Tag Archives: Philippines

Ozone Park Filipino man lives the American dream

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Ernesto Pamolarco grew up in poverty, with little food and no electricity, sleeping on the seashore of the Philippines. Now, he owns his Ozone Park home and provides for his wife and six children.

Early on, he learned that “life is so hard without education,” and put himself through the education system, eventually becoming an educator himself. Pamolarco, 47, went from a peddler in the Philippines to a special education teacher for the city, as well as chair of the nonprofit, Youth Success Global Foundation (YSGF).

When Pamolarco was 9 years old, he started to dream about leaving his native Leyte. His father was stabbed to death by their neighbor as Pamolarco hid under his home, and he realized he no longer wanted to live an impoverished life.

“I didn’t want to live in that environment,” he said. “I could see ships and airplanes from where we lived, and I thought, ‘One day I’ll be able to ride an airplane.’”

After graduating grammar school, the 13-year-old Pamolarco uprooted his life to the island of Manila. He worked several odd jobs, including selling plastic wrappers and washing dishes.

“I had my own way of surviving,” he said.

After a few years, Pamolarco returned to Leyte to attend high school, and eventually college where he earned a degree in English. He went on to teach English for the next 15 years in the Philippines.

“It was very interesting for me. I never dreamed of becoming a teacher,” he said. “In fact, I never dreamt of becoming a college graduate or high school graduate.”

In 2005, Pamolarco got the opportunity to come to the United States on visa. He once again took on odd jobs and put himself through the Touro College Graduate School of Education.

“I just follow the flow of life,” he said. “I never thought I would come to this point in my life. I really thought I would be there [in the Philippines] for the rest of my life.”

Pamolarco is the only of his six other siblings to “make it,” he said, and many are home in the destruction left by Typhoon Haiyan. He is organizing relief efforts through YSGF.

In particular, Pamolarco wants to help the students and hopes to donate school supplies.

He graduated from Touro College in May 2010, and his wife and children joined him stateside. He soon later landed in the teaching position he is in today.

“I still think there’s still more to achieve and accomplish,” he said. “The hardships I went through were just temporary. I work really hard, that’s the secret.”



Op-ed: We cannot forget the Philippines

| oped@queenscourier.com


Just over a month ago, the strongest storm ever recorded crashed into the coast of the Philippines. Wreaking devastation over large swaths of Southeast Asia, Typhoon Haiyan has affected over 12 million people in the region and claimed thousands of lives. Even today, the death toll continues to rise. At press time, the latest count was over 6,000 casualties.

It sometimes can be difficult to fathom the magnitude of a storm’s destruction and damage from half a world away. When the victims do not share our common traditions, history or culture, we may feel only remotely affected but that does not diminish the need to help others.

I and many of my Filipino constituents have seen this growing apathy towards the storm’s aftermath, evident in waning press coverage and conversation about the disaster. Our feelings were confirmed by a recent Pew poll which found more Americans were following news about the healthcare rollout than the aftermath of Haiyan. Fundraising numbers also corroborate this—one week after the typhoon hit, Americans raised about $33 million for relief efforts compared to $300 million in the immediate wake of Haiti earthquake in 2010.

So let us be clear—the disastrous denouement of Typhoon Haiyan was total and utter destruction for millions.

New York had a very small taste of the damage that natural disasters can bring when Hurricane Sandy struck our shores just over a year ago. Our friends and family in Staten Island, the Rockaways and Coney Island watched as their cherished homes and livelihoods were swept away by the storm surge. And as New Yorkers, we responded and rallied around our neighbors.

I urge the people of Queens to see the victims of Typhoon Haiyan just as they saw and were moved to action by the victims of Hurricane Sandy. I urge you to treat them as your friends, your family, your neighbors.

Which for many residents of the 16th Senate District, is true. According to a recent Asian American Federation analysis, Filipinos make up the fourth-largest Asian group in New York City, with most Filipinos living in Queens. The 16th Senate District alone is home to more than 10,000 Filipinos who mostly live in Elmhurst and Woodside, more than any other district in the state.

Last week, my colleagues Senator Michael Gianaris, Councilmember Daniel Dromm and I joined many Queens-based Filipino groups to observe the one-month anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan at a candlelight vigil and to review fundraising progress.

I was proud to stand with them that night and I pledge to stand with them until the rebuilding effort in the Philippines is finished. I hope you will join us.

Contributions can be made to the American Red Cross specifically to support Philippine typhoon relief at www.redcross.org. Various Filipino such as organizations Gawad Kalinga are also accepting donations and are able to deliver services with very low overhead costs.

If you are unsure if a non-profit is reputable, you should check their rating on Charity Navigator.

