Lost in political wilderness

Lost in political wilderness.


Riding waves to fame


He took his passion halfway around the globe, but this time, riding the waves was a little different.

“The water was colder, the waves bigger and the competition was much tougher,” the shaggy-haired guy with a distinct Visayan twang said.

From the shorelines of Sabang in Borongan City, Eastern Samar to the blue waters of Newport Beach in California, it was an unlikely journey for Roderick Bazar with only a 61-inch surfboard to ride on along the way.

But there he was – along with some of the best in his sport from around the world – competing in the United Skim Tour Oktoberfest tournament near the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach.

Manoy to his friends, Bazar is a proponent of the new sport of skimboarding, which is creating waves, so to speak, around the globe, particularly along the beaches of Asia, Australia and North and South America.

Skimboarding is a boardsport in which a smaller and skinnier surfboard, usually between 61 and 64 inches, is used to glide across the water’s surface.

Skimboarders drop the board onto the  thin wash of previous waves and use their momentum to skim out to the breaking waves, which they then catch back into shore like surfing.

To score points, skimboarders do tricks like skateboarders. Bazar, who grew up in Sabang, a beachfront baranggay where a river and the sea meet in Borongan, has been competing for the past eight years or so.

The two-day event, Oct. 5 and 6 in Newport Beach, was the eighth and last stop of a surfing circuit that features stops in various places, including Brazil and Mexico. It was sanctioned by the United Skim Tour, which originated in Southern California, the birth place of the sport.

A similar circuit is operating in Asia with tournaments in some Philippine cities and Taiwan.

“It’s been my life,” said the 28-year-old Bazar. ” I’ve realized I could have a future in this sport.”

He learned skimboarding from a younger brother, and realized he could be really good at it when he landed in the Top 10 among about 200 competitors in a national tournament in Tanauan, Leyte about 10 years ago.

“Lumakas ang loob ko,” Bazar said. “Kaya ko pala ito.” ( I was encouraged. I knew I could do this.).

Now living mostly in San Felipe, Zambales, Bazar joined the Alon Skimboarding Club, and teaches the sport on the side. The equipment and gear can be pretty expensive, with a good skimboard costing upwards of 25,000 pesos.

He has worked out a sponsorship arrangement with Exile, a skimboard manufacturer, which provides him with boards and pays for certain expenses, such as entry fees to tournaments.

Even though he is now rated world-class in the sport, he has not received any government support, and both the city government of Borongan and the Eastern Samar provincial government did not lend any help in his participation in the Newport Beach competition.

Instead, several Boronganons, including some Southern California residents, helped raise funds for his trip and pay for his expenses.

“I owe a lot to them,” Bazar said. “I was able to come here because of their help.”

Through Josie Casundo-Latorre, a Southern California dance studio owned by Nonie Belarmino held a zumba marathon that raised more than $700 for Bazar and another competitor, Arjun Jimenez.

Another group of friends and supporters, led by Carlos Alido Jr., and Ver Latorre, helped generate publicity and awareness for the two Filipinos’ participation in the Newport Beach championship.

However, the tournament was also an eye-opener for Bazar and Jimenez.

“There’s still much to learn to be really good,” Bazar said. “We need more practice and tournament experience and better equipment.”

Because they were foreign entries, Bazar and Jimenez were put in the professional category. They made it okay in their heats but both failed to qualify for the semifinals.

Still, surfing from the shorelines of Sabang, Baybay, Cabong, and other beaches of Borongan, and reaching all the way to Newport Beach was surely a heck of a ride.

On a skimboard!

Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60 and on Facebook at facebook.com/BertEljera.

Big break for California immigrants


By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – California Gov. Jerry Brown signed eight bills Saturday, including one that prevents lengthy detention for undocumented immigrants who commit minor crimes.

Under that law, called the Trust Act, illegal immigrants have to be charged with or convicted of a serious offense to warrant a 48-hour hold and transfer to federal immigration authorities for possible deportation.

