US lawmakers reject proposal to raid funds for World War II Filipino veterans

Poster for Filipino World War II veterans

Poster for Filipino World War II veterans

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – A plan to use money intended for Filipino World War II veterans to pay for a hospital construction in Colorado was rejected by the U.S. Congress, thanks to the efforts of lawmakers from Hawaii, California and Nevada.

The Department of Veterans Affairs had proposed to tap into the $56-million still unspent from the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund to fill in a $150-million shortfall in the troubled construction of a veterans hospital in Aurora, Colorado.

“That is not acceptable,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. Lawmakers found funding for the hospital from elsewhere, but shielded the Filipino veterans fund from the proposed raid.

The reprieve allowed Hirono and a bipartisan group of lawmakers that included Republican Dean Heller of Nevada to push through legislation that will enable more Filipino veterans to qualify for the benefit.

They encouraged the VA to come up with a more fair plan to extend benefits to more veterans, while in the House of Representatives, Republican Joe Heck of Nevada introduced a bill to reopen the program and allow more veterans to reapply.

In 2009, as one of the first acts of his administration, Obama distributed $15,000 to Filipino-Americans and $9,000 to Filipino veterans living in the Philippines as compensation for their services during World II.

Filipinos fought alongside Americans against the Japanese after President Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned them into the U.S. Army at the start of the Second World War.

Other Filipinos joined guerrilla forces that harassed the Japanese, paving the way for the return of Gen. Douglas MacArthur to the Philippines.

In 1946, however, the U.S. Congress passed the Rescission Act that singled out Filipino veterans as not U.S. veterans and therefore not eligible for most benefits.

Lobbying efforts by Filipino veterans and their supporters forced the U.S. Congress to pass legislation extending benefits, including the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund.

The deadline to apply for benefits, however, was set for September 2010, and of the 43,000 claims filed, only 18,929 were approved and considered eligible.

It was either the Filipino veterans, most of whom live in the Philippines, missed the deadline or their names were not on the roster of accepted list provided by the U.S. Army.

Other fell victims to military politics or outright racism, veterans advocates said.

This rare win in the U.S. Congress to protect the Filipino veterans fund may finally bode well for the veterans, now in their late 80s and 90s., advocates said.





Is Wesley So in danger of dropping out from Top 10?


Le Grau-du-Roi, site of the French League Top 12 team chess tournament.

Le Grau-du-Roi, site of the French League Top 12 team chess tournament.

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – When questions were raised about the decision of Team Wesley, the so-called band of advisers behind chess grandmaster Wesley So, about competing in minor tournaments instead of going for the more prestigious ones, these were haughtily dismissed.

The reasoning was, you’re just a kibitzer, and don’t know what you’re talking about.

But in competing in the French League Top 12 team tournament to be followed with the four-game series with David Navara, Wesley is likely to see a slide in world ranking that may dangerously knock him out of the Top 10.

His advisers made him commit to these tournaments when better ones were in the horizon – the Norway Chess championships, first leg of the $1-million plus Grand Chess Tour, and even the Capablanca Memorial tournament in Cuba.

The world’s best players, including world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway, are competing in the Norway tournament, scheduled June 15-26. All are 2700+ players, except Hammer, the wild card entry.

The Capablanca Memorial in which So shot to international fame by winning the 2014 edition, is set June 14-26 in Havana, and features such players as Pavel Eljanov (2718), Lenier Perez Dominuez (2746) and Yu Yangyi (2716).

Also entered are Dmitry Andreikim (2718) and Ian Nepomniatchi (2720) in a strong tournament.

In contrast, Wesley is the highest rated player at the French League Top 12, although there are several other 2700 + players, such as Anish Giri, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Navara.

Wesley has not played with most 2700+ players (MVL is a teammate with Clinchy), and has slid down to 2778.7 live ratings, 9th in the world.

He has regained .7 points after nine rounds, punctuated by victories in his last two rounds. The live ratings are dependent on the player’ latest tournament performance and constantly changes

But if you’re the top seed – a Wesley is in France – there is a target behind your back and everyone is gunning for you.

The French League Top 12 was scheduled May 30 to June 9 while the So-Navara match is set Jun 12 -16, so obviously there were overlaps and choices have to be made.

In terms of prestige and prizes, the Norway Chess is an obvious choice, so it’s puzzling that Wesley’s team would skip it – unless an invitation was not extended, in the first place.

Same thing with Capablanca. It was a natural tournament for Wesley, who was heavily promoted here.

But an untruth was passed on that since Wesley is a permanent U.S. resident and there’s no diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S., there will be some travel complications.

