happy milestone, sad milestone

semi-lighthearted and slightly inappropriate dismissal internet meme.

semi-lighthearted and slightly inappropriate dismissal internet meme.

I’M RINGING Dad’s phone on his birthday, despite Youngest Brother’s admonition that he sleeps at odd hours and would rather not be woken or disturbed.  He was unavailable the last few times I asked to speak with him (through Mom, no offense meant) but I want to personally greet him on his happy day, his 82nd.

kurot, kurot! kurot, kurot! kurot, kurot!  (that’s how I perceive the ringing sounds)…

ANSWER CLICK. (without waiting for a hello?)  Happy happy birthday Dad!  We all love you and miss you here in Wellington, especially me, Mahal, Panganay, Ganda and Bunso!

Answer : Ano yun?  Eche-che!  Si Ricky to Noel (Ricky’s the family driver who doubles as Mom’s delivery person for her Christmas yummies business), matagal nang binigay sa ‘kin ng ama mo itong celfone, ayaw raw nya nang tinatawagan.  Andun pa sila sa bahay ni Mommy mo, tawagan mo na lang run.  Pero salamat sa bati mo, lapit na rin birthday ko, sensya na nagmamaneho ako rito papuntang Libis hehehe…  (I rush a goodbye fearful for his safety)

Ngek… I gather from that short call that not only have I been out of touch with Dad for too long (contenting myself by saying hi through Mom and other go-betweens), but that Dad is no longer accessible via phone or text, not that either mode had ever been a reliable way to get through to him.

Kurot, kurot! kurot, kurot!  Kurot, kurot!  (getting through to Noel’s folks’ residence)… Mom herself answers the phone.

Hi Mom!  Happy birthday to Dad, how are you getting through the rains?

Mom :  Very very bad ang rains Noel, flooding everywhere.  Dad is having breakfast beside me, he’s eating now.  (I have to state the obvious and ask to speak with him, after Mom talks about the weather and asks about the kids, who I myself communicate only through Facebook and short SMS these days.)  Dad is saving his voice (huh?) but I’ll tell him you want to say hi.  You mean you want him on the phone?  Oh heto na sya. (THAT took some time.)

Me :  Happy happy birthday Dad, how are you?  Sobrang long time na, I saw your pics with Big Brother, Second Brother and all of the family yesterday in Fancy Resto, you’re having too much fun!  Are you still running ?  How are you spending your happy day?

Dad :  Thanks for remembering Noel, I’m sad that you’re not here, your kids actually greeted me through their Lola earlier than you, but that’s alright.  I miss you all, yes, we ate in that fancy restaurant where the food doesn’t fill you up despite being too expensive, I don’t run anymore but still do a lot of walking.  I stopped driving too, not safe anymore.  But everything else ( I detect a naughty edge in his voice, mwahahahaha ) I still do.

Me : I’ve taken up running again, but it’s never enough.  I still eat too much, got some gout now, and the cholesterol’s creeping up, all your grandkids are working now, and both Ganda and Bunso have gone back to school.

Dad :  Never too late for YOU Noel, do what you want while you can, have as much fun as you like, but don’t forget to pray always, attend Mass and go to confession (he never forgets that), don’t worry about me,  and I hope you didn’t send me anything I won’t need naman.  (He says that every year.)  Now don’t waste any more money for this phone bill, I’m off to enjoy myself, sadly not with you (yeah, right).

(Something tells me he still asks for a hall pass from Mom, not that he can do much with THAT, and he’s gonna pull out all the stops just for this one day.  I salute him silently and pay him my respects before ending the call.)

In case you hadn’t discerned it, Dad is someone who has done the hard yards, paid his dues, and is now enjoying himself immensely, while he still can.  He has nary a care in the world, is lucky enough to have his wife attend to his needs, and the freedom to do whatever reasonable thing he wants given his health and age, emphasis on the reasonable.  Happy birthday and be happy (though I know you are) Dad, you deserve it.

***     ***    ***

In the giant army of business waging an eternal war to make profits and fighting the competition, most of us are but foot soldiers in the trenches, not much more than kindling for the fireplace, statistics that don’t matter among the millions of dollars in other assets and liabilities.  Yes, that’s what we are, and what we do.  Beasts of burden performing units of production that the bean counters tick off on a worksheet, at the end of the financial year.  It shouldn’t hurt too much to know this, as long as we put food on the table, a roof over our heads, and hopefully a small nest egg at the end of our productive years.

Which is why, despite the shoddy way he was treated, I understood why they were getting rid of Arthur, who after all the upskilling, his commitment to being hardworking and dependable, and his attempt to do everything management had asked of him, Was. Being. Let. Go.  After no clear violation of any rules, and after more than 25 years of faithful service to the company.  Actually, three incarnations of the company, whom he had served without question.

