Friday, February 20, 2015

...the second home

Why the Philippines suits me

Bob Bales
January 24, 2015

Since booking a trip to the Philippines in 2009, American traveler Bob Bales has been back 7 times. Here, he shares what he loves about the Philippines
Bob Bales
Updated 8:45 PM, Jan 24, 2015
MANILA SKYLINE. Back 7 times since my first trip in 2009. All photos provided by Bob Bales
MANILA SKYLINE. Back 7 times since my first trip in 2009. All photos provided by Bob Bales
My first visit to the Philippines occurred in 2009. I was working in the Middle East and had a 3-week break. Having always been intrigued about the possibilities of visiting the Philippines, I took the plunge and booked a ticket.
Since that time, I have been back an additional 7 times. My trips have lasted anywhere from two weeks in length to two months. I guess you can say I have adopted the Philippines as a second home.
During my travels I have spent a lot of time in Manila but also traveled to other parts of the country as well. I have been to Puerto Galera, BoholCebuPalawan, and spent 10 days onBantayan Island. In all my travels I have discovered one thing. The Philippines suits me, from the many friendly people I have met to the beautiful beaches, small towns and big city activities.
HISTORY. Pay a visit to Fort Santiago
HISTORY. Pay a visit to Fort Santiago
There were a few things to get adjusted to – one being Filipino time. Having spent time in the military, I am used to being on time. I learned long ago that when someone says to be somewhere at a certain time, I show up 10 minutes early. Not so in the Philippines. When someone in the Philippines says they will meet you at 6 pm, that might mean anywhere in a 4-hour window, or not at all. When you’re told something will be done on Tuesday that might mean this week or next. Things are a little more laid-back.
Traveling in the Philippines, like some other countries, might mean the electricity may be working and it may not. Or in some places the electricity might only work a few hours in the day. There are also some very beautiful island getaways where there is no hot water at all. I really need hot water for showers – I just can’t get used to cold showers; I don’t care what the outside temperature is.
I have overheard, on more than a few occasions, tourists complaining about the service, or the fact that things are not as efficient as it is in their country. To them I say, stay home. I mean, come on ­– you’re traveling in a foreign country to see and experience new things. If you want things to be the same, then stay home.
SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Visit the Philippines in 2015
SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Visit the Philippines in 2015
Some people say the food in the Philippines is disappointing. Nothing like the extraordinary and diversified food you get in Thailand, Singapore and other parts of Asia. For me that just isn’t true. One thing I like to do when traveling is to eat where the locals eat.
Sometimes that means the food doesn’t particularly suit me, but in a lot of cases I find great examples of local cuisine. (RELATED:A foreigner's response to 'I'd rather go hungry' girl)
I love the various nighttime food markets in Manila. Something I wish we had back in Texas, where I am from. When I am in Manila, I always look up the food markets that are scheduled for the week and make plans to visit them.
READY TO EAT. The scene at one of Manila's many food markets
READY TO EAT. The scene at one of Manila's many food markets
The Midnight Mercado in Bonifacio Global City is one of my favorites, along with the Banchetto and the Sunday market inLegazpi Village. I get to sample a wide range of foods and meet some great people. (RELATED: Why I'm proud of my Philippine passport)
I was warned to be careful as a foreigner walking around at night in Manila. Well maybe because I’m a big guy, 6’1, or maybe because I don’t get drunk and wander down dark alleys, I have never had any problems. The people I have met for the most part have all been friendly and helpful.
Maybe some of that is because I don’t treat everyone as inferior and as if they need to cater to me, like so many tourists expect. I try to speak to everyone I meet, say hi to the waiters, please and thank you, just normal manners I was brought up with. I figure, I am a guest in your house. (RELATED: German traveler's 20 reasons to fall in love with the Philippines)
The beaches are my favorite place. I have visited a few, and there are many more I want to see. I enjoy seeing the all the tourist sites but what I really enjoy is a laid-back beach where there are few tourists and I can sample the culture. The Philippines offers many beaches just like that.
SPECIAL PLACE. Serene beaches of Bohol
SPECIAL PLACE. Serene beaches of Bohol
There are many more places in the Philippines I want to visit and experience, and it seems I just never have enough time. I guess that means more trips in the future.
All in all I would say my decision in 2009 to visit the Philippines was a good idea. I seemed to have found a place that suits me. –

