"In societies where Robbing Hoods are treated like a celebrity it is but natural to expect political parties to act like a Mafia syndicate" Political Jaywalker "In a nation where corruption is endemic people tend to confuse due process with aiding and abetting criminals" Political Jaywalker "War doesn't determine who is right, war determines who is left" Bertrand Russell "You have just one flash flood of money, you keep your people poor. It's like a time bomb and it's scary" Philippine Lawmaker

Filipinos far and near pay homage to the Child Jesus

Performers dance the Sinulog in the presence of Santo Nino images at the St. Pious V Church in Buena Park, left, and at another event in San Bernardino. (Photos by Dionesio Grava and Gus Mayol)

The feast of the Holy Child originates as a religious observance said to be rooted in history. In the place where it was conceived, Cebu City, the event has since radiated from being strictly an act of faith and into the temporal realm of merrymaking, cultural presentations, and Sinulog dance competitions. Among conservatives, the parade portion of the feast as now practiced in that city has drawn criticisms for its having departed from the original goal of faith and veneration towards the Santo Nino. Instead, the festive occasion has attained a circus-like atmosphere and has become a big draw for hordes of tourists and balikbayans to the homeland.

Most of these festivities are held in January and the Cebu celebration sees faith and a generous dash of commercialism collide resulting to a kind of Mardi gras that lasts for most of the waking hours and clogs the major arteries of the city. This kind of festive frenzy is also evident in other regions of the country such as in Iloilo's Dinagyang Festival and Aklan's Ati-Atihan.

In places far away from the homeland, devotees of the Santo Nino continue to do homage to their patron. Several associations dedicated to the Holy Child exist in parts where many Filipinos reside. The celebrations usually include prayer sessions (novenas), the Holy Mass, the pageantry of Sinulog, entertainment events and sumptuous feasts. It is also the practice to display images of the Holy Child in various types and sizes during these celebrations.

The Santo Niño Association of Southern California, Inc. had its annual fiesta of the Holy Child at the Ayres Hall of the L.A. Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Arcadia. They used to hold it at the St. Cornelius Church in W. Wardlow Ave., Long Beach. The January 9 event started with the rosary and novena followed by a Holy Mass and a procession around the Ayres Hall Building. By that time it was noon and lunch was served. Soon after there was a program with outgoing president Oscar Ramirez delivering the opening remarks and incoming president Juliet Russell closing it. There was also a raffle of prizes and the usual dance, dance, dance.

Over in Buena Park, Orange County, the St. Pious V Church was filled to capacity on January 16 with Sto. Nino devotees in terno ang Barong Tagalog and finery as they attended a Holy Mass and participated in a procession. Performers in colorful costumes danced the Sinulog – a dance movement approximating the river current accompanied by the beating of drums and shouts of "Pit Senor!" That is intended to please the Child Jesus, the legend says. As usual many brought images of Him; they also brought food items for sharing during a potluck lunch. Oddly the organization has existed for 15 years without any designated or elected officers.

That same day the Batangas City Santo Nino Devotees had its 17th Annual Santo Niño Fiesta at the Santo Christopher Catholic Church located in Glendora Avenue, West Covina. As usual it was ushered in with a Holy Mass followed by a procession of Santo Nino images. Activities included the proclamation of Little Princes and coronation of Little Princesses, food, games, raffle and dancing until nighttime. This group used to hold its event at the St. Linus Catholic Church in Norwalk.

Other Santo Nino organizations that usually celebrate His feast day at this time of year include the predominantly Cebuano group in Culver City. Then there's the Glendale-based Cruzada de Santo
Niño-USA, which usually hold an Ati-Atihan-themed procession of the Holy Child in the vicinity of the Incarnation Church; the Tacloban Santo Nino devotees; the Society of Santo Nino of America; the Santo Nino group at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church located in Tujunga Canyon Boulevard in Tujunga; and that of the Philippine Independent Catholic Church based at the St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Sherman Way, City of Van Nuys.