But Wesley does not yet carry a U.S. passport since you have to be a citizen to have one, the lack of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba have no bearing at all.

Unless, it was to accommodate the chaperone who always accompany Wesley in all his travel and carries only a U.S. passport. Then, it makes sense.

As for the match up with Navara, the top Czech player but rated only No. 16 in the world (2747.2), it’s being hyped as preparation for a future match against Carlsen.

If a match for the world championship is ever to happen for So, it will still be way down the road. His opportunity in 2015 is through the World Cup, but winning one of the two top slots, is extremely difficult.

Scheduled Sept. 10 to Oct. 4 in Baku, Azerbaijan, the World Cup is a knock-out tournament of qualifiers based on ratings and other criteria.

It will be a long and complicated Candidates Matches after that among the other qualifiers, including from the Grand Prix, ultimately ending on who will face Carlsen in the 2016 world championship.

A match with Navara will hardly prepare So for such a championship match. And it will be less than honest to hype it so.

Instead, what Wesley needs is a carefully selected series of tournaments that will boost his elo ratings and world ranking.

A savvy coach and/or seconds can help him devise such a plan  Good thing I’m not a PR person but bona fide member of the press, so I can say what needs to be said.

Press ID

Press ID


Chess combines excitement and big prize of a game show

Wesley So exults after receiving a replica of the $100,000 first prize from Millionaire chess organizer Maurice Ashley at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino PHOTO BY PAUL TRUONG.

Wesley So exults after receiving a replica of the $100,000 first prize from Millionaire Chess organizers Maurice Ashley and Amy Lee at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino PHOTO BY PAUL TRUONG.

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – Finally, it had been done: Combine the thrill of a centuries-old game with the excitement of a modern-day game show.

The spice? The chance to be an instant millionaire.

As they often say, only in Las Vegas.

Organizers of the Millionaire Chess Open championships have come up with an innovative addition to the tournament that will provide more prizes to what is already the richest chess competition in history.

Maurice Ashley, organizer of the five-day tournament at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, scheduled Oct. 8-12, announced Tuesday, June 2, that a player can walk away with as much as $1-million in cash, in addition to the regular prizes.

Ashley, a chess grandmaster who put up the championships for the first time last year with entrepreneur Amy Lee, said this is how it will work:

The nine section winners will compete with each other on Millionaire Monday, the last day of the tournament, for a chance to pick prizes in cash and kind from 64 envelopes randomly placed on a giant chessboard.

One square, called the Millionaire Square, will contain $1-million in cash.

If the player picks that square, he walks away an instant millionaire, Ashley said.

The odds of 1 in 64 are pretty good, he added. More details will be announced later.

“Millionaire Chess remains committed to continually seek new ways to raise the profile of chess in the United States and around the world,” Ashley said.

“Our goal is to continue to raise the bar to make chess fun to participate and to watch,” he said. “I hope other organizers will see and follow our lead.”

Putting up big prizes and holding satellite tournaments are some of the ways to attract a new generation of chess fans, he added.

Grandmasters Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So head the cast of more than 1,000 players from 40 countries competing in the tournament.

So won the top prize of $100,000 last year, beating Webster University teammate Ray Robson in the knock-out match for the Open Section title.

Competitions in eight other sections, based on international chess federation on FIDE ratings, are also on tap, with rich prizes for each section from the total tournament pot of $1-million.




So sees action in French chess league

Grandmaster Maxime Vahier-Lagrave of France. PHOTO BY FRENCH TOP 12 CHESS LEAGUE


By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – After a long lay off, Wesley So is back in action with the Top 12 French League Team chess championships featuring some of the best players in Europe.

So, who is spearheading the tournament favorite, Clichy, was off to a good start, drawing the first game and winning in the second round.

Clichy won the championships last year, completing a three-peat, and is picked to win again this year with a bevy of super talents led by So.

The team also features the man they call MVL, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, the top French grandmaster, who has won two straight after being in the doldrums for 94 days and 28 tries.

Scheduled May 30 to June 9, the tournament, the French highest league for men, is being held in the seaside resort of Le Grau-du-Roi, and its marina Port-Camargue.

Competing this year are Vandoeuvre, Bischwiller, Chalons-en-Champagne, Poitiers-Migne, Clichy, Evry Grand Roque, Philidor Mulhouse, Bois-Colombes, Strasbourg, Montpellier, Metz Fischer, Grasse, according to the chess website,

Aside from So and MVL, among the participants are Anish Giri, the Dutch grandmaster who also appears to be in a funk after losing to So in his first-round game at the Gashimov Memorial tournament in Azerbaijan, and David Navara,who is scheduled to face So in a four-game match later in June in Prague.

