Philippine Chinese Charitable Association gets by with a little help from friends

Philippine Chinese Charitable Association gets by with a little help from friends 
By Walter Ang
June-August 2007 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

Institutions like the Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center and the Chinese Cemetery have been around for so long that many people take them for granted. What a lot of people don't know is that both were founded and is still managed by a not so little group called the Philippine Chinese Charitable Association (PCCA).

It is composed of Chinese-Filipino businessmen who, true to the name of the association, give back to the community that sustains them. The PCCA also owns and operates the hospital's nursing college, a charity clinic, and a retirement home.

The current crop of officers have been actively infusing changes and improvements to their resources, heeding the directives of the association for civic-action, and living up to the heritage passed down by more than a century of past leaders.

The PCCA traces it beginnings as far back as 1877, when the Spanish government created the position of Capitan de Sangley (Chinese Captain) to administer the affairs of the local Chinese which included monitoring their trade and commerce as well as overseeing education and civic programs.

Prominent Chinese were appointed to this position and the first capitan, Lim Ong, donated land for a cemetery due to the fact that Chinese weren't allowed to be buried in Catholic cemeteries. The second capitan, Mariano Yu, purchased additional land from Dominican friars for the construction of the Chung Hok Tong temple. A clinic, which would go on to become the Chinese General Hospital, was built in 1891 under the aegis of Capitan Carlos Palanca Tanchueco.

In 1907, after the defeat of the Spanish colonists and during the occupation of the Americans, the different properties and assets of the group were consolidated into a corporation named Communidad De Chinos. The collective's new legal status enabled to them to do more work, such as putting up a nursing school in 1921, and purchase more real estate, like their office space in downtown Manila in 1934.

Phoenix rising 
When World War II broke out in 1941, then president Go Pin Chiu was arrested by the Japenese Kempeitai for his involvement in the anti-Japanese movement. Operations were halted and did not resume until Tan Unliong became president in 1945.

As the group started to become active again amidst the post-war rebuilding, it suffered an identity crisis in the late 1950s when its government registration was up for renewal. Despite some initial internal disputes, it was decided that Communidad De Chinos would be reborn with a new name: Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, Inc.

Chua Kwei Lim was named the new president on June 15, 1958, carrying on the mandate of using the group's assets for charitable endeavors. Since then, a host of notable personalities have served as president or chairman of the board.

Even with term limits for the presidency, the likes of Vicente Dysun Sr., D.K. Chiong, George Lee See Kiat, and Johnny Cheng enjoyed the honor of being re-elected several times over. James Dy was elected into the presidency of the twelfth board of directors in 1987.

With business interests in music recording, real estate, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and travel-toursim, Dy has since been re-elected several times and has effectively been leading the PCCA for close to two decades now.

From the initial system of having fifteen directors, with three seats reserved for representatives of the Cantonese Association and the rest for Fookien representatives, the PCCA now has twenty-five directors. Current officers include executive vice-chairman Florante Dy, and vice-chairmen Chua Kee Lin and Siy Yap Chua.

Latest milestones
Among other achievements, this current batch of officers are credited with streamlining the management of PCCA's hospital and nursing college by implementing a separation of administrative responsibilities for the two institutions.

The nursing school started with only 21 students. Today, it is a full-fledged college with around 1,400 students. The hospital, on the other hand, undergoes continuous renovations and expansions. It celebrated the 10th year anniversary of its Heart Institute last year.

And, yes, charity still lies at the heart of these PCCA institutions. The hospital has more than one hundred beds in its charity ward, averaging 3,500 charity cases a year, and it provides free medical care for employees of many government agencies and NGOs. It also sends its staff to render free medical consultations to indigent patients at the group's charity clinic located in the PCCA office building in Binondo.

The PCCA has also recently inaugurated a newly constructed retirement home, aptly called the PCCA-Home for the Aged, located in one of the many properties owned by the group. The new structure cost P20M to build and is an addition to the original home built in 1951. Medical care for the residents are provided by the hospital while funding for the home is provided by contributions from the Filipino-Chinese community as well as annual fund-raising efforts done in partnership with United Daily News.

The PCCA does not limit its generosity to the Manila area. It has held medical and relief missions to provinces throughout the nation. Neither does it curb assistance to Chinese-Filipinos only. The credo is to help others regardless of race or religion. In a time when the world is making headway in breaking borders, extending aid and embracing diversity, it's good to know there's been a group of people who've been doing the same thing for quite a while now.

Philippine Chinese Charitable Association, Inc. (PCCA) 1122-1126 Soler St., Binondo, Manila Tels.: 244-7231 to 34

The mother of all business clubs

Prior to 1904, only music associations were legally permitted by the Spanish government. When business-interest groups were finally allowed to be formed, the same Chinese merchants who became involved and banded together in the seminal beginnings of the PCCA also became the same group of people who formed the Manila Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Since then, both groups have more or less shared the same members and officers.

James Dy, Emeritus President of Filipino-Chinese General Chamber of Commerce (FCGCC), claims, "We are the oldest business organization in the country. We are the mother of all business clubs."

