CEBU CITY — The 21-member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) must be “resolute to improve the lives of our people” amid global challenges of globalization.
Thus said Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura Del Rosario in her opening remarks during the Third Apec Senior Offficials’ Meeting (SOM3) at the Radisson Blu Hotel here.
“We must be resolute that our efforts to improve lives of our people cannot be stifled,” Del Rosario said.
She said member economies of the Apec must provide creative solutions to “create clear vision for the people of Apec.
Senior officials of the 21-member economies attend a series of meetings to discuss new initiatives on inclusive growth, issues on health and the economy, the public-private dialogue on water and the symposium on urbanization, among others.
“We will tackle problems such as how we can move the direction of services, which grew steadily in recent years,” said Del Rosario, who is also the chair of the SOM.
She said that trade between economies had been in existence even before globalization has taken place, citing that the Philippines is commemorating the 450th anniversary of start of the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade this 2015.
“Today, we also find new routes toward achieving sustainable growth—just as Magellan chartered new route to PH,” she said.
“We hope that the vision of inclusive growth will become our “north star” as we go forward with our meetings,” she said.
Apec has 21 member economies, namely Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Republic of the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Thailand, the United States and Vietnam. Nestor Corrales, INQUIRER.net/CDG
Politicians can learn a thing or two from Kyaw Thu, a popular movie actor in Burma (Myanmar) who gave up the glitz and glamour of show business to help his poor countrymen bury their dead for free.
As a multiawarded movie actor and director, Thu, 55, had legions of fans, a following that could catapult him to power, and his good deeds at the Free Funeral Services Society (FFSS), which has expanded to other social services for Burma’s poor, gained global recognition.
But Thu had no political ambitions and preferred to stay away from politics to remain clean and keep his philanthropic work unsullied by corruption.
“In my opinion, politics is so complex and corrupt that you cannot really do things truthfully,” said the 2015 Ramon Magsaysay (RM) Award winner in an interview with the Inquirer through an interpreter last week.
“I don’t want that dirty political life. But in my social work, I can really do things and reach out to the people with a true heart,” said the burly Thu, who sported a beard and wore his long silver hair in a ponytail.
Thu is a scion of wealthy family in the movie industry who made more than 200 films during his career that spanned more than two decades.
Turning to social work
In 2001, he found a more meaningful way of using his celebrity by launching the FFSS in Rangoon (Yangon) in collaboration with a friend, the late, multiawarded Burmese writer and director U Thu Kha, to ease the emotional and financial burden of the poor in burying their dead.
Although the head of the FFSS, Thu himself carried coffins and drove the hearse, breaking taboos and lending a more human touch to handling the dead and the costly funerary rituals steeped in superstition.
“Having an actor carry the coffin of dead loved ones is also one way of sharing in and easing the sorrow of the bereaved families… so I [do that] as an actor to help them lessen their suffering,” Thu said.
Having a movie producer for a father and meeting celebrities all through his youth had lured Thu to the silver screen. Movie offers came when he was in high school, but entertained them only after he left college to elope with his girlfriend, Myint Myint Khin Pe.
“My father then said [since I was starting a family], I had to do something [for a living] so I started acting in movies,” he said.
Fear of hell
Like any rising star, Thu craved publicity and chased after money and fame. In 1994, he won the Myanmar Academy Award for best actor for his role in “Da-Byi-Thu Ma Shwe Hta” and nine years later for best director for the film “Amay No-Bo.”
But a more noble calling took him out of the glamorous and often vice-laden film industry when his daughter, while attending a children’s Buddhist literature class at a monastery one summer, asked a monk where actors went in the afterlife.
The monk replied that actors may end up in hell because they evoked a whole range of emotions, from joy to sadness to anger, in people, which was considered a “misdeed” in Buddhism.
“It really frightened me so since then I started studying Buddhist literature. I became more religious and I started to help people,” said Thu, a devout Buddhist.
Growing more aware of the poor’s difficulty in giving their dead a decent burial, Thu found it compelling to ease their plight.
