“Remembering a couple of notable Aries people” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (April 1-7, 2015; page A5)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona

For the week of April 1-7, 2015


April will always be the best month for me because I have my birthday on the 4th and in my mind, I have always associated April with a lot of happy memories. Growing up in Manila, that was when pupils like me had our summer vacation from school. For me, that’s the time to read amazing books, walk aimlessly, or play outside with my friends. Yes! We actually used to play outside until the midnight curfew. We played taguan, patintero, tumbang preso, luksong tinik, Chinese garter, and my favorite: siyato. If you need an explanation about any of the games I just mentioned, just email me.

Since I have Leo rising in my natal chart, sooner or later the glamor of showbiz would rub off on me one way or another. There will always be a part of me that will yearn for the spotlight in any of the performing arts. True enough, in my younger years, I had the privilege of working with the great Aries-born Filipino film director Lino Brocka (Apr. 3, 1939-May 21, 1991). It also helped that my mother, Aida Carmona, popularly known then as “Aling Atang” of the soap opera “Flordeluna,” has already been bitten well by the showbiz bug herself. My mother has starred as a supporting actress in many commercially and critically acclaimed films from the 1970s-1990s. However, among the memories that she cherishes the most were those of her several opportunities to work closely with Tito Lino, whom Mom calls a true “actor’s director.”

I asked my Mom to relate three distinct instances she can recall about Tito Lino. First off, when they were shooting a film in Currimao, Ilocos Norte, Tito Lino beheld the sand and the ocean (the South China Sea) and told my Mom, “Dito ko gustong magretiro. Ipagpapagawa ko ng bahay dito ang nanay ko.” (Transl.: “This is where I want to retire. I will build a house for my mother here.”) From this heartfelt declaration of Tito Lino, my mother felt his loving concern for his mother. Another thing that my Mom can recall was Tito Lino’s concern for film extras.

He would insist that the extras be allowed to eat first. His reasoning was that the extras do not have the luxury of bringing their own “baon” (lunch) on location shoots, hence, they should be the first ones to line up and get their respective meals. Still another memory that my mother shared with me about Tito Lino concerns his commitment to the arts. Mom asked him to chair a panel of judges in the Manila public high schools original one-act play contest. This contest was joined by the winning plays from each of the districts of Manila (Division of City Schools). Held at the Manila Science High School, this Playfest stood out in my Mom’s memory because right there and then, when Tito Lino announced the first place winning school, he immediately told the audience that he is donating PhP 5,000 out of his own pocket as first prize– which, in the 1980s, was a big deal of money especially for public high school students.

The great Lino Brocka was the recipient of many international and local directing awards. It was in 1977 when he was invited to show his film “Insiang” during the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in France. This was followed by repeat invitations to Cannes on the strength of “Jaguar” in 1980 and “Bona” in 1981. Tito Lino’s film “Angela Markado” was entered to compete and it won Best Picture at the Nantes Film Festival in France. In 1984, his “Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim” was exhibited in Cannes and it also won Best Picture with the British Film Institute. He received the 1985 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts; the 1989 Gawad CCP Para sa Sining Pampelikula; and the 1990 Lamberto Avellana Memorial Award. A few years after his death, he was conferred the 1992 FAP Lifetime Achievement Award and the posthumous recognition of being a National Artist for Film.

I have fond memories of the great Lino Brocka, too. In 1979, along with my Mom and younger sister Cherry, who was 7 while I was 9, I was part of the ensemble support cast of Tito Lino’s “Ina, Kapatid, Anak” which involved location shoots in Magalang, Pampanga. I was googly-eyed at seeing Lolita Rodriguez, Charito Solis, and Rio Locsin in person! A few months later, I was again on location shoots in Tondo, Manila for “Jaguar,” where my Mom played my Nanay in the film too. In this film, I had not just one but several speaking lines, interacting with the characters played by Philip Salvador and Amy Austria. It was our director, Tito Lino Brocka himself, who gave me directions. He gave me his instructions as if I were an adult in whose acting ability he already has confidence. (He’s an actor’s director, remember?) True enough, after shooting some of my scenes on my first day on the set, I heard Tito Lino tell my Mom and the production manager (PM) that he’s increasing my per diem pay from Php 100 to Php 150. I was overwhelmed at the amount of money. Imagine that! My parents said that it would go towards my education and it did. Overall I think I had a call slip (to report for shooting) for a total of five days. My next project to be directed by Tito Lino was supposed to be a one-hour television drama pilot episode. However, some pre-production kinks weren’t ironed out so that pilot was never taped. I was 10 years old at the time. If that TV project pushed through, who knows where I would be now? A popular movie star? A serious, award-winning film actress?

