Tag Archives: OWI


John and Vonny Oei
John and Vonny Oei

Serendipitously, in 2002, I met a dynamic couple who are trailblazing entrepreneurs in the Indonesian American community, John and Vonny Oei, at their April Financial Inc. office in San Francisco, California during a political campaign’s phone banking activities. It would be three years later that John offered me a marketing position at their ThinkApril.com insurance brokerage and Intero Real Estate San Francisco Sunset office.

There were other interesting endeavors that attracted me as I worked side by side with them in the office where Bahasa and English were the languages of choice. In 1998, John Oei helped organize the Indonesian-Chinese-American Network (ICANet) as a result of the violence that was aimed at Indonesia’s eight million ethnic Chinese. This non-profit organization is dedicated to the advancement of universal human rights for all people, with a focus on Indonesians. ICANet’s strong interest in the development of a bright future for Indonesia a well as the promotion of cultural appreciation and friendship among Indonesians, Chinese, Americans, and other groups in the global community resonated with my personal advocacies.

In 2006, I transitioned to a part-time consulting position at their office. When I shared what I was doing at Filipinas Magazine, where I had a business development position, and what most Filipino American media enterprises nationwide were doing to being effective publicists and champions of their communities in mainstream USA, these entrepreneurs took notice. There just wasn’t enough in-language and intercultural information exchanges between Indonesians in the motherland and Indonesian Americans.

One day, John mentioned to me that they were inspired to create their own in-language Indonesian print and internet-based publication, KabariNews.com, because of their observations about my ethnic media experiences in the Filipino American community. Metaphorically, I was elated that Indonesia, a neighbor of the Philippines, both members of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), would strengthen its media presence in the US. There were very few Bahasa media organizations in the marketplace.

Kabari News (i.e. Kabari is Bahasa for “news”) launched its maiden issue in early 2007 to a hungry “Indo” population in California. The magazine was partly responsible for publicizing the popular Indonesian cultural festival, Pasar Senggol, which started as a “block party” in 2004. It is considered as one of the go-to festivals featuring the Indonesian community in the West Coast.


In the past 10 years, John and Vonny enthusiastically kept living their publishing life like an experiment. They tracked their “numbers,” organically growing Kabari News’ online presence by producing short video documentaries and interviews while nurturing an untapped worldwide audience that enjoyed their stories, homesick for news from Indonesia. There was no lack of news leads, considering that Indonesia is the fourth largest populated country in the world. The result was Kabari TV on YouTube.

Like any other publishing company, the number one challenge was about tapping more advertising and sponsorship support. John and Vonny continued to cross-promote Kabari News as a community-focused news magazine, sometimes creatively packaging its advertising opportunities with other enthusiastic Indonesian-owned businesses’ marketing and public relations programs.

In mid-2013, John Oei decided it was time to expand their publishing horizons to include the rest of the ASEAN community. The couple wanted a bi-monthly printed and digital magazine that would draw attention to the lifestyles, triumphs, achievements, and celebrations of these 10 nations in an encapsulated, content curation format.

“It’s an information and intergenerational bridge for these ASEAN countries,” John stated, “yet we want people to know that we are not related to ASEAN, the organization. We support them!”

John tapped me to be the magazine’s editor-in-chief. His directive was simple: “Find a way to get a team of writers to work on your editorial calendar for every bi-monthly issue. The graphic design and layout will be done by our creatives in Indonesia while website development will be done in the US. Distribution will also be concentrated in the US. We will find the ASEANs in the US communities.”

ASEAN LIFE: Letter from the Editor
ASEAN LIFE: Letter from the Editor

I turned to the Philippines for help in recruiting writing talent. Once the writing assignments were submitted electronically to me, the graphic designers in Indonesia worked on our “Look Book,” laying out the editorial and advertising pages. The first cover and its accompanying story had to be special. We chose to shine the spotlight on the One World Institute, a private foundation headed by Dr. Tom Stern and Yolanda Ortega Stern, Ph.D. The couple’s philanthropic work was mostly done in areas of conflict, from Southern Philippines to Cambodia and Myanmar, where the poorest of the poor were not adequately served. Butch Monserrat was credited for shooting the cover photo of Yolanda Ortega Stern who wore a typical Yakan* attire, accessorized by a kris*. We launched the magazine in newsstands where Kabari News was also welcome.

