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5 Filipinos among passengers of Singapore Airlines that hit 'severe turbulence'

Posted on 22 May 2024 No comments


Photo supplied by the carrier shows how the plane looked after the severe turbulence

Five Filipinos were among 229 people aboard a Singapore Air flight from London that was diverted to Bangkok yesterday after experiencing “severe turbulence” while on air, leading to the death of one passenger.

A statement issued by the airline late Tuesday said a total of 18 crew and 211 passengers, including five Filipinos, were aboard the stricken airline. 

Singapore Airlines, in a statement late Tuesday, confirmed one passenger had died and 18 other individuals had been hospitalized, but gave no details about their identities or condition.


"Another 12 were being treated in hospitals. The remaining passengers and crew were being examined and given treatment, where necessary, at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok," the airline merely said.

Other reports identified the fatality as 73-year-old British national named Geoffrey Kitchen, who had worked with the Thornbury Musical Theatre Group, and most recently served as its director. 

Mr Kitchen was travelling with his wife when he died on board the Boeing 777-300ER plane, which was forced to make an emergency landing in Bangkok en route to Singapore from London at 3:45 local time on Tuesday.

A spokesman for Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport has been quoted as saying that the British victim suffered a suspected heart attack on the aircraft. 

He added that seven people are fighting for their lives in hospital, and dozens others were injured.

Here's a video from Reuters taken shortly after the stricken plane landed in Bangkok:

"Singapore Airlines offers its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased. We deeply apologise for the traumatic experience that our passengers and crew members suffered on this flight. We are providing all necessary assistance during this difficult time," the airline said.

"We are working with our colleagues and the local authorities in Thailand to provide the necessary assistance. A Singapore Airlines team is on its way to Bangkok to provide any additional assistance needed," it added.

The airline said the flight encountered “sudden extreme turbulence” over Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Basin at 37,000 feet about 10 hours after departure and the pilot declared a medical emergency, with flight tracking data showing the plane plummeted 6,000 feet in about three minutes.

Relatives seeking information may call the Singapore Airlines hotlines at +65 6542 3311 (Singapore), 1800-845-313 (Australia), and 080-0066-8194 (the United Kingdom).


BSP warns of intervention as peso sinks to 58.28:$1

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BSP has so far hesitated to prop up the peso 

The Philippine peso dipped in value for the straight day, to close on Tuesday 0.7% lower, to 58.28 to US$1.

The 18-month record low prompted a warning from Bangko Sental ng Pilipinas (Philippine Central Bank) that it would intervene to save the peso from slipping further down.

The local currency shed 37 centavos from Monday’s finish of 57.68:$1. This is the Philippine currency’s worst showing in 18 months since November 8, 2022’s finish of P58.275:$1.


The drop had a corresponding effect on the peso’s exchange rate with the HK dollar, which is pegged to the greenback. Online currency converters show the peso dropping to 7.45 versus the HK dollar.

The peso reached its all-time low of 59.203 against the USD on Sept 22, 2022.

The peso is now near its all-time low of P58.49 posted on Sept 22, 2022

In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, BSP governor Eli Remolona said authorities will step in “when necessary to smoothen excessive volatility and restore order during periods of stress.”

In a separate statement, Remolona said the peso’s decline was in line with other currencies in the region.

He said the greenback strengthened on recent signals from the US Federal Reserve that it will delay cutting interest rates.


FDHs, overstayers arrested in anti-illegal work raids

Posted on 21 May 2024 No comments


Some suspected illegal workers being led to an immigration van in an earlier operation (File)

The Immigration Department arrested seven suspected illegal workers – three of them foreign domestic helpers and three overstayers - in an anti-illegal work raid conducted yesterday, May 20.

In addition, three people suspected to have employed them were arrested.

During the operation, Immigration agents raided more than 10 target locations, including restaurants, a retail store, grocery shops and industrial buildings.


The suspected illegal workers comprised one man and six women, aged 24 to 49. Apart from the three FDHs and three overstayers, one other person arrested held a recognisance form, which prohibits him from taking up employment.