He said the poor would often resort to “unethical” ways to bury their dead, sneaking into private property and farmland at night to give their deceased loved ones a permanent resting place.
“At times we could see the dead just lying there on the street not claimed by the relatives or the family. It’s really not nice to see this so it is really important for us to give free funeral services,” he said.
Thu and his friend Kha launched the FFSS on Jan. 1, 2001, covering all burial services for the poor.
Since then, the FFSS has undertaken nearly 150,000 free funeral services across Burma, serving those in need regardless of class, race or religion.
The FFSS also has become a provider of free medical services for the poor. With 50 volunteer doctors and 104 paid staff, the organization provides various medical services, including eye surgery, maternal and dental care, and blood transfusion.
In 2009, the FFSS opened a school to provide free vocational training for children of the poor, review classes for academic qualification examinations and a library.
The FFSS also provides disaster and humanitarian assistance to refugees and to victims of natural disasters and war.
All these services are sustained through private donations and volunteer work.
The organization’s success has inspired others in Burma, including government agencies, to offer free social services and form other self-help groups.
“As an actor and writer, I just craved for popularity and fame but as a social worker… it is all about selfless giving and compassion. So if you compare the two in terms of satisfaction level, it’s like heaven and earth,” Thu said.
Thu has also extended his philanthropic work to other causes.
In 2007, he supported the Saffron Revolution by distributing food and water to protesting monks. Recently, he mobilized ambulances to help student demonstrators protesting against restrictive government policies.
He also has turned to openly expressing his opinions on social issues, publicly supporting National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her social work.
Perceived by many in his country as an exceptional figure in the nation’s uneasy and complicated shift to democracy after decades of military rule, political repression, economic stagnation and social disorder, Thu has made the authorities wary of him and he has had his share of hardships.
He and his wife had been detained, their passports confiscated, preventing them from visiting their two children abroad.
He was suspended from acting and movie making in 2007 and was allowed to make a comeback only recently.
Government agents still follow him around while he is doing his social work.
“Although we are rendering free services, it’s not really an easy work because of the authorities. They stop us a lot. [While] the public trusts us and donates to us, authorities prohibit us,” he said.
But Thu pressed on, moving the Ramon Magsaysay Foundation to recognize him for “his generous compassion in addressing the fundamental needs of both the living and the dead in Myanmar… and his channeling personal fame and privilege to mobilize many others toward serving the greater social good.”
Thu said he had not known that the RM Awards existed and only learned that it was Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize when his two children, one an engineer and the other a doctor living abroad, did the research for him.
“I was happy to find out that it’s really a systematic kind of choosing an awardee, [involving] a year’s worth of research because normally, if you are popular, people will just give you the award and it shouldn’t be that way,” he said.
He believed that the award will somehow encourage young people to devote themselves to social work.
“This prize will help boost people’s interest in social work… so when I die, this kind of [social work] will continue,” he said.
WAIPAHU, Hawaii — Denis Rodill, a 14-year-old runaway from Manila, arrived in Seattle in 1908 aboard a U.S. Army transport ship. He was among the earliest Filipinos to set foot in the United States, arriving well before the crest of the 1920s’ Filipino immigration wave.
The life of Denis Rodill, 1894-1977, will recalled by his daughter, Dr. Diane Rodill, as an example of the mostly unrecorded lives of early Filipino sakadas who moved from place to place to fulfill the American dream.
The presentation is sponsored by Filipino-American Historical Society of Hawaii, UHM Office of Multicultural Student Services, Hawaii’s Plantation Village and 4Culture. It will be on Sunday, September 13, at 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Social Hall, Hawaii’s Plantation Village 94-695 Waipahu St., Waipahu, Hawaii. Reception to follow. The event is free and open to the public.
Denis Rodill’s saga includes working in Seattle’s 1908 waterfront, Kauai’s 1910 sugar plantations, Kodiak’s 1915 salmon canneries, and Weyerhaeuser’s 1926 lumber industry. His story reveals a rascal youth whose maritime passion and resilience propelled him to overcome enormous challenges.
