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One The Scene - - Men On The Move      

MEN ON THE MOVE                                       
By Gerrye Wong    January  22, 2016
It is my pleasure this month to turn the spotlight on some extraordinary men in our community who have in the past, and continue to make a difference in our Asian American community and its citizens. These men have made it their mantra to introduce and spread Chinese American history and culture as something they believe in although they already lead busy lives.  Isn’t there a saying – The busy people are the best volunteers who get things done?

San Francisco Mayor Ed lee with Albert Cheng and Steven Owyang

In November, 2015 1800 Chengs from all over the world gathered in Zhongzhou as participants in theSecond World Zheng Cultural Congress.  BASILIO CHEN attended as the President of the Cheng Society of America since 2004, and sees this position as a way he can encourage fellow Chinese Americans to learn more about China’s history and in so doing, gain a true understanding and feeling for their own heritage and bonds to China.  Self describing his upbringing, Basilio shared, “I was raised in a traditional overseas Chinese family in Panama where my parents instilled Chinese traditions.  Above all, my father, at one time President of the local Chinese Association in Colon City, Panama, wanted to make sure our family retained pride in our Chinese heritage.  In my teens, I helped organize events to unite local born Chinese with Mainland Chinese, and after college, upon my return to Panama, a group and I founded the Chinese Youth Association to help us maintain our Chinese heritage.”

Basilio Chen and Albert Cheng

Upon Basilio’s return to America, settling in Silicon Valley, he became involved in Chinese American affairs here, including becoming the president of the Asian Business Association, Inc. in San Francisco. In 2000 he was recruited to assist with his Sanxiang Association (Gway Seng Association) as VP and Director, and later with the Yeong Wo Associations. Cheng recalls that in 2004 the promotion of cultural heritage by bringing people home to explore their roots became his major focus as his business activities in China had increased which allowed him time to be immersed in China for months at a time, and to find his own roots.
 Along with his friend, Dr Homer Cheng, in 2004 he went toZhengzhou to visit the land of their ancestors inXingyang town, Zhengzhou City, Henan Province, which opened his eyes to the fact he was a descendant to a line of ancestors dating back some 2800 years. He exclaimed, “Imagine how I felt upon learning I was the 89th generation descendant of the Zhou Dynasty. My father was 25th generation Zheng who came toSanxiang, making me by default the 26th generation, and the 89th generation descendant from the firstHenan Province, Zhengzhou City, Xingyang Town,” exclaimed Basilio proudly.
 Since then upon his own reawakening to his personal roots, Basilio Chen has worked hard at arranging for  over 16 groups whom he  brought back to visit their homeland ofSanxiang and discover their own China Mainland ancestors and personal family histories. Working with the local government, he has initiated the increase in communication between visitors and government, and helped even bridge together cultural understanding between overseas Chinese and their own families.   Chen laughs recalling many of his overseas travelers were mostly western educated, non-Chinese language speakers, and some not even familiar with Chinese foods and customs.  Today he sees much ongoing communication between the people in China from his hometown to the outside world, and hoping this continues, his next objective is to encourage them to bring their businesses or even return to live in China to experience more of their cultural roots through past generations.  Lofty goals, Basilio Chen, and we salute you!
ALBERT CHENG,a fourth generation Chinese American, has devoted over four decades to community involvement.  As an educator for over 30 years, in 1988 he took his first trip to China to find and visit his ancestral village of Sanxiang Wushi in Zhongshan Country of Guangdong Province. This journey visiting the village where his Cheng family had lived for more than 26 generations since 1044, started Albert’s love for genealogy and strong belief in the importance of family history and identity.  In 1991, Cheng and Him Mark Lai  founded and coordinated the IN SEARCH OF ROOTS  program, that became sponsored by the Chinese Historical Society of America, the Chinese Culture Foundation and the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of Guangdong Province.  For the next 25 years, Albert has led hundred of young Chinese Americans back to China in search of and visiting their ancestral villages.  An awardee of many recognitions, Albert in 2012 received the “Grand Charity/Humanitarian Award” from the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of Guangdong province, China and was referred as “the father of searching for Chinese roots”.  