Yes, he hadn’t reached his production targets.  Yes, he was unlucky enough to have been watching the machine on his shift when the latter broke down, and yes he wasn’t fast enough to anticipate breakdowns on the machine, which after all was less than a year old and filled with PLC (programmable logic control) settings that even the supervisor had trouble coping with.  But the signs were ominous and bad news couldn’t have traveled fast enough around the site : he was on his way out, he had been dealt several quick cuts, and blood was in the water.

Most of us were in denial in the lunch room, but each one of us knew we were just delaying the inevitable by keeping our hopes up.  They would let him go, Just. Like. That.

All my rationalizing about them putting him to pasture went out the window when I saw him with the union guy after his exit interview one Friday.

They’re letting you go, huh? was the smartest thing I could say.  His eyes were bloodshot, and he himself didn’t have anything to say.  The unmentionable became to only thing left to say, save for empty encouragement and false assurances of hope.  You’ll find another job.  They’ll always need good forklift drivers like you.

He looked lost.  He never married, never bought anything more expensive than his second hand car.  His job was his only source of pride.  (His life!)  And now they took it away from him.  After 25 years of faithful, uncomplaining service… I know all bloggers are verbose persons, but at this point, words escape me now.  I’m too sad for  Arthur.

***     ***     ***

Two men at anniversaries of their lives.  One celebrating an 82nd birthday, and the other, the last day of his long, long career.  I don’t even know why I talked about them together, because the expected outcomes of their milestones are quite different.  They just happened within a week of each other, that’s all.  And I hope they both move on.

why Filomeno “Palo” Gagasa and family are my favorite Kinoys

Favourite Kinoy Palo Gagasa with his daughters Nymia (foreground) and Engr Ammiel (with glasses)  and wife Amy.

Favourite Kinoy Palo Gagasa with his daughters Nymia (foreground) and Engr Ammiel (with glasses) and wife Amy.

[ Note : Sorry for the long absence, thanks to Ms Didith Tayawa-Figuracion and Ms Meia Lopez for letting me repost this, please visit Kabayan Magazine Issue  7  at http://www.pinoystop.org/kabayan/ when you've time, kudos to all writers and contributors for the outstanding issue! ]

FROM THE Philippines, to the Middle East, and finally to Aotearoa, there is no stopping my favourite Kinoy Palo from reaching his goals.

Thirty years ago in Quezon, Palo loved nothing better than to play basketball all day and guzzle lambanog with his friends afterwards in Sariaya Quezon.  This of course didn’t sit well with his parents and elders, but Palo was also stubborn and loved the admiring glances of girls who happened to watch the interbarangay basketball league where he excelled.

His only other pastime was playing with the construction cranes that his contemporaries who were already working in construction firms allowed him if only to encourage him to do something else besides basketball and lambanog.

It turned out to be one of the few things that Palo did well, as he became a natural in handling telescopic cranes, hydraulic trucks and all-terrain loaders, piles, pulverizers and crushers that all required the same thing : dexterity in operating multi-levered systems of control, quick thinking and an instinct for safety while working under pressure.  Adding Pinoy abilidad to the mix, and Palo soon forgot about basketball and beer and found himself moving rapidly up the ranks of specialized crane operators.  He operated them like they were extensions of his hands, which before knew only lay-ups, rebounds and three-point shots.

He moved up so fast that before he knew it, he was already lifting massive billets, pillars and slabs of concrete for projects like the Metro Manila Skyway and the MRT-3 on EDSA, working for employers like Foundation Specialists in Makati City.  He was building a very specialized niche for himself, for very few people were doing the work he did, but he felt that he could be earning much more, notwithstanding the loyalty and gratitude he felt for his past employers who gave him a break.

The lure of money to raise his two growing daughters and give them the education that he never received as a child  proved to be too strong, and he distinguished himself by working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the State of Qatar and the Emirate of Dubai, where the high point (literally) of his career was working in the 828-meter, 163-storey Burj Kalifa, which he helped build using state-of-the-art telescopic cranes and where it was impractical to go down, so he used to stay periods of 48 hours at a time on the very top, something he would never forget.

Such was the specialized nature of this job that he was headhunted by large construction firms all over, including one from New Zealand, which he unsurprisingly had never heard of before.  The offer of long-term employment and New Zealand’s potential as a world-class migrant destination was the tipping point in his decision to shift his paradigm and leave the Middle East for Aotearoa.

Palo did the natural thing and work his darnednest best in Wellington, at one time shuttling back and forth between Auckland and Welly as he was one of only a handful of drivers in all of Australasia  for a vehicle used in supporting “Big Blue”, a massive construction gantry that was instrumental in the Newmarket (Auckland) Viaduct Replacement Project.

