Last Monday, January 17, Loida Virina was a passenger in a vehicle that met a tragic accident at Interstate Highway 10 in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. She was fatally injured and we have lost a dear colleague, a great teacher and a wonderful friend.
Ate Loida (Big Sister Loida), as she is fondly called, was a loving wife to Edgar and a remarkable mother to three wonderful young daughters ages twelve, nine and four. She was also a good and caring daughter to her mother, and to her father who passed away more than a year ago.
Loida is one of the brightest teachers our country has produced. She has always strived to inspire kids and adults alike to learn and reach for their potentials. As the First Grade Level Chairperson at Ryan Elementary in Baton Rouge she has showed her leadership and passion to her vocation.
We are deeply saddened by this loss. We will miss Loida’s picture-perfect pose and the killer smile that’s ready to melt anyone's heart. We will miss Loida’s presence and the positive energy she brings. As a colleague and union leader, we will miss her leadership and fervor.
We will always remember Ate Loida as the teacher who was always armed with prayers as she mostly led invocations that kick off teachers’ meetings and gatherings. Now it is our turn to lead a prayer for the repose of her soul, for peace in the hearts of those saddened by this tragedy, and comfort for her grieving family.
The Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana has started a contribution drive for the family of Loida. Please contact Janet, FEFL Treasurer, on how to send your financial contribution or email to
. Any amount, $1, $5, $10, will go a long way as we try to share, in whatever small way we can, the burden of this tragic event. We will be publishing the names and the amount of the contributions in this website. If you want to use a pseudonym or wish to remain anonymous please inform us. Thanks.
The remains of Loida is now at Rabenhorst Funeral Home East at 11000 Florida Boulevard, Baton Rouge, LA 70815-2010 with contact number (225) 272-9950. Below is the program of the activity for January 22, 2010 (Saturday). To celebrate Loida's life, we encourage everyone to wear her favorite color: GREEN.
10:00 AM to 12:30 PM - Viewing
12:30 PM to 1:30 PM - Funeral Rites by Father Paul Yi and Catholic Prayer Community
1:30 PM to 2:00 PM - Viewing
2:00 PM to 3:30 PM - Rosary and 6th Day Novena with Catholic Prayer Community
3:30 PM to 4:00 PM - Viewing
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM - Praise and Worship with Christian Fellowship International
6:00 PM to 6:30 PM - Viewing
6:30 PM to 8:30 PM - FUNERAL SERVICE
8:30 PM to 9:00 PM - Announcements
Last Updated on Saturday, 22 January 2011 19:20
Press Statement | 08.05.2010 | On Filing of Class Suit
Thursday, 05 August 2010 20:35
Press Statement August 05, 2010
Justice to Filipino migrant teachers!
(This is the statement released by FEF during the press conference held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on the class suit filed against UPI, PARS and others.)
Two to three years ago, we made a big sacrifice. We decided to leave our country and start a new life as teachers in a foreign land. At first, we were hesitant to leave our families, our children and our friends; our very own community and the pupils whom we have served and learned to love.
However, the aspiration of securing a better future for our families made our decision easier. We all believe that America is a land full of promise – a promise of opportunity for ourselves and stable future for our families.
So we started our journey, sacrificed all to raise the needed resources, borrowed money from lending agencies, put ourselves deep in debt, selling our properties, resigned from our respective jobs, practically putting in line the very future of our children, of our families.
We never imagined that an oppressive racketeering trap was laid before us. Universal Placement International or UPI and its Philippine-based conduit, PARS International, created a non-transparent scheme that starts with earning your trust, then proceeds with a series of payment collection laced with subtle intimidation and then followed through with fraud, coercion and open extortion. We were herded onto a path, a slowly constricting path, where the moment you realize that something is not right, you were already way past the point of no return.
Of course, this oppressive scheme of UPI and PARS wouldn’t have been totally successful without the knowledge, tolerance and support from individuals who acted on behalf of the School System. We cannot deny the fact that they cooperated with the recruiters or failed to object to actions that they knew were highly questionable if not downright illegal. This is tantamount to aiding and abetting the illegal and oppressive operation of the recruitment agency.
We, members of the Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana, would like to make it clear that we harbor no ill will towards the Louisiana School System. We want to emphasize that we love this community and we now consider Louisiana as our home. We think of our students as our own kids. The new superintendent has paid attention to our concerns and has closely monitored the problems we have encountered. And we have had tremendous support from the East Baton Rouge community. We will continue to give our 100 percent to our teaching vocation as we strive to push our students for a brighter future. Let me also use this opportunity to declare once again that we continue to have a strong commitment to our students, and will continue to serve the district for we believe that the actions by some individuals within the EBR School District do not represent the values of the institution and the people of Louisiana.
