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Index

Editorial

Community News
MRPO slams abolition of death law
RP youths win big in Indon math tilt
First arrest in Philippines-China
extradition treaty
BI allows ex-Pinoys to reacquire citizenship
Two Tsinoy groups join hands in bloodletting project
ICAS 5 set in KL
Kidnap Watch
Drug Watch

Opinion
Tsinoy Beats & Bytes
Gems of History
Comic relief

Business
China vows to invest in RP
De Castro encourages Chinese investments in RP
Jollibee opens tea house in China
Business briefs

News Feature
Tsinoys celebrate Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day

Student
Iba ka... Iba ako...
Tsinay shines in Filipino declamation

Cover
Outstanding Tsinoys:
The 5th Dr. Jose P. Rizal Awards for Excellence

Literary
Book Review: Afraid to be Chinese
For peace of soul
Xue Tan learns to sing

Feature
Jaime FlorCruz: The eye on China

QUIK INFO

Chinese and Filipinos had a common origin. During the Ice age, the Philippines was said to be connected with the rest of Asia through land bridges. These land bridges promoted ancient migration in mainland Asia, Indonesia, Asia-Pacific and Australia. Evidence of the land connection is the presence of plants in the Mountain Province which are similar to the plants found in Taiwan and the Himalayas. Long before the Spaniards reached Philippine shores, Chinese and Filipinos already have extensive relations. The Chinese who came were both traders and cultural brokers.



 

 

June 20, 2006 Vol.19 Nos.1-2

Outstanding Tsinoys honored on June 19

The Manila Times, in partnership with the Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran Inc., a leading Tsinoy organization, honored nine outstanding Chinese Filipinos and a Chinese Filipino organization on June 19 during the awarding ceremony of the Fifth Dr. Jose Rizal Awards for Excellence held at Kaisa Heritage Center in Intramuros, Manila.
The awarding ceremony recognized a new breed of Tsinoys: Gerie T. Chua (busi-ness and entrepreneurship), Robert C. Go (community service), Dr. Paulino Y. Tan (education), Dr. Willie T. Ong (medicine), Mayor Benjamin S. Lim (public service) and Jose A. Sy (science and technology).
Special awards were given to Angsin Taguibao (arts and culture), Jose Mari Chan (arts and culture), Tony Tancaktiong (business, management and entrepreneurship) and The Wushu Federation of the Philippines (sports).
read more...

About the Cover: The Manila Times, in cooperation with Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran, has given recognition and tribute to outstanding Tsinoys who excel in various fields. On its 5th year, the awardees include wushu athletes who reaped golds for our country’s honor.

Editorial

The Philippines—in dependence

How ironic is it that the two words that make up “independence” mean precisely the opposite? What stands between “independence” and “in dependence” is just a little space that brings a world apart in meaning. read more...

Opinion

Tsinoy Beats and Bytes by Teresita Ang See

When truth is bitter

I was with some public school teachers in rural areas just before school started. Our talk naturally turned to the recent brouhaha over the lack of classrooms in our public schools. Department of Education officer-in-charge Dr. Fe Hidalgo was literally sent home after she reported in a Cabinet meeting that at least 6,500 classrooms were still needed based on the ideal classroom-to-student of 1:45. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo fumed and questioned her computation. She chided Hidalgo for disregarding the many classrooms that now hold two shifts a day. This would raise the ratio to 1:100. read more...

Gems of History by Go Bon Juan

Historic ties bind Hong Kong, Philippines

When people mention Hong Kong in relation to the Philippines, the 180,000 Filipino domestic helpers there almost always come to mind. What some of them may have forgotten is that Hong Kong played an important role during the Philippines’ revolutionary period a century ago. read more...

Community News

Other News

From Sulu to Shandong and back again:
Tsinoys celebrate Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day

Amidst the splendor of cultural dances, spectacular gymnastics, acrobatics and magic, music and speeches, capped by a friendly city signing ceremony, the Tsinoy community celebrated the 31st anniversary of Philippine-China diplomatic relations and the 5th Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day. read more...

Kidnap Watch: An Update

MRPO slams abolition of death law

The Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order has never wavered in its position against the abolition of the death penalty, particularly in relation to kidnap-for-ransom cases. MRPO members expressed hope that President Arroyo would change her position on the issue and veto the bill repealing the death penalty law. read more...

Kidnap scourge hits again

The good news: Three kidnap victims were released and three kidnap suspects were killed in an encounter with police, all on June 16. The bad news: The three victims were seized in three separate incidents in just one week. Two of them paid ransom in exchange for their freedom. read more...

Feature

Jaime FlorCruz: The eye on China
By Chloe Wong

"...This is Jaime FlorCruz for CNN Beijing.”
So goes the usual sign-off for this serious-looking, soft-spoken TV journalist.
Who would have thought that a Filipino is covering one of the most coveted international beats? Not even CNN Beijing bureau chief Jaime ‘Jimi’ FlorCruz himself. Admittedly, it was a mix of passion, hard work and luck for FlorCruz, of being at the right place at the right time. It has been a long road since he was stranded in 1972 in China, now his second home. read more...

Cover Story

Outstanding Tsinoys honored on June 19

The Manila Times, in partnership with the Kaisa Para sa Kaunlaran Inc., a leading Tsinoy organization, honored nine outstanding Chinese Filipinos and a Chinese Filipino organization on June 19 during the awarding ceremony of the Fifth Dr. Jose Rizal Awards for Excellence held at Kaisa Heritage Center in Intramuros, Manila.
The awarding ceremony recognized a new breed of Tsinoys in the person of Gerie T. Chua (busi-ness and entrepreneurship), Robert C. Go (community service), Dr. Paulino Y. Tan (education), Dr. Willie T. Ong (medicine), Mayor Benjamin S. Lim (public service) and Jose A. Sy (science and technology).
Special awards were given to Angsin Taguibao (arts and culture), Jose Mari Chan (arts and culture), Tony Tancaktiong (business, management and entrepreneurship) and The Wushu Federation of the Philippines (sports).
Though each personality has his own story to tell, their stories convey a similar lesson: a strong resolve to push through in life amid challenges.
Launched in 2002, the Dr. Jose Rizal Awards for Excellence is an annual search for outstanding members of the Chinese-Filipino community who have excelled in their professions or endeavors and have contributed to the growth and development of the country.
Through the Dr. Jose Rizal Awards for Excellence, the organizers hope to memorialize the contributions to the nation of outstanding Filipinos of Chinese descent, led by our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal.
The Awards also seek to celebrate the richness of the racial heritage and cultural diversity of our country. It also recognizes the multifaceted genius of the Chinese Filipinos and seeks to correct the old notion that the Tsinoy is only good in business and entrepreneurship.
The 2006 Dr. Jose Rizal Awards ceremony witnessed new faces, and a renewed hope molded in the character and integrity of these exemplars.
Besides their accomplishments, the awards ceremony will also focus on the symbiosis and synergism between Filipinos and their fellow Tsinoys. This year’s awarding ceremony was also a fitting tribute to our Rizal’s 145th birth anniversary.
For the past four years, awards have been given in recognition to Tsinoys excelling in different fields such as arts, literature and culture, business and entrepreneurship, community service, education, journalism, management and finance, medicine, public service, science and technology, sports and professionals (see list of past awardees on p. 20).
Besides the regular awards, lifetime achievement awards are also given to outstanding Tsinoys for their lifelong contributions, service, and achievements.
After this year, the search will be conducted every two years.