Three men, aged 37 to 58, were also arrested on suspicion of employing the said illegal workers.

According to Immigration, the suspected illegal workers were hired to do odd jobs, including dishwashing work, food processing and delivery.

"A helper should only perform domestic duties for the employer specified in the contract. The helper should not take up any other employment, including part-time domestic duties, with any other person,” said Immigration.

“The employer should not require or allow the helper to carry out any work for any other person.”

Immigration warned that anyone who violates the condition of their stay commits an offence, and could be jailed for up to two years and face a maximum fine of $50,000.

An overstayer or someone who faces a removal or deportation order (like those on recognizance) faces a more severe penalty of three years’ imprisonment and a maximum fine of $50,000.

Employers of illegal workers could be jailed for up to 10 years and ordered to pay a maximum fine of $500,000. In addition, they face an immediate custodial sentence according to sentencing guidelines laid down by the High Court.


Filipina to stand trial for illegal work

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The Filipina will be tried in a Shatin Magistrates' court

A foreign domestic helper is due to be tried in August on a charge of breaching of condition of stay by doing parttime work while supposedly employed by a fellow Filipino.

Jenny S. Guzman, 44 years old, will stand trial on Aug 2 and 5 after pleading not guilty to the illegal work charge. 

Her bail of $500 has been extended at Shatin court after she appeared yesterday, Monday, for the hearing of her case.


According to the charge, Guzman contravened her condition of stay on Feb. 22 this year by taking odd jobs in Shau Kei Wan while under the employ of Arlan S. Pasco at the address stated in her employment contract, no P376596, which took effect on Dec 28, 2023.

Breach of condition of stay is in violation of Sec 41 of the Immigration Ordinance, Cap 115 of the Laws of Hong Kong.

Offenders face a maximum jail term of two years and fine of up to $50,000.


DH used expired work contract to obtain $20k loan, court told

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The accused was arrested when she went to Immigration to renew her employment contract

A Filipina domestic helper was denied bail when she appeared in Eastern Court yesterday, Monday, charged with fraud after allegedly securing a $20,000 loan by submitting an expired employment contract.

Mariel E. Antenor, 32 years old, faces one charge of obtaining pecuniary (monetary) advantage by deception.

Her lawyer said Antenor was offering a $100 bail for her temporary release apart from surrendering her passport and reporting regularly to the police, but the prosecution opposed the motion, and was upheld by Principal Magistrate Ivy Chui.


However, the magistrate set another hearing on May 28 to review the bail application, and adjourned the case to June 17.

According to the charge, Antenor obtained a $20,000 loan from Prime Credit on Sept. 14, 2022, using her invalid work contract to support her loan application which she submitted to the finance company’s office in Eurotrade Centre in Central.

The alleged act is contrary to sec 18 of the Theft Ordinance, and is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

In court, the prosecution said that the defendant was arrested when she went to Immigration Ordinance to renew her employment contract which expired on Apr 27 this year. That meant that she was already working with another employer when she obtained the loan using her old contract.

According to the defence lawyer, Antenor said she did not know that it was an offence to use an expired employment contract to support a loan application. She also said she had already repaid the loan in full.

In turn, the prosecution said Antenor had claimed she had been signed up by a new employer, but failed to produce a copy of her new contract.

Magistrate Chui ordered the prosecution to ascertain Antenor’s immigration status and report on their findings at the next hearing.




Filipina gets suspended sentence for taking backpack left in lobby

Posted on 20 May 2024 No comments


The rucksack was left in the lobby of this building in Wanchai (HK Property photo)

A Filipina domestic worker got off with a relatively light sentence after admitting to taking a rucksack left in the lobby of their residential building in Wanchai by a Korean tenant.

Wilma A. Ganzaga, 55, was meted a two months’ sentence, suspended for 18 months, after she pleaded guilty to a charge of theft before Eastern Principal Magistrate Ivy Chui today, Monday.

She admitted taking a backpack left in the lobby of Vincent Mansion on Star Street, Wan Chai by Park Soojin on Sept. 28, 2023.


