Sunday, June 29, 2014

Coming Home

San Lorenzo Ruiz statue enthroned at St. Anthony
Church in Norton, Virginia (Photo: Oliver Oliveros)
Norton, Virginia—Today, Sunday, June 29, 2014, St. Anthony Church welcomes home a four-foot-tall brown-skinned wooden statue of San Lorenzo Ruiz (1600-1637), the Philippines’ first saint and protomarytr.

Carved by Junior Cayanan of the famed Cayanan woodcarvers of Santa Barbara in Bacolor, Pampanga in the Philippines, the serene statue of the saint, made from santol wood, and whose two palms are folded together, holding a rosary—a fitting tribute to the saint’s devotion to the Confradia del Santissimo Rosario (Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary)—is a gift from my family in Manila to Dr. Francis Jaynal, and his wife of 50 years, Mrs. Nilda Jaynal, whose kindest hospitality offered me a roof over my head when I had none midway my post-graduate studies at New York University.

For the both of us (the statue of San Lorenzo Ruiz and me), it has been a long arduous journey “finding home” since the past three years, peppered with divine interventions (which I’m a firm believer) that were too obvious to ignore.

For several months, Mr. Cayanan worked on the statue from scratch, and made several revisions to bring out the best possible facial features that could resemble the Filipino-Chinese ethnicity of the saint. Countless emails and phone calls were made between Manila (my mom, my sister, and their friends the Gregorios) and New York/Virginia (Mrs. Jaynal and me) to exchange instructions and to ensure that expectations were met. 

Photo: Oliver Oliveros
Shipping the statue from Manila to New York, where the Jaynals were based for more than 40 years, had set another bump in the road: shipping via air cargo would have cost an arm and a leg. But thanks to once strangers Mr. and Mrs. Castillo, owners of Phil-Am Foods in Queens, New York, for shouldering the costs. Earlier this year, I prayed to San Lorenzo Ruiz and made a cold call to Mrs. Ida Castillo, asking help to bring the statue to the United States. Fortunately, Mrs. Castillo did not think twice about helping.

Looking further back, like a beacon of light guiding me on my second year as a post-graduate student in New York, San Lorenzo Ruiz paved the way for me to come to know the Jaynals. In the Bronx, on an Ash Wednesday several years ago—on my way home from school--I was mugged; pinned into the pavement; and punched more than 20 times in the head by my aggressors. Traumatized by the experience, I chose to flee the Bronx. My friends introduced me to the Chapel of San Lorenzo Ruiz in Downtown Manhattan, where I met Mrs. Jaynal, a devotee of the saint, who opened her home in Westchester County to me until I finished my post-graduate thesis.

Needless to say, my devotion to the Filipino saint has further strengthened since then. By your lonesome, he is like an imaginary best friend that you can fall back on when there is something amiss with your faith or when you are becoming too impatient for the coming of the spring, amid a long, treacherous winter’s night.

Today, as I glance at the statue of San Lorenzo Ruiz, neatly enthroned in its own pedestal at your church—surrounded by verdant gardens and the vast Stone Mountain under the clear summer skies—I’m delighted that San Lorenzo Ruiz has found a nice place here.

May the saint’s presence in this church—for many years to come—remind us all of his great story to sainthood: a simple family man from Binondo, Manila, who was martyred for his belief; and who was willing to die not just once but a thousand times for his faith in God.

Like what the Jaynals made me feel: Please treat him like your own.

He is home now.

God’s Blessings,
Oliver Oliveros
Devotee, San Lorenzo Ruiz
Alumnus, New York University

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs”

“Perseverance, secret of all triumphs” – Victor Hugo 

 By Oliver Oliveros, editor-in-chief

When I finally got my Master’s Degree in Public Relations (PR) and Corporate Communication in May 2013 at New York University, where the first PR course was taught in the 1920s—a legacy that lured me to pursue higher education in New York—my family and friends admired me for my perseverance.

And they were spot on!

Persevering through two and a half years in graduate school with scarce resources: a partial Fulbright grant that shouldered only eight percent of my total tuition and fees; just enough private sponsorships that defrayed my living expenses; and a Philippine Peso checking account that was shrinking; was no mean feat.

But no pain, no gain, right?

I just had to keep my eyes on the prize, and finish what I started.

So when I was told the academic life story of Philippine Association of Medical Technologists’ (PAMET) pioneering president, Ismael “Mike” Jampayas, our cover subject for this issue, it rang a bell.

Coming from a family of public servants from Mawab, a third class municipality in the province of Compostela Valley (Davao), Mr. Jampayas paid his way through school. Even though he was working full time on work days and studying at night, he still made it to the Dean’s List for Academic Excellence at Long Island University, where he finished his Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and Master’s Degree in Microbiology. Consequently, such academic merit helped him get into Columbia University, an Ivy League school, where he completed his (second) Master’s Degree in Public Health in 1985.