Now, we are here before you to make public our filing of a class action lawsuit against these abusive recruitment agencies and against all others who are responsible in perpetrating these serious violations against human dignity.
This is going to be a long battle but we are steadfast in our resolve to correct the wrongs that were committed. We are here to assert that there is no room for these oppressive and exploitative schemes in a civilized society. The goal of our lawsuit is to ensure that these exploitative practices end now. We do not want this to happen to any other teachers who come here from the Philippines or anywhere else. And we can not stop these oppressive schemes unless everyone involved understand that they cannot simply look the other way when they encounter abusive practices by recruiters.
We have learned a lot from these experiences, from these struggles. And we are very fortunate to have the support of the American Federation of Teachers, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the East Baton Rouge Parish Federation of Teachers, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the law firm Covington and Burling, and the Filipino community here in Louisiana; as well as Philippine-based groups that work with us, the PSLINK labor confederation and the Philippine labor party. We owe a great deal to all of them for they have given us the courage and support to stand up for our rights and have magnified our voice when nobody listened.
Now as we continue to embark on our enduring journey, we call on our colleagues in the Louisiana School System and to the public to support our cause as this is not just a migrant teachers issue but an issue of public interest, an issue that concerns respect for human rights and an issue that concerns the education of our children.
Justice to Filipino migrant teachers! Justice to all migrant workers!
For the full text of the class action complaint please click here.
Last Updated on Saturday, 07 August 2010 21:09
Filipino teachers group receives US union’s Democracy Award
Sunday, 11 July 2010 23:09
July 9, 2010
Filipino teachers group receives US union’s Democracy Award
A newly formed Filipino teachers group based in Louisiana, USA received today a prestigious award conferred by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a large US-wide union of teachers and professionals.
In a national convention of the AFT, the Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana (FEFL) was awarded the President’s International Democracy Award. This award was created two years ago by AFT “to highlight the continuing struggle for human rights around the world.”
In an earlier letter to FEFL informing of the award, AFT stated, “We have selected your organization for your perseverance in fighting against the abusive treatment of placement agencies, its dedication to promote the rights and welfare of all educators and migrants and its commitment to the democratic and legal system.”
In the letter addressed to Ingrid Jomento-Cruz, the founding President of FEFL, AFT further said “AFT leaders and staff have witnessed the immense courage you and your colleagues have displayed in the face of great adversity.”
Jomento-Cruz, also an active member of AFT, received the award in behalf of the Filipino teachers group. Jomento-Cruz and other Filipino teachers have been instrumental in organizing the efforts of Filipino migrant teachers against the abuses of their recruitment agency, Universal Placement International (UPI) and its Philippine-based counterpart, PARS International. Jomento-Cruz was also accorded as the International Honoree during the same event.
The efforts of the Filipino teachers in coordination with AFT and other groups resulted to initial legal victories including the decision by Louisiana Workforce Commission ordering UPI to refund up to $1.8 Million in fees to the teachers.
In her acceptance speech, Jomento-Cruz cited how AFT helped them revisit a Filipino virtue of Bayanihan. “It is most impressively displayed in the old tradition of neighbors helping a relocating family by getting enough volunteers to literally carry the house on their shoulders and moving it to its new and better location. And believe it or not, that act is done with happy, festive and unexpecting disposition. We can clearly see then that these heroes in the community collectively work and sacrifice for each other and be heroes to one another. In essence, Bayanihan is all but one with the spirit of Unionism.”
“AFT made us realized a strong message of being heroes in our own ways united as a potent force, unloading each other’s burden, pushing common goals and aspirations with pride and dignity,” added Jomento-Cruz.
The AFT convention, held in Seattle, Washington, is currently ongoing and is attended by more than 3,000 union members and guests from labor and union network all over world. Filipinos are well represented in the convention with Filipino migrant teachers as delegates from different states including Baltimore, Washington DC, California and Louisiana. International guests also include Philippine-based organizations; Annie Geron, Secretary General of Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK) and Ian Seruelo, US-Liaison Officer of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM). PM and PSLINK have been supporting the organizing, campaign and legal efforts of Filipino teachers.