His daughter, Dr. Diane Rodill, lives in Seattle, Washington. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sorsogon, Philippines, worked for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and Peace Corps in Nairobi, Kenya.
In 2008 she saw a poster on the discrimination of WWII Filipino Merchant Marines at the Cincinnati Museum, which inspired her to conduct research on her father’s life, a life heretofore largely unknown to her.
For inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
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TORONTO, Ontario — Newcomers to Canada can get a chance for a “softer” and smoother transition to a new workplace via a mentorship project funded by Canada’s employment ministry.
Called the “Referral Partnership Program,” jointly conducted by The Filipino Center of Toronto (FCT) and the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), the Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada approved a New Horizons for Seniors Program Grant (NHSP) to run from March 6, 2015 to February 28, 2016.
Mary Ann San Juan, a board director of FCT and project lead, said, “Seniors in the community are encouraged to be volunteer-mentors to members of visible minorities, new immigrants, youth and ethno-cultural groups.”
According to San Juan, “The Mentoring Partnership has a high success rate, with 75 percent of mentees gaining meaningful employment in their field within 12 months of taking part.”
There are numerous benefits to mentees, but what is in store for the mentors? San Juan states, “Volunteer mentors give back to their professional community while gaining valuable leadership experience. They commit to a total of 24 hours over four months.”
Mentors need to have the following qualifications:
• Minimum three years’ work experience as an established Canadian professional;
The mentors will help the mentees gain a better understanding and knowledge of the following three areas, namely:
Mentees must be newcomers to Canada (less than three years) with limited or no Canadian work experience in their profession. They may also have re-engaged with their profession through a bridging program or academic training within the past two years.
They have to be legally entitled to work in Canada and possess at least three years of international work experience in their area of expertise. Mentees also need to have a necessary level of English skills to perform effectively in the work place.
Other requirements include mentees having achieved a bachelor’s degree or equivalent post-secondary education outside of Canada, being currently unemployed or underemployed, and actively seeking work in their field.
FCT encourages potential mentors in the community to attend one of two information sessions about the program at the FCT offices (597 Parliament St., Toronto, ON M4X 1W3) on Tuesday, September 15 at 5 pm or Saturday, September 26 at 12 noon.
For more information, call 416 928 9355 or email email@example.com.
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Dear Mr. Jose:
In your role as “spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs,” you wrote to me on August 17 to respond to my article criticizing the $1.8-million rental by the DFA of the bedbug-infested ship used to evacuate 766 Filipino OFWs from Libya to Malta on August 15, 2014.
It would be inaccurate to characterize your letter as a “response” because it did not address any of the issues raised in my article, which first appeared in the Inquirer.net on August 13, 2015 (http://globalnation.inquirer.net/127230/1-8m-ship-rent-for-ofw-evac-from-libya-to-malta-is-questionable) and also on the front page of The Malta Independent three days later (http://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2015-08-16/local-news/Philippines-government-questioned-over-choice-of-ship-used-to-evacuate-workers-from-Libya-to-Malta-6736140541).
Why did Rome Consul General Leila Lora-Santos, as head of the Rapid Response Team – Malta, enter into a $1.8-million contract with Alex Polidano, a local Malta broker, to ferry 766 Filipino OFWs from Libya?
In my article, I disclosed the fact that on behalf of Philippine Ambassador to Italy Virgilio Reyes, Mr Kevin Attard, a Malta businessman, had obtained a firm offer from Virtus Ferries on July 29, 2014 to transport 450 Filipino OFWs from Libya to Malta aboard its high-speed first class catamaran ship for 345,000 euros. As it would have taken two ships to carry 766 passengers, the adjusted rate would have been 690,000 euros ($767,776).
Ambassador Reyes personally confirmed to me that he received the Virtus Ferries offer from Mr. Attard on July 29, 2014 and that he then provided it to Consul-General Lora-Santos before she departed for Malta to finalize the rental arrangements for the ferry ship.
