Korea Invades the Philippines

They came without warning, trickling in almost unnoticed until there were too many to ignore. It seemed, all of a sudden, that South Koreans were practically everywhere in the Philippines – in malls, universities, the country’s top resorts, and even on local television shows. By now, Koreans are in almost all of the Philippines major…

Philippine Elections: More of the Same

Photo by Hersley Ven-Casero  A career in show business used to be a sure ticket to landing a job as an elected servant of the people in the Philippines. Judging from the results of the recent mid-term elections, surer preparation for office might be involvement in the armed overthrow of the government. “Coup plotter,” in…

A Killing Season

  It's harvest time in Central Luzon, freshly picked grain dries on the highway, waiting to be scooped into bags and sent for milling. Christmas will be coming soon. It is also fiesta season, when the simple towns in an area - known as the rice bowl of the Philippines - celebrate with parties, dances…

Arroyo on the Line in Philippine Polls

Monday, May 14, millions of Filipinos will once again march off to their precincts to cast their ballots. At stake are 12 of 24 Senate seats, the entire House of Representatives and all elective local government positions. But the real battle is for the political future of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who still has three…

Born to Rule

Wahab Akbar has been governor of the strife-torn island of Basilan in Mindanao for the past nine years. Now he is running for Congress. But that's okay because Jum, his first wife, is running for the position he is vacating. Cherry, his second wife, is running for mayor of Isabela City, the capital of the…

A Filipina’s Happy Slip is Showing

For decades, actors of Asian descent have been trying make it big by breaking into mainstream Hollywood, usually with limited success. Thirty-one year old Christine Gambito, an American born to Filipino immigrants in Virginia, took a different route and achieved what others have been trying to do for years in only a matter of months…

Manila’s First Gentleman Stirs a Libel Hornet’s Nest

On the afternoon of November 13 last year, Mia Gonzales, a reporter for the Business Mirror in Manila, received an urgent phone call from a colleague working at the press office of the presidential palace. “Five policemen in plainclothes are here looking for you,” she was told. Taken by surprise, Mia called her office and…

Free Trade and the Filipino Maid

It takes a world of anger to push a Filipino domestic helper onto the streets of Hong Kong in protest. Her weekend lasts a single day, and she’s on-call or working for every waking moment of the rest. In recent years an eroded minimum wage has joined maids from various countries living here to feel…

Palawan’s Sea Gypsies Under Threat

Very few people outside the Badjao community on the Philippine island of Palawan speak their tribal language. But somehow, you just know what it means to hear someone shout “Shark! Shark!” in any language. I scramble up the boat’s armor, nearly tipping it over and making me feel like a 10-tonne elephant out of water.…

Philippine Elections Under Fire

Under normal circumstances, when fire destroys a decrepit, decades-old building already condemned as a fire hazard, people might jump to the logical conclusion – this was a disaster waiting to happen. But this is the Philippines. And two months before Election Day, the gutted building happens to be the office of the Commission on Elections…