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Giving thanks to people that mattered most and those who made a difference
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Myrna Aquitana_LighthouseA couple of years ago, a dear friend and former media colleague, Dave Casuco, who suddenly passed away this year, included this writer in  his poignant Thanksgiving article thanking me for our “five-o’clock let’s beat the happy-hour rendezvous at Glendale Americana’s Cheesecake Factory” so this time, I’d like to honor him by thanking him for teaching me how to be tolerant of people’s idiosynchrasies and forgive those who have trampled on our righteous ways, for in their simple-minded ways, some virtue of goodness might come along the way.

I am thankful for being part of the BMI Communications Group, whose achievements are reflected in its hardworking staffers’ work ethics as well as the familyatmosphere that abound, which makes the work environment all the more pleasureable making each one an integral part of its success..

I am thankful to know a media colleague and friend, Lydia Solis, whose integrity I admire among the superlatives of virtue in her, including the superb handling of our Press Club treasury during the succesful four-years of my term as President, highlighted by our donation of $9,000 to the Typhoon Sendong victims back home.

I am thankful to Dindo Reyes, entertainment editor/writer and former producer of the Miss Asia USA Beauty Pageant whose knowledge and support were there when we needed him most on some of our production endeavours.

I am thankful in cherishing childhood memories with old  friends from my hometown, (Arlene Vallesteros, Nanette Jongco and Princit Tinio) who all remain to be in touched via facebook and electronic communication systems.

I am thankful to my former high school classmates (Lorna Juico, Ruby Pineda, Tess Endriga, Sylvia, Anderson, Oying Miclat, Shirley Ruby, Girlie Cuatico, Estella Antonio, Madeleine Venida & Lourdes Chiong), who are all here in the US, who take their time to meet with us wherever possible.

I am equally thankful to have been mentored by knowledgeable teachers in their field of expertise like Zenaida Amador, our disciplined high school theatre guru, Dr. Damiana Eugenio, our thesis department Dean in college, whose benevolent nature we admired, Dr. Lucila Hosillos for her Literary expertise and for department professors: Dr. Epifanio San Juan, for his outstanding Linguistics classes, Professors Josefina Mariano for her significant facultty friendship and Carmelita Ramirez, for allowing us to understand Shakespeare in his most profound way.

I am thankful in belonging to the sisterhood bond instilled in us when we were in college, as members of the UP Sigma Delta Phi Sorority and further establishing a new chapter here in LA,  through the blessings of Alumni President, Linda Gamboa who guided us in co-founding the West Coast Sigma Delta Phi Alumni Association, whose mission and ideals empower the lives of our alumni and the communityas well.

I am thankful to Dr. Nick Agpalo, whose dental expertise has bequeath this writer’s family for almost 35 years.

I am thankful to Julpha Campaniano, whose genuine personality, thoughtfulness, sincerity and generosity has  brought our 20-year bond of friendship through a cycle of ups and downs.

I am thankful to Gigi Powers and CelyDe Leon for the almost 18 years of their knowledgeable advise on fashion and personal care.

And most of all,  I am thankful for the success of my children and likewise looking forward to my grandchidren’s achievements in the future.

But most importantly, I am thankful to HIM who has blessed me with good health and an abundance of happiness based on a simple llife. Wishing you all a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Series for Covered California: Part 3 – Income
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by Joseph Doratan

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has defined an affordable health plan as one that you  pay 8% or less of your income to have. To ensure that you have an affordable plan, Covered CA even provides premium assistance in their plans or put you under Medi-Cal if you are low income. The discussion below would be irrelevant if you are disqualified by income or uninterested with premium assistance; surely though, you can still have ACA plans.

Whose income? The right answer is the income of the taxpayers and their dependents, whether they file an income tax return or not AND whether they want a health insurance or not. For example, a husband may be in Medicare and hence does not want a health insurance from Covered CA, yet his income must also be known in the health insurance application. A related note about couple is that they have to file their tax as ‘Married Filing Jointly’ to be eligible for premium assistance.

What is income? For most people, that would be the adjusted gross income (AGI) found in the 1040. AGI can be just the gross income for most wage earners. Or AGI can be just the net income of the self-employed. In reality, other incomes like distributions from IRA or pensions, unemployment income go into the AGI as well. Deductions like IRA contributions, student loan interest can be used to reduce the AGI. For the purpose of determining Covered CA or Medi-Cal income eligibility, Modified AGI (MAGI) is used. Three (3) types of incomes must be added back to get MAGI. One is non-taxable Social Security benefit, except for SSI. Another is tax-exempt interest. Lastly, foreign earned income and housing expenses for Americans living abroad have to be added back.