Unlike many Pinoys in New Zealand, Palo was offered and received Permanent Resident status in record time, which he promptly used to pass on PR status to his wife Amy and daughters Amiel and Nymia, who recently arrived in Wellington to join their husband and father.

So, from happy-go-lucky basketball player, to hardworking stoic OFW to newly minted migrant, Palo has now come full circle.  Having found time to bond with family without being away from them, he now has time to get fit again, hopefully via the sport he has loved since childhood.  Mabuhay ka kabayang Palo!

ang paglipad ng kulay ni Mahal sa interbyu (Mahal’s flying colors in a work inteview)

The pic's a little too nice, but the store where Mahal applied looks a little like this.  Thanks to retaildesignblog.net for the pic!

The pic’s a little too nice, but the store where Mahal applied looks a little like this. Thanks to retaildesignblog.net for the pic!

[Note :  Just thought you might want to know how a work interview in NZ is conducted. It's not mine, hope Mahal doesn't mind.  :)  I know "flying colors" implies that Mahal was no less than perfect, but with the last two questions asked below, her interview probably qualifies.]

Mahal’s thoughts provided in parentheses and in the vernacular.  Post-mortem of course.

MATHS, MATHS, maths.  Mostly involving computations of grams and grams of precious stuff, up to the 3rd decimal place.  Hear those numbers crunch.  Crunch, crunch, crunch.

(Bakit bawal ang calcu?  Buti na lang nagpraktis ako, pati singit ko pinapawisan.) (hope that’s still GP content, blogwise.  Apologies to all if not.)

Q & A time, with the manager.  She is friendly and informal.  She is also Mahal’s first interview with a Kiwi.  Ever.

(After cursory, initial questions.)  What’s your experience with gold and precious stones been, R?  I see you’re quite familiar with the four C’s of diamonds.  Could you share those with me?  (nasagot ko yon.  Color, Clarity, Cut at syempre Carat.)  Ok, ok.  (small smile, but no-nonsense pa rin.)

Save your best for last, R, because the owner is here for your interview.  He flew down from Auckland just to see you. 

(Omg, omg.  tutoo na to ‘day.)

***     ***     ***

A well-dressed, well-groomed man with South Asian looks seats himself.  (Mahal is not surprised, as the store is frequented by customers from that region in Asia and the shop hints of South Asian decor, tasteful of course.)  

He states matter-of-factly with a polite smile, “you’re dressed smartly.”  

Flying start for Mahal.  For the record, she is dressed in smart pumps, flare pants, sleeveless blouse topped by blazer. Egyptian style choker (that’s the nearest term I can come up with), and for the occasion, Mahal didn’t pull punches with the gold and jewelry. 

What are the types of gold, and what are their commercial names?  Give me a list of precious stones you’re familiar with.  What’s the gold content of those types of gold you mentioned.?  Mahal enumerates the products with deadpan efficiency only barely disguising her nervousness.  The interviewer, who is now obviously past the first stage of curiosity, has moved on, and has asked his branch manager to give Mahal another battery of tests.

More numbers.  More computations.  Curiously, no more sweating this time.

   ***         ***          ***

15 minutes later, the owner is back with more questions.

This time it’s more probing, less on substance and product knowledge which Mahal’s already established and more on sales experience and technique.  This part of the interview ends with a mock sales presentation of 18k gold necklaces which, true to form, Mahal nails with a loud BANG.

To the most important question, Mahal adlibs with seconds to spare.  

Interviewer asks : I know we advertised for a part-time job, but if you were asked to apply for a full-time contract to include foreign-exchange work (the shop has a money-changer side business), would you accept?

Milliseconds pass…

Absolutely!  I just need to wind up my work and continue token part-time with my employer,while I train my replacement.   They’ve been good to me. 

(Mahal has no idea where she got the answer, but it’s a job she did with flourish back home, and she did not hesitate.)

      ***          ***          ***

So as promised, this is how the interview ended : I know you need to give your (current) boss notice, but can you start training tomorrow?  And can you tell me how soon you can start?  Because instead of a part-time job, I am thinking of giving you a full-time position.

Incidentally, this is how Mahal dreamed the interview would end.  Doesn’t hurt to dream diba?  

Congrats Mahal, and thanks everyone for reading!


[Note : Thanks to Sita Adhikari for the video, this is what it looked like, but the hailstones in Wellington were a bit smaller. ]

IN HINDSIGHT, I should’ve probably followed my gut feel after holding a wet finger up and smelling the air.  I very rarely leave early for work, but the radio said that there would be a short spell of bad weather  in the afternoon, sandwiched by good weather the rest of the day.  Unfortunately Facebook games intervened, and I left as usual around 45 minutes before my shift would start at 3.00 pm.