Well, I have a very good friend who is both a movie star and an award-winning actress in Philippine showbiz, and her name is Snooky Serna. Cookie, as she is fondly called by those who know her well, is another Aries, being born on April 4, 1966. Take note, my friend Cookie and I share the same day of birth except for the year (mine’s 1970). I first met Cookie in person in 1988, during the shoot of a film helmed by Maryo J. Delos Reyes, “Kapag Napagod ang Puso.” My mother was part of the cast and I happened to be her “chaperone,” or in other words I was just a hanger-on. There was a female extra who didn’t show up, who was supposed to play Anjo Yllana’s squeeze but only for that scene. Apparently in the movie as Snooky’s younger brother, Anjo’s character will be changing girlfriends with each scene that he’ll be in. I was there, and maybe a PM pointed me out to Tito Maryo J, and the next thing I knew, I was led to the makeup corner to be fussed over and dolled up for the shoot.

Then of course it was time to get into our seats in that mini-theater. If memory serves me right it was at the Magnatech Omni in QC. The moment I caught Cookie’s eye, I excitedly gushed, “Miss Snooky, ang ganda-ganda ni’yo po.” She humbly thanked me. Not done yet, I told her, “Pareho po tayo ng birthday (We share a birthday),” to which Cookie said, “Ay, kaya pala pareho tayong mabait!” (“Oh, so that’s why both of us are kind.”)

The next time I met Cookie 10 years later, it was the start of a deeper friendship borne of common struggles and concerns. I can tell you firsthand that Ms. Snooky Serna is truly beautiful inside and out. Her heart is generous and kind, many times to a fault, because she feels other people’s pain and neediness too much. In terms of Snooky’s stellar career as an excellent actress “trained” in the Lino Brocka “school of acting,” in which Method is so overrated in favor of a more natural sort of acting: Cookie actually won her first award as FAMAS Best Child Performer in 1972 for the film “Sana Mahalin Mo Ako.” Then she was nominated for several films throughout the years until her Best Actress win in 1994 for “Koronang Itim” from FAMAS and the Cebu Archdiocese Mass Media Awards. One of her most recent wins was for Best Supporting Actress for the film “Paupahan” from the FAMAS and PMPC Star Awards in 2008. Snooky also won awards for her television portrayals. When I asked her what she really wanted most in life, Cookie said, “To raise my kids well and to act.” Hence we can say that acting is one major motivator for her. Cookie has always prayed that she be given film or TV projects that would challenge her as an actress because she is simply passionate about her craft.

For my part, I admit that I started out as Snooky’s fan when I was still in grade school, and then moved on to become her friend and confidante when I was in my late 20s before I moved to California in 2004. I look back on how I’d save my allowance so I could buy the movie magazines “Jingle Sensation” and “Jingle Extra Hot” every week so that I could keep track of Cookie’s films and any new “chismis.” Then fast-forward to our chance meeting in a waiting area somewhere, from which our deep friendship actually took root.

Cookie and I still keep in touch until now. I am humbled and privileged to know her. A fan dreams of meeting her idol, even if only to catch a glimpse of the movie star’s radiance. I dreamed of meeting Snooky Serna in person even just once, and now I’m one of her good friends, having gone through thick and thin with her not just once but many times.

Who knew? My dream did come true. Happy Solar Return to all our fellow Aries peeps!

Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

“Marching forward in March” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (March 25-31, 2015; page A6)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of March 25-31, 2015


Are we done with International Women’s Month? Could we really run out of notable Filipinas to mention? True or false: Do we celebrate National Doctors Day here in the USA on March 30 of every year? Should we really beware the Ides of March?

The short answers (to beat of the drum) are: No, no, true, and it depends.

No, we are not done with International Women’s Month. On this last week of March, please allow me to feature these amazing Filipina achievers: Leonor Orosa-Goquinco (1919-2005) who was declared National Artist for Dance on Mar. 27, 1976, and Encarnacion Alzona, Ph.D., who was born an Aries on March 25, 1895, lived until she was 105, and declared National Scientist for History in 1985.

