Nov 252016
David Villanueva at San Diego Harbor

David Villanueva at San Diego Harbor. CONTRIBUTED


SAN FRANCISCO — I went back inside the plane because it was cold. I forgot to wear the jacket which was given by my former co-worker,” recalls David Villanueva, 56, of his arrival in Los Angeles from the Philippines on January 14, 1997.

He had nothing except the clothes on his back and “the envelope from the US Embassy.”

The next day, David could not get up because of jet lag. His mother woke him up at four in the morning because she would bring him to his first job. He braved the cold and reported on his first day at 7-11 store in downtown San Diego, where he stayed for four years.

“My mom said, in America you have to get up at 4 a.m. to prepare your food and catch public transport. It’s not an easy life, but I lived it each day since then,” David says. Later, he was able to work in the government in 2001 as an office clerk through Staffing Agency Sedona and became a payroll specialist.

David as a young man in the Philippines with his relatives

David (in back) as a young man in the Philippines with his relatives. CONTRIBUTED

But that is the tail end of the meandering story of how David Villanueva, now a semi-retired Human Resources assistant of San Diego County, was able to come to America. It all had to do with his mother’s sacrifices and unrelenting will to make sure her brood would have a better life.

‘They called me impakto’

David’s mother, Socorro, went to Olongapo after World War II. She became a waitress in a bar and met Dave Belden, David’s father. When his ship left, Socorro had to bring David and his brother, Raymond, to her parents in Sorsogon so she could work.

Soccoro also had two daughters. Susan, the eldest was sent for adoption as a baby. Susan lives in Hawaii. Socorro’s other daughter, Bonnie, was already 12 years old when adopted and brought to Florida. (Bonnie’s father, Mike Holmes, married Socorro but the US Embassy declared it a fake marriage.)


Socorro Villanueva in her wedding painting with Michael Holmes (left);Socorro in the United States. CONTRIBUTED

As a young boy in Sorsogon, David was called a ghost, aswang, impakto, etc. because of his looks. Afraid for his safety, his grandparents asked Socorro to take him back to Olongapo. He was already 10 years old. His schooling was supported by the Pearl S. Buck Foundation (PSBF), which supported Amerasian children. While in high school David worked as an apprentice inside the naval base for a year to help his mother. His grades suffered so he was kicked out of the scholarship. He went back to Sorsogon because he got sick, then pursued his college education in Legazpi City.

“I live with my mother’s cousin in Legazpi City. My uncle had a canteen for the employees of NFA and NBI. I worked as a server, washer and all-around helper so I could live for free,” recalls David.

David also worked as student assistant at Aquinas University. He enrolled as a medical technology student but eventually dropped out for financial reasons. His mother could not support his studies anymore because she was also struggling with her employer.

Emigration process

In 1978 Socorro went to work as house help in Hong Kong. Her employer was a Jewish-Canadian elderly woman. The employer would take her Canada and to the United States in Miami, Florida. After two years, since she still had a valid US visa, Socorro went back to Florida to visit her long-lost daughter, Bonnie. She met an American, Winfred Blaylock, who married her. She became a citizen. The couple moved to San Diego in 1985.

Socorro’s petition for David was filed in 1989. Raymond was not able to join because he was already married. David was working in Manila as housekeeper and also assigned in the maintenance of the condominium units of the Soriano family.

In 1994 a letter from the US Embassy arrived. David was given a checklist for an immigrant visa. David postponed his interview for a year because he was afraid his application would be denied.

One day, I sought the advice of our church member. He told me that in an immigrant petition, a visa is already assigned, hence, the interview is only a formality,” David says.

With that in mind, David queued at the US Embassy. A Filipina caseworker chided him for postponing his interview when most people were so eager to come to America. The consul called him at four in the afternoon. The Embassy closed at 5 p.m.

