1 munting alaala ng ating Christchurch 11

Lalaine Agatep.  Mary Louise Ann Amantillo.  Emmabelle Anoba.  Valquin Bensurto.  Ivy Jane Cabunilas.  John Kristoffer Chua.  Jewel Francisco.  Jessie-Lloyd Redoble and Ezra Mae Medalle. Rhea Mae Sumalpong.  Erica Avir Reyes Nora. Gone but still in our hearts.

WE WERE probably very lucky to meet an acquaintance who was (is) a cousin of our Christchurch 11, the 11 kabayan who perished during the February 22nd 2011 Christchurch earthquake, whose 10th anniversary was celebrated yesterday.

I’m sorry to forget if they were in the Garden City for an IELTS review (International English Language Testing System) or for a bridging course to applying their nursing credentials in New Zealand. (11 out of the 11 were Philippine registered nurses or RNs)

But what happened was the day of the earthquake was also the first day of their course. And because most of them had also arrived straight from either the Philippines or from Auckland, they went straight from the airport to the school they were training in, stopping over at their lodgings to just drop their luggage and personal stuff.

We knew this because the cousin was contacted by the police not long after the earthquake, where the bad news was broken to her, and the personal property, as listed next of kin, was surrendered to her.

As the items included valuables, they had to be itemized, and my acquaintance recounted to me her amazement: the luggage was unpacked, and included, in American dollars, all the cash they would need the whole time they were to be in Christchurch.

They had no time between their last journey and their first day in school, but wanted to do as well as they could , especially with the reputation of Filipino nurses as the best in the world. So they couldn’t afford to miss even one day, and went straight to school.

And into eternity.

Mabuhay kayo, Christchurch 11!

pagtapos ng dilim, ang nakabubulag na naliwanag (after dark, the brilliant dawn): being a new OFW dad in NZ

[ sorry we haven’t kept in touch kabayan, Mahal just gave birth last week. It’s been a crazy 8 days and counting. Thanks for keeping us company part of the ride. that’s Baby Dumpling by the way, seconds after birth. thanks for reading! ]

A MILLION THINGS are going through our mind right now, so we’ll try to sift things and tell you what we’re feeling.

It still feels like the first time, every time. We’ve been a father thrice before, but each time feels special. We won’t say this is the best ever, but we have to say at this stage that being a dad 25 years after the last time is indeed very special.

The best way to share our experience with you Precious Reader would be to try to compare our experiences as a new dad in New Zealand and how we remember it back in the Philippines. Ito ang pinaka-meaningful na paraan para ma-share ko mga karanasan ko:

If you want the realistic indicator of how well (or badly) a country treats its citizens, experience its health care. New Zealand’s health care to all citizens, permanent residents and work visa holders of at least two years isn’t the best in the world, but it spares no expense in two areas that we know of : in life-threatening illness, and in pregnancy and/or maternal care.

Wife Mahal was admitted to hospital for 8 days, underwent an urgent caesarian section, received full courses of painkillers and antibiotics, and our Baby Dumpling received diapers, formula, and pediatrician and testing services. As did Mahal from her obstetrician, diabetes doctor, dietician and of course midwife.

All these services were regular, on time, and most importantly, free.

Like we said earlier, hindi perpekto ang serbisyong pangkalusugan ng New Zealand. Pero sa panahon ng gipitan at pinakamatinding pangangailangan, hindi sya nagkukulang.

[translation : health care services in New Zealand aren’t perfect, but when you need it most, it’s there for you. ]

Sa Pilipinas naman, mayroon ding public health services kung may budget ang inyong local government, o kung may health insurance ka. Pero di ito garantiya na makakamtan mo ang serbisyong kailangan mo.

[translation : In the Philippines, public health services are available if your local government budget allows, or if you have health insurance. But even then, this is no guarantee that you’ll enjoy the services you need. ]

Like the Philippines, health care isn’t perfect. but any flaws or imperfections are made up for it by the passion and skill of its health care professionals. Mahal’s labor extended into past midnight, from the original day, and the midwife attending to her had to finish her shift.

But the midwife following told her firmly : I’m not going to leave you until you give birth, no matter what. And indeed, she stayed with Mahal through an unexpected caesarian section, helped her understand the consequences like low grade infection brought by the extended labor, the wearing off of the meds, and the recovery she would have to undergo.

