PIWC Kick-off, Jan. 10

The Philippine Independence Week Committee is holding its kick-off dinner-dance party on Jan. 10, Saturday, 6 pm, at the Wyndham Hotel Ballroom on 1400 N. Milwaukee Ave., in Glenview.
Kick- off chairperson Lindy Tan said that this is a ticketed occasion and interested persons can make reservation on his Facebook account. Ellen Tan, this year's overall chairperson, said that all her fellow officers will be inducted to office by Consul General Generoso Calonge. Attire is formal.



Free U.S. citizenship processing in Skokie, Jan. 24


The New Americans Initiative's free citizenship assistance workshop returns to Skokie on Jan. 24. The workshop will be held at the Oakton Community Center at 4701 Oakton Street, Skokie, IL 60076. An applicant for naturalization must be a legal permanent resident for at least five years (3 years if married to a U.S. Citizen), must be 18 years old or older, and with good moral character. The applicant must bring two passport size photos and must pay the naturalization fee of $680 in money order form payable to U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
For more information about these workshops, please contact AFIRE at 773-580-1025 or email at afire@afirechicago.org.


Benefits of US citizenship

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' website (www.uscis.gov/citizenship/learners/should-i-consider-us-citizenship) provides the answers to the question of "Should I consider U.S. citizenship?"

It says, "As a permanent resident, you have most of the rights of U.S. citizens. However, there are many important reasons to consider U.S. citizenship. Citizenship offers new rights and privileges, but comes with equally important responsibilities. As a citizen you can:
· Vote.
Only citizens can vote in federal elections. Most states also restrict the right to vote, in most elections, to U.S. citizens.
· Serve on a jury.
Only U.S. citizens can serve on a federal jury. Most states also restrict jury service to U.S. citizens. Serving on a jury is an important responsibility for U.S. citizens.
· Travel with a U.S. passport.
A U.S. passport enables you to get assistance from the U.S. government when overseas, if necessary.
· Bring family members to the U.S.
U.S. citizens generally get priority when petitioning to bring family members permanently to this country.
· Obtain citizenship for children under 18 years of age.
In most cases, a child born abroad to a U.S. citizen is automatically a U.S. citizen.
· Apply for federal jobs.
Certain jobs with government agencies require U.S. citizenship.
· Become an elected official.
Only citizens can run for federal office (U.S. Senate or House of Representatives) and for most state and local offices.
· Keep your residency.
A U.S. citizen's right to remain in the United States cannot be taken away.
· Become eligible for federal grants and scholarships.
Many financial aid grants, including college scholarships and funds given by the government for specific purposes, are available only to U.S. citizens.
· Obtain government benefits.
Some government benefits are available only to U.S. citizens.

Paying back to the community

AFIRE is a member of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights' New Americans Initiative Northwest City collaborative. The collaborative is composed of Centro Romero, Erie Neighborhood House, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, P.A.S.O., and the Polish American Association. The collaborative has more than twenty combined years of running free U.S. citizenship assistance workshops for Latino, Polish, and Asian Americans.



Closing of local tourism office surprises Chicagoans; Director Morales recalled to Manila


CHICAGO—The Filipino American community is reeling with surprise over the decision of the Philippine government to close the offices of the Department of Tourism in this city effective the end of January. Although rumors about a pending shutdown of the office had been circulated as early as July, Vernie V. Morales, the tourism director in the Chicago office since 1999, made the official announcement during a press conference she called on Dec. 9.

Mrs. Morales started her meeting with the community media members with a power point report of the state of the Philippine tourism industry which by and large was positive. Report detailed the progress made in increasing the traffic of tourists visiting the Philippines in the last decade.

In addition to Illinois, the Philippine tourism office in Chicago took charge of 18 other states and two Canadian provinces including Toronto. "These areas will be distributed to the remaining tourism offices in the U.S.," said Mrs. Morales. The remaining offices are in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco

Asked on who will be handling the tourism needs of Chicago, Mrs. Morales said that Vice Consul Alena Borra will take over functions of her office upon her return to the Manila office this end of January. The offices of the Philippines Consulate General are at Suite 1600, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, 60602.