“The consul asked me: ‘Mr. Villanueva who petitioned you’ — I answered my mom. Then he asked my mom’s last name. I said Blaylock because my mom got married twice. Anyway that’s American’s way of life; get married then divorced and married again. Then he asked again how many times my mom was married. I said, two, that I am aware of,” David chuckles.

After the interview, the consul asked David to pay for the visa; three days to pick it up and three months to use

Searching for family

David became a US citizen in 2004. Her mother passed away in 2009. He tried looking for his father, Dave, but with so many with the same names he gave up, saying that he came to America because of her mother. When he searched again in October, he found out that his biological father passed away in January.

As much as he wanted to see his sisters, David would never meet Bonnie. Bonnie was murdered by her former husband in 1985. Susan who became a flight attendant lives in Hawaii. The siblings plan to meet in the future.

The three Villanueva siblings with their mom on the lower left

The three Villanueva siblings with their mom, lower left. CONTRIBUTED

“Each time I asked my mom about my siblings, she was hysterical. She would ask me if I were in the same situation without support, would I do the same. She gave them up so they could have better lives,” says David.

David’s sisters could not forgive their mother, always asking why them instead of the brothers. David never blames their mother because he knew the sacrifices she made to survive.

“Raymond is in the Philippines and never got a chance to come to America. I share everything to him so he and his family can live in comfort. But now, I am struggling again to survive here on my own,” David laments.

David still plans to retire in the Philippines at the age of 67 when he can claim his Social Security pension.

“We do not know our destiny. Just keep trusting God. Hope is our strength. Have faith that someday there is good life ahead of us. We are the only one that can make our life happy no one else,” ends David.

TAGS: Amerasians, family reunification, Filipino children of US servicemen, immigration to the US, San Diego County
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Nov 252016
‘Global Pinoy Singing Idol’ belts it out for charity

Global Pinoy Singing Idol Finals Champion Don Bronto. FACEBOOK CARSON, California – Musically talented Filipino Americans recently joined local Christian groups in raising funds for poor children’s education in a talent competition billed as “2016 Global Pinoy Singing Idol USA Finals” here. Couples for Christ (CfC), Answering the Cry of the Poor (ANCOP) Child Sponsorship program and ABS-CBN/DZMM sponsored the event at Carson Civic Center. The program provides financial support for elementary, high school, or college education for each sponsored child. Other benefits include nutrition, health and values programs, school clothing supply and tutorial needs. WATCH: 2016 Global Pinoy Singing Idol Finals. INQUIRER/Hiyasmin Quijano “Tonight is specifically for the children; if a child is able to finish school, then they are able to help their family,” said Winnie Lopez-Dee of ANCOP. FilAm youth Bradner Caballero, Glenn James Reyes, Achilles Peralta and Stephanie Agoncillo hanging out at the event venue. INQUIRER/ Hiyasmin Quijano Don Bronto won the Global Pinoy Singing Idol USA Finals. “Thank you to [the] ANCOP Tampa chapter for believing in me to represent Tampa. The support was overwhelming from the entire Tampa chapter and from friends and family,” he posted on his Facebook page. The ten contestants who made it to the final round were Zane Boado, Don Bronto, Stacey Cacal, Alex Callado, Annie Fano, Remilie King, Jennifer Mauricio, John Paul Puno, Choleo Reyes and Katz Trinidad. Guests included Jaya Ramsey, Kaye Abad, Leslie Ann Picazo, Jona Peralta, Alesja Morales and Shane Ericks. “I want to congratulate ABS-CBN, Read More …