But surprisingly, Ms. Lora-Santos chose not to contact Virtus Ferries about its offer when she arrived in Malta. Instead she contacted Mr. Alex Polidano, who at the time was the CEO of International Machinery Ltd. A “self-employed professional,” Mr. Polidano had no prior experience in evacuating anyone from Libya. [The Malta Independent also reported that “Mr. Polidano was a business associate of Ryan Schembri – a businessman who is still on the run from his creditors and is believed to have fled to Dubai.”]
Consul-General Lora-Santos then arranged for Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Officer Cynthia Lamdan to fly to Malta to sign the $1.8-million (1.5 million euros) contract with Mr. Polidano on behalf of “Ocean Marine Services Ltd,” which is not a registered company in Malta and is not even mentioned in Mr. Polidano’s resume on LinkedIn.
After signing the contract, Mr. Polidano then contracted with a Greek shipping company, European Seaways (europeansealines.com), to charter one of its two ferry ships, the F/B Bridge, to pick up the 766 Filipino OFWs in Libya and ferry them on a 221 mile voyage to Malta before returning back to its Italy to Albania ferry line.
In your August 17 letter, you explained that in the selection of Mr. Polidano, the “primary considerations included, among others, registered vessels that could undertake multiple load stops in Libya (to secure as many Filipino as possible in one voyage), with sufficient capacity level and previous experience in evacuating people from war-torn/crisis situations.”
But prior to this fiasco, Mr. Polidano did not have “previous experience in evacuating people from war-torn/crisis situations.” In his updated LinkedIn profile, Mr. Polidano now includes this new achievement – “Personally directed the high profile evacuation of thousands of Chinese and Philippine Oil & Gas workers (Ocean Marine Services Ltd) out of Libya during the recent conflict.”
In stark contrast, Virtus Ferries was used by the American and Australian governments to evacuate their diplomatic personnel from various ports in Libya to Malta in 2011. It had also been used for similar purposes by the International Red Cross, Medicins Sans Frontiers and various international corporations.
When my article was posted in the Malta Independent on August 16, people from Malta asked whether certain officials of the Philippine government had received “kickbacks” for steering the $1.8-million contract to Mr. Polidano instead of dealing directly with an established Malta-based shipping company, Virtus Ferries. This question was also asked by skeptical Filipinos who posted their comments in the INQUIRER.net and on Facebook.
In your “response,” you made no mention of any investigation into the suspicious circumstances surrounding this questionable contract. Of course, the DFA never promised to review this deal. But what you did personally promise to the press on August 18, 2014 was that the DFA would investigate the complaints of the 766 passengers on board the F/B Bridge. For what the government paid for their fare ($2,350 each), were they not entitled to be treated with respect? “Those accountable will be put to task,” you vowed. Remember?
The pinoy-ofw.com report noted a “video footage showed Filipino passengers sleeping on the floor while the cabins where children and elderly were staying were not in much better condition”; “The cabins were very hot, there was no air-conditioning and there were bed bugs on the cabin beds,” one nurse from Benghazi reported.”
In an ABS-CBN report, another Filipino nurse passenger reported that when she requested a cabin from a Filipino crew member on the F/B Bridge, he told her he would oblige her request in exchange for sex. The nurse then said she would report him to the DFA in Manila. The Filipino crew member replied that he wasn’t worried because he was confident the DFA would do nothing about her complaint.
Mr. Jose, a year after you vowed to investigate the complaints of the Filipino OFWs aboard that passenger ship, we still have not received your report. In fact, you avoided any mention of the DFA investigation in your letter. Sadly, that contemptible Filipino crew member was right.
I realize that the likely $1 million overprice of the rental ship may seem miniscule compared with the billions in kickbacks the Binays were alleged to have amassed from overpriced hospital equipment, garage and school building construction and service fees. But they do matter to the OFWs who pay $25 each into an overseas workers welfare fund that is supposed to help them in times of need. The money lost to “kickbacks” could have been used to send home thousands of Filipino OFWs languishing in crowded apartments in the Middle East waiting for badly needed transportation funds.
