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Home Columns Op-Ed Page The History of the Tournament of Roses' "Filipino Scandal in the Wind"
The History of the Tournament of Roses' "Filipino Scandal in the Wind" PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Op-Ed Page
Written by Bobby M. Reyes   
Monday, 11 January 2010 21:44

 

Part II of a Series on “Combating Corruption in the Community”

By Bobby M. Reyes of
Sorsogon City, RP, and West Covina, CA
(Excerpts of this article were first published on
Jan. 6, 2007, in several e-groups)

 

To read Part I, please click on this link, Today Is the 13th Anniversary of the Philippine Scandal at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses


As I said in Part I of this series, Poet-pundit Fred Burce Bunao is also a song writer. In 1996 I commissioned him to write a song about the Philippine Department of Tourism's (PDOT) entries at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses parade in 1997. The PDOT fielded two more floats in the 1998 parade at
Pasadena. The floats were supposed to highlight the 100th year of Philippine Independence from Spain in 1998. What Mr. Bunao did was to write a parody of Elton John's song about Marilyn Monroe and called it "Scandal in the Wind."

Why the PDOT fielded two floats at both parades is beyond comprehension by mere mortals. This led Mr. Bunao to call them "Insult" and "Injury." Yes, from the idiom, "Adding insult to injury."

Yes, Mr. Bunao's song did get a semblance of the story about the Filipino floats at the world's most-popular parade. I wrote about the PDOT's misadventures in
Southern California in the Community site of the AOL called, "So the Filipino People Will Know." But I did not realize that the AOL canceled the section and I was not able to save it. I have, however, a hard copy of it somewhere in my files at a storage site.

 

How the Idea of Fielding a Filipino Float Started

 


A ctually the idea of fielding a Filipino float in
Pasadena began in the Media Breakfast Club (MBC). The MBC first held on July 7,1993, the first of weekly community forums on Wednesday mornings. The MBC venue was the then Jeepney Grill in Alexandria St. in the Mid-Wilshire District of the City of Los Angeles.

The PDOT director for
Los Angeles at that time was Atty. John Orola, Jr., and his deputy was Atty. Orestes "Rusty" Ricaforte. Sometime in August 1993, Director Orola and I talked about the Pasadena Tournament of Roses parade and how it could help promote Philippine tourism. In spite of the pending protest at that time (that I initiated) against the appointment of Tomas "Buddy" Gomez III as consul general for Los Angeles, Mr. Orola never took it personally against me. In fact, it was probably a smart move on the part of Mr. Orola to let my group get involved in tourism projects, so as to generate support from all sectors of the community.

The "Pasadena Float Project" (
PFP) was never meant to be a "John-and-Bobby Show." (Although the ever-irreverent Mr. Bunao kept on describing John and me as "The Gay-and-Happy Tandem" or even "The Filipino Odd Couple." The poet-pundit said that John was supposed to be the gay one and I was the happy-go-lucky fellow.)

On a serious note, John and I agreed to tap all groups in the community irrespective of their political affiliations in the
Philippines. And so we did our homework. We lined up Dr. Carlos P. Manlapaz, the president of the Ilocano National Association and known pro-Marcos supporter. (Dr. Manlapaz also took over the protest against Buddy Gomez's appointment as consul general for Los Angeles, which President Fidel V. Ramos eventually withdrew.) Also on board the PFP was Jimmy D. Bautista, the chairman of the Ninoy Aquino Memorial (NAMSERVE) in Los Angeles. To involve the alumni of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), some of whom served under President Marcos, we were able to get the support of retired Philippine Navy Commodore Bert L. Lazo, who attended too the MBC meetings. In short, the PFP was an all-inclusive vehicle to foster at least a working merger among competing sectors in the community.

The plan was for the
PFP to involve also Filipino-American residents of Pasadena. Mr. Bautista was then a resident of Pasadena. We contacted too Pasadena-based Ms. Carrie Garcia-Lorenzana (now deceased) and Ms. Sofia Adamson, whose family founded the Adamson University in Manila. Ms. Adamson attended an MBC meeting in October 1993 and then hosted two meetings of the PFP at her residence in Pasadena.

Then I contacted Raul Rodriguez, the most-decorated float designer and builder at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses parade. Mr. Rodriguez accepted our invitation to present his works at one of the MBC meetings at the Jeepney Grill. He invited us also to a preview of the floats that he designed and built for the
Jan. 1, 1994, parade. The preview of the parade floats was held on Dec. 30, 1993, in Pasadena. Henry von Seyfried, a German-American cofounder of the MBC, and I honored Mr. Rodriguez's invitation.

The budding organizing committee for the
PFP met twice at the residence of Ms. Adamson. On both meetings, Consul Edwin D. Bael, then Acting Head of Post for Los Angeles, came. Commodore Lazo was also with us. The participants agreed to my proposal that funding for the Filipino float that could be fielded annually starting 1996 was to be raised from private sources only. The annual project would not require any funding from the PDOT and even from any other Philippine-government agency. We agreed also that a counterpart fund was to be set aside for donation to the Philippine President's Calamity Fund and/or the Philippine National Red Cross. In short, if the parade float would cost $400,000, then another $400,000 would have to be raised for Philippine charitable causes.

 

Dispute Over the Miss Universe Pageant in Manila

T hen in September 1993, Vince J. Carlos was appointed by President Ramos to be the PDOT secretary. I was elated for Secretary Carlos was my classmate and fraternity brother at the Ateneo de Manila College of Law. I wrote Secretary Carlos about our efforts to promote Philippine tourism in the
United States but he did not even acknowledge receipt of it. When Mr. Carlos came to Los Angeles, he did not invite me to his press conference in spite of the fact that Consul Bael asked him if indeed I was his classmate. Secretary Carlos confirmed that we were together at the Ateneo but that was all that he said.