Nov 252016
Union complains of Filipino-crewed ship working in Canada

The controversial Wave Venture. SHIPSPOTTING SAN FRANCISCO – A controversy is brewing in Victoria over the presence in Canadian waters of a ship crewed by ten British officers and 29 Filipino seafarers. A British company called Global Marine Systems has kept a ship, the Wave Venture, anchored at the pier for four years, its crew repairing underwater cables in Canadian waters. But it’s not Canadians doing the work. “The biggest concern that we have with her, quite simply, it is a foreign crew, on a foreign flagged vessel doing jobs that Canadians can do,” Peter Lahay of the International Transport Workers Federation told Cheknews.ca. “This vessel is chartered to Rogers Communication.” The union representing seafarers, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, based in Vancouver, learned of the ship’s presence in Victoria only recently, said union President President Rob Ashton. U.K.-based Global Marine Systems, which has been operating ships at Ogden Point for 27 years, is allowed to use foreign workers due to a waiver granted them by the federal government. A foreign seafarer can make as little as $1.26 an hour or as much as three or four bucks an hour. Where Canadian wages are $20-plus, depending on which company you work for, according to a union member. An employment contract obtained by the International Transport Workers Federation details the salary for the crew members: 191 regular hours pays out $482 dollars per month; with an overtime rate of $3.15 an hour. “In this case it’s a 44 hour work Read More …

Nov 252016
PH envoy meets with Peshmerga leader in Erbil, Iraq

Peshmerg commander Sirwan Barzani meeting with Chargé d’Affaires Elmer G. Cato in Erbil Iraq. CONTRIBUTED SAN FRANCISCO — An official of the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad paid a courtesy visit early this week on Peshmerga commander Sirwan Barzani at his base outside Erbil to get his assessment of the regional security situation. Erbil home to more than 2,000 Filipinos. Chargé d’Affaires Elmer G. Cato visited Barzani, one of Kurdistan’s leading business leaders, who led a force of 150 poorly armed Peshmerga in preventing Islamic State fighters, during the jihadist blitzkrieg across Iraq in 2014, from rolling into the regional capital. Barzani’s force was also in charge of defending the Gwer-Makmour sector, the most active along the 1,000-kilometer frontline with the Islamic State, until last month’s offensive that drove militants back to Mosul. TAGS: Chargé d’Affaires Elmer G. Cato, fight with ISIS in Iraq, ISIS, Islamic State, jihadists, Peshmerga commander Sirwan Barzani For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

Nov 232016
SF parol fest-parade to showcase Filipino X’mas traditions

A past Parol Lantern Festival and Parade in San Francisco. CONTRIBUTED SAN FRANCISCO — This is the time of year when Filipino culture is prominently showcased even in a universally celebrated holiday season in America, thanks to the Annual Parol Lantern Festival and Parade, now on its 14th year. The festival is a fun-filled family evening of music, games and prizes with the brightly lit and colorful parol lanterns, and for the second year, we will be featuring artist-commissioned lanterns and a food-tasting program dubbed as Taste of Filipino Christmas. The parol festival is scheduled every second Saturday of December, the Saturday before Simbang Gabi o Misa de Gallo, a nine-day early morning mass at St. Patrick’s Church before Christmas. The main event will be held on Saturday, December 10 and it starts in Yerba Buena Gardens and marches to Jessie Square on the eastside of St. Patrick’s Church. Parol strollers with their brightly lit contingent lanterns gather for a lively parade and holiday festival. This year’s theme is “Bring Our Culture to Light.” The parol festival-parade is one of the many cultural assets and community celebrations that convinced the Board of Supervisors and the City to unanimously adopt a resolution last April establishing the SoMa (South of Market Street) Pilipinas as Filipino Cultural Heritage District in San Francisco. SoMa Pilipinas has served as a touchstone for Filipinos seeking to connect with their cultural heritage. As a Filipino cultural heritage district, it celebrates and preserves the community, individual and family Read More …