Yolanda Ortega Stern, President of TheOneWorldInstitute.org
Yolanda Ortega Stern, President of TheOneWorldInstitute.org

The ASEAN LIFE magazine’s entrepreneurship model was so ambitious that it would eventually find a reincarnation with another business partner. John and Vonny continued the same editorial process. By then, I had moved on to other projects. The lessons I learned about editing a magazine will always stay with me because I succeeded in developing a model operation of collaboration among three countries: US, Philippines, and Indonesia.

Today, ASEAN LIFE is waiting for another incarnation. I know that John and Vonny will be willing listeners to a potential business partner’s proposal.

Do you think John and Vonny’s “ASEAN LIFE” story is about to evolve — again? You betcha! Vonny is waiting for me to finish editing the marketing copy of their newest business endeavor: a wholesale travel company with a niche market — Japan, South Korea, and Bali (Indonesia) — for outbound land tour operations marketed in the US.

Who knows where I will be writing my next ASEAN story?

“Bali, please, Vonny!”



*Yakan – A major Muslim tribe in the Mindanao region of the Philippines
*Kris – A dagger with a wavy-edged blade

I wrote this story as a contribution to Noemi L. Dado’s blog writing project. I really want ASEAN 2017′s memorabilia!

Noemi said:

I am holding a blog writing project and a chance to win an ASEAN memorabilia. Here are the   guidelines:
1. The contest is open to all bloggers worldwide.
2. Follow  @asean2017 on twitter or facebook.com/asean2017
3. Write a blog post of your own personal story with a minimum of 500 words on the theme #MyAseanStory” and post it on your blog platform (self-hosted blog, facebook, tumblr, wordpress)
• What are your life experiences: challenges, great memories?
I will even share it on my social networks.
4. Use the hashtag #MyAseanStory #Asean2017 when sharing your post in social media.
5. Contest will start May 9 and end May 31, 2017. Cut off of entries is 11:59 PM on May 31, 2017.
6. The post that is creative and interesting will receive an ASEAN memorabilia

Sulu and Sabah: A Peaceful Request Turned Deathly for the Messengers

An Island in the Archipelago of Sulu

Yolanda Ortega Stern: From the Moro Art Contest for Peace (2004)Our special blogger for this posting is Yolanda Ortega Stern (“Manang YO”) of the One World Institute, a private health and education foundation that provides humanitarian services to areas in conflict, where no one dares to go and help out. I have been moderating a community blog for OWI since late 2010. Please watch out for updates in this posting. The newest update will be the first entry after this introduction.

For a look at Manang YO’s educational columns, please read her opinion-editorials in her MINDANAO SERIES embedded below. Manang Yo told me that her columns will be a historic chronicle of failure — and intentionally waited before writing a new one. Now that a few predictions have come to pass, please read her columns. We look forward to a new one.


I have also started Yolanda Ortega Stern’s content curation about the Philippines-Sulu-Sabah-Malaysia situation, taken from her Facebook postings. This allows many newbies to learn more about the situation through Manang YO’s real-time OP-EDs and compilation of news sources. Quotes from her Facebook commentaries are also included.


Sulu, Philippines: The men at Lahad Datu are standing up for their poor families. Photo: Circa 2013 AP (After Peace) They feel they have no country.

An Island In Sulu Archipelago: Where People Dream of Peace

Dr. Yolanda O. Stern, Charter President of the Federation of Philippine American Chambers of Commerce (FPACC) signs a Memorandum of Agreement with Nur Misuari, Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) after the signing of the Peace Pact between President Fidel V. Ramos and Chairman Nur Misuari. (1996)

2010 Holiday Gift Catalog from One World Institute: Pearls for Peace, One-of-a-Kind Brooches by Basil Anik

It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, right after the E-2010: 9th NaFFAA Empowerment Conference, when I visited Dr. Tom K. Stern and Yolanda O. Stern. I remember that the rain had dissipated to a moisturizing mist as I disembarked from an East Bay Bart Station. Serendipitously, God and the Universe believed it was time for the three of us to reconnect and catch up. Yolanda O. Stern had done a remarkable job in presenting One World Institute’s Projects for Peace at the E-2010. Thus, we had a lot to talk about.