Leonor Orosa-Goquinco, true to the inclination of her brilliant Leo Sun, was the total performer. She was known as the “Trailblazer,” “Mother of Philippine Theater Dance,” and “Dean of Filipino Performing Arts Critics.” Born on July 24, 1917 in Jolo, Sulu of doctor-parents, Ms. Orosa could play the piano, draw, design scenery and costumes, sculpt, act, direct, dance, and choreograph. However, the excellent artistry most attributed to her was in the realm of Dance. She choreographed many dance presentations and at the age of 19 was the only dancer sent on the first cultural mission to Japan in 1939.

During her younger years, she has also performed in venues as varied as the American Museum of Natural History, Theresa Kaufmann Auditorium, The International House, and Rockefeller Plaza. She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in education majoring in English Literature from St. Scholastica’s College Manila, and then took graduate courses in theatre craft, drama and music at Columbia University and Teachers College in New York City. She also took professional and teacher courses at the Ballet de Monte Carlo. Ms. Orosa organized the Filipinescas Dance Company and the Philippine Ballet, taking them on international tours for several years. She was married to Benjamin Goquinco and had three children. Ms. Orosa was not only a superb dancer but also a writer of poems and plays, and a writer of performing arts reviews. She was conferred the title of National Artist for Dance during the month of March like this one, thirty-nine years ago in 1976.

Having featured a National Artist, let’s now present a National Scientist. We can say that Encarnacion A. Alzona, Ph.D., born in Biñan, Laguna on March 25, 1895, lived the spirit of her sign Aries by being a female pioneer in so many ways. She stood out as a Filipina historian, educator, and tireless advocate for women’s right to vote or suffrage. Dr. Alzona was also the very first Filipina to obtain a Ph.D. which she received from Columbia University in 1923. From the book, “National Scientists of the Philippines (1978-1998),” a publication of the DOST-NAST (Pasig: Anvil Publishing, 2000), here is the citation when the Philippine national government recognized Dr. Alzona as a National Scientist for History in 1985:

“Dr. Encarnacion A. Alzona is an eminent historian and mentor to a generation of other eminent historians in the period of transition after the Philippine Revolution and the war against the United States to the present time. Some of her works have already become classics, particularly her “A History of Education in the Philippines, 1565-1930.” For her “El Legado de España,” she received the Lone Prize awarded by the II Congress de Hispanistas de Filipinas in 1954. Dr. Alzona has the distinction of being the first woman Ph.D. in the Philippines. Her other writings on notables of the Post-Revolutionary era have made available to our people a legacy of the past which has been illuminated for us in a unique way because of her proximity in time to those parts of history and its participants. A much honored preceptor in the tradition of the Academic Guild, Dr. Alzona has received practically every distinguished award the country can bestow her.” Dr. Encarnacion Alzona passed away beyond the centenarian mark at 105 years old in 2001. Ms. Orosa and Dr. Alzona are truly remarkable Filipino women!

You know, like I said in my previous column, there were quite a number of cosmic happenings last March 20: the total solar eclipse, the new moon, and the spring equinox. I’ve heard feedback from my fellow astrologers that all these energy bursts were making some of them restless, especially those of them who are sensitive to these – shall we say electromagnetic? – forces. I posed the partially rhetorical question re: the Ides of March simply to sound a note of positivity despite whatever challenges we are trying to overcome at this time. The ides of March or March 15 was actually the first day of the Roman New Year and the first day of spring in the Roman calendar. On the other hand, we know from our English Lit class that King Julius Caesar met his doom on this day courtesy of an assassination by his closest allies because he didn’t take enough heed of what the soothsayers told him, “Beware of the Ides of March.”

I believe that we can empower ourselves to shape our own realities. Let’s just suppose that it will be very easy for us to do that in time, according to the rate of evolution of our spirit. Which reality, then, should we choose to believe? Spring, the birth of new things, flowers, hope – or discouragement, destruction, death? The first effects of the heightened energy we received at the start of the astrological year last March 20 will be determined by April 4 when there will be a Full Moon (a time of culmination) and a total lunar eclipse in the Libra-Aries axis. Simply put, two weeks from now, we might be winding up some push-pull issues between partnership and individuality. To those of us who are called to lead a solitary life, know that you don’t have to constantly defend your choice to anyone. Be creative, develop your one-line quip, and say it the next time somebody tactless brings up your single status. To those of us who are called into partnership, though, whether in a business or personal sense, maybe this marks the time to embrace the two-heads (and/or two-hearts)-are-better-than-one concept. Why struggle? This period may herald the final silencing of that voice that told us we weren’t good enough to be loved, and it can bring a new and long-lasting healing of even unacknowledged wounds deep within our psyche.