2006 Outstanding Tsinoys

Special Awardees

Jose Mari Chan: “Promoting nationalism through Pinoy music”
The most successful singer-songwriter and one of the most enduring, Jose Mari Chan’s giant hits have spanned four decades not only in the Philippines but throughout Asia and the world.
Many of his sweet, melodious and popular tunes have been sung in foreign languages, thus making original Pinoy music renowned globally.
The well-loved “We’re All Just One” that he composed and sang as theme song for last year’s 23rd Southeast Asian Games still resonates in the ears of athletes and guests.
Chan’s success in the music profession is equally matched by his success in the business sphere.
He is at the helm his family’s sugar and hotel business. Chan is chairman and president of the sugar central BISCOM in Negros Occidental, which he has been managing since 1985.
He also runs A. Chan Sugar Group of Companies and the Hyatt Regency Hotel Manila.
Chan has magnanimously used his business resources and gift of music to help the country, like building a church in Ormoc, Leyte and setting up the Character Building Foundation of Heidi Sison in Samar, a project that seeks to impart Christian and traditional Filipino values.
He has composed lovable jingles for worthwhile causes like the popular children’s television show Pin-Pin in the early 1990s.
The multi-talented Chan holds the distinction of having bagged two Diamond Record awards for his albums “Constant Change” and “Christmas in our Hearts.”
A Diamond Record award is equivalent to 10 Platinum awards or 400,000 copies of albums sold in the market.
His album, “Christmas in Our Hearts,” is a platinum 16 times over. His more recent releases, “Thank You, Love” and “Souvenirs” are also multi-platinum.
Chan has also garnered the “Album of the Year,” “Record of the Year,” “Best Jazz Recording,” and “Best Traditional Pop Song” awards from two major music groups, Awit and Katha.
A few years back, he was conferred the “Dangal ng Musikang Pilipino Award” by the Philippine Association of the Recording Industry.
He is a “PERLAS Awardee” for his outstanding contribution to Philippine contemporary music and the recipient of the “Antonio C. Barreiro Lifetime Achievement Award” by the Metro Pop Foundation.
Chan has held concerts all over Asia, the United States and Europe but it is here at home, in the Philippines, that his great music is, indeed, in our hearts.

Tony Tancaktiong: “Capitalizing on Filipino taste and family values”
For braving the risks involved in his chosen venture and for conquering all odds to make his undertakings succeed, Tony Tancaktiong was recognized as the “World Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2004 by the major accounting firm Ernst & Young.
Honesty, hardwork, integrity, humility, discipline, frugality and other traditional Confucian virtues. These are the very ingredients that Tan has been mixing in his chain of food service business ventures, one of which is the leading company in the Philippines, Jollibee Food Corp., according to the Far Eastern Economic Review magazine (2000). Tan capitalizes on the unique Filipino taste: sweet and oozing with flavorful smell. He reveals: “We knew something important all along: Filipino taste is sweet. This is very Filipino—very Asian.” Filipinos, he says, love to smell their food before they go for their first bite. Guided by this concept and by the right attitude to challenges and competition, Tan has steered Jollibee into a diligent, hardworking “bee” not just for personal benefit, but for the country’s as well.
From a measly P2 million in sales in its first year in 1978, Jollibee reached the P500-million annual mark in sales in 1984, just six short years later, propelling the company into the list of the Top 500 Philippine Corporations. In 1987, the company landed on the Philippines’ Top 100 Corporations. It became the first fastfood chain to break the P1-billion sales mark in 1989. In the mid-1990s, Jollibee acquired Greenwich Pizza and Delifrance franchise. In 2000, it brought Chowking Foods Corp. Now, Jollibee is the country’s biggest fastfood conglomerate with more than a thousand stores in the country.
The company is cited as the only homegrown brand that has outnumbered and outsold its major foreign competition in the Philippines. It has more than a hundred food chains scattered on foreign shores. These achievements are clear proof that a Filipino company can compete with foreign firms and that there is hope for the Philippine economy to develop further. More than 40,000 people have jobs, hundreds of suppliers have income opportunities, and many entrepreneurs have gained access to a thriving food service venture through its franchise scheme.
Alongside its success in the business, Tan’s business has made significant contributions to the reshaping of the national values through Jollibee’s “Kaya mo, Kid” social development program that fosters positive values on children, and through Jollibee’s advertising campaigns that highlight strong national pride, good family values and faith in the Filipino. Truly, a Pinoy family outing, or a balikbayan’s homecoming, will not be complete without a Jollibee happy meal.
Away from the public eye, Tan does philanthropic work. In 2002, the Management Association of the Philippines chose Tan as “Man of the Year.” For all the honors, achievements and awards he has garnered, he remains his humble self: “We share with our people any honor and success that comes our way.”

Angsin Taguibao: “A life devoted to world-class photography”
Angsin Taguibao lives and breathes excellent photography—for more than four decades at that.
Since he began wielding a still camera in the late 1960s, Taguibao has pursued photography with vigor and passion.
The poignant and artistic images he has captured have been displayed in scores of international venues, winning accolades not just for himself but also for the Philippines.
The photos are vivid reflections of social reality: the faces of poverty in the urban setting, the spirit of volunteerism and sacrifice among firefighters, and the everyday lives of common people.
The gifted Taguibao has chalked up more than 200 awards from various competitions.
His brilliant work has caught the attention of the Photographic Society of America, which has entered his name into its “Who’s Who” list of best exhibitors of the world.
By the association’s count, he has turned in 276 different photos in both monochrome print and color slide, and 2,143 photos for the International Photographic Exhibitions.
From 1976 to 1984, Taguibao received eight awards from the Photographic Society of America, including first place for his monochrome prints in 1976 and 1981.
Taguibao is also the recipient of the following awards of distinctions: excellence, Federation International De L’Art Photographique (1973) in Switzerland; gold seal exhibitor, The Photographic Salon Exhibitors Association (1979) in Hong Kong; five-star exhibitor, Photographic Society of America (1980); fellowship, Siam Color Slide Club (1986) in Thailand; diamond exhibitor, Photographic Society of America (1990); and honorary exhibitor, Boon Lay Community Center Photographic Club (1993) in Singapore.
Though the years are catching up, the 73-year-old Taguibao’s eye for remarkable images is still as clear as his eye for photography during his prime.
He may have slowed down from photography because of his advancing age, but his spirit and fervor for only the best in life remain indomitable and are palpable in the great pictures he has produced over the years.
Angsin Taguibao: A true champion of the Chinese-Filipino aspiration for world-class recognition in the world of photography.