Toby Ann Stavisky, the first woman from Queens County elected to the State Senate and the first woman to Chair the Senate Committee on Higher Education. She currently represents the 16th Senate District.



Elmhurst vigil marks one month since Typhoon Haiyan

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Councilmember Daniel Dromm's Office

A month after what is expected to be one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded hit the Philippines, the local Filipino community is coming together to remember those lost.

Local elected officials gathered Sunday with members of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) at St. James Episcopal Church in Elmhurst to mark the one month anniversary since Typhoon Haiyan hit, during a candlelight vigil, followed by an interfaith mass.

“My heart goes out to those individuals impacted,” said Councilmember Daniel Dromm. “In the face of disaster it is encouraging to see communities pull together to lend support. Groups such as Taskforce Haiyan, which gives 100 percent of donations to the cause, are an integral step towards recovery.”

Haiyan affected many areas of Southeast Asia after making landfall on November 8 in the Samara province of the Philippines, then traveling through the central part of the country, according to reports. It then made its way into the South China Sea, striking Vietnam, but as a much weaker storm.

It is reported to be the deadliest typhoon to hit the Philippine region, affecting more than 12 million people and leaving many in need of water, food, and medical supplies. To date there are  5,924 victims who lost their lives to the storm, according to published reports.

“In light of such great tragedy, it is heartwarming to see people come together, even from halfway around the world, to dedicate their time and energy to helping those who have lost everything,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky. “I would like to congratulate NAFCON on their tremendous fundraising to support the relief work in the Philippines and would like to offer my continued support for the rebuilding effort.”

NAFCON is working together with grassroots organizations, consisting of church groups and students, in the Philippines to ensure the money raised will go directly to those who need it the most. Donations can be made here through the NAFCON PayPal account.



Howard Beach storm survivors lend hand to Typhoon Haiyan victims

| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

A local toy drive is going international.

Several medical practices from an area devastated by Sandy are collecting toys for children stateside and sending aid to those affected by the latest disaster in the Philippines.

Cross Bay Physical Therapy, Cross Bay Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation PC and Cross Bay Foot Center have partnered with Toys for Tots to revive the toy drive they have had in the past. This year, they are additionally collecting toiletries, canned foods, blankets and more for typhoon victims.

“We got hit with Sandy last year. We’ve been through a struggle,” said Dana Parker, manager of the three practices. “It’s another tragedy, and we have to help. We have to do something.”

Two of Parker’s employees have family in the Philippines, outside of th areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan, who “know where to send the donations,” Parker said.

Parker said when the idea to pass donations along to the Philippines came about, the employees instantly jumped on board.

“They had a little bit of tears in their eyes,” she said. “Knowing what we went through last year, they were honored we even asked them to be the coordinators of collecting from the whole community.”

Donations started coming in on November 14 and will be collected through December 12. For the toy drive, donations should be new, unwrapped and in their original packing. The group said toys for children ages 2 and under and 12 to 13 are most in demand.

Visit the office at 157-02 Cross Bay Boulevard, Suite 202, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., or Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Participants can additionally enter a raffle to win an iPod when they donate.

“We’re going to come together,” Parker said.



Bayside school bake sale benefits typhoon victims

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

One Bayside school is lending a sweet helping hand to the Philippines.

P.S. 169, located at 18-25 212nd Street, held a bake sale on Friday to benefit Filipino relief efforts for the victims affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Considered one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded, the typhoon made landfall on November 8 in the Samara province of the Philippines. It is estimated to have killed thousands and left many in need of water, food and medical supplies.

The students, faculty and PTA of P.S. 169 sold donated baked goods during the bake sale as volunteers, including parents and teachers, donated their time to sell the items and raise funds.

The bake sale was organized by Orit Foresta, parent coordinator, Caroline Wong, a kindergarten teacher, and Vanessa Chambers, P.S. 169 principal.

All funds gathered during the bake sale will be donated to Convoy of Hope, a nonprofit organization with volunteers providing fresh water, food, evacuation centers and other types of disaster relief for people in the Philippines.




Queens Filipino community helping to raise funds for typhoon victims

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NASA/NOAA

Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines Friday, is estimated to have killed thousands and left many in need of water, food and medical supplies.

The storm, one of the most powerful typhoons ever record, made landfall in the Samar province of the eastern Philippines, then traveled through the central part of the country, according to published reports. It then reportedly made its way into the South China Sea, striking Vietnam, but as a much weaker storm.

The death toll is estimated to be 10,000 or even more, according to reports.

As some members of the Queens Filipino community began to hear from their loved ones, some local groups are getting together to raise funds to help in the rebuilding of devastated islands.