What followed was like walking into a sucker punch turning into a blind corner. One of the more brutal, coldest and windiest hailstorms pummeled me halfway to work.  Making it worse was the fact that I was on a pushbike, pedalling like it was a summer day.

***     ***     ***

And my bike ride DID start like a summer day, cuz the sun was out, so bright in fact that I even had shades on and only a light sweater on, laughing at all those motorists who had to buy petrol to get to wherever they were going.  Sure I had cold hands and it was hard biking up those bridges and overpasses, but the task at hand for the moment was to focus and get to work on human leg power.

Somewhere halfway to my workplace something abruptly went wrong, as the clouds started moving so fast it reminded me of those scary movies where since the scary parts only happen at night, daytime goes by in fast motion, and the wind started to chill every exposed part of my face.  Having been biking to work a handful of years, this didn’t faze me too much, but the next thing did.

It was starting to rain, but the raindrops were starting to pinch my face and nick my nose, almost like the drops were trying to squeeze (in fast time) oil out of my blackheads.  NOW I was starting to worry.  Against my better judgment I slowed down to check around me despite the fact that every second I was away from shelter was going to be crucial, and sure enough rain was falling down on the asphalt, except that I could see the rain, and it was in the form of white peas and grains.  The road remained dry, but was turning white fast.  And my face was hurting.

When I got to Port Road, supposed to be only a few minutes away from work in normal time, I might as well have been an hour away as the wind and hail was pushing me back.  My helmet was torn away from my head, I was completely drenched (the hailstones were melting of course), and the brutal wind chill factor had pulled the temperature down a few degrees, which was already in single digits to begin with.

It was at this point that I realized that for the first time in a long time, I would not get to work on time.

With the wind, hail and abnormal cold (even for winter) pushing me back, I walked around 100 meters in around 10 minutes, every step a challenge.  I saw that even the cars passing me by were having a hard time, and I wondered if there was anyone as stupid as me out in this ungodly weather.  There was none.  I had begun to fear being blown out to the nearby sea, and considered seeking shelter.  There was none.

It was at this point I realized that I didn’t care about being on time anymore, and just wanted to get to work at a reasonable time.

My face and hands were numb, so numb that I couldn’t even use my phone.  Thankfully, the hailstones and wind had gone down a bit so it was OK to bike, but it was still very cold.  I was bundled up, but inside was drenched.  In my six years in Wellington I had experienced bitter cold, even snow and torrential rain, but never winds and hail.  And certainly not at the same time.

It was at this point that I realized that I didn’t care about getting to work anymore, and just wanted to survive.

          ***         ***          ***

When I finally got to the factory, after what seemed an eternity (actually around 20 minutes only) my workmates couldn’t believe that I had ridden through that kind of weather.  The superflash bundy clock that required my fingerprint (at presumably body temperature) wasn’t accepting my finger, because the latter was icy cold, as was the rest of my body. An electrician on top of the silos had to come down because it was too dangerous, and wheat containers from the port were most likely to stop coming as the port was closed down temporarily.  It was THAT kind of a day, so unruly that even urgent work had to be halted.

My bisor told me that if this incident still wasn’t going to stop me from biking to work in inclement weather, nothing would.

I said that we would have to wait and see. :)  After all, I DID go through the worst, and was still ready for work, after a hot cup of kapeng barako.

Thanks for reading!

Mork, Patch Adams, Mrs Doubtfire, and once a Pinay’s hubby: how could you not love and mourn for Robin Williams?

YOU WOULD have to be a cold-hearted Scrooge and Sad Sack not to appreciate the humor of Robin Williams.  Not only was Mork and Mindy a part of my weekends for so long growing up, his astounding body of work produced trailblazing, off-the-wall and side-splitting comedy that captured the hearts and minds of people the world over.

This was why a great sense of emptiness and sadness overcame me when Mahal greeted me good morning with the simple news : “Robin Williams is dead.”  A whirlwind of memories rushed through me, but no single moment stood out.

This is because Robin Williams has sustained his comedic brilliance almost throughout his career, starting from stand-up to his big break on TV, and his outstanding movies where his skills were brought to the fore : improvisational, drawing from the unlikeliest sources, and imitating accents, voices and mannerisms with intense accuracy.

The funny thing is I can visualize the specific pleasure of laughing at Robin Williams but I can’t picture in my mind a single film where he outdid himself.  Patch Adams, Mrs Doubtfire, Hook,  all consistently churning out the brand that is the genuis and improv of Robin Williams.