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

...the best retirement haven

WOOT! Forbes lists Philippines as 1 of 20 best retirement havens for 2015

Taal Volcano as seen from Tagaytay. The latter is considered one of the country's coolest destinations year-round, and among the favorite retirement havens for foreigners. AFP FILE PHOTO
The online news portal of TV5
MANILA - The Philippines is one of the “20 Best Foreign Retirement Havens for 2015,” considering factors such as taxes and the cost of living, according to US business magazine Forbes.
In a recent article, Forbes said the country was best for US retirees since “the principal appeal of the Philippines is a low cost of living in a tropical environment full of English speakers and outdoor beauty.”
It further noted how foreign income in the country is untaxed, and permanent residency can be had on a minimal showing of retirement income.
“Popular locations include Tagaytay, a suburb of Manila, the capital, that is elevated and therefore cooler and Subic Bay, with an infrastructure from the old US Navy base,” Forbes said on its website.
It also mentioned the ease of return to the US with non-stop flights between Manila and the US averaging 15 hours.
Aside from Philippines, other countries on the list include Australia, Belize, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, France, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, and Uruguay.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

...the APEC 2015 host

PHL launches Apec 2015

By Virgil B. Lopez
Monday, December 1, 2014

The Philippines will host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in 2015 with the theme "Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World."

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III told fellow government officials and businessmen on Monday that the world will witness next year how the Philippines has taken strides to achieve inclusive economic growth.

Speaking at the launch of the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Makati City, Aquino portrayed the country as a good example of treading progress without leaving others behind.

"This 2015, visitors from Apec economies will witness for themselves the vibrancy of an inclusive and growing nation...They will encounter our greatest resource: Our people, who are kind, compassionate, and talented beyond measure. And they will see for themselves an archipelago connected through a web of inclusiveness," he said.

Next year's summit, a gathering of the world's 21 most dynamic economies, will carry the theme "Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World," as Aquino called on Filipinos to "strive to continue being a prominent example of how economic growth should be."

The Philippine economy has grown 6.3 percent in recent years (2010-2013), the highest consecutive four-year average growth since the late 1970s.

It also received credit rating upgrades and improved rankings in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report and Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

"Of course, true success cannot be measured by these numbers and distinctions alone. Rather, it can be seen in how these gains have become meaningful to our people. After all, the only real growth is inclusive growth, which has been the north star of all our government’s initiatives," said the President, who rose to power in 2010 on the back of an anti-corruption campaign.

Aquino said this can be seen in the government's commitment in pumping more money to education and expanding the conditional cash transfer program, wherein the government will provide poor families with a monthly cash grant, in exchange for pregnant mothers undergoing regular health check-ups, and children being sent to school.

"This is inclusive growth: where economic progress enables the betterment of our peoples; and where those empowered peoples can open the doors wider to even greater progress, spurring a virtuous cycle of empowerment and continuous development," Aquino said.

After the speech, Aquino led the unveiling of the logo for Apec 2015, a globe with triangles bearing the colors of the Philippine flag (blue, red and yellow).

Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, meanwhile, said the country's hosting next year is an opportunity to highlight the significance of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the country’s economy, and their role and integration in global supply chains.

The country’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) account for 99 percent of the businesses, and contribute 65 percent of the jobs generated by all types of business establishments.
Meetings among ministers and senior officials of member economies will begin next week in Legazpi City. This will be capped by the summit of heads of government on November 17-18, 2015.

Apec, which includes powerhouses United States, China, Japan, South Korea and Canada, discusses ways to facilitate free trade and economic integration each year.

Asia Pacific is home to 40 percent of the world's population and controls 54 percent of global economic output and 44 percent of trade.

The Philippines last hosted the summit in 1996 under the term of then President Fidel Ramos. (Sunnex)

...the Miss Earth 2014

Miss Philippines is Miss Earth 2014


An owner of a dance company in Cebu won 2014 Miss Earth during grand coronation night held at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City Saturday night.

