I stand by our Ambassador


[Note : This is an unsolicited, spontaneous post. Only Mahal saw the final version before posting. Mabuhay and thanks for reading!]

AS A private Filipino citizen working in New Zealand, I can’t comment on official Philippine Embassy policy on host New Zealand. Neither can I comment on current behavior and culture of media and politics in my homeland. I’ve been away too long.

I DO know about one thing, and that is how our Ambassador works. He is the unofficial barangay captain of the 50,000-strong barangay known as the Filipino Community in New Zealand. He represents all Filipinos of whatever color, creed or political persuasion. He acts for and in behalf of all of us in and out of New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Niue and the Cook Islands in all matters big and small. In the wink of an eye he will stand as sponsor for binyag, kumpil and kasal. He sings a mean karaoke and will DJ for your party till dawn.

He is our first (and last) line of defense should any of us be attacked figuratively or otherwise. So far he has gone above and beyond, with flying colors.

If he is guilty of anything, it is to wear his heart on his sleeve. There are no shades, shadows or grays for him. He calls a spade a spade, a diamond as such, and the prime directive for him is promoting the welfare of each and every Pinoy, whether temporary visa holder, permanent resident or New Zealand citizen. He does not distinguish.

Make no mistake kabayan, he is under attack back home. By who or what, I’d rather not elaborate. Suffice it to say, he is the BEST we have right now. And personally I would rather have him than any other.

This is the time to support our Ambassador. He is not perfect, but he is as good as it gets. Now and always, I believe he stands for the truth, what is right and what is just.

I support our Ambassador.

Mabuhay ka Ambassador Jesus Gary Domingo!

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code black + night shift + extended hours = a kabayan’s perfect storm


[Note: Precious Reader, you may or may not have a similar definition, but I have derived “code black” from its original usage to one that refers to a dire, or emergency situation, originally in medical environments but now to everyday work situations. Thank you to Mahal’s friend Jessica for lending use of her laptop and therefore helping making this post possible. Thanks for reading! ]

AT WORK, a mini “perfect storm” was brewing.

Less than a week ago our inward goods department received a massive delivery of nearly 2,000 tons of raw material that needed to be received, processed and tidied away over the previous weekend, give or take a few days. For us, a site that wasn’t equipped to process that volume over such a short period of time, this promised side effects and consequences both dismaying and unforeseen.

The other half of the perfect storm?  Beyond the usual rostering issues, four staff (including your loyal kabayan) were doing the work of six, owing to forced light duties on an injured worker, and emergency leave for another. The result was, whether my kakosa (cellmates) liked it or not, we were up for 12-hour shifts or working  alone. Neither prospect was appealing, and it was entirely possible that if I was unlucky enough, I would do both.

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11 am. Deceptive calm. Salamat kay Bathala (thank God) it turned out I wasn’t working alone, but I was stuck  working 7pm to 7 am, and the graveyard shift just made it a little more challenging.  Even before 11 pm during shift turnover ( I was just keeping the afternoon shift boss company my first four hours), clouds were forming over the horizon. The pipes and spouts were struggling to accommodate the waste product from the huge shipment less than a week ago (see above) and this resulted in overwhelming the machine preparing the raw material, if you can imagine waste product going nowhere  at 1 ton/hr backing up into this tiny machine, so that by the time all the pipes and spouts had clogged up through four floors, the guy I was keeping company was long gone (I had a shift partner backing me up but she had just arrived and had problems ofher own). Oh well…

After 30 minutes of clearing dozens meters of spouts, I was covered in dust and sweat, making me look like a stressed swamp monster. Remember, I hadn’t gone through a third of the 12 hour shift and I was already wasted, as in batteries nearly dead. Only the thought that I had a four-day weekend waiting and generous overtime pay kept me from collapsing. At least the eff-up wasn’t enough for me to shut the factory down I said to console myself.

Famous last words.

2 am. Eye of the storm. Where 3hours ago the machine handling the waste product was overwhelmed, now the machine handling  the main by-product was almost choked, again because of the volume and blockages on the pipe and spout angle. This time I REALLY had no choice but the temporarily shut down the factory, a last resort  as the shortened Easter week tightened an already tight production schedule. We spent between 45 minutes to an hour clearing the chokes on the spouts, clean the machine processing the by-product, restart the machine and of course the rest of the factory. I was mildly dehydrated that night from running around and no exaj (exaggeration), compensated by drinking around 10 glasses of agua. And still felt thirsty.

For only the second time in my 10+ years with the factory, I changed work clothes mid-shift for a fresh outfit as (again) I was drenched with sweat and dust, and there was still around 6 hours before the shift would end.

4 a.m.  Tailwinds and flying debris. Our troubles didn’t end there. The cranky old exhaust system, one of three responsible for keeping the whole factory dust-free, had also given up after a valiant struggle against sheer volume and dustier-than-usual raw material (which generates around 75% of total dust). Of course, this was due to the massive deliveries the week before.