The Bayahnihan Filipino Community Center in Woodside, a program of the not-for-profit community grassroots organization Philippine Forum, who offers direct services to the Filipino communities in New York, has begun working with local residents and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) to raise money for victims of the typhoon.

“There’s a lot of unrest right now, people are frustrated,” said Anne Beryl Naguit, member of Philippine Forum and part of the NAFCON staff. “A lot of them [local families] are looking to seek guidance and for those who’ve found their families, it’s about getting the help to them. For a lot of our families, they are still looking for their families or at least they can’t get a hold of them”

Naguit’s parents were in the Phillipines at the time of the storm, taking a flight from the north to the south of the country.

According to Naguit, the Filipino government does not have a strong budget to provide disaster relief to victims, who now are left relying strongly on outside donations.  One resident from the community center who has made contact with her family overseas said they told her they currently have no food, water or a good space to stay, said Naguit.

Since the storm hit on Friday, the group has managed to raise $10,000 nationally and they hope to continue raising the same amount every month.

“It’s amazing because its outpouring support,” said Naguit. “ $10,000 can build many communities in the Philippines.”

NAFCON is working together with grassroots organizations, consisting of church groups and students, in the Philippines to ensure the money raised will go directly to those who need it the most. Donations can be made on www.nafconusa.org through the NAFCON PayPal account.

NAFCON will hold a community forum on Typhoon Haiyan and candlelight vigil for the families affected by the storm on Wednesday, November 13 at 6 p.m. at the community center, located at 40-21 69th Street.

“We have a whole campaign for environmental justice on the situation in the Philippines, so people further understand that it is not just about cleaning the mess,” said Naguit. “We wanted to educate people so they are not just giving back, but they are also aware of helping the Philippines empower and change those environmental conditions to make a better society in the future as they rebuild.”

NAFCON is also coming together with the New York State Nurses Association and National Nurses United to gather emergency personnel to go to the greatly affected areas in the Philippines in early December.

The Filipino-American United Church of Christ in New York, which holds services at the Pilgrim Congregational church in Richmond Hill, is also accepting donations for the relief efforts in the Philippines.

Those looking to donate can either send their donations in the form of a check, payable to Fil-Am UCC and mailed to 102-35 89th Avenue, Richmond Hill, NY 11418, or by visiting www.filamuccny.org/3/donate.htm.

-With additional reporting by Cristabelle Tumola 



Local Filipino community worried about loved ones after mega typhoon hits Philippines

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@NOAA


Super Typhoon Haiyan, possibly the strongest ever recorded, smashed into the Philippines Friday, leaving death and widespread devastation in its path, according to reports.

The storm made landfall in the Samar province of the eastern Philippines with sustained winds of 195 mph and gusts as strong as 235 mph, according to published reports.

At least four people were killed in the typhoon, reported CBS News; two were electrocuted in storm-related accidents, one person was struck by lighting and another was killed by a fallen tree.

As news of the storm hit Queens, members of the Filipino community throughout the borough were left worried about their families and friends back home.

“It’s scary being so far away from my brothers and their families,” said Maria Lourdes Santiago, 57, from Far Rockaway. “I can’t get in contact with them still and memories from Sandy give me the worst thoughts. There’s nothing I can do all the way over here.”

Woodside resident Jose Santiago is also worried about loved ones back in the country where he grew up.

“Most of my family has come here to America but I still have people I know over there,” said Santiago, 63. “When I heard about it I just froze in my steps.”

Even as some residents have made contact with their loved ones and know they are safe, the whole Filipino community is feeling the destruction and loss.

“My grandma doesn’t live over by the coast so I don’t think she was really affected, but right now the country as a whole feels the pain,” said Amanda Mercado, 27, from Jackson Heights.



Star of Queens: Yolanda Delacruz Gallagher, 25th District Leader and community activist

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Untitled 3


Community Involvement: Yolanda Delacruz Gallagher is the 25th District Leader in Queens. She has also been a board member on the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association for over 15 years and a member of the Holy Family Parish Church. As an active community member, Gallagher tackles issues such as graffiti, broken street lights, storm damage and helps schools by giving students incentives to achieve their academic best.

Background: Gallagher is originally from the Philippines. She came to New York in 1991. She graduated from DeSales University with an MBA in business administration and used to work as a banker. She’s been married to James Gallagher for 18 years. They are both active members in the Fresh Meadows community.

Inspiration: Gallagher said her inspiration is her husband. He introduced her to community involvement. They both roam the community to see what could be fixed or improved. “It comes from the heart,” she said. “It comes from loving the community.”

Biggest Challenge: Gallagher said her biggest challenge is trying to please everyone and reaching goals without affecting the politics of the situation.