1.Basilio Chen and Albert Cheng

I personally met Albert Cheng when we served together as fellow board members of the Chinese Historical Society of America in the early 2000s to help establish the CHSA in its present Clay Street San Francisco Chinatown headquarters.  I saw even then his personal commitment to youth and our mutual goal to share our proud Chinese American history in America with the outside world.  Today he continues to volunteer for the Friends of Roots Him Mark Lai Family History Project by leading several groups back to China in search of their ancestral heritage.  As proof of the impact he has made on many of his Roots participants, he remains in constant communication with many of them as witnessed on his personal Facebook page, in fact.  I love the fact that Albert still is passionate about volunteering for the  growth of awareness of  Chinese American history and  one’s ethnic identity with  family history.  His constant motto is a belief that strong roots build strong character, strong character creates strong communities and strong communities give us a strong country.   Thanks, Albert Cheng for your constant inspiration for all of us to never forget our roots.
STEVEN OWYANGhas worn many hats in the Bay Area. A fourth generation Chinese American, he attended the University of California during the height of the ethnic studies movement. Majoring in history and Chinese studies, he has since then had an ongoing interest in American race relations, the Chinese diaspora and the Asian American community.  His resume quickly shows his community involvement: Board member/advisor of American Civil Liberties Union of N. California, Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific Islander legal Outreach, Chinatown YMCA, Wah Mei School and Vanguard Public Foundation.  MeetingAlbert Cheng while working in the context of San Francisco Unified School District issues probably as far back as the 1970s, Steven showed his interest in getting involved with the Roots Program in the early 2000s.  His first Roots trip with Albert occurred in 2007, and by the next year he started leading Roots seminars on Chinese history and geography that Him Mark Lai formerly conducted.   Since then Owyang has traveled to China with seven Roots groups.
He told me, “As a Chinese studies student when doing undergrad work at UC Berkeley before going to law school as well as a youth group leader at the Chinatown YMCA, I  found  the Roots program has been a great way to combine my interests in China and in working with young people. Now retired, he adds, theFriends of Roots and Its Roots: Him Mark Lai Family History Project are my principal volunteer activities which I find not only great fun but very rewarding.”  
In recognition of both STEVEN OWYAND AND ALBERT CHENG’S work with the In Search of Roots program bringing youth to China to find their ancestral heritage, the ANGEL ISLAND IMMIGRATION STATION  FOUNDATION will be conferring the Immigrant Heritage Award
As Community leaders at its March 9, 2016 annual Gala Dinner.  To be held at the Grand Hyatt Union Square Hotel Ballroom, these two community-minded men will receive well deserved honors for their involvement in promoting Chinese American history and community issues and activity. Having watched the growth and influence that this Roots program has impacted many lives of its young participants, including my own nephews Jeffrey Ow and Adam Lam, I was happy to nominate these two fine gentlemen to be so honored.
 To In Search of Roots student/participants, this is one way you can come and support these two leaders who helped you visit your ancestral villages and discover more about your own personal family identity.  I know it has influenced many of you in exploring further and appreciating more your identity with your ethnic Chinese roots, so this may be a time you can show your appreciation to these two devoted gentlemen who made it happen for you.
For more information on how you can attend or show your support in honor of Steven Owyang and Albert Cheng, AIISF’s 2016 Community Leaders Honorees, contact  Grant Din,  415 348 9200; www.aiisf.org.     Let’s band together and salute theseIn Search of Roots leaders, Albert Cheng and Steven Owyang.
With the prospect of El Nino bringing the Bay Area well-needed rain, what better escape than to Hawaii’s Oahu Island of typical 80 degree temperatures, thought I, so along with Hawaii admirers Pat and Gerry Hing, off we went.  TheirKo Olina Marriott Timeshare  Resort base is a good half hour away from the crowded Waikiki area, if you avoid the typical rush hour traffic jams on its H1. However with its Aulani Disney Resort and community of hotel, timeshare and home guests, it is its own booming community set to grow and be crowded itself.  Meeting part time residents Jimmy and Trudy Fok from Switzerland, they shared that this Ko Olina area had more than tripled in people there since they first purchased their home more than 5 years ago.
The KO OLINA GOLF CLUB has always been rated as Golf Digest’s “Top 75 Resort Courses in the U.S.” so of course, we wanted to play it along with the many visitors who kept the course very busy this January, according to Head Golf Professional Marcus Judge who welcomed us.  Set on the sunnier West Coast of Oahu, while it was raining in other parts of the island, we experienced  Ko Olina’s beautifully manicured fairways  on a bright sunny 80s temperature day cooled by faint breezes as we enjoyed the Ted Robinson designed course.  Especially enjoyable are the manicured fairways and beautiful views, perfect for beginners and seniors as well as the experts who will play there at the 2016 LOTTE championship presented by Hershey coming up.  General Manager Greg Nichols was off playing in a ProAm tournament, but we must commend him here for keeping the course always in good shape, and as usual, we enjoyed the welcome service from all the personnel from gift shop to bag drop to cart return. No wonder Ko Olinakeeps getting accolades from Honolulu Advertiser naming it the “Best of the Best” award for the #1 golf course on Oahu. Calvin appreciated the Visage hands-free GPS system on the golf cart of map and yardage, and I enjoyed shopping at its golf shop which was named in the list of  Best 100 Golf Shops in the U.S. by Association of Golf Merchandisers.   For a wonderful golf experience on Oahu, Ko Olina is a great choice.  www.koolinagolf.com

Ko Olina Golf Club's head professional Marcus Judge welcomes Gerrye Wong to his popular course.

Honolulu’s Ala Moanashopping center went upscale with the November opening of BLOOMINGDALE’S  which definitely will serve as a centerpiece of a major retail expansion there, already named the world’s largest open-air shopping mall.  Catering to the international tourism trade that comes to Hawaii, Bloomingdale’s offers a multi-lingual staff, complimentary coat and suitcase check, hotel package delivery and style advisor services.  When meeting General Manager Carolyn Edward, she told me she is thrilled with this opportunity to offer the local citizens as well as the visitors to Hawaii a special assortment of contemporary and luxury merchandise.