Speaking of healing: March 30 of every year happens to be National Doctors Day in the USA. Observances of this event, as promoted by Ms. Eudora Brown Almond from Winder, GA, date back to March 30, 1933, the first time general anesthesia was used in surgery. The first official celebration of National Doctors Day was in 1991. So during this period, I humbly urge you to take the time to express your appreciation for the doctors in your lives. Theirs is a difficult yet rewarding calling. Grateful patients like us are actually a big reason why they went into Medicine in the first place. Our doctors simply want to know that they are making a difference in our lives through their service, competence, and compassion. The physician’s motto is to “first do no harm.” Maybe the patient’s motto for National Doctors Day should be to “first thank your doctor for everything she/he has done.”

Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567, M-F 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

“Of what does spring season remind you?” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Mar. 18-24, 2015; page A7)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona

For the week of March 18-24, 2015


What the beginning of spring reminds us of depends, in part, upon the associations we have made throughout the years based on our philosophical orientation, personal memories, and cultural traditions. For an astrologer like me, for instance, I associate the first day of spring this year, March 20, 2015, at 3:45 pm PDT, with “International Astrology Day,” or the start of the astrological New Year, when the Sun enters zero degrees Aries in the tropical zodiac. This year, March 20 brings the spring equinox, a new moon, and a total solar eclipse. Plenty of heavenly happenings for every cosmic enthusiast!

For a master gardener like my mother, spring’s presence begins to be felt when her plum, apple, and cherry blossoms burst into brilliant flower. Complying with the drought regulations in place these days in Northern California, my Mom does not use a garden hose to water her valued trees and plants. What she does is to save the water from washing dishes and clothes into pails. Then she uses the old-fashioned “tabo” (dipper) to scoop the water from the pails to nourish her garden. She would gladly tell anyone who asks, that contrary to common belief, even water already grayed with soap from the washer will not harm plants. As for the water from washing the dishes, the rice and food morsels in it either serve as fertilizer or food for the birds.

For my father, who loves to drive to quaint serendipitous locales with my mother, spring reminds him of so many road trips they have taken as a couple who have been married for almost 46 years now. They admit that sometimes they like being “lost” on the way to their real destination because that’s what makes them discover new cities and friendly people. The city of Jenner, Butano State Park in Pescadero, Half Moon Bay, and classic San Francisco come to mind. Spring also means “spring cleaning” to my very neat Virgo dad, although every weekend of the 52 weeks of the year is like spring cleaning to him. In fact, on weekends he never fails to vacuum the whole house and to clean all the nooks and crannies that “generalists” like me and my mother miss. Spring, for my Dad, is also his time to learn new songs – church songs since he is a cantor at All Saints’ Church in Hayward, and secular ones to add to his already extensive repertoire of English and Tagalog songs, not to mention songs in several Filipino dialects. He sings as well as plays the guitar. I remember my mother telling me that when she and my Dad were still neighbors in apartments that faced each other in Zurbaran (now Fugoso St. in Sta. Cruz, Manila), my Mom became secretly impressed when she overheard him singing “Eleanor Rigby” by The Beatles, accompanied with his guitar. She remembers telling herself, “Ah, hindi lang naman pala ito pretty boy. Malalim din.” (“Ah, he’s not just a pretty boy after all. He also has depth.”)

Of course, in the home country, the months of March to May are ones of blistering heat, driving Filipinos to swimming pools and beaches across the Philippines’ 7,107 islands. When I was in high school, summer meant time to read pocket books, secretly check out my crush next door, and exchange letters written in longhand with my best friend Ellen Gerance (now Bauto), sent by post complete with stamps. Somewhere during summer is the observance of the Lenten season. During Holy Week itself, I remember our Guadalupe BLISS community organizing a “pabasa” (sponsored reading) of the book on the passion and death of Jesus and Bible verses. The host family offered food and drinks while we teenagers and some “manangs” (elderly women) sang the five-line stanzas in a prescribed melody which we varied from page to page of the book of verses. This chanting could go on for 24 hours straight, so we took turns until the whole book is finished. What can I say? Life went along at a much sedate and simple pace back then. Now going back to spring season here in the good ol’ US of A. Against all odds, flowers are budding, crops are being harvested, and we are nourished by the bounty of the earth. How truly blessed we are to live in a land of plenty! “America the Beautiful,” anyone?