Because the machines processing the raw materials were my assistant’s responsibility, I was relatively less stressed, but I still had to help her (there was no one else) and she had gone above and beyond the call of duty helping ME.  All told, it took us  another half-hour to a good part of an hour clearing up the last mess. By then the first blush of the dawning sun had started peeking through between the nearby hills. For perhaps the first time since I could remember working in New Zealand, I didn’t take a proper 15-minute break for nearly 12 hours.

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By the time morning shift guys had arrived, we had experienced in total three weeks worth of problems. In twelve hours. 

Still thankful to be working in New Zealand, the land of opportunity, but today your kabayan Noel certainly earned his bread.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

looking for kalakbay : shared travel among kabayan


[thanks and acknowledgment to Fly Pal for the video above. Mabuhay!]

MY VERY first trip back to New Zealand from a balikbayan vacation, I sat next to a kabayan who was a nearly-perfect traveling companion on the last leg of an exciting but wearying journey: a five-hour snoozer between Sydney and Wellington.

He made small talk the first hour before we both gave in to fatigue (I’m sure he was also on the 11-hour flight I was on between Manila and Sydney), quieted down after the hot meal provided so that we could take a much-needed nap, and asked if I needed to use the bathroom or stretch my legs (I had the middle seat). I couldn’t have asked for a better kalakbay (co-traveler) if I had ordered one.

But interestingly (or Pinoyly) enough, some kabayan board a flight wanting or needing someone to be with them for a variety of reasons : it’s their first time travelling and are unsure of the different tasks needed to get through their flight smoothly; a lack of traveling confidence, or extreme tenderness or seniority in years finds a helping hand while traveling quite useful.

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Prior to wife Mahal’s first trip to Wellington, she was matched up on the Pinoy e-bulletin board with a mom and two sons joining their dad here. The mag-ina (mom and kids) were on their first trip to New Zealand, first trip outside the Philippines, first trip on a jumbo jet, first everything. It was a lot to take for a young mother full of luggage, the normal and human kinds, and a friendly face was quite welcome.

Without Mahal asking for it, by coincidence one of the boys sat next to her and was her foster son for 12 hours, with all the details to attend to, the real mom hardly minded at all. She occupied herself with minding a 7-year old, helped out a kabayan family, and got free practice as a harassed mom.

The kids are probably teenagers now, almost grown-up young men who won’t even recognize Mahal. But the memories remain, especially with the mom, and future mom.

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Then on our last trip back 2017, we were texted (again through introductions on the New Zealand e-group) that a lola (grandmom) was visiting her kids and grandkids in Johnsonville, a Pinoy stronghold in Wellington region. Would we be kind enough to escort her? In true bayanihan spirit, how could we not?

We had a merry mixup texting with more than one of her Manila-based sons and looking for her, but we didn’t give up. Binilin sya sa amin (she was entrusted to us) so we couldn’t enter the boarding area without her. True enough, she wouldn’t leave her son without seeing us first, and we entered the restricted area together.

Although we weren’t seatmates throughout the entire journey (Manila-Sydney and Sydney-Wellington), we checked in on her, ate together  and spent the stopover (a couple hours) together. From NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International) to Wellington Airport, we were like family.

We never saw her again after family collected her at Wellington arrivals, but the experience undoubtedly will remain with me, Mahal and lola. As should all shared travels between Pinoy kabayan.

Thanks for reading and mabuhay!

nearly useless jobs I’m good for


another of my skills, finding our way back after getting lost, esp great considering I got us lost in the first place 🙂

ALL OVER THE WORLD, Filipinos, whether as OFWs or migrants, distinguish themselves by their resourcefulness (maparaan), resilience (matiyaga) and improvisational ability (maabilidad). We thrive under the most trying circumstances, we conjure practical solutions for challenging problems, and what we lack in material wherewithal we make up for in out-of-the-box thinking.

I’d like to say I’m typically competent and capable in this regard, but since joining me in New Zealand, Mahal my wife has made me about as useful as a Sony Betamax video player.  She learns how to operate gadgets intuitively, has embraced the DIY culture of our Kiwi hosts like a native, and has the energy and enthusiasm of any male twice her size.

Which leaves me, her prince consort, in the awkward position of being her decoration, outdated appendage if you want, holding her tools and implements and wiping her brow in her difficult moments, and knowing even less than she does when she can’t make head or tail of the User’s Manual for the newest whatchmacallit (does anybody still use that word?) bought on sale from that giant department store chain.

Rarely though I find a chore or two that I’m good at, and surprisingly, Mahal lets me do it because there’s not much more I can do around the house. Literally. I try to focus on the things I can do and stick to them, leaving the heavy lifting and major tasks to Mahal.  I know this is a role reversal of sorts and it certainly sounds like I’m emasculating myself, but I’m a realist:

for copyright reasons, this pic might disappear anytime. 🙂

Folding laundry. This is by far the task Mahal pretty much leaves for me, because, after all, she does the washing, does the drying (via sampayan or clothesline drying, no less) so I should at least be able to ready the shirts, pants and underwear before they return to the closet, fresh, crisp, fragrant and clean. It would be the height of selfishness for me to do my clothes only, so I do hers right after I do mine. Her clothes are actually easier to sort, just get out the hangers and hang her dresses, office wear and blouses. I can actually do these while watching my favorite sports and quiz shows on TV, but it slows me down, as if I weren’t slow enough. (Actually I don’t care, as long as I don’t look totally useless around the house.)