It’s So’s first tournament since finishing an impressive third behind reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen and five-time champion Vishy Anand in the Gashimov Memorial championships in Azerbaijan.

Also competing in France are Laurent Fressinet, Etienne Bacrot, Alexander Ipatov, Tornike Sanikidze, Dmitry Jakovenko, Mattthieu Cornette, Sebastien Maze, Pavel Tregubov, and Laurent Fressinet, said

In the first round, So could not make headway against Jan Krzysztof, a 17-year-old Polish player, but in the second round, he proved too much for grandmaster Eduardes Rozentalis, who was forced to resign after 43 moves.

A weak move in what looked like a drawish endgame with equal material proved to be Rozentalis undoing.

With seven grandmasters, three of whom are rated 2700 or better, Clitchy outplayed Strasbourg in the second round, 4 1/2 to 3 1/2 points.

The moves:

Rozentalis -0               So – 1

1. e4      e6
2. d4      d5
3. Nd2    Be7
4. c3       c5
5. dxc5    Nf6
6. exd5    Nxd5
7. Ne4      O-O
8. Nf3       Qc7
9. Bc4       b6
10. O-O     Rd8
11. Qe2      bxc5
12. Bg5       Bxg5
13. Nexg5    h6
14. Ne4       Nd7
15. Rad1     Bb7
16. Rfe1       N7b6
17 Bb3         a5
18. a3           Ba6
19. c4          Nf4
20. Qc2       Bb7
21. Qc3        .f5
22. Ng3          a4
23. Bc2          Qc6
24. h4            Rd4
25. Rxd4        cxd4
26. Qxd4        Qxc4
27. Qxb6        Bxf3
28. Bxf5          exf5
29. gxf3          Rf8
30. h5             Nh3+
31. Kg2          .Nf4+
32. Kg1            Nh3+
33. Kg2            Qh4
34. Qe6+         Kh7
35. Qg6+         Kh8
36. Qd6            Rd8
37. Qa6            Nf4+
38. Kg1            Nh3+
39. Kg2            Nf4+
40. Kg1            Kh7
41. Qf1            Nh3+
42. Kg2            Nf4+
43. Kg1            Rd2


Fil-Am dances his way back to health and Broadway fame

Julian DeGuzman as Finch in disney musical Newsies PHOTO BY NEWSIES

Julian DeGuzman as Finch in Disney musical Newsies PHOTO BY NEWSIES

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – They told him he was dancing too much and playing soccer a lot. Give yourself and your legs some rest, they said.

But, after a trip to the Philippines, the pain persisted. ” I took matters into my own hands,” his mother, an anesthesiologist, said. “I took him to a hospital and asked that some x-rays be done.”

Their worst fears were confirmed: He had a tumor on his hips.

At 21, Julian DeGuzman, the guy with a passion for dancing, may never dance again. But first, he has to save his life.

That was seven years ago. Now, DeGuzman is dancing again – with more passion and joy, and his dance floor is the biggest of them all: Broadway.

DeGuzman is on the cast of the Disney musical Newsies, playing the role of Finch, one of the 20 boys on the show, a rousing adaptation of a 1992 film, which in turn was based on the 1899 news boys’ strike in New York.

“This is great joy for me. This is what I sought out to do and trained for,” says DeGuzman, who has been with Newsies since its Broadway run in 2012.



Now on a national tour, Newsies is based on the music of Alan Menken, whose work included the Little Mermaid, the Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, and the lyrics of Jack Feldman.

The production has surpassed expectations. It was the fastest and one of the biggest grossing Disney musicals ever.

After winning the 2012 Tony Award for Best, st Score and Best Choreography, Disney took it on the road for its North American Tour, where it will perform in 25 cities over 43 weeks.

DeGuzman, who replaced his friend Aaron J Albano from the original Broadway cast three years ago, says the choreography drives the story.

Choreographer Gattelli has herded the 20 boys on the show to dance a thrilling combination of ballet and bold athletic moves.

“This show means the most to me out of any project I ever done, because this is what I do. I trained as a ballet dancer and modern dancer,” says Gattelli. “I was these boys 20 years ago. This is how I danced.”.

In addition to playing Finch, DeGuzman is a member of the show’s dance ensemble, performing practically in every dance number, “requiring every muscle of my body.”

It’s a tribute to how far he has come back from those desperate days when dancing again was almost an impossibility.