It has been involved in protecting the business interests of the Chinese community and claims to have been the "biggest Chinese trade chamber" from the 40s to the 50s. The FCGCC celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2004 and marked the event with the creation of a commemorative postage stamp.

Dy admits that from the 50s to the 80s, it suffered a "low season" due to politics. In 1958, Ralph Nubla of the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCGCII), which had been formed in 1954, offered ten seats in its board to the leaders of the Manila Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

One of these seats was given to Dy. However, internal disagreements spurred Dy to leave the Federation with his colleagues in 1988 and return to what is now known as the Filipino-Chinese General Chamber of Commerce.

As with the PCCA, Dy has been leading the General Chamber of Commerce since then. He boasts that the individuals who were at loggerheads with him back in the Federation now concedes, "that it was a mistake to let me go." [The Federation and its splinter group, the Chinese Filipino Business Club, were featured in the first issue of Asian Dragon. Ed.]

He points out that the reins of leadership will eventually have to be passed on to a deserving candidate who understands the sacrifice involved. "I am scouting for a successor to lead both PCCA and FCGCC. It is more demanding than your own business and it takes time away from your family because you are, in effect, serving the entire Filipino-Chinese community."

The Learning Connection School Teaches Tots

The Learning Connection School Teaches Tots
By Walter Ang
June-August 2007 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

Julie Pascual-PeƱalosa has been teaching little children for as long as she can remember. When she was a young student herself, Julie used to round up younger kids after class and tutor them. "The joke in my family is that I my resume should state that I've been teaching since I was in the first grade," she laughs.

Julie eventually went on to teach preschool and that was where she met Hazel Gan-Go, another teacher who had given up a life in the corporate world to follow her dreams of educating young minds. "I was miserable in my old job. I had no teaching background but when I was given an opportunity to teach, I took it. I really believe we should all end up doing what we are passionate about," she says.

The two became fast friends. Early in the morning, over cups of coffee while preparing for their classes, they would talk about opening their own school one day. At first, each thought the other was joking. When they realized that it was a serious ambition for both, they wasted no time in getting started.

Unique philosophy
Hazel took the role of navigator in their partnership and charted the course they would take. She started the ball rolling by acquiring a piece of land from her father in the San Juan area. Julie, on the other hand, serves as the pilot, steering the pair through the journey. "I have the foresight for planning," shares Hazel. "While Julie is the one who takes care of the here and now. Since we share the same core values, we really compliment each other."

The tandem didn't want to open a school just like all the other ones. "When I went back to school to take up further studies in education, my professor asked me what I remembered about my own experiences in preschool," recounts Hazel. "I remember little things like painting or dancing or having fun. In other words, I remember having new experiences."

This epiphany has guided them in developing the "progressive" teaching philosophy for their school, "The Learning Connection." The school aims to provide children 2 to 5 years old with an environment to explore what they want to explore in a hands-on manner. "We believe that children learn best through experience and discovery," says Hazel.

Different approach
"For example, we don't just teach them about colors using flash cards. We bring out poster paints and let them use their imagination and creativity. We don't just talk about animals, we invite people like Kim Atienza to bring over his pets and animals for the children to play with," explains Jules, as she is known to her students. "There's really no set curriculum because we pick up on what the children are interested in and build on that. We adjust to what they are attracted to because we want them to shine in that area. We nudge, not push, them towards building self-confidence."

This paradigm is actually so different that it didn't fit any of the government's prescribed rules and existing standards. "It was a challenge getting our permits to run the school. The government asked for our syllabus and we couldn't give them any since we don't operate that way."

"We had to invite them over to see how we actually held our classes so they would understand what we were talking about. Fortunately, they finally got what we were trying to do and they saw that it worked."

Maternal instincts
Just because their teaching methods are not standard, it didn't mean they could take it easy. In fact, they had to work even harder to prove themselves. Both took further studies in education to strengthen their skills and knowledge. They also regularly attend seminars and workshops to stay on top of new trends in child education.

It also helps that both partners have two children each. "I'm actually a better educator than a domesticated homemaker," jokes Hazel. "As mothers, we don't just look at the business per se. We bring a nurturing and caring atmosphere into our teaching. We treat all the students like our own children. Even when we buy materials for the school, we make sure to buy things that we would feel comfortable giving to our own children. We only want the best quality for our students, for example, toxic-free paints."

Jules adds, "We're able to work with every single child in our school. It's important that we get to know our students because we don't give out grades, we come up with detailed progress reports that we give the parents."

Small dreams
Although both dreamt of having a small, manageable school, the popularity and track record of their efforts have attracted so many new students that they've had to expand. "We started out with only twelve students in our first year, but now we have an average of sixty every year and we've had to add a second floor to our building to add more classrooms," Hazel says.

They are unfazed, however, and embrace the added responsibilities. "Our husbands and families are supportive," she says. "We have also earned the respect of our students' parents. In fact, a lot of our enrollees are from referrals and we also have `repeat' families who send their younger children to our school."