How significant is the closest estimated income computation? First, income, household size and your age determine whether you go to Covered CA or to Medi-Cal. For example, a single who earns $20,000 annually goes to Covered CA, while a couple who earn total of $20,000 go to Medi-Cal. MAGI is compared against the Federal Poverty Levels (FPLs) to classify eligibility. If MAGI is within 138% of the FPL, then you are Medi-Cal eligible. Second, income affects assistance. The lower the income, the higher amount of premium assistance you get; in other words, you pay less premium. If you select a certain level of health plan called the Silver plan, you may also enjoy assistance in the form of lower deductibles or co-pays. Covered CA and Medi-Cal truly want to provide affordable health insurance to Californians.

You can find updates on Covered CA at www.facebook.com/globalwealth.insurance. If you need help renewing or enrolling, please call 855-955-1800.

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Garin may have to wear protective gear during budget debates next week
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Pinoy-health-workers-ebola-prep-protest News/Nation Title: Filipino health workers seek adequate response for Ebola.  Health workers wearing Ebola protective gear protested at the Department of Health (DOH) headquarters on Wednesday. Protesting in solidarity with health workers from the US and other countries, the workers denounced government’s inadequate preparations against the threat of the Ebola virus. (MNS Photo)

Pinoy-health-workers-ebola-prep-protest
News/Nation
Title: Filipino health workers seek adequate response for Ebola.
Health workers wearing Ebola protective gear protested at the Department of Health (DOH) headquarters on Wednesday. Protesting in solidarity with health workers from the US and other countries, the workers denounced government’s inadequate preparations against the threat of the Ebola virus. (MNS Photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin may have to wear a protective gear when she goes to the Senate next week during the budget deliberations of the agency’s proposed 2015 budget.

This, after acting Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III expressed concern over the presence of Garin at the Senate session hall. Department or agency heads are required to be at the chamber during budget deliberations.

“It has been the practice of the Senate that we take up the budget of a department or agency if the agency or department head is present. When do you plan to take up the Department of Health budget?” Sotto said at the start of the Senate plenary budget deliberation.

Responding to Sotto’s query, Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said the DOH budget is set to be discussed on November 24, Monday.

Uunahan ko na po kayo, kung gusto nyo magsuot siya [Garin] ng protective gear para maprotektahan tayo, hindi po ako mago-oboject,” Escudero said in jest.

Sotto’s concern came following the recent visit of Garin and Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. to the Filipino peacekeepers from Ebola-hit Liberia under quarantine on Caballo Island.

Sotto earlier chided Garin and Catapang for going to the island without any protective gear, claiming the two violated their own protocol. He said the two should also undergo quarantine.

Sotto likewise asked Escudero what the Senate would do if the other senators would question Garin’s wearing of a protective gear.

“We will not be able to see the expression or the facial expression of the secretary,” Sotto said.

Escudero said he will accommodate whatever request the minority leader may have in so far as the attire of Garin should be when she goes to the Senate.

Sotto said: “We were told that the reason they went there, and that goes also to the chief of staff of AFP, was they want to allay the fears of the troops. What about our fears?”

Escudero said he will let Senator Teofisto Guingona III, who will defend the DOH budget, to address the concern.

“I think Sen. Guingona will be more than willing to address the questions of the senator when he (Guingona) defends the budget of the DOH,” he said.

To which, Sotto remarked: “So we will cross the bridge when we get there.”

The Philippine College of Physicians has also criticized the military and health officials for the visit, noting that the Quarantine Act of 2004, which was the basis of the government order for the quarantine of the peacekeepers, limits travel to quarantine areas.

But Malacañang defended Garin and Catapang, maintaining that the two officials acted responsibly and did not breach any protocol set by the World Health Organization.

The Ebola virus, which claimed the lives of thousands of people, can be transmitted through close contact with blood secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals,  body fluids and stools of an infected person, contaminated needles and soiled linen used by infected patients, anddirect contact with the body a deceased person.

