Progress to Filipino Vets Equity

Last November was the last I'd heard any movement on the movement to give back benefits promised to Filipinos fighting with the US during WWII.

Although I'm not sure what the status is of H.R. 760: Filipino Veterans Equity Act of 2007, yesterday I learned that S. 1315: Veteran's Benefits Enhancements Act of 2007 has passed the Senate.

Here's the press release:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, elatedly applauded his colleagues in the Senate for passing S. 1315 , the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 by a vote of 96 to 1. Prior to voting on final passage of the bill, the Senate debated an amendment to remove a provision providing a limited pension for Filipino World War II veterans residing in the Philippines. This amendment was defeated by a vote of 56 to 41, with Akaka leading the charge for the Filipino veterans' pension.

"The Filipino veterans of World War II fought bravely under U.S. military command, helping us win the war only to lose their veteran status by an Act of Congress. I commend my colleagues for supporting those veterans who stood with us," said Akaka.

Akaka continued, "I am also very pleased that the Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 can finally move forward. This bill makes needed improvements to veterans' benefits by expanding and increasing support for veterans, their families, and their survivors. I urge my colleagues in the House to act swiftly on this much needed bill."

This comprehensive, budget-neutral omnibus veterans' benefits bill was approved by the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs last June and reported to the full Senate last August.

The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 would provide a veterans' pension to Filipino veterans of World War II residing in the U.S. and in the Philippines. Under the proposed bill, veterans residing in the Philippines would receive a smaller pension than those residing in the U.S., to account for differences in cost-of-living in the two countries.

The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 also includes a multitude of improvements to veterans' benefits, including provisions to:

- Establish a new program of insurance for service-connected disabled veterans;
- Expand eligibility for retroactive benefits from traumatic injury protection coverage under Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance;
- Increase the maximum amount of Veterans' Mortgage Life Insurance that a service-connected disabled veteran may purchase;
- Provide individuals with severe burn injuries specially adapted housing benefits; and
- Extend for two years the monthly educational assistance allowance for apprenticeship or other on-the-job training

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives.



Run-up to SCBWI

Headed out this weekend to attend SCBWI Western Washington Conference...which I see is sold out. Whoa. I'm glad I got my reg. in a few weeks back.

I want to pitch a couple of picture books, but I registered late and didn't get any pitch appointments with agents/eds. I feel like I need to bring /something/ though, so I'll bring copies of the manuscripts at least. I'm also trying to remember how to do a cold pitch letter. I learned about cold pitches the last time I was at a SCBWI conference... ten years ago in Honolulu... So to the Intertubes I go tonight.

Came across this terrific article on Query Letters by Nathan Bransford of the Curtis-Brown Agency. It's got the skinny on the hook-line-and-sinker of how to capture an agent's attention with a simple 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper. If nothing else, I have a template to use when I send queries out after the conference.

I know publication isn't the focus for the MFA program at VC, but it's something I have/want to keep my feelers into while I'm in the program. It's a way to understand the audience you're approaching, I think. I don't want to become market driven, but knowing what's out there, what's worked, and what's being looked for will help me develop ideas more carefully, I think.

I've been updating my Goodreads Blog complete with a few annotations. So many books to read before the residency starts. Just counting the faculty books at one each is 17 books and in many cases of authors that are doing work I'm interesting in producing, I'm hoping to read at least two books, maybe three. In the meantime, I've been tagged by Dawn, one of my future classmates with the following meme:

  • Grab your WIP (work-in-progress)

  • Find page 30 of the MS or page 3 for PBs

  • Find the fifth sentence.

  • Post the next three sentences.

  • Tag five people

  • So, from my WIP which I may/may not work on during VC:

    She eyed the other two again. "Well, I got corn fritters cooling on the table and hot coffee if you don't mind the burn."

    She stepped out of the house and started shooing them in as if they were chickens. "No need to be hanging on my doorstop like a bunch of vagabonds," she muttered, then shut the door behind them once they'd all crossed the threshold.

    Betty is such a cool character.

    Alrighty - Not sure who's reading me anymore, so if you're here, consider yourself tagged.


    Achiote Press Release Party and Reading

    Achiote Press will celebrate the release of our Spring issues with a party on Friday, April 25th at the Ethnic Studies Library on the UC Berkeley campus.

    The event will feature special readings by former Achiote contributors Barbara Jane Reyes (Poeta en San Francisco) Truong Tran (Within The Margin), and Oscar Bermeo (Anywhere Avenue).

