‘mahal din pala ako ng New Zealand’

thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to immigration.govt.nz!

dear kuya noel

kumusta kayo dyan at sana nasa mabuting kalagayan ka at iyong mag-anak.

pasensya na kung barok-barok ang aking Tagalog. kahit matagal ko nang gustong mangumusta sa yo, di ko kinalakihan ang managalog, malayo ang probinsya ko. Ganunpaman, sisikapin kong kwentuhan ka ng buhay New Zealand.

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matagal-tagal na rin ako sa New Zealand. Lahat ng klaseng trabaho nasubukan ko na, di pinagkakailang may mga angking-husay akong natutunan sa Pilipinas. Hammer hands, scaffolder, kahit dishwasher pinatulan ko. Twing nawawalan ako nang trabaho, iniisip ko na lang na may mas magandang job na naghihintay sa akin.

Pero madaling mawalan nang tyempo (momentum) rito sa New Zealand, kahit puno nang yaman at oportunidad ang bansang ito. Di pa gaanong kahirap makapasok nun dahil sa aking recruitment agency, pero pahirap nang pahirap manatili dahil sa kung anu-anong dahilan.

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Bago pa nalugi yung una kong employer, pinagtulungan kami ng may-ari at agency halus ubusin ang maliit na sweldo namin, kundi pa sa tulong nang aking manugang ay di ko alam kung paano makakaraos ang aking mag-ina.

Nung nakahanap na ako ng kapalit na work, sinikap kong ipakitang deserving ako sa last chance kahit 1 year visa lang nabigay sa akin, pero agad kong napansing pinaka mahirap, mabigat at maruming trabaho binibigay sa akin, at sa akin lang; na kapag maagang umuwi mga kasama, di na rin ako makapagtrabaho at kapos ang 8 hour ko, at di rin ako nabibigyan ng holiday pay kahit kasama yung sa benepisyo ng work visa holder.

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OK lang naman mga pabigat na to, sanay naman tayo sa hirap. Pero nung unang lockdown, di binigay nung employer yung ayuda o wage subsidy, kahit alam naming may natanggap sila mula sa gobyerno. Nung pangalawang lockdown naman, sinabi lang ng employer na di nila kukunin ang wage subsidy, kahit kailangang kailangan namin ang ayuda.

Matagal at di ko na maalala kuya, pero dito lang sa New Zealand kong natutunan magtago sa isang sulok para umiyak, para sa aking mga minamahal at di matulungan sa Pilipinas, para sa aking pamilyang kapus lagi dahil sa king sitwasyon, at para sa aking sarili na di maiwan ang aking work visa status. kung WV ka, walang kasiguruhan ang buhay sa New Zealand.

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Laking gulat na lang namin nung nag-anunsyo ang Prime Minister katapusan ng last month na kung may 3 taon ka na rito at may valid work visa ka, may tsansa ka nang maging permanent resident.

Kahit wala akong pangarap na maging PR rito nung bagong dating pa lang, sa tinagal ko sa New Zealand ay minsan rin akong nangarap na dalhin ang aking mag-ina para pakinabangan ang kalinisan, kagandahan at kaayusan ng pamamalakad ng bansang natutunan ko nang mahalin.

di ko na tatanungin kung bakit ngayon lang kami nabiyayaan nitong blessing o kung anong basehan kung sino ang nabigyan at di naswerteheng maPR. nagpapasalamat na lang ako sa Diyos Maykapal.

Kahit di ko inakalang babawiin ang aking hirap, pagod at puyat nitong 5 taon, mahal din pala ako ng New Zealand.

Maraming salamat sa pag-basa nitong liham Kuya.

tagapagbasa mo lagi


malayang mangarap (daring to hope)

WHERE WERE YOU Precious Reader when historical events unfolded?

We would’ve wanted to be closer to the action, but because of the half-million to one million spontaneously assembled, we were near the corner of EDSA and Ortigas Ave when the Marcos family and their cronies fled the country, the climax of the EDSA Revolution of 1986. We were doing a short run around the subdivision / village when 9/11 exploded across the world stage, never to be matched in impact and violence to this day.