Wushu Federation of the Philippines: “Developing the Filipino body, mind and spirit through martial arts”
Wushu, as it is known today, is an amalgam of several schools of ancient Chinese martial arts. In old China, it was employed primarily to attack and repel foreign invading armies and local bandits.
Over the centuries, wushu has evolved into a unique sport that encompasses skills in both armed and unarmed combat. It doubles as an ideal fitness regimen and an outlet for artistic expression.
The Wushu Federation of the Philippines is the foremost organization promoting this promising combat sport in the country.
At the last Southeast Asian Games, wushu was the one sport that reaped the most number of gold medals and catapulted the Philippines to the Games’ overall championship.
The Wushu Federation was founded in November 1987 at the heart of Manila’s Chinatown by a group of wushu enthusiasts headed by Francis Chan. Contrary to tradition and practice, the federation introduced the sport not only to Tsinoys, but to Filipinos as well.
Its members have since proved themselves to be dedicated skilled athletes ready for local and international competitions.
The federation actively recruits and trains athletes in areas like Changquan, a long-range boxing characterized by speedy, graceful, flexible body movements; Nanquan, a southern style of boxing in China characterized by vigorous actions accompanied by vocal sounds; and Tai-ji, typified by slow, calm movements. More so, the organization trains its recruits on Dao Shu (broadsword), Nandao (southern-style broadsword), Qiang Shu (spear), Gunshu (cudgels) and other forms of martial arts.
The potential athletes it discovers in high schools and colleges, and in private and public institutions, are sent to China for further training. Recently, the federation adopted a grading and leveling system to monitor and raise the standard of practice of the athletes.
Through the Wushu Federation, the country has copped four gold medals in three wushu world championships. In the Fourth Asian Wushu Championships held in Manila last November, the Philippines placed second to China. In the 2005 Manila SEA Games, it bagged 11 gold, four silver and three bronze medals.
Since its establishment, the federation has produced excellent wushu athletes like Benjie Rivera, Rene Catalan, Arvin Ting, Rexel Nganhayna, proving that wushu is not just for the Chinese. In fact, in the 2003 competition in Beijing, the Chinese
homeground where wushu athletes are trained since childhood, the Filipino athletes shone by mixing their skills with the inherent Pinoy grace.

Awards of Excellence

Paulino Y. Tan, Ph.D: “Propelling development through quality education”
In the highly mercantile Tsinoy community, Paulino Yu Tan shines as one of the driving forces behind some of the country’s most well-respected educational institutions. In the late 1980s, he earned the distinction of being the only Tsinoy holding the highest ranking position in a prestigious university, as executive vice president of De La Salle University.
Tan is a product of the Quiapo Anglo-Chinese School and Xavier High School. After finishing his degree in chemical engineering from DLSU in 1963, he took up his master’s degree and doctorate, both in chemical engineering, at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, U.S.
Armed with advanced knowledge gained from years of study and research fellowships in a foreign education institution, he returned to the Philippines and paid back what he owed his alma mater. He assumed the chairmanship of DLSU’s Chemical Engineering Department and later rose to become the associate dean of the College of Engineering.
Tan put his engineering expertise to good use in the university’s administration. As DLSU’s vice president for academic affairs and later executive vice president, he successfully steered the university to greater heights not just as a business and management school but also one well known for its social science courses. Fully aware that information technology would give students a competitive edge, he put up a computer school in 1991, which successfully evolved into a full-fledged Asia Pacific College. He is currently president of the college.
Tan has not confined himself to just the educational institutions he is attached to. For years, he has been sitting as chair the Commission of Higher Education’s technical panel on engineering and information technology, where he generously dispenses invaluable advice and inputs to elevate the standards of engineering and I.T. education in the country.

Benjamin S. Lim: “Applying business management expertise to governance”
Dagupan was flattened and devastated after the 1990 earthquake. Main thoroughfares were twisted, land turned to mush, most buildings cracked or toppled down. Many disheartened businessmen thought of abandoning the ravaged city.
But not Dagupan-born and -bred Tsinoy businessman Benjamin Lim.
Lim refused to give up and even encouraged fellow businessmen to seize the opportunity wrought by the crisis. His call: Stay put and help the local government rebuild and bring the city back on its feet.
The 54-year-old Lim is now mayor of Dagupan. Public office has allowed him to combine his managerial background and industrial engineering expertise to bring the city and its constituents to prominence.
His innovative CEO approach to governance has inspired a service-oriented and service-driven mindset among city employees and infused new ways to increase public revenues.
The Tsinoy mayor has successfully cut bureaucratic red tape by setting up at City Hall a one-stop business center that facilitates the processing of permits, licenses and tax payments. Between 2001 and 2005, the city’s income leaped 73 percent to P98 million, reducing its dependence on the internal revenue allotment from the national government.
Lim has channeled revenues into making Dagupan a modern, attractive, competitive and tourist-friendly place.
A four-story modern public market, fish port, 35 school buildings, a landfill and other public infrastructures have been erected, all during his watch. Malnourished public school childen benefit from the city’s food assistance program.
The Happy Hearts Foundation, the establishment of which Lim spearheaded, provides technical skills trainings to thousands of Pangasinense who cannot afford the high cost of formal schooling.
Task Force Bantay Dagupan, largely composed of Tsinoy members, is just one of the city’s projects in partnership with the private sector. Thanks to Lim, Dagupan enjoys sister-city relationships with Milpitas, a city in Washington, U.S., and with the state of Hawaii.
Surprisingly, the busy mayor still finds time for volunteer work. He is with the PANDA Fire Volunteer Brigade organized by Dagupan-based Tsinoys.
Needless to say, Lim has gained the respect of both private and government institutions. Lim was already adjudged one of the “Top Outstanding Dagupeños” even before he became mayor.
As mayor of Dagupan, he was chosen as one of the country’s six outstanding city mayors and bagged the “2003 Local Government Leadership Award” conferred by the composite body of the Department of Interior and Local Government, University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Development Academy of the Philippines and the Center for Local and Regional Governance of the Local Government Academy.
Last year, Dagupan was recognized as one of the “Most Competitive Small Cities in the Philippines” by the Asian Institute of Management, US Agency of International Development and The Asia Foundation.
Lim has unquestionably done a lot more than put his beloved Dagupan back on its feet.