Farther away from Los Angeles area is the yearly feast of the Holy Child at the Saint Anne Catholic Church in Union City; the one at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Rancho Cucamonga, which is attended also by non-Filipino Catholics such as Vietnamese, Mexicans & Caucasians; the nine-day novena for the Santo Niño de Cebu at the local Catholic Church in Hayward; the Santo Nino fiesta at the St. Michael's Abbey in Lake Forest; the Santo Nino celebration by the Bullecir clan of Oxnard at the Mary Star of the Sea Church in that city; and the Sto. Nino de Cebu Association International at the St. Dominic's Catholic Church in San Francisco. And Gus and Joy Mayol, originally from Cebu, sent photos taken during a Sinulog event last January 16 hosted by a Santo Nino group in San Bernardino.

A press release from the Washington Embassy mentions that members of the Filipino community in Chesapeake, Virginia celebrated their 13th Sto. Nino and Ati-Atihan Festival last January 9. Addi Batica of Minnesota reported that their community, too, celebrated the feast of the Child Jesus. It was indoor, he said, because it's cold at this time in their place. They would have preferred to hold it in summer so that they could incorporate a fluvial parade in the nearby Mississippi River. Then we also came across an item about a statue of the Santo Nino de Cebu enshrined at Olde St. Augustine's Church in Philadelphia and a Sinulog held in Ft. Lauderdale by the Sto. Nino Sinulog Association of South Florida, Inc.

NOTE: This item also published in the Pinoy News

Dionesio C. Grava - Part-time community journalist based in Los Angeles and editorial writer at Forum Asia.

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Comelec Disrespect Cost Eli Pamatong Jail Time

Mga Magnanakaw Kayo! (You are all thieves!) Shouts Eli Pamatong after walking out in protest at the Comelec 2nd division hearing which he says he does not trust and respect.

Magnanakaw (thief) seems to be the in word these days after Noynoy Aquino declares hindi ako magnanakaw (I will not steal) if he gets elected as the next president. Ok, just because the poll leader uses that term it does not follow that it applies to all especially the 3 stooges’ errr the Comelec 2nd division commissioners. No, I am not saying I disagree with Eli Pamatong when it comes to his disgust and lack of trust and respect for the body but I should say that magnanakaw is not the proper term. For one if it is true that they are on the take as Eli says they are, then technically that is not stealing but a graver offense of corruption and subverting the electoral process and peoples will. The one who steal are the candidate who cheats their rivals through connivance with back door operators and other nefarious activities robbing the people of proper representation.
Instead of shouting magnanakaw Eli should have uttered you are on the take and unfit to cheat errr seat on the Comelec ruling body. For that Pamatong has to spend ten days at the Manila City Jail. But what if his accusations were proven to be true should the 3 Stooges’ then spend time in jail instead of Eli Pamatong? The problem is that the NBI the investigative agency that should look into these matters are busy chasing the boob leaking mole and running after road rage suspect Jason Ivler when it should have been handled by the police agencies. No wonder there is the culture of impunity and arrogance every time they come up with questionable rulings even daring people to sue them knowing no one is investigating or gathering evidence against them.

The Comelec commissioners are supposed to be the experts in election related matters and yet they come up with rulings copy pasting what they surfed on the net (disqualification ruling on Ang Ladlad) or using of all things documents submitted by lawyers of petitioners in thousand of pages with duplicating pages while giving the respondents limited time to response in the case to unseat duly elected Governor Grace Padaca. Now why are these numb nuts not getting investigated for such rulings or is it the SOP that no one sees the anomalous conduct anymore?

Amazing as it is but it seems that it is this exclusive mindset that seems to guide these commissioners when they say that Pamatong has no right to lodge a disqualification complaint, he being not a candidate for the position. Perhaps, Pamatong being a self-proclaimed defender of America is not paying taxes but is it not the right of every citizen to lodge a complaint? As I was watching TV Patrol one of the commissioners was even saying irrelevant babbling on punching one in the face when one is called a thief. He was so proud that he sent Pamatong to Jail instead of getting physical but come on stop putting on a brave front. We all know that Pamatong can do a Pacquiao on you guys if you go physical on him.