On Thursday,  Brown also approved a measure allowing immigrants in the country illegally to receive California driver’s licenses.

“While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead,” he said. “I’m not waiting.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, other bills signed Saturday will allow people in the country illegally to be licensed as lawyers, impose restrictions on those who charge a fee to help immigrants gain legal status, and make it a crime for employers to “induce fear” by threatening to report someone’s immigration status.

Immigrant-rights activists hailed Brown’s actions.

Angela Chan of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco said the signing of the statewide law is “more than symbolic.”

She predicted it would prevent the detention of up to 20,000 immigrants a year by federal authorities, mostly in rural parts of the state.

The California Immigrant Policy Center declared 2013 the “year of the immigrant” in California.

“Today (Saturday) marks the dawn of a new era in California’s immigrant communities,” said Reshma Shamasunder, the center’s executive director.

In an editorial, the New York Times said:

If the goal is to lessen the problems caused when a huge population lives outside the law, while protecting civil rights and public safety, then California — home to an estimated 2.5 million undocumented immigrants — is setting a good example…Together the bills put California far on the leading edge of expanding immigrant rights while finding humane, sensible solutions to a problem Washington refuses to solve.

Some supporters of strict enforcement of immigration laws said Brown’s bill signings will be devastating for California.

“It’s sending the wrong message to the world,” said Robin Hvidston of Claremont, executive director of We the People Rising. “This is a message to the global community to come to the state of California illegally and you will get documentation and protection.”

The bill is opposed by the California State Sheriffs Association and the California District Attorneys Association.


Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60 and on Facebook at facebook.com/BertEljera.

Immigration reform takes back seat


By Bert Eljera

With the government shut down and Washington D.C.,  focused somewhere else, immigration reform has taken a back seat in the nation’s attention.

But this has not deterred immigration reform advocates from pursuing a relentless agenda of persuading officials to open a pathway to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants and crafting comprehensive immigration reform.

In Nevada, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, continued their advocacy with marches and rallies in Las Vegas and Reno over the weekend and next week.

The Saturday event in downtown Las Vegas coincided with similar mass actions in 40 states across the United States called a “national day of dignity and respect.”

On Tuesday, a rally and concert in Washington, D.C., are scheduled, as well as around the country, including in Las Vegas.

In June, the U.S. Senate passed an immigration bill that featured a pathway to citizenship for so-called illegal immigrants, raising hopes for a comprehensive reform initiative this year.

But the budget standoff and Republican efforts to tie the fight to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, has complicated the situation, with a debt-ceiling showdown looming, further pushing immigration reform from the spotlight.

Reps. Steven Horsford and Dina Titus, both Democrats from Nevada, introduced a bill on Wednesday based on the Senate bill passed in June.

Similarly, 26 Republicans in the House have endorsed a pathway to citizenship. These include Rep. Joe Heck and Rep. Mark Amodei, who reiterated their support for such a bill once Congress get back to considering immigration reform.

The initial favorable congressional actions have raised hopes for immigrant advocates after a disappointing performance by the Obama administration last year, particularly in the area of deportations.

In 2012, Homeland Security deported, 409,849 immigrants, up from 396,906 immigrants last year. More than 392,000 immigrants were deported in the 2010 fiscal year.

ICE said about 55 percent of those deported were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors.

“While the [fiscal year] 2012 removals indicate that we continue to make progress in focusing resources on criminal and priority aliens, with more convicted criminals being removed from the country than ever before, we are constantly looking for ways to ensure that we are doing everything we can to utilize our resources in a way that maximizes public safety,” ICE Director John Morton said in a statement.

But the emphasis on deportation and what advocates call the break up of families have frustrated them – and the efforts to keep families together has become a rallying issue.

In California, advocates scored a victory somewhat when Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last week that will make it harder to deport immigrants and separate families.

Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60 and on Facebook at facebook.com/BertEljera.

Lucky Rice festival at Cosmopolitan

Night Market at Cosmopolitan (Photo by Erik Kabik)

Night Market at Cosmopolitan (Photo by Erik Kabik)

By Bert Eljera

It was a celebration of Asian culture with a heavy dose of Asian cuisine as the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas unfurled the three-day LuckyRice festival that ends today, Sunday, at the Strip.

An opening ceremony Friday at the Boulevard Pool ushered in the festivities. Chefs who participated in the event made their first appearance with their tea concoctions in a tea-tasting extravaganza.

There were also lion dances, koto and pipa performances.

The highlight was the Vegas Night Market on Saturday as the pool became a virtual festival ground. Several chefs participated, including those from Wicked Spoon, Fukuburger and Raku, who featured their take on popular Asian-inspired bites.

In addition, there were dances, music and other cultural performances under a cool and a little breezy evening.

In today’s final day, there will be Dim Sum, Bloody Mary & Mahjong Brunch. Susur Lee from Top Chef Masters and Lee in Toronto will offer his Cantonese-inspired fare to guests at Bamboo Pool as they design their own bloody Marys with Asian ingredients.

Mahjong games will be held for beginners and pros at the boozy brunch. Tickets are priced at $65.

Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy60 and on Facebook at facebook.com/BertEljera.

Filipino farm laborers honored in new California law

Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and labor leader Dolores Huerta discuss AB 123 in honor of Filipino farm workers.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta and labor leader Dolores Huerta speak before community leaders on the signing of a bill honoring Filipino farm workers in California.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta and labor leader Dolores Huerta speak before community leaders on the signing of a bill honoring Filipino farm workers in California.

By Bert Eljera

A new California law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Friday will honor the contributions of Filipino farm workers in the growth of the labor movement in the Golden State.

Sponsored by Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), the only Filipino-American in the California Legislature, AB 123 will require the state curriculum to include studies on the Filipino labor movement.

“The goal… is to supplement California’s rich farm worker history with the contributions of the Filipino-American community,” said Bonta. “The story of Filipinos and their crucial efforts to the farm labor movement is an untold part of California history.”

Bonta cited the work of César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, and that “generations of people who follow their stories have benefited from their commitment to social and economic justice in innumerable ways.”

However, largely forgotten are the Delano Grape Strike of 1965, led by the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), made up of first-generation Filipino leaders Philip Vera Cruz and Larry Itliong.

The National Farm Workers Association was the product of the collaboration between Chavez, Huerta, Vera Cruz and Itliong, Bonta said.

In 1966, they staged the grape workers strike that brought together Filipino and Mexican farm workers.

In signing the bill, Gov. Brown has given California students a more complete account of the farm labor movement, Bonta said.

The bill signing served as highlight of the observance of October as Filipino-American Heritage month in California.

Chinatown celebrates Chinese New Year

Las Vegas Chinatown celebrates Chinese New Year on Sunday (Asian & Pacific Islander Connection)

Las Vegas Chinatown celebrates Chinese New Year on Sunday (Asian & Pacific Islander Connection)

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – The Chinese American Chamber of Commerce of Nevada and Chinatown Plaza are holding the 19th annual Chinese New Year Celebration / Asian Festival on Sunday, Feb. 17.

It’s the largest Chinese New Year event in Las Vegas and will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Chinatown Plaza parking lot, located at 4255 Spring Mountain Road.

Celebrating the Year of the Snake, over 6,000 community participants are expected to attend. There will be entertainment, food, and free drawing, in addition to performances by Polynesian Dance, Japanese Taiko drums, lion dance, and acrobats.

There will also be arts and crafts, jewelries and other merchandise booths. Everyone is invited to come and join the fun.

For additional information, contact the organizers at (702) 221-8448 or visit www.lvchinatown.com or www.lvcacc.org.