Admirably, Mr. Jampayas’ story adds another element to Victor Hugo’s formula for success. Find out more about it on pages 8 and 9. CLICK HERE!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ilocos’ Fearsome Delight: Papaitan

papaitan (Photo by Victor Merano)
By Oliver Oliveros, editor-in-chief

I wear my “adventure hat,” similar to that of intrepid traveler and foodie Anthony Bourdain, when I visit far-flung places, whose geographical locations are actually relative to fleeting points of origin—because I travel a lot for work. The main idea, though, is to try out local culinary specialties in order to experience a bit of the food culture of the place you’re visiting. Sometimes the experience lingers on: a case in point, the Ilocos Region’s (in the Philippines) fearsome papaitan.

Chicago-based gastronome Victor Merano, who’s an advocate for Filipino cuisine, and who blogs at panlasangpinoy.com, best describes the distinctly Ilocano food: “Papaitan is a famous Ilocano soup dish mostly composed of cow or goat innards. The name of this dish was derived from the Filipino word ‘pait,’ which means ‘bitter.’ The bitter taste of this soup comes from the bile. This is a bitter juice extracted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder to aid digestion.”

Not for the faint-hearted, huh? The papaitan can be intimidating, but it’s a welcoming departure from the too sweet Filipino spaghetti and too salty tuyo I was accustomed to growing up in Manila, the Philippines’ hub for mostly everything.

I first encountered the dish at a food stop in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, more than 15 years ago, while en route to a youth mission trip for CFC Singles for Christ to Laoag City. Served hot from a native clay pot, the papaitan’s bitter broth dampens your dry mouth and throat, and satisfies your empty stomach during a 10 to 12-hour-long bus ride. Since then I’ve been craving for the uncommon papaitan whenever I journey the roads of Ilocos.

Now stationed in New York, much to my delight, I got reunited with the papaitan on my first night in the big city—of all places— as a graduate student at New York University (NYU) in the winter of 2011. Think of perfect timing: the wintry weather was unapologetically cold, but there I was—tired and hungry after a 13-hour-plane ride from Manila—sipping the bitter hot soup of the papaitan, served in a familiar white ceramic bowl, at Café 81, a Filipino restaurant in the East Village.

Silently I burped; grinning from ear to ear.

Of note, there has been a burgeoning demand for Filipino dishes in the city in the last three to four years. So if you find yourself in the heart of heart of Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, do yourself a favor and relish a wide array of sumptuous Pinoy food at these popular restaurants: Manhattan’s Maharlika, Jeepney Ugly Kitchen, Grill 21, and Pandesal; Queens’ Sizzle Me, Papa’s Kitchen, Payag, Ihawan, Perlas, Engeline’s, Renee’s Kitchen, Fritzies, and Fiesta Grill; and Brooklyn’s Purple Yam, among others.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Seeing Beyond the Numbers of Migration

By Oliver Oliveros, editor-in-chief

It’s no wonder why one of the early favorite papabiles—possible candidates to be elected pope—at the papal conclave held last year was our very own Philippine cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle. Aligned with the current Pope of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, Pope Saint John XXIII, and the Second Vatican Council’s emphatic outlook toward others, Cardinal Tagle believes in the “medicine of nursing and compassion.

“We hold on to a moral teaching, but we hold on to it with compassion,” he said to an intimate group of journalists, including yours truly, an hour before the cardinal accepted a degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from President Joseph McShane, S.J. and the Board of Trustees of Fordham University at its Rose Hill campus in the Bronx last month.

A member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants (PCPCMI), Cardinal Tagle urges people to see beyond the staggering statistics about compelled migration, i.e. necessity to migrate because of extreme poverty or war, whose forced migrants we often labeled as refugees. “As a basic human right, we enjoy the freedom to migrate but not to be forced to migrate,” he said. “Forced migration is a complex matter given the ethical, humanitarian, economic, and political issues involved. However, we have to always remember that in forced migration, the migrant becomes a victim—deprived and humiliated.”

According to Monsignor Agostino Marchetto, PCPCMI’s undersecretary, in 2011, there were 214 million international migrants—a mixed number of migrants by choice or by force, which mostly comes from Mexico, India, the Russian Federation, China, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Palestine, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, and Pakistan—which in turn also comprises three percent of the world’s population. “Each forced migrant has his or her story of pain, fear, or humiliation; [as compassionate Christians] we need to help transform every migrant’s story to that of hope and mission,” said Cardinal Tagle.

To the beloved cardinal, on behalf of the Filipino-American community in the New York Tri-State area, thank you very much for spending three full days with us starting from our pocket press conference to your conferral at Fordham University’s Keating First Auditorium; and from the special Holy Mass for the people of the Philippines at Fordham University Church to your Sunday Mass, concelebrated with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

Personally, I would like to see you again in Manila, where your spiritual leadership among around 2.8 million Catholic Filipinos, is a shining example of consistent, genuine pastoral care.

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