Robert C. Go: “Bringing medical missions closer to the Filipinos”
Manila Chinatown Charity Foundation Inc. founder and primary mover Robert Go is doing what some people would find difficult to accomplish.
He brings free medical assistance closer to the needy, who he believes deserve the attention and care of society’s more fortunate members. “This is the best way that we can contribute as citizens of the Republic,” Go says.
For nearly 20 years, the MCCFI, through a 50-member team of medical practitioners, health workers and civic-minded people, has provided medical services (dental operations, acupuncture, medicine dispensation) without charge to more than 400,000 destitute patients.
In 2001, upon his election as the foundation’s president, Go embarked on two significant missions: to build a permanent clinic on a land grant that he secured with help from the city of Manila and to raise a P40-million medical trust fund to defray building expenses and sustain the foundation’s ongoing medical operations.
He hit the ground running by farming out letters soliciting financial assistance from the Tsinoy community. He also coursed his appeal through the Chinese-language newspapers.
Go got the ball rolling by fishing out P1 million from his own pocket. His donation was topped only by the generous P4 million endowment that came from the late philanthropist Tan Chua King Ha, the mother of taipan Lucio Tan.
Go’s call to action generated more than P40 million in just a year, in what MCCFI secretary Tony Lopez says is a breakthrough in the history of fund-raising projects within the Chinese-Filipino-community.
Go’s invaluable contributions to society have not gone unnoticed.
He is the recipient of awards and recognition from organizations such as the Hong Kong Pui-Kiu Alumni Association, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Barangay Culiat Health and Sanitation Committee, Chim-Ho Fraternity, Pasay Filipino Chinese Charity Health Center, National Mother’s Day and Father’s Day Foundation, and the Cabanatuan city government.
Go truly exemplifies a capable and civic-minded leader, bringing the Chinese into Philippine social concerns and promoting a healthy Pinoy-Tsinoy relationship.

Jose A. Sy: “Innovating for a stronger and cost-effective construction system”
With the rising cost of construction materials, the need for an economical, yet strong structural system has become of paramount importance. Structural engineer Jose A. Sy has been filling this need.
The wide spectrum of projects in Sy’s 25-year career—high-rise buildings, commercial edifices, condominiums, hotels, banks and industrial plant facilities—showcases the structural innovations he has been involved in: high-strength concrete and composite materials, and the top-down construction of permanent retaining wall with soldier piles and tie-back anchors.
The innovations have significantly cut down construction costs, to his clients’ delight. The roster of grateful companies includes Ayala Life FGU Center in Cebu City, Makati Development Co., Filinvest Alabang, Rockwell Land Corp., D.M. Consunji, Philam Properties, Pilipinas Makro and Robinsons Land Corp.
Sy is president and chief operating officer of Aromin & Sy + Associates, considered as one of the country’s leading structural engineering design firms. He started out as a senior structural design engineer in 1983 and rose to become a key executive of the company, primarily because of his unquenchable dedication to his tasks, good leadership and management skills, and excellent technical know-how brought about by his numerous participations in conventions here and abroad. He has attended conferences on earthquake engineering, performance demands for state-of-the-art structural concrete, new developments in structural steel, trends in structural design and value engineering, among others.
His ideas are evident not only in the structures he has built. In fact, Sy has published several technical papers: “Restoration of Tilted ECR Building to Plumbness” (2003); “Structural Considerations in the Design of High-Rise Buildings” (2000); “Strategic Application of New Technology to the Roxas Triangle Development” (1997); “Buildings vs. Earthquakes: The Need for More Strength” (1990).
With Sy’s advanced skills, it should come as no surprise that he has been invited to be part of prestigious organizations in his field like the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers, Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines, the American Concrete Institute and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Willie T. Ong, M.D.: “A doctor for the masses”
Medical practice need not be confined to a clinic or a hospital. Medical knowledge can be shared with the less privileged through popular media, and medical services can be brought directly to poor, inaccessible areas. That is, if you have a doctor like cardiologist Willie T. Ong.
Ong and his wife, Liza, a general medicine practitioner, appear in the weekly television show, “Doc Willie and Liza.” The hour-long program explains diseases, both common and rare, in layman’s terms, features projects of doctors like the Doctor to the Barrio program, and visits depressed areas to advocate preventive health care.
Before his foray into the TV medium, Ong was a regular columnist and contributor of Manila Bulletin, Manila Times and health magazines.
Last March, Readers Digest featured the 42-year-old Ong in its “Modern Heroes” section, lauding his initiative to reverse the brain drain in the medical profession.
The good doctor goes from school to school to entice medical graduates not to leave the country by presenting them viable options in the Philippines. Today, he has a network of 1,600 doctors, gathered through this reverse brain drain advocacy.
Also unique in Ong’s professional career is his pioneering work on medical history and medical education.
Considered as the only Filipino doctor who has devoted part of his life to studying the history of medicine in the Philippines (at the University of the Wisconsin), this cardiologist has painstakingly chronicled the history of Philippine medicine and healthcare in the last seven years.
Living by Jose Rizal’s dictum, “Ang taong hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan,” Ong has traveled to Madrid, Tokyo and the U.S. in search of important historical records. His research has yielded an extensive collection of rare pictures and books, antiques (coins, stamps), and articles on Philippine medicine, now housed at the Society of Philippine Health History (SPHH) which he founded.
A prolific author, Ong’s first book, The Medicine Blue Book, is on its sixth edition with record sales of more than 50,000 copies. The book focuses on available drugs in the country and on dosages appropriate for the average Filipino patient.
His second book, Cardiology Blue Book, is a simplified handbook on the diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions. A collection of his weekly Chinese column for the Sino-Fil Daily called “Health and Life” has been published.
Indeed, Ong’s youth has not deterred him from reaching out to indigent patients, to rural and urban poor with little or no access to health care, to fellow doctors scrambling to leave the country, and to documenting the unexplored Philippine medical history. What more can you ask of this doctor?