Killing flies and slapping mosquitoes. It being summer, our temperate Wellington is filled with the buzzing sound of unwanted visitors who hover around sweet-smelling nilagang saba, ginataan and other tasty treats. At night, there are mosquitoes, gnats and sand flies that suck the hard-earned blood off our sweaty skin. Yes, this part of New Zealand is chilly-windy the rest of the year, but for a few weeks it’s just like the Philippines with its humid afternoons and rainy-yet-sticky weekends.

Because no one else is up to it, and I have lots of idle time while Mahal cooks, cleans and does the laundry, I pick up the battle-scarred fly swatter and swat, swat swat away at the winged demons that frequent our kitchen and bedroom during the hot days and nights. I even count said microbe-carriers and bloodsuckers, all the better to justify to Mahal my existence.

Thawing frozen food. Yes, there is no limit to the depths I will descend in pretending to actually do something. Mahal always has a razor-sharp sensor for any frozen food on sale, and likes to defrost these at the very last minute. Because our work schedules frequently complement each other, meaning I am at home when she’s at work, I am very conveniently able to bring out the chicken nibbles with plenty of time to naturally melt the ice, so that it’s just right for cooking by the time she comes home. All because of me.

Return dried dishes to cupboard. It’s simple enough, the post-meal ritual. Wash dishes, dry the same, and return them to the drawer. Since it’s my only participation in the whole process of preparing dinner and cleaning up after, I do my best to do all these properly. The washing must be thorough, no stain spots and greasy spoons. No smudge marks on glasses. and wash everything, including pots and pans. And after the washing and drying comes the icing on the cake:  putting, and arranging said dishes and utensils in their proper place.

If it all seems trivial and mundane, it’s because drying and storing dishes is comparatively less crucial than cooking, though according to Mahal, no less important.  She inspects my handiwork, and would do the dishwashing and drying herself (one of her favorite chores) if I wasn’t going to be completely left out of doing anything except eat.

I’m glad I do these little things and get better at them, day by day. Still not that useful, but getting there.

Thanks for reading!

 

4 wackiest things Kiwis have said to me


Note : Sorry for the long absence, a combination of filling in for those using up their annual leaves, extra few days of night shift, and I almost forgot about you Precious Reader. Anytime you see a highlighted phrase, it’s actually a link that leads to previous blogs, if you’ve got the time to visit 2010 Noel, 2012 Noel, and 2013 Noel. Thanks for reading! ]

POOR POSTURE  while lifting heavy loads, lower back pain and getting enough sleep are the things this OFW worries most about, day-to-day or oftener. The rest, or 99% of it, are minor details I can’t worry about too much or just don’t have enough time to dwell on, like (not that I just thought about it) getting offended or hearing things that offend lots of Asians like me.

It’s just too good, my gig here as blue-collar worker working in clean and green New Zealand. I have enough common sense to know that I’ve got a good deal going, and might as well make the proverbial hay while the sun shines.

But I still have ears that hear, skin that’s not always thick, and feelings that get hurt, from time to time. If not for my Pinoy sense of humor and easy-going personality, I would surely raise hell from some of these remarks, but mostly I just laugh it off and make an equally cutting remark to my colleague/s :

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What the eff are you heating in the microwave? it’s making my eyes water!  Some context here. Filipinos heat anything in the microwave oven, often not knowing that the resultant fumes and odor can be overpowering to people who are not used to the same. Examples are heating tuyo, daing, other dried food, spicy food, strong-smelling deep-fried stuff, etc. Factors like the relatively confined space of the lunch room, the spices and vegetables in the dish that when desiccated and re-fried sometimes magnify the smells and pungentness are sometimes overlooked by our kabayan. But when we are caught unawares we sometimes get surprised and offended that our hosts talk about our food this way. Personally I’ve allowed this to happen to me. While I get taken aback, I shouldn’t be surprised at the reaction. If I’m feeling maharot (saucy or salty), I say something like it’s dog meat, wanna taste? which leads me to the next wackiest item…

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Why do you guys (Filipinos) eat dog meat? The roughest, scariest Kiwi would cringe and shrink like a makahiya if I admitted to them that in some parts of the Philippines and among the very politically incorrect (that includes the hungry and starving, who don’t care), Man’s Best Friend is fair game not just as meat for a meal or meals but as finger food (pulutan) when enjoying a round of drinks. This is why I avoid such reality, but somehow or somewhere, when people gather round for tea or coffee and somebody else talks about weird eating, somebody suddenly remembers that this deplorable activity is still done in the Motherland.

