a new breed of kabayan in the young days of spring

Lito Banal with Norman Latosa

Taken during the early days of the LS Banal Cup, here are Lito Banal (left) and Commissioner Norman Latosa, who has since remigrated to Melbourne. The LS Banal Cup is one of the most popular Pinoy basketball tournaments in The City of Sails!

[ Just wanted to share with you Precious Reader my padyak series visiting Auckland from Wellington, which just made me more homesick for the Philippines. I have just one other memorable kabayan we met in AKL which we’ll  post about next, hopefully soon. Thanks for reading! ]

KABAYAN, YOU and I don’t meet many people who have sports tournaments named after them. In fact, I haven’t met anyone, living or dead, who actually had his name on the streamers above the rows of spectators of the tripleheader of basketball games that Saturday afternoon I visited my brother in Auckland Last month.

But there he was, neither a forgotten hero nor corporate logo immortalized on the tournament trophy, medals or other awards that every participant was coveting. He wasn’t there for a photo op and then whisked away to a four-star hotel brunch leaving tournament organizers to fend for themselves.

He was on the sidelines in an actual game, on the official’s table, helping keep score and cheerleading one of the teams competing. Because of his unique position as name sponsor, he couldn’t favor any one team, so he was encouraging every team participating, without being partial to anyone.

Undoubtedly, he would be helping clean up later, scheduling more games later in the season, and engaging in informal meetings with team representatives and other sponsors.

In the do-it-yourself world of Pinoy basketball in New Zealand, Lito Banal, the driving force behind the LS Banal Cup is perhaps one of the most DIY sports leaders in the New Zealand Pinoy sports community.

But this is just one of his intersecting worlds. He was President and among the most respected servant-leaders in the Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy of Auckland. He is one of the past presidents of the New Zealand Philippines Business Council. And his company Kiwi Roofing Ltd is one of the most successful businesses owned not just by a Filipino but by an Asian in the building industry, in New Zealand’s most competitive business environment. In the process he has helped hundreds of Filipinos and their families on their way to achieving the Pinoy dream of prosperity and stability in the migrant-friendly country of New Zealand.

People of much less achievement would have been instantly enlisted for lofty positions of leadership, but not Lito. The self-made Kapampangan says making his own special contribution to happiness and contentment among Pinoys is its own reward.

Recognition, acknowledgement, and the public trappings of leadership may turn on others and provide the impetus to good works, but for Lito, to know that he has made a difference in the lives of others, notably fellow Pinoys and kabayan is more than enough for him, at the end of the day, to pat himself on the back.

Perhaps, it is this very unassuming nature that makes him ideal for leadership. We know no finer example of a Pinoy leader than Cong Lito Banal!


a vote for Paulo & Romy is a vote for yourself kabayan

Kung hindi tayo kikilos? Kung di tayo kikibo, sino ang kikibo? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?” (“If we do not act, who will act? If we do not care, who will care? If not now, when?”)  -Abraham “Ditto” Sarmiento Jr, UP Philippine Collegian editor-in-chief, 1950-1977


I’ll keep this short guys, I know we all have busy schedules.

For many of us in New Zealand, after getting married and having kids, migrating to a new land is the single most important thing we’ve done in our lives. Especially so, when the land we’ve migrated to has given us a better quality of lives for ourselves, our partners and our children.

After we’ve improved ourselves and our futures, the next step is to give back, assimilate, and use what we think has worked in our homeland and apply it to our circumstances around us in our adopted land. It’s common sense diba? In a sense we bring the land of our childhood and youth and bring it to our present, and try to have the best of both worlds, not just for ourselves, but for our countrymen, both in our generation and the next.

That’s what two of our kabayan have done. In their own special ways, Romy Udanga and Paulo Garcia have experienced the highs and lows of living in the Philippines and New Zealand.  They have built and sustained a comfortable life for themselves and their families, thanks to the welcoming and migrant-friendly culture of New Zealand,

Now, they want to give back. Confidently but not boastfully, they think and know that the Filipino way of life has much to contribute to a better way of doing things in New Zealand. They know that this is their unique way of interacting with Kiwis and other migrants at a very high level, and at the same time lending their leadership talents to their kabayan compatriots, at the same very high level.

That they do all the above under the guidance of different NZ political parties should not detract us from giving them our unqualified support. Both the incumbent National and Labour parties have their way of doing things but the objective is the same: a better life for all New Zealanders.

We could do worse than having one of our very own in New Zealand Parliament. We might even have both. Sitting on the fence is not an option this elections, not when we have a chance to help chart our destiny as Pinoy migrants in New Zealand.

Vote National, vote Labour, it doesn’t matter. But vote Paulo and Romy. Vote for your own.

Mabuhay kayong dalawa kabayan, mabuhay tayong lahat!