Gerie T. Chua: “Doing pioneering business and championing good deeds”
When Gerie Chua inherited his father’s flagging hopia business, Eng Bee Tin on Ongpin Street, at the age of 21, he also acquired the huge debts and problems that came with the family enterprise. A combination of sheer determination, honesty and creative strategy, however, has turned around the tide of misfortune and transformed him into one of the country’s most successful Chinese-Filipino entrepreneurs. His hopia ube and other flavored hopia are now household bywords, especially among balikbayan.
But the 44-year-old Chua belongs to a unique breed: He is a businessman with a steadfast commitment to the community. The ube-colored firetruck parked near Eng Bee Tin attests to his spirit of volunteerism: He is longstanding member of the Binondo and Paco Volunteer Fire Search and Rescue Brigade. Chinatown folks also often come across him untangling the knotty vehicular traffic and performing barangay work. Elderly Tsinoys and the needy are recipients of his generosity, which comes in the form of financial assistance and hopia giveaways.
Chua has, indeed, come a long way from the trying times when he did everything singly: from ordering raw materials, mixing and stuffing ingredients in the dough, baking the pastry, to packing the products by hand, delivering them around and outside Metro Manila, and tending the store. He still recalls his struggle to earn the trust of suppliers, a big bank and a friend who lent money to his then losing business.
Chua’s mouthwatering concoction—hopia ube— turned out to be Eng Been Tin’s ticket to success. His one-time appearance on national TV for this unique pastry helped propel the business to greater heights. Eng Bee Tin is now semi-machine operated, producing 25,000 pieces of hopia every day that are sold at home and abroad. The hopia king plows the profits from his Café Mezzanine, adjacent to Eng Bee Tin, to the Binondo volunteer fire brigade.
Chua is at present president of the Federation of Philippine Volunteer Fire Brigades, to which he has donated four fire trucks and an ambulance.
He has also established a nationwide fire alert communication system dubbed as “TEXT FIRE,” which enables firefighters to get instant information when fires break out.
Chua keeps reminding friends that doing business is not just about making money, but also about doing good to others.
“You have to give back to society what it has given to you,” he says.
And he practices what he preaches.

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Editorial

The Philippines—in dependence
June 20, 2006

How ironic is it that the two words that make up “independence” mean precisely the opposite? What stands between “independence” and “in dependence” is just a little space that brings a world apart in meaning.
The Philippines has been officially independent for… oh, how many years now? Are we counting from World War II or insisting on the year that Emilio Aguinaldo raised the flag over a hundred years ago? Does it matter? For the average Filipino, does independence really mean anything apart from a day off school or work?
When you think about it, the Philippines, far from standing strong on her own, is rather deeply “in dependence” of a multitude of things—the goodwill of nature not to send us any more natural disasters, the billions of dollars sent by overseas workers whom we cannot convince to stay in the country, a government that seems to exist only for the purpose of stealing from the people who depend most on it.
We are dependent on the U.S. for military aid, on the IMF, World Bank and foreign governments for economic aid. We are even dependent on the goodwill built by our own Muslim community not to have the wrath of their Muslim brethren in Iraq and Afghanistan down on us.
Which begs the question: Can’t we count on ourselves for anything?
As an independent nation, we are free to make of our lives what we want. We are free to build the kind of country we want.
But we would still be heading nowhere if we don’t first find out what truly went wrong in the last 108 years, and accept and address these costly mistakes. We need to work harder to unfetter ourselves from the chains that keep us from being truly free. Only then can we start charting a new course toward a truly independent Philippines.

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Tsinoy Beats and Bytes by Teresita Ang See

When truth is bitter
June 20, 2006

I was with some public school teachers in rural areas just before school started. Our talk naturally turned to the recent brouhaha over the lack of classrooms in our public schools. Department of Education officer-in-charge Dr. Fe Hidalgo was literally sent home after she reported in a Cabinet meeting that at least 6,500 classrooms were still needed based on the ideal classroom-to-student of 1:45. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo fumed and questioned her computation. She chided Hidalgo for disregarding the many classrooms that now hold two shifts a day. This would raise the ratio to 1:100.
I asked the teachers if they thought Hidalgo had made a mistake. Their response was deafening. Talking simultaneously, they said the President made a bad joke. The classroom shortage is so acute that some schools have even gone three shifts to accommodate students. The school day begins at six in the morning, with each shift lasting less than four class hours, including recess. Multigrade classes, where one teacher handles several grade levels in one shared classroom, are also common.
No wonder, they said, many teachers are willing to trade their chalk and lesson plans for brooms and mops. They find it a breeze to work as domestic helpers overseas than teach three shifts of underprivileged, ill-prepared and often hungry students.
One thing the teachers agreed on: They were shocked that Arroyo listens only to what she wants to hear even in a cabinet meeting.
Indeed, funding has been released to address the perennial classroom shortage, but most of it was given just in May, a month before classes started. This means that in most places, especially remote rural areas, it will be next schoolyear before new classrooms will materialize. By then, more new students will be enrolling, again exacerbating the dearth of classrooms.
I wonder if President Arroyo took into account that in some schools, several classes are held in just one classroom and in others, a bench for two students seats four. Should we see it as a good thing that most public school students are thin and small?
I told one of the teachers that if I were Hidalgo, I would have seized the moment and announced to the Cabinet, “I am sorry, no matter how unpalatable it is, it is the truth and no amount of sweetener can change the bitter reality,” before marching out of the room in blazing glory.
I suppose the President will never consider appointing Hidalgo as education secretary following this fiasco, so she ought to have just gone out with a bang. A teacher, however, pointed out Hidalgo’s hands are tied as OIC: She is nearing retirement and has everything to lose, including her hard-earned benefits.
* * *
If there is one indicator that the economy is not doing well, it is the enrollment in private schools. It has gone down while the student population in public schools is fast growing. The Association of Chinese-Filipino Schools reported enrollment figures are down even if their tuition and other fees are considerably lower than those of non-Tsinoy sectarian schools. Even Tsinoy schools based in an affluent Manila neighborhood report a big drop in the number of student applicants.
All said, a turnaround in our education sector may be a long way off. In the midst of classroom shortages in public schools and enrollment decline in private schools, the regulating agency, the Department of Education, faces challenges of its own.
Until recently, former education officials—Edilberto de Jesus, Florencio Abad, Isagani Cruz, Juan Miguel Luz, among others—have saved government a lot of money through the Government Assistance to Teachers and Students in Private Education or GASTPE. It gives scholarships to poor but deserving students so they can study in private schools. Thus, the excess classrooms and facilities in private schools are used to accommodate poor students from public schools. Sadly, After Abad resigned, a lot of the good projects like GASTPE have been sidelined.
***
The government is boosting tourism to raise revenues. But all agencies must work together, not at cross purposes. Last week, I went to Baguio with some faculty members of the Ateneo de Manila University. Enroute, we were stopped by people from the Land Transportation Office. They demanded from the driver a sticker that would show that the vehicle we were in is a public conveyance. Even though all the papers, registration, insurance were in order, the LTO officers insisted on inspecting the sticker. We all know how delinquent the LTO is on issuing stickers. They usually give the stickers long after car registrations or even driver’s licenses have been renewed. It is definitely a turnoff for tourists to be delayed just because the driver is being harassed by LTO and other highway officials.
Tourists from China also complain about being accosted by policemen and immigration officials who demand to see their papers. These legitimate tourists have no problems complying. But the hassle and scare they get discourage them from coming back or from recommending the Philippines to compatriots. Tourism attractions are sold more often by word of mouth. But if only sad experiences are shared by travelers to our beautiful country, no matter how attractive our 7,100 islands are, nobody will come.