Back in the Philippines, did you know that there is such a Filipina who was named a National Scientist in 1997 due to her work in plant genetics? Dolores A. Ramirez, Ph.D., born Sept. 20, 1931 in Calamba, Laguna, obtained a BS in Agriculture (Major in Plant Breeding, minors in Botany and Agricultural Chemistry) from the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture in 1956. In 1958, she received her MS (Major in Cytogenetics, minor in Botany) from the University of Minnesota. Finally, she obtained her PhD (Major in Biochemical Genetics, minors in Plant Physiology and Plant Pathology), from Purdue University (Lafayette, Indiana) in 1963. Dr. Ramirez held important positions in both international and Philippine agricultural and faculty organizations, as well as honor societies. She is the recipient of many awards and recognitions, and she has authored or co-authored numerous books and scientific journal articles.

From the book, “National Scientists of the Philippines (1978-1998),” a publication of the Dept. of Science and Technology-National Academy of Science and Technology (DOST-NAST) Philippines (QC: Anvil Publishing, 2000), here is how Dr. Ramirez’s citation read when she was conferred the title of National Scientist by then President Fidel V. Ramos in 1997:

“Eminent Filipino geneticist, noted for her comprehensive researches on the cytogenetics of various Philippine crops; pioneering work on biochemical genetics, foremost of which are on the genetics of the makapuno mutant coconut, biochemical basis of disease resistance, gene introgression and molecular markers; and for significantly promoting the development of genetics in the Philippines and in many parts of the world where many of her students are zealously guiding it from the traditional school to the realm of molecular genetics. As a science educator, administrator, and policymaker, Dr. Ramirez has been at the forefront of national and international science and technology (S & T) policymaking and decision-making, and in institution-building for science and education.”

There you go – another feisty Filipina for you! You know, I’m really not updated about my alma mater, the Manila Science High School, located along Taft Avenue corner Padre Faura in Manila – but I wonder if the section names are still those of foreign scientists. May I humbly suggest that MaSci consider Filipino National Scientists’ last names as section names and then require the students to do research on the biography and achievements of their national scientist-section name? Just a thought.

Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com

“Presidents’ Day the Filipino way” in this week’s issue of the MANILA MAIL (Feb. 18-24, 2015; page A7)

Pilipinasblitz Forever
A column by Bles Carmona
For the week of February 18-24, 2015


Have you ever wondered why the USA celebrates Presidents’ Day and our home country, the Philippines, does not?

In 1885, US President Chester Arthur set the third Monday of February as “George Washington’s Birthday” to honor “the father of our country.” George Washington’s Birthday became a federal holiday. Much later on, in the 1960s, some reformers wanted to change the name of the holiday to “Presidents’ Day” to include Abraham Lincoln. That reformist move was defeated in Congress, so in fact, the original name of the holiday, George Washington’s Birthday, was actually unchanged. However, since that time, “Presidents’ Day” has been ushered into popular usage, appearing in official communications, advertisements, and event announcements. The reason for commemorating Presidents’ Day in the USA is to acknowledge and honor the contributions of the past Presidents to nation-building and democracy. Our current President, Barack Obama, is our 44th head of state and government.

Filipino-Americans who were born here have learned all about the American presidents in their grade school civics class. As a naturalized American, I would like to supplement the knowledge of my readers with some brief comments about the presidents of the Philippines. In this way, we as Filipino-Americans can also acknowledge and honor the contributions of the past Philippine presidents to nation-building and democracy. President Benigno (“Noynoy/PNoy”) Aquino III is the current and 15th President of the Philippines. But who was the first one? Who was next, and so on?

1. Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of the revolution between America and Spain, was the first president of the Philippine Republic. He was appointed head of a barangay in the province of Cavite by the Spanish government at the age of 17, then later promoted to mayor. Aguinaldo faced some controversies during his day, but he was credited with having declared independence from Spain and the US on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite. The refusal of the Americans to recognize this 1898 independence resulted in the Philippine-American War. The Philippines started commemorating June 12 as its Independence Day during the term of the 9th president, Diosdado Macapagal, in the 1960s (more on him later). In his 30s, Aguinaldo retired and became a farmer. He died in the mid-1960s at 95 years old.

2. The second president of the Philippines is Manuel L. Quezon, also known as the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth. When the Philippine-American War broke out, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the revolutionary army, later to be promoted to captain. After the war, he practiced law in Baler, Tayabas (now Quezon) and by age 27 was elected governor. His political career eventually catapulted him to the position of resident commissioner in Washington DC. It was during his term that the Jones Act was passed in the US Congress, granting independence to the Philippines. Later on, he was part of a delegation that secured the passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, setting 1946 as the year of independence. With the Act’s provision for a commonwealth government, Quezon was elected president until World War II began. He passed away in Saranac Lake, New York.

