INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines--Maria Cecilia Flores-Oebanda has been awarded the first Iqbal Masih award for the elimination of exploitative child labor, according to the United States Department of Labor. Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Charlotte M. Ponticelli said the US agency is giving this award to acknowledge Flores-Oebanda’s lifetime battle against the use of child domestic workers and the trafficking of women and children for domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation in the Philippines and internationally. Flores-Oebanda is currently the president and executive director of the Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFF) based in Quezon City. "This award recognizes a true champion in the fight to end exploitive child labor," said Ponticelli in a statement. "Through her work, Ms. Flores-Oebanda has brought real change to the lives of thousands of children." The Iqbal Masih Award was established by the US Congress to recognize the work of an individual, company, organization or national government to end the worst forms of child labor. The award reflects the spirit of Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani child enslaved at the age of four who escaped his servitude and became an outspoken advocate against child slavery. In 1995 at the age of 13 and a year after receiving the Reebok Human Rights Award, Iqbal was killed in Pakistan. His dedication to ending child slavery, however, continues to inspire individuals around the world. Like Iqbal Masih, Flores-Oebanda was born into poverty. As a child, she helped to support her family by scavenging. Later as a teenager, she advocated for the rights of youth and farm laborers. Flores-Oebanda later founded and now leads the VFF, a nongovernmental organization that has rescued and provided assistance to more than 32,000 victims and potential victims of trafficking. According to the US agency, the VFF has helped to file more than 65 trafficking cases on behalf of more than 165 victims. Flores-Oebanda serves as the Southeast Asia coordinator for the Global March Against Child Labor and is active with other significant events to support work against child and exploitive labor. Since 1995, the US Department of Labor has supported efforts to combat exploitive child labor internationally. The agency has succeeded in rescuing more than 1.25 million children from exploitive child labor.
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By Yong B. Chavez There's a good chance Filipino-flavored food will stay in the Obama White House menu. Though change is coming in the White House this January, there's one area where Obama's new administration isn't likely to change, reports say. Walter Scheib, White House executive chef for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, says in an AP interview that "there's a 90 percent chance the new administration will stick with his successor, Cristeta Comerford." Though the job is high-profile, the work of a White House executive chef isn't fit for someone wanting a celebrity status. Being sensitive and understanding is just as important as culinary skills, given that the chef is among the few people who interact with the first family in private, former White House chefs say. Comerford, the first woman and first minority to serve as executive chef in the White House, gets high praise in those areas. The following is an article I wrote about Comerford back in 2005. About the photo:Chef Cristeta "Cris" Comerford prepares a meal inside the White House kitchen in this July 17, 2002 photo. White House Photo by Tina Hager. +++
First lady head chef in the White House is Filipina When Cristeta Comerford comes back to work from her vacation by the month’s end, she will have a full plate in front of her as she assumes her new responsibilities as the White House executive chef at that time. Mrs. Laura Bush announced Sunday that Comerford, whom the First Lady calls by her nickname “Cris”, has been given the executive kitchen’s top post. A Food Technology graduate of the University of the Philippines, the 42-year-old wife and mother is the first woman to get the job. "I am delighted that Cris Comerford has accepted the position of White House executive chef," Mrs. Bush said in her press statement. "Her passion for cooking can be tasted in every bite of her delicious creations." Comerford will be in charge of designing and executing menus for state dinners, social events, holiday functions, receptions and official luncheons hosted by President and Mrs. Bush. The first lady top chef of the White House is trained in French classical techniques and specializes in ethnic and American cuisine. She has helped develop menus for previous special White House events including a state dinner in honor President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Susan Whitson, the First Lady’s press secretary, said that Mrs. Bush was very happy with Comerford’s work in her capacity as the White House assistant chef for the past 10 years. “She is very pleased with Cris,” Whitson said. It took six months for the position to be filled because the First Lady wanted to make sure that the person who would replace former executive chef Walter Scheib III would be the best that they could get, Whitson added. The search for the presidential chief chef was headed by White House social secretary Lea Berman and head usher Gary Walters. Walters has been quoted in reports as saying that the White House executive chef is paid in the general range of $80,000 and $100,000 a year. Although it is a sizable amount, famous chefs in America get so much more than that, but the high-profile job still attracted a lot of applicants hungry for the chance to rule the president's kitchen. “They went through hundreds of applicants, and after thoughtful consideration, they went with Cris,” Whitson said. The fact that she is a woman is a bonus, but in the end, she was chosen because she was “the best qualified”, Whitson said. The new White House top chef, a naturalized U.S.citizen who was born in the Philippines, lives in the Washington D.C. area with her family.This article is also published in the Proudly Filipina blog, an online magazine and social network that simulates the warm, intimate and safe environment of bonding with your sisters or best girlfriends. Through a selection of articles on love, sex, hobbies, soulful stories, inspiration, health and wellness, advocacies and women’s issues and that are targeted towards enriching the Pinay’s heart, body and spirit, it’s every Filipina’s virtual coffee-and-cupcake time at the click of a mouse.
