, JANUARY 10, 2007 (STAR) INSIDE CEBU By Bobit S. Avila - I will be in Manila today for the final burial of the remains of our beloved Philippine STAR publisher and my mentor Sir Max V. Soliven, who will be given burial honors at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. I was in Manila last Dec. 1 for the funeral ceremonies, but they were unexpectedly postponed due to super typhoon "Reming" which was supposed to hit Metro Manila. Fortunately for Metro Manilans, Reming spared the national capital, but then the Soliven burial rites were already postponed to this date.

Incidentally, I extend my family’s condolences also to our dear friend Johnny Litton on the passing of his son EJ last Sunday… I was quite shocked about this bit of news. The vigil is at the Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park. May we request our pious readers to please pray for the repose of his soul.

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With the 12th ASEAN Leaders’ Summit just a day away, many pundits are saying that all these preparations are unnecessary as the ASEAN is fast becoming irrelevant. Well, for as long as the ASEAN member-countries adhere to this year’s theme for the ASEAN Summit of a "One Caring, One Sharing Community" I would like to believe that ASEAN is still relevant.

But admittedly ASEAN still has a long way to go as it pushes forward to become a huge economic power bloc following the lines of the European Union (EU). So it is imperative for our ASEAN leaders to fast-track the ASEAN Charter as proposed by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) led here by former President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) because we really need to set up stringent and quality standards for ASEAN membership and behavior.

A case in point is Myanmar, a.k.a. Burma, which continues to be one of ASEAN’s embarrassments due to its sorry human rights record. So far, the only positive thing ASEAN has done on the Burmese question was to convince Burma not to take the chairmanship of ASEAN this year… that was why the Philippines suddenly found itself at the helm of ASEAN for 2006-2007 and preparations for the summit had to be done hurriedly.

Another ASEAN embarrassment is Thailand, which everyone thought to be so politically stable. Yet democracy took a back seat when a military coup removed civilian authority under Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and put up a military junta in its place. Let ASEAN take the cue from the European Union (EU) that it wants to emulate and it starts right here… this week in Cebu. The question that each ASEAN leader ought to ask himself is, will ASEAN go on as a social club or will it truly become an economic powerhouse that is the European Union today? Indeed, ASEAN is at a crossroads in Cebu. But ASEAN has no choice; it must continue pushing forward and achieve ASEAN unity for the people living within the ASEAN borders!

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It’s been 37 days since the second batch of nursing graduates took the nursing licensure exams and the anxious examinees and their parents are somehow kept in the dark as to why the results of these nursing exams have not yet been released. There is no question that the exams for the first batch last June were mired in that cheating scandal and the ripple effects of that national controversy continues to plague the nation today. This is the problem of the Filipinos… we just can’t let go of our ugly past! We go on bitching and murmuring about what happened long after the issue is gone.

With the second nursing licensure exams held last Dec. 2-3, I thought that the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC) or the Nursing Board would already have straightened up their acts and fixed whatever problems they had with the embarrassing scandal. Well, apparently our problems are not yet over… because they haven’t released the results of the nursing exams until today. What’s up, guys?

Because the PRC hasn’t released anything, not even a whimper about what’s going on… rumors have been going around that perhaps another cheating was uncovered or that because of the national shame the earlier scandal had caused, the Nursing Board made the exams last December more difficult and thus only a few passed them. Personally, I don’t believe that some idiot would try to pull another stupid cheating stunt… but that other rumor that the exams were made more difficult could very well be true. This bring us to the question, why punish the new examinees by making the exams harder because a cheating scam was exposed? Whatever it is, I just hope that none of these stories swirling around are true.

So before we get more ugly rumors, most of which are based on someone’s wild imagination, we exhort the PRC to give us any information as to when they would release the results of the nursing licensure exams held last December. Right now everyone is kept in the dark… and the PRC’s silence is deafening!

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Still on nursing, I learned from my good friend Jake Marques that Gregory Tyrone Howard, president of the National Federation of Licensed Practical Nurses Inc. (NFLPN) whom I had the good chance to interview on my talkshow, Straight from the Sky, last Nov. 29, will be in the Philippines next week. He will be visiting many places like Davao and he will be in Cebu on Jan. 26 to be the keynote speaker for the first graduation of the Philippine Paramedical and Technological School (PPTS) CAP Center at 8:30 a.m.

Howard was here a couple of years ago to introduce the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program to the Philippines. Indeed, Filipino nurses are prized abroad for the very reason that most, if not all our nursing schools always come up with degrees for registered nurses (RNs). But with the serious shortage of nurses all over the world, many hospitals realize that they just can’t hire RNs, as they are very highly paid. As a parallel, Howard told me: "In a squad of soldiers, we can’t all be sergeants. We also have corporals and privates in the team led by a sergeant." In hospital parlance, the sergeant is, of course, the RN, while the rest of the crew can be filled with LPNs.

Howard has given presentations like what he did in Toronto, Canada, "LPN Standards for Foreign Educated Nurses," or in Boston, Massachusetts, "Update on the Status of Multi State Regulations," or in Philadelphia, "LPN Practice in the United States," or in Richmond, Virginia, "Supply and Demand for LPNs in the USA." This man is really a walking encyclopedia when it comes to nursing in the US. Best of all, Howard has a big heart… he is willing to share his information with Filipinos. So anyone who wants to know more about Howard, please contact Jake Marques at 0917-3212321.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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