had begun to heat up, the FAPCNY had worked in place its website 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 Ricky Rillera.

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 Winning Essays

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 mathematical prowess.

In 2019, we may reinforce ourselves official tabulator, because for sure, the entries would increase as we will campaign for entries at a much earlier time.

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.

Year-end Reflections

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.

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.