MissVenezuela Maira Alexandra Rodriguez; Miss Earth Water; Miss Earth 2014 Miss Philippines Jamie Herrel. Miss Russia Anastacia Westropp, Miss Earth Fire.Miss USA Andrea Neu, who won Miss Earth Air

Jamie Herrel, 20, owner of Mactan Dynamics Dance Company, bested 83 candidates from around the world to capture the Miss Earth crown. This is the second time that the Philippines won in the environment-driven beauty contest.

In 2008, the 14th Miss World Beauty Pageant saw Karla Henry, to the first Filipina to be crowned Miss Earth.

Other winners in this year’s contest were Miss USA Andrea Neu, who won Miss Earth Air; Miss
Venezuela Maira Alexandra Rodriguez; Miss Earth Water; and Miss Russia Anastacia Westropp, Miss Earth Fire.

Other candidates who finished in the Top 18 semi-finalists were representatives from Tahiti, Korea, Colombia, Scotland, Mongolia, Zambia, Brazil, Slovak Republic, Thailand, Egypt, Mexico and Spain.

Herrel, who stands 170 centimeters and measures 32-25-28 belongs to the Kagandahang Flores beauty camp, describes herself as hyper and adventurous.

She said “the Philippines is absolutely beautiful with their high mountains, blue beaches, their amazing sunsets, big waterfalls, the delicious food, the exotic animals, the hospitable people and so much more. It’s hard to promote one eco-tourism spot because the country itself is absolutely breath-taking and you can never get enough of the Philippines.”


...the California Wellness Foundation BOD

Fil-Am named to board of top California health grant-maker Bureau
02 December 2014

WOODLAND HILLS, California – Filipino-American investment executive Joe Lumarda has been appointed to the board of directors of The California Wellness Foundation (Cal Wellness), the foundation recently announced.

Joe Lumarda

Lumarda, senior vice president and investment counselor of Capital Group Private Client Services — a leading investment management firm in Los Angeles — was appointed to the board along with Debra Nakatomi, president of Nakatomi & Associates in Santa Monica.

Nakatomi and Lumarda were elected at the foundation’s September 2014 board meeting; they will commence their service on January 1, 2015.

“We are thrilled to expand our Board by welcoming Joe and Debra,” said Barbara C. Staggers, M.D., M.P.H., Cal Wellness’ Board chair. “They will both bring a wealth of knowledge from their vast experiences in the nonprofit, philanthropic and corporate sectors.”

Lumarda is a seasoned philanthropic business leader; he spent 16 years at the California Community Foundation in the roles of vice president for development, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

He is the board chair of the Center for Nonprofit Management, and a board member of Saint Joseph Healthcare Foundation, Pasadena Child Health Foundation and Southern California Grantmakers. (Lumarda’s full biography here.)

Lumarda said joining Cal Wellness’ Board feels like a natural fit.

“What I love about Wellness is its holistic focus,” Lumarda said. “I was raised to believe that wellness is not just about health care in terms of hospitals and clinics. It’s also about the health and safety of the community as a whole. With the Foundation’s new leadership, renewed strategies and a focus built upon its legacy, it’s an excellent time to be joining the Board.”

Nakatomi is president of Nakatomi & Associates, a Santa Monica-based communications firm dedicated to advancing social change, promoting equity and designing awareness initiatives for nonprofit, public and private organizations committed to social good.

Debra Nakatomi

She has served regional, national and global organizations committed to expanding philanthropy for women and girls, promoting health equity and advancing wellness for underserved communities.

Nakatomi is former board secretary and international commissioner for Girl Scouts of the USA and chair-elect of the Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation. (Nakatomi’s full biography here.)

Nakatomi says she has admired the Foundation’s steadfast commitment to funding key health issues.

“Over the years, I’ve been a partner and an observer of the Foundation and have witnessed the impact of its sustained attention on such issues as violence prevention and increasing diversity in the health professions,” Nakatomi said. “I believe the role of a funder is to support community voices through policy advocacy, public education and being responsive to the needs of all communities.”