Thanks for reading!

trying to look young, ending up feeling old

[ thanks and acknowledgment to YouTube poster Diran Lyons! ]

ALL MY LIFE, from the time I started to remember things to this very day, I’ve suffered from an alarmingly short attention span. For me, the here and now is everything. One second I’m on fifth gear, the next I’m snoozing. I could be laser-focused on a project, only to move on to the next big thing a moment later. (I’ll forget about this blog as soon as I finish it. 🙂 )

From teens to middle age, the Philippines to New Zealand, singlehood to husband hood, fatherhood back to singlehood, and back, old habits die hard. I’m still the same old eternally distracted, attention deficit-plagued OFW. I still want the quick fix, results-now type of solution, and avoid the long-term holistic and considered responses to problems.

That’s why, if you ask me whether or I want to feel good or look good, nine times out of 10, I’ll hit the 2nd button. The success mantra to be successful, you have to first appear successful, just sounds too appealing, and a lot of the time, it’s just easier to anticipate being healthy by first looking the part…

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The trouble is, when you get to be my age, which is no longer in the prime of youth, the present starts to feel acutely the sins of the past. I’ve said this more than once before, but the cheques you recklessly issued when you were young and beautiful, Father Time is already encashing every day now.

One day of sleep lack affects the next 24 to 48 hours. That previous sentence summarizes it best, can’t describe it any more accurately but since this blog requires 800 words, I’ll try: sleep is underrated as a basic human need. Whether you’re the richest dot-com entrepreneur in your neck of the woods or the humblest laborer in your work gang, adequate sleep assures you of an energetic, productive day ahead. Some people take in an all-nighter, recover from a weekend alcoholic bender, go on extended night shift for three days, and look none the less for wear. Not me, for sure. I don’t get sleep, and you can be sure I’ll be sluggish and light-headed for at least the next day.

For this reason, I don’t take coffee less than 4 hours before bedtime, prepare for difficult sleep on weeks I’m on night shift, and try to get in regular exercise to tire myself out before bed. The last few years have been more difficult than before, I put that down to changes associated with ageing.

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Too much of your favorite poisons means you die happy but still die. Like I said, no more coffee, kahit Seattle’s Best pa yan. One or two beers or glasses of wine is my limit, after that I consign the morning after to blahness for sure. Days when I consumed two to three plates of rice are in the distant past now. I don’t need the calories, I can get energy from healthier sources, and the anticipated extra weight is very hard on my joints and bones, not to mention my ego.

Whole blocks of Cadbury, Van Houten, Hersheys, you name it, I’ve done it. I’m particularly partial to milk chocolate outsides and soft chewy caramel insides like Snickers, Mars, Three Musketeers that give me a sugar high for a few minutes and send me looking for another fix almost immediately. That means pastries, hard candy and other sweet things are equally welcome

Years later I learned that these slowly affect everything in your pistons and pipes, your blood pressure, blood sugar, energy levels, ability to use and get rid of excess sugar in your body. I’m just lucky I’m hyperactive and locked to a manual job. Otherwise I’d have hypertension, heart disease and Type B diabetes. I’m pretty sure I’m already in the initial stages of many lifestyle diseases and so, for the rest of my life I need to moderate and tweak my diet, in short bore myself to death, unless I want to die sooner. Sort of like being caught between a rock and a hard place.

Gout, dodgy lower back, slow recovery from bumps and bruises. Those words speak for themselves. Seafood, alcohol and legumes are no longer things I can consume normally and expect to sleep pain-free. Of late, stretching has helped my sciatica, but it’s a part of the lifestyle I led in previous years. Bumps and bruises are things I can’t avoid but at least can minimize, because everytime I sustain injury, I take ages to recover.

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Now, to looking young, which in my particular life situation has its advantages.

First, God has seen fit to giving me a much younger life partner. Without sounding too boastful, I’m considerably older than Mahal, who only dresses maturely to deflect the disparity. She considers the Seventies the long distant past of ancient history, whereas it was the decade of my childhood. I’ll stop there.

So observing “cheats and tricks” to keep up the illusion of being only slightly older serves me well. I do the following:

Follow her every fashion suggestion. Cut my hair short. Dress to accentuate the positive and avoid the negative. (Although in my situation, I hardly have anything to accentuate anymore.) Dress to the occasion. Try not to overdo it. And other, sensible things.

Treat hair and skin as precious commodities. A lot of my contemporaries have now lost a considerable part or all of their head hair, and the overwhelming majority of us of have retained such hair are now turning gray or at least grayish. I can’t deny the aesthetic benefits of dyeing such hair to its former glory, but only because the greater part of my head (for now) is still black. I know that in time I will inevitably surrender to the preponderance of gray, but on balance, black is still the winner. As it is, I’m lucky to still have hair at all.

Skin is a different story. I use super moisturizer, anti-ageing serum, and sculpting cream while Mahal applies her own beauty regimen. It can’t just be vanity and obsession with skin health on my part, as mentioned I’m fighting an uphill struggle with Father Time and I’m severely handicapped, the ravages of the years, deadly vices and occupational hazards (night shift, manual labor etc) combine for the perfect storm I continually avoid. Every advantage I can use to maintain skin and hair, I will unhesitatingly use.

