Friday, July 23, 2010

URGENT: USA cred. authority (FSBPT) bans Philippines graduates from physical therapy exam for 1+ year (NPTE)

I want to invite you to read about a recent controversial decision that has affected an entire country and would like to hear your feedback.  Plus, if you agree with me on this post and you live in the United States, please write to your congressman.

I have outlined my points below.
  • WHO. A non-profit organization, called Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) certifies most physical therapy / physical therapy applicants in the United States. 
    • Presumably, most of the income that they earn every year originate from the state governments' referrals for their exams and services and any taxpayer funded support from those respective state health boards. 
    • This non-profit, pseudo-government organization holds a virtual monopoly on physical therapy exams.
    • As part of their service to the government and the American public, FSBPT investigates whether test exam questions are being recalled from previous test takers and are being shared.  
    • Their security checks attempt to ensure the protection of the American public by making sure all physical therapy exam passers have the knowledge to practice this health profession.
  • WHAT.  In the past, FSBPT has found cheaters in the United States and other countries.  
    • This time they found alleged cheaters in Manila, Philippines, specifically in one island. In particular, a review center called St. Louis Review Center (SLRC) stood out as the biggest issue "...and its alleged owners/operators, Gerard L. Martin, Roger P. Tong-An and Carlito Balita...".
    • Instead of banning graduates from that review center or from that area, they banned graduates of the entire country from taking the normal NPTE exam.  
    • To sum it up: potential issue in one island, FSBPT bans 7,100 islands.
    • When asked, if there were Philippine PT graduates that already live in the U.S. and never stepped foot in the alleged review center, would they also be banned from taking the normal exam?  Answer: They are still banned. Here is their full e-mail:

    • On Sat, Jul 17, 2010 at 1:31 AM,
                Shana Dawkins wrote:           Don,
      Testing is being halted for new PT and PTA NPTE registrations for graduates of Egyptian, Indian, Pakistani and Philippine programs. This applies even to candidates residing in the U.S. 
      You will be required to take the NPTE-YRLY if you wish to test when it becomes available and will not be eligible until then.
      Separate PT and PTA examinations, called the NPTE-YRLY, will be developed for Egyptian, Indian, Pakistani and Philippine programs.
      The Federation estimates that the new examinations will be available in fall 2011. The plan is to continue to offer the NPTE-YRLY once a year for graduates of those programs going forward.
      The locations at which this test will be given have not yet been determined. This decision is final and there are no exceptions.
      Please contact our office by phone if you have additional questions rather than responding to this email.
      Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy
      124 West Street South Third Floor
      Alexandria, VA 22314 703-739-9420

      From: Don Sausa
      Sent: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 1:12 PM
      Subject: NPTE for Philippines graduate living in US?
      I understand there's security concerns in test/exam centers in the Philippines. How about for graduates already in the United States and are U.S. citizens living here but graduated from a Philippines school? Are those individuals banned too from taking the test? Even though they've never been to a Philippines review center?

  • SANCTIONS AGAINST THE PHILIPPINES: Fair Action? Or Discrimination? I have officially sent a request to FSBPT today to see meeting minutes, voting records, and investigation notes to help me understand whether their decision to ban an entire country from the normal NPTE exam was fair.
    • Unequal treatment? Graduates in America were also found cheating in the past and in a more recent case even provided false credentials to get into an exam.  With such blatant fraud, how come U.S.-based graduates aren't also in question and aren't banned from normal NPTE exams? (Obviously, a rhetorical question. My point is, I disagree with discriminating against an entire population. Punish the criminals, not the innocents!)
  • POINT #1 - Federation's Decision Hurts America's Health: America's schools has not been able to sufficiently meet the demands of an aging population.  As more people retire, the needs for nurses and physical therapists have been increasing.  
    • In fact, the demand is so high that Wall Street Journal's Career Journal considers the PT profession to be one of the eight best and most in demand professions in America.  
    • As a case study, a recent article in Puget Sound Business Journal, shows that Washington has over 320,000+ unemployed individuals in public record yet they could not fill any of the physical therapy openings at Symmetry Physical Therapy's clinic.  There's simply no supply.  
    • In my opinion, the Federation's decision to cut the supply will negatively affect patient care.  
  • POINT #2 - Federation's Decision Is Inhumane: The plane ticket to America, meals, hotels, the visa clearance, and the difficulty of going through U.S. immigration rules by itself, could easily cost a college graduate's family well over $5000.  This is coming from a country that has a yearly per capita income of $3,300 (source: CIA World Book).  In layman's terms, an average Filipino family would have to give up almost two years worth of income just to take this exam.
  • POINT #3 - Federation's Decision Is Hurting Innocent People, Including Those In Poverty: The Federation has an impressive list of health professionals in their board of directors. A group of health professionals that know the in's and out's of the health industry. But the relative ease of this decision and re-affirmation of it days later is very concerning and shows a lack of depth or understanding on what they have done to thousands of families. They have punished innocent PT graduates by directly banning an entire country's graduates.
    • There were innocent PT graduates that spent their family's life savings that's in the U.S. already to take the exam and now they have been told to wait one year.  
    • But the truth is: these applicants have to re-take all of the visa work, the immigration work, language tests, and other processes all over again!  
    • They have to once again find the same amount of money (nearly 2 years worth of an average family's income) because the PT graduates' visas and certificates have expiration dates.  They can't stay in the U.S. indefinitely.
    • As we speak, there are now people suffering from this decision -- innocent people, a significant number of which are in poverty. What happened to due process?  Innocent before proven guilty?