“I am so pleased to welcome Joe and Debra to our distinguished group of trustees,” said Judy Belk, Cal Wellness’ president and CEO. “They are both passionate about addressing disparities in our state and using expertise in their respective fields to advance health and wellness in California.”

To view videos of Lumarda and Nakatomi commenting on their appointments, please visit the Sound Bites page on

The California Wellness Foundation is a private independent foundation created in 1992 with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.

Since its founding in 1992, Cal Wellness has awarded 7,523 grants totaling more than $899 million.


...the NYC human rights chair

Fil-Am named chair of New York human rights commission

Momar Visaya
AJPress/ News Partner
02December 2014

NEW YORK CITY—Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced his appointment of Carmelyn P. Malalis as the new chair of the City’s Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), acting on his commitment to promote New York City’s progressive human rights law and effective community relations in a diverse city.

New Chair of NYC Commission on Human Rights Carmelyn P. Malalis. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Malalis joins two other Filipino-Americans currently serving in key posts under de Blasio administration – Minerva Tantoco as the city’s chief technology officer and Maria Torres-Springer as the head of the Department of Small Business Services.

“I’m confident that with Carmelyn at the helm of CCHR, this agency will be a robust enforcer of our fundamental civil rights and improve community relations among New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs,” de Blasio said in a statement.

“Hailing from Brooklyn to Brazil and ranging from rabbis to pastors, today’s appointees represent a diverse, progressive and exceptionally qualified group sharing an unwavering commitment to safeguard the rights and dignity of all people in New York City.”

The appointment happened three weeks after Public Advocate Letitia James called on de Blasio to fire the current CHR Commissioner Patricia Gatling.

“New York City has some of the strongest anti-discrimination laws in the country,” James wrote in a letter published by the Observer.

“Unfortunately, due to a moribund agency culture that results in lax enforcement the citizens of this City do not fully benefit from these laws,” James added.

Malalis, most recently a partner at Outten & Golden LLP and the co-chair of the firm’s LGBT Workplace Rights and Disability and Family Responsibilities Discrimination practice groups, is a highly regarded and accomplished attorney who brings years of experience representing and advising clients in employment discrimination litigation, as well as other employment-related matters.

During her time at Outten & Golden LLP, Malalis successfully represented employees in matters involving claims of sexual harassment and discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, age, pregnancy, disability and religious discrimination, among others.

The new chair and commissioners will be charged with leading the agency’s efforts to enforce New York City’s Human Rights Law—one of the most comprehensive civil rights laws in the nation—and with educating the public about it and encouraging positive community relations.

“I commend Mayor Bill de Blasio on his appointment of Carmelyn P. Malalis as the new chair of the City’s Commission on Human Rights and his naming of eight new commissioners to the agency. These appointments strongly reflect the Mayor’s unwavering commitment to protect the human rights and dignity of people in our great city. I congratulate all of the appointees and wish them great success in their new positions,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene.

Malalis, whose parents come from the Philippines, co-chairs the Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee of the American Bar Association Labor and Employment Law Section.

She is also a member of the New York City Bar Association’s Executive Committee. Malalis has previously served as an advisory committee member of the LGBT Rights Project at the Human Rights Watch, chair of the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on LGBT Rights, and board member of Queers for Economic Justice.

“I am proud to say I personally know many of the Mayor’s appointees to the City’s Commission on Human Rights, and I can attest to their integrity, dedication and commitment to protecting the rights of all New Yorkers,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm. “I commend Mayor de Blasio for revitalizing this very important commission.”

For the past decade, Malalis has worked as a partner at Outten and Golden LLP—one of the City’s premier plaintiff law firms—and its co-chair of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Workplace Rights Practice Group and the Family Responsibilities and Disability Discrimination Practice Group.

In these roles, Malalis has been tasked with a large litigation and negotiation docket, including class actions and individual client cases, and she advises clients on a broad array of employment-related matters. Malalis’s work also includes several advocacy and pro bono projects in collaboration with grassroots organizations and legal services providers advocating on behalf of low-wage and immigrant workers; LGBT employees; and women in the workplace.