Exercise, exercise and exercise. Did I say exercise? Physical activity begets a vicious cycle. You clean your tubes and get your internal machine running, which makes you lose weight, which gives you more energy and impetus to do more exercise, repeat the cycle, on and on. Plus exercise leads to clearer skin, extended hormones (for those in my age bracket who are losing it), lubricated joint and ligaments that make daily physical activity, and therefore daily life, much more enjoyable and easier. Isn’t that, in a nutshell, feeling young? For this reason, and against my id, I try to run a few Ks everyday, huffing and puffing around the block, despite the cold, despite the early (or late) hour, despite myself.

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Going back: The original thesis was, between looking and young and feeling young, my instinctive laziness and results-now mentality makes me go for the former. But my experience has taught me that you can, ultimately, go for both. I won’t even try to tell you that between looking and feeling young, the latter is better for the soul. And they’re not mutually exclusive.

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!

the last line of defense against legit migrants

Image: An Indian policeman uses a bamboo stick

thanks and acknowledgment to brovil.blogspot.com!

[SPOILER ALERT and DISCLAIMER : In this and many other posts, Your Loyal kabayan Blogger offers no rigorous testing of theories, no research, and therefore no analysis that springs from either of the former. Napag-uusapan lang po. Mabuhay!]

I NEED to get this exploding thought out of my head: first of all kabayan my mababang paaralan (primary school) education tells me that there is nothing inherently wrong with sovereign states (esp developed, industrial states) keeping migrants out.

Whether you’re the barangay tanod, Coast Guard or a Scout Ranger, your sworn duty is to protect Philippine territory (the territory that hasn’t been compromised to China, yun lang) against any and all outsiders, and migrants, strictly speaking and until they become permanent residents, are outsiders that, unless authorized to do so (under special visas and privileges), have no right to reside in our country. So we expect any civilized nation to do the same, diba?

What’s not right and very pasaway (naughty) of certain countries (my adopted country isn’t the only one) is trying to kick out and/or make life difficult for migrants already inside the country and therefore compromised, meaning they already have something to lose.

There are many reasons for this, but for now I can only give you a couple (I have to report for afternoon shift in 1.5 hours and Mahal is almost done with tortang talong brunch):

An obvious reason is,  a loose and liberal immigration policy that may have flourished during earlier decades may need to give way to a stricter and more pragmatic, inward-looking policy. Where before, everyone was welcome, so many job positions needed filling, and the economy desperately needed warm bodies, only 10 years later, the glass is nearly full, Worse, people are gaming the system, using tricks and short cuts to qualify but in reality are poorly suited for and unwilling to actually participate in meaningful work (ahem, ahem, migrants from certain countries, you know who you are).

My second reason is: Come election time (any time now), you can bet that both the incumbent party-in-power and opposition say pretty desperate things to both attract attention and curry favor with popular opinion, i.e. votes sitting on the fence (undecided). Sad to say, saving jobs for New Zealanders, and migrants take jobs away from locals are some of them. I don’t need to tell you that as soon as the votes are counted, politicians will return to their natural constituencies, which are Big Business and their local districts. Itaga mo yan sa bato kabayan.

So, now that you have migrants that are no longer politically feasible to welcome (at least, for the moment) but have already invested time, energy and  money (also known as blood, sweat and tears) in your country, in the midst of economic, social and political turmoil, what to do, what to do?

The first line of defense is the language test or barrier. TOEFLs and IELTS hurdles are there, but not always for the the reason you think kabayan. For sure, English proficiency is the first threshold to participating in social and economic life in an English speaking country. But the converse is equally peruasive. If you (1) don’t speak English, (2) don’t adapt to speaking English ASAP, or (3) don’t want to shell out cash to learn English, then right away you are turned away at the border. Wala na tayong pag-uusapan amigo. This is a pretty straightforward barrier, and you can’t fault New Zealand for imposing this very basic barrier.

But weytaminit, kapeng mainit. You and me know, this is not a problem for Pinoys like you and me (or friends and partners of Pinoys who happen to be reading this).  We are English proficient, don’t need to bleed blood from stone to communicate with English speakers and pass English proficiency exams without too much grief. So this is where another barrier comes in.

Proof of skills. After all, the main reason you’re invited to participate in an economy not your own is through your skills diba (there’s also investment, that’s an entirely different kettle of fish though) and, theoretically, as long as you own skills that are usable and applicable to the host economy, then you’re welcome.

But then there’s the point of saturation, and also that very thorny and sensitive issue: What if there are already enough skilled laborers (in your particular area), or what if there are already enough locals who have in the meantime (from the time migrants are welcomed) upskilled and educated themselves and now want your place in the factory? In a manner of speaking, you might have worn out your welcome.