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Gems of History by Go Bon Juan

Historic ties bind Hong Kong, Philippines
June 20, 2006

When people mention Hong Kong in relation to the Philippines, the 180,000 Filipino domestic helpers there almost always come to mind. What some of them may have forgotten is that Hong Kong played an important role during the Philippines’ revolutionary period a century ago.
We just celebrated our 108th Independence Day. The first Philippine flag was made in Hong Kong by Marcela and Lorenza Agoncillo and Defina Herbosa Natividad on May 7, 1898. Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo brought back this flag on his return from Hong Kong and unfurled it when he declared our country’s independence from Spain on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite.
After the Pact of Biak na Bato was signed in December 1897, Aguinaldo and his group were exiled to Hong Kong where they established the famous Hong Kong Junta to continue the struggle for independence.
Many revolutionary figures during that period, in fact, stayed in Hong Kong for quite a time, including the revolutionary government’s first diplomat, Felipe Agoncillo, and the Chinese general of Philippine revolution, Jose Ignacio Paua.
Even our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, lived in Hong Kong from 1891 to 1892 where he worked as an ophthalmic surgeon.
It was also in Hong Kong that Jose Ma. Basa helped smuggle Rizal’s novel, Noli Mi Tangere, to the Philippines.
Basa was exiled to Marianas after the 1872 Cavite Mutiny but managed to escape to Hong Kong later.
At present, Hong Kong is home to three Philippine historical markers. The marker at the site where Rizal once held his clinic was unveiled in 1996 during the centennial of his martyrdom. The other marker was installed at Rizal’s former Hong Kong residence at No. 2 Rednaxela Terrace, No. 5 D’ Aguilar St. only two years ago, on Dec. 30. The third marker is found at Morrison Hill Park in Wan Chai district, where the first Philippine flag was made.
So next time we talk about Hong Kong, let us remember its historical significance to our country. And don’t forget to visit the three historical sites when you go to Hong Kong.

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Community News

From Sulu to Shandong and back again:
Tsinoys celebrate Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day

Amidst the splendor of cultural dances, spectacular gymnastics, acrobatics and magic, music and speeches, capped by a friendly city signing ceremony, the Tsinoy community celebrated the 31st anniversary of Philippine-China diplomatic relations and the 5th Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day.
The Federation of Filipino-Chinese Associations, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc., Chinese Filipino Business Club and Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran were among the Tsinoy organizations that led the celebration.
A cultural troupe from Shandong, China performed to a standing room only audience at the Philamlife Auditorium on the first day of celebration on June 8. A stirring rendition of “Bayan Ko” by renowned Shandong soprano Shi Jie opened the spectacular cultural performances.
The Shandong performers were invited by FFCA headed by its current president Joseph Chan. They were joined by local groups and singers on stage who showed off folk dances, magic, gymnastics, choral and solo musical renditions.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, in his welcome speech before the performance, said “the relationship between our countries is like a smoothly textured tapestry, made even more colorful by the fabric of extensive and vibrant bilateral cooperation in various areas.”
Among the bilateral cooperation he cited was the assistance in the construction of four million housing units for informal settlers and the SouthRail project.
The Shandong officials and performers were given a welcome dinner at the Century Seafood Restaurant the day before, with Sulu Gov. Benjamin T. Loong and his executive secretary Bertrand Chio among the guests of honor.
Officers of Tsinoy community organizations were at hand to welcome the delegation.
Loong had to rush back to Sulu the next day because President Gloria Arroyo was scheduled to visit Sulu the next afternoon and the governor had to see to it that all the preparations were complete.
Instead of a signing ceremony at the welcome dinner, the event was done at the farewell dinner on June 11 at the Legend Seafood Restaurant at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex.
Loong came back from Sulu to sign the memorandum of intent with Vice Party Secretary Zhang Tie Jun.
The ceremony was witnessed by FFCA president Joseph Chan, honorary presidents Yuk Yin T. Garcia and Lim Yu Tiat and Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran director Michael Guzman.
Present at the farewell dinner were the Paramount Sultan of Sulu and Borneo Dr. Ibrahim Bahjin and ministers of the Sultanate of Sulu headed by Syed Derwish R. Bederi.
The Sulu-Shandong signing ceremony was an outcome of the first visit of the descendants of the Sulu Sultan after 588 years since the first Sultan Paduka Batara paid tribute to Chinese Emperor Yong Le and died in Shandong China in 1417 on his way back to Sulu.
The FFCCCII, headed by Francis Chua, held a joint celebration for the RP-China Friendship Day and the 108th Philippine Independence Day at the Philippine International Convention Center at the CCP Complex on the evening of June 10.
President Arroyo was the guest of honor at the celebration. China’s Ambassador to the Philippines Li Jinjun also graced the affair together with other government officials and heads of Tsinoy organizations.
The Federation recognized Tsinoy organizations that had made great contributions to Philippine society.
President Arroyo handed out plaques of appreciation to Tsinoy organizations that conduct charity, relief and medical missions, volunteer fire brigades and mass housing projects.
Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran was the recipient of Most Outstanding Organization Award on Mass Housing for its Gawad Kalinga projects.
The CFBC, headed by its president George S. Lee, likewise marked Friendship Day at the San Lorenzo Ruiz Plaza in Binondo, Manila.
The whole-day affair started with colorful parade, cultural shows, dance contest, food festivals, sports events (martial arts, ping pong and bowling), flag donation, a jobs fair, medical mission, dental equipment donation for Philipine National Police and medical assistance for the Ospital ng Maynila.
Other activities of the CFBC attended by a throng of people included a foreign and local jobs fair; medical and dental mission; mini food festival; anti-rabies vaccination; trade and livelihood demonstrations; firefighting demo; inventor’s fair; and issuance of senior citizen cards and reading glasses. The day’s celebration was capped by fireworks display and a street party up to late evening.