Persons handling those infected with Ebola virus should wear protective gear to avoid contact and transmission. (MNS)

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Bidding for North transport hub eyed in June
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President Benigno S. Aquino III administers the oath of office to former Congressman Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya as the new Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication in a ceremony at the Reception Hall of the Malacañan Palace on Thursday (October 18, 2012). Abaya finished his elementary education at the De La Salle University (DLSU) in 1979. He was a consistent honor student during his secondary school years at the Philippine Science High School (PSHS). He topped the entrance examination for the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and was sent by the government to the US Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland, USA where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics in 1988. Abaya proceeded to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, USA and completed his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1989. He also studied law and received his Juris Doctor degree from the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), School of Law in 2005 and was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 2007. (MNS photo)

President Benigno S. Aquino III administers the oath of office to former Congressman Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya as the new Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication in a ceremony at the Reception Hall of the Malacañan Palace on Thursday (October 18, 2012). Abaya finished his elementary education at the De La Salle University (DLSU) in 1979. He was a consistent honor student during his secondary school years at the Philippine Science High School (PSHS). He topped the entrance examination for the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and was sent by the government to the US Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland, USA where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics in 1988. Abaya proceeded to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, USA and completed his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering in 1989. He also studied law and received his Juris Doctor degree from the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), School of Law in 2005 and was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 2007. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) may bid out the proposed Integrated Transport System-North Terminal by middle of next year, once a location has been locked down for the transportation hub.

Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya on Wednesday said the agency is still weighing its options based on the accessibility of the possible sites.

One of the sites being considered is the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), which is located along the North and Mindanao Avenues and near the proposed common station to be built in front of Ayala’s Trinoma Mall.

Abaya said the DOTC will hold talks with the Department of National Defense and the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office to discuss the possibility of turning a portion of property into a transportation hub that will serve public utility vehicles to and from North Luzon.

Titignan natin with the Economic Development Cluster kung ano din ang option sa kanila. May balita kami na interesado silang ibenta ‘yung lugar na ito para ma-modernize din ‘yung ospital,” he said.

The government-run VMMC sits on a 55-hectare surrounded by a golf course. It was established in 1955 as a donation to the Philippine government by the United States.

Abaya said government will review the deed of donation that specifies provisions on using the property for commercial purposes.

“I didn’t see the deed of donation, dapat tignan din ‘yan. Dapat respetuhin ang conditions of donation,” Abaya said.

“Kung compliant kami sa deed of donation ng VMMC, then we go up to NEDA [National Economic and Development Authority]. Tingin ko that could be bid out by middle of next year,” he added.

Abaya said the ITS-North Terminal may take up between 3 to 5 hectares of the property.

Other possible sites for the ITS-North Terminal are the Manila Seedling Bank in Quezon City and the property of the National Housing Authority (NHA), which is also near Trinoma.

A budget of P7.7 billion has been approved by the NEDA Board chaired by President Aquino for integrated transportation hubs in efforts to improve traffic flow along Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares by reducing vehicle volume and eliminating provincial buses on EDSA.

Prospective bidders for the P4 billion ITS-South Terminal at the Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) complex in Taguig City have until November 25 to submit their qualification documents.

Bidders for the P2.5 billion ITS-Southwest Terminal project along the Manila-Cavite Expressway, on the other hand, were given until December 1 to submit their qualification documents. (MNS)

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Daniel Matsunaga wants to marry a Filipina
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Daniel Matsunaga (MNS photo)

Daniel Matsunaga (MNS photo)

MODEL Daniel Matsunaga shared his plans to move his immediate family from Brazil to the Philippines and said he is keen to meet and eventually marry a Filipina.

When he was hailed as Pinoy Big Brother’s (PBB) big winner last August, the 24-year-old said that even though he is not born and raised in Manila, he grew to love the country and feels Pinoy at heart.

Matsunaga added that he made the right decision to pursue his modeling career in the Philippines and, if given a choice, he does not want to leave the country anymore.

Daniel said he is just waiting for his dad to retire before sending them to the Philippines.

His mom, Geralda, is still in the country since she flew in to attend his big night.

“That’s the plan, to stay here for many, many years. My plan is really to bring them here and have a life here with my family. I’m just waiting for my dad to retire in Brazil because he has work,” he said.

“Siguro two more years. Right now, I’m saving while he’s working and my brother is still studying. Gusto din nila dito. All my family they came here four times already. They love it. They love the Philippines,” he added.

Matsunaga added that he finds Filipino women attractive and very smart.

And if given an opportunity to date and eventually marry someone in the future, Matsunaga hopes he will end up with a Pinay.