Nov 232016
Long Beach police reopen cold case of Filipina-Hispanic woman

Diana Rojas, who went missing in 2000, in an undated family photo. LONG BEACH POLICE DEPARTMENT LONG BEACH, California – Detectives have re-opened a cold case involving a Filipina-Hispanic woman who went missing 16 years ago, after an anonymous tip led them to believe she was killed. Diana Raquel Rojas was 27 when she was last seen on Oct. 20, 2000, in her apartment in the 5500 block of Ackerfield Avenue, according to the Long Beach Police Department. The anonymous tip led to an area in Ridgecrest that was excavated after topographical examination and cadaver dogs indicated the possibility of human remains buried there, officials said. No human remains were found during the excavation. Rojas was a single mother to her then two-year-old daughter and worked at His Nesting Place, a church and women’s shelter, when she disappeared, her lawyers said. She was concerned about her personal safety related to her estranged husband. Rojas is described as Filipino and Hispanic, 5 feet 2 inches tall, with brown hair and a light complexion. She also has scars on her back, authorities said. Her vehicle, also still missing, was a 1992 black Nissan pickup truck with extended cab and white pinstripes, officers said. It had a Texas license plate, BY3242, and the driver’s side door lock and radio are missing. Rojas was reportedly last seen wearing a pink-colored shirt with spaghetti straps, blue sweatpants with a “Winnie the Pooh” logo on the left leg and a blue zip-up jacket with a medical insignia on the left side. Read More …

Nov 232016
PH schools alumni rock it in NY ‘battle of the bands’

Ateneans pose with Consul General Tess Dizon De Vega (Ateneo Law School) standing fourth from left between this writer and event organizer Romainne de Guzman Luis (fifth from left) and Ateneo coordinator Cecile Sison (sixth from left). PORSHA SEECHUNG NEW YORK CITY — In keeping with this tradition, alumni from five universities joined the “battle of the bands” Nov. 4, coinciding with the annual Homecoming sa Konsulado started by the Philippine Consulate General of New York a few years ago. Filipino Americans in the Northeast found another way to bring camaraderie and a little competition through the 4th Bandastiks competition to be held here in the Northeast. Ateneo De Manila University alums won this year’s Bandastiks battle of the bands held at the Philippine Consulate General of New York. They performed at the Consulate’s Homecoming sa Konsulado. PORSHA SEECHUNG The Ateneans’ band won the competition with their rendition of classic Pinoy rock, OPMs and swing, making the cheering crowd hit the dance floor. Alumni of Ateneo, La Salle, Assumption, St. Paul and Xavier University/Ateneo Cagayan competed this year. The Ateneans performed the following day during the Homecoming sa Konsulado attended by several university alumni from the New York- New Jersey area. The first Bandafest battle of the bands was held in fall of 2004 among alumni of Ateneo, La Salle, St. Scholastica and St. Theresa’sCollege. The interschool competition ran until 2007 when participants diminished. Last year, it was revived as Bandastiks, a benefit showdown. TAGS: alumni homecoming, Bandastiks, Homecoming Sa Konsulado, Read More …

Nov 232016
Latest PH Navy frigate sails for home

San Francisco Consul General Henry S. Bensurto at ceremony before BRP Bonifacio’s departure from Alameda, California US Coast Guard station. CONTRIBUTED ALAMEDA, California — The Philippine Navy’s latest frigate, the BRP Andres Bonifacio, left the US Coast Guard Base in Alameda, California on Nov. 1, on its voyage to the Philippines. Commanding the ship is Captain Brendo J. Casaclang. It is the third Del Pilar Class Frigate of the Philippine Navy, following the commissioning of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and the BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Philippine Consul General to San Francisco Henry S. Bensurto, Jr. led the send-off party composed of Mrs. Mariza Bensurto, Consulate officials, Philippine Defense and Armed Forces Attaché B/Gen Eric Calip and members of the Filipino American community. Philippine Defense and Armed Forces Attaché B/Gen Eric Calip, Consul General Bensurto, Capt. Brendo Casaclang and a US Coast Guard officer. CONTRIBUTED Consul General Bensurto congratulated the crew for completing their training, and for preparing the BRP Andres Bonifacio to take on its new mission of protecting the Philippines and the Filipino people. He added that “traditional and non-traditional security concerns continue to confront our country, and the BRP Andres Bonifacio and its crew would indeed be a welcome asset of the Philippine Navy and the Armed Force of the Philippines in addressing these concerns.” The BRP Andres Bonifacio at US Coast Guard station in Alameda, California, before sailing for San Diego and the Philippines. CONTRIBUTED He also thanked the US Coast Guard personnel who, on top of Read More …