Admittedly he appeared in some lemons in recent years, but this never diminished my respect for him as a serious actor, which he hammered into our collective psyches with Dead Poets Society, What Dreams May Come, Good Will Hunting, and so many more.

The world lost a great man today.

PS.  And there’s the inevitable Pinoy connection too.  He was once upon a time married to a Pinay.  How could you not love and mourn for him?

guess who’s coming to dinner (with pinoys)?

Chris and Lauren our Wellingtonian neighbors are on the left.  Mielko the friendly Slavic cabdriver is on the right.  The lovely host is in the middle.  Somebody had to take the pic, so Your Loyal Blogger is nowhere to be found :(

Chris and Lauren our Wellingtonian neighbors are on the left. Mielko the friendly Slavic cabdriver is on the right. The lovely host is in the middle. Somebody had to take the pic, so Your Loyal Blogger is nowhere to be found :(

THERE IS a delicate dance between neighbors that seems awkward at first but later becomes second nature on both sides of the fence.

You want to ask about the goings-on of your next-door bestie, but you don’t want to be perceived as too nosy lest they think you’re a busybody (actually you are), so you strike a balance.

You want to drop in or at least make an appearance every weekend so you don’t come across as suplado (haughty), but you don’t want to be too visible cuz your neighbor might think you’ve got too much time on your hands, so you’re both ever-present and invisible, if that can be possible.

You want your neighbor to know enough about you so that they can convince themselves you’re normal, but you don’t want too much of yourself exposed because that’s when your weirdness starts to show, inaykupo.

I know I’m beginning to sound OCD-paranoid, but such has been the reality of living as a neighbor in highly urbanized New Zealand, at least for as long as I’ve been a migrant.

Mahal and I have been lucky in our present incarnation as laid-back, Asian and eager-to-please semi-detached neighbors.  We have equally laid-back and almost eager to please semi-detached neighbors, just that they are not Asian, and obviously aware of our migrant status or at least not being here for too long, have been quite welcoming of us both as neighbors and as New Zealanders.

Not only did we exchange the obligatory hellos and wassups whenever we chanced across each other on the driveway, but we also inquired about our weekends, our jobs, and what we did with our vacation leaves (they went to the Gold Coast, while we slept through our long weekends), what we did on our respective holidays (they went to Auckland, while we stayed at home pretending we were back in the Philippines celebrating a Pinoy Christmas), and our respective hobbies (the guy is a rugby fan, what a big surprise, while I usually sleep weekend afternoons or play Candy Crush Saga).  Before long, we acted like tight buddies (put your index and middle fingers together) and it was just a matter of time before we invited each other to dinners at our respective home.

Our other next-door was an Eastern European migrant married to an Korean, what a match right?  Turned out they, having been relatively newer to the compound than the rest of us, were ultrafriendly and invited us over every chance they got.  So it would’ve been poor form not to reciprocate and invite them ourselves.  (Plus, they had gorgeous Eurasian kids that inherited only their best features, think straight noses, high cheekbones and chinito / chinita eyes.)

Except that by the time we were able to invite both couples to our munting dampa, the first couple was already moving out, to a bigger home and obviously with a view to enlarging their brood.  We had only one chance to invite them to dinner as neighbors, and that was two Wednesdays ago.

Mahal made exceptional use of the occasion, selecting three classic Pinoy dishes that (she thought) would bring out the best of our salty-sour-sweet cuisine : adobo, kaldereta and pancit bihon, which the guests surprisingly took second and third servings.  (She was also going to be able to show off her new warmer-server she bought for a song at a K-Mart sale, which you might be able to spot if there’s a photo above… yes, there it is. :) )

During and after the repast, a funny thing happened : Chris and Lauren (the Kiwi couple) and Mahal and I knew each other a bit longer, so we expected to bond and chat a bit more freely, but it was our Eastern European neighbor Mielko who would be more gregarious and easy with conversation, stealing the show from right under our noses.

Maybe it was the libation he brought but while we were careful about tripping over our newly-minted Kiwi English accent, and the Kiwis were thinking of anecdotes to show how they loved their Asian friends and Asian takeaway (as if naman Pinoys invented takeaway), Mielko was regaling us with his day motoring his passengers around town in his Japanese hybrid.  A taxicab driver, he says, meets all sorts of people, but sadly the fares he remembers best are the drunks, the quarrelsome and those who refuse to pay.  Of course, we were transfixed by his vignettes on the seediest examples of everyday human behavior.

Before long, as with all dinners where participants come from different cultures, we had run out of things to talk about.  Truthfully, our only common denominator was that we had once upon a time shared a driveway and parking area, and that we had the same rubbish collection day and perhaps the same lawn mower.  But because we made the effort to become sometime friends, it made our little corner of the world a better place to live in.  And long after we’re no longer neighbors, at least there’s still Facebook!  Mabuhay to friendly neighbors and thanks for reading!

