dodgy & pasaway answers to my men’s health questionnaire

thanks to for the pic!

thanks to 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!

birthday thoughts for bunso

always looking to the future.  happy birthday pogi!

always looking to the future. happy birthday pogi!

ON MY 30th year on this earth, a young boy came into my life.    Among all the pictures of him that exist in early childhood, there are around one or two that show him crying, but otherwise all the rest, scores and scores, show him flashing his famous brilliant smile, radiating warmth and charm three hundred sixty degrees around, and twenty-four seven. Yes, From the very start, there was something special about him.

He’s always had the easiest time with words and phrases, better than average with graphs and figures, and creative as anyone with a brush, mouse or pen.  Early on, he showed a remarkable ease being with children and adults much older than him, but was likewise able to bond with children his age and much younger.  His gift was in expressing himself, in understanding the world around him, and as a logical consequence, in relating to all sorts of people.  Almost everytime, he would leave you feeling that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, anything he set his mind to, and he had the rest of his young life to do it.  Such was this young boy as I saw him.

It is as I continue to see him, despite all the challenges and obstacles that he has run into, perhaps because of all these same challenges and obstacles.  The past year has seen milestone after milestone that he has declared for himself : first job, first term in an NZ university, first participation in a uni varsity team, first stint as a class representative, and so on and so forth.  That he has produced above average academic results while doing all those firsts shows that he is thriving in the whirlwind, and that he is a natural under pressure.  From babyhood till today, the eve of his 19th birthday, he continues to amaze his awestruck father.

These small tributes are of course natural from an admiring parent, so I temper it with a token enumeration of his adolescent faults : he burns both ends of the candle, he is an unabashed admirer of looks and cleverness in people, usually his own, and unsurprisingly suffers from intervals of overconfidence.  But look at yourself in the mirror Noel, and pay yourself a hundred  pesos for every fault of his that you didn’t have at his age.  That’s right, better start looking for those pesos elsewhere.

The day he came into my life will be exactly 19 years ago tomorrow, but he still gives me the same gift, besides the honor of being a proud father.  And that gift is the ever brightening hope of a kinder, smarter and gentler generation that comes after mine.

From Papa and all the rest of us, happy birthday Bunso, and thank you for being in my life.  As always, you make me proud.

“sorry i’m late” no more!

thanks and acknowledgment to!

thanks and acknowledgment to!

[ Note :  With permission to repost from publisher Didith Tayawa-Figuracion and editor Meia Lopez of  Kabayan newsmagazine, for and of the members of Wellington Filipino community.   Thanks again Didith and Meia, and sorry for not participating in the presswork! This blog also appears in issue no. 6, now out in Catholic parishes and Pinoy stores throughout Wellington.  Please catch other magnificent Kiwi-Pinoy human interest stories by clicking on this link, mabuhay po tayong lahat! ]


I HAVE been lucky enough to be invited four times to functions at either the Philippine Embassy in Wellington or at Ang Bahay, the official residence of the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand.  These were four different events, with different kabayan in attendance, and diverse weather conditions and number of people attending.


The singular common denominator at the four shindigs?  Each event started on the dot, regardless of how many among the invited had arrived, with the Ambassador herself among the earliest attendees.  No Filipino Time observed here, obviously.
Parallel to their Government’s efforts, OFWs are doing their darnedest best to be exemplars not only of efficiency, honesty and cheer, but are also becoming quite reliable in punctuality, which as you know Filipinos are not always famous for.
According to research done by (many thanks for the data!), Filipino time finds its origins in the colonial tradition requiring indios to attend parties only after all the Spanish masters and lords had been seated.  Accommodating or even feeding Pinoy guests was definitely not a priority, and over the next few decades this set-up solidified into the institution known as Filipino time.  In so many words, to be late was to be fashionable.
But the modern milieu abhors a vacuum, particularly where it is caused by waiting for someone who should be there, no matter how important that someone may be.  Life nowadays is divided into slices of neatly scheduled hours, minutes and seconds, all spent doing worthwhile endeavors.  Wilfully breaching these schedules shows a general disrespect for the time of everyone else, while believing that one is not bound by rules of courtesy followed by all others.
How many times have we heard overseas guests arrive at the appointed time in our beloved homeland, only to be made waiting for 10, 15 and upwards of 30 minutes by  our kabayan, who act like as if being late was the most natural thing in the world?  Or how events are held up by an embarrassing amount of time because of the guest of honor was fashionably late?
Ask a random number of expats or dayuhan married to Pinay wives and a strong majority will give you at least one anecdote concerning Filipino time.  When everyone else scorns the appointed time on the invitation, almost like the latter is an RSVP if you will be inexplicably early, you can expect almost no one to be there on time.  Pinoys are early in discount sales, opening day premieres and A-list concerts, but not to parties.  Sadly, if you want peple to attend your affair at a certain time, it is practical to schedule it an hour earlier.  Only in the Philippines.
But there might still be hope for us.  Remember all those events I mentioned at the Embassy ?  Because each started on time, each also ended promptly, with enough space for all of us to catch the late-edition news.  Filipino time won’t last forever, as long as we keep fighting.  Sugod, mga kapatid!

