An Asuncion Riding On The Crest Of A Wave

My cousin Eduardo Rojas just informed me about Amado Gabriel Esteban, a cousin who is now President of Seton Hall University in the United States Of America, the first Filipino so far to hold this prestigious position. Bulan Observer congratulates Amado for his excellent achievement!  jun asuncion

Here is Eduardo’s info about the family roots of Amado:

// We have an Asuncion relative who will be the first (and non priest) Filipino president of the well known Seton Hall University . His name is Amado Gabriel Esteban. He is an Asuncion through his mom, Isabel “Lita” Munson Esteban. Lita’s mom is Paz Maria Asuncion Intengan (married to Amado Munson). Paz Maria Asuncion Intengan’s mom is Consuelo Asuncion (married to Dr Gabriel Intengan). Consuelo and sister Guia Asuncion came from Zacharias Asuncion, son of Justiniano and grand son of Mariano Kagalitan Asuncion. //

Filipino Amado Gabriel Esteban Seton Hall University President


“Other than the food, I miss the sights and sounds of Manila—the packed Sunday Masses, big family gatherings and going out with the ‘barkada,’” he said in an e-mail interview with the Inquirer.

“I have to admit though that the Manila of my youth only exists in my mind. You know you are getting old when I was looking for a CD of Basil, I was asked to go to the oldies section!”

Putting the Filipino brand of leadership on the international spotlight once again, 49-year-old Esteban was recently appointed president of Seton Hall University (SHU) in New Jersey.

Esteban had been serving as interim president of the oldest diocesan university in America and New Jersey’s largest Catholic university with more than 10,000 students before he was named to the post last December.

Two priests in the running withdrew during the search proceedings, according to a New York Times online report.

“As a Filipino, I hope I can serve as a reminder, along with all the other kababayan who have been able to advance themselves, of our potential wherever we are in the world,” Esteban said.

His mother, Lita Munson Esteban, and his late Tarlaqueño father, Jose Esteban, were both educators.

Building consensus

Esteban credits his upbringing for a leadership style that listens and nurtures.

“Growing up in a Filipino-Catholic environment, I learned early on the value of building consensus, learning from past mistakes and failures, and most importantly treating everyone with respect and dignity,” he said.

 “In leading Seton Hall University, I hope to never forget something my late father used to say, ‘A great university is not made up of bricks and mortar, but people of great minds with good intentions,’” he added.

Serving a term of five and a half years, Esteban aims to pursue a strategic development plan that would entail “strengthening our Catholic identity, strengthening and increasing our investment in key academic programs, increasing our student selectivity, and developing the financial resources to fund our shared vision.”

Exception to rule

Esteban’s appointment broke tradition based on SHU’s 25-year-old by-laws, where only Catholic priests were qualified to head the university. The university’s board of trustees adopted an exception to the by-laws a week before his appointment.

Two other laymen had assumed the SHU presidency before Esteban, but his appointment was the first for a nonpriest since the university adopted its priests-only selection criteria in the 1980s.

Esteban received praise from the university for his calming presence after the tragic shooting of 19-year-old sophomore student Jessica Moore near SHU in September last year, when he was still interim head.

SHU officials called him the right fit for the job.

In a broadcast e-mail announcing Esteban’s appointment, Patrick Murray, chair of the SHU board of regents, said: “Dr. Esteban has successfully navigated through many challenges during his interim presidency; we are extremely fortunate to have such a proven, compassionate leader at the helm of our University. He is ideally positioned to carry on Seton Hall’s Catholic mission and its tradition of academic excellence.”

UP studies

Esteban finished a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a master’s degree in Business Administration at the University of the Philippines before taking up master of science in Japanese Business Studies at Chaminade University in Honolulu.

He and his wife Josephine, a UP Economics graduate, came back to the Philippines in 1986, just as the country returned to democracy after 14 years of martial rule. He landed a job at San Miguel Corp. while his wife worked for the then Center for Research and Communications (now University of Asia and the Pacific).

The couple later went back to the United States for further studies.

“We had every intention of returning to the Philippines. In fact in the late nineties, I interviewed for and was offered a couple of faculty positions in the Philippines. As we were making preliminary plans to return, the Asian financial crisis hit,” Esteban said.