It may not seem strange to see poor Filipino OFWs sleeping on the bare floors of an old, rundown, bedbug-infested ship traveling more than 24 hours from Libya to Malta compared with seeing rich American and Australian diplomats and their families luxuriating in a modern catamaran ship that only takes six hours to traverse the same distance. But to learn that the Philippine government paid $1 million more for substantially far less is galling and shameful.
If the DFA is incapable of investigating this travesty, then the Commission on Audit or the Ombudsman should do what needs to be done.
(Send comments to Rodel50@gmail.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call 415.334.7800).
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WASHINGTON, DC –The Archdiocese of Washington has asked the Philippine Embassy for 13 children to participate in welcoming The Holy Father to Washington, DC.
They must be:
Have their mom or dad email Thryza Navarrete at Thryza.Navarrete@philippinesusa.org with your name, school & grade.
They will know by September 18 whether they will be part of the group.
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Despite having one of the lowest salary grades in the region, Filipinos are the happiest with their jobs, a survey conducted among working individuals in Southeast Asia showed.
Seventy percent of Filipino employees said they were happy with their work, according to the study released by the job search website JobStreet Philippines on Wednesday.
JobStreet Philippines marketing director Yoda Buyco said the survey showed that majority (55 percent) of Filipino employees were “quite happy” with their jobs while another 15 percent were “very happy,” pushing the Philippines to the top of the satisfaction survey.
Thai employees ranked second with 59 percent saying they were happy at work, followed by Singapore with a 51-percent satisfaction rate.
Employees in Hong Kong and Indonesia were the least satisfied with their jobs, with small minorities indicating they were happy with their work.
Only 37 percent of employees in the Chinese territory expressed satisfaction while in Indonesia only 28 percent said they were satisfied.
A similar survey was conducted in Malaysia but the results have not been released, Buyco said.
Drivers of satisfaction
She said Filipino employees ranked “salary, company benefits and incentives” as the most important drivers of their satisfaction (64 percent).
Employees in Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong cited “relationship with colleagues and superiors” as the main reason for their satisfaction.
“Job role” ranked highest among Indonesian workers, who said “relationship” was their second-most important driver.
“Filipinos’ strong family ties may be the reason they cited a different factor for their satisfaction,” Buyco said. “We primarily work for our families and our compensation helps us help our families.”
“We [Filipinos] may have a lower salary grade compared to our counterparts in other countries… but we have a relatively lower cost of living. We may have very little but we enjoy the most out of the little we have,” she added.
“Job role” was second (62 percent) for Filipino workers, followed by “learning and development programs leading to career growth” (60 percent).
“Working environment, culture and reputation” (59 percent) and “relationship with colleagues and superior” (56 percent) rounded out the five top drivers of Filipinos’ satisfaction, Buyco said.
The Philippine part of the survey involved over 7,500 participants from across the country and was conducted last June and July.
The Philippines on Thursday told China to “walk the talk” after Chinese President Xi Jinping said his country would never seek hegemony.
The Philippines has been repeatedly calling on China to stop reclaiming land on reefs in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) recognized under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and exercise restraint according to a 2002 agreement signed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to refrain from taking actions in the disputed sea that could cause tensions in the region.
“We hope to see the gap between China’s pronouncements and the actual conditions on the ground bridged,” Assistant Foreign Secretary Charles Jose, spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), said in a text message.
Speaking at ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Asia, Xi announced that China would cut by 13 percent, or 300,000 troops, one of the world’s biggest militaries, currently 2.3 million strong.
He gave no time frame for a reduction that is likely part of long-mooted military rationalization plans, which have included spending more money on high-tech weapons for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy and Air Force.
The PLA troop numbers have been cut three times already since the 1980s.
