Keeping Families Together is The Heart of US Immigration

Dr. Marshall Duke, a professor of psychology at Emory University, has this theory that the “people who know a lot about their families tend to be more resilient when facing life’s challenges.” Immigration Attorney Nicolas “Nick” Caraquel, one of the top Attorneys of North America-2018-2019 edition of The Who’s Who Directories, personifies that theory and adds further, “that the unconditional love for family will complete anyone’s life journey.”

An industrial engineer earlier in his career, Atty. Caraquel, Immigration Attorney of US Immigration Law Office of Nicolas Caraquel (83-15 Queens Blvd, 2nd Floor Elmhurst, New York), obtained his New York State license to practice law in 2012. Since practicing law, he’s been helping various clients all over the world to secure their immigrant US visas as a first step in achieving their American Dream, whose original idea has been evolving, according to him. “I used to hear the concept of the ‘American Dream’ was being able to buy a house in the US. As an immigration attorney, my clients have redefined the ‘American Dream’ as being able to bring their family here and share the blessings of ‘America’ with them,” Atty. Caraquel told Fil-Am Who’s Who in an interview.

“No matter how big the house you buy, if you live by yourself, there’s no joy in living in it,” he added.

Although he grew up in a poor family in Davao City—a breadwinner for the family who sold sweetened saba bananas to famished passengers at a bus terminal at the tender age of nine—his love for his family never waned, even an instance. To immigrate his own family in the US, to spend more time with them remains his “American Dream.”

An immigrant himself, Atty. Caraquel understands the challenges and the complexity of going through the US immigration process. He entered the US originally as a tourist in 2007. He was hired as an industrial engineer three weeks after his arrival and obtained his multinational executive visa in four weeks. He became a green card holder in 2008 and now holds a dual Filipino-American citizenship.

Although he’s been a legal counsel for US immigration in under a decade only, he’s considered a seasoned practitioner among his peers and a rapidly growing roster of clients, whose misconceptions about the US immigration law have been recurring. He explained, “The immigration law is not anti-illegal immigrants. As a matter of fact, some provisions and regulations provided better guidance on how to help illegal immigrants to find solutions to their problematic immigration status. All they need to do is consult the right people and get help from the right sources.”

If you choose to work with Atty. Caraquel, his well-grounded industrial engineering skills, besides his expertise in the US immigration law, will help you find practical and quicker solutions to your immigration concerns. “My industrial engineering skills made it easier for me to navigate through the employment and entrepreneur-based petitions. Business models, re-organizations, financial management, strategic planning, etc. come in handy as I explore employment and investment-based petitions. My industrial engineering training gives me an advantage in solving even the most complicated immigration problems. Also, my strong problem-solving skills give me the instinct to offer ‘options’ to my clients on their immigration concerns.”

“Being an engineer has molded my ‘can do,’ ‘there’s a better way,’ ‘we’ll find ways’ attitude. That’s why I’m winning my immigration cases,” he said.

Atty. Caraquel is an alumnus of Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan)- Bachelor of Laws, and Ateneo de Davao University-Bachelor of Science. He’s a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, New York State Bar Association, and Integrated Bar of the Philippines. He received the Empowerment Awardee: Excellence in Legal Profession from the Fiesta in America, 2017, The National Advocates’ Top 40 Under 40 from the The National Advocates, 2017, and the Client’s Choice from Avvo, 2013-2016.

In addition to his legal office in New York, Atty. Caraquel has a satellite office in his hometown, Davao City.

For more information, visit his website

Discover the Philippines’ Travel Destinations & Festivals at Grand Central Terminal, May 9 to 12

From May 9 to 12, New York’s beaux-arts landmark Grand Central Terminal will provide the backdrop to showcase the 7,641 islands that make up the Philippines, which is promoting its vacation destinations, along with its captivating festivals!

Vibrant and full of life, year-round Philippine festivals, also known as fiestas, attract both domestic and international tourists for its grandeur, sense of community, and fun-filled atmosphere.

Although these festivals had religious origins, where predominantly Christian Filipinos honor their patron saints via festive communal events, these celebrations have become favorite attractions for their vibrant parades, pounding drums, electrifying dances, and elaborate costumes, which will surely bring out your most radiant smile.

When you get the chance to visit the Philippines, don’t miss these family-friendly festivals:

  • Sinulog Festival

Held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City, the Sinulog Festival honors the Child Jesus. It also commemorates the Filipinos’ pagan past and their conversion into Christianity.