“Upon deliberation and reflection, we realized that over the short to medium term we had better opportunities in the United States,” he added.

Connecting home

But life seems to have come full circle for Esteban, as his connection to home has become even stronger with the position he holds.

SHU’s College of Arts and Sciences is studying student demand for the Filipino language, which it previously offered. At the university, Esteban has also met several Filipino seminarians and students.

“Seton Hall has a very active student group called FLASH (Filipino League at Seton Hall). We even have Simbang Gabi!” he said.

As an SHU official, Esteban has also established institutional relations with UP, De La Salle University and its College of St. Benilde and Health Sciences Institute.

“Since the establishment of relationships with sister institutions in the Philippines, I have been fortunate to be able to go to Manila almost every year for the past few years,” Esteban said.

The Internet has also made touching base with the Philippines easier, he said. “Connecting to home and friends in Manila was more difficult until the widespread use of technology, including YahooGroups and more recently Facebook.”

Esteban and his family came home for Christmas last year, their first since 1987. With Josephine and his daughter Ysabella, an SHU junior, he traveled to Boracay and Cagayan de Oro City and “spent almost all our time with family.”   /

Visit Amado at Seton Hall University.


Moved To Tears

by jun asuncion

My cousin Sonny Rayos has just done  a magnificent job by taking photos of our great ancestor  Justiniano Asuncion’s Watercolor Paintings at the New York Public Libraray. He said he was moved almost to tears to hold and see for the first time these known works of Justiniano. It also deeply moved me that at the other side of the globe, I  have this cousin who is also actively searching for the roots and sharing his findings.

I highly appreciate Sonny’s efforts for he makes it possible for all other  Asuncions to view these works without going to New York. I was very excited that I immediately worked on the photos for publication. Sonny was allowed by the NYPL to take photos of Justiniano’s original watercolor paintings.

Sonny’s great great grandfather was Leoncio Asuncion, Justiniano’s brother. Here is Sonny’s photo holding an original painting by the master. Below is his e-mail to me this morning:

To all:

I was in New York City during the first week of August and rather than go to the Guggenheim, MoMA or Met museums, I decided to check out the NYPL’s (Schwarzman Building on 42th St. in midtown Manhattan) Justiniano Asuncion watercolor collections. These watercolor painting were digitalized several years ago. Y’all are probably familiar with these collection by doing an internet search on: “NYPL Justiniano Asuncion.” To see the paintings (which, at the time. I didn’t even know that I could view them), I was shuffled from the main lobby librarian, to Room 300, to Room 308, then had to apply for a NYC libary card, and then back to Rm 300 which is actually a secure room – you have to be buzzed in. FYI – the librarians were very excited when I told them that these were my ancestors paintings.

So finally here I am looking at my great, great, great uncle Justiano’s watercolor paintings. I was moved, almost to tears – to finally hold in my hand the paintings of Justiniano – looking and perusing each and every one closely (thank goodness, I even brought with me a magnifying glass!) I cannot help but think, every art critic is right: Justiniano Asuncion is THE MASTER!

Sonny Rayos


Fil Ams Make Waves at AAJA Convention


(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

DETROIT, Michigan (jGLi)– Some Filipino Americans are getting some attention during the ongoing three-day 22nd annual convention of the Asian American Journalists Association that ends on Saturday, Aug. 13, in Detroit, Michigan.

Three of them are panelists in different workshops in the organization that is also marking its 30th anniversary this year. They are Rene Astudillo, executive director, Lupus Foundation of Northern California, who is in the panel of “Fighting To Protect Immigrant Rights”; Maria Hechanova, morning reporter, WLNS-TV, Yuma, Arizona, panelist in “Surviving Small Markets”; and Emil Guillermo, award-winning journalist and TV/radio host/commentator, panelist in “Authors’ Showcase: In Conversation with Grace Lee Boggs.”

Among Filipino American journalists attending this event are Curtis Lee Jay, news anchor “Action News” of NBC in Kansas City, Missouri; Justin Mendoza, TV news reporter/video journalist/producer; and Joseph G. Lariosa, correspondent Journal Group Link International and AAJA Chicago Chapter member. While those covering the event are former Manila Bulletin Provincial Editor Tony Antonio, editor of Fil Star Michigan, and Bobby Reyes of Mabuhay Radio of Los Angeles, California. Another Fil Am attending is Michigan active community leader, Willie Dichavez.