Kahit anong paliwanag ko at pagpilit na it’s hardly done in certain places (if at all) anymore, my workmates just can’t believe we do it. Remember, in here (NZ) a lot of people treat their pets better than fellow human beings, cats and dogs are scrupulously and meticulously fed, better (again) than many human counterparts, and in cold weather during autumn and winter, it would be unthinkable to leave you animal companions outside the door, at the very least cat people (what cat owners are called as opposed to “dog people”) leave a “cat entrance” or holes in back doors for their feline friends to use after their nocturnal adventures outside.

Imagine these people, who love their dogs probably more than anyone else, learning that our kabayan EAT dog meat. It’s no big deal, since I would never do it myself, but you can imagine the fun I have explaining why it’s normal back home.

Filipina-dating-Aussie.png

Do you (or your wife) have a sister / cousin / niece you could introduce ? This is no exaggeration, but after the home grown Kiwi ladies, Filipinas / Pinays are indisputably THE most popular choice as life partners, wives or girlfriends of New Zealanders. There’s not enough room in this post for the reasons, but as a result, despite the proliferation of dating sites and electronic / social media methods, Kiwis are always looking for ways to get to know our kabayan Pinays. Word of mouth, informal introductions, any sneaky way of finding a Pinay are used as effective tools for these love-struck and love-hungry men.

All I can say is, I can’t blame them. I do find the question above from time to time, still startling and funny when it’s actually asked to me. And, as long as I know anyone available back home, why not ?

And lastly …

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You guys speak English quite well. How come? Well, duh. First of all, white guys, namely those from the USA, Canada, UK, and the rest of the British Commonwealth, DON’T HAVE the monopoly on speaking English. After all, it’s been spread far and wide first by the British Empire, and second by the great American project of education and expansion, as far as the Four Winds have taken the latter. So it’s no big surprise that your little brown brothers (or yellow, or black) speak English all over the globe.

But Filipinos have an extra edge. Our experience as an American colony, and then as part of the American Commonwealth, then as a US ally the last century has given us not just Americanization but also a facility in English far beyond any of our regional and continental neighbors.

Honestly, take away our cute accent and our insistence on speaking English our way, and we might even be better English speakers than our gracious Kiwi hosts. We don’t mangle our vowels, we don’t shorten our syllables, and we actually write English better than we speak it! So to all our Kiwi friends, please don’t be surprised if we match your English, word for word, phrase for phrase if not thought for thought. In English, as well as Cebuano, Ilokano, and of course, Tagalog.

Happy New Year, Happy Waitangi Day, and thanks for reading!

 

 

Last page of my 2017 OFW diary: salamat employer, salamat Wellington & salamat New Zealand!


overworked.jpg[Note: so sorry I haven’t reached out lately. Maraming salamat sa pagdalaw, maraming salamat sa pagbasa, at maraming salamat sa pagtangkilik! I’ve enjoyed your company throughout the year, hope the feeling is mutual Precious Reader! (btw just had to use that pic above, thanks and acknowledgment to keywordsuggest.org! ]

THE DYING DAYS OF 2017, literally, are when our factory, as a complex, self-contained and autonomous organism, starts to slow down. People start to use up their leave, sick days suddenly start appearing on the time sheet, and even the supervisors / team leaders start zooming off the site early.

To forestall this, right after the Christmas party somewhere mid-December the boss just rosters a skeleton crew until the second week of January, when most of the staff comes out of its month-long hangover and returns to work, battle-ready with hammer and nails (or sword and shield, if you prefer).

I drew the short straw (or “taya” in Filipino playground lingo), not just because I was on leave Christmas last year, but also because the Philippines being so far away, I asked for an extended leave early this year to attend the wedding of my folks’ very first grandchild, my nephew. Except for the statutory holidays, I would be working through the season.

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Bisor calls me up with bad news and good news on Christmas Eve.

I’m gonna ask you to do something shitty and you can say no, but I’ll be grateful if you say yes.

Swallowing hard, I say what is it boss?

I’m gonna ask you to do midnight to seven the 27th, get a little rest, then come back to do the afternoon shift same day, I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed.

Arggggggghhhh. And the good news?

Surprise! I finish the week early, Thursday night.

I wanna say “but boss, that’s ONLY BECAUSE I start the week early, diba?” But I decide to save it for a rainy day. (In short, walang good news.)

“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed” is code for PLEASE, and besides as long as I had the requisite nine-hour rest between night shift and afternoon shift, the double shift was legal. And I liked my new bisor. Still, it was a lot to ask of my half-century old body.

All this time, the company had been doing little favors for me, like facilitating my legal paperwork, paying for tradesman training (although the ultimate benefit was theirs), and regularly sweetening the usual goodies like shift allowance, meal allowance, and other stuff that they were legally committed to anyway but improved on. It was time to give back, Noel.

That meant coming back to work midnight after Boxing Day (a holiday), getting a little sleep and then dragging myself back for the afternoon shift. Tough, but someone had to do it.

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LESS THAN 24 HOURS LATER, just as I thought I’d gone above and beyond the call of duty, comes the acting supervisor (not the one who called me earlier) with another request. Could I work till 2 am my last shift of the year (an extra three hours!), keep the packer company and, as long as I was there, keep the factory running?

