Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Call from the Past

Sometimes, you'd get a call in the middle of the day which caught you by surprise.  A call from a stranger who wanted to connect to his past.  It was a call that certified your work's impact. It tells you that your efforts made a difference.

This morning my phone rang. The person on the line said: "I watched your film BOLINAO 52 and I'm in it." I paused. Then he proceed to tell me that the archival video I used in the film was his own rescue and he wanted to know if there are more. Doan Ha was 5 years old when his boat was rescued by the USS Wabash. 

Video from the US Navy documenting the rescue of Doan Ha and his family.

He recently revisited that part of his history and found the men who rescued him. Doan first found a doctor who gave him an examination onboard the USS Wabash when they got rescued. Richard Bosshardt, MD described his perspective on the experience here.

Doan recreated the photo of Dr. Bosshardt giving him an oral examination.

Then Doan proceed to find the commander of the USS Wabash who made the decision to rescue them. Captain James Ryan who will turn 83 later this year made the trip to California to meet his family.

They had a reunion of course. 

I met with Doan and he shared his story with me. Many times, I viewed the people in the images of my film BOLINAO 52, I thought to myself, what'd happened to these people. It was one of those days that reaffirmed the work that I do. It is the magic of memories which connect people to their past and push them toward reconciliation.  It was a moment that I live for.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


In December 2013, as I traveled to Toronto, Canada to attend a fundraiser for Filipino victims of typhoon Haiyan, I met a woman at Vietnamese Toronto Association who came from the region of Pagansinan. Her name is Lorna Tabulao.  She was very moved by the documentary, so she decided to raise some money and go back to Bolinao and helped the people there, especially Caloy Caagusan who rescued the Bolinao 52. 

That was then.  Nine months later, I came back to Toronto to show another documentary I directed called STATELESS.  Lorna came to the 1st screening with her husband.  They sat down and watched the film. She also brought a photo album from her trip to Bolinao in April.  She also gave me some digital copies. I thought I would share these with you.
Lorna addressed the audience.
Caloy Caagusan stood in the audience.
Caloy in front of the audience.
Lorna introduced Caloy.
The beach where the Bolinao 52 landed.
Lorna and her husband went to Bolinao in April to show the film to the villagers. They also gave gifts to Caloy and the audience.  For many good reasons, I'm so happy that it was Lorna who took the initiative to revisit Bolinao and reached out to Caloy and not me.  With her action, we now realize the power and potential of Bolinao 52.  I'm truly convinced that powerful story telling can make people do wonderful things.  But it is people's great doing that makes powerful stories.

Now let's see what other magical things can Bolinao 52 bring.


Saturday, December 21, 2013


It is such wonderful feeling when you know that your work is creating an impact...

Such is the case with BOLINAO 52.  From day one after super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) destroyed Tacloban City in the Philippines, we have been busy joining efforts to raise fund for the typhoon victims.  The response was overwhelmingly positive and heartwarming.

Immediately after the devastation from the storm, Hoi Trinh, VOICE founder, sent me an email asking me to help him spreading the word about his fundraising campaign.  I agreed and asked Viet-Nam California Radio (VNCR) to assist.  VNCR, without hesitation, used its airwaves and affiliation to call for donations. On November 19, 2013, we organized a fund raiser concert at VNCR Community Center with the participation of over 20 well-known Vietnamese overseas musicians and artists like Ý Lan, Bằng Kiều, Minh Tuyết, Ngọc Hạ, Don Hồ, Hương Lan, Vũ Khang...

Here is a rendition of Nghìn Trùng Sa Cách by Ý Lan.

Ý Lan sang Nghìn Trùng Sa Cách

Hoi Trinh addressed audience about the relief effort

Volunteers counting donations

On to Canada.  Not too long after Hoi Trinh's call, I got another call from Tôn Thất Hùng of SBTN-Canada.  Hùng asked me to bring BOLINAO 52 to Canada to host a fundraiser event in Toronto.