Mr. Curtiz Lee Jay met at the convention with Messrs. Reyes and Joesan Gabarda of Troy, Michigan. Gabarda is a friend of Jay’s grandfather, Felino Lee of Magallanes, Sorsogon in the Philippines.

Astudillo is AAJA’s National Treasurer and was AAJA’s executive director from 1999 to 2008. Hechanova worked her way up from producer/reporter and has worn many hats in her two-year tenure, including administrative assistant! She’s also the co-chair of AASMBJ (Asian American Small Market Broadcast Journalists), a group dedicated to supporting AAJA members who are just starting their careers. For nearly 15 years, Guillermo wrote the most widely read opinion column on Asian America in the U.S. An award-winning veteran broadcast and print journalist, talk host and commentator, Guillermo was the first Asian American to regularly host a national news radio program on NPR’s “All Things Considered” from 1989-1991.

During the panel discussion, Maria Hechanova, said working in a small market station is tough as she felt alienated from her relatives when her job application was accepted and she left her friendly confines in Phoenix, Arizona.

“You have to face two-step battle as you transition to your new job,” Ms. Hechanova, whose parents are from Iloilo in the Philippines, said. “First, losing people and finding that second job.”

It took her two years to prepare her taped resume, taking live shots. While she put things together, she was and is always having an open mind to criticisms of her job and demeanor by listening intently to her missteps.

While her contract expires in three years, she developed some anxiety two years into her job as she starts to make plans to jump into a “bigger” market. Her anxiety becomes acute as she gained the “the people’s trust and you create from them their respect.”

Ms. Hechanova turned emotional when she said her Mom called her a week after she got a new job, telling her that her Dad was very sick. Her father died last July 22nd.

She thanked the Asian American Journalists Association, which helped her cope up with her problems.

But what cheers her up in Yuma is a group Filipino Americans, who always invite her to their event, serving her up with her favorite Filipino delicacies.

She always feels that career is a marathon, where you develop your skills as you linger on your job. But she is still keeping her options open if she wants to pick up the anchor job of her dream. (


Fil Am Maria Hechanova (extreme right), morning reporter, WLNS-TV, of Yuma, Arizona, joins members of the panel after they presented “Surviving Small Markets” workshop Thursday, Aug. 11, at the St. Louis Convention Center in Detroit (COBO), Michigan. Others in photo to her right are Jam Sardar, TV News Director WLNS-TV, and Priscilla Luong, a reporter for Fox25 and CW34 of Oklahoma City. Back row at right is George Kiriyama, news reporter, NBC Bay Area News and an unidentified AAJA member or guest. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)


Former Manila Bulletin Provincial Editor Tony Antonio (extreme right), editor of Fil Am Star News in Michigan, is reunited with former Manila Bulletin police reporter Joseph G. Lariosa (extreme left), correspondent of Journal Group Link International, at the 22nd annual convention of the Asian American Journalists Association Thursday, Aug. 11, at the St. Louis Convention Center (COBO) in Detroit, Michigan while Bobby Reyes of Mabuhay Radio looks on. At the background is the Detroit River overlooking Canada on the other side of the river. (jGLiPhoto)


Curtis Lee Jay (third from left), news anchor “Action News” of NBC in Kansas City, Missouri, introduced himself as a grandson of Felino Lee of Magallanes, Sorsogon, while Sorsoganons Joseph G. Lariosa (extreme left), Bobby M. Reyes and Joesan Gabarda (extreme right) were conversing in Bikol. Lookin on is Jay’s friend, Brooke Camp, CNN recruiter, at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center in Michigan Wednesday, Aug. 10. (jGLiPhoto)


Playing With Our Values : On Zubiri’s Resignation

by jun asuncion


On its face value, the resignation is a  good example for others to follow who have served the Arroyo machinery of deceit for the last nine years. As there are still many of them in the government, those who know that they won the 2007 elections ( the winning of which also helped them won the 2010 elections in one form or another) through fraud should voluntarily leave their posts now for the sake of the nation. As Zubiri himself opined,

“No amount of power, position or wealth is worth sacrificing one’s honor and integrity.”