Sovereignty emanates from the people says Asiong errr Erap Estrada, as if he understood what it really meant. This is what he was mumbling after the 2nd division ruled allowing him to run for president even though it was clearly unconstitutional. What is so ridiculous is that the 3 stooges’ citing the SC that it is up to the people to decide is as stupid as it gets. Erap has been convicted, no ifs no buts about it but thanks and no thanks to Lady Garci y de Le Cirque he was given an absolute pardon. Meaning he can run for elective position but it does not mean he can run for the presidency because that is barred by the constitution. Ok, let us say that we agree to let the people decide, they should then present all the evidence and arguments in the Supreme Court and the Comelec 2nd division so that the people can make a ruling based on hard evidence and facts not on a circus freak side show entertainment. While sovereignty emanates from the people they are not lawyers or competent enough to discern legalities which is what the ruling wants to happen. Assuming further that their ruling is legal do we send Erap back to jail if he loses which is clearly where it is going? Erap will probably want to disapear at the rate things are going not in his direction as Rina Jimenez-David noted was a reality check for him:
A former confidante of former President Joseph Estrada told me some time ago that he bets Erap wishes that the Supreme Court would rule in favor of those seeking his disqualification from the presidential race. The reason? Estrada probably fears that he would be “embarrassed” by his showing in this year’s elections, where polls show him trailing the leaders.
If the Estrada loses then it means that they have repudiated the Comelec and the SC's decision, therefore they should resign from their positions of power because the people knows best, lol. Precisely why they are there for their expertise in their field of profession but if they cannot decide and leave the decision to the masses of voters who knows squat about the legalities then are they saying that they are unfit for the job?

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(sung to the tune of Frank Sinatra's My Way)

And now, 2010 is here; I have no face , the nation's hurting;
Pinoys, I say it clear, have a legal case: I'm a moral cretin!
I've lived a lie (that's true!) and gained from deeals from every highway!
Oh yes! I stole you blind - AND DID IT MY WAY!!!

Oh there were times, I'm sure you knew
Pidal grabbed more than we can ever chew:
ZTE for one, had lots of doubts
"hamberjer" out and filled some mouths, the record shows....

NO IT'S NOT MY FAULT!! Congress did it! MY WAY!

Secrets, I've had a few: two leaky boobs of false dimension,
I did what I had to do - Mike saw it through without exception.
To think, I did all that and may I say, NOT IN A SHY WAY,
OH YES, I SCREWED YOU ALL AND DID IT MY WAY!!! ******************************************************

I received this ditty sometime ago from my brother-in-law (a scholar of no mean proportions) but didn't have the time to post it. He also didn't answer my query on whether he wrote it. Maybe he doesn't want his seriousness marred by a funny song. Or maybe he was just circulating something someone else did. Anyway, I can't wait for his word much longer, have to post it before it rots.

Mila D. Aguilar

Manny Villar's Past Qualifies him to be President?

Below is an old privilege speech regarding Manny Villar's conflict of interest back when he was running for the Speaker of the House..... How soon we forget or is it selective amnesia that one who is accused of serious conflict of interest may just end up occupying the highest seat of the land..... and we wonder why we are in a rut?
Question of Privilege of Rep. Joker Arroyo

I rise on a question of collective privilege on a constitutional issue that affects the integrity of the House and it is very ripe to continue existing.

In the course of the fight for the speakership, Rep. Agapito Aquino, chairman of the reform bloc, raised questions regarding the fitness of Rep. Villar to seek the speakership. Rep. Villar chose to answer the charges but he was overwhelmingly elected Speaker by this House.

Successful election, however, does not answer the questions nor lay to rest charges of wrongdoing, not in government of laws.

We had a colleague, we still have a colleague in the person of Congressman Jalosjos. He was elected by his district but that did not erase his conviction. So, drawing a parallel election does not wipe out the offense.

The questions raised, nay, the charges against Speaker Villar are constitutional in character. And our duty as members of the legislature is peremptory and clear. We took oath to support and defend the Constitution and uphold the laws. The Constitution has been violated, laws have been broken. If we are to continue in the capacity of public officials, if this Chamber is to continue in its very character as legislature, an indispensable pillar in the system of checks and balances, then we must come to the Constitution’ s defense and the vindication of the laws.