Sen. Miriam Santiago Jokes: The Unofficial Collection


brilliant! :)

Originally posted on The Pinoy Site:

Para sa mga naaaliw sa mga banat at patawa ni Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, narito ang collection ng mga jokes, pick-up lines, banat sa mga politicians (kagaya niya) at ilang mga quotes ng Senadora na hinango mula sa iba’t ibang sulok ng internet.

senator miriam santiago quotes


Anong blood type ang pwedeng motto? B-positive.

Matalinong babae + Matalinong lalaki = Romance
Matalinong lalaki + Bobong babae = Affair
Matalinong babae + Bobong lalaki = Kasal
Bobong lalaki + Bobong babae = Sexually Transmitted Disease

Gusto mo bang trabaho?

  • Meron sa PLDT, 10,000 pesos per day. Ikaw yung dialtone.
  • Meron sa DPWH, 10, 000 pesos per day. Ikaw yung speedbump.
  • Meron sa post office, 10,000 pesos per day. Didilaan mo lahat ng stamps.

A young boy asked his Dad, what is the difference between confident and confidential?

The father said, you’re my son. Confident ako doon. Yung best friend mo…

View original 2,323 more words

dodgy & pasaway answers to my men’s health questionnaire

thanks to musclemilkisnotaeuphemism.blogspot.com for the pic!

thanks to musclemilkisnotaeuphemism.blogspot.com for the pic!

MALE HEALTH AND FITNESS no longer remains the exclusive domain of health junkies, especially in our male-dominated workplace.

Just last week, Ma’a Nonu (an alias) was suspended for overexerting himself (is there such a word?), after being given specific instructions to stay on light duties in the light of his various ailments, mostly heart-related.  I don’t know for how long he’ll be gone, but it doesn’t look good for him.  Looking at the big picture, keeping him healthy and alive took precedence over any job issues that  might have been hanging in the balance.  It was a wake-up call for all of us, because New Zealanders are no different from Pinoys when it comes to health issues : we choose to ignore any potential problems until it becomes a gigantic elephant in the room, overpowering us and becoming a life-or death issue.

Just to make it an easier topic to discuss in the lunchroom, the office signed up for a male health awareness program half-jestingly called “Man Maintenance”, which focused on the health problems men were likely to suffer towards middle age and were likely to ignore until it was too late.  “GUYS, CHECK YOUR TOOLKIT” exhorts the flyer, which unfortunately I gave a second look in the lunchroom only because the black and blue color reminded me of a Domino’s Pizza discount coupon.  On the backside of the exhortation, which obviously compares our health and various bodily systems to the tools that help us go through life, was a short questionnaire, any of which if answerable by “yes” was a red flag that screamed at us to book a medical appointment super-ASAP.  Below are the questions, and my dodgy answers :

Are you aged 50 years or over?  Hmmm…  Next question please.  :)  Seriously the question seeks to establish my age range, which predisposes me to certain health conditions like hypertension, diabetes and certain cancers.  To be perfectly honest with you, before telling you my tender age, I’ve never subscribed to the belief that you’re only as old as you feel.  Age is a measurement, and it’s there for a reason.  How well you’ve taken care yourself by the time you reach a certain number of years determines how well you’ll live the rest of your life, for better or worse.  I’ll be half a century in a few months, but whether I’ve outlasted my use-by date, remains to be seen, hopefully in the next few questions.

Are you a smoker?  This is a tricky one, in establishing whether or not the question is a good indicator of my personal health.  No I don’t smoke, but I had been a pack-plus ciggy puffer (not the naughty type) for 24 years until I quit for good in 2007.  My fitness improved dramatically since then, in almost every aspect, but who knows if I’ve already picked up lifestyle diseases because of the quarter century of smoking?  A word to the wise in this area :  Better than quitting is not starting at all, and if you’ve quit, don’t start again.

Do you exercise on average less than 30 minutes most days?  Bar none, this is the one question I can answer unequivocally in the positive.  The physical activity in my work alone (I work in a four-storey factory with no elevators) requires me to go 100kph, most of the 8-hour shift and I stay standing or walking throughout unless I’m on a tea break or lunch break.  I also bike to and from work (unless it’s raining or I’m on night shift) around 30 minutes each way, so it’s pretty much a brisk 6-hour walk for me five days a week, 48 weeks a year less statutory holidays.  I appreciate the gift, but could I just cash that gym membership for a Wendy’s value card?