Honor and integrity weigh more in the end when the truth comes out, the issue becoming more intense and starts hurting the whole family and the whole clan.

Zubiri himself denies vehemently his winning through electoral fraud in 2007. He could be telling the truth but he could also be unmindful or unaware of the truth. But the 2007 political circumstances were definitely against him. We know that it will not smell rotten if there is nothing rotten somewhere.  And the political circumstances during Arroyo’s time were rotten that this rotten smell went even beyond the Philippine territories. The whole world still remembers how the Philippine politics smelt so bad at that time. And Zubiri should consider that a rotten fruit in a basket ruins the rest. Coming himself from this basket, he should not wonder why he carries that rotten smell on his shirt.

The 2007 election was grounded itself on the rotten 2004 election which still smells pungent today, providing a lot of air purifying work for the Aquino administration. And then again, the 2004 election was itself grounded on an unconstitutional coming to power  by the then Vice-President Gloria Arroyo (Edsa II) in 2001 when Erap was ejected from his office without due process of law. The Philippine political scene on those days was marked by political conspiracies. Looking back, I think  Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo has done nothing in her political life but to ruin  and dishonor her father’s name.

Back to Zubiri. Philstar reports: “The SET is deliberating on an electoral protest filed by Pimentel. It was alleged in his election protest that votes in Maguindanao in the 2007 midterm elections had been manipulated to favor Zubiri and other candidates of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Zubiri won the 12th Senate slot, based on election results. Zubiri, who comes from a powerful political clan in Bukidnon, denied he had cheated.”

Zubiri denied he had cheated. If  Arroyo cheated for him, then he was telling the truth.

But the case of  the detained Lintal Bedol and Zaldy Ampatuan seems to shed a bit more light to Zubiri’s situation.

While the detained Zaldy Ampatuan claims massive cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections, Zubiri seems to discount its possibility with his statements that:

– it’s ““highly suspect” that witnesses recently surfaced to claim there was massive fraud in the 2007 elections.”

– “Armed merely with their vocal chords and without any supporting documents to prove their allegations, these alleged witnesses are now shouting out loud and, as if with full orchestration, that my election was marred with irregularities,”

– “While my counter-protest is still pending before the Senate Electoral Tribunal and the revision and recounting of the ballots are going on smoothly to find out the truth on the parties’ allegations, a number of highly suspect ‘personalities’ suddenly cropped up recently, claiming that they were allegedly ‘witnesses’ to the alleged frauds and irregularities during the 2007 elections…  ”

Now, if not in captivity and not threatened with perhaps life imprisonment (in China and Japan, death penalty), do you think Zaldy Ampatuan would claim  those massive election cheating? And, trading places with Ampatuan, do you think Zubiri would deny this said election cheating?

We should remember that the patronage politics of Arroyo was in need of strong political allies in the south and that the Zubiri and Ampatuan political clans were in the same Arroyo basket.

But it seems that two different situations produce two different arguments even among basket members. Who is lying now, Zaldy Ampatuan  or Juan Miguel Zubiri?

As I have noted, Zubiri could be innocent and could be telling the truth and he has the right to defend his truth. My problem lies in his utter denial of the 2004 and 2007 poll irregularities. Why deny the obvious and argue as baseless and groundless the joint target of the DOJ and Comelec investigations? Here he becomes – to use  his own words –  “highly suspect” for me.

His resignation is not just a pure gesture of delicadeza for there is something more to it. His whole behavior is funny in a way. If duly elected as senator – as he claims – why resign and not fight for it? In this way, he would be giving honor to the people (including his own clan) who voted for him. The family is important, and not to hurt his own family is much more important. But it should not be used as an alibi for everything.

If I try to zoom in to Zubiri’s picture, I can see somebody who wants to save his own skin by appealing to the psychology (pag-hanga and awa) of the Filipino people and he shows a great deal of ambivalence in his actions. His last minute sweet talking and gesturing all point to his angst and appeal for help and awa. I can see someone who smells but deny the Arroyo smell on his shirt and now hurries home to change it with a fresh one in the hope of a fresh and successful political return. This man is playing with our values.

We will see as we wait for the DOJ and Comelec final findings.