3. Jose P. Laurel was the president of the second Philippine Republic, or the head of the caretaker/puppet Japanese government. He has an advanced law degree from Yale University. He was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1934. He took office on Oct. 14, 1943 and left office on Aug. 17, 1945.

4. Sergio Osmeña was the second president of the Commonwealth. He was credited with leading the efforts toward rehabilitation of the country after the war. Under General Aguinaldo’s command, he was the staff courier and journalist.

5. Manuel Roxas was the last president of the Commonwealth and the first president of the Philippine Republic. He started as a law clerk of the Supreme Court and later became a governor of Capiz. He was one of the members who drafted the 1935 charter in the Constitutional Convention.

6. Elpidio Quirino, the second president of the Republic, left an important legacy in the form of the Minimum Wage Law and the institution of the Central Bank. The socio-economic measures he implemented during his term resulted in stabilizing the Philippine peso, balancing the national budget, and a notable improvement in Philippine economy.

7. Ramon Magsaysay was the third president of the Republic and many people say that he was the most popular. Magsaysay was a guerilla fighter during the Japanese invasion. After the liberation, Gen. Douglas MacArthur promoted him to the rank of major. Magsaysay will be remembered for opening Malacañang Palace to the people. He broke up big land estates, secured land settlements for the masses, and lowered the price of consumer goods. He died in a plane crash on March 17, 1957. He was 50 years old.

8. Carlos P. Garcia will be remembered for his “Filipino First Policy” and “Austerity Program,” putting the interests of Filipinos above those of foreigners and whichever party was in power. In 1971 he was the president of the Constitutional Convention called by Ferdinand Marcos. He died of a heart attack in Manila in 1971.

9. Diosdado Macapagal began his career as a head of a Department of Foreign Affairs panel that negotiated the transfer of the Turtle Islands from Great Britain to the Philippines. He was also known for his Land Reform Bill which freed farmers from large landowners. He also declared June 12 as Philippine National Independence Day.

10. Ferdinand E. Marcos was the first Philippine president to serve a second term. During his second term, he signed into law Proclamation 1081 declaring Martial Law on Sept. 21, 1972. After a 20-year rule, Marcos and his followers had to leave the country following the EDSA Revolution in 1986.

11. Corazon C. Aquino was the seventh president of the Republic and the first woman in this position. Borne by the protests that followed the assassination of her husband Sen. Benigno (Ninoy) Aquino, Aquino won the snap elections between her and Marcos. The EDSA People Power Revolution on Feb. 22-25, 1986 held back the Marcos government’s troops from reaching the Ramos-Enrile breakaway group. Aquino’s troubled presidency was nevertheless remembered as a transition government of a country on its way to establishing democracy.

12. Fidel V. Ramos, the eighth president of the Republic, first served as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the Marcos government. Later on he became the Secretary of Defense under the Aquino administration.

13. Joseph E. Estrada (“Erap”), the ninth president of the Republic, became a film actor in his 20s and became a showbiz legend. Estrada ran for mayor in the municipality (now city) of San Juan from 1967, getting reelected until he served for a total of around 16 years. He was then elected senator, then vice-president, then president in 1998. After his involvement in a scandal, people staged another mass protest to oust him from power.

14. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is the daughter of former President Diosdado Macapagal and a former classmate of US President Bill Clinton. When she was still in the Senate, she made waves by working for the passage of bills that have powerful economic impact. She took office in 2001 and left office in 2010.

15. The contributions of current President of the Philippines, Benigno (Noynoy, PNoy) Aquino III, would still have to be determined by history in retrospect. Election year 2016 is coming up. I urge Filipinos in the home country to exercise their right to vote and to vote wisely.

Reference: King, J. “Great & Famous Filipinos,” Manila: Worldlink Books, 2002; Wikipedia.com; Goodsearch.com; http://www.philippine-history.org/

Photo by Mary Gow-2015. Find advisor Blesilda44 at KEEN.com, 1-800-ASK-KEEN (1-800-275-5336), extension 05226567 either by phone or chat: Mon-Fri 7-10 pm, Sat-Sun 7-11 pm Pacific. I speak English, Tagalog, and some Spanish. For personal readings (fee required), email me here: blessingsandlight725@gmail.com