The bag contained one laptop, one computer mouse, one pair of shoes, one pair of shorts, four charging cables, one charger, four earphones, one pouch, one recycle bag, one thumb drive and one top.

The court heard that a video recording taken in the lobby of the building on the day of incident which was viewed together by Park and Ganzaga's employer showed the Filipina taking the bag, which was later found inside her room.

Ganzaga told police she thought the bag had been discarded.

In mitigation, the defense lawyer said Ganzaga was retained by her employer, who even wrote two letters to the magistrate in support of the helper.


5 groups join forces to clean up Shek O highlands

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Participants of the clean-up drive show the results of their labor

Five organizations joined forces yesterday (March 19) morning to clean up walking trails in the hills that surround the Shek O Beach.

Some 100 members were able to fill more than 50 garbage bags with used plastic bottles and bags, and other litter as they walked up the Blue Ridge to converge at the peak, after two hours.

The clean up drive is a community service project of the the Grand Hong Kong Eagles Club and its counterpart, Grand Hong Kong Lady Eagles Club (GHKEC/GHKLEC).


They were joined by Sikap Association, Anda Hope Association Hong Kong and GS Indonesian community group. 

"This is the first community service that we held in Shek O highland," said Sikap President Lester Esquilona.

"By picking up plastic and all the garbage along the pathways of the trail, we are able to help the environment."

Their next project will be to sweep through Repulse Bay Beach to Deepwater Bay Beach on June 10,  bearing garbage bags up and down the beach to pick up litter.


Dans delights with art, vigor and humor

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By Daisy CL Mandap

(We are re-publishing this article which was first printed in the June 2013 edition of  The SUN newspaper, in honor of the late Araceli Limcaco-Dans, one of the foremost portrait artists in the Philippines, who passed away at 5:50pm on Saturday, May 18. Mrs Dans had her first solo exhibition in Hong Kong nearly 11 years to this day, and during her visit, had  two talks on her art, including one  that was exclusively for Filipino migrant workers. Over dinner also at that time, she  regaled her fellow University of the Philippines alumni with stories about her memorable encounters with two of the country’s most revered National Artists, Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino, who were both her mentors. It is just fitting that a planned exhibition by Galleria Camaya of Mrs Dans’  works at the Visual Arts Centre on Kennedy Road, Central from June 5-10 is turned into a tribute to one of the finest artists of this generation).

The Grande Dame (seated) at the opening of her art exhibit at the Philippine Consulate 
on May 24, 2013, organized by Pintura Circle Hong Kong

If there was something apart from her mastery of her craft that surprised and delighted most of the people who were fortunate enough to have met prominent Filipino painter Araceli Limcaco-Dans during her recent visit to Hong Kong, it was her youthful vigor and sense of humor.

At age 83, Madame Dans has managed to keep her hands so steady that she is still able to paint intricate calado embroidery using not just any medium, but water color, the most difficult of them all.

One look at the stark whiteness of the calado-embroidered pina shawls in her painting, and one is hit with the certainty that this is a master people should feel privileged to have met in their lifetime. As she explained herself, that white is the paper or the canvas itself, so that one has to paint around it instead of on it, making the process a lot more laborious  


But she must love what she has been doing for the past six decades or so that this lady, dubbed as the"Grand Dame of Philippine Realist Painting" has retained the spring in her step and the banter in her tone.

Explaining for example, why she does not do portraits as often as she used to, she told this writer:"I stopped because many people want me to take 30 years off their looks. Ano ako, si Vicky Belo?" (Who did they think I was, Vicky Belo? [a popular cosmetic surgeon in the Philippines] ).

 Playful moment with her friend Bencab, who went on to become a National Artist

Master Dans was in Hong Kong from May 24-28 for a rare exhibit of her works at the Philippine Consulate, and also to give two separate talks about her art, including one that targeted Filipino migrant workers. In between she also attended a charity dinner with fellow celebrity painter, Bencab, and several other gatherings, including one hosted by her fellow alumni from the University of the Philippines.