I hesitated long and pondered hard whether to raise these questions for fear of being accused of sour-graping and being a poor sport. But this has nothing to do with sports. Our duty is clear, there are charges of illegalities, the charges must be heard and answered. I am reminded of the case of Speaker Newt Gingrich of the United States House of Representatives. He was investigated by the United States House of Representatives for I think collecting some fees of books he wrote while Speaker (I am not too sure of the facts). But one thing I am sure of is this, the House after hearing censured its own Speaker and penalized him with a penalty was meted out. In other words, there are precedents and we must not hesitate to do our duty.

Article XI of the Constitution is titled “Accountability of Public Officers” it proscribes in Section 16 that:

“No loan, guaranty, or other form of financial accommodation for any business purpose may be granted, directly or indirectly, by any government or controlled bank or financial institution to the President, the Vice President, the Members of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Constitutional Commission, the Ombudsman, or to any firm or entity in which they have controlling interest, during their term.”

Charge I. Low cost housing is totally dependent on government agencies such as PAG-IBIG, National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC), SSS, GSIS, and other government financial institutions.

Speaker Villar and the companies of which he is President or Chairman, or where he has a controlling interest, are the biggest low-cost housing developers in the country. To be more specific, it is the Camella and Palmera Homes and its principal subsidiaries, the Household Development Corporation and Palmera and Communities Philippines.

In violation of the constitutional injunction, these companies were given financial accommodations by government banks or financial institutions, among them, PAG-IBIG and the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation among others, during Speaker Villar’s term as Representative from 1992 to 1998 to finance their business purposes.

Charge II. Representative Villar, from 1992 to 1998 did not divest himself of his interests in, nor did he sever his connections with, the companies aforestated. They obtained financial accommodations from the above government financial institutions while he was a Member of Congress. Since he did not, therefore, such companies were forbidden from entering into such financial arrangements.

Because of our Constitution, Republic Act No. 6713 known as the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials” states in Section 9:

“Divestment. – A public official or employee should avoid conflicts of interest at all times. When a conflict of interest arises, he shall resign from his position in any private business enterprise within thirty (30) days from his assumption of office and/or divest himself of his shareholdings or interest within sixty (60) days from such assumption.. .”

Charge III. Nor has Speaker Villar, up to now, I am saying up to now, divested himself of his interests in, nor has he severed his connections with, the companies aforestated. Speaker Villar is in no hurry to divest because he has declared that he is under no obligation to do so. A continuing violation.

Charge IV. Speaker Villar controls the Capitol Bank.. Mrs. Villar is the chief executive officer. The Capitol Bank received loans, financial accommodations and guarantees from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas from 1992 to 1998 while he was a Representative. That is constitutionally forbidden.

To sum it up, the constitutional prohibition is very simple. If a Representative has a controlling interest in a firm or entity, that firm or entity cannot be extended a loan, a guaranty, or a financial accommodation for any business purpose from any government financial institution.
If that firm or entity would like to obtain a loan, a guaranty or a financial accommodation from a government financial institution, that firm or entity must first relieve itself of the controlling interest of the Representative.

It is my humble submission that Speaker Villar did not do either.

Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, provides in Section 6 therefore as follows:

“Sec. 6. Prohibition on Members of Congress. – It shall be unlawful hereafter for any Member of the Congress during the term for which he has been elected, to acquire or to receive any personal or pecuniary interest in any specific business enterprise which will be directly and particularly favoured or benefited by any law or resolution authored by him previously approved or adopted by the Congress during the same term.

The provision of this section shall apply to any other public officer who recommended that initiation in Congress of the enactment or adoption of any law or resolution, and acquires any such interest during his incumbency.”

In other words, even if he was not the principal author, if he did ask or initiated the enactment of such a law, he is covered by the prohibition.

Simply put, during our term of office, each one of us, it shall be unlawful for us to author any law or resolution that would benefit or favor us. The above prohibition shall apply even to that representative who just recommended, not even authored, the enactment of such law that benefited him.