Then the PDOT recalled Atty. Orola back to the head office in
Manila. Atty. Ricaforte took over and we did not hear anything more about the PFP.

In late 1993 I wrote Secretary Carlos a protest about the PDOT's plan to stage the Miss Universe pageant in
Manila in May 1994. I said that it was a waste of resources to do it. I said that preparing for the Golden Anniversary of the Leyte Landing by General MacArthur and his forces in October 1994 would probably get more publicity mileage in the United States and attract more tourists than the pageant. The PDOT never acknowledge my letter and never did any preparation for the Leyte Landing anniversary. It went ahead with the Miss Universe pageant, which did not increase the number of foreign tourists in the Philippines – just as I predicted.

 

The USPTAC Was Formed

T hen the PDOT office announced that it organized the United States-Philippines Tourism Advisory Council (USPTAC). It then invited Mrs. Lourdes Ongkeko to chair the USPTAC chapter in
Los Angeles. It also announced that Mrs. Ongkeko's council would lead a fundraising drive for the Filipino floats at the 1997 and 1998 Pasadena parades. The PDOT and the USPTAC never invited any of the participants in the erstwhile PFP to join them in the endeavor at Pasadena, with the exception of Mrs. Sofia Adamson.

 

In November 1996, then PDOT Secretary Mina Gabor asked Bobby Reyes to meet with her in Los Angeles. Mr. Bunao warned that she could be a relative of Zsa Zsa Gabor and that Bobby should be careful because she could emulate the actress who once slapped a Hollywood traffic cop. The meeting with Secretary Gabor turned out to be a cordial one.



Mrs. Ongkeko's fundraising drives for the Filipino floats of course got enthusiastic support from her cofounders of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA). The then NaFFAA public-relations director, Greg Macabenta, aided Mrs. Ongkeko in her fundraising drives and got for her donations from some American corporations. Mrs. Ongkeko was then the first regional chairperson of the NaFFAA for Southern California. She was aided too in the fundraising efforts by her supporters in the Filipino-American Press Club of Los Angeles (FAPCLA), as headed by then City of Carson Mayor Pete Fajardo. Mayor Fajardo was a FAPCLA cofounder and he backed up Mrs. Ongkeko to the hilt, in spite of my accusation that her administration had already misspent the FAPCLA trust fund of $8,500 meant to serve as down payment for a FAPCLA building (proposed Fil-Am press center).

In November 1996, then PDOT Secretary Mina Gabor asked me to meet with her in Los Angeles. Mr. Bunao warned that she could be a relative of Zsa Zsa Gabor and that I should be careful because she could emulate the actress who once slapped a Hollywood traffic cop. The meeting with Secretary Gabor turned out to be a cordial one. Although she did not accept my suggestion for more accountability and transparency in the fundraising drives for the parade floats that Mrs. Ongkeko and Director Ricaforte orchestrated. Secretary Gabor also promised to study my suggestion of fielding recreational vehicles (RVs) in the United States as mobile Philippine show windows cum library and bookstore, which could also carry books and brochures about Philippine tourist destinations. I mentioned also doing a Filipino-American Baseball Night at mainstream stadiums such as the Dodgers in Los Angeles as cost-effective ways of promoting the homeland and its tourism industry.

 

E ditor’s Notes: Bobby Reyes continued with his plan of organizing a Filipino-American Community Night at the Dodgers Stadium, the first one of which was held in 2006. Please click on the following hyperlinks about the event:

 

Dodger Stadium Photos taken during the Filipino-American Community Night held on July 24, 2006

 

Consul General Aragon Makes History at the Fil-Am Day at Dodgers Stadium (Now With Photo)


W ell, the 1997 Pasadena Tournament of Roses parade came and went. And so with the 1998 parade. Starting in February 1997, I started bugging the PDOT and the USPTAC to make a public accounting of the donations that they received. They refused and one comical answer that they used was that the financial report was provided only to donors. Ergo, since I did not make a donation . . . But I told them that I dropped several pennies into one of their collection boxes left in Filipino stores and restaurants. I even asked then Consul General Josue L. Villa to intervene and obtain for the press a financial report pursuant to our rights under the Freedom of Information Act (
FIA). But Ambassador Villa said that the PDOT belonged to another Philippine department, which was coequal with the Department of Foreign Affairs. He could not, therefore, compel the PDOT to provide him with the financial report. He said also that the FIA did not apply to diplomatic posts.

Part
III of this report is about the controversy that continued to rage, as Mrs. Ongkeko and her lawyer, Rodel Rodis, and I tangled again in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Jan. 24, 2007. The hearing was an offshoot of the libel case that Mrs. Ongkeko filed against me in September 2000 for my calling her and the involved PDOT and USPTAC officials as crooks as a result of their fundraising drives for the said parade floats. The fates of some of the major actors in this series will also be discussed, especially about Director Rusty Ricaforte, who became a fugitive from justice. Mr. Ricaforte was destroyed by the figurative rust of corruption. He is supposedly hiding somewhere in the United States along with his wife, Yolanda, the bag lady allegedly of former President Joseph Estrada. Both are being hunted by the FBI.  # # #

 

(To be continued . . .)

 

To read Part I, please click on this link,

 Today Is the 13th Anniversary of the Philippine Scandal at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses

 

 



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