A local version of the Mardi Gras, the festival highlights a grand street parade where the participants and the spectators shout “Pit Señor!” (Santo Niño) while they dance two steps forward and one step backward to the sinulog rhythm.

The Sinulog Festival is also known for its lively street parties held on the night of the Sunday parade.

  • Moriones Festival

The Moriones Festival is a Holy Week tradition in West Marinduque, Philippines, where men and women wear Roman soldier brightly colored costumes and full head masks. They roam the streets to find Saint Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus Christ’s side with a spear. According to oral history, a drop of the crucified Christ’s blood miraculously healed Saint Longinus’ blind right eye, which made the latter convert into Christianity.

The participants would traditionally join the Moriones Festival as an act of penance or a way to thank for God’s outpouring of blessings.

  • MassKara Festival

The MassKara (multitude of faces) Festival is held every fourth Sunday of October in Bacolod City since the early ‘80s, which was conceived to lift up the spirits of the locals who were facing a sugar industry crisis at that time. The use of the festive masks symbolizes the locals’ resilient attitude.

The festival spotlights the MassKara Queen beauty pageant, an assortment of food festivals, street dance competitions, and sports events, and the highly-anticipated electric MassKara night parade.

  • Dinagyang Festival

Similar to the Sinulog Festival, the Dinagyang Festival, held every fourth Sunday of January in Iloilo City, also honors the Child Jesus. It also commemorates the arrival of early Malay settlers on the island of Panay.

“Dinagyang” is an Ilonggo word that means merry making or revelry.

  • Pahiyas Festival

Attended by at least six million visitors, the Pahiyas Festival, held every 15th of May in Lucban, Quezon, honors the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro Labrador. First held in the 16th century, the Pahiyas Festival is an annual thanksgiving celebration for a bountiful rice harvest.

The locals’ homes are decorated with fresh fruits, vegetables, and edible rice kipings, dried, leaf-shaped rice paste in different colors, which the visitors can feast on for free!

Learn more about the Philippines and its endearing festivals at the Explore Islands Philippines expo at Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall.

Speakers from the Philippine Department of Tourism will talk on May 9 to 10 about various tourism initiatives including beautiful destinations, students and millennial tours, diving tourism, cuisine, retirement, as well as Philippine arts, culture, and history.  The flagship carrier of the Philippines, Philippine Airlines, will also give a special presentation.

This special event will also celebrate arts and culture in the final two days, May 11 to 12, showcasing artists and artisans from the United States and the Philippines. The program will include presentations from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Parangal Dance Company, Philippine martial artists, weavers, artisans, and fashion designers.

The Explore Islands Philippines expo, made possible by JS Productions Inc., the Philippine Department of Tourism, and the Philippine Tourism Promotions Board, is free to the public and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. The venue can be easily accessed by the Pershing Square, 42nd Street entrance.

This article first appeared on

Meet Pia Hamilton (Disney’s ‘The Lion King’)

Besides the Filipino-American (Fil-Am) Broadway actors that never fail to bring the audience to their feet in “Miss Saigon,” Fil-Am Broadway dancer Pia Hamilton (Gazelle Wheel, Ensemble Dancer) in “The Lion King,” together with the show’s vibrant full company, is keeping the show fresh—and the audience engaged—after all these years.

Pia, who starred in the children’s TV series “Barney and Friends” when she was nine, first joined “The Lion King,” the 1998 Tony Award recipient for Best Musical, in August 2014.  “This show [her Broadway debut] has always been my dream show! After performing in ‘The Lion King’ for over three and a half years, I still feel challenged and motivated as a performer,” she told Fil-Am Whos Who in an exclusive interview.

“I really love the storyline, the dancing, and my castmates—they make going to work a joy!” she said. Prior to her stint in the “The Lion King,” Pia also appeared in the productions of “A Chorus Line” as Connie, “Aida,” and “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.”

She also runs a dance studio in Chicago called Intrigue Dance and Performing Arts Center whose students benefit a lot from Pia’s professional experience on Broadway. “It has taught me to ‘give’ even when I feel like I have nothing left to give.  After a week-long run of rehearsals and shows, when we were tired and our bodies were sore, we still give a true and authentic show at the end of the week. Our resident director once said, ‘Every show, there is someone in the audience that will see their very first show and someone that will see their very last show.’ That really stuck with me, and helps me perform my best each day.”