Charge V. Representative Villar, in his bid for the speakership, prepared a propaganda kit that he distributed to Congressmen and media. I think you were given copies of the one. It is entitled “Manny B. Villar, Jr., Achiever and Visionary Leader,” and [in] the “Legislative Performance of Congressman Manny B. Villar, Jr.” Representative Villar unequivocally said that he “incorporated in the landmark Comprehensive and Integrated Shelter Finance Act, Republic Act No. 7835, the recapitalization of the National Home Mortgage and Finance Corporation and the amendment to the Agri-Aqua Law to include housing investment.”

Speaker Villar’s companies are engaged in housing. He thereby violated the Anti-Graft Law.

The aforementioned Act, which incorporates H.B. No. 6145, co-authored by then Representative Villar mandates “banks to extend to housing loans not utilized for agriculture and agrarian reform credit.” In other words, loanable funds for agriculture and agrarian credit are to be re-channeled to housing, Speaker Villar’s business.

Representative Villar co-authored H.B. No. 11005 which “increased the capital of the National Home Mortgage and Finance Corporation” and is the main source of funding of Speaker Villar’s companies. President Estrada admitted that the National Home Mortgage and Finance Coporation is presently bankrupt. He said that to the following: LAMP President Edgardo Angara, Congressman Agapito Aquino, Presidential Legislative Liaison Officer Jimmy Policarpio, former Congresman Miguel Romero and myself. The President no less said that it is bankrupt. Increasing the capitalization of a bankrupt GFI benefited Representative Villar’s housing companies.

In the same propaganda kit of Speaker Villar, it states that “also passed by the House were Villar’s measures to make Pag-ibig Find contributions compulsory and to increase housing investments with the SSS.” Pag-ibig is a main source of funding of Speaker Villar’s companies.
In a word, Representative Villar’s legilslation from 1992 to 1998 were designed to benefit his business, a violation of the Anti-Graft Law.

Now, the same provision of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, provides in the third paragraph of Section 6 thereof, as follows:

It shall likewise be unlawful for such member of Congress or other public officer, who, having such interest prior to the approval of such law or resolution authored or recommended by him, continues for thirty days after such approval to retain such interest.
Charge VI. When those bills that Representative Villar introduced or co-authored were enacted into law, he did not divest himself of his interest in his companies that benefited therefrom.

Now, Republic Act 6713, known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials provides in Section 3 (j):

Section 3 (j) “Divestment” is the transfer of title or disposal of interest in property by voluntarily, completely and actually depriving or dispossessing oneself of his right or title to it in favour of a person or persons other than his spouse and relatives as defined in this Act.

Charge VII. Manuela Corporation applied for and was granted a loan of P1 billion by the SSS, a government financial institution. Another P2 billion loan would be syndicated with another government financial institution, the GSIS. Total syndicated loan from the two GFIs: P3 billion.

Manuela Corporation, a housing and realty corporation, is owned by the family of the wife of Speaker Villar. An indirect financial accommodation. Again, the same Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials states in Section 3 (k) thereof:

Section 3 (k) “Relatives” refers to any and all persons related to a public official or employee within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, including bilas, inso, or balae.

SSS, historically and as a matter of public policy does not extend direct loans to any company. It extends loans to banks or to public or private financial institutions but not directly to business enterprises. The direct loan to Manuela Corporation is a first in SSS history.

Charge VIII. Manuela Corporation owes the Capitol Bank, which also owned by Speaker Villar, P150 million. There may be nothing wrong with that because both are private entities. However, out of the P3 billion earmarked to liquidate the P150 million Capitol Bank loan to the failing Manuela Corporation. In other words, it is a financial accommodation extended by GFIs to relieve Capitol Bank, owned by Speaker Villar, of the P150 million loan. Another indirect financial accommodation.

Charge IX. The Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is being undertaken in obedience to a constitutional mandate. All lands covered by CARP cannot be used for residential, agricultural, industrial or other uses unless a clearance, conversion, or exemption for a particular property is first issued by DAR.

Speaker Villar’s companies are developing or have developed 5,950 hectares or almost 60,000,000 square meters of CARP lands into residential subdivision without the appropriate DAR issuances that would authorize such lands to be used for residential purposes. A traducement of the constitutionally directed CARP law.