The whole week before Christmas I was already on night shift by the way. Adding to the unexpected night shift the 27th, working till 2 am was almost like another night shift. Grrr… Guess what I told acting bisor?

Sure. Just tell my shift partner so we’ll finish the same time.

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It wasn’t just the extra production time needed, of course. Health and safety rules here don’t allow single man shifts (except in specific situations), so the packer working alone, admittedly urgent, was a no-no. And I liked the old packing guy, with his easy-going ways and taking pride in his work. How could I say no?

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Most OFWs and migrants say New Zealand is a great place to work, and I’m no exception. Labor laws are followed to the letter, and any doubt in the interpretation of the law or evidence in disputes are usually resolved in favor of the worker, and as long as you don’t have vices and live frugally, the pay is good.

Despite my status as guest worker, I’m treated as a local. I enjoy the same rights as any other worker, get to join a union, receive all the benefits, and get credited with seniority and recognition like anyone else.

I sometimes take these for granted, and I need little wake-up calls like year-end situations to tell me, nakikisama kami sa yo, pero kapag panahon ng gipitan, makisama ka rin sana.

It’s true that NZ needs its migrants to run the engine of growth, mind its dairy farms and care for its aging population, but those of us already here need NZ just as much. To live quality lives, raise our families and fulfill our dreams. We need each other.

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For the record, the shift went well. The packer, a brown guy like me, from the Cook Islands filled his packing orders, packed a record number of pallets of product for the supermarkets, and we all went home happy.

Happy to have done our bit for ourselves, the company, and for New Zealand, our last shift of the year.

Thanks for reading and happy 2018, mabuhay!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quittable 2017 : you CAN and are able to stop smoking, today


[Note : Ok ok the not so positive reinforcment is up there in that video (if I was able to find it), the positive is below. I do this around this time every year since I quit smoking for good in 2007. I don’t want to sound like a pompous, sanctimonious anti-smoking advocate, but only for today, I will. thanks for reading! ]

NOT GIVING THE SLIGHTEST care about what others say, Precious Reader / Kabayan or both, I believe that blogs are the last bastion and refuge of the brutally honest, whether or not such honesty serves them. To myself, my God and eternity I owe having done my best, choosing good over evil, and being true to myself. Since I can’t promise the last two, at least I can try doing the first, right? 🙂

And that’s why I begin this post by telling you Precious Reader, that whoever tells you that, having quit smoking for good (recently, a few years ago or a lifetime ago), he or she doesnt miss it, is lying, propagandizing, or simply not being honest  with himself / herself (I’ll stuck to the male pronoun for facility from hereon OK?). Whether it’s physical or mental, the temporary comfort of relieving stress, the appearance of being cool whatever else, there must be SOME benefit of smoking. Having quit must therefore produce an even greater benefit, or avoiding an evil greater than the supposed benefit.

And such production or avoidance we have long been acquainted with, from bad breath, breathing or lung capacity, prevention of lung cancer and emphysema, to living a quality life well beyond your retirement years, the list is long and substantial. I just want to add a few original thoughts (to me):

YOU CAN STOP AT ANY AGE. I quit smoking at the ripe old age of  42, when only twenty years previous, I thought hitting your 40s  was the twilight of your life. After quitting, I remarried, ran two half-marathons, and learned a new profession. So when you think back, at the time I quit my life was actually in front of me. And your new life is actually in front of you too, as soon as you stop smoking. You can do literally anything you want, which brings me to my next thought:

THE POTENTIAL FOR POST SMOKING GREATNESS IS INFINITE. Restart and jumpstart vigorous physical activity after years of dormancy. Spice up intimacy and sex with your beloved. Take up a new hobby, or even clean up around the house. The possibilities are tremendous, and limited only by your imagination. All because you decided to stop smoking, whose effects go beyond the rejuvenation gained by your body. You begin to think more clearly, your life is no longer defined by a bad habit, and more enjoyably, your social life improves dramatically (as in, people no longer avoid you and your bad breath). See? Those scenarios I thought up just as I was typing this, without even a second to pause and think about same. Imagine this: 24 hours after you smoke your last cigarette, you begin reaping the benefits physically and psychologically, no matter how long you’ve been smoking.

SO YOU BACKSLID? JUST QUIT AGAIN. That cynical quote attributed to Mark Twain says it all: “It’s easy to quit (smoking), I’ve done it a hundred times.” So you were on your longest streak ever, three months, when in a moment of weakness during an inuman (drinking session) you saw someone light up and just had to say yes to the offer to share a ciggie? Let me guess, you were back to smoking the next day like you never stopped. Sigh, this happens a lot of times, but the great thing is you’ve got the right attitude, and you’ve accomplished so much by taking the first step. Next thing to do is start your streak again!

See Precious Reader? You’ve made the first step by reading all the way to this last paragraph. Of course the rest is up to you, but as far as I’m concerned, you’re on your way. Mabuhay ka, and congrats on your decision to stop smoking!

Thanks for reading!

Release at ginhawa : dodging the latest bullet (again)


thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to turbostaff.co.nz!