    Maria Tuttle will read from her new Achiote chapbook, Saramé. This chapbook contains an excerpt from Tuttle's historical novel about the life of a Chicana in El Paso, Texas during the early 20th century. Gabriela Erandi Rico will read from her contributions to the new Achiote Seeds chapjournal.

    Javier Huerta, author of Some Clarifications y otras poemas, will perform selections from the other contributors to the journal: Cristina García, Emmy Pérez and Brenda Cárdenas. Poet Oscar Bermeo will emcee the night.

    We'll have food, drinks and music. The event is free, open to the public and we welcome families and children.

    When: Friday, April 25th: 6pm--8pm
    Where: Ethnic Studies Library, Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley Campus
    (see a campus map here)

    Sponsored by the Ethnic Studies Graduate Group, Asian American Studies Program, and Chicano Studies Program.


    Such good memories of last years launch! I wish I could be there. So much good writing and community. Hope folks can make it there for me!


    Philippine Speculative Fiction IV - Call

    Dean Alfar announces the call for subs for Philippine Speculative Fiction IV

    He notes: Speculative fiction is the literature of wonder that spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror and magic realism or falls into the cracks in-between.

    Got Magic?


    The Big Reveal

    I've hinted a bit about this in recent posts, but now I'm finally able to gleefully announce:

    I've been accepted at Vermont College for their dual-MFA in Non-Fiction and Children's Writing.

    This is my 'big project' that had me writing and nervous and writing some more since last Fall. My original thought was to apply to low-residency MFA programs that had strong non-fiction faculty. I started with the local ones near Seattle, WA, then asked the advice of colleagues and friends at Western. I narrowed the field to three, one of which was Vermont College.

    I admit that Children’s Writing wasn’t on my radar right away, but when I was looking into VC, I discovered that they had a dual MFA program option that would enable me to work on my memoir project(s) and look into children’s writing again. When I was in Hawaii in ‘97-’98, I was involved with SCBWI a bit - went to their conference and won second prize in their writing contest. I have a couple of picture book manuscripts that I’m going to be circulating as soon as I get a bit more research done on agents and publishers, and put together a decent query letter for each. I’d like to write YA historic novels, along the lines of Christopher Paul Curtis or even Sherman Alexie (although I haven’t read The Absolute True Diary of a Part Time Indian yet to know for sure.) Picture books, though, are also a draw and I think I'll start with that first.

    There’s a lot of Filipino American history not written about yet and with my focus on family relationships and empowerment/identity, I think there will be plenty of material to work with. I had the option to either start on the nonfiction track or the children’s and I opted for children’s as much because the opportunity was there to work on my current manuscripts as it was that I have found myself at various local SCBWI events. It seems obvious now that I am more drawn to children’s now than I realized, but it has taken me a bit to actually /realize/ it. It’s very gratifying, then that the opportunity was there for me to take.

    I am a bit afraid of getting ‘locked in’ to a genre, but given my track record of publication in everything from trade magazines to poetry, plus a passion for performance storytelling, I doubt I will ’settle’ for anything else but a multigenre career ultimately. In the meantime, the MFA affords me the time (carved out of an already full life) and the mentorship I think I need to really move my writing to the next levels.

    I've opened a new blog dedicated to just my adventures in the MFA journey: What If?. Feel free to drop by!


    66 Years Ago

    My grandfather heard the words he never thought he would hear.

    Never imagined that after becoming a Philippine Scout and learning all he could about being a good soldier in the US Army, he would be asked to do the unimaginable.

    Never thought that the people he admired most in the world for their intelligence, bravery, and honor, would ask him to do the unthinkable.

    Although he never had a chance to tell me himself, I heard the story from other Scouts, how they held the line so MacArthur could escape. Rationed food and bullets while giving their all to fight a battle already deemed unwinnable. To hear that final word from a commanding officer --


    The Bataan Death March and the 66-Year Struggle for Justice

    We don't know exactly when Lolo escaped the March, but it was sometime early in the march, perhaps April 11 or 12th. They came to an artesian well, the story goes, and there was a rush to the clean water. In the confusion, Lolo and two others slipped into the jungle, ran as long as they could and when safe, headed in three different directions. I don't know if Lolo ever saw the other two again. Lolo headed to his mother's province where he found his young wife and their three girls. My mother, the oldest, was seven years old and she tells of how Lolo stumbled into the nipa hut, tears streaming down his wan face, grabbed my grandmother and simply said:

    We lost.