Bloomingdales Ala Moana Public Relations Director Nancy Lueck welcomes Gerrye Wong and Pat Hing to Honolulu's new store.
Nancy Lueck, Director of Public Relations at Bloomngdale’s Ala Moana,welcomed us with beautiful leis that had been given out at the Gala Opening Celebration of the store.  The over 800  koa nut and miniature shell leis had been the labor of a corps of senior citizen women with the Hawaii Lei Company for over 6 months but I applaud Bloomingdale’s for not only employing local citizens but making sure the leis were authentic Hawaiian.  On the main floor my Honolulu friendBunny Look showed me the special Korean skincare shop, Aritaum, and special new products shown to us by Emily from Korean manufacturerSulwhasoo.  Nearby four serene glass-encased skincare treatment rooms looked especially welcoming to us too for a return visit.

Forty Carrots Chef Jon Matsubara and Bloomingdales General Manager Carolyn Edward show off the store's popular restaurant
 On the third floor, Bloomingdale’s restaurant FORTY CARROTS drew lines of anxious diners. Also lining up were frozen yogurt fans who have heard of the store’s signature yogurt which has been a favorite since it was originated 45 years ago in the New York store.  Chef Jon Matsubara told us he is emphasizing local products and introducing many innovative dishes from his background studying at the New York Culinary Institute and working at Japengo, Hyatt Regency and Azure at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel upon returning to his Honolulu hometown. Looking around the small restaurant, we saw happy diners enjoying the Lamp French Dip from the island of Nihau, which seemed the most popular item on the menu.  I tried the Bouillabase soup and Caviar with Nori Chips and the Ocean Seafood Salad which hit the spot too.      Bloomingdale’s is definitely adding some class to Honolulu’s Ala Moana Center so be sure to visit it on your next visit to Hawaiian paradise.

Sulshasoo  Cosmetics line advisor  shows products to Pat Hing and Bunny Look.


SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONYwill presents its16th Annual Chinese New Year Concert and CelebrationSaturday, February 13 with a 2 pm Festival Reception, 3pm Chinese New Year Concert, and 4pm Imperial Dinner.  The concert will featureConductor Mei-Ann Chen, the Loong Mah Sing See Wui Dance Ensemble and Wu Man soloing on the Pipa with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.  Event chair Patti Lee-Hoffman promises pre-concert festivities of playful entertainment in the spirit of the Year of the Monkeywith children’s arts and crafts, lion dancing and complimentary desserts and tea bars.   Proceeds will benefit the SFS’s myriad community outreach and education programs to more than 75,000 Bay Area children each year. Enjoy an afternoon celebration. Ticket info:  sfsymphony,org, 415 864 6000.
SAN JOSE STAGEwill present the World Premiere of VALLEY OF THE HEART, a sweeping epiC rooted in Santa Clara County.  The story theme is of post World War II when two immigrant families, the Yamaguchis and the Montanos, are struggling to provide a future for their American-born children.  The story evolves when their two children Teruko and Ben fall in love, Pearl Harbor is attacked and Japanese American internment camps affect everything the families have built and believe in.  Its wonderful to welcome a show where many of our local Asian actors can participate in.  Joining the cast areRandall Nakano, Christina Chu, Ryan Takemiya and Anthony Chan.  Running from February 10-March 6, this should be a must-see for all of us to support this Asian-themed play of a topic that doesn’t usually get much attention. Hats off to San Jose Stage Company for bringing this locally inspired show to our Santa Clara Valley audiences.  San Jose Stage Company is located in the SOFA district of downtown San Jose, CA. Rush to get tickets to this world premiere:   www.thestage.org
Thunderous applause came from a standing ovation by opening night patrons at THEATREWORKS new musical play, “Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin”.  I was among those wildly applauding Mr. Felder’s work as the performer, playwright and director.  Hershey brought to composer Irving Berlin’s life fleeing anti-semitism of Czarist Russia, capturing the rhythms of the Lower East Side and enchanting the entire world with his music.  We, the audience, were mesmerized by Felder’s portrayal of Berlin, and enthusiastically sang along when he invited us to join him in Berlin favorites “White Christmas” and “God Bless America”.   This one-man show is an enthralling story of Irving Berlin, whom he calls America’s Mozart, from start to finish, so don’t miss this Northern California premiere at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts,from January 13-February 14.  www.theatreworks.org; 650 327 1200.
CITY LIGHTS THEATER COMPANYis opening “Tiger Be Still” January 23-February 21  about two sisters fighting depression. Said to be a comedy showing humor in suburbia, this South Bay premiere stars Akemi Okamura, who has been active with the company in many other aspects of staging so it will be fun to see her on stage this time. Melissa Weinstein stars as sister Sherry.  Info: www.cltc.org.

 Los Altos hills actress Christina Chu plays leading role in Valley of the Heart production.