Do you have more than 3 alcoholic drinks a day?  Waiving my constitutional right against self-incrimination, I enjoy a brown bottle every now and then.  Recently though, I made an important, work-related discovery about alcohol.  If you can’t get to sleep after afternoon shift or night shift, and have to catch some zzz’s for the next day, a drink or two of the nasty will give you an instant visa to Dreamland faster than any tranquilizer can.  I try not to enjoy it too much, because inevitably I start to depend on it, either that or no more night shifts for me.  Otherwise, I’m blessed that drinking has never been a problem for me, so that all the alcohol-related ailments that follow a lifetime of drinking is something I won’t worry about in old age.

Are you overweight?  Here’s another tricky one, and I’m not trying to flatter myself by saying I’m not sure if I’m overweight (or not), but even though I’ve always been a bit over my fighting weight of 65 kilos most of my life, it’s never been too much of a problem, I’ve more or less been able to keep fit and spry, never mind the love handles and pilyegis on the side.  But for every pound of fat that you keep attached to your torso after 50, you incur a corresponding number of percentage points regarding the likelihood of you dying by cardiovascular disease.  Mahirap talaga kapag di ka magbawas ng timbang, and there is no other way except via diet and exercise.  I don’t want to say that I’m losing the war against fat and more fat, but at my age it’s a daily struggle.

There, the first five questions asked and answered.  Tell me if you want to hear about the next five questions, they’re just as compelling.  But of course, that’s just me.  Thanks for reading, and here’s to aging well and gracefully!


lost in translation [pause] found in translation

[ Thank you mpytacct for the video! ]

MOST LIKELY it will be fodder for another blog, but the learning curve has been steep the last few weeks for Lakay and me.  Lakay (with a capital L) I forgot is the newest character in my blog universe, referring to my brand-new workmate who happens to be as Filipino as I am (SuperBisor sez I am mocchacino, while Lakay is cappucino), and is learning how to do the job I’m doing, who better to be his training buddy than Your Loyal Blogger?

So we showed him the skillz, the way to do things, tips and tricks and above all, the nearly-human machinery that we had come to know and love so well.  Never forgetting the personal element essential in all work environments, I also told him a little about most of the people we would be working with, actually most of the people he would be working with, since work would be mostly a two-man shift, and he would not be enjoying my Pinoy company for long.

Not the least of my discussions focused on the Kiwi accent, the spicy vocabulary that peppered the effectively all-male milieu, the sometimes raunchy humor therein, and the diverse personalities that promised to make Lakay’s first adventure in blue-collar New Zealand an exciting one.

***            ***         ***

I admit that it was a weak spot in my training performance when I told Lakay about Genghis, who I must’ve told you about in a previous blog.  Genghis is not the easiest person to like, but he is probably a model worker who has excellent work ethic and attitude.  Literally he is there not to make friends in the workplace, but if you ask him directly and sincerely, he will give you a hand in your time of need.

Apart from his stoic and workmanlike demeanor (and I’m not exaggerating), he has a quaint Eastern European accent that makes him a moving target for impressionists and jokers like me.  I never imitate his way of speaking in front of him, but I admit that I get a lot of laughs when I do so.  Imagine the Count in Sesame Street, complete with the ah-ah-ah chuckle, and you probably will get an idea of what I mean:


As it turned out, my description of Genghis as a curt, unsociable and indifferent co-worker fell short of telling Lakay what was essential : that people like Genghis (who are congenitally incapable of normal human interaction) have little or no inclination for small talk and for them, everything is about work, work and work.  Nothing personal, but  it’s always about one-upmanship when it comes to work product, work output and academic credentials.

I didn’t expect Lakay to get exposed to Genghis’s charms so soon, but on only the second night of their shift together, it happened.  Not even waiting for Lakay to introduce himself in the Quality Assurance lab, Genghis started posturing and asked him : What are your educational qualifications?  What was the nature of your last work environment?

To his everlasting credit, Lakay didn’t flinch, and answered in his best Ilokano accent : I hold a Batselor’s degree in Industrial Engineering, prom di Saint Louis University in Baguio City.  He even braced himself mentally just in case Genghis challenged him to solve differential calculus problems.  Fortunately, Genghis seemed satisfied with his answers.

Later the next day, SuperBisor tried to explain the incident as best he could, but the questions in Lakay’s mind remained unanswered : Was it just Genghis’s way of acquaintng himself with a new colleague?  Was there any malice or intent to intimidate?  I couldn’t answer these questions since I myself was clearly ticked off with Genghis.  So I couldn’t blame Lakay for his dark mood.