All the while the midwife matched Mahal’s dedication and resilience. She never complained or talked about how long the process was taking (well over 20 hours by the time Mahal was brought out of recovery room), and stayed with Mahal until she was sure others had taken over for her. If Mahal was the heroine of the day, her midwife was a strong sidekick.

When you enjoy the services of good nurses, midwives and doctors as well as allied health professionals, it stands out anywhere.

Batang ama or matandang ama, becoming a parent is inspiring at any age. When we became a parent at age 23, we didn’t know a single thing about being a dad. It was trial and error most of the time, but the mistakes were survivable (I hope).

Thirty-two years and three kids later, we’re a dad again, and also an OFW. we’re more inspired than ever, trying to carve out a life in a new city, with new skills, new industry and new employer. The outlook is good, the vision is clear, but everything is made more worthwhile by Baby Dumpling, our nickname for the little one.

She has a bright future here, and in a way, because she is going to spend her life as an ethnic Filipina and New Zealander, with her (hopefully) intelligence, adaptability and gratitude for living in a generous host country, she will give it back and pay it forward, with our blessing.

It’s all about you now Baby Dumpling.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

Unions call for residency for migrant workers – Radio New Zealand article

There may be as much as one-third of all Pinoys staying in New Zealand working as Work Visa holders. Are they any different from all of us in wanting a better life free from uncertainty, tyranny and want? (Story and picture courtesy of Radio New Zealand , thanks!)

Unions call for residency for migrant workers | RNZ News

salaysay ng huling araw sa trabaho (anatomy of my last day at work)

[the first working day of the year is also my last day of work, after 13 years. This is how it ended. thanks for reading! ]


***** ***** *****

One day only three weeks ago, my team (Mahal and I) decided we needed a different path in our migration journey. On our current path, Wayz / Google Maps was giving us correct directions, but we weren’t getting anywhere, and without a doubt the job I was holding was a dead end.

The job had been good to me, had fed my team, and just as importantly, kept me in New Zealand. But I needed more. And also, time was running out. If I didn’t move soon, opportunity would slip away.

We didn’t need a long discussion, and before the end of the day, the decision was reached. However and wherever our migrant journey would continue, we didn’t know. But one thing was for sure: it wouldn’t be through this job. We would have to chart a path elsewhere.

***** ***** *****

But where were we? Ah yes. My last day. For me, it couldn’t arrive soon enough as I craved the change, the transition into a new phase of our journey.

But when it did arrive, no one was more unprepared than me.

I told my work teammates one by one, as I didn’t like the attention it would generate. You see, most of the team (almost including me) are “lifers.” The job isn’t for everyone, but as soon as one gets used to the job, the routine and the permanence of the work (we manufacture a product everyone needs), the worker tends to stick to the job, the years fly by, and before you know it, you’ve been doing the same thing twenty years.

I liked my job, but not that much.

***** ***** *****

Whether because I didn’t tell him first, or the fact that his roster turned to rubbish even before the year started, my line manager was even less pleased. He let me know that it was the worst timing for me, that I missed out on benefits by resigning blah blah blah but I had a feeling he was more than a little annoyed. But in the end he realized I was doing it to avoid being left with no options; that I was leaving while I could still do something. Which wasn’t a lot.

To the rest of the gang, it wasn’t just a hi-hello-goodbye situation either. Typical of being Pinoy (I’m the only Pinoy for miles and miles around), I got along with everyone, wasn’t always the best worker but at least I could pretend to be the most cheerful guy, even in sometimes a sarcastic way. Cheerfulness, when no one else is cheerful, can be infectious, and quite a few times I got remembered that way. Whether or not I meant it, I almost always showed I was grateful to have a job in New Zealand.

If I hadn’t made it obvious yet, it was becoming a painful experience leaving a job I’d grown to love.

***** ***** *****

Back to my last day. As we were starting the machines up for the morning shift run, I did everything the usual way. Checked for blocks or leakages, made sure the system was clear before introducing the raw material, and made sure the machinery on start up was smooth and clear on the top floors before giving the all-clear to the shift manager below.

As I did my usual tests and checks, I started to realize that I would be doing my routine chores the last time. The boring test and inspection suddenly looked odd to me. Was I actually doing this for the last time? and so on and so forth. Was I passing this corridor of filters and air locks just one more time before calling it a day? Was the view on top of the factory, of other factories and the eternal sea, a view I was never going to enjoy again? At least, as a worker here? Yes, yes and yes.