As if these weren’t enough, now comes the third, and recently innovated barrier kabayan. They’re called “remuneration bands” but in reality they’re just wage scales. Below $41,000 (yearly) you’re considered unskilled. Above the same number up to sitenta mil, you’re mid skilled. Above that amount, you’re highly skilled.

Various consequences attach to those numbers, and as you might expect, it doesn’t take a genius to surmise that the unskilled workers better start thinking of other migrant destinations, while those earning skilled dollars have an inside track to residency.

But why an arbitrary number or numbers? Does earning below 40 grand doom you to unskilled status? Just because your employer is generous, does it make you superskilled?

It sounds brutal, but the market is the best indicator of skill status. “If you are paid peanuts, then there are more people where you came from. If you are paid your weight in gold, then you must be hard to find, then by gosh we need you, my good man!” (I don’t know who said that, but it’s a pretty fair assessment of what many first world nations, not just NZ are doing now).

That in a nutshell is the last line of defense against legitimate migrants like many Pinoys. In rugby, the national sport of NZ, there is an idiom for this: in the middle of the game, they keep moving the goal posts. Please look it up for me, because that’s what they’re doing now, and it’s very unsettling.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!



the dirty little secret of many pinoy communities

[ Thank you and acknowledgment to YouTube poster Maypagasa for use of the video! ]

BEFORE ANY FURTHER, may I qualify that statement above, which I’ll expand into the rest of the blog, kabayan?

On the whole, and in general, Filipinos are kind, decent and caring people, who get along with anybody and everybody everywhere all over the world, with their own kind but especially among people of other races and nationalities. So much so that bukod tangi, in prosperous cities, countries, or regions where professionals, tradesmen and workers from all nations accumulate, Filipinos are popular, well-known and requested either as co-workers, colleagues or employees.

Our very own Ambassador to New Zealand His Excellency Jesus Gary Domingo likened us to “a thousand suns” that cannot shine in unison but on their own, without other Filipinos around, in order to be fully appreciated.

The “dirty little secret” refers to the lack of unity or organization among Filipinos in some if not most migrant and overseas communities, sometimes to the point of being a disadvantage to the kabayan in these communities who need it the most.

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To be sure, there will always be Pinoy orgs, clubs, interest groups anywhere abroad. Put two or three of our countrymen (women) together and you can be sure there will be talk of registering that group, for tax, financial assistance or any advantage whatsoever.

A recently departed embassy official told me that in one of her deployments in the developed world, there were 500,000 ethnic Filipinos either born in the Philippines or of Filipino descent.  Out of this massive number, there were about 5000 Filipino organizations, all of them legal entities, that their embassy dealt with regularly. So you can imagine the logistical work needed to get all of the orgs (not to mention their members!) on the same page, especially when a big project was in the works.

But that’s just one example, one situation. Imagine all over the world, Filipino communities active in their own productive lives, wanting to do the right thing for themselves and others, but not being all that effective as a group, whether strictly as Filipinos or with others. You can hazard a few intelligent guesses for this, but I’ll enumerate them for you kabayan:

Specific interest groups, usually driven by one or two personalities. You know the type. A natural leader, usually driven in his or her desire to do good, being the driving force and providing nearly all the energy behind an organization. The others are there just for the ride, the free lunches and maybe there’s something in it for them. I hate to sound jaded and pessimist, but that’s the way it goes, business organizations or otherwise. Remember Pareto’s rule, where 20% of the group does 80% of the work? That applies to most Pinoy clubs, groups or organizations.

Now what happens is a lot of groups like these ultimately burn themselves out, with a tragically short shelf life. Either the leader himself or herself gets tired, because of the failure to see that from the very start it should’ve been a team effort, or the other members (usually part of the leadership) see that the group agenda is driven by one person only. And why not? because that one person does all the work  🙂

In many cases also, Pinoy groups are founded on the common denominator/s of religion, business goals or objectives (seeking funding or deals as a single entity), or in preparation for a Pinoy-themed event (a sports fest, a cultural event, what have you). Have you ever heard of a Pinoy group formed for the general welfare of Pinoys in that community? I mean, an organization or pangkat formed for Pinoys, purely for fostering the interest of Pinoys in general? Tell me about it if you have, because I for sure haven’t.

Intramurals and intrigues. Now because in almost every Pinoy group, leadership and authority is centered in one or two individuals, power tends to stay there and perpetuate itself. Whatever the good intentions or lofty goals of the organization, as the latter evolves, membership increases and, most importantly, dinero starts to materialize, it becomes serious business (literally). It’s no longer a mom-and -pop affair : talk of allowances, per diem during meetings and how to allocate funding becomes an intensely debated topic or topics. Where before members would volunteer their services and expertise for free, now a little appreciation (of course, in the form of a little cash) becomes part of the discussion. Grumblings start to surface about how certain group policies are forgotten, how personalities get in the way, and how some members can no longer work with each other, on issues that have nothing to do with the group itself.