***   ***  ***

The next night it was my turn to be paranoid.  I was asked to do a test for a special product the factory was turning out as there was no quality officer after regular office hours.  I had done the test before, but it had been a while.  The test was very involving, required more than a dozen steps, each of which had to be done quickly and efficiently if an accurate result was expected.  I was therefore a bit apprehensive while waiting for the sample and wasn’t expecting Genghis, who matter-of-factly asked if I needed help.

In a matter of minutes, he took me through the entire process, explained each step clearly and pleasantly, and waved away my offer to do the test, explaining that I could do it next time.  He also dismissed my perfunctory offer to clean up tubes and bottles after the test, and left me both grateful and impressed, something  that hardly ever happens with any interaction with Genghis.

Lastly but not leastly, he left me with a cryptic last word : It is part of my job to teach you whatever I know, but if you want to do it your way (and come up with the same results), it is up to you.  I am just here to get the ball rolling.

It was the closest thing to a friendly personal statement from him, but later on, after a bit of analysis, I realized what he meant to say :  I am here to help you, and you only need to ask. 

Needless to say, after the shift I told Lakay what happened, I had to because (1) it was quite unexpected, and (2) there was nobody else around.  It’s fair to say that Lakay still feels a little out of sorts, but the vignette made him feel a little better.

Between cultures and languages, something inevitably gets lost in translation, and you know you’re Pinoy when you take the extra effort to find whatever it is that gets lost, and return it to the sender with a smile.

Thanks for reading!


twin visits from the exam fairy in 72 hrs


[ Thank you very much and acknowledgment to Ms Eva Kaprinay for the use of your magnificent picture in our blog site! ]

TO BE as frank as the Senator who loves her pick-up lines, exam preparation is in universal terms a crap shoot, or throw of the dice.  You can go through the widest gamut of studying for your big test, including cover-to-cover readings of the course material, do all the exercises and drills after every chapter, and compile comprehensive reviewers that leave no stone unturned in culling all possible exam questions. . .

and STILL come up short on exam day, via a combination of entirely new exam questions, an examiner who’s been in the worst mood of his/her life, or just a mental block that prevented you from answering questions sensibly for two hours.

OR, you could cram and crib barely a few days before the big day, hardly cover the course content, and arrive harrassed and sleep-deprived, not even recognize the topic of half the exam questions, and still manage to scrape by the passing mark, and making the grade by half a whisker.  You produce the same result as someone who’d been diligently studying for the last six months.  Unfair, but passing or failing might be determined by as little as sleeping (or not sleeping) an extra hour, or grabbing an exam question from a previous exam.

For my recent guild exams, I was somewhere in between.  I started reading up on the text as early as a few months ago, but leveled off a month before the exam and held off absorbing the material until it was almost too late, with procrastination and laziness a potent cocktail to dull my post-shift inertia.

The last 10 days before the test, I was reminded of very good reasons to at least pass the exam.  Gaining another credit towards certification would help me in my permanent residency application.  Because someone else had started the next step of training ahead of me, I was no longer considered a training priority and further (subsidized) exams were no longer assured, meaning if I had plans to take the last module after this one, I had to pay the hefty exam fee.  And lastly, passing would mean another 50 cents to my hourly wage rate.

So I had all the good reasons to make good on the test, and I used the few remaining days to, like I said, cram and crib, using all the memory aids, tricks and gingko biloba available.  Plus, a kabayan brother-in-arms in Auckland told me where to look up sample exams in previous years.

[Don't forget the three C's of exams : cramming, cribbing, and coffee. ]

Remember what I said about late-minute heroics, a good night’s sleep, and the right questions ending up on your exam paper?   Yup, an alignment of all these planets produced an astounding result for me: an extra-high mark that went a long way in making me look good with work, my peers and of course, my boss.  A little extra effort indeed, goes a long, long way.

***     ***     ***

Towards getting ready for her full (no restrictions) driving license exam, Mahal’s plan was simple: by not telling me she was taking it a second time, she would be saving herself the stress of hearing me ask about it, and the trauma of having to tell me if she failed.

Great plan, except that in retrospect, if she had failed, she would’ve cried her eyes out, giving the result away.

Happily, as you obviously must have surmised, she didn’t, getting it a second time.  The irony was that she was battle-ready for the first time, engaging the services of a tutor, practicing a dozen hours exclusively on her weak areas, and getting a good night’s rest.  Not all of these preparations gave her a successful result.

Diagnoses : she didn’t make a full stop on an intersection, didn’t point out all the driving hazards, and could’ve shown more care on her turns.

This time, because she kept her re-take under wraps, she had no opportunity for another tutorial session, and almost forgot that she had the test scheduled until  the day before.

Miraculously, everything fell into place, the examiner asked her all the right questions, she showed the right technique, and got her full license the same day.

The best part was, we got our results within 2 days of each other.  Thank you God, and thank you exam fairy!