    He struggled through malaria, then struggled against becoming part of the resistance. He believed MacArthur would return and he had no orders to be part of the resistance, so lived as a farmer, moving upland when the Japanese did their patrols. The villagers kept him and themselves safe with a series of codes tapped in rice pounders. Mom tells of Japanese soldiers who left them alone because they prayed out loud as they hid beneath their hut, and also of collaborators who stole food from them even when the Japanese did not.

    Lolo waited for word of MacArthur's return and when it came, he reported for duty, coordinated the Scouts who also reported and went on to retire from a full career in the US Army in the mid-60s.

    My Lolo believed. Even when they told him to surrender, even when he knew they had lost. I can't fault him that faith, even with all it's colonial and post-colonial implications.

    All I can do is witness and remember.


    Gift of Collaboration

    Came home late tonight after working all day, taking the family out for dinner and catching the First Friday Concert by Swil Kanim.

    Swil is a musician, storyteller, and philosopher who's name is Richard Marshall but who /is/ Swil Kanim – Works for the People.

    I've seen Swil perform off an on for years, ever since seeing him in the Business of Fancydancing and finding out he played not only locally, but monthly at a local coffeeshop. He plays for free and liberates his CDs for free, and folks donate what they can, when they can to help he and his wife keep being who they are – artists and ardent supporters of human beings.

    I always learn something from Swil, even if the set pieces are the similar. I learn about how to be a better artist, be a more excellent person, live with failure, and live with passion. Tonight, I learned about the importance of collaboration between artists, how we need to encourage each other to honor our gifts, support each other, give each other a safe place to be the artists we are. I also offered my own gift to him, offered my experience as a writer to get one of his stories made into a children's picture book. It might be in the works already, but it was important for me to connect and offer what I had after he had given so much of who he was to me and to others.

    That's the medicine of Swil Kanim, the ability to create connections, heart to heart and keep that going, performance after performance. To witness to gift giving and gift receiving, and call our attention to it so we can all be grateful together.


    Hopeful Progress

    Last October, I wrote about the unfortunate choice of characterization in an episode of Desperate Housewives.

    I'm happy to see that the outcry has become something tangible and I hopeful that it means change for the good:

    An outreach project by
    Disney/ABC Television Group
    in collaboration with
    The National Federation of
    Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA)

    The Disney·ABC Television Group has the most comprehensive and diverse talent development programs in the industry. ABC discovers and nurtures the finest talent, preparing them for careers in acting, writing and directing.

    You are cordially invited to participate and learn more about ABC’s programs. Please note that due to the capacity of the venue, we will only be able to accommodate a first come first serve basis.

    RSVP by April 15th
    Jon Melegrito, NaFFAA Communications Director, jonmele@aol.com

    When Opportunity knocks, be there to open the door!

    April 24, 2007
    Washington D.C. Capitol Hilton
    Pan-American Meeting Room
    16th and K St. NW, METRO STOP: Farragut West

    The Disney·ABC Television Group

    Bob Mendez, Sr. Vice President, Diversity
    Disney·ABC Television Group

    Tim McNeal, Vice President,
    Talent Development & Diversity
    Disney·ABC Television Group

    Frank Bennett Gonzalez, Director
    Talent Development
    Disney·ABC Television Group

    Tracey Waecker, HR Recruiting
    Disney·ABC Media Networks


    Words Expressed

    Pagdiriwang Festival

    Words Expressed: Filipina Women Writers Workshop

    Saturday, June 7, 2008
    Noon-4:00 pm
    Seattle Center, Centerhouse Theater

    Filipinos and Filipino Americans have a long rich tradition of written expression which is etched in our souls. We have brought these expressions to the United States as poems, novels, essays and political analysis. Yet where is our literature? Why are our writers unknown?

    Let us honor our Pinay poets and writers, listen to their moving and challenging pieces, learn from them and celebrate as we pass on this wonderful tradition of …words expressed

    Featuring the work of:

    Melissa Nolledo
    Nancy Calos-Nakano
    Angela Martinez-Dy
    Donna Miscolta
    Tess Uriza Holthe
    Toni Bajado
    Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor
    Marianne Villanueva

    Writers Workshop Co-chairs
    Maria Batayola, Robert Francis Flor and Dale Tiffany

    Supporting Agencies:

    Washington Poets Association
    Seattle University Wismer Center for Gender and Diversity Studies
    Seattle Central Community College
    Filipino American City Employees
    Elliott Bay Bookstore
    Artists Trust

    Sponsored by the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, City of Seattle