During the more than 14 years of her posting in Chicago, Mrs. Morales was hailed in the community for her exceptional dedication to her work as a government official. She is known as a hard worker and innovative leader in very competitive industry. She maintained a balance outreach in both the local Filipino market and that of the mainstream travel operators.

The irony was not lost on the media members who were informed about the news that the 10th Ambassador Consul General Tourism Director Tour (ACGTDT) this coming summer is being hosted by Chicago.

"I don't envy Consul General Calonge being put in this predicament," commented a working journalist, in clear reference to newly appointed Consul General Generoso Calonge who was plucked out of his ambassadorship in Israel to fill in the unexpired term of Ambassador Leo Herrera Lim who left last July his Chicago posting for Los Angeles-- two years short of the customary six-year term.

Among the local tourism initiatives, the ACGTDT is considered one of the most challenging projects. It takes a lot of one-on-one campaign in order to generate a decent number of participants. Last year's participation from the Midwest showed a considerable decline. This was also true in the total number for all over the U.S. It was attributed greatly due to Canada starting its own tour early 2014.


Nonetheless, a church member whose group received enthusiastic assistance when it solicited the help of the local tourism on their trip back home reacted on the news of Director Morales being recalled to Manila, "Hers is a tough act to follow. She and her staff were always on top of service delivery…seldom experience in other Philippine government offices…while she will be missed, it is a big puzzlement to hear that the tourism office is being completely shut down…more fun in the Philippines? C'mon!"

When asked why she did not take a reported enticing offer last Spring to head the Philippine Retirement Authority, Mrs. Morales explained that the offer was contingent upon accepting the position as soon as possible which entails leaving a lot of unfinished business in her work in Chicago. She said that while it was a personal advancement, she felt a responsibility to wind up her work in an orderly manner. Meanwhile, the local personnel who are local-hire will be laid off.



Piyesta Pinoy festivals to be held in March and June 2015


CHICAGO – The Philippine American Cultural Foundation (PACF) in partnership with the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago announces two Piyesta Pinoy celebrations for the spring and summer of 2015.

The Piyesta Pinoy in Chicago Philippine Fest Celebration will be held on Sun., March 15 as part of the Neighborhoods of the World series Sundays February 8 to March 29, 2015 at Navy Pier's Crystal Gardens. Chicago is famous for its ethnic neighborhoods – and Navy Pier is proud to honor the city's Filipino community with this cultural celebration for all ages. The Filipino community has been invited to participate for the 4th year in a row to showcase our culture.

The Piyesta Pinoy in Bolingbrook Philippine Fest Celebration will be held on Sat., June 20 at the beautiful Bolingbrook Performing Arts Center in Bolingbrook.

Last year's event attracted about 4500 people in attendance, 6 food vendors, 25 merchandise and service vendors and 10 non-for-profit organizations. It featured 12 hours of music and dance entertainment including super star Dingdong Dantes from the Philippines plus several other interactive activities and children's games.

The PACF was founded in 1996 as a Not-For-Profit organization to promote and share the rich Filipino cultural heritage and traditions in America, so that future generations will remain proud of their Filipino cultural identity and heritage as Filipino Americans.

To donate to PACF and to get more information on Piyesta Pinoy and all other PACF events and to join next year's Piyesta Pinoy celebration, please visit the newly designed Philippine American Cultural Foundation website – http://pacfmidwest.org/.


Jan. 6 Immigration Rally features Archbishop Cupich


CHICAGO--Information on the recent executive order of U.S. President Obama on immigration will be provided during a rally on Tuesday, Jan. 6, 7 p.m. at the Our Lady of Lourdes, 4700 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago.

Archbishop Blase Cupich, an immigration advocate, is among those who are supporting the initiative with his presence during the event.
This is free and for more information, call Claudia Palomar, an immigration advocate, 312-479-4448.




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