[Note: Precious Reader is encouraged to read between the lines in this post, as I can’t be too direct today. Maraming salamat po! ]

FOR PRIVACY REASONS, I can’t tell you exactly what I’m quietly celebrating today, but if you’ve heard my ravings and rantings often enough Precious Reader, you’ll know it’s something that’s very important to my migrant life.

THE FEELING OF BEING LESS WANTED. For most of my decade-long gig with my present employer, every work day has been  spent in the security of my job: not many locals want my job, and even those that do, quickly run out of patience and energy training for it. It has less to do with me than the job itself.

Shift work, manual labor, tediousness of tasks and chores and sheer boredom are the main factors why after a month or two of training, Kiwis (New Zealanders) suddenly decide the job isn’t for them and mumble a quick goodbye, or worse, just stop showing up without so much as a by-your-leave.

Which, for my employer and Your Loyal Blogger (ylbNoel), was fine for as long as I showed up on time, did the job, and never complained. Which is what I’ve done to this day, just that my commitment is no longer enough, and, coupled with the current situation (which I’ll touch on below), just won’t be enough reason for me to continue doing the job at the expense of the local population.

CHANGING VARIABLES. An ideal production team, doing three shifts of 8 hours five days a week, should be composed of six workers. For the longest time, and for as long as I can remember, our team has been staffed by exactly that, six people. The very same shortness of staff that has given me a bit of security in my employment has also created the same insecurity harbored by my employer for the same amount of time, the last 10 years. What if someone decides to leave? What if God forbid, an accident befell one of us and prevented us from returning to work long-term? And so on and so forth.

Which returned Boss Employer to the original question, why weren’t we training more, and recruiting more aggressively? With the unemployment, underemployment and plenitude of workers out there, aversion to my work conditions was simply no longer enough reason to not look for potential workers, even though admittedly it wasn’t the easiest job available.

CURRENT SITUATION. Especially because it has traditionally been known as the party of the workingman, the new party in power, the Labour Party, has made it known from Day One that more jobs, better jobs and higher paying jobs are tops on its agenda. You can say it in so many words like poverty alleviation, improving the quality of life and leveling up the basic services, but it can all be summed up in that four letter word : J-O-B-S.

Now, if you wanna create jobs in the wink of an eye, just like that, without too much grief, what’s the easiest, solutions-based and cheapest formula? You don’t have to be an economist or number cruncher to answer : that’s right, take a hard look at those guest workers, jobs that are held by non-New Zealanders, and for good measure give them that waitaminute-what’re-you-doing-in-my-beloved-New-Zealand-anyways stare?

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Never mind that these guest workers have been doing jobs that most New Zealanders would never even think of doing; never mind that guest workers give their jobs the loyalty, dedication and pride over and above, many times over, and never mind that these guest workers pay taxes, do the best they can, and do their share in running the New Zealand engine of growth, day in and day out, 365 days of the year.

For these generic reasons I would have been the least surprised if it would no longer be business as usual in my personal situation. And for a while, when my paperwork was up in the air, I had a distinct feeling that my days in Aotearoa were numbered.

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My fears turned out to be baseless; a mixture of paranoia and insecurity that my host  country wouldn’t do the right thing. Skills plus lack of local interest in job, given a rational and logical rules-based society equals the privilege of working here. 

Notice I used that word privilege. For all the the pluses and good points I’ve worked hard to create, for all the work ethic and loyalty I’ve shown, it is still my host’s choice on whether or not to let me work here. I know that, and for now I embrace it wholeheartedly.

I may or may not be here forever. But I savor every day.

Mabuhay New Zealand, at mabuhay ang Barangay ng mga Pinoy sa New Zealand!

Thanks for reading!

 

nagalit ang patay sa haba ng lamay : FAQs on this OFW & night shift, the last nine years


Darkknightillustration14[ A very light-hearted title, tongue in cheek of course. Paumanhin (apologies) to any sensitivities I might have offended. thanks and acknowledgment to webastion.wordpress.com for the awesome pic!]

IT’S NOT CALLED Windy Wellington for nothing,  with Storm Signal No. 1 winds (60 to 90 kph) here as common as an overcast, matrapik day. If anything a more accurate name for my adopted city is Chilly Wellington. The vivacious weather girl forecasts 9 to 15 minimum maximum temperature for the weekend, but the wind chill factor makes it feel far colder than that, closer to 6 to 8 in the deepest of night, mahigit kumulang.

Enter your Loyal kabayan Blogger’s secret weapon, hot, steaming showers come in, warming you up on the inside and outside, unclogging your arteries and veins, opening up those bara-bara  (fluid retention) in your arthritic joints and ligaments, and extending your waking hours until you’re ready to finish the shift.

In fact, hot hot showers are my solution to almost anything: sore muscles and gouty ankles? Hot showers dissolve the lactic acid buildup and gout crystals if you’re patient enough, and no one else has queued up to use the shower. Can’t get rid of the cobwebs in your brain and had a little too much of the amber bottle last night? Again, hot showers will take care of your sluggishness almost instantly, not too hot though, baka matanggal na’ng balat mo. Feeling lazy and uninspired for the day’s labor? A few minutes of nearly steaming ablution will do wonders, and you’ll be raring to go as soon as you dry yourself from the droplets of vapor, which are gonna slide off you in the cold air anyway.