Article XIII of the Constitution, in Sections 4,5,6,7 and 8 states with clarity what the agrarian reform program is all about.

Just to give you an idea about how big 60,000,000 square meters is – my constituency of Makati is only one-third of that size. It is only roughly 21,000,000 square meters. If you add the entire area of Las Piñas and Makati, that is the residential subdivisions covered by the companies of Speaker Villar.

The House cannot reform itself, much less even operate effectively if a cloud of doubt hangs over the Speaker of the House. It is to the interest of the Speaker and the Members no less if these concerns are addressed frontally and resolved forthwith to clear the path for meaningful reforms.

Public office is a public trust. We, the representatives of the people pay a price for getting elected to public office. The Constitution imposes on us certain constraints which we must follow to the letter.

Let me allude to the Members of Congress who are barristers – the Constitution forbids us, lawyers, from appearing in court. In my case, for instance, I was a practitioner up to 1992. I got elected to the House so I stopped practicing, or in other words, I no longer appear in court. That is the price I have to pay. I think I was earning adequately in the practice of law, but I have to make a choice. Do I want to be a lawyer or I want to be a Congressman? If I want to continue being a lawyer, then I must not be a Congressman. If I have to be a Congressman then I must stop lawyering. That is what the Constitution says.

So in the case of Speaker Villar, it is simple. If he wants to go/continue in business and deal with government financial institutions, he can do so but he cannot also be a Congressman. If he wants to be a Congressman, then he must not be in business which deals with the government. We have to pay a price.

So, this case is a learning experience for us all. Whatever the outcome, it will show the things we can do, the things we cannot do, and the things we must do.

I would propose that the House of Representatives constitute itself into a Committee of the Whole to hear the charges and the Speaker’s defense.

He will have a trial that is more than fair to him for he will be judged by the very peers who elevated him to be the first among equals, only this time they will judge him according to the law.

I will never seek the speakership again nor in any manner challenge the leadership of Speaker Villar except on this specific issue of constitutional breach that calls into question the rule of law.

This is how important it is. So I rest my cause.

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Dodgers’ Joe Torre talks about domestic violence, steroids in sports

Says that McGwire made matters worse by also claiming that he could have hit the home runs even without the use of performance-enhancing drug.

Joe and Ali Torre announcing the expansion of the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation in the West Coast (Text and photo by Dionesio C. Grava)

STA. MONICA, January 13 -- Baseball great Joe Torre took a breather from his game and talked about secret demons that have haunted him since childhood. The psychological trauma of growing up in a house ruled by an abusive father was a well-kept family secret such that his wife, Ali, narrated her astonishment when Joe bared it for the first time during a seminar about domestic violence that they both attended.

Later, Joe went public with it in his autobiography, Chasing the Dream: My Lifelong Journey to the World Series and in 2002 the couple established the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation dedicated to ensuring that all children have the opportunity to grow up in a safe and abuse-free environment. Its goal is to raise awareness and develop educational programs aimed at ending the cycle of domestic violence and saving lives.

Currently, the Foundation has 11 school-based programming initiatives called Margaret's Places in New York City and Westchester County. These are comprehensive programs which provide students with a safe room in schools where they can talk to each other and to a professional counselor trained in domestic violence intervention and prevention. Core components of the program include individual and group counseling, prevention workshops, peer leadership groups and staff, parent/family and community workshops.

The Torre couple was at the Milken Institute in Santa Monica this afternoon to announce the expansion of the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation in the West Coast. An office will be set up in Los Angeles and a Margaret Place will be established here by the Fall.

Joe Torre played for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, and the St. Louis Cardinals. He later managed all three teams as well as the New York Yankees from 1996-2007. He has been the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers since November 2007 following the resignation of Grady Little.

Asked about the steroids controversy besieging sports, Torre said that it is an issue that needs to be resolved in order to regain the trust of the public. He also commented on Mark McGwire's admission on Monday that he used steroids when he broke baseball's home run record in 1998. Torre said that it had taken McGwire too long to come out and that he should have left it that way, admitting that he messed up and apologized. Instead, McGwire made matters worse by also claiming that he could have hit the home runs even without the use of performance-enhancing drug.

Dionesio C. Grava - Part-time community journalist based in Los Angeles and editorial writer at Forum Asia.

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The Philippines in California's Rose Parades

Some of the gigantic, animated floats in the 2010 Rose Parade (from top-left, clockwise): Rain Bird Corporation's "Mountaintop Majesty," Farmers Insurance's "Salute to the Bands," American Honda's "Ship of Dreams," and China Airlines' "Taiwan's Guardian - The Third Prince."

Nearly a hundred marching bands, equestrian teams, and floats marched down the 5.5-mile stretch of Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena during the 121st Tournament of Roses Parade. Under a blue sky and amid a warm sunny morning, hundreds of thousands of people lined up both sides of the street to watch; millions more were glued to their TV sets at home, it was said.

The theme of the New Year's Day spectacle was "2010: A Cut Above the Rest" and for the first time officials opted for a real life hero, Capt. Chesley B. 'Sully' Sullenberger, instead of an entertainment celebrity as the grand marshal. Sullenberger was the pilot of a disabled passenger plane that landed in the Hudson River saving everyone aboard. That is not to say that he was the first and only real hero who had the honor of leading the mammoth parade. It is said that in 1952, seven Medal of Honor awardees were given the honor and still earlier, in 1957, famous World War I pilot Eddie Rickenbacker was it.

One never cease to wonder at the painstaking efforts by so many volunteers pasting plant parts inch by inch that finally transform mechanized behemoths into wondrous works of art. To think that these expensive objects of wonderment are immediately on the way to oblivion after the parade and the viewings. Then the designing for next year's entries start all over again.

The first Tournament of Roses was staged in 1890 to advertise the fact that while people elsewhere were buried in snow, in California the flowers are blooming and oranges are about to bear. Since then the Rose Parade had grown immensely in the number of participants, in the size of appreciative onlookers, and the complexity and expense involved in putting up the floats.

The parade had long ceased to be the exclusive domain of the state. Many of participating teams, bands, and floats are now originated from other regions of the USA and even other countries. For example in this year's outing Taiwan, Mexico, and Guatemala were among the prominent participants.

The Tournament of Roses website carries a photo of a Philippine float participating in the 1917 parade. That was at a time when my country was still a colony of the US. The float consisted of three ladies in terno and a nipa hut mounted on a four-wheeled vehicle covered with white petals and has the marking MANILA on the side.

In 1994, Erica Beth Brynes had the distinction of being the first Filipino-American to reign over the festivities. The following year, another beauty with Fil-Am roots - Melissa Dittmar - was selected as a princess.

A few years later, the Philippines participated with a two-piece float "Welcome to Our Celebration" spotlighting the scenic beauty of the islands and the country's centennial celebration. That was also the year that my cash-starved country splurged in some other international exposures such as the Hollywood Christmas Parade, the Festival of the Pacific Nations and the Festival of Culture and Arts in France.

The following year the Philippines was seen again in the Pasadena parade with another two-piece float consisting of a gigantic jeepney and a depiction of a flower garden, a giant sarimanok, and dancers in native costumes.

Among this year's winning floats was Rain Bird Corporation's "Mountaintop Majesty," which garnered the judges' nod in the Sweepstakes Award category for being the most beautiful float with Outstanding Floral Presentation and Design. The entry featured a family of endangered gorillas frolicking in the African rainforest and a waterfall fed by more than 15,000 gallons of water.

The International Award - Most Beautiful Entry from Outside the Continental U.S. went to China Airlines Ltd. for "Taiwan's Guardian - The Third Prince." In Chinese mythology, the prince rides on a wheel of fire over the ocean to fight a dragon.

Lathrop K. Leishman Award - Most Beautiful Non-Commercial: Torrance for "Garden of Dreams."

Grand Marshal's Award - Excellence in Creative Concept & Design: New Mexico for "Enchantment Is in the Air."

Queen's Award - Most Effective Use & Display of Roses in Concept, Design & Presentation: Bayer Advanced for "We are the Champions."