Before long, splinter groups emerge, the group shatters into pieces, and chaos reigns. If you think this kind of thing happens back home in the Philippines, think again kabayan, because I’ve heard it happen in Pinoy clubs all over the world, in infinite situations and countless reincarnations. Only the lyrics change, but the song remains the same throughout.

Politics. Just that one dirty word will tell you how brittle all organizations are in and out of the Philippines, no matter how pure and well-meaning the motives at the start. I refer not just to political parties but to how politically motivated intentions start to infect the friendships and united efforts of the Pinoy clubs and in the end, twist and mangle the original mission statement so much that the founders end up entirely losing sight of what they set out to do.

It doesn’t matter if one particular party or group is in the right or if another is totally in the wrong. Most of Filipino politics is personality-driven anyway, with party membership and principles a meaningless device to be used at one’s convenience. When political affiliation based on the party or personality in power (back in the homeland) starts to influence the life of the Pinoy org, then you can kiss it goodbye. It can no longer function healthily, and before long people will start to leave. That’s the reality, and it will never change. The tragedy is, politically motivated Pinoys in and out of the organizations or clubs think they are doing what is best for the group, and end up destroying it. Tsk tsk tsk, sayang lang.

Kabayan please don’t think I refer in particular to one Pinoy community or another, specially in my adopted country. As far as I know, this phenonenon persists everywhere there are Pinoys, across the seven seas. So if we are proud of our good points as Filipinos, we should also strive to do better, as regards our shortcomings.

Key words there. Strive to do better. There’s always room for improvement.

Thanks for reading, Mabuhay po tayong lahat!



one man’s basura is another man’s yaman


thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to myguidequeenstown.com!

IF PRECIOUS Reader (kabayan or otherwise) has listened as much as Your Loyal Blogger ylbNoel has yakked (which is unlikely), you’d know among others that I loathe talking / blogging / posting about politics, mainly because we all know enough attention, time and effort are devoted to politics and also because we all know (as well) that as much as you know you can prove yourself right, you can just as easily be proven wrong.

Having said, I can’t avoid reading about how trolls and bullies have preyed upon a national official helping her daughter acquire furniture during her masteral education abroad. I’ll easily show you where I stand by saying not just in the US or the Americas but all over the world, using “pre-loved”, second hand or used furniture, or for that matter any object of daily life, is not just recommended but a well-loved tradition of Filipinos all over the world.

[Just a minor disclaimer po before I go any further: any encouraged use of practical items presupposes you aren’t breaking any rules of hygiene or sanitary common sense, if you know what I mean.]

Much of practical life, Pinoy or not, is fleeting and transitory. Today you’re in New York, tomorrow your job, your love life or your studies might take you to Shanghai, Nairobi or Wellington. You might enjoy the quiet suburban tranquility of Vancouver one morning and be thrown into the tumult of your homeland in Manila the next. In the meantime, what do you do about the items of your domicile, your muebles, whiteware and things you can’t bring around the world with you?

You sell them before leaving, and buy new things in your temporary destination, that’s what you do. Except that with a limited budget and very finite resources, you can’t buy brand new things all the time. This applies whether you’re momentarily traveling or a permanent migrant, but always if you don’t intend to stay in one place for a long time. The following are what I’ve observed in my migratory life and ever-changing abode.

There is no shame in buying second-hand. More popular among students, OFWS and those in ambultory professions, the secondary market is a popular way of furnishing homes and sourcing the things we need, without spending too much money that could better be used for other needs. I’ve read this in online media and can certainly confirm it: there is no shame in buying second-hand goods, especially if it’s quality and you don’t plan to use it for long. In fact, if you intend to resell it (or better, donate it) after use, it’s a sign you are concerned for the environment.

Where I live in the Wellington and in the Greater Wellington region, Salvation Army stores are overwhelmingly the most popular sales destination for new arrivals from the Philippines as well as other migrant countries. It’s a win-win situation. Buyers are able to furnish their households with reasonably priced purchases, donors get rid of items they no longer need (without wastage) and the Salvation Army raises funds to help people in want and in need. Winners everywhere! May I add that long after I’ve arrived, I drop by the Salvation Army store to pick up things that brighten my day and which I know I’ve rescued from the landfill.

Buying from each other, on the Net or word of mouth. Because my Pinoy community is tightly knit, it’s easy for Pinoys to sell to each other, whatever the item and whoever needs it. The only currency here is need, and there are many ways to do it. There are Facebook pages for Pinoys and Asians who reach each other in nanoseconds, physical community notices in churches, supermarkets and weekend events. It could be a 2007 Mazda Demio, an ABS-CBN Star Cinema DVD, even a tadtaran (chopping block) that nobody sells in the department stores, anything that’s useful is fair game for buyers and sellers. As long as it’s an object of desire.