my personal workplace WOF (warrant of fitness)

IT SOUNDS like a  faddish health ad or vitamin promo, but due to a lotto-like combination of factors, your loyal kabayan  blogger is now in better health than twenty years ago.  Tobacco cessation, cleaner air as well as less polluted surroundings, and last but not the least, manual labor and exercise provided by the physical nature of my job are just three of these amazing factors.

I didn’t ask for and certainly wasn’t expecting these planets to align to make my life what it is now, but all things considered, I am as lucky as I could possibly be.

Just to show you the unlikeliness that made these factors in themselves : if not for the very successful “sin tax” levied on New Zealand’s cigarets, I would probably not have quit in 2007 and still be smoking today.  Instead I’ve been smoke free the last 7 years and have been reaping the consequent health benefits.  The cleaner air pristine waters and stringent anti-pollution laws of my adopted land have made it possible for me to enjoy the purest of environments available in the 1st world of the 21st century.

And before I got the gig involving physical exertion, I had never seen myself as a physically gifted person, with less-than-average grades in physicality and human endurance and outstandingly mediocre in the sports department, although I’m a champion spectator. :)  However, the need to work, the fact that trabahador jobs aren’t that alluring, and the stability of those same types of jobs, brought me to my job and not only have I survived, I’ve also gotten a little wirier, and a little stronger.

This is why I’ve faced the yearly physicals conducted by our company with as much confidence as anticipation, because my new-found longevity and resilience is constantly measured and hopefully affirmed.  The physicals aren’t comprehensive, they’re not the complete top-to-bottom checkup that measures everything in your body.  Pared down to essentials, we’re subjected to a lung function test, a hearing proficiency test, and basic blood pressure.

Lung function.  Lungs are like the combustion chamber of the body, where oxygen is brought and energizes our blood for useful movements like transportation, thought and physical activity for our livelihood.  It’s quite commonsensical for us to connect our respiratory efficiency with workplace effectiveness, but then again, we usually take things for granted.  Knowing this, our employer needs to at least assure itself that our lungs are in good order, for us to perform our everyday tasks and duties.

[ Also, because of the relatively high dust content in some parts of our workplace and the fact that I'm a former smoker, I guess I should  be a little more curious than the next guy about how I'll fare in lung function, right? ]

The first three-quarters of the strong exhalation I provide for the lung function test fills up about 2 liters of air, and the remaining quarter, less than a liter.  In absolute terms, this is on the low end, but when you consider that I’m a small-framed Asian in his late 40s it’s actually quite acceptable.  Or so the industrial nurse tells me, probably to mollify my ego.  As long as my breathing isn’t labored, as long as I feel comfortable doing my everyday chores and I take a breather (pun intended) every now and then I should be alright.  The clincher is that my lung function results are almost identical with last year’s, and I could do worse, right?

Hearing tests.  The hearing tests are a bit trickier.  Normal human hearing ranges from anywhere between 35 to 95 decibels, depending on our hearing tolerance and the protection we wear.  Anything above the range is no longer acceptable for our ears, and becomes an occupational hazard.  Your hearing wear and tear is tested by determining how much of the sound you need to hear on the high and low ends of the audio range.