The formation of FEFL earlier this year marked the unified and coordinated action by migrant Filipino teachers in Louisiana to push back against the exploitative practices of their placement agencies. The founding objectives of FEFL include the following: (1) To help Filipino teachers and workers who are victims of trafficking, oppressive forms of recruitment and unfair labor practices; (2) To implement campaigns to pursue justice and enforce the rights of migrant teachers and workers; (3) To advocate for the promotion of the welfare of migrant workers both in the US and in the Philippines, and (4) To raise public awareness about the plight of migrant teachers and workers as a whole. ###
Last Updated on Sunday, 11 July 2010 23:28
Press Statement | 04.16.2010 | On LWC Decision
Tuesday, 20 April 2010 20:24
Press Statement April 16, 2010
LWC decision – a victory for justice!
We, members of the Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana, applaud the decision of the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC). This decision is a big victory for our struggle for justice. While the decision fell short of declaring the teachers contracts with the placement agency void, we are nevertheless delighted with the outcome of the case.
We called for the LWC to give relief to the migrant Filipino teachers deployed in the different school districts in Louisiana who showed their dedication to their vocation despite their horrible circumstances. With this decision, we believe it had done just that. The decision shows that the Commission stood by the public policy that oppressive forms of recruitment has no place in the State of Louisiana – that these kinds of worker exploitation has no place in society. What Universal Placement International has done is exactly the types of oppression and abuse that the LPES (Louisiana Private Employment Service) law seeks to prevent and punish.
“This Commission does not have the power to impose a criminal sanction on the Defendant. The matter will be referred to the appropriate authorities as the Director of the Louisiana Workforce Commission may deem necessary.” It is clear from this excerpt of the decision that while the Commission has no power to impose criminal sanctions it believes that there is strong evidence that UPI have criminal liabilities.
The Filipino Educators Federation recognize that this latest development is not the end but just a new beginning in our struggle for justice and our advocacy for an end to oppressive recruitment practices. As we have underscored before, our efforts is not only for ourselves and our families but also to the hundreds more who stand to be victimized if these excessively unjust practices are not stopped.
We now encourage all other Filipino teachers who share these experiences to come out and join our continuing quest for justice. We recognize that this struggle will be long and hard but with our broad unities, principled action and perseverance we will be able to successfully overcome these. We know that in the end, truth and justice will prevail.
Lastly, we would like to extend our appreciation to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (LFT), the Labor Party of the Philippines (PM-Philippines), the Filipino community in Louisiana and the broader public. They have provided us with the strength, guidance and moral support to enable us to persist in our struggle and pursue our dreams.
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 August 2010 20:41
Press Statement | 04.05.2010 | On LWC Hearing
Tuesday, 20 April 2010 20:10
Press Statement April 5, 2010
Stop oppressive forms of recruitment! Scrap the unjust UPI teacher contracts!
We, members of the Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana, call for the immediate end to the oppressive recruitment practices of Universal Placement International (UPI) and the scrapping of the unjust contract that were forced on the teachers. We are victims of these practices and have banded together as an organization to assert our rights and advocate for the protection of the rights of migrant teachers and workers as a whole.
We join all the Filipino teachers who share our aspiration for justice. We fully support the efforts of our fellow educators under the banner of the American Federation of Teachers and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. We are not doing this only for ourselves and our families but also to the hundreds more who stand to be victimized if these excessively unjust practices are not stopped.
Our members will be testifying in today’s hearing to put on record the oppression we have experienced and the onerous contracts that were forced on the Filipino teachers under the threat of being “deported” or deprived of a job. We have experienced different forms of intimidation and manipulation that was aimed solely to strengthen the grip of tyranny of Lulu Navarro over all of us.
Filipino teachers have suffered from excessive and illegal fees and up to now our families are burdened with heavy debts back home. We have endured verbal threats and legal bullying to make us submit to the whims of the placement agency.
Indeed Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro, the owner of UPI, is not new to such criminal behavior as she is a convicted felon in the State of California on several counts of Medi-Cal fraud, grand theft, money laundering and identity theft.
We call on the Louisiana Workforce Commission to give relief to the migrant Filipino teachers deployed in the different school districts in Louisiana who have showed dedication to their vocation and commitment to quality education. We call on the commission to stand with the foreign teachers who have showed perseverance to make a difference in the lives of the children of Louisiana despite their horrible circumstances.
We appeal on the honorable commission to nullify the lopsided contract that is being utilized by Universal Placement International as a tool to oppress these migrant teachers. We appeal on the commission to stand by Louisiana’s public policy and tell the world that these inhumane practices have no place in the State; that no legal technicality can provide a smokescreen for repression.
We also enjoin all other Filipino teachers who share these experiences to come out and stand up for your rights. Let us broaden our unities against this injustice and together pursue our dreams for our families with dignity.