“The experience of war makes people value peace even more,” Xi said. “Regardless of the progress of events, China will never seek hegemony, China will seek to expand and will never inflict the tragedies it suffered in the past upon others.”
Xi gave no specific reason for the troop reduction, but bracketed his announcement with assertions of the PLA’s mission to protect China and “uphold the sacred task of ensuring world peace.”
Despite its huge numbers, the PLA has not fought in a major conflict since a brief 1979 border war with Vietnam, although China has long been a major contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions and since 2008 has joined in multination antipiracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.
Xi’s announcement could be seen as an attempt to soften the impact of Thursday’s spectacle that saw 12,000 troops march through the center of Beijing, accompanied by tanks, bomber aircraft and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Shunned by major powers
The parade was largely shunned by Japan, the United States and other major democracies that have grown concerned about China’s increasingly aggressive moves to assert its territorial claims in the South China Sea and elsewhere.
Besides the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have overlapping claims with China in the South China Sea, where a third of global trade worth $5 trillion passes every year and where islets, atolls and reefs are believed to be sitting atop massive oil and gas reserves.
No PH representative but Estrada
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Wednesday night that the official representative of the Philippines, Ambassador to China Erlinda Basilio, would not attend the military parade in Beijing.
Del Rosario said, however, that Basilio would attend cultural events on the sidelines of the parade.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, a former President of the Philippines, attended the parade. He said earlier that he was going to the Chinese celebrations because Beijing and Manila were sister cities.
Xi kicked off the proceedings with a speech at the iconic Tiananmen Gate in the heart of Beijing, flanked by Chinese leaders and foreign dignitaries, including Russian leader Vladimir Putin, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
After his speech, Xi drove past the assembled troops in a Chinese-made Red Flag limousine, standing up through a sunroof with four microphones mounted in front of him, calling out “Greetings, Comrades” every few moments, before the troops started to march.
PLA show of force
The spectacle involved more than 12,000 troops, 500 pieces of military hardware and 200 aircraft of various types, representing what military officials say is the Chinese military’s most cutting-edge technology.
The parade was part of commemorations packaged to bolster the ruling Communist Party’s self-declared role as the driving force behind Japan’s defeat 70 years ago and savior of the nation, though historians say the rival Nationalists did most of the fighting.
The events also minimized the role of the United States, Britain and others in ending the war.
Most leading democracies kept high-level representatives away, reflecting concerns over the parade’s anti-Japanese tone and China’s recent aggressive moves to assert territorial claims.
The United States sent only its ambassador to observe. In Washington, US defense department spokesman Bill Urban said that the United States was maintaining such commemorations should be about reconciliation and that a “large military display would not appear to be consistent with this theme.”
Under Xi, who took power as party leader in late 2012, Beijing has sent ships to confront Japan’s Coast Guard near disputed islands in the East China Sea, blockaded Philippine island outposts and constructed whole islands from reefs, topping them with airstrips and other military infrastructure.
China usually holds lavish military parades only every 10 years to mark the anniversary of the founding of the communist People’s Republic in 1949.
By holding an additional one now, Xi ensured that he would preside over at least two of the prestigious events during his decadelong tenure in power ending in 2023.
The parade pandered to a prickly strain of nationalism in a Chinese public constantly reminded by state propaganda of China’s past humiliations at the hands of foreign powers, especially Japan, which is widely despised for its perceived failure to properly atone for invading China.
While a hit at home, such sentiments heighten fears abroad about China’s intended uses of its newfound power, frustrating Beijing’s attempts to market itself as a responsible member of international society committed to the common good.
“In domestic terms, it’s certainly a plus for Xi. But in foreign policy terms, it’s controversial. It doesn’t enhance China’s soft power. It doesn’t help China’s image as a force for peace, stability and development,” said Joseph Cheng, a retired academic and political analyst in Hong Kong.
Resistance to Japan remains a core component of the party’s foundational myth and is used as a key source of legitimacy in the absence of a popular mandate derived from free elections.