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A word of caution though. One thing the hot hot shower WON’T cure, in my years as an OFW here, is a chronic lack of sleep, which is defined as a deficiency in zzzz’s from a few days to God forbid, a few weeks, after which you had better see a doctor to find out what’s wrong with you kabayan.

A totally different case or situation however is when we suffer or endure lack of sleep because it’s the nature of the job and part of the hazards of the job, usually brought about by shift work, specifically night shift or extended shift work.

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Ironic, but in a way I prepared myself for shift work in my last job back home in the Philippines, working in an outbound call center. Because we had to call during the day, US time (Eastern, Central and Pacific times) our work needed to be done at night in the Philippines, that’s when the money was made in the form of questions answered and surveys filled.

But I was younger then, so much younger than today, the desk work of call centers wasn’t too strenuous (although ubos lagi laway mo), and the physical nature of my present job makes shift work a little more stressful. Coupled with the fact that it’s no longer practical for me to leave my work now, and you can see why I have made working at nights second nature.

I’ve divided myself between interviewer Noel and interviewee Noel to share with you my answers to FAQs or frequently asked questions about night shift and the OFW, specifically me.

I assume you compensate for not sleeping at night with sleeping during the day. Are these the same? Yes and no. I have to explain that wishy-washy (neither here nor there) answer. First, I’m fortunate in that I only do night shift every third week, or roughly once a month. If ever I don’t get quality sleep because I turn my sleep cycle around, I go back to normal after one week. Secondly, I have found that as long as you keep your sleep location as dark as possible, keep your sleep uninterrupted and compensate with healthy food and drink, I strongly believe your body will adjust. But that’s just me.

Can you relate regular night shift to your general state of health? Again, I have to qualify. If, even before you’ve engaged yourself to work nights, and more nights the rest of your natural life, you’ve been smoking like a chimney, drinking like a fish, and consuming processed food, sugar and trans-fat like you owned a Seven-Eleven (which btw doesn’t exist in New Zealand), now, how in your opinion would working night shifts make it any worse? On the other hand, if you’ve generally kept yourself fit and healthy with good nutrition and exercise, kept yourself well-maintained by staying away from vice, stress and the wear and tear of strenuous work, then if you compensate for regular shift work by resting on the weekends, drink more liquids and avoiding depending on alcohol to sleep, I doubt if you’ll be bothered too much by night shift, assuming you enjoy the work, which brings my interviewing self to…

Can you catch up on sleep by regularly taking a beer or two, or a glass of wine? I know this sounds like a trick question, because so many people I know, including myself, use a beer or glass of wine to help go to sleep, especially when it’s broad daylight outside and you’re going back to work in less than 12 hours. OF COURSE you can, but drinker beware. A glass or two doesn’t sound like much, in fact it helps with the drowsiness and sends you to dreamland oftener than not. But (1) you learn to depend on it, paano na kung naubos ang alak? and (2) alcohol has been known to disrupt the regular light and deep sleep patterns that regulate our rest. In simplest terms, you can almost bet that when I’m forced to take two Heinekens or Asahi’s, I WILL fall asleep, but in less than three hours I’m inexplicably awake, admittedly it’s also because I need to go relieve myself or because I’m too warm; in any case I’m usually back to square one, because I can’t go back to sleep again. In the meantime, I can’t use alcohol again (facepalm). Too much na.

Last question Noel. Does shift work make you age faster? To be blunt, does shift work make you feel older? Please forgive the ambiguity of my answers Precious Reader / kabayan, but if you believe in mind over matter, it’s all a matter of perspective. If you think that after a long night shift, coming in at dark and finishing in the  brightest of day, you still retain your sunny disposition, if you convince yourself that as long as your work provides for family, provides for your basic needs and you make a contribution to society, then anything else is worth your while including working while everyone else sleeps. Attitude wins over the day, anytime and everytime. I may feel old and wasted some of the time after night shift, but feeling good about myself more than makes up for it.

Thank you interviewer Noel, muchas gracias interviewee Noel, and maraming salamat, Precious Reader. Mabuhay!

 

the king is dead, long live the king!


LOOK WHO HAD US FOR LUNCH. Cabeza de Barangay de los Islas Filipinas and Secretary-General elect of FIRST Union, His Excellency Amb Gary Domingo and Kasamang Dennis Maga, just orienting us about the new Labour government. Mabuhay kayo!

[ Paunawa: in my five-plus years of blogging, I’m trying something new Precious Reader, albeit just for this post only. I’ll stop “journalistic pretense” or neutral discussion of the issues coinciding with the arrival of the new Labour Government in New Zealand, and tell it like it is, how these issues affect me personally. it’s one of the few perks of blogging, which is using an exclusively personal perspective, which is after all, how we live life, diba? ]

ESPECIALLY  IN countries with a parliamentary government, change can come in an instant. Call a snap election, regret it for the rest of your life. Just ask Theresa May of the United Kingdom. I’m not 100% sure, but Bill English could’ve taken his sweet time before announcing elections, although in hindsight, the writing was on the wall.