I maintained my cheerful facade our first breaktime. Met Manpreet in the lunch room, our assistant plant engineer.

Happy New Year he greeted me, forgetting it was my last day.

Happy Diwali man!

It’s not freaking Diwali he said, before realizing I was just making fun of him.

Respectfully of course.

***** ***** *****

I didn’t ask for a lunch but it was given to me anyway. Thirteen years working for your employer will earn you that at least. The line manager made the jokes just snarky enough to make us laugh but still good-naturedly enough to recognize the time I’d put in the company.

I started to make an impromptu speech but stopped before I got too emotional. The ones I spoke to knew the real reason I was leaving, but most of the others just thought I needed a change of scenery. I left it at that.

The rest of the shift I was just going through the motions, but I was just doing enough so I ‘d survive the shift. I didn’t want an inglorious finish to an otherwise unevenful day, which in a way reflected my stay with my employer: nothing flashy, but usually dependable.

I met the afternoon shift guys who missed my lunch, because of course they weren’t in yet. I became a little more emotional with them because we had around 10 minutes to sum up 10-plus years of working together.

I walked out of work clutching my lunchbox, and the workboots that I was allowed to take with me. That afternoon, I felt that I’d worked longer than the 13 years I worked there, and was taking more than the memories that would stay with me forever.

Part of me would always be in that factory.

***** ***** *****

But wait. I still had the rest of my working life to map out the final leg of my migrant journey.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

payo & mungkahi sa sarili (bilang OFW/migrante) ngayong 2021 (advice for myself as an OFW / migrant this 2021)

WE’RE NOT A YOUNG PERSON ANYMORE. We’ve been around the block twice, worked in many different jobs back home in the Philippines, and worked as an OFW in our long and winding migrant journey. Yes, we’ve earned our wrinkles and kalyo deservedly.

But we continue to make the same mistakes, make the same old reactions, fail to take advantage of the same opportunities as a visitor / outsider / new member of the family here in our adopted land. Whether because we stick to our stereotypes of ourselves (ayaw ng gulo, ayaw ng confrontation, sobrang makisama), or because we don’t want to leave our comfort zone, we fail to become the best versions of ourselves, and become a self-fulfillment of what others think of us: Pinoy lang yan, kaya hanggang dyan na lang sya. Kulang yan sa ambisyon kasi. And other silly limits that we impose on ourselves.

With this in mind, we make suggestions to our 2020 self, from our present 2021 version, a little older, a little wiser, and hoping our counterpart from 12 months ago can learn from our mistakes, our failures to act, and our lack of vision to make ourselves and the world a better place:

Be a better dad. This is probably the most important thing we can do for ourselves and the ones we love. We have had kids in our distant past, but we weren’t the best inspirational enabling and educating types, which we now know to be the best kind of father there is. this is especially true when we are in the migrant setting: we show to our kids that we can be good fathers and head of the family in a different environment, away from the Philippines, and adjusting to situations that change every day.

Most especially, we’re going to be a dad again after 25 years. The energy level won’t be the same as before, we are more mature now, more appreciative of the moment, and more patient with having the baby. As everyone has told me, just enjoy everything about being a dad again, especially while being in New Zealand, which is one of the best places to be in considering everything.

Do more for my Pinoy community. While we’re not exactly admirers of other migrant communities (no need to be specific) we do notice something about them (there are only two Asian communities larger than the Pinoy community, we don’t need to tell you which): they have very strong community organizations. They’re very well organized, very closely interact with the actual members, and very well-funded.

Maybe we can’t measure up to them in terms of logistics and cash, but we can match them in terms of energy and commitment. Hindi ba sikat tayo sa spirit ng bayanihan? If our ancestors and relatives especially in the provinces could do it, we in New Zealand certainly can. We know we are already doing it in the smaller communities outside the major urban centers, we just need to sustain it, be more sensitive to the needs and situations of our kabayan, and act upon that sensitivity.

Do more for New Zealand. There’s a reason why our adopted country New Zealand is in the Happiness Index’s 10 happiest countries in the world. Good government, healthy environment, and where if you work hard, you will have a decent life sums it up. But also, New Zealanders are generally happy people, ready to help a stranger, and you get hi’s and hellos from people you’ve never met, every day.