His mother, Maria DeGuzman, took him to a hospital in Oakland for the x-rays when the pain on his hips would not go away after a trip back to her hometown in Borongan City, Eastern Samar.

Several doctors said an operation was not a good option as they came up with similar diagnoses: muscle overuse.

Eventually, a Vietnamese-American orthopedic surgeon with an oncology background, agreed to operate on Julian.

The operation involved taking out a golf-sized tumor from his hip and filling the “hole” with graft from a cadaver, requiring six to eight weeks of rehab.

Unwilling to lose any time, he completed his studies at UC-Irvine, graduating with a double major in Sociology and Bachelor in Fine Arts – Dance.

In addition, he had a chance to visit Spain, performing with UC-Irvine dancers in cities and towns around Costa Del Sol.

Unfortunately, Julian was not out of the woods just yet. The tumor returned after six months after the bone graft from the cadaver “liquified” and a cyst formed in the old tumor site.

The process to find the right surgeon willing to operate began again. One doctor told him to forget dancing. “Get an economics degree and work in Wall Street,” he was said.

Richard O’Donnel, chief of orthopedic oncology and specialist in bone marrow cancer and soft tissue tumors at the UCSF Medical Center, did the second operation, using cement to fill the hole created by the tumor.

Then, it was strenuous rehab again. He was on crutches for six weeks, but after a few physical therapy sessions, he ditched the crutches and relied on his self-designed rehab plan.

“He would drive to San Francisco, park close to the ocean, hiked the hills of Ocean Beach carrying a backpack with weights in them,” says Maria DeGuzman. Even she and her husband Joe were impressed with Julian’s resolve, she says.

The thought that he will never dance again fired his resolve, says Julian. His parents say he became a quieter young man.

“He tried to put on a cheerful face, but our conversations as a family became more subdued,” his mother said.

As soon as he was able to regain his strength, increase his range of motion, and dance again, he went to New York and roomed with a cousin in Brooklyn, and started auditioning for Broadway roles.

He got a part in The King and I, andTarzan, a production of the Arizona Broadway Theater in Phoenix.

His sister, Robyn, herself an actress and a dancer who was on the cast of the Beauty and the Beast, encouraged Julian to try-out for Newsies, saying he was better than most of the boys on the show.

About 800 dancers and actors auditioned for the parts, and a Disney bigwig had to be involved in the selection when the choice went down to only two dancers.

Julian was accepted, but got the role of a “swing,” an actor who stands-in for an absent co-worker and therefore has to learn all 14 roles and performs at a moment’s notice.

On his first night on the show, Julian said he could not remember anything, as if everything happened on a blur.

“It took time to sink in,” he says. “I was gratified and relieved.”

The musical is now on a tour in Texas, followed by play dates in Tennessee and North Carolina, with eight performances in a week.

They had shows at the Smith’s Center in Las Vegas and the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco in a sort of homecoming of the Alameda native DeGuzman.

” I enjoy going from city to city and the opportunity to perform in front of different audiences,” says DeGuzman. “It’s nice to see different places.”

Time away from family, especially during holidays, weddings, birthdays, and family gatherings are the hardest to deal, says DeGuzman, who is in a long-term relationship with his girlfriend.

Plans for the future are still on hold, including going back to school as the typical tug-of-war between career in entertainment and academics in most Asian-American families continues.

“I guess you have to give up something for your dreams,” DeGuzman says.

Newsies, a disney musical PHOTO BY NEWSIES

Newsies, a Disney musical PHOTO BY NEWSIES

The national tour will perform in 25 cities over a period of 43 weeks. The show performed as the Smith’s Center in Las Vegas, and in San Francisco, in a sort of a homecoming for the Alameda-born Deguzman.

“The travel adds another element,” says DeGuzman. “Going from city to city can be challenging, (but) I’m enjoying my time on the road.”


Blazing a Broadway trail for a Fil-Am dancer

Julian DeGuzman of Newsies

Julian DeGuzman of Newsies

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – In 2012 when he joined the cast of a Broadway musical, Julian DeGuzman didn’t have a blueprint for success, or even a role model to base his career upon.

Even though the dancer he “inherited” his role from was a friend and a Filipino-American like him, essentially, he was blazing a trail, a talent from an “invisible community,” hoping to break long-held stereotypes.

Now, three short years later, he has become a Broadway veteran and mainstay of a Disney musical whose success had surpassed expectations.

DeGuzman is a cast member of Newsies, playing the roles of Finch in a rousing production adapted from a 1992 film, which in turn, was based on the true story of newsboys disrupting New York with a strike in 1899.