Prior to Outten and Golden LLP, Malalis was a litigation associate at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, and she has served as a judicial law clerk for the U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis.

Malalis earned her J.D. from the Northeastern University School of Law and received a B.A. in women’s studies from Yale University. She and her spouse live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with their two children.

De Blasio also named eight new commissioners to the agency: Ana Oliveira, Catherine Albisa, Arnaldo Segarra, Domna Stanton, Steven Choi, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Jonathan Greenspun, and Reverend Dr. Demetrius Carolina.


Monday, December 1, 2014

...the PHL governance report

PHL climbs in World Bank's governance report

December 1, 2014

The Philippines rose in the World Bank's latest governance report, which bode well for the country's business climate in attracting more investments.
Based on the 2013 Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) report the Washington-based multilateral lender released Monday, the Philippines improved its rankings in four out of six indicators, showing that the Aquino administration’s agenda on good governance is creating a positive impact on how the world sees the country.
More than 200 countries and territories were covered by the global surveys for the 2013 WGI report.
It is a positive development that the Philippines has improved on tough indicators, National Competitiveness Council co-chair Guillermo Luz told GMA News Online.
"I agree that our ranking should go up as there's no question that the government has put up a lot of improvements in governance," he said.
"The WGI will be positive for the country as investors, credit ratings agencies always look at governance indicators," he noted.
In an e-mailed statement, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said the country’s achievement in the area of governance complements the gains on the economic front – including maintenance of within-target inflation and stability in the financial system.
"These accomplishments will help attain the goal of a sustainable and a more inclusive growth,” he said.
In latest WGI report, the four indicators where the Philippines registered better percentile rankings in 2013 compared with 2012 were in “voice and accountability,” “political stability and absence of violence,” “rule of law” and “control of corruption.”
Under “voice and accountability,” the Philippines’ ranking improved to 47.9 last year from 46.9 percent in 2012, which means it fared better than 47.9 percent of the countries and territories covered.
Under “political stability and absence of violence,” the Philippines’ percentile ranking rose to 16.6 from 14.2.
Under “rule of law,” the country’s percentile ranking jumped to 41.7 from 36.5.

Corruption control
The biggest improvement was in the area of “control of corruption,” where the Philippine ranking leaped to 43.5 from 33.5.
The better ranking the four indicators is a welcome development for the Aquino administration, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said in the same statement.
"International recognition of the Aquino administration’s good-governance agenda is vital in gaining confidence, which is necessary for our quest for even more investments,” he said.
In the area of “regulatory quality,” the Philippine ranking was unchanged at 51.7
It was only in the area of “government effectiveness” where the percentile ranking of the Philippines slipped, particularly from 57.9 to 56.9. The Philippines’ percentile ranking in government effectiveness has, nevertheless, improved since 2010 when it ranked 54.1 in view of improvements in the assessments from data sources used in the WGI.
The Philippines has made substantial leap in its WGI rankings since the start of the Aquino administration took the helm of government in 2010.
The most notable improvements from 2010 to 2013 were in the areas of “political stability” and “control of corruption,” under which the country’s rankings jumped in double-digit terms.
The Philippines’ latest ranking in “political stability” was up by 11.4 percentage points from only 5.2 in 2010. Political stability, as defined by WGI, reflects perceptions of the likelihood that the government will be destabilized or overthrown by unconstitutional or violent means, including politically motivated violence and terrorism.
Moreover, the Philippines’ latest ranking in “control of corruption” was up by 21.1 percentage points from 22.4 in 2010. WGI defines Control of Corruption as reflecting perceptions of the extent to which public power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as "capture" of the state by elites and private interests.
This pace of improvement since 2010 was faster than Indonesia’s 6.4-percentage point jump (to 31.6 from 25.2), Thailand’s 1.2-percentage point improvement (to 49.3 from 48.1), Vietnam’s 5.4-percentage point gain (to 36.8 from 31.4), and Malaysia’s 5.5-percentage point increase (to 68.4 from 62.9). – VS, GMA News