To the amazement of many people who attended the lecture she gave at the Consulate on May 27, she also completed on site, in just over an hour, a jaw-dropping portrait sketch of the lucky winner of a charity auction held for the benefit of her favorite charity, the indigent patients at the Philippine General Hospital. The likeness, not just in physical features, but also in the character of the subject, was so impressive that it left everyone wishing for their own sitting with the celebrity artist.

To appease them, Ms Dans quipped: "If I could stay in Hong Kong longer, I will draw everyone of you."

Mrs Dans with Janeth Weil, whose portrait she did in just over an hour
The ease with which she did the sketch did not come as a surprise to many, as Ms Dans started her career doing portraits, mentored no les by two Philippine National Artists, Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino.

This is another reason why listening to Ms Dans talk is always a pleasurable experience, for how many people can speak about the legendary Amorsolo with as much insight and candor?

One anecdote about the Philippines' first-ever national artist that she obviously relishes sharing dates back to the time when she was still a struggling student at the U.P. College of Fine Arts. The great Amorsolo reportedly passed on some commissioned works to her, saying he knew that she could make do with some income while at school.

Her fellow alumni from UP were all ears as Mrs Dans spoke of her personal encounters
with two of the country's most revered National Artists,  Amorsolo and Tolentino

For Ms Dans, this meant being blessed twice over, because not only did her much-sought-after mentor helped her financially, he also indicated he was impressed by her, enough to pass on work that he was meant to do.

"Alam kong hindi ako mapapahiya" was what her mentor reportedly told her. (I know you would not give me cause to be embarrassed).

Another time, Amorsolo reportedly used his clout as dean of the College to let her graduate after only three years, saying she had learned everything that could be taught her in school.

"You now have to earn (money)," was what he reportedly said to send her off.

Her kinship with the less privileged must have impelled Ms Dans to also dabble in social realism. Among her collection are pieces that suggest sensitivity to such issues as abortion, illegal recruitment, and even anti-government sentiment, at a time when her husband, the late Jose P. Dans, Sr. was minister of transport under former President Ferdinand Marcos.

One of  Mrs Dans' portrayal of the social divide in the Philippines

A work that stands out shows several pieces of torn"balikbayan" boxes and a tattered shawl, which according to the artist, were meant to show her indignation over the hanging of OFW Flor Contemplacion in Singapore in 1995.

"I was devastated," she said of the incident."I used a lot of symbolism to show it- the calado in tatters, a flower turned upside down, and a balikbayan box with `illegal recruitment of workers' written on it."

Another favorite is one titled "Girl in Red", which shows a woman, apparently a prostitute, billowing smoke in the form of a foetus. The gritty picture, which clearly conveys the artist's stance against abortion, got one collector so interested that he reportedly told her to"name your price". Though tempted by the offer, Ms Dans said:"I kept it."

Through all the years that she has worked as an artist, Ms Dans said she has maintained discipline, working anywhere from between eight and 14 hours each day. She also never let anything distract her, not even a bad day.

'Tita Cheloy' in her beautiful home studio, where a young artist paid her a visit 
"Do not allow your moods to control you if you want to go far," was her advice.

The master of realist art, true to form, also scoffs at computer-generated work, or anything that she says relies merely on "gimmicks and shock effects".

For her, as for many other traditional artists, the only true yardstick of talent is one's ability to draw.

"I have always been an advocate of drawing," she said.  "For how could you paint when you can't even draw?"

Her mentor, Amorsolo, would definitely approve.

(Catch 'A Calado Legacy: A Mother and Daughter Exhibit of Mrs Dans' world-class works, alongside those of her daughter Marcy, in an exhibition by Galleria Camaya at the Hong Kong Visual Arts Centre on Kennedy Road, from June 6 to 10. The opening cocktails on June 5 is by invitation only).



Filipina DH charged with drug trafficking along with suspect in $38m watch heist

Posted on 19 May 2024 No comments
The Filipina and Indian suspects were arrested in a cubicle in this building in Mong Kok

A Filipina domestic worker is on $10,000 bail while facing drug trafficking charges along with one of the suspects in the $38-million watch robbery in Tsim Sha Tsui in December last year.