Nov 232016
Young winners named in Hawaii ‘Letter to My Parents’ contest

SAN FRANCISCO – Winners of this year’s Letter to My Parents™ Contest in Hawai‘i were announced Saturday, Nov. 19 where nine contestants recited their letters dedicated to their parents. Judges selected three award recipients for this year’s contest: Amanda Herolaga for “Bravery,” Shyloe Tote for “Reflection” and Aizea Ranon for “Proposal.” Each of them received a prize of $500. For this year, there was another award – “Spirit of Aloha,” which was awarded to Casey Metrose, who received a $200 dinner certificate courtesy of Suntory Restaurant in Waikiki. The judges were Dwayne Manzanillo, (Teacher, James Campbell High School), Joanne Corpus (Zippy’s), and Alvin Ishihara (Reiyukai America). The Final Presentation was held during the “‘Ohana Day Celebration” hosted by Reiyukai America, which organizes the annual contest along with Kalamansi Books and Things and Sariling Gawa Youth Council, Inc. A total of 187 letters from 21 different schools were submitted. The Organizing Committee invited nine contestants to present their letters to their parents, families, the general audience and the judges at the Hawaii’s Plantation Village in Waipahu, O‘ahu: Masar Abdeljawad; Maizie Distad; Amanda Herolaga; Casey Metrose; Aizea Ranon; Julienne Saladino; Hannah Smasne; Timoteo Sumalinog; Shyloe Tote. After the letters were read, the nine participants received a $50 gift certificate and a Certificate of Participation, gift certificate from Zippy’s, a Free Online E-book subscription with a free pizza coupon courtesy of Read 2 Succeed Foundation. Each of the contestants will be also receiving a “1 Year TestPrep Course Subscription” courtesy of BenchPrep. Noriko Sotta, member of the Reiyukai America National Committee noted, “We are very pleased to see this year again many families were able to get together.” “This Read More …

Nov 222016
Pre-Hispanic PH traditions to be ‘revived’ at Chicago museum

Philippine tattoo expert Lane Wilcken demonstrates the ancient art that almost was lost during Spanish and American colonial regimes. FIELD MUSEUM CHICAGO—The nearly lost arts of Philippine traditional tattoos and script writing will be resurrected at the “Pamanang Pinoy” event on Saturday, Dec.3, at this city’s Field Museum, coupled with another free adobo tasting sponsored by the museum’s “Friends of Co-Curation.” Lane Wilcken of San Francisco and Kristian Kabuay of Las Vegas will lecture and do hands-on demonstrations for these pre-Hispanic traditions that were almost banished during the 300 years of Spanish colonization followed by 48 years of American occupation of the Philippines. A Question & Answer will follow both presentations. Friends of the Field Museum Co-Curation will also bring back their popular sampling of pork and chicken adobo made from the recipes in the booklet, “Co-Curating Adobo,” which was originally launched in October. Steamed rice will also be available free. Copies of the booklet are available for sale –in time for the holiday gift-giving. A new batch of adobo chefs will be present to sign copies of the booklet. Additional copies are available online: http//friendsofcocuration.com/. The Field Museum has been working in partnership with the local Filipino American community in a series of cultural events these past years in curating some 10,000 Philippine cultural items in its collection. Co-Curating Adobo is available for sale in time for the holiday gift shopping. FIELD MUSEUM The collaboration has opened an opportunity especially to younger members of the community to volunteer and Read More …