TV stations this week were filled with wartime dramas highlighting the role of communist soldiers, and at a news conference in the lead-up to the parade, top party historian Gao Yongzhong said it had long been established that “the Communist Party was the linchpin in the victory.”
“The Chinese Communist Party is trying to take credit for a war it didn’t win and in fact in which it did very little fighting,” said June Teufel Dreyer, a China historian at the University of Miami.
Foreign observers were watching the parade for any indications of new military capabilities.
Of special interest was the appearance of the DF-21D antiship ballistic missile, potentially capable of sinking a US Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in a single strike.
Although questions remain over its reliability on the battlefield, the weapon has stirred concerns in the Pentagon about the vulnerability of US military assets in the case of an attack on Japan, Taiwan or American bases in Asia.—With wire reports
Like the various stages in the making of silk—from silkworms winding cocoons around themselves, to human hands unraveling and spinning them as thread, to the hand-weaving of the fabric with intricate designs—so has been the life journey of Kommaly Chanthavong, a Laotian woman who revived an art and cultural treasure that was nearly lost because of war.
Early in her life during the Indochina War, Chanthavong lost her father and also her childhood home. In 1961, she and her family fled their farming village in eastern Laos and walked 600 kilometers to Vientiane to escape bombings during the Vietnam War. The US bombing of the Ho Chi Minh trail had displaced communities.
Chanthavong was a refugee at 13, but a refugee with heirloom treasures hidden among her few belongings. She brought with her heirloom hand-woven silk handed down from her grandmothers.
From these she would later draw inspiration for her life’s important work—the revival of silk weaving in her native land that would help communities.
She had learned the art from her mother when she was only 5 years old. She was not going to let it fade away into the past.
On Monday, Chanthavong, 71, received the 2015 Ramon Magsaysay Award for “her fearless, indomitable spirit to revive and develop the ancient Laotian art of silk weaving, creating livelihood for thousands of poor, war-displaced Laotians, and in the process preserving the dignity of women and her nation’s priceless cultural treasure.”
The date marked the 108th birth anniversary of President Ramon Magsaysay, who died in a plane crash in 1957.
Chanthavong was one of this year’s five Asian awardees, the first Laotian woman and only the third from Laos to have received the award. She had received other awards for her work.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award, often called Asia’s Nobel, celebrates “greatness of spirit” and “transformative leadership” in Asia.
In the past 57 years, the award has been bestowed on more than 300 outstanding men, women and organizations whose selfless service has offered their societies, Asia, and the world successful solutions to some of the most complex problems of human development.
On Wednesday, Chanthavong arrived at her lecture venue with samples of exquisite Laotian silk produced by Mulberries Organic Silk Farm/Lao Sericulture Co., which she founded to promote the ancient art. She also showed silk cocoons and bundles of thread brightly colored using natural dyes.
The venue was perfect—the Metropolitan Museum of Manila where “Renaissance: The International Festival of Extraordinary Textiles” was going on. Promoters of indigenous Philippine textiles and weaving, among them members of Habi (The Philippine Textile Council), came to learn from Chanthavong’s experience.
Chanthavong always wore hand-woven silk with brocade-like edges wherever she was invited while she was in Manila. She said that despite the laborious process of silk weaving, women in Laos take pride in wearing the sinh, their traditional dress. The intricate weave designs in Laotian silk are like no other.
With her daughter Boby as interpreter, Chanthavong described the interesting process of making silk and weaving the designs into it through traditional methods. She explained how long it took (weeks, months, depending on size and design) to weave a piece.
But just as interesting was Chanthavong’s silk journey. Though life was difficult in Vientiane, the young Chanthavong continued her studies. She later went to Thailand to study nursing. In 1972 she got married and started a family.
The communist takeover of Vientiane brought more hard times while she was doing business between Laos and Thailand.
Seeing the suffering of war-displaced, unemployed women moved Chanthavong to do something for them. She used her small savings to buy looms and started with a group of 10 women weavers.
Later the group grew to 450 in 35 villages. The Lao government noticed and, in 1980, leased to Chanthavong 42 hectares of bombed-out land northeast of Laos.