Scavenging is about the journey as well as the destination. More adventurous than flea markets, Salvation army stores and community notices is going around and finding something no one wants but something you might need. Wellingtonians who have lost interest in keeping certain things and who have no time discarding the same often just bring it outside their doors on the roadside, attaching on them the sign “Free to a good home.” If you’re lucky, you’ll find sofas, chairs, desks still quite usable, all just needing a vehicle and some rope for you to pick it up and bring it home.

It’s not limited to furniture. I have joined kabayan going around scavenging for free firewood in winter months, picked up filling material for housebuilding, anything that might be of use that other people no longer need.

There is no shame in second hand goods. One man’s basura might be another man’s yaman.

Thanks for reading and mabuhay!

what pinoys won’t tell you about pinoys

thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to eRepublik.com!

ALTHOUGH THERE IS one other Asian on our work site now (an Indian, in the engineering team), and maybe because the latter is still quite new, at work I’m usually the subject of Asian jokes and slightly race-related remarks, a fact of life I’ve openly embraced since I started working in New Zealand. Because of this, and also due to my good-natured friendliness and approachability, I get along with everybody at work. it wouldn’t be an exaggeration for me to say i’m probably the most popular staff member on site.

I wear my being Filipino on my sleeve, broach my “Pinoyness” as a subject every time an opportunity presents, and always take time to ask about any kind of personal interaction my colleagues might have with other Filipinos, and ask if it reflects positively on us. It usually ends up in a joke or anecdote, which I laugh at, in an easy attempt to make fun of myself. It nearly always lets others know they can laugh with me instead of laughing at me, which is alright in any case.

What most of my workmates don’t always realize is that like any other race in the human community, Filipinos have a good side and a bad side. We like to show our “presentable” face to the rest of the world, while naively pretending our warts and zits are invisible. Yes we are likeable, we like to think, but there are annoying aspects of our character that have become so predictable that they are just a part of our Pinoyness as our food, our skin pigment and our facility in English. These are just a few that we’re not proud of, but which our non-Pinoy neighbors are slowly beginning to discern:

Pinoys are notorious gossips. We are so gossipy and loose-lipped about our fellowmen (and women) that we hardly use the term chismoso (and chismosa) anymore, it’s such a natural thing to talk about the personal lives of other people, under the dismissive phrase napag-uusapan lang naman (we’re just discussing it in passing, or “by the way”). It’s almost as if we as Filipinos are kind and decent in every other away except in the way we trash other people who have the misfortune of not being around, and therefore unable to defend themselves when their personal lives are being discussed.

I’m no saint or angel just because I condemn this very Pinoy behavior. In fact, when I don’t watch myself, I do it without even realizing it, until I sit back after a conversation and think about, now what if instead of talking about Person A with Person B (in the most graphic detail possible) without a second thought, Person B was discussing with A about me? How would I feel?

I’m also not saying that people from other countries don’t do it, especially since the people I enjoy gossipy talk with are New Zealanders, Brits, fellow Asians, etc. But because I know my own kind, I know we are above the norm in shaming our kabayan behind their backs. Oh well, nobody’s perfect.

“Keeping up with the Joneses”. The Urban Dictionary defines this phrase as “to strive beyond one’s means to keep up socially and financially with others in one’s social circle or neighborhood.” It can cover any object, trivial or massive, from buying a Fitbit sports watch to starting an entire property makeover just to show your neighbors, friends and colleagues that whatever they do, you can do just as well or better.

If you use this to do better in life, improve your situation or help you reach goals in your career, relationships and community, why not, diba? An example is to take out a student loan to join your friends enrolling in a masteral or postgraduate course.  Trouble is many of us Filipinos , upon discovering the travel, purchase or party plans of their peers, borrow money or overextend themselves just to keep up with the same. Maxing out the credit line during family weddings, town fiestas and holidays are nothing new to us, but we always have to outdo ourselves from previous gastusan (spending sprees) just to comply with the saying, para wala silang masabi (so they can’t complain). We would rather cope with material hardship and eternal debt than not keep up with appearances. Recently, Filipinos have matured in this respect, but old habits die hard.

Crab mentality. This is subject of much debate and discussion, but in my experience Pinoys do not support each other whenever one of their own is on the fast track towards success and achievement,  as compared to other nationalities (in my very limited perspective, of course). Hindi naman ito strictly crab mentality, but when you’re not happy for kabayan, what are you then? Hardly any room for being neutral here.

Among Chinese, when a member of their community is running for office, being recognized for special achievement in their profession, in the arts, or civic duty, the whole universe of ethnic Chinese (whether from the mainland, Taiwan or Hongkong) rallies behind him as a brother or sister. When a Thai, Vietnamese or Southeast Asian opens a business, you can be sure it will receive the patronage of their countrymen. I’m not so sure about parallels in the Filipino community. More so in the international sphere, when Pinoys up for high positions, awards and recognition get less than the support they so richly deserve, from kabayan and the kabayan community.