“I’m really having a wonderful time,” said DeGuzman in an interview from Dallas, where the show is on tour in Texas. “This is what I sought out to do and trained for years for.”

From Dallas, the show will move to San Antonio for a May 12-17 date and Houston for a week, May 19-24.

From there, it will go to Nashville, TN, May 26-31and on to Durham, NC, June 2-7.

A member of the cast since March 2012, DeGuzman’s stint was highlighted by two years in Broadway, where his role, included that of a swing, in which he has to perform 14 characters, often getting the call at a moment’s notice.

“You have to sing, dance and commit to memory the lyrics of the songs,” he said. “Every muscle of your body has to be involved.”

Julian DeGuzman plays Finch on Broadway musical Newsies

Julian DeGuzman plays Finch on Broadway musical Newsies

Awarded the Tony Award for Best Score and Best choreography in 2012, the musical featured the melodies of Alan Menken, whose work included scores for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Alladin, and the lyrics of Jack Feldeman.

“The choreography drives the show and the story,” said DeGuzman, who dances as member of an ensemble, which is the heart of the show.

Choreographer Christopher Gattelli has herded together 20 boys to dance a thrilling combination of ballet spiced with bold athletic moves..

“This show means the most to me out of any project I’ve done because this is what I do. I trained as a ballet dancer and I trained as a modern dancer,” Gattelli said.. “I was these boys 20 years ago. This is exactly how I danced.”

DeGuzman said the choreography showcases his talents as a dancer, honed by years of practice, which started when he was just four years old.

“When you start dancing in Broadway, his father Joe, himself a dancer, told him while he was growing up, “it will be you laughing on them, not them laughing at you.”

DeGuzman, now 28, was the object of scorn by his friends, who could not understand why he could not join them in baseball or other sport, and instead practice ballet and other dances.

In high school, the taunts and bullying started to die down as he showed his skills.

“They ask me what I do, and I told them I dance, and they say, ‘cool,” who nevertheless graduated with a double major in sociology and fine arts architecture from the University of California – Irvine.

A native of Alameda, California, DeGuzman said he will stay with the dancing career for a while longer, even though the tug-of-war between academics and arts is also likely to continue.

His sister Robyn is also a dancer and actress, and teaches dance in New York’s Chinatown. His mother,a native of Borongan City, Eastern Samar, is a medical doctor and his father is an architect, aside from being the first dancer in the family.

The original Finch in the Newsies show was his friend Aaron J. Urbano, who is now a member of the cast of the King & I.

Filipino-Americans credit Lea Salonga for opening doors for Asian- Americans in her role as Kim in the franchise “Miss Saigon” show, Les Miserables and Alladin.

But you can count in the fingers of one hand male actors or dancer who have found acclaim in Broadway as the community continue to focus more on academics than arts and entertainment.

DeGuzman said he has no regrets for the choices he made, but missing holidays, weddings, birthdays, and other family gatherings were the toughest.

“I guess you have to give up something for your dreams,” DeGuzman said.

Wesley So absent from FIDE Grand Prix

Khanty-Mansiysk FIDE Grand PrixThe fourth and final stage of the FIDE Grand Prix series 2014-2015 will take place from 13-27th May in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

FIDE Grand Prix is part of the FIDE World Chess Championship cycle. The winner and second placed player overall of the GP Series will qualify for the 2016 Candidates Tournament.

In the earlier GP stages Fabiano Caruana and Boris Gelfand shared the first place in Baku, Dmitry Andreikin won in Tashkent, and Evgeny Tomashevsky excelled in Tbilisi.

Leading the overall Grand Prix standings after three events are Tomashevsky on 252 points, Mamedyarov on 235 (he finished the competition), Caruana on 230, Radjabov on 210 (concluded GP), Nakamura on 207.

A number of other players are also in contention for the Candidates should the results go their way. All this promises an extremely exciting tournament in Ugra.

Each Grand Prix stage is a 12-player round robin event with the prize money of 120,000 EUR offered by the host city. The winner of Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk will earn 20,000 EUR.

Khanty-Mansiysk GP participants:

Fabiano Caruana (ITA) 2803
Hikaru Nakamura (USA) 2799
Alexander Grischuk (RUS) 2780
Anish Giri (NED) 2776
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) 2754
Sergey Karjakin (RUS) 2753
Evgeny Tomashevsky (RUS) 2749
Boris Gelfand (ISR) 2744
Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS) 2738
Peter Svidler (RUS) 2734
Leinier Domínguez (CUB) 2734
Baadur Jobava (GEO) 2699

Official website