Melene I. Mogol, 38, appeared in Kowloon City Magistrates’ Court on Friday, May 17, to face one count of trafficking in a dangerous drug, the kind and quantity of which were not disclosed in the charge sheet. 

However, earlier reports said more than half a kilo of methamphetamine or "ice" worth $220,000 was involved.


Mogol was charged along with Sumeet  Dadwal, a 30-year-old Indian national, who was arrested with her in a subdivided unit in Tang Fat House, Mong Kok, on Jan. 7 this year, in which the drug trafficking offence was alleged to have been committed.

Dadwal faces a separate charge of robbery, along with three unknown males, for the 37-second raid made at the Alpha Watch and Jewellery shop on Granville Road in Tsim Sha Tsui on Dec. 23, 2023, in which 24 watches valued at $38,157,530 were taken.

While Mogol was allowed to post bail, Dadwal was remanded in jail custody. Both defendants are due to appear in court again on July 12.

Still photo from a video of  the watch heist

According to news reports, the $38-million watch heist started with one of the robbers ringing the shop’s doorbell, pretending to be a customer. As soon as he was allowed in, four masked men wearing black hoodies rushed in and began smashing the shop’s counters with sledgehammers, before sweeping the watches away.

Two of the robbers were shown on video threatening staff while the robbery was going on.

The watches stolen reportedly included such expensive Swiss brands as Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille, with a single watch being sold for $4.6 million.


The robbers fled in a getaway car, but in less than 24 hours police arrested three suspects, one in Tsuen Wan, another in Sheung Shui and the third in Yuen Long.

Two other suspects were arrested subsequently.

On Jan. 7, police reported the arrest of two more suspects, one non-ethnic Chinese male resident and a foreign woman, who turned out to be Dadwal and Mogol.

At the time, the police said the man was arrested for robbery and trafficking in a dangerous drug while the woman was arrested for assisting an offender and drug trafficking.

About 529 grams of suspected methamphetamine, valued at around $220,000 were reportedly seized during the raid. 


Business Ideas for OFWs: Setting up a coffee shop

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Ernest Martin, who operates a chain of coffee shops called Chapter Coffee, shares his experience

Do you know that it costs only about P14.65 to P23.21, depending on the quality of coffee, to make a cup of Café Americano that can be sold for up to P150?

The lowest cost of a cup of coffee is broken down as follows: P3.14 for the coffee beans, P2 for water, P8 for packaging (the cup and cover), P0.5 each for sugar, creamer and tissue.

This makes operating a coffee shop profitable, right?


It’s not that simple, said Ernest Martin, owner of a chain of coffee shops called Chapter Coffee in Metro Manila and Pangasinan. He spoke during a seminar last May 11 at World Trade Center as part of the IFEX (International Food Exhibition) Manila 2024.

This wide margin between the cost of product and selling price does not give an accurate picture of profitability because there are other costs that one has to meet: rent, salaries to the baristas and waiters/waitresses, maintenance, and utilities such as electricity and water.

These are costs that one pays monthly, whether the shop sells one or 1,000 cups of coffee a day.


When all these costs are added up, it would be ideal to limit the cost of coffee (plus other drinks and the cookies, cakes and other foods served with it) at the ideal level of 15 to 35 per cent of gross sales, Martin said.

This way, he said, profit (or what is left after expenses are deducted from sales) should reach about 15-25 per cent of gross sales.

Getting to these ideal levels of cost and profit is the challenge, he added. Add to this the Filipino expectations of the food business, which can be summarized in the so-called three Ms: "mura, masarap, marami." (cheap, tasty, abundant).

If the profit margin goes below 15 per cent, one needs to look into where to cut costs. In many cases, businesses have resorted to lowering the quality or reducing the quantity of food and beverage sold, but Martin said this is not ideal.

“I would recommend increasing the prices instead,” he said. “If people have gotten used to the quality and quantity of food you serve, it will be more harmful to reduce them instead of raising your prices, because these customers may never come back.”

An alternative is to increase sales. 