“May asawa yung kapatid ko (na Filipino) and my plan is to have an asawa here in the Philippines din. Filipinas are so connected to their families, God-fearing, maganda, mabait, malambing, matalino, lahat. Nasa inyo na ang lahat,” he said.

But he said romance will take a backseat for now as he focuses his time and attention to his blossoming showbiz career.

Matsunaga said since leaving the PBB house, he’s overwhelmed by all the projects and endorsements coming his way and having a love life is not an option right now.

“Sobrang masaya ako dito. I plan to stay here, pursue showbiz. And lahat ng ginagawa ko ngayon, workshops, training, tuloy tuloy. I never expected this in my entire life. Everything that is happening now is such a blessing that I really have to thank God every day. Everything that I have now, I would not have probably in Brazil.”

“Walang time for love life kasi work talaga. I only sleep four-five hours a day. There’s always a time for everything. As for my love life, hopefully, in Jesus name, it will come soon,” he said.

Matsunaga is part of the upcoming Kim Chiu and Xian Lim reunion movie “Past Tense” and Metro Manila Film Festival entry “Shake, Rattle and Roll”. (MNS)

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Obama order to benefit thousands of TNTs
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Chito ParazoPresident Obama’s planned immigration overhaul will benefit thousands of Filipinos staying without proper documentation here in the United States, most of them living here in California.

Immigration records have stated that there are roughly about 2.6 million undocumented immigrants residing in the State of California, including thousands of Filipinos. These undocumented immigrants have been found out to have lived in California for at least 10 years.

The proposed plan, according to immigration advocates, could bring some legal status to thousands of Filipinos working without legal papers here in California, most of them in restaurants, nursing homes and board and care facilities for the elderly.

Some Filipinos who have been here for a number of years but were unable to change their immigration status were so elated about the prospect of finally achieving their “American dream” come true.

They said that if what they have been hoping pushes through, it would be an early Christmas present for all of them and hopefully they can be reunited with their loved ones back home. It was reported in the news that these undocumented immigrants are likely to be given work permits, while those on deportation proceedings will probably be granted a temporary stay, if they have lived in the US for at least five to 10 years.
If the proposed plan becomes a reality despite strong objections from the Republican-dominated Congress, it would surely help any democratic presidential candidate to win the national elections in less than two years.

Speaking of elections…I see no more reason for the Philippine Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee to continue its current probe regarding allegations of corruption against Vice President Jejomar Binay and his family. Senators Koko Pimentel, Alan Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes have been successful in disfiguring the once perfect political image of Binay, who many thought would be the runaway winner in our own 2016 presidential elections.

It is now up to the Office of the Ombudsman to take over. Plunder and graft charges have already been filed against Binay, his son “Jun-Jun”, the current Makati mayor, and other former city officials. The Ombudsman should now look and start dissecting the evidence against the vice president and his son to find out if there are sufficient grounds for them to be tried in court.

Senator Mirriam Defensor Santiago last week said the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee has already gathered enough evidence against Binay and his family that it could wrap up its inquiry and forward its recommendations to the Office of the Ombudsman. Binay has been accused by his former vice mayor and best friend of involvement in the alleged overpriced Makati carpark building, bid rigging and receiving “grease” money for every transaction the city government entered into during his incumbency.

Binay, who refused to appear before the Senate for him to refute all the charges leveled against him, denied any wrongdoing during a press conference he held a month at the PICC. He claimed that his accusers have not presented sufficient evidence during the course of the Senate hearing that would stand in court.

A lot of Filipinos that I was able to talk with were dismayed by the vice president’s reluctance to face his accusers in the Senate. “Akala ko pa naman eh Boy’ Scout laging handa, eh hindi pala. Duwag pala.” If Binay thinks that the public will forget about all the charges leveled against him, he is wrong. I don’t think the voters can still be swayed to vote for someone who was able to amass much wealth in so short a time.

Meanwhile, I find Senate President Franklin Drilon’s recent statement regarding President Noynoy’s  request to stop the Senate probe on Binay ludicrous. He said when President Noynoy called him to relay the request of Binay to stop the senate investigation, Drilon reportedly told Aquino “Sir, you were part of the Senate once, you know nobody can dictate to the senators what to do.”

I find this laughable and amusing. I doubt if Drilon, known for being a good “ass licker” and a sycophant, will have the balls to talk to Noynoy they way he claimed. I can just imagine that all he did was to say “Yes sir, yes sir. I will tell them to stop.”