Again, my hearing results were almost unchanged from last year’s, and the only concern was I needed a little more help discerning the lowest pitched sounds, probably a sign of normal ageing (yikes!)  The nurse assured me that this was expected of people approaching middle age :'( just that I needed to be more prudent in exposing myself to very loud sounds, and that my workplace earmuffs required changing periodically.

Blood pressure. Finally, the blood pressure.  I had just finished morning tea and came from physical activity, so it could’ve been a bit lower, but it was still within the healthy range : 124/72.  The nurse congratulated me on keeping fit, watching my diet, and watching for signs that would lead me astray from the health norms for men in middle age. I wondered if this was the standard script she gave her patients, but she was looking at my health records and interviews from the last five years and comparing them with my present numbers.  On balance, I had been a good steward of the body God gave me, and she was happy to tell me I was on the right track.

Of course, the usual lifestyle diseases and family history could strike me dead tomorrow (knock knock), but all things being equal, I’m as healthy as I can be right now.  Or at least, until the next physical.  It’s a pass for now, Noel, mabuhay ka!

Thanks everyone for reading!

obvious tips to remember when commuting in AKL

a picture of Blessie Gotingco.  thanks to for the pic!

a picture of Blessie Gotingco. thanks to for the pic!

BY NOW, everyone in the Auckland (New Zealand) Pinoy community will have heard and in their own way, done something about the suspected abduction of kabayan Blessie Gotingco in the North Shore City suburb of Auckland region.

Just in case you haven’t, here is a repost, with thanks and acknowledgment to :

Police have serious concerns for the safety of a 56 year-old woman who failed to arrive home after leaving her job in Auckland’s CBD last night.

The Philippines-born woman works in Fanshawe St and spoke to her son at 6.21pm to say she was leaving work at about 7 and would catch a bus home.

Blesilda (also known as Blessie) Gotingco’s mobile phone was found, along with her shoes which police have said were “in a state of disarray”, a short distance from the bus stop near her home in Birkdale.

Blesilda’s daughter tracked the mobile phone via its inbuilt locater system.

Detective Senior Sergeant Stan Brown says the circumstances of Blessie Gotingco’s disappearance and the location of some of her belongings give rise to serious concerns for her safety.

“It’s the fear of the unknown…it may have been a tragic accident…she may have been knocked down by a motorist going too fast or something more sinister…we don’t know.”

Police have searched the immediate area and say there are no visible signs of a struggle or any violence. They have talked to neighbours and are trying to establish if Blesilda actually caught the bus.

“We want to hear from passengers who travelled on those buses – either a number 973 or a 974 bus – last night, at any point along its route from Fanshawe St to Birkdale Road.”

A free phone number has been set up for people to call who might have information that could assist police to find Blessie. It is 0508 LYNSEY or 0508 596 739.

Meanwhile the missing woman’s husband is trying to get back to New Zealand from the Philippines to be with his family.

Here are a few obvious points we picked up as an Auckland commuter:

Auckland, particularly North Shore City, is a relatively peaceful place, certainly by Philippine standards.  But when darkness arrives anything can happen.  Prudence and safety first are good things to practice and remember.

Bus stops are generally user-friendly places EXCEPT on Friday – Saturday nights, when the weekend crowd commutes to the Auckland CBD for a night of bar-hopping and inevitably, drinking.  Opportunistic people also look for vulnerable people around the bus stop, knowing it is a place where people congregate.  It’s always a good idea to ask a friend or spouse/partner to pick you up from the bus stop.

Many houses / residences / flats in New Zealand do not have gates, and even when they do, the gates are not always locked.  This means not only are they targets for thieves and robbers, but criminals waiting for travelers on the sidewalk / footpath may use the gardens and hedges as hiding places with which to launch their attacks on the travelers.  I know this sounds paranoid, but it’s a reality here.

Many residential areas even in highly urbanized areas like Auckland and Wellington look deserted after 5.00 pm, especially in wintertime when everybody likes to be inside their heated homes.  If you can’t ask someone to pick you up from the bus stop, at least let them know (1) the approximate time your bus arrives at the said stop, and (2) the time it takes you to walk from the bus stop to your home.  Should too much time pass, at least action can be taken.   Forewarned is forearmed.