The 2010 Holiday Gift Video Catalog from One World Institute, focusing on “Pearls for Peace,” is one of the results of this life-changing visit. There’s a lot more in store for all the volunteers in this non-profit organization. We’ve created an OWI
blog. One step at a time, we’ll get there.

The message I sent my Facebook friends is:

I hope you can support me in my holiday non-profit project. If you’re looking for unique, meaningful gifts, I have something to offer online. It’s TheOneWorldInstitute.org’s “Pearls for Peace” project. They are featuring BASIL ANIK, a Fisherman-Artist from Jolo, Sulu, who creates one-of-a-kind brooches suitable for everyone. Video catalog at http://bit.ly/g5qVf4.

Your donations, starting at $25 per brooch, will help save many lives in areas of conflict. For more information, see http://OWIcommunity.tumblr.com. Special orders accepted at  [email protected]. Please pass on to your friends. Happy holidays!

Welcome to One World Institute’s “Pearls for Peace,” a project for the soul… Featuring Basil Anik, Artist, of Jolo, Sulu.

Bas and his wife have four children. He is saving money to send them to school. Living on the water at the Tulay (bridge) in Jolo, Bas is a fisherman who makes dried fish to sell.

Recently, he volunteered his humble house on the water for The One World Institute’s “Movie Nights” and a reading program for children sponsored by Thomas M. Ortega Stern. “Books for the Barrios” supplied the books.

Basil Anik’s home has been disrupted by many conflicts caused by war. Last year, an errant missile hit the Anik home and wounded his father-in-law, mother-in-law, and two sons. The year before, his home was ruined by a typhoon. People helped to rebuild Bas’ home for the fourth time — in true “rebuilding community” spirit.

When we first started “Movie Nights”, we were expecting 50 children. Instead, almost 300 came from all the stilt houses — but due to the unexpected heavy weight of these movie-goers, the bridge fell. We had to postpone the project until the community’s residents fetched bamboo from the mountains to rebuild and reinforce the bridge.

One day at a time, life changed for the residents of the Tulay…

Children come to read with volunteers from the local schools. Games and contests are organized for them during special holidays…

Bas is also now supervising a “Basketball for Peace Program.” Teams compete on a beach court when low tide sets in. Basketball teams’ uniforms are made locally for US$100.00 per team. The donor gets his own colors and company name on the uniforms. At the end of each final tournament, the players keep their uniforms…

Most of the young adults in 2010 came to get tutored at the Tulay. All of them have graduated. As they look forward to being in high school, we celebrate their achievements as milestones…

Bas began experimenting with creating brooches by following instructions from a “do-it-yourself” book. Today, your donation of every pin provides pocket money for food to the apprentices who come to assist in polishing and shining the finished products. Bas cannot make new brooches until he dispatches this batch because he had invested his savings for tools and materials…

In areas where war can wreak havoc and destroy communities, a sustainable livelihood through the artisan craftsmanship of these “pearls for peace” saves many lives.

We thank you for making it possible for Basil Anik and his team to continue creating one-of-a-kind brooches…


“Sulu Wildlife Series. Materials: .999 Silver from Tongkil Island & Sulu Mother of Pearl.

The traditional brooches depict fruits and flowers of Sulu. The pins are worn by both male and female for the “sablay”— or to hold a shirt closed or to keep a scarf secure. Men wear it on their lapels and women pin it to their head scarves. There are many uses for the pin, so let your imagination go to work.

One definition of “sablay” is “a loose piece of clothing, worn by a person, that is simple yet elegant and joined in front by an ornament; as well as the draping object or fabric on the shoulder.”

Since the brooch is made of pure silver, it is soft to the touch and needs delicate handling. No two brooches are alike.  

Brooches in 14/18Kt gold can be custom-made to your specifications, too. Please contact us at [email protected] for any special orders.

DONATION: $25.00 for one brooch; 45.00 for two brooches; Volume Discount: For 10 to 20 brooches, get 10% discount; For any brooch at $50 or more, get 15% discount for the Holiday Season. LIMITED QUANTITIES AVAILABLE.

Use PayPal to donate at

For more questions or special orders, email us at [email protected].

(The producer of this video is Lorna Lardizabal Dietz, http://OWIcommunity.tumblr.com. [email protected])