Landed in frigid Pearson Airport in Toronto a day after Thanksgiving, I felt a bit out of place.  Having living in California for so long, freezing weather is no close friend of mine.  However, there is a familiarity in the surrounding.  Canada to me is a land of warm people wearing thick coats.  And that was what I got.  The Vietnamese Association in Toronto welcomed me with open arms.  Two showings of BOLINAO 52 brought in about 100 people and approximately  CAD$16,000.  I got to make new friends and some fantastic memories.

Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara On The Lake

Tôn Thất Hùng introduced BOLINAO 52 to audience

I got few snapshots with fellow Overseas Vietnamese in Toronto

and Young Vietnamese leadership in Toronto, Le Luong, James Nguyen and Tôn Thất Hùng
One of the staff at VAT- Vietnamese Association of Toronto is a Filipina named Lorna Jean Tabulao.  She is from the Pangasinan region in the Philippines where Bolinao is located.  Inspired by BOLINAO 52 she decided to call for donations and organized a trip to BOLINAO in 2014 to find Caloy Cagusaan, the fisherman who rescued the BOLINAO 52, and give him the money she is raising.  It has been at least 6 years since we began doing outreach with BOLINAO 52 and I still am amazed with the effects it has on people.  BOLINAO 52 continues to inspire people to take action and this is a tremendous gift the film gave me and the viewers who watched it.
This Holidays Season, please give the gift that kept on giving, order BOLINAO 52 and let its magic spread to your love ones.


B52 holiday dvd


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bolinao 52 is Creating A Legacy

The groundwork laid by Bolinao 52 is now being used to create a path by the new generation of Vietnamese overseas to build and maintain the heritage that is so central to our identity and legacy.

A group of younger Vietnamese Canadian in Montreal is taking on an initiative to bridge the generation gap in the Vietnamese Canadian community.  Spearheaded by Glenn Hoa, a young Vietnamese Canadian dentist, the Generation's Legacy is organizing events to raise fund for the Boat People Museum in Ottawa.

How does Bolinao 52 play a role in all this?

Last summer, we traveled to Calgary, Canada to attend the "PASS IT ON" conference. The 3-days conference was created to address the generation gap issues among the Vietnamese Canadian population.  Its aim is to create a new crop of leaders for the future.  Glenn Hoa at the time was a skeptical attendee.  But after watching Bolinao 52, Glenn had a change of heart.  This is what he wrote:

"Something simple, that a cynical and resistant youth, of any ethnicity, can watch and be touched by. This is why Bolinao 52 is so important! It completely changed me! In Calgary, I was just a spectator. Now, in Montreal, I have hope! And I'm just 1 person. Imagine if there are 10, 20, 30, 100 like me. Wouldn't that be awesome? Bolinao 52 does not give the answers, but it makes us think of questions. Who in my family are Boat People? Why haven't I given them more appreciation? If I could do something to honour their journey, what would it be? If the Japanese have the samurais, warriors that sacrificed their life in the name of honour, why can't the Vietnamese 2nd generations honour the Boat People as their universal source of inspiration?"

So continuing the mission of inspiring a new generation of youth to preserve the Vietnamese Boat People legacy, we will be heading to Montreal, Canada on March 2 and 3, 2013 for yet another presentation.  This time, we hope to inspire more souls like Glenn Hoa to build and preserve the legacy of Vietnamese Boat People.

For more information visit the Generation's Legacy Facebook Page:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

EMMY Award-Winning Documentary BOLINAO 52 Video Footage Finds a New Home at UC-Irvine Libraries

Irvine, CA- October 4, 2011: Duc H. Nguyen, the producer of the EMMY-Award Winning documentary, BOLINAO 52 signs an agreement with the University of California-Irvine Libraries to deposit the materials recorded during the production of the documentary to the UCIspace @ Libraries (http://ucispace.lib.uci.edu). This is an open access service for the UCI community to publish, manage, and preserve diverse research output. This is a the first step of a multi-lateral collaboration between RIGHT HERE IN MY POCKET PRODUCTIONS and The UC Irvine South East Asian Archive (SEAA) to preserve multimedia information on the Vietnamese boat people and make them readily available to the general public.