God bless our kabayan Blessie, and God bless us all!

my own unwritten rules of facebook games

thanks & acknowledgment to!

thanks & acknowledgment to!

I’M SO guilty I won’t even bother thinking twice before fessing up to you : nearly every free minute of my life is devoted to Facebook games.  But that’s alright.  I’m only missing time for exercise, reading, and valuable bonding with my loved ones.  Seemingly innocuous and casual (not to mention free) gaming is serious stuff, when you allow it to take over your life.

Nearly every day I try to run around the block between 20 minutes to half an hour with my famous old-man jog, Mahal keeps me honest with chores round the house (but I never run out of tricks to get away with short-cuts whenever I can), and when I’m really in the mood I’m here to tell you my stories, but overall it’s been games, games and more games for me, and to say the least, my social life is zero.

Which is just my way of telling you my games addiction is so acute it’s not funny anymore, but for the moment I enjoy it so much, my immediate concern is to share something more important : Facebook games etiquette that will help you avoid awkward situations and ultimately keep you in good standing among your multitudes of Facebook friends, who by now are getting more than their share of Facebook game invites and updates than they care for, hopefully not from you. :)

These are of course in no particular order, culled from personal experience without consulting others, and based on my own opinion, so I could be very wrong and talking b.s., or on the other hand I could be right,  or somewhere in between :

pls don't let me be one of your top 50 friends...

pls don’t let me be one of your top 50 friends…

Stop inviting friends to play your game.  There are two main reasons Facebook offers all these so-called casual games (games that don’t require too much commitment as opposed to those that require consoles, controllers, etc) for free.  The first is a captive and massive advertising audience and the second is the the revenue they will generate from you when you are already addicted to the game (more on this later).  Now, to expose as much people as they can, potentially all 300 gazillion FB users, to their gorgeous advertising artwork, graphics and catchphrases, they need as many  gameplayers, or gamers, involved in their games, playing those damnable games all day, and as a consequence looking at all those ads on the sidebars, pop-ups and gaps between levels or while waiting for you to refresh your lives.  Because if you weren’t playing, you wouldn’t even give those ads a nanosecond of your precious time.  The game masters already know they’ve got you hooked on their diabolical games, now as a personal favor, they just want you to invite your friends so they can be hooked as well.  Now, for some extra lives, boosters (virtual tools to help you win more games, levels and achieve higher scores) and some gratuitous praise (“you are now a SUPERFRIEND for inviting 100 friends, woohoo!”) who wouldn’t spend a few moments clicking your friends’ names and automatically inviting them to play Bazinga Slots?  Who knows, they might even like it?

Guess what kabayan?  They’ve got other things to do besides stare at multi-color figures moving across their screens all day.  They’ve got jobs to do, kids to care for, and lives to live.  Unlike you and me, who are already beyond help.  They can still be saved and protected from this scourge that is gaming, and because they aren’t addle-brained, they can still distinguish between normal and abnormal behavior.  This means they don’t want to be bothered by your two dozen invites all day, and worse, they probably know that you’re inviting them only to improve your levels and scores, which is about as important to them as the poo-poo left by the neighbor’s dog on the sidewalk / footpath (maybe important, but not earthshaking).  They deserve their peaceful me-time on the internet, and that means please stop inviting them to play your game.  If you can do this, they will appreciate you more as a friend, virtual or actual.

who cares?

who cares?

Don’t post updates of your game performance.  So you reached another level or won a game against all odds?  Or you scored an all-time high unheard of in the annals of Facebook game history?  Or you achieved something so incredibly cool that you just have to post it to your page and let your 800 friends know about it?  Sorry bro/sis, but it’s:  Not. That. Cool.  Just like the invites above, outside the immediate circle of people with whom you play or interact with, I will give you a mild shock by saying that NOBODY REALLY CARES  about your game history, game performance and game fortunes.   Granted, you performed extraordinary feats with your fingers and mouse-clicks, flabbergasted an audience of one (yourself) with your mastery of eye-hand coordination, but at the end of the day, you have impressed one person, and that is yourself.  And since that one person already knows that you are oh-so-awesome, you don’t need to post it anymore, korek?

thanks and acknowledgment to !

thanks and acknowledgment to !