"There are new challenges all the time but at the end of the day, all we want is to give our students the best we can. It's a wonderful feeling to see them spark up when you enter the room," adds Jules. "We want to give them good memories they can look back on."

The Learning Connection is at 182 Pilar St., San Juan, Metro Manila 725-2300 and 725-2400.

Equestrienne Rebecca Dosch is all about balance

Equestrienne Rebecca Dosch is all about balance
By Walter Ang
June-August 2007 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

The morning dew is just beginning to evaporate from the tree leaves. Under the light of the morning sun, Rebecca Aragon Dosch impishly mentions that when she was in college she didn't care much for the studying and wanted to "just ride horses." If you were eavesdropping and this was all you heard, you might be tempted to conclude that she's one of those wild, reckless types with no respect for rules and discipline.

But then you would end up being very far from the truth. At a veranda near the stables, Rebecca is the picture of poise and grace. Her spine is arched just so, her words are clear and deliberate. She sometimes takes a moment of thought before she answers. This is a woman who has competed (and won) international equestrienne events, something that certainly requires control and discipline.

It's a good thing she continued to ride while studying business management in De La Salle University-Manila, because the training gave her the honor of bringing back medals for the country. She's part of an elite force of very few women, like Mikee Cojuangco and Tony Leviste, who have excelled in the sport. Quite a feat since "men and women compete on the same level in this sport. Unlike other sports, there are no separate divisions," she says.

After competing in the 90s and a stint as an assistant coach at the Olympic Youth Festival in Australia in 2005, in perhaps a funny twist for someone who claims to not have cared much for studying, Rebecca now teaches riding full-time.

"It's important that I pass on a passion that's very dear to me," she explains. There is no question that she simply loves what she does as her sultry eyes light up when she speaks of teaching.

Rebecca points out that "It's all about balance." This is a sport, after all, where you are working together with another living being and the relationship is key. "It's about coordination and rhythm. There's a point when I let my students ride bareback (i.e. without a saddle) to let them feel what the horse's muscles are doing. It's about being one with the horse."

The right mindset also helps. "It's not about strength. You need to have respect for this majestic and powerful creature. Like any sport, it takes hard work and determination. If you fall, you just have to get up."

Rebecca was recently requested to train the new White Castle girl, Roxanne Guinoo, to learn riding in just ten days. "She was able to do it because she had the right attitude and she was willing to work hard. She was a sweet girl and respected what I had to teach her. It didn't matter what she had to do to learn, she just did it."

While it usually takes a little longer than ten days to learn to ride, Rebecca says, "It really depends on the student. Children have less inhibitions so they learn faster." She reminds us however that, "Every horse has its own personality, so it's different every time. It's a never ending process of learning." As with life, persistence and endurance goes a long way, "The older you get, the better you get."

Roxanne Guinoo: Galloping to ibe an icon

Roxanne Guinoo: Galloping to ibe an icon 
By Walter Ang
June-August 2007 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

A young, nubile lass in a scarlet bikini astride a white horse. Ah, the seminal icon that has long been associated with a brand of whiskey called White Castle. Women who have filled the role include such names as Carmi Martin, Cristina Gonzales, Glydel Mercado, Angela Velez, Maria Isabel Lopez, Lorna Tolentino, and Techie Agbayani.

And now, the newest White Castle girl has finally been chosen. Among many who auditioned, Roxanne Guinoo was handed the reins. After her initial euphoria upon hearing the news of her selection, she promptly got down to the business of learning to ride a horse.

"I was really excited and, at the same time, nervous," she says. Despite visits to vacation spots known for horse-riding like Baguio and Tagaytay, she'd never ridden one before. "It was really a challenge since I didn't have any experience."

Not one to back down from an obstacle, Roxanne learned to ride, without a saddle no less, in all of ten days. "It's funny because I never fell off [the horse] until our last day of training, but I guess it's really part of learning."

"My parents taught me the virtue of hard work and that I have to do things whole heartedly. That's why in everything I do, I put my 100% so I'll be able to do whatever is expected of me," she says. To look her best for the shooting of the commercial, "I tried to maintain a strict diet and went to the gym regularly."

Aside from her guts and determination, she credits her instructor Rebecca Dosch for her newfound riding skills. "She is the perfect trainor! She was very professional and focused on teaching me the basics. She made it a point that I understood whatever she teaches. And if it were not for her, I wouldn't have been able to do it well. I'm very thankful that she appreciates my eagerness to learn."

It also helped that she was given a good partner. Roxanne is all praises for Djina, the mare she learned to ride on and the same horse she shot the commercial with. "She's very nice and accommodating."

Currently one of the hosts of the popular lunchtime television show "Wowowee," Roxanne has a heavy schedule filled with rehearsals, photo shoots, tapings, and preparations to be part of a new teleserye. Through it all, she is fueled by the support of her family. "My family serve as my greatest inspiration. They are very supportive in whatever I do. My family is what keeps me going and give me the drive to fulfill my dreams."

Asked if she would accept if she were asked to perform in a movie with Djina as her co-star, she replied without batting an eyelash, "Of course! I love Djina and I had a lot of fun working with her."