I confess I was one of those who were concerned about the ascension of Jacinda Ardern and the Labour party to power, with a little help from Winston Peters and his friends in the New Zealand First party. The only thing worse than a bad government is fear of the unknown; to what depths  a mismanaged economy will lead us, and the backlash against migrants and guest workers that  new government brings.

On the other side of the coin, there is a bukangliwayway  (sunrise) of new initiatives, new policies and ambitious plans to uplift the standard of living of people, renew the drive to preserve New Zealand’s 100% Pure brand, and other schemes that the previous government somehow lost sight of.

No matter what side of the fence you sit on, you can’t help but give the new custodians of government the chance to do well, even though, as human nature dictates, one resists change, embraces the old comfort zones, and is wary of efforts to change the old ways in favor of the new.

Please believe when I say this, Kabayan or Precious Reader because, even with my cozy comforts in New Zealand, I’m still caught between a rock and a hard place, the devil and the deep blue sea if you want. Sure I’m comfortable with a good job, a great environment and a very peaceful host country. But without getting into too much detail, I have no permanence, no long-term status, nothing I can call truly my own as a guest worker in New Zealand. So if there’s any change, and I say I’m wary about it, you might wanna give my words more weight than usual.

Courtesy of a kabayan who now has the ear of the Labour Party and has been working for both Pinoy OFW and resident workers in New Zealand long before the Labor-led coalition, he personally wanted to clear up a few of the concerns I aired in a previous blog (nakarating sa kanya, wow!):

Raising the minimum wage immediately, and up to $20 by 2020. I’m very lucky to be receiving a little more than the minimum wage of $15.25 an hour, especially since for a 1st World nation, it doesn’t leave much after the very basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter. One of the first priorities of the incoming Labor government is raising it towards the goal of the so-called living wage of $20. Many of our kabayan in the South Island are grateful to be working in New Zealand, but are not receiving much more than minimum, if at all.

This sounds partisan, but please don’t believe titans and apologists of big business when they say that kung tataasan nyo ang sahod hanggang di na namin kaya, magsasara na lang kami (If you’re gonna raise minimum wages to unreasonable levels, we might as well shut down the business). In the first place, there is always a balance between keeping your workers happy and keeping the business viable. Wages should always be a factor in maintaining your enterprise, no make that reasonable wages. I don’t want to use my example too much, but our employer negotiates with our site bargaining unit every two years, and encourages non-union members to join, all the better to keep moving forward across the board. It may sound harsh but it’s the reality: a business who can’t pay the legislated wage rate has no business to be in business (and keep using lame puns like this) 🙂

Maintaining realities and priorities in keeping migrant numbers where they are. You will start hearing this from the party in power now, and it makes sense: You can’t stick to a hard number when it comes to net migration. In the first place, it’s the economy, not legislation, that dictates the ultimate number when it comes to how many migrants are needed. Look at Dubai, Singapore and other countries that have readily admitted the migrant reality: a vibrant and growing economy cannot survive without migrant labor. That’s the simple truth. Overall, the two priorities of the incumbents will be tweaking the Skilled Migrant visa pathways (there are many under this general policy) so that only truly qualified migrants continue to come in, and reducing the Student Visa numbers, which admittedly is the area where abuse is rampant. There’s no other way to say that last sentence, nadadamay ang mga Pinoy dahil sa ginagawa ng ibang mga lahi sa student visa, with the cooperation and tolerance of educational institutions here.

Making it easier for those who are already here. I’ve used this phrase often, but I’ll use it again.  There are more than a few guest workers in NZ who have a reasonable expectation of deserving NZ permanent residency, and yet have “fallen between the cracks.” How so ? They are useful enough to be considered skilled, and yet not skilled enough to be considered for residency. They are skilled enough to be granted work visas, and yet aren’t paid enough to be considered for permanent residency. And so on and so forth. Their jobs have disappeared from the so-called long term and short term skills shortage lists, yet strangely enough, continue to be in the rosters of their employers for years and years.

This isn’t fair for them. Because of the Christchurch rebuild, Pinoys (and other migrants) have a chance to get out of their limbo and apply for residency, but shouldn’t this privilege be granted to all who deserve it, New Zealand-wide? Pinoys are highly valued, dependable and loyal workers who in many cases have worked for their bosses, faithfully consistently, and without fail. Labour has made the right noises in this direction, and this will give many kabayan all over New Zealand, this blogger included, a big sigh of relief.

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I have to give credit to the new Labour Government, specifically my kabayan source who so rapidly told me it’s not all doom and gloom under the new order. Thank you very much Ginoong Dennis Maga, Secretary General-elect of the FIRST Union, and an acknowledged champion for workers rights, not just Pinoys, but everyone who works an honest 8 hours a day in Aotearoa. Thanks too Your Excellency Ambassador Gary Domingo for gamely providing such a filling lunch in the process!  Mabuhay kayo!

And thanks kabayan and friends for reading!