By Lella Santiago FILIPINAS never cease to amaze. They amaze with their talent. They amaze with their style. As proof of their exceptional ability three Pinay authors have done the country proud by making it to the bestseller list of Kinokuniya Bookstore in Singapore: Noelle Chua at number 2, Maya Calica at number 3 and Tara Sering at number 5. These three savvy, cosmopolitan and bestselling Filipina novelists were likewise handpicked by International Publisher Marshall Cavendish to launch the first “Asian Chic” Lit books. Asian Chic is about Asian women set within the panorama of Asian locales and takes a lingering look at their distinctly Asian lives. And it’s absolutely thrilling that this new literary genre is spearheaded by Filipinas. The chick lit hits that were recently launched under the Asian Chic banner are “Undercover Tai Tai” by Maya Calica, “Amazing Grace” by Tara FT Sering, and “Mrs Mismarriage” by Noelle Chua. Maya Calica Singapore-based Maya is the editor of Smile, the inflight magazine of Cebu Pacific Airlines. Previous to this, she worked as a writer and editor of different magazines. Her talent for writing began to manifest around the 7th grade. She started by entertaining her sisters with her stories. As a matter of fact, her current hit, “Undercover Tai Tai” was loosely inspired by her sister Pinky, a wannabe detective. A prolific writer, she has several editorial and journalistic laurels on her pretty head. Another of her bestsellers, “The Break-Up Diaries” has been produced into a 4-episode TV miniseries on ABC Channel 5. A rich life is the source for creative writing. No wonder Maya is a bestselling author. She lives a full life with yoga, reiki and painting among her varied interests. Tara FT Sering The only Asian Chic writer based in Manila, Tara works as the managing editor of Contemporary Art Philippines. Concurrently, she is the managing director of Southeast Asian Heritage Publishing. She is a multi-awarded author with a National Book Award for her novel “Almost Married” and a 2nd Prize Palanca Award for her short story, “Good People.” Tara also writes a column for Supreme published by The Philippine Star. Noelle Chua Being a freelance editor and writer, Noelle is privileged to be a work-at-home wife and mom. She has been a resident of Singapore since 2000 where she migrated with her husband and children. Another Palanca Award winner, she had several of her short stories published in literary journals in Asia and the U. S. Noelle’s craft was honed during her stint as a copywriter for McCann-Erickson and as deputy editor of several magazines for women. These are three chic Filipina authors we can all be proud of. Photos courtesy of Kiko Dimalanta. This article is also published in the Proudly Filipina blog, an online magazine and social network that simulates the warm, intimate and safe environment of bonding with your sisters or best girlfriends. Through a selection of articles on love, sex, hobbies, soulful stories, inspiration, health and wellness, advocacies and women’s issues and that are targeted towards enriching the Pinay’s heart, body and spirit, it’s every Filipina’s virtual coffee-and-cupcake time at the click of a mouse.