And six days ago on a bright 5am morning, we were doing a morning shift when we received an urgent message from a friend in Auckland, a friend of the Pinoy community and personally affected by the news. He had known since the night past, but couldn’t spill the beans because of a media embargo (he’s a member of the press). He updated his publication’s website very early that day, but reproduced the government’s Immigration NZ’s announcement:

the Government announced a new one-off residence visa pathway for some temporary work visa holders currently in New Zealand. Some critical purpose visa holders arriving in New Zealand between 30 September 2021 and 31 July 2022 on long-term visas may also be eligible for this new visa. Partners and dependents can be included as part of these residence applications.

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The implications were stunning, no exaggeration. 165,000 temporary work visa holders, and many more who’d previously applied, had been in limbo the last three years and prepared to go home due to the disappearance of hope becoming permanent residents of New Zealand. Indeed, for all the covid19 success earned by this country’s “team of 5 million,” New Zealand had been deemed “a miserable place to be in if you’re a migrant.”

Thursday’s announcement changed all that.

Just before the announcement, work visa holders were in the depths of despair and disappointment, mourning the day they decided to uproot families for the hope of a better life in New Zealand.

A bad decision to downsize Immigration New Zealand staff, the pandemic, and freezing residency applications for more than two years combined for a perfect storm of suspending the lives of nearly the entire migrant community in New Zealand, comprising anywhere between 2.5% to 5% of the entire country’s population.

Beyond this, many felt there was a serious disconnect between the realities of what the country’s needed and what migrants were able to provide.

Weren’t the migrant doctors nurses and allied and healthcare workers eternally on the frontline in the battle against the Virus? Weren’t our migrant builders ready and willing during the Christchurch and Kaikoura rebuilds and even during the real estate boom all over New Zealand?

And weren’t our schools and business crying for teachers and professionals even while New Zealand could only look on while the brain drain to UK, Australia and Canada took place?

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Even in all the midst of despair and hopelessness, our migrants held fast and held on to the tiny bit of hope that things would turn around and the dealer couldn’t always give them a bad hand.

A perfect blackjack was waiting just around the corner, and it came last Thursday.

The threshold or most basic condition was and is, you had to be in New Zealand. Next, you had to be here for the last three years. Lastly, you had to have a valid work visa in any of the pathways, and earning at least $27 an hour.

Anything over that is just icing on the cake.

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it might not be a fair comparison, but nearly a thousand Jews and their future families were saved by Oskar Schindler from certain death during the Second World War.

It isn’t death that more than 165,000 families are being saved from, but given the global pickle we’re now all in, to the Labour Government and leader Jacinda Ardern, they are eternally grateful.

It was a long time coming, but finally we can dare to hope.

Thanks for reading!

the coldest day in new zealand (ang lupit ng taglamig sa new zealand)

[it’s not always nurses, IT engineers, scaffolders and dairy workers that our Inang Bayan gives up to New Zealand’s industries. Some just come here trying their luck, hanging on to any job. and soldiering on till they catch a break. Unfortunately, they get caught between the cracks, and time passes them by. Isinalin mula sa Tagalog. ]

dear Kuya Noel

DON’T ASK ME how long I’ve been in New Zealand. practically all of the people I started out with have long become permanent residents, since been citizens, or have gone home. For reference, the younger Bush was still president of the mightiest nation on earth, and kabayan Manny Pacquiao was still earning the second or third of his eight world titles. That’s how long I’ve been in this Paradise.

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Earliest days in New Zealand, my stay was already threatened. Those days, as now, wide latitude was granted in decisions to issue or deny work visas, as many factors were (and are) considered. One such factor was that my position was not “essential” enough so that recruitment outside New Zealand wasn’t a priority.

To her credit and deserving of my eternal gratitude, my then HR manager told the immigration officer that the substance we were manufacturing was something consumed by Kiwis everyday and without which meals wouldn’t be complete. I was ready to go home, but the officer reconsidered, and gave me another one-year visa.

Sadly it was a lone victory in a sea of frustrations. Even before I started the job, it was already taken off the “skills shortage list” for which long-term visas and possibly permanent residence could be applied , meaning if you either had a skill or were training for it and it was on that list, you might be eligible to stay longer in New Zealand

Some of the migrants in my workplace had taken advantage of the job being in the list, and that only made it more frustrating.

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For a few years, under another visa pathway towards residency, one of the requirements was that you had to earn a minimum annual income before even being considered for an invitation to apply.

For several years, I earned just below that minimum, so close and yet so far. Asking for a pay rise or better pay from my employer was out of the question as they would have to give everyone else the same benefit.

[ a couple of years later I realized even this pathway was beyond reach, as my employer was not willing to be “accredited” or registered under the rules of Immigration NZ. They were willing to hire me as a migrant, but nothing beyond that. i pass no judgment on my employer. ]

Late in the previous National government, just for the fun of it, immigration planners decided to divide migrant workers into highly skilled, midskilled and unskilled workers. Since nearly all of these workers were and are crucial to the economy, and since the perceived objective for this classification, the more efficient handling of skilled applications, became unreachable as so so many applications had since then been unprocessed anyway, I didn’t see how the classifications helped. For earning below a certain amount, you became unskilled. Earn a few cents more and you are considered skilled. How does that make sense?

So there it was, based on Murphy’s Law I became unskilled. It didn’t matter that all this time (1) there were so few qualified workers in my industry that nearly half of my colleagues were migrants or former migrants, and (2) as mentioned earlier, we were manufacturing such an important substance that we’d been working through two lockdowns, rain or shine, holidays or not.

The classification, based on “remuneration bands” became so unpopular and awkward to apply in the real world that first, such new rules were repeatedly postponed and suspended, and last I heard were going to be dropped altogether. In other words, useless. Stressed us out, and cost tens of thousands of dollars to implement and maybe so many job and visas, all for nothing.

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It didn’t matter though. It had served its purpose. since the rules for visas and permanent residency were very similar and used similar requirements, I was delayed once more in my quest to become a permanent resident.

My children, who’d become PRs because of their mother, tried to help me under a different residence category, but didn’t earn enough under the income requirements in case they needed to support me here in New Zealand. After giving me so much hope under the Parent Category, i abandoned that, too.

I finally started earning enough and got a new job (but with the same skills) with supervisory functions, just enough to be eligible under the Skilled Migrant Category. What should happen next but a global pandemic / lockdown that suspended and doomed the already handicapped functions of Immigration New Zealand, which suffered and is suffering from understaffing, inefficiency and a backlog of more than 30,000 applications.

[ with a staff of less than 150 and so much work put in to each case you do the math. Some say it will take at least a decade to process all this backlog. What about the deluge of new applications that will be submitted, waiting in the wings the last two years? ]

By this writing I have reached my 56th birthday, by which time I can no longer be eligible to apply for permanent residency.

That birthday, Kuya Noel, was my coldest day in New Zealand.

Naghihintay ng forever at umaasa sa wala

Jhun Datingaling

ang tanging panlaban (the only way to fight back)

TIMARU – A LOT, MORE than half I would guess of Pinoys here started out on the dairy farms, and it takes no genius to figure that out. You fix your papers (residency) the most practical way possible, get your family from the homeland, and work towards your dream. Then, you can work anywhere you want. Slow and steady wins the race, as they say.

As they might not appreciate the attention, I won’t identify them. The padre de familia of one of the first families i got to know here was an established professional back home, but came to South Island 10 years ago, worked as a dairy worker here 14 hours a day, 28 days a month on the farm, longer than he cares to admit, before he became a PR (permanent resident). He’s a citizen now, but it wasn’t that long ago that he remembers very well the challenges of the job.

“Only one day off every two weeks. On call all the time, so it was like you were working even when you rested.”

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But it was worth it. His wife and two sons soon followed him, and they all became residents not long after they arrived. It was a hard but necessary step towards becoming part of New Zealand, and the kabayan family regrets nothing in their migrant journey.

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The problem, kabayan, is that times have changed. Although there are visa pathways for specific jobs towards permanent residency in New Zealand, being a dairy worker is no longer the surefire way to getting there. The main problems are the extreme lengths of time needed to process your application, and the stress of being separated from family while you wait.

Just ask Ariel Ocon and Christian Roxas, kabayan who have faced exactly the situation described above.

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Before anything else, a disclaimer po: you won’t find facts and statistics in this space, I’m either too lazy or too sleepy to organize and report the same to you, Precious Reader. But I do try to read a daily diet of sensational, serious and semi-serious news that appeals to a kabayan OFW worker born in the late 20th century like me, namely, Filipino, New Zealand and sports-showbiz news that’s free and available on the internet.

The only bare facts I have for you Precious Reader, after sifting through Stuff News, New Zealand Herald (the free portion) and Radio New Zealand websites: these guys have waited a reasonable amount of time (in Ariel’s case 16 months) before being told a case officer hadn’t even been assigned to their applications;

That in one of these cases, the physical, mental and emotional strain of being separated from families is enough for the worker to reconsider staying in New Zealand, no matter how much he loves it here;

And that at least three countries (Australia, Canada and Ireland) would take both of our kabayan in a heartbeat, family and all, with permanent residency promised, and soon. I don’t know what soon means, but it certainly won’t take as long as these guys have waited.

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A last thought before we finish. Canada has promised permanent residency to ALL essential workers who served the country during the pandemic. These guys have gone through the legal and formal process to just formalize what they have already been doing from Day One, which is to be productive members of New Zealand society. If they’re already considered part of the family (as we are all hearing from the Prime Minister and PC media), why aren’t they allowed to even enter the house?

(and if being a dairy worker, FFS, isn’t being an essential worker, helping produce milk and dairy products, I don’t know what is. )

In the end, Ariel and Christian can fight back all this unfairness (for it IS unfairness) the only way they know how, which is to bring (or threaten to bring) their skills elsewhere. As we mentioned above, three 1st World nations are welcoming them, with the widest of open arms.

Ball in your court, New Zealand.

caught between 2 countries, what do our nurses do in the meantime

[ this is the original version of a story published in Filipino Migrant News, with thanks and acknowledgment to Mel and Sheila Fernandez. All the errors and opinions are the blogger’s, thanks for reading! ]

IMAGINE STUDYING and training four-plus years for your trade or profession. Following this, a practicum or practical section of your education lasting at least six months, followed by preparation for your national board certification exams for at least three to four months.

You serve your country a while to show your gratitude, then you start the process of paying back everyone who paid for your expenses, not to mention your comfort and convenience. You also start thinking of your future, and select from a few countries where you will reap the greatest rewards from your newly-minted skills and experience.

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One such country is relatively peaceful, clean and pays a handsome wage for people who have your skillset. It’s a good place to raise your future children, and you wouldn’t mind bringing your extended family there too.

The only catch: you have to “top up” or augment your skills a little, to adjust to the health systems and culture of the place, after which you’re deemed fit to practice your skills and career, as if you were practicing in the Philippines. Your immigration adviser says it’s but a formality, a six-week training course that you’re certain to breeze through.

Because of all the assurances and the fact that indeed, the additional training Program is something most if not all of your future colleagues pass with flying colours, after some initial hesitation you agree to everything your immigration adviser suggests, noting that you will travel not on a work visa as you initially assumed but a student visa because of the “top up”  situation. A mere bump in the road, you are told.

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This mere bump in the road, a triviality you were told, becomes a major hassle at the airport, where a junior-looking and rather overzealous pair of immigration officers scan your travel documents and inform you that you cannot travel to work if you are travelling on a student visa.

That hundreds of your colleagues have gone on before you on the exact same arrangement is not important to these immigration officers. The letter of the law must be followed, and you cannot be allowed to board your flight.

If not for the intervention of the embassy of your destination country, which communicated in the clearest terms that they posed no objection to you entering their territory on a student visa, regardless of your future intentions, you wouldn’t have been able to leave.

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It sounds like a horror story for many of our skilled OFW kabayan where we are, not just in New Zealand. But it has happened recently, and only because legal details have not been hammered out between the country sending workers, and the country employing them.

Everyone knows Filipino nurses make up the largest non-Kiwi ethnic group in NZ, are popular for their efficiency, professionalism and personal touch . Everyone knows the CAP or Competency Assessment Program is merely a device to make our nurses’ adjustment process easier.

And everyone knows that, barring unforeseen circumstances or an act of God, Filipina nurses will continue sailing for New Zealand shores where their skills will always be in high demand, and where the Pinoy dream of comfort, free from poverty and pollution, is very achievable.

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The issue is neither the need to serve the motherland first, or the right to a livelihood, without which survival wouldn’t be possible.

There will always be nurses to serve and attend to our sick in the Philippines, says a community leader in Auckland who chose to remain unnamed. It doesn’t make sense to stop nurses going overseas just because of the pandemic, and it’s poor policy anyway.

Neither is the issue the freedom to livelihood or the right to earn a living. According to Filipino officials, the legal framework just needs to be corrected and adjusted to the way nurses are engaged to work in New Zealand.

The question is, why has this situation been prevailing for so long? Why have nurses been allowed all this time to come to work under the current arrangement, and suddenly not been allowed? Why are the rules not been applied consistently?

The only constant here is that whatever action or inaction that takes place is being done at our Filipino nurses’ expense.

how i learned to love the Vax

[Again, we threaten to be overwhelmed by events. Just a few hours ago, the Prime Minister ordered a snap Level 4 lockdown for three days nationwide. But if there’s a place commonsense could choose to be in these uncertain days, it would have to be here in Aotearoa. Happy to be here for now and tomorrow.]

GOING HARD AND EARLY” is the catchphrase of New Zealand’s Labour government against covid, and so far it’s worked. I’m not much for statistics but I do know that in absolute terms (raw numbers) and in proportion to population, New Zealand is in the top five in the herculean battle against the Virus.

That’s the big picture. I want to tell you about my personal Vax experience, for lack of a catchier term. I will always be pro-Vax, through and through, no ifs and buts about it. Overwhelming evidence and overwhelming science just backs it up. The reason we’re all safe against so many diseases that killed mankind in the millions is because of Vax, and no amount of fake news and pseudo-science can convince me otherwise.

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BUT, days before my scheduled Vax appointment, small doubts crept up the back of my amygdala. That business end of the Vax, that needle that stabs me through the skin, through the muscle and almost to the bone, attaches to very deep-seated fears and emotions that goes all the way to childhood, when the anticipation and wild imaginings were worse than the prick itself.

What about all those irrational scenarios scaring people into believing that they would die one year after Vax, or that the adverse effects outweighed the intended benefit? I knew all these were stupid and baseless, circulating in the internet behind the facade of authoritative and academic sounding studies, but when you yourself become the guinea pig, the irrational suddenly becomes less so.

Sweeping these silly fears aside, I told myself: everyone I know had either received or would receive the Vax. It had already saved millions, and even assuming for adverse reactions for say, one in 10,000, that would still be acceptable. No way in heaven or hell I would miss this. And besides, it was free. How could the Pinoy in me refuse a freebie?

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I was 10 minutes early, but because so many people were having their Vax the same day and hour, I could’ve been half an hour late and it wouldn’t have mattered. There were so many staff administering the Vax, I could’ve been delivering pizza and still would’ve been accommodated.

Of course, that’s an exaggeration, but worth trying.

Most of the vaxees were my age (well past thirtysomethings), a few using canes and walkers, but most of them still young enough to use their own teeth. You see, I shared the age group for those under senior citizens, but nearly old enough to be in the risk group. Lumped with our group were frontliners who because of the nature of their jobs were more exposed than everybody else to the Virus. So there were a few Gen Xers and Gen Yers in the Vax center too.

The gatekeeper just asked for my name, didn’t even look at my ID more than a couple seconds, and pointed me to the nurse that was probably on her 4th or 5th Vax of the day. She gave me an antiseptic, professional smile, and asked me if I was left or right-handed. So that my “weak” arm would be the entry point of the Vax that had already saved millions in so little time.

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…AND IN LESS TIME you could say “oxygen tank”, it was all over. Although the needle was scary, it seemed that the Vaxer didn’t even put it in all the way through, the Vax itself seemed so… insubstantial.

(Book the booster, don’t forget!)

I had to stay 20 minutes like everybody else, just in case there was an adverse reaction. No one talked or spoke in the waiting room, although there must’ve been at least 20 of us newly-Vaxed. As if nobody wanted to jinx the newly-saved.

After that, I walked out into the winter sun, safe and healthy again.

Until the next Monster Virus.

today we are all timaruans

thanks and acknowledgment to rnz.co.nz

THE TOWN WHERE we work doesn’t have too many people, and it feels like it has much less than the 28,000, which is around the size of a big barangay (a neighborhood) in old Manila.

You’ll never see a crowd anywhere, and everyone knows each other, it seems. And yet, I didn’t realize how much Timaru felt like just one big neighborhood since late last week, when five boys died in a single-car accident on the outskirts of town.

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A special dread shot up my spine when Mahal read out the accident report, at ___ Rd, where I commuted everyday. Not just that, but it was a deceptively busy area where it could be deserted at one moment, and chock full of cars on the intersection the next.

Whether or not it was a safe or dangerous place, the extreme nature of the accident was in direct proportion to the tragedy involved. Six passengers, five deaths. No other way to put it, the best way I could describe it was sending six kids to war, and only one of them returning.

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And they WERE kids. none of them over 17. Fifteen and sixteen, with only the driver, who will probably live with his mistake the rest of his life, a non-teenager at 20 years old.

I’d only been in this town six months, and I knew none of them, nor their families, much less been friends. But I felt, how devastating it would be to their families.

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Our random thoughts proved prophetic. Little did I know that practically all of the people I worked with had some sort of connection with the youths.

A member of my department went to school with and knew three of the six. My senior colleague’s son was a classmate to one of the boys. And my own shift partner’s classmate was a sister to another boy.

Such a senseless event, made more senseless by the fact that the boys were not even starting their lives. No finger pointing, but is it a rite of passage and a tradition of youth that we all do things that tempt fate and dance with danger to within an inch of our lives?

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The Sunday morning news that greeted us reported five deaths and one injured, but between the lines we saw the brother, the friend, the classmate. The son, the nephew and the grandson that will now live only in pictures and memories.

In Timaru, in Manila or anywhere else, we everywhere feel the loss. The pain is deep and to the bone. We can share it with all who are capable of love and emotion, but for now it is too great to bear.

Today we are all Timaruans.

ano ang “big reveal” ni Ma’m Jacinda itong Lunes? (what’s the big reveal of PM Jacinda this Monday?)

[ It’s very easy to veer off course and digress (lumihis) from the topic of today’s post so I’ll do my best to stay on course, thank you for reading and mabuhay! ]

IN THE PHILIPPINES, IN THE land of our hosts New Zealand, and anywhere else in the world, there exists one common reality, as reliable as death and taxes : political parties exist primarily to seize and maintain political power. They may espouse principles and ideology, but all these will be compromised and set aside if it means staying in power, holding on to the reins of Government and ruling with any kind of majority.

Quite a departure from our usual migrant-friendly, often down-to-earth intro statements kabayan and friends, but it had to be done. The Labour Government of New Zealand has recently fielded a lot of flak and criticism for their negligence of migrants’ welfare for an extended amount of time (three years). Along with quite a few other policy failures, confidence in governance and leadership has understandably gone down as a result, but immigration policy has the potential to make matters exponentially worse.

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It’s hard to put it into numbers, but New Zealand is reliant, some say dependent on migrant labor and skills. Name an industry, nearly ANY industry and there are considerable numbers of migrants, euphemistically termed “guest workers” helping churn out wealth from New Zealand’s economy, from that industry.

Inexplicably, New Zealand doesn’t reciprocate the benefits it gets from its migrants, trickling down measly one-year to three-year visas, making it ultra-hard (and harder) to even apply for permanent residency, and then hoping that those work visa holders will give up applying for residency, to be replaced always by new armies of ever-hopeful guest workers with dreams of permanent residency in their eyes (good luck with that).

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WHICH brings us to the present: a little bubwit (bird) has told us that in a nutshell, negative feedback and unfavorable survey / poll results have forced the Labour Government to announce that a migration policy announcement will be made this week, coming from no less than the Prime Minister herself.

You gotta ask yourself kabayan : how often is an announcement made about an announcement on policy? Rarely right? This likely means that the first announcement was made as a reaction to negative feedback about immigration. For sure, Government has been dragging its feet on the matter, ever since Skilled Migrant pathway and covid related excuses have been on center stage regarding government inaction, and so, so many migrant hopefuls have shed bitter tears on shattered dreams of residency.

Secondly, why is the Prime Minister herself (and not the annoying Immigration Minister) gonna make the announcement? For sure, the Immigration Minister has not gained any fans on the visa/ residency issue, and is probably the least popular member in Government, but to have Ma’m Jacinda make the announcement makes it clear it’s gonna be an important one.

Let us humbly present three possible outcomes of next week’s announcement, Precious Reader/ kabayan:

SCENARIO A: Suspension of visa pathways lifted, but goalposts to be changed again. The three year suspension of the Skilled Migrant visa pathway (SMC) will be officially lifted, but in name only. There will be new requirements, and more of the same hurdles towards residency.

This has been done before. Government put the Parent Cateogory on hold for a couple of years, lifted it only to add unreasonable requirements that made compliance unattainable to all but 5% of applicants. In other words, Government will give in to the demand to start admitting Expressions of Interest and applications, but in reality it will be just as hard.

Probability of this happening : 50%

SCENARIO B: Longer visa extensions to be issued to everyone in New Zealand. Everyone who’s been in New Zealand during the pandemic who’s a temporary visa holder (work, visit, study) either couldn’t get a mercy flight home or HAS CHOSEN TO TOUGH IT OUT. Either way, it’s been a benefit for New Zealand. Everybody’s done their share, worked effectively as an essential worker (because you can argue that most jobs during the pandemic can be classified essential), and has more importantly paid taxes necessary to national life. The very least New Zealand can do is to allow people to stay here a little longer. The very least.

Again, this is quite easy for government to do, and in fact has already done it in the form of six-month extensions since the end of lockdown. It costs them nothing and administratively does away with so much logistics and paperwork that government is loathe to do anyway.

Probability of this happening : 15% to 20%

SCENARIO C: No substantial announcements, but big promises to follow. in effect next week’s announcement will be an announcement of yet another announcement, but it will be a preview of what many have been calling for Government to do: granting an amnesty not just to overstayers but to every temporary visa holder in New Zealand.

Let’s face it. For more than a generation, New Zealand’s use-and-discard policy of temporary migrants is a direct affront to its Kiwi way of kindness, neighborliness and upfront way of dealing with brother / sister states.

Granting an amnesty by giving residency to all who’ve dared to hope by soldiering it through the pandemic would go a long way towards undoing NZ’s plantation / slaveowner history.

probability of this happening 5% to 10%

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I’m trying not to let the potential announcement this week overtake itself: don’t let the moment be bigger than the issue itself, the issue of the lives of so many migrants here in New Zealand, whose lives have been on hold. In my research and statistically weak postings, as usual I consulted Google: How many work visa holders in New Zealand? 59,232 as of Feb 2020, more or less.

It seems much bigger than that. No matter what the announcement, Mam Jacinda’s briefing will forever change New Zealand next week.

Ang palaisipan ng buhay overseas (the ironies of living overseas)

SI NILDO, MULA nang nagpandemic di na nakita o planong makita agad ang mag-ina nya. Actually, 1 year bago mag lockdown, di na sya nakauwi sa kanilang bayan sa Samar dahil alanganin ang skedyul. Pero nagsisi sya dahil andami na nyang namiss sa mga milestone: honor recognition day, graduation, birthday, at kung anu ano pa. Pero kung umuwi naman sya kahit minsan, di na sya makakabalik sa New Zealand malamang. Malamang na malamang.

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So many bargains, so many sacrifices. You can have this, but you can’t have that. You can have this today, but not tomorrow. You can give comfort and convenience, but you deny yourself the simpler pleasures that can never be replaced, or experienced again. Because you can’t provide and be there always for loved ones during the special times. Such are the realities of being an OFW, in normal times but more so in The Time of Covid:

you can provide for so much, but you’re not around to see it enjoyed. Latest PlayStation for Bunso, high-powered and super hi-res laptop for Ate, and small business for Mama. Everyone loves it, now if you could only see them enjoy the fruits of your labor. Zoom and FaceTime are a big help, but nothing can take the place of you actually seeing your family use the things you worked hard for, helping them study, helping them work, and helping them meet Life’s challenges.

you improve your skills and your career, but not for the community and industry that needs and deserves it most. You grew up and went to school under the humblest of circumstances. Walked two hours to and from the mababang paaralan, got good enough grades to make it to a half-scholarship, and just scraped through the board exams. Now because you’re inspired, you earn the best wages and got the best technology behind you, a career full of potential.

Sadly though, the barrio that raised you, the extended family in the big city that took you in, and the first employer that gave you your first break, are as far away from you as a distant dream. Much as you want to show gratitude for all the chances given, you’ve got new respoinsibilities now, new challenges and yes, new dreams. one day you’ll show them how you, the bet they risked, paid off, just not now. One day.

you spend the best years of your life doing what you love and fulfilling your potential, just not in the country you love. The economy is run well. Wages are paid according to skill and demand. standard of living is improved. life is better for you and family, just not in the country of birth that you love forever.

you want to pay back, do your bit for family, community and country, but how to do it? you have a new life in your adopted country, committed to your job, kids in school, and established all sorts of roots in your new surroundings,

you dont see your paremts who in the twilight of their lives deserve to see more of their apo, and the old barkada are all long gone, flung to the 4 corners and 7 seas. you still see them, but only in dreams and memories.

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life is a trade off, an exchange of one choice for another. which in turn leads to numerous options traded for others. A way of life becomes vastly different from the one originally intended. Such is the life of living overseas, of the OFW and ultimately the migrant. Complicated further by the pandemic. And if you ask me, it’s lonely and exciting at the same time.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!