Martin said he motivated his staff to help increase sales by declaring that 1.5 per cent of gross sales will be given to the staff as their share of profits if they exceed their daily sales target. 

Because they benefit when the business succeeds, the staff keep the shop open beyond operating hours just to meet their quota and upselling customers to convince them to spend more. It becomes a partnership between the company and the employees, he said.

In starting a café, Martin said location is the biggest factor in one’s success, much bigger than the size at which the business is started.

That location should be accessible to the target clientele, he said. If one opens a small place in a mall which has a huge foot traffic and offers parking, for example, it can grow from there. He also recommended setting up near transport terminals and other places where many people congregate.

In these locations, one needs to observe the people who go there frequently. “Determining their demograpics (to what income brackets they belong, how they dress, whether they arrive on taxis or cars, and so on) will help guide us in pricing our products,” Martin said.

“If we choose to set up in a place frequented by the middle class, for example, our prices should be affordable to the middle class,” he said.

Once we choose a location, we should also study what is missing and exciting in the area, he added.

Martin said social media can help a lot in promoting a business. With just one click of a button, one is able to take advantage of social media’s ability to send their message to their target clientele. 


Filipina charged with stealing $140k cash and jewelry

Posted on 18 May 2024 No comments


The Austin, where the alleged theft was supposed to have taken place

A Filipina domestic helper appeared in Kowloon City Court yesterday, Friday, charged with stealing a total of about $140,000 cash and two pieces of gold jewelry whose value was not indicated, from her employer’s flat in Yau Ma Tei.

Janice J.M. Villanueva, 34, was remanded in jail after the hearing until her next court appearance on June 14.

According to the charge sheet, Villanueva stole HK$116,120 and RMB$20,000 in cash, as well as a gold bracelet and gold necklace from a flat in The Austin, Yau Ma Tei, on an unknown date between Dec 22, 2023 and Apr 16, 2024. The items all belonged to Gao Hai-yan.


In a separate case heard earlier, another Filipina was charged with stealing a diamond ring and gold bracelet worth a total of $197,000 on March 15 this year from a house in Palm Springs, Lok Ma Chau, belonging to Lo Wai-yin.

Rachel T. Paner was remanded in custody pending further investigation, after attending Fan Ling court on May 13. She will again appear in court on July 8.

Under Hong Kong laws, the maximum penalty for theft is 10 years imprisonment.


But according to Eastern Principal Magistrate Ivy Chui recently, the sentencing guidelines prescribe imprisonment of less than two years if the amount stolen is below $250,000. The sentence can be reduced depending on the amount involved, and whether there are mitigating circumstances, like if the defendant pleads guilty and has a clear record.


Filipina accused of dropping safe from window

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The Filipina faces the new charge at West Kowloon Courts

A Filipina who was originally accused in West Kowloon Court of criminal intimidation for allegedly threatening a man in Discovery Bay, had the charge against her changed to one of dropping an object from a building.

Annabelle Galang Chavanne, 39, was accused of dropping a safe from a window of a Discovery Bay flat when she appeared at West Kowloon Court yesterday (May 12), an act prohibited under Section 4B (1) the Summary Offences Ordinance.

The law provides that if “anything is dropped or allowed to fall from any building to the danger or injury of any person in or near a public place, the person who drops that thing or allows it to fall commits an offence and is liable to a fine at level 3 ($10,000) and imprisonment for 6 months.”


A Lantau Police report stated that last Jan. 25, Chavanne dropped a safe from a 16th floor flat in Cherish Court in Discovery Bay “to the danger or injury of any person outside the building”, which is a public place.

There was, however, no mention of anyone being hit by the safe.

The new charge takes the place of the withdrawn criminal intimidation case in which the defendant is accused of threatening to harm Cassius Crowther in the same Discovery Bay flat 19 days earlier, on Jan. 6.


It was alleged that Chavanne threatened Crowther “with injury to his person, with intent to alarm him,” which violates Section 24 (a) (i) of the Crimes Ordinance.

Magistrate Pang Leung-ting adjourned the case to May 31 and ordered Chavanne released on $1,000 bail. 

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