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Kidnap Watch

MRPO slams abolition of Death Penalty Law

The Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order has never wavered in its position against the abolition of the death penalty, particularly in relation to kidnap-for-ransom cases.
MRPO members expressed hope that President Arroyo would change her position on the issue and veto the bill repealing the death penalty law.
“Our reaction is one of utter disappointment because our organization has always been against the abolition of the death penalty,” said Emil Armas, an MRPO official.
Armas said he was opposed to capital punishment until the kidnaping of his son a year ago.
“After the harrowing experience of a loved one like your son being kidnaped and his life on the line, then probably you will change your position on the death penalty,” he said.
“Lifting of the death penalty is untimely as far as kidnap-for-ransom cases is concerned,” said Armas.
MRPO records showed that kidnaping cases have risen, are rising, and continue to rise.
Seven kidnaping incidents involving eight victims and P888,000 ransom paid were reported in the first quarter of 2005.
In the first three months of this year, a total of 14 kidnap-for-ransom incidents (100 percent increase), 19 victims (135 percent increase) and P8.5 million ransom paid (857 percent increase) were documented.
The Senate on June 6 approved on final reading a bill abolishing the death penalty.
A similar measure was approved in the House of Representatives on third reading also on June 6.
President Arroyo had certified the measure as urgent, and has consistently granted reprieves to death convicts since she came to power in 2001.
Senate Bill 2254 is a substitute for Senate Bills 226, 649 and 1143, and was written by Senators Joker Arroyo, Richard Gordon, Sergio Osmeña III, Manuel Villar and Aquilino Pimentel Jr.
The Senate bill repeals Republic Act 6759 or the Death Penalty Law and instead provides for reclusion perpetua (40 years in jail) or life imprisonment.
The bill bars granting parole to any convict sentenced to life imprisonment. However, it would not affect the prerogative of the President to pardon any convict.
The MRPO said certain quarters would maintain that the death penalty has not been a deterrent to the commission by lawless elements of heinous crimes, among which is kidnaping for ransom.
This position is bereft of logic given that there have been only seven executions by lethal injection since the restoration of the capital punishment in 1994.
“The tendency to compare our penal system to the more developed countries is totally misplaced and illogical,” the MRPO said in a statement.
The abolition of the death penalty into law will be formally signed by President Arroyo on June 24.

Kidnap scourge hits again

The good news: Three kidnap victims were released and three kidnap suspects were killed in an encounter with police, all on June 16.
The bad news: The three victims were seized in three separate incidents in just one week. Two of them paid ransom in exchange for their freedom.
Three suspected members of the Waray-Waray kidnap-for-ransom gang were killed when an elite police unit raided the group’s hideout in Caloocan City on June 16. Their victim, a 43-year-old Chinese-Filipino businesswoman, was rescued.
Police Director General Arturo Lomibao said an anonymous caller told the Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response unit that a woman fitting the victim’s description was seen in the neighborhood.
Surveillance was conducted before a rescue operation was organized, and the woman was recovered unharmed, in the morning of June 16, Lomibao said.
Police said the victim was seized on June 15 near the junk shop she owned. The kidnapers demanded P15 million ransom.
In an earlier incident, a 30-year-old Tsinoy female employee was kidnaped near her office in the afternoon of June 13. She was released in the morning of June 16 after her family paid ransom.
A week earlier, on June 7, a 60-year old Pinoy businessman was kidnaped in Navotas by armed men who blocked his car. Ransom was paid for his release on June 16.
Last May 21, two female siblings, ages 28 and 15, were kidnaped in Mandaluyong and were released seven days later after their family paid the ransom.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Freed: Beltran Vergara, 42, after ransom payment, in Jolo, on June 15. Police said hey received reports that Vergara had wounds and bruises when released. The Vergara family refused to talk to authorities. Vergara and his mother Caridad, 73, were snatched by a band of armed men inside their house in Barangay San Raymundo on April 12. Caridad was freed hours after abduction. The Vergaras run a pharmacy in downtown Jolo.

Arrested: Fire safety inspector Fortunato Alde and arson investigators Noel Bernardino and Felix Temporoza, for allegedly abducting a Japanese businessman, in an entrapment, in Quezon City, on June 8. Mitsunao Koshibe, 57, said the firemen abducted him on May 30 and detained him for seven days in an unspecified location. The suspects demanded P40,000 for his release. His friend, whom the suspects had contacted, asked help from a crew of ABS-CBN’s investigative TV program, “XXX.” The TV staff, in turn, sought the help of the police. Police arrested the suspects, rescued Koshibe and recovered the P40,000.

Freed: Marawi City court sheriff Palao Diamla, without ransom payment, in Lanao del Sur, on June 6. Diamla was on his way home last May 30 when five pistol-wielding suspects blocked his path and forced him into a waiting vehicle. His abductors had reportedly asked for P5 million in ransom.

Arrested: Elpidio Mabunga Jr., alleged leader of the Waray-Waray kidnap-for-ransom syndicate, in Samar, on May 30. The National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force said the group, which operated in Metro Manila and Cebu City, was believed responsible for the recent kidnaping of a Chinese-Filipino doctor.

Rescued: Gervacio Santos, 51, an ophthalmologist, and his wife Sylvia, 52, a dermatologist, in Pampanga, on May 29. One of the kidnapers, Osmando Arman Noprada, was killed in the ensuing firefight, while another suspect, Fermin Santos Limcuando, was arrested in a followup operation. Police found the Santoses blindfolded and tied up inside their vehicle. Seized from Limcuando, a cousin of Santos, were a Mitsubishi Lancer, a cellular phone and the key to Santos’ Isuzu D-Max. The couple were on their way home from their clinic in Barangay Longos in Malolos, Bulacan at about 4:30 p.m. on May 27, when five gunmen in an unlicensed Toyota Revo blocked the path of their vehicle. Kidnapers took the couple to Barangay San Miguel in Magalang town, Pampanga, and demanded P20 million for their release. Police said concerned residents reported to the police the presence of armed men in their midst.

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Feature

Jaime FlorCruz: The eye on China
By Chloe Wong

"...This is Jaime FlorCruz for CNN Beijing.”
So goes the usual sign-off for this serious-looking, soft-spoken TV journalist.
Who would have thought that a Filipino is covering one of the most coveted international beats? Not even CNN Beijing bureau chief Jaime ‘Jimi’ FlorCruz himself. Admittedly, it was a mix of passion, hard work and luck for FlorCruz, of being at the right place at the right time. It has been a long road since he was stranded in 1972 in China, now his second home.
Back in 1971, FlorCruz was an advertising major at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines and editor-in-chief of the school paper. However, the dream of becoming a journalist took a back seat when this long-haired, bell-bottomed anti-Marcos activist found himself in China on a tour when then President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law. As FlorCruz was on Marcos’ blacklist, he dared not return. His three-week China tour turned into a seemingly endless exile when his passport expired a year later. He was stateless and stranded in China for the next 12 years.