Don’t buy anything to get ahead in your Facebook gaming.  This is the money-shot,  or the critical moment of the relationship between the game creator and you :  when he/she has drawn enough of your will power for you to actually bring out your credit card and purchase anything to keep you playing (and therefore enjoying) the game.  It could be anything : extra lives, boosters, “tickets” to advance to the next level or episode, the common denominator is virtual cash, virtual credits, or virtual lives become real, hard currency coming out of your pocket.  You may justify it a hundred different ways : it’s your relaxation, your way of pampering yourself, or any other excuse to fork out the plastic.

This is where it becomes serious.  This is where casual gaming becomes no different from online gambling, online porn, or anything else that has chained you to your addiction, and in the worst possible way.  There is no exchange of banknotes, swiping of cards or other tangible manifestation of payment, only a number and three or four mouse-clicks, so it’s so easy to be overtaken by a false sense of security : it’s not really money.  Except that it is.

Asians, I have the audacity to say, aren’t as easily swayed into opening the Pandora’s box of bridging the gaming world and the world of reality with their wallets, because it is hammered into us from early childhood that a few pesos can mean the difference between a full meal and going hungry.  It takes a mighty shift of your paradigm to say, it’s OK to spend hard-earned money that my family deserves and use it for extra lives, a color bomb or more fertilizer.  (you may insert your personal WTF expression here.)  But these games don’t recognize race, color or creed.  Also, once you start or use your credit card even once, you can never go back again.  Trust me on this.

There, I’ve only given you three rules but I’m guessing they’re enough.  If you have more rules for me, please tell me when you can, after you use up your five lives in Candy Crush.  For sure.




the ennobling defect embraced by mothers & motherhood

INCAPABLE OF happiness except through others : that's Mom in a nutshell.  Thanks and acknowledgment to bro Jude Bautista for the pic!

INCAPABLE OF happiness except through others : that’s Mom in a nutshell. Thanks and acknowledgment to bro Jude Bautista for the pic!

ALL OF us are brought to this world by mothers, so I guess all of us are qualified to talk about, at the very least, our personal views on mothers.  So to my qualified mind, and you’ll probably agree with me, mothers are heroes on at least two counts : when they risk life and limb in allowing themselves to be vessels of our young lives and delivering us from their wombs; and when they pour out their very lives and energies in caring for us the rest of our lives.

But there is an additional challenge all mothers undertake once they agree to take on the noblest task in God’s realm : the challenge of becoming incapable of happiness except through the happiness of their children.

I know this is a rather dramatic and drastic assessment of what women do and have to do as they follow their destiny as mothers.  But when you think about it, 99% of mothers  (I actually think it’s 100% but for the sake of argument I’m granting I may not be correct) achieve happiness only when they assure themselves that the children they deliver, raise and discipline are happy.  Then and only then can they reach the level of happiness that they so richly deserve.  And I think you will agree with me on that.

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Unfortunately, and believe me when I say I am stricken by a life-long guilt trip to say this, despite my relatively advanced years and the efforts exerted by my folks, my mom has still not reached the ideal apex of happiness when it comes to me.  If my mom was a doctor or therapist / counselor, I would indeed be the “hard case” among her five patients, who also happen to be her five sons.

The road I have chosen to success has been a long and winding one, and I have stopped too often to smell the roses.  All this time and every step along the way my mother has been there to admonish me, counsel me, and pick me up every time I’ve fallen down.   But guess what ?  I often pay the tuition, but never completely learn the lesson.  I wouldn’t know where I’d be now if Mom weren’t there to keep setting my rickety wheels right back on track.  Thank God for Mom.

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So how does this link up with what I earlier said about most moms being incapable of achieving happiness except through the happiness of their young?  Plenty, because Mom is exactly that.  She is typical of all well-meaning moms, in that no expectation is too unrealistic for their perfect children.  On the other hand, because of those expectations, no disappointment is too painful when their children fail to measure up.   And like many moms, my mom has struggled to find middle ground.  But if your mom is like my mom, you’re probably not surprised.  It’s no great mystery that moms just want the best for us.  Knowing just how they measure  that high superlative, now that’s the poser.