But it didn’t get to be there by accident, and it won’t stay that way forever. People who live here have to work on it, keep building on successes, and look out for each other as friends, neighbors and people who live in the same country. We as Pinoys and kabayan are no exception. We need to do our share to continue making this place a good place to live in.

and lastly…

Be aware and know all about the law and law changes concerning immigration. Many, many kabayan here still await the dawn of the day when they receive the sweetest gift of permanent residency. To do this, they need to deserve it, to earn it, and prepare themselves for it.

On the other side of the coin, you cannot fully fault New Zealand for making it harder to become a New Zealander. Each year brings a bigger population, which means more mouths to feed, and to meet the challenge more wealth must be created, the greatest tool being more jobs. And these jobs should rightly be filled by existing New Zealanders first.

But the immigration policy of New Zealand through the years remains: if you are hardworking, law-abiding and have something to contribute to the New Zealand economy, you are welcome to stay within limits and ultimately will have a fighting chance to stay permanently. It will be a long journey for those who haven’t gotten there, but for many, it’s not the destination, but how you got there. All the more rewarding diba?

***** ***** *****

If I do all the above, it won’t cure all my problems as a migrant in New Zealand, but it’s a good start.

A good start for the new year.

Thanks for reading, isang maasensong 2021 sa lahat!

kung bakit puno ng meaning ang kapaskuhan para sa mga OFW

[ From my family to yours, merry Christmas Precious Reader! ]

THE PICTURES SAY IT ALL. Ang pinakahugot or emotional na pics para sa mga OFW at mga lumalakbay na Pinoy twing kapaskuhan (Christmastime), bukod sa mga mag-anak (families) na tumitipon-tipon sa Noche Buena at mga reunion na ten-years-in-the-making, ay ang nag-iisang (solitary) OFW sa gitna ng mga nagdidiwang, nag-iisa at may hawak na celpon, nagpupumilit na makisama sa cell site coverage at ingay ng selebrasyon.

Di sya marinig ng kausap nya, at wala syang kasalo sa Christmas. hanggang tingin na lang sya sa mga pamilyang nagcecelebrate at sa mga magandang tanawing nagpapalungkot lang lalo.

After all, Christmas is a time of celebration. It’s the one time of the year when people are allowed to stop work, be happy for happiness’ sake, get drunk (without driving) and go to sleep without a care in the world.

***** ***** *****

But for the Filipino (as well as many other races of course) no celebration is complete without some sort of family, which can be in the form of colleagues, friends and relatives. Since everyone else has gone to their family, the OFW is left with other OFWs, or worse, alone.

[ This year has been made worse by the pandemic, which has left families separated and isolated indefinitely. Parents and kids have not seen each other for months, siblings do not know what’s going on with each other, and grandparents and seniors are cruelly isolated in nursing homes. ]

The reason why Christmas celebrations are so family-oriented especially to the OFW is simple: Christmas is all about family, and family is one of the main reasons, if not the main reason why the OFW became an OFW.

Now, memories magnify emotions. The first communion, the first kiss, the stink and smell of the fish market, all bring back specific memories that bring back the strongest emotion associated with that memory. And what could be more memorable and memory inducing than your best Christmases ever?

Bringing those two previous thoughts / paragraphs together. Families are very very important to the OFW, and Christmas reminds the OFW of his family. In a very big way. If the OFW is with his family for the holidays, well and good.

But as is usually the case, Christmas season finds the OFW apart from his family, and what should be a very happy time of the year becomes a not so happy time.

***** ***** *****

But these sad memories in themselves also serve a different purpose. They form a group of memories that build character and make the struggle all the more worthwhile, something to look back on when the OFW is finally reunited with his / her family, this time for good.

For whatever reason, Christmas is always treasured by the OFW.

thanks for reading, be safe this Christmas and mabuhay!

ang misis kong maganda, ang misis kong masipag : ang misis kong OFW

FOR A SPOUSE OR PARTNER of a work visa holder in New Zealand 11 years ago, Mahal (that’s how I and everyone else calls her) hit the ground running . She did have a work visa, but neither I nor she herself expected to start work immediately, she wasn’t expected to.

But she was asked by a kabayan (who’s now a good friend) if she didn’t mind giving other people manicures and pedicures, and that’s how she got her first job in New Zealand, less than one week after she landed in Wellington, unexpectedly: as a “nail technician,” the first in her collection of many trades (professions).