But first, the area had to be cleared of deadly, unexploded land mines. Here mulberry trees were planted, silkworms raised and put to work. The once highly acidic land was turned into a fertile valley. This was where Mulberries Organic Farm began.
The farm was not all about mulberry trees and silkworms. The farmers also planted vegetables and sources of natural dyes, and raised cattle that produced manure for organic fertilizers.
The farm became a big production workshop for various stages of silk production. Since its founding, the farm has trained more than a thousand farmers and created 3,000 jobs.
“One of the most beautiful things you can experience on earth,” a Mulberries invitation says, “is standing in the middle of a wide open and fresh green field of mulberry bushes, with the scent of moist soil and ripening mulberry fruit. This is where it all begins, where nothing will go to waste.”
There is mulberry the fruit and Mulberries the farm. There is Mulberries, the social enterprise founded in 1995 that initiates income-generating projects.
Thanks to Chanthavong’s industry and vision, silk production has expanded into something bigger. More people have been trained not just in weaving, but in other productive endeavors such as making mulberry tea, pies, wine and soap.
They undergo training in raising healthy silkworms and dye-making (from fruits, leaves, stems, roots, flowers and seeds).
From these natural dyes, Chanthavong said, they can produce more than 100 colors and hues, “from autumn red to cranberry to faded pink, blue spruce to pistachio, harvest gold to chalk yellow, hot chocolate to malt.”
For the uninitiated, silkworms are not worms like the earthworm. They are the larvae or caterpillars of the domesticated silk moth (Bombyx mori).
This primary producer of silk is therefore a moth or insect in the making whose preferred food is mulberry leaves. The pupa (what becomes the silkworm after it has spun a cocoon around itself) can be a source of protein for humans and fowls.
Chanthavong continues to travel around Laos to provide training and set up silk houses. She sees to it that the silk products are world-class. Indeed, Mulberries products are. (Visit www.mulberries.org.).
Her husband and three children are all involved in the enterprise. Eldest daughter Boby manages the Lao Silk and Craft in Melbourne, Australia.
Chanthavong also founded the Phontong/Camacrafts Handicrafts Cooperative that linked up with fair-trade retailer Ten Thousand Villages so that silk products could be exported to the United States. This meant more income for skilled weavers.
Chanthavong looks beyond her own generation. “Our goal,” she said, is to strengthen the position of women by giving them a dependable income and thus improve the chances of their children.”
Kommaly Chanthavong, brave, enterprising Laotian woman, revived an almost lost ancient art of Laos and created a new Silk Road for her own people.
SAN FRANCISCO — A man was arrested for allegedly shooting to death two relatives of his Filipino wife and wounding her and her cousin in Salinas, California Thursday, August 27.
Suspect Sammuel Ejaz, 50, of Pakistani descent, shot to death Felicidad Legaspi, 51, and Oliver Legaspi, 64, his estranged wife’s aunt and uncle, and wounded their son, Alfaro Legaspi, all of Salinas.
Ejaz’s wife was also wounded in the shooting on Thursday outside the Social Security Building in Salinas. His wife and her cousin, Alfaro, are in the hospital and are expected to recover.
Police said Ejaz, of Garden Grove, California, was arrested at the scene of the shootings. He reportedly confessed to the crimes, but pleaded not guilty during his first court appearance on Monday, August 31.
Ejaz and his wife were reportedly having marital problems, and his wife, trying to stay away from him, drove from their Garden Grove home to Salinas to stay with her aunt, uncle and cousin.
Police said Ejaz stalked his wife and, finding her outside the federal building, shot her and her relatives with a handgun. Felicidad and Oliver Legaspi died at the scene.
Prosecutors added an enhancement to their complaint because Ejaz used a firearm causing great bodily injury. It adds five years if he is convicted.
Ejaz could face the death penalty for multiple murders. He was placed on suicide watch at the county jail and his bail is set at more than $7 million.
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