1. You can fax FSBPT at (703) 299-3110, and call them at (703) 299-3100 and write to them at 509 Wythe Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314. You should also e-mail them at: It is important that you send and communicate your dissatisfaction across all lines of communication, to make sure they receive the message.

2. Even if you are not a candidate, if you disagree with the discriminatory actions taken by the FSBPT that affects the life savings of thousands of candidates and applicants, you should communicate your dissatisfaction to FSBPT. Please be cordial as possible, along the lines of: "While I agree that an investigation needs to be conducted, I disagree with discriminating against an entire country."

3. If you are a U.S. citizen or U.S. resident, write to your congressman and senator.  Join the petition and instantly write to your congressman.

4. Write to your attorney general's office (U.S. citizen or legal resident) and ask for an investigation on the legality of such discriminatory practices.

5. Write to your physical therapy state board body.

6. Contact all Asian and Filipino associations and ask them if they should tolerate FSBPT's discriminatory actions.

7. If you are a lawyer or know of a lawyer in your state, ask them if they know of any state statutes that FSBPT may have broken since their ban is across all states against any PT graduate from the Philippines...even if that applicant never set foot in a Philippines review center.

8. Contact physical therapy associations in your state and lobby for support.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Sabbath Expedition: Balaring, Silay, Philippines

Healthy Coastal Habitats in Negros Occidental: A Rare Treat

Two days ago, I read about the extensive mangrove forest restoration efforts at Balaring, Silay. Over the years, the local government, BAMPA, Japanese aid groups (IKAW-AKO), Girl Scouts, and the international chipmaker, AMD, have cleaned up the coast line and the nearby estuaries.

I have been monitoring the shorelines of Bacolod for quite some time and have found them to be depressing, with little wildlife activity and an abundant supply of pollution. The only birds I typically find near the Bacolod shore lines are Euroasian Tree Sparrows that people mistakenly identify as mayas. So I was quite surprised, and excited to read about the restoration efforts at this little township called Balaring.

Restoration of Mangroves = Bird Watershed?

I was curious whether the restoration efforts increased the amount of bird activity in the area.

You see birds can be an instant bellwether of the local environment.

The late Roger Tory Peterson, an ornithologist, and one of the founding fathers of the modern environmental movement, once said, "Birds are an ecological litmus paper. Because of their rapid metabolism and wide geographic range, they reflect changes in the environment quickly..."

With the wife's approval, and with little Kaycee's prayers, we set out on a mini-bird expedition as a Sabbath activity. With my Canon 7D packed, and insect repellent, we drove to Balaring and arrived there with just one wrong turn (a record!).

Directions: Getting There

From Manila, you fly to Bacolod-Silay airport. You take a right on the main national highway (Rizal St/Lacson), go for a couple of miles until you are at the end of Silay proper. As you are about to exit the city, you will find sugarcane fields and one lone building, the T.L. Jalandoni Provincial Hospital. Take a left immediately after that hospital and follow the road to the coast.

From Bacolod, you head north on Lacson St and head north. As you are about to exit the city of Silay, you will find sugarcane fields and one lone building, the T.L. Jalandoni Provincial Hospital. Take a left immediately after that hospital and follow the road to the coast.

First impressions of the area

The coastal area of Balaring is fairly primitive. I want to set your expectations straight, do not expect any three star accommodations here or for that matter, running water and electricity.

You can tell most of the industry here is primarily dependent on fishing and aquaculture. There's a few floating restaurants nearby that may interest the adventure loving tourist. I hear they have some of the best seafood in town.

Eureka! Birds!

And as I looked around, I started seeing some signs of wildlife near the fish farms. I pulled out the trusty Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS lens and a Canon EF 1.4X II extender to see what kind of birds were in this area and to my surprise, I saw a Striated Heron (Butorides striata)! The first time I've seen them in this region.

These birds are known for some unique behaviors such as dropping feathers or leaves on the water so they can attract fish!

This is the same kind of bird but at another location near Silay called Talisay.