“I try to instill this drive and passion in my students at Intrigue Dance and Performing Arts Center.  Anyone can learn how to dance, but how to make dance come alive is what makes an artist,” shared Pia, whose musical theater influences include Tony winners Lea Salonga, Sutton Foster, and Julie Taymor, “The Lion King’s” visionary director who blends the use of masks, puppetry, and dance to bring the giraffes, the birds, and the gazelles in Africa’s Serengeti come to life on stage every night in “The Lion King.”

“This show is timeless. It speaks to everyone in all walks of life—every race, every age, every person,” Pia said when we asked why should people come out and see their show. She said further, “We can all relate to the story, the actors make you feel the story, and you walk out of the theatre with a love for the experience of live musical theater.”

A spectacular visual feast, “The Lion King” is the stage adaptation of Disney’s 1994 animated full-length feature film, which follows the story of Simba and his epic journey from a wide-eyed cub to his ascent to kinghood of the Pridelands, an expansive African grassland where most African lions live.

“The Lion King” plays eight times a week at the Minskoff Theatre (200 West 45th Street). To buy tickets, visit

‘Ang Larawan’ Is Lavish, Absorbing Family Drama

The musical pedigree of “Ang Larawan,” an official entry to the 2017 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), traces back to Culturtain Musicat Productions’ (formerly Musical Theatre Philippines) 1997 musical adaptation of Nick Joaquin’s 1950 landmark play “A Portrait of the Artist as Filipino.” Why such a masterwork has stood the test of time is what this film adaptation wants you to fully grasp.

Directed by Loy Arcenas, “Ang Larawan” is a lavish, absorbing family drama whose original lengthy English dialogues were translated into mostly colloquial Tagalog by Rolando Tinio and set to music by Ryan Cayabyab.

Its story follows the plight of spinster sisters Candida Marasigan (Joanna Ampil) and Paula Marasigan (Rachel Alejandro), daughters of the celebrated visual artist Don Lorenzo Marasigan (Leo Rialp) who chooses to live as a recluse in the walled city of Intramuros, right before the Second World War.

Since Don Lorenzo has not produced a single painting for a long time, his daughters are in dire financial trouble. The artist’s self-portrait, which is his gift to his daughters, catches the attention of the prying public–including journalist Bitoy Camacho (Sandino Martin) and bodabil pianist Tony Javier (Paulo Avelino)–and fetches a huge sum of money from several art bidders, which could be (or maybe not) Candida and Paula’s ticket out of near poverty.

The film brings you back–somewhat eerily (both musically and visually)–to the famed cobblestoned streets and Spanish colonial houses with their large casement windows and heavy French doors in Intramuros in the early 1940s. It’s that era where the most stylish women wore the traditional terno on an ordinary Sunday and one of the forms of variety entertainment was Tony’s playground, the bodabil.

Director Loy Arcenas, together with production designer Gino Gonzales, cinematographer Boy Yñiguez, and colorist Marilen Magasaysay, vividly captures–albeit in a nearly sepia film color temperature and with set pieces and props of the same color scheme–that wistful spirit of Old Manila.

Supporting the film’s elaborate feast for the eyes are Rolando Tinio’s elegantly-written lyrics (some are spoken, but most are sung), where Ryan Cayabyab’s affecting, soaring score has found its heartbeat and the film’s musical rhythm specific to its dramatic storyline.

But in the center of it all is the brilliant Joanna Ampil as Candida–her first film role. Her Candida is strong-willed, but brittle–somewhat a cuckoo if you read between the lines. Her Candida and Rachel Alejandro’s Paula, the younger sibling, make a pair of complementing heroines whose life choices–whether they’re right or wrong–and their instinctive spoken lines and impassioned singing keep you in the palm of their hands in the film’s entirety. They both keep the movie moving and authentic, even though the sisters and the other characters: Nonie Buencamino’s Manolo, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo’s Pepang, Robert Arevalo’s Don Perico, and Zsa Zsa Padilla’s Elsa Montes, among others, burst into rapturous songs and delightful dances in between the characters’ sparsely spoken conversations.

Ampil is at her shining best in the scene where the two sisters find themselves in the dark, without electricity, in their ancestral home. That scene alone, which delectably works because she’s that crazy good shifting her emotions in seconds–while singing at that!–is worth the admission ticket.

The film’s extravagant finale: the grand procession of the Lady of La Naval, featuring the actual religious image of the miraculous Virgin Mary and around 700 extras, which also triggers Leo Rialp’s Don Lorenzo to break away from being a recluse, literally and figuratively finishes the film on a high note, despite the rather bittersweet mood as the war looms on the horizon.

This article first appeared on