This guy has no balls. He is nothing but a crying baby and a bully. Remember that incident at the San Francisco International airport in 2002 where he was asked to remove his shoes as part of strict security measures? He tried to bully the person manning the x-ray machine, stating that he was the third highest ranking official in the Philippines and is traveling with a diplomatic passport. The American security personnel stood his ground, though, and insisted that he remove his shoes or he will not be allowed to board his plane bound for Manila. The Incident happened in full view of so many people, most of them Filipinos. Defeated and humiliated, he had no other choice but to comply. Some said the security officer was upset by Drilon’s condescending attitude that he also asked Drilon to remove even his socks. I, however, do not know if this was true.

This is the reason why I doubt if the ongoing Senate inquiry over allegations of overpriced in the ongoing construction of the Iloilo Convention Center(ICC) will proceed. The ICC is the pet project of Drilon. It was funded through his DAP and PDAF allocation. But I admire the courage of Senator Serge Osmeña, who said that a senate inquiry regarding the ICC controversy should continue to dispel public rumors that there was selective justice being handed down to people who are “persona non grata” to Malacañang.

Senators should look closely on the manner on how they came with a negotiated contract instead of going through public bidding. Surprisingly, the contractor doing the construction of the ICC was the same construction company who did the overpriced Makati carpark building. The name is Hilmarc’s Construction company.

Senators are also looking into the cost escalations of the project, which went from P300 million to P450million to P700 million and now to P1 billion based on the speeches made by Drilon. What is even puzzling is the fact that construction of the building has been going on despite the fact that the land title has not yet been transferred to the government. But Drilon has an “explanation” to that, when told his fellow senators during a hearing that the donor, Megaworld, is now ready to convey the title of the property as it is only completing minor legal details for the transfer.

For sure, once the Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee terminates the Binay probe, the ICC investigation will also end, if it hasn’t already.

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Lorna Tolentino opts to take it light and easy
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Lorna Tolentino (MNS Photo)

Lorna Tolentino (MNS Photo)

Lorna Tolentino may be a multi-awarded actress but she isn’t looking to doing a “heavy” role soon after GMA-7 soap “My Destiny” ended last Oct. 17.

Nakakadalawa na naman ako na ok eh, yung sa ‘Pahiram’ at ‘Genesis’ so okay na muna ang mga light roles,” she said in an interview.

Perhaps one of the reasons Lorna wants to take it easy is that she’s recuperating from injury brought about by a bad fall. She’s been wearing a brace for two months now but it would soon go with the fracture healing as fast as expected.

Kasalanan ko eh. Paharap na lakad kasi ako, tapos may tinitingnan ako sa likuran. Yung tsinelas ko biglang nag stuck tapos na-out of balance ako,” she said of the accident.

Asked if she plans to star in or maybe even direct a movie, Lorna said she’s only thinking of producing one.

Ayokong mag-direct, ang hirap-hirap, madaming (abalahin). Mas madali maging actress or producer.”

She is proud of her sons Renz and Ralph Fernandez who are both making hay these days with several projects under their belt. Lorna said that while she gives them advice on acting, she knows that time and opportunity will play a bigger hand in honing their skills.

As for her love life, the actress, it seems, has doors and windows closed, so to speak.

Hindi na, okay na ako (as widow). Wala na din akong mga suitors kasi pag ka di mo naman sila in-entertain titigil din (sila), tumigil na sila….”

Lorna is close to senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada and many wonder if she has been influenced to reconsider her stand on entering politics, too. She recalled getting an offer to run for public office in Quezon City a few years ago, but turned it down having seen firsthand the stress involved in such a pursuit.

Di lang sinabi ni Rudy (Fernandez, her late husband who ran for public office) pero isa yun sa parang nagbigay sa kaniya ng hindi lang stress, pati depression, lahat… isa yun, so, it’s no to politics (for me),” she said.

Lorna enjoys working with the cast of “My Destiny” (led by Carla Abellana and Tom Rodriguez) but she singles out co-star Sid Lucero as one who has made a fan out of her.

Pag may eksena kami, nararamdaman mo yung ginagawa niya, na mahal niya yung trabaho niya talaga dahil pinag-aaralan niya ng husto. At saka nakikita mo ang transformation niya from off cam to on cam….hindi siya nawawala (sa character niya),” she said.

Lorna is set to renew her contract with GMA-7 for two more years by Nov. 15.(MNS)

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