Then after the Striated Heron, I saw a white bird walking about. It was a Little Egret (Egretta Garzetta) stalking fish.

Also saw the White-collared Kingfisher (Todirhampus chloris).

Probably the most common bird I saw aside from the typical sparrows, were the Pacific Swallow or Hill Swallow (Hirundo tahitica). A rare treat that he stopped for a few minutes to let me take a picture.

Another large bird I saw was an interesting Javan Pond Heron (Ardeola speciosa). It has breeding plumage, so it must be mating season. Look carefully and you will find two of them in the picture.

And what's a bird tour in the Philippines without at least one picture of the Philippine maya, the national bird of the Philippines up until 1995. The Black-headed Munia also known as Chestnut Munia (Lonchura atricapilla) is an estrildid finch found throughout Asia. The subspecies that's endemic to the Philippines is called Lonchura atricapilla jagori.

Here's a couple of pictures of a face off between the Javan Pond Heron (Ardeola speciosa) and the Little Egret (Egretta Garzetta) and one Javan Pond Heron flying off.

Conclusion: Balaring has a future, for the birds and for the people

Looks like the habitat restoration is paying off, with migratory birds and non-migratory birds taking advantage of the new ecosystem developing around the newly expanded mangrove forest. In time, you will see the supply of fish increase as these estuaries mature and more birds will come to the area.

From an economic standpoint, Silay could take advantage of this and further expand this area, not only ensuring that the fishing villages have ample stocks of fish through the habitat restoration, but to also expand the current ecotourism attractions from the current mangrove forests tours to guided bird tours that employ the local population. Add solar powered lights for night use, pave the dirt road, put in a weekly garbage collection route, add some picnic tables, and this place could be an awesome weekend distraction even for the locals.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pinoys: Will the real Philippine Maya bird please stand up?

This is a classic case study of incorrect information being passed on from generation to generation. I hope this little piece of information can help calibrate the Philippine national identity just a little bit.

The Philippine Maya Bird
The real maya, the Philippines' national bird before 1995.

False Maya Bird of the Philippines
This was never a national bird of the Philippines!

One of the most widely spread misinformation in the Philippines is the identity of our formal national bird. Before the Philippine Eagle was declared as the official national bird of the Philippines in 1995, the title previously belonged to the Philippine maya.

Everyone thinks it's the brown bird...
When I was a child, I was told all of those tiny brown birds were all mayas. Everyone around me thought the same. My friends, family, and teachers, all of them thought the brown birds were mayas. Unfortunately what I was taught was incorrect. These brown animals, the most widely seen bird species in the country, is not actually endemic to the Philippines. It's found all over Europe and Asia and was introduced here. The official name of this bird is the Eurasian Tree Sparrow or Passer montanus.

The real maya stands out -- it's red in color
Thankfully this morning, in my backyard in Bacolod, Philippines, a real maya bird visited my garden. This was the first time I've ever captured a real maya bird on a DSLR. He was looking to build his nest and something in my garden attracted him. Soon there were two of them looking around for building material.

The Philippine maya is otherwise known as the Black-headed Munia also known as Chestnut Munia (Lonchura atricapilla). While it's family is found throughout Asia, the maya bird subspecies particularly belongs to the Philippines. It's called Lonchura atricapilla jagori.

When they are young, the color of their feathers are brown but when they mature, they turn red.

So there you have it, you have now been given truth. Spread it out and help educate the masses! Teach your friends, relatives, and children the correct information. If you are Pinoy, you should at least know your former national bird wasn't an introduced species by foreigners.

Maya bird, the Philippine national bird before 1995

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Hong Kong's "A Symphony of Lights"

Hong Kong's "A Symphony of Lights"
Originally uploaded by Don Sausa

Traditionally, on July 4th weekend I would see fireworks in the United States. But since I'm in Asia, I guess this will do.

According to Guinness World Records, Hong Kong's "A Symphony of Lights" is considered to be the world's largest permanent light and sound show. There are over 40 buildings involved in the show and the features include laser beams, search lights, and colored displays, all of which synchronized to the music that's playing over loud speakers. The show typically starts at 8pm and ends around 8:15pm. This shot was taken near the Clock Tower at Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.

This is not HDR. This is a plain shot with light contrast, no post process noise reduction either. Equipment: Canon 7D and Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L lens using a tripod, remote trigger, and a 1/25 sec shutter at ISO 100.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Photography workshop in Bacolod, Philippines

Just posting a plug for Teleperformance Philippines' Shutterbug Photography Workshop on July 19, 2010 that I'll be participating in. This is free for all active Teleperformance employees that want to learn about the basic fundamentals of photography.

In class sessions will be about 3 hours and practical portraits/shooting will be done in the afternoon.

For more information, contact: