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!

ano ang mahiwagang “reset button” para sa libu-libong kabayan WV holder?


[ Note : there are, based on recent MBIE stats, 26,199 Filipino work visa holders or guest workers in New Zealand. no matter how many times Government extends their visas due to the pandemic, you have to admit that the less hope there is that residency will be considered, the greater the chances these guys will just head home. But there is little to look forward to. Any alternatives? Shoutout to Cely Calero and the FB group Pinoy Mums in New Zealand! thank you for the excellent work you do for Pinay mums! Salamat kay Vanessa Quinones Arce for the comment! ]

SI J.R. NG WELLINGTON, dumalaw sa kanyang mga magulang nung Feb 2020, naabutan ng lockdown at di na nakabalik sa New Zealand. Awa ng Diyos, andun pa sya sa Pinas at malapit nang maubos (expire) ang visa.

Si Roy ng Auckland, nakakakuha pa rin ng work visa taun taon, pero naabutan na sya ng maximum na edad para mag-apply ng permanent resident status. Sa oras na di na sya mapagbigyan ng WV, wala na syang option kundi umuwi kasama ng kanyang pamilya.

Si Leon ng South Island sinubukan na ang lahat ng trabaho, mashoot lang ang sweldo at pusisyon na hinihingi ng Skilled Migrant pathway. Twing akala nyang maaabot na ang inaasam na kumbinasyon para ma-invite na syang mag-apply, nagbabago ang ihip ng hangin at kailangan na namang mag-bago ng work o humingi ng dagdag na sweldo.

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Different cases, different situations, but with some common ground: all three kabayan in the above cases are running out of options staying in New Zealand. Despite their skills, despite New Zealand’s crying need to fill jobs and positions, and despite extensions to their temporary visas, JR, Roy and Leon are in real danger of going home after their visas expire.

one last thing shared by the three: they all thought they had a real, or at least a legitimate shot at being granted permanent resident status in the land of their dreams.

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Narrating their individual stories here would take too much time and space kabayan, our story today looks forward. Tanggapin na lang natin na naguho ang kanilang mga pangarap maging PR (permanent resident) sa bato-bato ng covid19, sa inefficiency ng ahensya ng gobyernong NZ, at sa dami ng gustong manirahan sa NZ ng permanente.

Consider the following facts :

(1) Government recently offered to cancel or refund application fees for as many as 20,000 work visa applications pending in Immigration NZ (the government agency tasked with processing these applications) since AND before the covid lockdown 16 months ago. This is an admission by government that it is unable for many reasons to even process these applications, much less approve them. Covid is one reason yes, but the number had been rising for the last three years now. Hindi na nila kaya, now or in the future, i-process mga applications. Let’s leave it at that.

(2) in almost every industry across the New Zealand economy, the country needs workers that cannot be supplied by the local population. A simpler way of saying this: for whatever reason, the labour supply is not meeting the labour demand. I’m not an economist, but when you don’t have enough scaffolders, carpenters, nurses, teachers, fruit-pickers, truck drivers, enough skilled workers to meet your needs, and you relax strict border restrictions just to admit applicants from overseas, then you don’t just have a labour problem, you have an economy problem.

(3) just looking at the failed (for now) trans-Tasman bubble between NZ and Australia, not to mention the big public health mess in the rest of the world (including unfortunately our Inang Bayan the Philippines), it is safe to assume that for at least the rest of 2021, New Zealand borders will be CLOSED (we don’t usually use ALLCAPS, but there it is) except for the usual: mercy flights, diplomats, post, etc. This means no commercial flights, no international tourism, and…

yes you guessed it kabayan, unless it’s a clear exception, no new additions to workforce from overseas.

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We’re not cherry-picking facts (or namimili ng facts) to support a conclusion. EVERYBODY’s been aware of these things as inevitable and unavoidable. We only use it to support a reset button solution.

When an electrical circuit is overheated or being used by too many appliances, a fuse blows and the circuit breaks. When you use your bathroom heater, hair dryer, extra light and fill up your power board, something has to give. What do you do?

You disconnect the excess appliances (you were using too much anyway), go to your fusebox, look for the fuse that tripped, and return it to the original position.

It’s not the correct technical term, but people like to use it: you “reset” the fuse: the lazy term is the “reset button.”

Simple but effective solution. And go easy on the hair dryer, please.

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THE RESET button isn’t the best solution for everyone. Some memory may be lost. Some pride may be hurt. Some convenience may be sacrificed. But a lot of good will be achieved.

As at least two opinion makers have strongly observed, it is unfair to bring people here on (work) visas with no hope of residency. it is so important that i’m requoting it here:

How can you bring people here on visas and have

no hope of transitioning to residency?

In my view that is a crime, and it has created

criminal behaviour on a vast scale.”

it’s not the end of the journey, but the reset button will give every work visa holder here in limbo a little hope.

The reset button will ease the problem of supply and demand of labor. Note we didn’t say solve, but only ease. How? Simple. Tightening residency rules, as the Government has so obviously done the last three years, will force work visa holders (including of course like JR stranded overseas) to either go home or abandon working here. with the reset button, THEY WILL BE ABLE TO STAY HERE, hopefully indefinitely, and… dare we say it? permanently.

The reset button will solve the massive health dilemma of keeping New Zealand’s borders safe and secure for the forseeable future, for the commonsense reason that no one needs to go in and out for a while.

Many countries are forcing at least via public opinion New Zealand to sacrifice public health absolutes and open up the border, so as to open up the economy and not rely so much on throwing money around and laying massive public debt on future generations.

The truth is, naiinggit lang mga bansang yon sa New Zealand. New Zealand is the best place in the world to stay now, if you want to stay healthy and your life to be normal.

The reset button helps maintain that healthiness and normalcy.

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Call the reset button what you want. An amnesty law? A new law giving PR to all legal visa-holders in limbo?

Something drastic needs to be done, desperate yes, but better than nothing at all.

For thousands and thousands of our kabayan here, and many more.

Mabuhay tayong lahat!

salamat, mga kabayan admins ng mga grupo-grupong sariling atin


IN THE OLD DAYS, before anyone reading this was born, word was spread around the barrio by young boys walking or running around, telling people what was going on, and what news needed to be told by the barrio elders. when towns became larger and more prosperous, a local radio station gave public service updates, informing townsfolk what services were offered and when they were available.

Then the electronic age brought emails and SMS (short-message service) texting, which became an easy way to tell people the important stuff. still, nothing replaced actual word-of-mouth, brought around by the jueteng bookie or manicurista, or even the five-six guy on the scooter selling kumot, payong and other household necessities.

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these days, anyone wanting to share useful information benefitting the community may do so instantly and effectively because of social media, specifically Facebook and Facebook Groups. All you need to do is form a group with similar goals and interests, open the door and lay down the carpet for potential members waiting to be invited, and a Facebook group is born.

A Facebook group is like a virtual barangay where people are neighbors, churchmates, friends and of course, family members. But the important things are : no one is forced to be a member, as long as you respect each other’s beliefs, values and principles, everyone has the freedom to say what they want, and there is little or no cost to membership.

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There are between 50,000 and 60,000 Pinoys in New Zealand, a big ethnic group by most standards, but reaching out to over three-quarters of these is within a mouse-click away. imaginative community leaders tapped the efficient and far-reaching powers of Facebook, and now our Pinoy community is so-interconnected across Aotearoa that, based on religion, profession, hobbies, sport or even age group, Pinoys are more organized than if we stayed back home in the Inang Bayan.

Below is a short list of those who dared to organize our barangay and have reaped the gratitude of kabayan everywhere in New Zealand. If you want to reach out to your fellow church member, seek assistance moving house, or just sell an videoke as you’re upgrading, all you need is visit your fave barangay hall in FB, and you instantly meet kabayan all over NZ.

Meldz Opanes-Kircher started Pinoys in NZ wanting to bring all Pinoys together for all the right reasons, but especially Pinoys wanting to help and share goods and services among kabayan and now boasts of nearly 50,000 members. She and fellow admins don’t hesitate to deny and expel kabayan for online abuse, bullying or fraud.

Siegred Valencia thought that Pinoy dairy farm workers needed an electronic bulletin board to highlight concerns, issues and problems instantly and effectively. The result is the 20,411 strong Pinoy Dairy Farm Workers in New Zealand, active everyday and full of posts not just for dairy workers but for their families and interest groups as well.

Cora Sitchon, Alicat Lozano, Peejay Honasan and Ben Cortez wanted fellow Pinoys to meet new kabayan, promote their businesses and organize social events. They started the generic sounding “Pinoys sa New Zealand” but it soon attracted and continues to attract more than 25,000 Filipinos in the country, getting stronger everyday.

The person known as DJ Mico Vlog wanted to promote issues and interests to all Pinoy migrants in New Zealand, whatever immigration status or in whatever industry, and came up with New Zealand Filipino Workers Group, numbering as of last count more than 120,000 members.

Earl John Mags and Sam Bruzo wanted a mouthpiece not just for their workers’ group but also the general community and their families, and the result was FDWNZ, which has won multiple awards and recognition for their efforts in the region. they number nearly 5,000 active members.

Pierre Lawrence Ong Ante and his group are behind the 14,000 membership of Mga Pinoys ng Christchurch which organize and help not just the kabayan in the Canterbury region but throughout South Island and the rest of New zealand, for any reason and whatever purpose.

This list is very short kabayan, if you have any that deserve it, please send in a short description of your FB group, the person/s behind it, and how much you appreciate them. Mabuhay kayong lahat!

ugaling di maiwan sa pinas (habits imported from home)


HABITS ARE HARD to break, especially those you’ve built into your system over a lifetime. I’ve had more than my own share of bad habits over good, and it was hard first to recognize they were bad, then to finally wean myself from them.

Eating habits, health habits, even relationship habits. Name them, I’ve probably had them. Smoking, junk food, sleeping in (oversleeping), procrastination, I’ve had my love-hate relationship with a lot of these demons, some i’ve survived, others i’m dealing with to this day.

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Work habits though, I saved into a different folder altogether. Heard of the saying it takes two weeks to make a practice a habit, and 90 days to make the same habit part of your lifestyle? Well, somewhere in between logically is around the time you build a habit, and although it’s not yet a lifestyle, it’s very much a part of your character.

Over the years, in the Philippines and New Zealand, I’ve formed a few of those work habits. Good or bad, they’ve defined me. sometimes I’ve tried to get rid of them, sometimes successfully, only to find out they’ve never really left me, just lurking in the shadows and waiting for a lull in my vigilance or weak moment, to come back with a vengeance as though they never left.

I don’t ask for justification or validation, or even to see if any of you share these habits (although knowing would help). It only makes me feel a little lighter knowing I’ve unloaded myself and maybe someday finally get rid of said habits:

Calling the boss “boss”, “sir” or “mam” – as a general rule Kiwis don’t like to be called “boss”, and it’s not part of their culture to be called sir or mam, unless it’s the military. On the other hand, it’s quite common in the Philippines to do all that, across industries and generations. the result is I’ve annoyed quite a few supervisors and managers cause of what I thought was showing a sign of respect and deference to authority. I’m trying still to not do it, but i don’t always succeed.

Relying on gossip, backstabbing and negative talk as legitimate source of info around the workplace. This is so common i sometimes don’t even think of it as uniquely Pinoy or my own experience, but no matter what, it still makes me feel guilty. there are underlying reasons why we tune in to what many describe as idle talk, lazy gossip or criticism of others without offering advice for improvement.

Human nature, the desire to bring down anyone who wants to “rock the boat”, and otherwise anything that’s negative, which is the default setting of many people at work, including, unfortunately, ourselves. I’ve lived with this as long as I’ve been working, and it takes a constant conversation with myself to do the right thing, which is to remain positive at all times. Again, it’s not uniquely a Pinoy thing, but it’s very much part of us, and part of me.

allowing emotions to dictate how we work with others. i keep having to relearn this lesson, and like groundhog day it returns to me again and again: you don’t need to like a person to work with him (although it helps), as long as you’re both professionals and know your respective roles in the workplace,

the main reason I have a hard time remembering and internalizing this rule is my tendency to emotionalize my work attitude, and I don’t know if it’s a Filipino trait. I have to get along with my potential shift partner ( it’s usually just me and another person in my shift), we can’t have strong disagreements on anything if I’m to have a smooth working relationship with him, and although I’m easy to work with, if there’s something i don’t like about the other guy, sooner or later it will affect our effectiveness together.

I sincerely believe most Kiwis are no t like me, and are not bothered by the things I described above. Maybe its just me, maybe its just a Pinoy thing, but time and again i’ve noticed that in this aspect at least, im different.

I could be wrong though. Are you like me or unlike me Precious Reader? And have you left these habits back home?

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

ang galing ng lahing Pinoy sa NZ: the need for a Filipino-Kiwi Awards


[ written for Filipino Migrant News, this post appeared in Issue #152, the Awards and Independence Day issue. Thanks and acknowledgment to Mel and Shiela Fernandez, editor in chief and publisher of FMN! For more news and backstories, please visit filipinonews.nz. Please send ylbnoel a pic that you may have taken during the awards, thanks! ]

To reward, highlight and inspire excellence in the Filipino / Pinoy community in New Zealand. Envisioned in 2014, the gem of an idea came from the Filipino Migrant News, taken off with a hiss and a bang, and has paid itself forward with continuous excellence ever since.

Migrant communities have always been overachievers in Aotearoa, owing to the need for migrants to know, adapt to and conquer their transplanted environments.

The Filipino / Pinoy community is no different, having outdone itself in terms of contributing to the NZ economy and serving fellow Kiwis season after season, year after year.

But, with no apologies for subjectivity and bias, Filipinos do it with love, dedication and gratitude.

Pinoys love what they do and love their hosts and fellow migrants, manifesting it in their daily deeds. Having dedicated themselves to their second home, Pinoys likewise dedicate themselves to their jobs and communities. Just as importantly, pinoys show how grateful they are as adopted members of the NZ community by giving the latter their fullest measure of effort, respect and cooperation.

These are the stories the Filipino-Kiwi Hero Awards look for and retell in the most meaningful way possible, if only because with all the negativity in the world, everything positive must be highlighted, but also because telling others about their kabayan encourages other Filipinos to do similarly.

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The selections this year would stand out in any other year, but the urgency and singularity of the covid pandemic made the awardees achievements even more.

The selflessness, improvisation and willingness to go the extra mile of many awardees was caused by the nature of the pandemic, and many of the awardees proved equal to the task.

In other cases, the awardees produced and exceeded their creative outputs to gain notice in their chosen fields, whether it be in the arts or in sports.

In any other year, these awardees by virtue of work output, dedication and excellence would be impressive choices. For excellence in the year of the virus, the achievements stand tallest

Mabuhay to this year’s Filipino – Kiwi Hero Awardees!

pakinangin ang Pinoy, saan man sa mundo (making the Pinoy shine, wherever in the world) – thank you, Filipino-Kiwi Hero Awards!


[for their groundbreaking efforts to promote excellence in the NZ Pinoy community, thanks and gratitude are due to Filipino Migrant News holding their Awards night Saturday the 19th at the Te Atatu Peninsula Community Centre in Auckland, specifically Mel and Shiela Fernandez. please check out FMN’s content at filipinonews.nz, maraming salamat po! ]

HERE’S A QUESTION for you Kabayan.

What do the El Filibusterismo, the Spoliarium and Let It Go popularized by the all-time box-office hit Frozen have in common?

Answer : lahat po sila ay nilikha ng Pinoy, ethnic Filipinos gifted enough to create works of art appreciated by the world.

But not just that. Jose Rizal, the first Filipino, wrote the final version of his masterpiece in London, Juan Luna painted his obra maestra in Madrid, and Robert Lopez (with wife Kristen Andersen-Lopez) wrote the award-winning song as 2nd-generation Filipino-American in the US. All these works were done outside the Philippines.

Filipinos, as our Ambassador Jesus Gary Domingo likes to to say, shine brightest among other races and beyond the shores of the Motherland. We all excel on the soil of our land of birth, but something about being away from home makes us want to show who good we are, how well we perform without family and friends, and why Filipinos are a force to contend with.

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Knowing how overachieving and world-beating we are, and what a difference we make in the New Zealand community, the Kiwi-Pinoy Hero Awards was created for Pinoys and Pinoy groups who not only uplift others and make a difference in the Kiwi and migrant community, but inspire others to pay it forward and do the same:

  1. Filipino-Kiwi Hero of the Year – Lani Larsen – Turangi, Taupo
    Chair, Goodheart NZPH Foundation Charitable Trust
    Frontline Hero Awards:
  2. Nurse of the Year – Kristine Dianne Balatbat (Wellington).
  3. Health Professional of the Year – Arby Manalansan, Aged Care Facility Manager, Ackld.
  4. Mental Health Advocate – Nino Verzosa Pangatungan, Ackld.
    Business Excellence:
  5. Dairy Farmer of the Year – Christopher Vila (Ohaupo – Waikato)
  6. Filipino Fashion Supremo – Ruscoe Bustenera-Kirby, Ackld – (Fashion Show included in this
    segment)
  7. Business Achiever – Erik Sia, Victoria’s Kitchen Limited, Ackld
  8. Pinoy Chef of the Year 2021 – Angel Apun, Luntian, Ackld.
  9. Pinoy Chef of the Year 2020 – Vicente ‘Boyet’ Deloterio, Boracay Garden Restaurant
    Community Hero Awards:
  10. Outstanding Community Group – Good Heart PH NZ Foundation Charitable Trust
    (Turangi, Taupo). Recipient – Edgar Calapati.
  11. Exemplary Migrant Advocate – Celso Roger Baldo, Beekeeper (Cambridge)
  12. Filipino Resource Centre – Puketapapa Community Driving School, Ackld
    Recipient – Amy Maga.
    Sporting Achievers:
  13. Sportsperson of the Year – Kenzo Santayana, National Gymnastic Champion – Ackld
  14. Sports Group of the Year – Fusion Volleyball Club (Christchurch)
  15. Leadership in Promoting Outdoor Pursuits – Mary Rose Marfori, Ackld
    Creative Arts Awards:
  16. Filipino Music Award – Jazz Vidamo, Opera Singer – Matamata, Waikato.
  17. Showbiz Impressario – Joey Vee (Hamilton)
  18. Stage Performer of the Year – Marianne Infante, Ackld
  19. Artist of the Year – Louie Bretana, Ackld
    Media Awards:
  20. Radio Personality of the Year – Jesil Cajes (Wellington)
  21. Journalist of the Year – Queenie Lee Tanjay (Rotorua)
  22. Photographer of the Year – Aisha Ronquillo (Auckland)
  23. Blogger Extraordinaire – Noel Bautista (Timaru – South Canterbury)

mabuhay po kayong lahat!

a surprisingly simple PR solution for OFWs & other migrants already in NZ


QUICK SURVEY QUESTION, Precious Reader.

How long should a migrant worker be working in a host country before he or she can reasonably expect to be given a right to apply for permanent residency, a decent chance to be approved, and eventually be eligible for citizenship in that host country?

Two years? Three ? Five? How about ten? Surely, after a worker has been working a decade in New Zealand, contributing to the growth of its economy and well-being, following its laws and paying taxes, such worker by then would’ve deserved to stay permanently in New Zealand?

Sadly, ten years or more is no assurance that you will be granted, or even have a good chance to apply for permanent residency, no matter what job you’ve had or how long you’ve been doing it in the country which has weathered the covid19 pandemic better than most nations in the world.

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In fact, the presence of many migrant workers on the “front line” of service in New Zealand in the Year of the Virus has not helped their cause: there are now, based on Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) stats, around 30,000 permanent residency applications that have not been resolved for various reasons, but mostly because of Immigration New Zealand (INZ)’s own inefficiency and lack of resources to handle applications.

Thirty thousand cases, some of which had been in a long queue even before the 2020 lockdown started. Even if INZ had a staff of 50 case officers, which would be unlikely, it would give each case officer 600 visa applications to handle. Given the amount of time needed to handle each case (at least nine months to a year), you can imagine how long it will take to settle all these.

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Cruelly denying migrant workers (including many OFWs) a chance to apply for permanent residency was only one of many issues taken up by the Federation of Aotearoa Migrants during its “protest march” for migrants last Saturday in Auckland.

Among the many issues: returning work visa holders stranded in their home countries when the lockdown hit; uniting migrant families separated by the pandemic, granting an “amnesty” to all overstayers and temporary visa holders who’ve stayed in New Zealand for more than a certain number of years; lifting the two-year suspension of the SMC (Skilled Migrant Category) visa pathway that has frozen the hopes and dreams of thousands upon thousands of migrant families, and many other migrant-related issues.

Addressing the issue of denying long-standing work-visa holders residency Migrant Workers Association Anu Kaloti said: “we are asking (Labour Government) to keep these people who have special skills by giving them residency. What is the point of deporting (or sending home) people who we need and then replacing them with another group of people who we are going to exploit?

“Let’s just keep the people who are (already) here.”

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The umbrella organization of migrant workers, the Green Party and the labour unions supporting temporary visa holders have many voices, but are saying the same thing:

There seems to be one practical solution to people who are still here but cannot leave, for people who contribute to the NZ economy but are unjustly deprived of stability in their lives, and those workers who continue to be exploited by employers taking advantage of loopholes in the employer-assisted visa regime, and that is granting permanent residency to all workers who, whether or not caused by covid, are already here in New Zealand.

A just, practical and humane solution. And good for business, too.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

the worst kept secret in New Zealand, & how Filipinos are involved


[ inspiration and some material on this post from Mr Bernard Hickey’s excellent and well-written article, thank you Mr Hickey. And thank you Roy for sharing your story. ]

FOR THE NEXT FIVE MINUTES, please pretend what I’m saying makes sense, and your reaction to what you’re reading here Precious Reader (whatever that reaction is) makes up part of a reasonable discussion. Thank you.

When you’re first admitted, or adopted into a family or household, you may or may not be recognized as an official (or even unofficial) member of that family. You may appear to participate or be allowed to do things as part of that family, but certainly you don’t assume to be part of that family, yet.

When you’re first engaged or accepted to work part-time or casually in an office or work site, you don’t automatically assume you’re an employee of said office / work site. At least, not on the first day, week or even month. You have to go through the motions, pass certain training procedures, and go through a process where you’re assessed if you’ve got what it takes to be an official part of that office or work site. And even then, after all that time, until the right people actually say so, you still can’t assume to be a real employee. Not just yet.

But wait a minute, kapeng mainit. What if, after a month, two month, six months, a year, a couple of years, FIVE years of being a not-yet-recognized member of the family, or casual employee of that work site you’ve grown to love, you still can’t or aren’t allowed to be a full member of the family or office?

What if, after more than five years, make that TEN years, after doing things everyone else does in that family or office / work site, regular and normal things, you’re no closer to being recognized as a full member of that family as you were on your FIRST day there?

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It’s a very rough analogy and the situations don’t match up, but if your instinctive response to the case/s above is “aba, mali naman yan. Wala namang puso yung boss or head of the family.” (that’s not right. the boss or head of the family is heartless and wrong), then i know your heart and mind is in the right place.

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ITAGO natin sya sa pangalang Roy (let’s call him Roy), although you and I know that’s not his real name. He remigrated to Auckland from Melbourne in 2007, as he and his family were told migration prospects in NZ were better than Aussie. obviously on a work visa, he managed to find work in a job, and another, and yet another. He never had a hard time looking and finding a job.

Yun nga lang (the only problem was), the rules on residency kept changing. Every time he started work and found a job he liked, he was told it didn’t pay enough or the skill wasn’t one that would give him a chance to apply for permanent residency.

Before I go further, let me explain. Ninety-nine percent of the people who come to work in New Zealand do so not just to earn money and feed their families, but ultimately to settle down, live a comfortable life and fulfill the dream of a peaceful and worry-free life in a First World country like New Zealand. Roy was no different from the 20,000-plus work visa holders coming in every year, working as hard as he could and eventually applying for residency.

In return for being a hard-working, law-abiding and team-oriented member of the New Zealand work force (if only as a guest worker), Roy had every right to expect to be at least, eligible to be invited to apply as a permanent resident in New Zealand. Many had become PRs (permanent residents) doing much less. Why not deserving people like Roy?

But here’s the thing: on the reasoning that, priority for hiring jobs must be first given to New Zealanders, that migrants mustn’t be allowed to take jobs for locals especially when times are hard, and government must look out first for its citizens, rulemakers keep “changing the goalposts” a diplomatic way of saying they keep changing the rules after the game has started.

And you know what? No matter how much government keeps insisting that rules need to be updated to give priority to hiring New Zealanders and the welfare of local workers, it is, diplomatically, ebak ng baka (please find a Filipino friend to translate this for non-Tagalog readers, sorry). New Zealand work visa holders have risen or have kept the same numbers the last ten years (except for last year, due obviously to the covid lockdown). New Zealand is among the top three in the OECD for work visa holders despite its relatively small population size.

From all indications, New Zealand likes its migrant work force but has no intention to ever give them corresponding rights as residents, as many many other rich nations do. It might as well be a Middle Eastern country in acts, though it likes to say the right things.

You take in a casual or adopt someone into your family. After 15 years, they’re still a casual. And the adopted member will never be a real member of the family. How is that right?

Just in case it’s not that clear (we’ve never been known to be clear in our posts), the worst-kept secret in New Zealand is that New Zealand not the kind country that it presents to be when it comes to migrant workers. And it’s at Filipinos’ expense, Pinoys who make up a meaty part of the 20,000 work visas issued by Immigration New Zealand every year.

When the Prime Minister mentions kindness as part of her Government’s vision, you can bet work visa holders are far away, hard at work in the basement, working 12-hour night shifts. If they ever heard the kindness talk, it would sound just like a campaign ad. Sounds good, but meaningless.

By the way, Roy has not given up on his 15-year dream of residency for his family in New Zealand. But the way things are going, it will take a major miracle for things to go his way.

God bless you and family Roy, thanks for reading!

gaano ka ka-grateful sa essential workers mo, NZ?


one morning I woke up to a brave new world.

every worker who had worked through the pandemic, who risked her or her life with infection, treating and healing those who were already sick, or fed those who couldn’t feed themselves, kept the factories running, servers humming and fields irrigated, those who kept the generators running at full capacity so people would stay comfy at home, watching Netflix and homeschooling their children, every person who worked while most people didn’t… all these persons, so-called essential workers were rewarded with permanent residency.

Of course, the dream didn’t last. I woke up that morning to a dream, a dream that will never happen in New Zealand.

You would think New Zealand would have reason to do so though. New Zealand, miraculously, has done better than 99% of the world in weathering the covid19 pandemic that has infected nearly 200 million globally and has caused more than 2 million deaths.

Because of closing the borders early, contract tracing and political will, NZ has kept the infections to a minimum, and life in New Zealand is nearly normal. But essential workers have also pulled their weight and done their share. “Essential workers” are loosely defined as anyone who performs a task to keep the health and economy going, and without which life couldn’t go on.

in some cases, these workers received special recognition bonuses from their companies, who incidentally did very well during the lockdown. some didn’t. But I’m talking about what government should do because of the sacrifices these people did.

Canada chose to give their essential workers permanent residency, and that’s not a dream. It’s reality.

I don’t see it happening in New Zealand, because, well because gratitude just isn’t the same everywhere. New Zealand usually does the right thing and it’s heart is in the right place, but based on history and expectations based on past behavior, it just won’t do the same.

Nothing much to say here further, but to those in power in New Zealand, all we have to say is: hint, hint.