***** ***** *****

Not only that. Soon after, she started work in another (part-time) job, to augment her new-found income. The cleaning lady who cleaned our office asked me if I knew anyone who wanted to help her clean houses and offices three times a week. The cleaning lady offered a competitive wage and would bring Mahal to and from work. Without hesitation, Mahal accepted, and in less than a month was earning close to what I was earning, on a per hour basis.

The cleaning lady liked her so much, she gave her more hours after the first week and, more importantly, taught Mahal to drive. This, she said, would encourage her to buy her own car and get around faster. Before long, I would start seeing Mahal drive the cleaning lady’s car, first as a practice driver, then as a regular driver. She learned to drive before me.

***** ***** *****

Thing really started picking up when she chanced upon the local jewelry / moneychanger where she remitted her newfound income back home. (This was before widespread online remittances became popular). Always light on her feet and quick with numbers and figures, Mahal found herself on the short list of final interviewees and bested a few experienced retail veterans (and Kiwi grads) for the job selling jewelry and handling money.

***** ***** *****

All the while, she never forgot to cook three meals for this lucky OFW, prepare my daily baon, do the lion(ess)’s share of the household chores and plan and prepare the week’s budget, which she did from the day she arrived in New Zealand (I got here two years ahead of her)

In typical Pinoy fashion, she always underestimated her skills and ability to grow and improve with every passing day in whatever job she did. But because she wasn’t afraid to learn, ask the right questions, and help out as a member of the work team, she became a reliable and productive worker for every employer she worked for.

This became clear when she was asked to train her co-workers every time a new branch or position opened, and became the unofficial “2IC” (second-in-charge) whenever the manager was unavailable. Kiwi, Indian, Islander or fellow kabayan, Mahal always got along, and never sacrificed her work ethic and quality of work while staying positive and keeping team spirit alive. She never planned for it, but was always popular with both her peers and the employer.

***** ***** *****

And the surest sign of her popularity with the customer? Not only Filipinos but a rainbow of races, gender and trades looked for her whenever she was on leave or was on a break. Transactions peaked during the days she was on full shift and she had so many regulars, people always passed by just to ask when “the Filipina lady” was on.

Through it all, four jobs and numerous part-time gigs, Mahal took time off only to come home to the Philippines, never taking unscheduled leave and always filling in for others.

Without realizing it, Mahal had taken over in our marriage. She had become the model OFW. And without a doubt, I’m the proudest second-placer.

mabuhay ka Mahal, happy birthday!

ang tanging yaman ng OFW sa habang panahon

“The youth is the hope of our future.”

– Jose Rizal

Original draft of closing remarks , Baby Dumpling‘s shower, 21 Nov 2020

“For the benefit of the non-Tagalog speakers, if nobody minds I’ll speak in English.

“I need to keep this short as being a crybaby I’m fairly certain I’ll start to cry.

“At work or while running, the left side of my left knee hurts whenever I kneel, especially when it’s cold, rainy or wet. I have sciatica (pinched nerve) on my upper left leg when I remain standing too long.

“My sleep apnea is hard to ignore as it is aggravated by a deviated septum (nose bridge) from a wayward elbow playing basketball a couple of lifetimes ago. After nearly 15 years, only my wife Mahal can tolerate my snoring.

“In total: I have a dodgy knee, a sumpungin (temperamental) lower back, and snoring habits best suited to Halloween.

“I’ve spent a good part of my adulthood overseas without anything to show for it other than good stories and the kalyo (calluses) on my feet.

“All a normal part of aging, the aging Filipino worker or OFW.

***** ***** *****

“But a funny thing happened. The coronavirus / covid19 lockdown happened. It proved that in my ripe old middle age, I’ve kept the superpower of helping conceive Baby Dumpling (Baby’s nickname until she comes out). It’s a superpower that I thought I lost, with all the work, loss of energy and premature aging. (Of course Mahal will do 99% of the remaining work carrying the baby to term, but I’m happy to have done my part 🙂 )

“It’s a superpower I think I share with all Filipinos, OFWs especially, and a superpower I will take to my grave.

***** ***** *****

“Thank you all the sponsors for keeping the faith that somehow a baby shower was still possible in our lifetime.

“Thank you family and friends for celebrating this happy, if unlikely moment with us. You will forgive Mahal and me for thinking after nearly 15 years that an addition to our union was beyond the unreachable. And yet it has happened.