I may be generalizing, but would you disagree with my stinging assessments? On the whole, Pinoys are appreciated, across the board, by different races. It’s time that we start, on the one hand, taking a long hard look at ourselves, and on the other, start appreciating ourselves.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

quick thoughts on dad on Father’s day

Bruh  Mom n Dad

Mom and Dad on one of many happy occasions spent together. Here they are with Fifth Brother, who cuts a dashing figure himself 😉 Photo courtesy of the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial. Happy Father’s day everyone!

IF MOTHERHOOD is nurturing, fatherhood must by extension certainly be building, building up or developing. If the most dramatic (although not comprehensive) part of the mother narrative is bringing the child from conception to newborn, then the most critical part of being a dad, in my humble opinion (IMHO as they now say on abbreviated social media) is guiding the inchoate or formative years of the toddler, through pre-teen awkwardness, and into young adulthood.

Both are challenging, and motherhood is certainly the more thankless, and therefore nobler task.  But fatherhood is equally demanding, and may require more of the latter parent’s time and commitment in later years.

I emphasize the building or building up nature of dadhood because you cannot start in the middle, or worse, the later part of fatherhood. Each step along the way requires you to build on previous work. The work of days, weeks, months and years. There is no other way.

I know this because I hold my father in the highest esteem. He was born during the Second World War, to my knowledge had no access (or had to desire to have access) to fatherhood self-help books, disdained the psychobabble and psychoanalysis made famous during the seventies and eighties, but was there for me as a provider, disciplinarian, mentor, adviser, and everything else I could possibly want as a child and young man growing up in the Philippines decades ago.

I also know this because I was not always there for my children, and therefore enjoy a healthy relationship with them despite and not because of the father that I was. I do not always enjoy their full trust and confidence, and it will take the rest of my years to develop a better relationship with them.

There is no such thing as perfect fatherhood because along the way, we learn as we go. Our being dads will be marked by our failures just as much as our successes, but I am willing to bet my last fifty pesos that we will be loved just as much, regardless of our failings.

Thank you for being my dad, I love you very much. Happy Father’s day to all!

my mother the legend

[ We hardly see Mom in formal wear, so this is a treat! Taken during the wedding of her grandson Jay Bautista to Linnel de Villa last March, Mom is the lovely lady in the center. Also in pic are family friend Miggie Isla, my brother Doc Donald Bautista, and Dr Nick Cruz, one of the couple’s sponsors. Thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook photo library of Jude Bautista. For more pics please visit http://judebautista.wordpress.com. woohoohoo!]

IF MISTER SLASH MISS PRECIOUS READER (that’s you) has read any of our previous posts about mother, motherhood or mother’s day, you’d probably know that we’re a big fan of mothers in general,  and her special day (being Mother’s Day, besides her birthday, just where do you place that apostrophe?) is just one more reason to show her respect, gratitude, love and all other positive feelings and thoughts that affirm her place in human history.

But I also want to convey said feelings personally, about (who else?) my own mom.

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Let me balance it out first: Mom’s not perfect. She doesn’t always go the diplomatic route, is sometimes given to temperamental outbursts, and definitely, definitely speaks her mind. But it only underscores the indisputable fact that there’s not a single fake bone in her body.

Now for the good part : At 78, Mom gets up around 5.30 am most days to prepare for work. It’s not part-time work, a casual job or even volunteer, just-to-keep-busy work.  It’s a real six-day, 52-week job that she’s held in the only career she’s ever loved: retail and point-of-sale. Only because she’s had the benefit of experience, and her savings, she’s her own boss, in her own business.

During the week, she supervises her staff who mind the kilns and cure the meat (it’s a ham baking business), fills out orders and schedules deliveries. Everything is in preparation for the weekend markets (when she wakes up even earlier, hears the first Sunday Mass) in Salcedo Village Makati, Mount Carmel Quezon City and Libis Pasig, where the actual selling takes place. There’s very little inventory because all of her kiosks nearly always sell out.

The rest of her time is divided into catechism work in their parish, indulging Dad in his favorite pastime, stud poker and Texas hold’ em poker, and reading the latest romance and suspense horror novels of her fave authors. Oh, she’s also anticipating news of her first great grandchild!

Long after her years of motherhood (where she raised five sons forever grateful), she continues to be motherlike. She looks after the tuition needs of dozens of children of relatives in Bicol, will send help to a sick family member but will forget about it as soon as the money transfer is complete, most days she will send food to sick kumares and old friends who can no longer look after themselves.

(btw, you won’t hear or get this confirmed from anyone. This is the sort of thing that doesn’t get talked about, least of all by Mom herself. It just isn’t her thing.)

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I could go on and on, but it would take the rest of the day. Just one last Mommy anecdote : On my last balikbayan visit, Mom pulled me aside to tell me to get serious about work and a more stable future overseas. Before I could finish, she asked me: howz your immigration going?

I said di pa tapos Mom, inadvertently letting on that the entry fee (application fee) wasn’t cheap.