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Just called Mom as the autumn sun went down to greet her a happy mothers’ day, a bit late in the day for me, but just right for her, New Zealand being four hours ahead of the Philippines.  Everything was in the right place : she and Dad had just attended Holy Mass, had just enjoyed a healthy lunch with Kuya Tim, Kuya Doc and bro Jude, her three remaining sons in the old country.  And she was nearly at peace with the world.

As soon, of course, as I had reached the point of success that had remained for me.

All I want is for you to be happy, Mom says in between small talk and details about her grandchildren, and if you can be happy, I will be happy.  Her own pretty way of saying, no pressure Noel.  Now, how could you turn your No. 1 fan down?

Happy Mothers’ Day Mom and to all moms!  Love you always and forever!



muchas gracias & vaya con Dios, Sr Gabriel Garcia Marquez!

goodbye and thank you from all of us!

goodbye and thank you from all of us!

CHRONICLE of a Death Foretold.  Love in The Time of Cholera.  The General in His Labyrinth.  And most endearing of all, One Hundred Years of Solitude.

If you need any proof at all that the mind is the infinite frontier, then you need only to read the novels and novelettes of Mr Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

One can’t comprehend the impact of his works on literature, and by osmosis, on the world.  It is both simple and complex.  Simple because of his gift of stringing a few words together, and complex because of the transcendent, uplifting nature of his stories.  Ironic, but it is hard to put into words.

Literally, his books are those things you can read again and again and again.  I only learned of his passing by chance from a Facebook post of a friend, Atty Lilibeth Cueva.  But the loss is incomprehensible.

If I may borrow from his words, written while considering his mortality, then we may sneak a peek into how philosophical he was before Death.  May we be as accepting of our own :

If God, for a second, forgot what I have become and
granted me a little bit more of life, I would use it
to the best of my ability.

I wouldn’t, possibly, say everything that is in my
mind, but I would be more thoughtful of all I say.

I would give merit to things not for what they are
worth, but for what they mean to express.

I would sleep little, I would dream more, because I
know that for every minute that we close our eyes, we
waste 60 seconds of light.

I would walk while others stop; I would awake while
others sleep.

If God would give me a little bit more of life, I
would dress in a simple manner, I would place myself
in front of the sun, leaving not only my body, but my
soul naked at its mercy.

To all men I would say how mistaken they are when they
think that they stop falling in love when they grow
old, without knowing that they grow old when they stop
falling in love.

I would give wings to children, but I would leave it
to them to learn how to
fly by themselves.

To old people I would say that death doesn’t arrive
when they grow old, but
with forgetfulness.

I have learned so much with you all, I have learned
that everybody wants to live on top of the mountain,
without knowing that true happiness is obtained in the
journey taken & the form used to reach the top of the

I have learned that when a newborn baby holds, with
its little hand, his father’s finger, it has trapped
him for the rest of his life.

I have learned that a man has the right and obligation
to look down at another man, only when that man needs
help to get up from the ground.

Say always what you feel, not what you think. If I
knew that today is the last time that that I am going
to see you asleep, I would hug you with all my
strength and I would pray to the Lord to let me be the
guardian angel of your soul.

If I knew that these are the last moments to see you,
I would say “I love you”.

There is always tomorrow, and life gives us another
opportunity to do things right, but in case I am
wrong, and today is all that is left to me, I would
love to tell you how much I love you & that I will
never forget you.

Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old.
Today could be the last time to see your loved ones,
which is why you mustn’t wait; do it today, in case
tomorrow never arrives. I am sure you will be sorry
you wasted the opportunity today to give a smile, a
hug, a kiss, and that you were too busy to grant them
their last wish.

Keep your loved ones near you; tell them in their ears
and to their faces how much you need them and love
them. Love them and treat them well; take your time to
tell them “I am sorry”;” forgive me”,” please” “thank
you”, and all those loving words you know.

Nobody will know you for your secret thought. Ask the
Lord for wisdom and
strength to express them.

Show your friends and loved ones how important they
are to you.

Send this letter to those you love. If you don’t do it
today…tomorrow will be like yesterday, and if you
never do it, it doesn’t matter, either, the moment to
do it is now.

For you, With much love,
Your Friend,
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Please whisper a prayer on this good Good Friday for Senor Marquez, everyone!