Mayor's Most Outstanding City Entry, National or International: West Covina Rose Float Foundation, "Tuskegee Airmen: A Cut Above."

Judges' Special Award - Most Spectacular in Showmanship & Dramatic Impact: Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, "Mexico Bicentennial."

Animation Award - Best Animation and Motion: Burbank Tournament of Roses Association, "Barnyard Aces."

Fantasy Award - Most Outstanding Display of Fantasy and Imagination: La Cañada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Association, "Scissored Wizard."

Tournament Special Award - Exceptional Merit in Multiple Categories Include Floats Over 55 feet: American Honda, "Ship of Dreams."

Tournament Volunteers' Award - Best Floral Design of Theme 35 feet or Under: Rotary International, "Service Above the Rest."

NOTE: Also published in Los Angeles-based "Pinoy News"
Dionesio C. Grava - Part-time community journalist based in Los Angeles and editorial writer at Forum Asia.

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The Plight of Filipino Priest Fr. Eusebio Pablito Maghari

Talk about security of tenure or worse the ridiculous dreaded death panel of the tea baggers appears to be so real yet surreal when it comes to the plight of Fr. Eusebio Pablito Maghari.

Maghari or father Pabs to his friends who spent or devoted 33 years of his life to the priesthood was sent to New York six years ago in order to fill the shortage of priest. He dutifully served the community of St. Peter’s R.C. Church in New Brighton for about six years, a church under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of New York. Everything would have worked well, Fr. Maghari answering the call of his avocation while filling the shortage gap. Until, Fr. Pabs was unfortunately struck with a kidney ailment last August of 2009 brought about by diabetes needing weekly dialysis, losing his sight in one eye and has to be on a strict diet regimen, that things took not just a sour note but even of deadly repercussion.

Fr. Maghari now 59 years old due to his condition was stripped of his priestly duties; ineligible for permanent assignment to St. Peter’s, and worse was told in a letter by the archdiocese Office of Priest Personnel to vacate the parish as it was not an appropriate place for him to live. The archdiocese wanted him to return to his poorer diocese in the Philippines for his care and medical needs.

This is the archdiocese and not some cold greedy corporate entity concerned with profitability or with the bottom line and yet it appears that compassion seems to be missing where one least expects. Perhaps the archdiocese of New York is not aware that the Philippines are poor and the diocese that Fr. Maghari belongs is even poorer. Are they not aware that health care and health insurance in the Philippines are not exactly at par with the US standards?

It cost US$1,000 or roughly P480,000 for a kidney dialysis in the Philippines that is just for one treatment but with Fr. Maghari requiring treatment once a week that is beyond reach not just for a priest but even those of the Philippine highest middle income group cannot afford it. Nope, not by any shred of imagination, even the rich will likely go to the poorhouse in a couple of months with that kind of treatment and yet the New York archdiocese deems it fit for Fr. Maghari to seek medical help and care in his poor diocese.

Priest earns a pittance, they are not compensated like a CEO of a big corporation and to cut him off would mean loss of salary and will have to pay for his own insurance. Exactly where will Fr. Maghari who as all priest do takes a vow of poverty will he earn a living to pay for his health insurance? Once that health insurance expires what is the likelihood that the insurance companies will refuse his coverage for pre-existing condition? I say most likely he will be dropped like a hot potato.

The priesthood is the only life Fr. Maghari knows and has dedicated all his life to doing, to deny him of his love for his avocation he considers a god given gift makes him feel that he is forsaking his faith. Fr. Maghari maybe ill but with the help of his strong faith and strong community support from the parishioners he can move with ease and that illness alone he says should not prevent him from doing his priestly duties.

Despite all these, thanks to the outpouring of support although he still needs more of it he has not shown any bitterness or is blaming anyone for his plight. Perhaps the archdiocese of New York should reconsider their decision and as Fr. Maghari is praying for, that people should come to their senses just so he can continue his duties and avocation.

This is precisely why the need for health insurance reform should be passed without delay, even the religious are getting affected with deadly consequence.

Sign the petition supporting Fr. Eusebio Pablito Magjari.

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Kick Andal Ampatuan, Jr.

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