Life in China
Curiosity and an itch to travel had led the young FlorCruz to visit China, then known as “Red China,” mysteriously shrouded by a “bamboo curtain.” The few things he knew about China had come chiefly from newspaper reports, the film epic “East is Red,” and Mao Zedong’s “Little Red Book.”
FlorCruz still remembers how he and his fellow Filipino travelers felt when they arrived in China: “We were feeling very high. We had that wide-eyed, gee-whiz attitude (as we) witnessed a kind of socialist Shangri-La. There were no flies and the cops didn’t carry guns!”
Stranded in China following the imposition of martial law, the Filipinos initially worked in a state farm in Hunan and a fishing corporation in Shandong. For a year, they engaged in backbreaking and tedious work—planting rice, feeding pigs, digging ditches and picking tea leaves. They worked together with Red Guards and high school graduates receiving “re-education” from peasants during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution. Although the living conditions were difficult, it was boredom, monotony and the lack of information that they struggled against during their early years in China.
“We felt slowly being cut off from the outside world—the world beyond China’s borders as well as the world around us in China. We felt we were starting to vegetate. Our ‘universe’ was starting to shrink and worse, we were terribly homesick,” FlorCruz says.
In 1976 he moved to Beijing where he spent the next two years studying Mandarin and trained in translation work at the Beijing Language Institute. In 1982 he got his degree in Chinese History from Peking University.
All this time, he worked part-time as an English teacher at the Beijing Teacher’s College and Peking University, giving lessons to English majors and a group of math and science professors. From 1979 to 1980, he also appeared on CCTV’s weekly English television program “Let’s Sing.” He was the lead singer teaching English songs like “Que Sera Sera” and “El Condor Pasa.” A Chinese taxi driver he met recently still remembers seeing him on that show.

As a journalist

The opportunity to break into journalism came for FlorCruz when Newsweek opened its Beijing bureau. He worked as a stringer and covered the trial of Mao’s widow, Jiang Qing, and her “Gang of Four” in 1980.
It was only in 1983 when FlorCruz returned to the Philippines after the Philippine Embassy in Beijing finally issued him a new passport. By then he had already established his life in China. He was recruited in 1982 by TIME magazine to be a reporter. In 1990 he became the magazine’s Beijing bureau chief, a position he was to keep for 10 years.
Because of his extensive work as a journalist in Beijing, FlorCruz became a two-term president of the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of China (1988-1990 and 1996-1999), and currently sits as the dean of the Foreign Press Corps in Beijing. From 2000-2001, he went to New York as an Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, the first non-American to be selected for the fellowship.
He joined CNN in 2001. As bureau chief and chief correspondent, FlorCruz is the central link in the bureau’s administration, editorial direction and public interaction. He is the “face” of the bureau, representing CNN Beijing in public appearances and in its dealings with Chinese government officials.
The shift from print to broadcast journalism was initially a struggle for FlorCruz. “For print, I can write just about anything and about everything, with or without pictures. But TV journalism is heavily, although not totally, video-driven. Put simply, I am often reminded, ‘no video, no story,’” he says.
Another big difference is length. Print allots more space to expound on a topic. TV stories are typically short, with a three-minute piece already considered rare and too long. “My approach is to take a slice of life, a theme or trend, and turn it into a short, compelling piece. It’s like doing a massive mosaic of China, one chunk at a time,” he says.
The power of television continues to amaze FlorCruz. “Audiences retain powerful images more than they remember poignant essays or Pulitzer-winning reports. Used cleverly and effectively, TV has the awesome power to inform and edify,” he says.
For its China coverage, CNN covers a wide gamut of issues—politics, business, sports, lifestyle, culture and the arts. “This way, we can give our global audience a multi-dimensional picture of China,” FlorCruz says.

On China’s transition

With his extensive and insightful experiences living in this country, no foreign journalist can depict and represent China the way FlorCruz does. He has become a credible eyewitness to the transformation of China—from its dark past to its present glory.
“China in 1971 and China now are as different as night and day,” he says. “There is a huge billboard in a Beijing intersection that advertises Nokia phones. When I first saw that signboard over 30 years ago, it said, ‘Never forget class struggle.’”
Still etched in his mind are images of political activists in Beijing waving Mao’s Little Red book in an impressive display of ideological fervor. “Nowadays, newly affluent residents in Beijing are swearing by books on how to best pass TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exams,” he says.
For years, the Chinese formed long lines to buy cooking oil and cabbage; now they line up to buy stocks or apply for visas to travel overseas, he further notes.
According to FlorCruz, China is no longer the “inscrutable, closed-off nation with a tattered economy and an angry, demoralized people” that the world has always known. After decades of chaos and isolation, it is now firmly locked into the global community through diplomacy, tourism, technology and trade. It is, he says, “bursting at the seams with explosive energy along the road to modernization.”
Having seen what China was like in 1971 has made FlorCruz appreciate even the most incremental changes. The country has experienced phenomenal economic growth the past 20 years after former Deng Xiao Ping adopted his “open-door policy.” But this policy has its downsides.
Rising unemployment, income gaps, corruption and criminality are negative realities that challenge the nation today, according to FlorCruz. But then there is always room for optimism for its people, since more changes can be expected now that China has become a member of the World Trade Organization and Beijing will host the Olympics in 2008.
“Compared with the past, the future for the Chinese beckons not as an inevitable crisis but as an extraordinary opportunity,” he says.

Turning crisis into opportunity

Like the Chinese, this respected journalist has transformed crisis into opportunity. More than three decades ago, he was forced to live in a country that was under difficult conditions. Today, he has successfully turned China into his personal refuge and his special abode where he has built a life and developed a career.
Unsurprisingly, FlorCruz sees China’s reality through the balanced lenses of journalism.
“Aside from pollution and sometimes difficult bureaucracy, the drag of China’s 5,000 years of history—which sometimes prompts the Chinese to be arrogant and hide-bound, bordering on big-power chauvinism—are some of the things I do not like about the country.”
But then this same long history of China and its diverse culture are the inherent charms that have convinced FlorCruz to stay on. Being an international journalist has certainly become the fulfilling outcome of an unforeseen life in China. “I consider it a privilege to hold a ringside-seat covering China all these years, since it has become the most important news beat in the world today,” he says. “Being in this huge country in a state of flux, and watching it change—and even experiencing the changes myself—is exhilarating for a China-watcher.”
While the world looks intently at China, trust Jaime FlorCruz to keep a credible eye on it.

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