Loida-Duterte encounter, missing ‘balikbayan’ boxes, and a suspected suicide are top stories for 2016

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By Cristina DC Pastor

Loida Nicolas Lewis’ cautious praise of President Rodrigo Duterte topped The FilAm’s most-read stories for 2016.

The article continued to be viewed and shared long after it’s been published on July 20. With every news headline pushing Lewis, a businesswoman and philanthropist, to the political pages for urging Duterte to resign or supposedly plotting to oust him in a CIA-based coup, the article registers a corresponding bump in readership.

Top: Loida Nicolas Lewis; Rodrigo Duterte Lower: Rena Avendula; Rommel del Rosario

Top: Loida Nicolas Lewis; Rodrigo Duterte
Lower: Rena Avendula; Rommel del Rosario

In the interview, Lewis shared her impressions, meeting Duterte for the first time as part of the delegation of the U.S.-Philippines Society, a private group comprising business executives and diplomats.

“My impression has evolved. He’s not as bad as I thought he would be,” the chief campaigner for Mar Roxas in the U.S. told The FilAm.

She confessed to coming away from the encounter feeling cautiously optimistic and somewhat assured. She believed then that he could govern effectively, and that he was a person of humility and humor. On the other hand, she also saw in him a determined toughness, one who will justify the use of force to maintain law and order.

“He was very personable, spoke without drama,” she said.

The success story of the Mabutas brothers from New Jersey was another popular article for the year. Francis and Brian Mabutas and their friend Hugo Han created the clothing label Eat Sleep Race which has now become a lifestyle brand for car racing aficionados. The ESR logo is recognizable in racing communities and is being reproduced illegally and sold in commercial quantities. The brothers called attention to the practice of bootlegging and vowed to protect their brand.

Reports of missing or undelivered ‘balikbayan’ boxes were widely read and discussed. The two-part series – “Payag owner files lawsuit vs founder of RDR Cargo for fraud, ‘threat to kill’ ” and “Del Rosario says Avendula ‘tried to kick me out’ of RDR” – generated an active discussion on Facebook.

The FilAm received numerous emails from victims of RDR Cargo asking for assistance and where they could seek help. We suggested they contact the Philippine Consulate’s Assistance to Nationals unit where these types of grievances are usually handled and to be ready with their receipts and proof of transaction. We’re still receiving complaints to this time.

The selection of the year’s widely read articles also included the mysterious disappearance of Seton Hall student John Paul Fernandez, Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach’s reflections on falling in love and finding the right guy, NYC-born Angelito Cabigao’s decision to go to the Philippines to work for an American call center company, and how artist Francis Estrada came to terms with his Filipino identity through martial arts and the visual arts.

Chelle Lhuillier’s first-person essay lambasting boxing champion Manny Pacquiao for comparing homosexuals to animals won lots of readers as well as followers for the outspoken trans activist. Lhuillier writes how Pacquiao has “crossed the line and boundary of decency and respect” as well as exhibited the “highest level of ignorance” with his comment.

The FILAMSPEAK forum “Millennials reflect on race and what it means to be ‘more white than brown” discusses race from the point of view of mixed-race FilAms: Being Filipino without being too brown and being American but not entirely white. The subjects confronted questions such as: Has ‘whiteness’ given you an advantage? Are you regarded more favorably in the Filipino community because of the color of your skin? Their answers were insightful as they were surprising.

The articles and their ranking below:

1. Loida Nicolas Lewis on meeting President Duterte: ‘He will not sell the PHL’

2. N.J. brothers race to protect their clothing brand from bootlegging
3. Payag owner files lawsuit vs founder of RDR Cargo for fraud, ‘threat to kill’ (Part 1)

4. Police baffled in case of missing Seton Hall student: If suicide, where’s the body?

5. Del Rosario says Avendula ‘tried to kick me out’ of RDR (Part 2)

6. Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach: ‘When I fall in love, I give my 100 percent; that can’t happen right now’

7. Millennial leaves NYC to work in Manila, finds his American and Filipino culture in one place

8. LGBT rights advocate to Manny Pacquiao: ‘I lost all respect for you’

9. FILAMSPEAK: Millennials reflect on race and what it means to be ‘more white than brown’

10. Teaching artist Francis Estrada confronts his Filipino identity

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