She answered : I know. This isn’t much, but don’t spend it on anything else. I’m praying for you, pushing US$500 into my surprised hands.

I was speechless for awhile, marvelling at the irony of the situation: the OFW being given a handout by his mother. The speechlessness was broken by Fourth Brother (a migrant like me), who also took me aside to ask:

Binigyan ka nya ng pera ‘no? Magkano ? $500?

I said, yes, how did you know?

He replied : Hahaha! Utang ko yan sa kanya!  kakabayad ko lang sa kanya kanina. He added that he had a feeling it would go to me.

She had paid her good fortune forward instantly!

As she has been doing and continues to do, all her life.

God bless you Mom! From all of us in Manila, Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand and New Mexico, USA, happy mother’s day! I love you always!

And Happy mother’s day to all!


“nagi-guilty ka ba kabayan kapag di ka nag O.T. or nagsickie?”*

[In picture above is kabayan and dairy worker Socrates Mallari, who I hope doesn’t mind my use of this pic,  he is helping turn the wheels of the New Zealand economy! Thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to Socrates and stuff.co.nz, happy mothers’ day to all!]

I LOVE my job, despite and not because of what I do. My job validates me, gives me dignity, and gives me a chance to pursue the Pinoy dream of a better life in a foreign land.

Down to the details, it’s a job that involves considerable manual effort, physical activity (pareho lang ata yun), shift work, (night shift and afternoon shift, meron ding morning), going on fifth gear when something’s wrong in the factory. The speed and reaction time is crucial, because for the whole factory (four levels), only two of you monitor everything, and keeping the factory running is the first and only priority, but when everything’s cool, OK naman.

Because of the migrant mentality where you feel you have to do equal or more of your share as a perennial outsider, I need to foster a brutal work ethic. Never late, never absent, first in and last out (within reason), and always volunteering for extra work and covering up for staff on leave. It’s the way it is, and everyone covers for everybody else, anyway. You just don’t wait for the request to become an order.

But not everyone always feels the same way, especially the katutubo or those who feel a little entitlement in the Land of the Long White Cloud (New Zealand’s name for itself). They don’t do anything not in their job description, don’t want to be held accountable for anything that doesn’t involve their work (fair enough), and the first question they ask when requested to do something beyond the usual shift is “What’s in it for me?” Ito naman ang nakasanayan nila bilang katutubo or locals, and beyond a few mutterings, no one begrudges them for that.

Ang problema nga lang, even as they look mediocre on absolute terms (in a vacuum), migrant workers, not the least of which are Pinoys, make them look worse (if that’s at all possible). No one to work the (urgently needed) extra shift? I’ll do it, boss! Someone needs to help out in packing (a different department)? Count me in boss! Could you come a little earlier to cover for the previous shift (who’s AWOL and nowhere to be found)? Consider it done boss! You do these things for no other reason than you earnestly feel the need to give back, and hopefully the positive deed will be paid forward, eventually back to you. The locals grumble and mutter, but what can they do? Their free time and weekends are sacred to them, and everybody respects that.

Which is why, out of every 10 offers to work overtime, whether it be on a regular shift (extension) or weekends (Saturday mornings) as long as I can remember I accept around 9. The money’s good, but it’s a concrete manifestation of your willingness to go the extra mile, especially on an unexpected turn of events. (extra orders, down time, when maintenance eats into production time, and so on and so forth).

I sometimes pretend to make a big deal out of it, bitch about having to work when I could be resting (I have lower back, gout and chronic sleep apnea issues which wife Mahal has put up with brilliantly), but in the end I almost always say yes. Saying no is not part of the equation.

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Similarly, another migrant in our workplace has infected nearly all of our production team with his durability and iron man attitude. In the eight years I’ve known him, he has called in sick a grand total of ONE time, and he was so sick we were all concerned if he needed hospital care (he is a confirmed bachelor and lives alone).

So, colds and coughs, feeling a little bit under the weather, hungover after a “bender “(walang katapusang inuman might be an accurate translation of this Kiwi-ism), etc might be enough for somebody to call in sick, but not for our production team.  You know you’ll eff up the shift schedule, there will be people before and after your shift who will cover for you, but unless you really feel unable to come to work, you don’t want to impose.  Just as they don’t want to impose.

I don’t know if this is unique to the migrant work ethic, I would be naive to think so. But it certainly comes up together, being a migrant who more than wants to pull his weight at the workplace, and the harder attitudes of trying to do more, and put in an honest day’s work almost without fail.

Throughout my gig at my workplace, I’ve been told: Use your sick days when you need to.  Don’t feel as if you have to work beyond the pale, every single time.  Get a life.  Achieve the work-life balance.

I can do all of those, but in keeping with my migrant mentality, I internalize what the American philosopher and psychologist William James said about work, or activity: Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

*O.T. = overtime.  Sickie = a Kiwi term for using sick leave.