Filipino chessers dabble in mentoring NY school kids

By Alex P. Vidal

“One of the things that first attracted me to chess is that it brings you into contact with intelligent, civilized people—men of the stature of Garry Kasparov, the former world champion, who was my part-time coach.”—Magnus Carlsen

AT past three o’clock in the afternoon on October 16, Mario Lawsin Rebano bade goodbye to a healthy home cooking orientation in Jackson Heights in a Queens neighborhood some 20 minutes before the session’s conclusion to be with his new-found obsession: mentoring New York chess upstarts.

“I need to go,” sighed 56-year-old Rebano, a civil engineer in the Philippines, while checking his watch. “I have to leave now because I will have to walk in going to the school for the 3:30 pm class.”

The only Filipino to win three high caliber chess tournaments in 2018-2020 in the United States holds a title of national master (NM) in the Philippines.

These credentials landed him a part-time job as chess instructor at Queen’s St. Joan of Arc Catholic School in the school’s “after school program.”

Rebano coaches kids aged five to eight for two hours on Monday and Wednesday per week.

“I teach them the fundamentals and their school, as well as their parents and community, are optimistic of their future as chess players,” Rebano said. “Chess will also help them build their character and self-confidence.”

He was on his second week teaching New York kids the basics in Queen’s Gambit, Reti Opening, Sicilian Defense, Petroff Defense, French Defense, English Opening, and Caro-Kann, among other chess repertoires.

“I’m still in the period of adjustment and hopefully, I would be a regular teacher once I was able to familiarize my students and the methods that I use to demonstrate my skills in front of the future wunderkinds,” Rebano stressed.


Rebano earned the confidence of school teacher Romel Lapay, who recommended him for the job, after an accidental meeting in a chess hub frequented by chess enthusiasts in Brooklyn early this year.

Aside from Rebano, other Filipino chess gurus honing the skills of American kids in this part of the East Coast are Philippine Grandmaster Mark Paragua and his brother Jan Vincent Paragua, United State Chess Federation (USCF) Masters Vincent Umayan and Ivan Biag, Gerry Salazar, Edilberto Labuac, and Michael Ocido.

They are regular mentors of kids and teenagers in the New York Chess Academy (NYCA), which has branches in Brooklyn, Forest Hills, Flushing, Bronx, and Manhattan.

Rebano said some of his fellow Filipinos chess mentors “earn decently” and their reputations as quality chess mentors have been gaining popularity in New York.

Founded in 2018, NYCA organizes programs and services for all levels and ages, which include camps, after-school classes, private lessons, and tournaments.

“Each member of our enthusiastic team has had their life positively affected by chess. It is this passion for the game and the desire to share it with others that led to the founding of the academy,” according to co-founder and managing director Loraine Salinas in LinkedIn.

Meanwhile, Rebano, a civil engineer graduate of Divine World University of Tacloban City, Leyte in the Philippines, confirmed he was preparing to participate in the 3rd Annual North American Open at the Horseshoe Casino Resort in Las Vegas on December 26-30, 2023.

The tournament, Rebano’s biggest in 2023, has a guaranteed prize of $130,000.

Rebano, Empire City Open 2019 Under-2100 champion, also plays Board 1 for the Filipino team in the Commercial Chess League.

The team, sponsored by lawyer Gerry Albano, is gunning for its eight consecutive title after winning the championship for seven straight years.

This year’s commercial league chessfest romped off on October 4 and will continue on October 8, November 15 and 29; January 3, 17, 31, 2024; February 14, 28, 2024; March 13, 27, 2024; and April 10, 2024.

Rebano said he is open for private tutorial class and asked interested parents and schools to contact him at and mobile number (732-900-1127).


Manny Pacquiao Chess Association int’l chess tilt set December 8, 2023.

The Manny Pacquiao Chess Association (MPCA) will host one of the biggest chess events in the country dubbed the Manny Pacquiao Chess Association International Chess Tournament set Dec. 8 to 14 at the Robinsons Place Gensan in General Santos City, US Master Marlon Bernardino announced.

A whopping $35,000 will be up for grabs in the seven-day event that is expected to draw participants from around 150 in the Individual event on Dec. 8-12 followed by team tournament on Dec. 13 and 14.

“For seven days, General Santos will be the chess center of the world and we look forward to hosting the tournament of brilliant minds,” said boxing icon and former Senator Manny Pacquiao, who is hosting the event on his 45th birthday.

Pacquiao thanked Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richard Bachmann, Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino, National Chess Federation of the Philippines chair and president Prospero Pichay Jr. and Robinsons Place Gensan for supporting the meet.

The individual event will stake a cash pool worth $27,000 with the $5,000 going to the champion while giving out a total of P165,000 in the team event where the eventual titlist will be getting a cool P75,000.

MCPA organizers Jonas Silvano, John Salcedo and Orly Ortega said this is the first of the many tournaments they’re planning to hold in the future.

In fact, Bernardino said, they’re planning to stage at least three more international tournaments, which included challenge events on the side, next year.

“We are truly convinced that the MPCA will become a truly global festival of chess,” Bernardino quoted Pacquiao as saying.

For inquiry, Bernardino said interested parties may call or text mobile number: +632 9182583135 or email at for complete details.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two daily newspapers in Iloilo.—Ed)