We call on all workers and parents here in Louisiana to support our cause for justice as this is not simply an issue about recruitment but an issue that concerns a grossly immoral and deceitful practice aimed at enriching a person at the expense of others. This issue is imbued with public interest as it concerns the education of our children.
Today, as we struggle for justice, we renew our commitment to serve the needs of the different school districts in the State of Louisiana. We enjoin the public in our aspiration to end all oppressive forms of recruitment. Join us in our call to put a stop to the illegal operations of Universal Placement International and the nullity of these burdensome teachers’ contracts.
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 August 2010 20:41
Filipino teachers form organization to pursue justice vs recruiter
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 00:23
February 12, 2010
Filipino teachers form organization to pursue justice vs recruiter
Baton Rouge, Louisiana – Filipino migrant teachers who are in a struggle against their recruitment agency on allegations of overcharges and exploitation have banded together to form an advocacy and campaigns organization to consolidate their growing movement.
In a whole day activity dubbed as Filipino Migrant Teachers Assembly held last February 6, 2010 at the Labor Hall in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, more than 50 teachers from the different school districts in Louisiana discussed the concept, objectives and organizational structure of the group. By the end of the day the Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana was formed and a set of officers was elected.
Ingrid Cruz, one of the organizers of the activity and the elected founding President of the federation underscored the importance of the gathering. “This formation is not only to obtain justice for ourselves and our families but to increase awareness on the issue and prevent more Filipinos from being victimized by these unscrupulous and abusive placement agencies.”
Among the objectives of group are the following: 1. To help Filipino teachers and workers who are victims of trafficking, oppressive forms of recruitment and unfair labor practices; 2. To implement campaigns to pursue justice and enforce the rights of migrant teachers and workers; and 3. To advocate for the promotion of the welfare of migrant workers both in the US and in the Philippines.
It can be recalled that several Filipino teachers started to expose the oppressive policies of their placement agency and their horrible experiences through a blog, www.pinoyteachershub.blogspot.com, which until now continues to rally the teachers to move collectively to obtain justice. People behind the blog are believed to be part of this teachers’ formation.
In the latter part of last year, the teachers with the help of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have filed complaints against the California-based Universal Placement International (UPI) with the U.S. Department of Labor and the Louisiana Workforce Commission. In the Philippines, these teachers in coordination with the labor party-list Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) are filing complaints with the POEA against UPI’s Philippine-based counterpart PARS International.
Mairi Nunag, also an organizer of the formation and the elected Executive Vice-President said that they are expecting that more Filipino teachers will join the organization. “We have many more colleagues who are one with our goals and aspirations. Before, they are afraid to come out in the open to fight these agencies but now many realized that there is no more option left but to stand up and fight.”
The activity was keynoted by Atty. Jesse Marchan, a Filipino-American immigration lawyer who has also volunteered to help the teachers in their situation. Solidarity messages from the Filipino community in Baton Rouge, from PM labor party-list, from the teachers’ blog and other groups were read during the activity.
Renato Magtubo, PM Chairperson, in a message of solidarity challenged the newly formed organization for the “bigger battle of gaining a voice and winning reforms for Filipino migrant workers in the US.” Ian Seruelo, the PM-Liaison Officer in the U.S. who is also one of the organizers of the event expressed confidence that the formation will solidify the gains of the different efforts and campaigns against the “oppressive tandem of UPI-PARS.” “We will not stop until those responsible for these exploitative practices are punished,” Seruelo added.
Filipino teachers who are holding H1B working visas were deployed in different school districts in Louisiana starting 2007 to fill in the shortage of teachers especially in the fields of math, science and special education. ###
Caption of picture above: Oath-Taking of newly-elected officers of the Filipino Educators Federation of Louisiana administered by Atty. Jesse Marchan (left-most). From left are Ingrid Cruz (President), Mairi Nunag (Executive Vice-President), Eva Adolfo (Secretary), Marilou Garin (VP for Avoyelles), Shiela Lumod (VP for New Orleans), Tony Limjoco (VP for East Baton Rouge), Donna Escuadra (Constitution and By Laws Comm), Cesar Tiu (VP for East Carroll), Ian Cainglet (Auditor), Aloie Inocian, Jr. (Ways and Means Comm), Ma. Janet Anober (Treasurer), Judith Pajitan (Finance Comm), and Robert Garcia (Membership Comm). Not in the picture are Jave Pajuelas (Campaigns and Advocacy Comm), Gemma Baisac (Professional Development Comm) and Luzellene Perez (VP for Jefferson).