“We Filipinos have a saying, ‘kung uukol bubukol’: if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. It WILL happen.

“That’s it. Thank you all. Mabuhay!”

Juicekopo, kundi nyo po sila mabigyan ng PR, gawin nyo namang 5 years ang kanilang WV, utang na luob

[Paulit ulit kong paksa ito sa aming mga hamak ng blag, at wag sana kayong magsawa: ang pinagkaiba ng Pinoy na PR at citizen at Pinoy na Work Visa holder ay nauna lang ang mga PR at maparaan ang mga ito. The WV holder is just a permanent-resident-in-waiting. Salamat sa inyong pagtangkilik! Thanks and acknowledgment for the photos to stuff.co.nz! ]

IT’S NOT OBVIOUS AT FIRST, but looking closely, you can see the two sides of every Pinoy community in New Zealand. Usually in church, but also in community gatherings, sportsfests, and Filipino holidays.

***** ***** *****

Confident, outgoing and willing to socialize with everyone. These are the citizens, permanent residents and those on their way to becoming one. they have the confidence of people who have conquered the challenge of their lives, or those who’ve mastered their environment. And why not? after all, these kabayan have carved out a new life for themselves and their families, banished the fear of poverty pollution and political unrest that has become commonplace in the Inang Bayan.

The OFWs, temporary visa holders and guest workers are a quieter bunch. They tend to stick together, try not to attract too much attention, and don’t socialize as much, and if they do, it probably won’t be too much with the other group. Oh yes, they’re friendly as any other Pinoy, they fight just as hard on the basketball court, and the bayanihan spirit courses through their veins especially during Semana Santa, Misa de Gallo and during calamitous times back home in the Philippines.

Just don’t ask them how long they’ll be staying or if they’ll be buying a house soon. If at all, you’ll get non-committal answers, stares that look more hurt than anything, and faces that won’t open up again. That’s how large the divide is when talking to PRs, and talking to WV kabayan.

But is there really that much difference? Think about it kabayan : on either side of the passport, Pinoys are hardworking, law-abiding, team-players who speak above average English compared to the rest of their Asian migrant counterparts. We’re not being boastful, it’s just the reality that if you ask the typical employer who among a wide selection of workers of various races they’d choose from, based on reliability, durability and loyalty, I’m willing to bet you our week’s minimum wage (I’m kidding, it’s a little more than that) that Filipinos will end up the easy favorite.

***** ***** *****

Year after year, records will show you that among work visa holders, Pinoys continue to apply for and receive approvals for working here. It is both market forces and brand preference. The healthy demand for Filipino workers has been sustained most of this century, and the intangible “human factor” (our tendency to smile, get along with others) doesn’t hurt.

But you have to wonder: why aren’t more Filipino guest workers (or those from any other country) becoming permanent residents?

It’s getting exasperating across the board, across many roles and across many industries. No one underestimates the contribution work visa holders make, in some cases their loss would cripple whole industries. Think of any industry where temporary workers make a major contribution. Now imagine if these same workers found it too hard to stay here, for whatever reason. Would that help or harm New Zealand? It’s too simple an argument, but in the end workers from overseas stay only if they’re wanted.

Not complaining, but guest workers (not just Filipinos) are sometimes treated as though they are a burden to the host country. They add wealth to the nation, but they don’t participate in the benefits. They pay taxes but do they participate in receiving services? Through their consumption they fuel the growth of the economy, but they are often considered as an “invisible” part of society, almost better seen than heard.

***** ***** *****

Babalik po ako sa original eksena ko kanina. Over the years, in Pinoy Mass sportsfests, Independence Day celebrations, natutunan ko nang hiwalayin (sa isipan ko) ang Pinoy na taga rito na (kabayan A) at Pinoy na nangangarap pa lang na pumirme rito (kabayan B). I got used to the differences, and I used the difference to explain to myself how I saw these two groups of kabayan behave.

But you know what kabayan? There is really no difference, as I said earlier. Both kabayan A (from the first group) and kabayan B (from the second) are contributors to NZ life. Both have the same values, hopes and dreams. Both love the Philippines AND New Zealand

And both deserve to stay here.

***** ***** *****

There are multiple efforts to make it easier for our kabayan work visa holders to stay here permanently. Via easier requirements. Via more visa pathways. Via a general law granting permanent residence based on the number of years worked here.