Queens residents among those busted in prostitution, money laundering ring

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Eleven Queens residents were indicted — and two human trafficking victims in Manhattan were saved — after authorities busted a $7 million prostitution-based money laundering ring that spanned the tri-state area, the attorney general said.

A 16-month joint agency investigation led to the 180-count indictment of advertising corporation Somad Enterprises, Inc. and 19 individuals, who allegedly engaged in enterprise corruption and a variety of crimes, including money laundering, falsifying business records, narcotics sales and prostitution, the attorney general said.

“This investigation led to the arrests of multiple individuals who were part of a criminal enterprise that made millions of dollars by profiting off the exploitation of women,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “The message we are sending is clear. These crimes will not be tolerated in the state of New York.”

Manhattan-based Somad Enterprises is accused of being a front for the large prostitution and narcotics distribution ring, according to the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force and the NYPD.

The company, which authorities say allegedly posed as a legitimate business, “profited handsomely” in excess of $3 million by working with prostitution businesses to promote sex services through online, print and cable television sources.

Three “johns,” including a former guidance counselor and dean at Scarsdale High School, have already been arrested, the attorney general said.

Five of the 11 arrested Queens individuals — who each face up to 25 years in prison if convicted — hail from Flushing, authorities said. The others are from Forest Hills, Bayside, Whitestone, Oakland Gardens, Fresh Meadows and Jamaica.

The two trafficking victims have been brought to a safe haven, said the attorney general.

Calls to Somad Enterprises went unreturned as of press time.


Sweet simplicity: A day in the life of an L.I.C. baker

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Alexa Altman

Fighting against time, temperature and chemistry, Hans Baang pried open the oven door, examining the partially-baked macarons against the wash of chocolate-scented heat that flooded the tiny kitchen. Not too dry, not too fluffy. No cracks, no air bubbles — yet.

Macarons are temperamental, he said – and easily ruined.

“It’s not your regular cookie, it’s not your regular cake,” said Baang. “You have to do it a certain way.”

Baang ended a 15-year career as a banker to become a baker, whipping up treats for local sugar seekers at Long Island City bakery Little Oven.

While dishing out a multitude of decadent desserts, the shop is most renowned for its macarons – a French, meringue-based cookie crafted from a mixture of sugar syrup, egg whites, powdered sugar and almond flour and sandwiched together with flavored ganache, crème or jam.

The bakery was opened in March of 2011 by owner Anna-Marie Farrier. Baang, in tandem with shop manager Kyra, runs most of the store’s day-to-day business – everything from making desserts to running the register.

On a Thursday morning, inside the bakery’s kitchen, Baang prepared to make Little Oven’s dark chocolate macarons. As the sugar syrup reached a steady boil, Baang pulled already separated egg whites from the refrigerator. The KitchenAid mixer spun as Baang slowly poured the sugar syrup over the egg whites, creating a frothy, thick cream. Combining a pound of powdered sugar and pound of almond flour, Baang sifted 45 grams of cocoa powder over the mixture. He folded the cream into the dry ingredients, stirring the batter with 50 even strokes.

Baang piped half-dollar sized dollops of the macaron mixture along a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet as Felicia Carter radio wafted from his iPad into the sugary air. He popped the tray into the oven and smiled.

“Baking should be fun,” he said. “Whether you’re just starting out or doing it professionally, there should always be an element of fun.”

Baang lives just a 15-minute subway ride away from Little Oven in Woodside – a world apart from his homeland of the Philippines, where after a 15-year-long career as a banker, he swapped money for honey and became a professional pastry chef. His interest in baking began as a side business, making cookies in his spare time and selling them to friends and co-workers.

He moved to Seattle in 2006, switching coasts several years later to assist with the opening of Queens eatery Payag. Last year, Baang craved more out of his culinary career and became a full-time pastry chef, joining the staff at Little Oven.

Baang even blogs about his gastronomic adventures under the online pen name “The Sugar Hippie.”

Now most of the bakery’s items are created by Baang, reinvented from recipes he learned while in cooking school. Partial to simple desserts like tarts and pies, Baang enjoys experimenting with Earl Grey tea-infused madeleines and peach-cardamom flavored macarons.

Between checking the trays of dark chocolate macarons baking in the oven, Baang topped freshly made cupcakes with pale pink rose-buttercream icing, laced with rose extract and rose syrup.

Fourteen minutes had passed since the macarons went into the oven— the total time needed for them to rise and form properly. Cautiously, Bang removed the tray, setting it on a rack to cool. With one steady hand, he inspected a single cookie, removing it seamlessly from the wax paper.

“Perfect,” he said.