***** ***** *****

It is going to take some time for this to happen. Matagal tagal pa bago ito maipasa bilang batas or regulasyon sa Immigration NZ.

In the meantime, since so many of our brother and sister Pinoys are already working in jobs that are essential to the New Zealand economy, and Kiwis aren’t interested in these jobs, as proven time and again, and as it would be counter productive to uselessly train new workers over and over again (as Pinoys who fail to get visas have to go home, and try to come here again) as workers who replace Pinoys often don’t stay in the jobs they train for, I have a simple proposal kabayan.

Why don’t we have visas that have longer visa periods, like say five or even seven years?

It’s a win-win. It would give the worker more stability in planning his or her life and family, and employers would not have to continue looking for and training new workers.

In the meantime, we wouldn’t abandon the idea of permanent residence. Longer visa periods would just be a more immediate way of helping improve the situation.

[ By the way, by its own admission, the Government’s policy of requiring temporary visa holders to go home after three years to “maintain a bond” with the visa holder’s home country (also called the “stand-down period“) was a failure, so insisting on that doesn’t help anyone. ]

So many details, but you get what I mean. If you like our idea, please approach your local Member of Parliament, or even your local Council. Please talk to your immigration adviser about it, if you have one.

They say the most powerful thing in the world is an idea whose time has come. Hopefully for our kabayan, this can be one of those ideas.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

an OFW’s untamed heart

THE BUSINESS END of the doctor’s appointment, the part I was really stressed about, happened as the doctor was already at the end of his assessment. We were assuming the appointment was over; or at least one of us was, and Doc was saying all the right things: your numbers are tracking well, your BP is looking good, and just keep doing the things you’re doing, no problem with that daily glass of wine or cerveza. But I was still waiting.

In the end, Doc said what he said when he was already leaning on the doorway of his office, almost out the hallway.

You have a 20% chance of needing surgery to either repair or replace a valve in your heart in the next three years.

There is no getting around that, no way to make my condition better, and no way to make it worse either. As a notorious politician said recently, it is what it is.

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Physiologically and functionally, my heart is 90% as healthy as it was when I was a teenager, or a young dad at 22, or even as an unfit dad of three at 30. I’ve slowed down a bit, but because of physical activity and manual handling necessary to my work, I’ve actually been more fit now than at nearly any time before.

I only use the 90% number because first of the normal wear and tear my body (and anybody) faces through the years, and secondly, well because of a heart murmur common enough in some people but enough to cause concern in my GP (general practitioner), who referred me to a cardiologist.

Soon after it was first discovered, the cardio booked me for an ECG and an echocardiogram, and asked to see me after the results of the tests. Outside of the regular visa medicals and annual physical exams, I had only one other experience with heart-related tests or an interaction with a cardiologist before (see below). It was a new and unsettling experience.

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The doubts and fears started creeping in. Heto na ba ang magiging bunga ng aking mahahabang taon bilang OFW? Was getting a step slower going up the stairs (no elevator in our factory) due to normal tiredness or something else? The tightness in my chest, something I thought that was normal at the start of an afternoon run… was it really normal?

I already considered myself lucky, in two ways: first, during a visa medical three years ago, the GP (general practitioner) actually told me: You may have to consider going home, if your life is more important than your stay in New Zealand. ( I didn’t know if he was being sarcastic, but I had hoped he would sound more sympathetic after I had been consulting him and paying his doctor’s fees for so long.) The cardiologist he referred me to was kinder, more understanding and diplomatic, and in the end he cleared me for another visa.

Secondly, the cardiologist who billed me around a week’s wages for his tests and fees was kinder than I thought: he told me that if I had held a visa for at least two years, then I was eligible for free services and consultations through the public health system. I would have to wait in line like everyone else, but I wouldn’t have to pay around $200 for tests and $400 for his fees. I told you he was kind.

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In the end, I as I told you earlier, it was anti-climactic. The years and years of work and physical labor I had put in had worked in my favor, after all. Although there was a slight irregularity in heart, the exercise and moderate living I had subjected it to had kept my heart lean, efficient and durable.

Durable for another three years, at least. I’ll take the 20% anytime.

To all my brother and sister OFWs, you may be living the good life and saving for your twilight years, but always remember that you only enjoy the fruits of your labor if you are healthy in mind and body.

Thanks for reading!