why we are chismosos/as, backbiters, and intrigeros/as

thanks and acknowledgment to desktopnexus.com!

WHETHER WE ADMIT IT OR NOT, a lot of us love a bit of gossip, but a little less of us who love to gossip also love to talk about people behind their back, so to speak. Out of this smaller number, still a smaller group likes to provoke what we call “intrigues” or negative news, usually unsubstantiated, between a person or group of persons.

A newcomer in our work site started her stint with us on the wrong foot, ordering people around and criticizing the way we did things without bothering to find out the backstories of our site. In an attempt to stir up things and shift the paradigm, so to speak, she ended up getting a lot of “pushback” (resistance) to the extent that a couple of mini-confrontations had ensued.

In the meantime, something happened to me that I hadn’t experienced in my nearly 10 years at the work site. Every time I was out of earshot of the person concerned, or every time I had a chance to speak confidentially,  I talked about this person, the newcomer, in a not-so-flattering manner.

Unsurprisingly, I found colleagues who after initial reservations, were more than willing to discuss the said topic / person with me. At first we limited our verbal exchanges on the issue of the person’s comments on how things were done, but inevitably we started talking about the person herself, bordering on the personal. It didn’t help that this person was so obstinate and stubborn (at the beginning), threw out all alternative suggestions regarding her issues, and her mildly undiplomatic way of communication.

in the end, fences were mended and compromises were reached. It was obvious that the newcomer’s heart was in the right place, but that in her intensity and zeal, she rubbed people the wrong way.

What struck me was the way it was so easy for me (and by extension, the rest of my co-workers) to gossip and talk about this person behind her back. The word “backstab” is a bit strong, but I have no doubt that if we hadn’t met halfway, we would’ve started on that track.

I thought up a few reasons why I and my kalahi (people in my race) so readily indulge in this kind of behavior, without excuses but at the same time trying to review it in context:

Filipinos are not confrontational. We hate confrontation. We keep our punches and jabs subtle, via “death by a thousand cuts” but are so sickly sweet when facing our social rivals and antagonists. In my example above, the mini-confrontation, which happily solved our problem, was initiated by a Pacific Islander who had no qualms about giving it straight to the person involved. No sugarcoating, but at the same time no hurts and insults. I would find it very difficult to talk to a person, male OR female and tell him/her my problems with him/her. A lot of New Zealanders don’t have that problem, fortunately in this case.

And because we are not confrontational, when we don’t like a person’s actions (or maybe that person himself / herself), we don’t do the logical thing and go to that person and start complaining. We go to the next person, friend, actually any other person and starting venting about the person, who usually has no idea on how badly we feel in the first place.  In fact, we talk to ANYBODY who will listen, anybody that is, except the person concerned.  Am I making sense?

We need a pressure valve for our emotions. Now, as said earlier, we like to work ourselves up over a trivial matter like the way one person does things. But because we don’t actually do anything constructive like talking to that person, the latter isn’t expected to change or improve his/her behavior. The result is, we just go nuts and keep getting crazier until we can’t keep our emotions in check. The next time we encounter that person? We go ballistic at the slightest provocation, and we become the bad guy.

To avoid this, we need to regulate and manage the pressure building up inside us, and the best way to do this is to TALK about it. We find like-minded persons, usually those who are also annoyed and stressed by said person (who until this point STILL doesn’t know what’s happening). The natural step is we start talking about this person, whether we mean well or not, and because we release such tension and find people who share our concerns, we somewhat feel better. Or at least, not as bad as before. And that’s why we talk about their people behind their backs.  For emotional self-preservation, and equally positive reasons.

Ultimately, we want something positive to happen. We hate what the person/s are doing, we want to do something crazy just to get back at that person, but deep down we just want the questionable behavior to stop. or at least make some sort of compromise with that person.

Perhaps it’s clash of values, religions or traditions. Perhaps the person isn’t aware of the sensitivities of the place. Perhaps the persons concerned just need to be more considerate, and a little reminder of this would go a long way.

This is what chismis, backbiting and intriguing does. On the surface it looks catty and shallow, but actually it is a cry for help from the originator, wanting people to take notice and somehow carry forward the message to the intended recipient, to eventually realize the bother he/she is causing and to stop said behavior.

My story above had a happy ending. The newcomer realized she wanted results, but not at the expense of feelings hurt and negative feelings created. She’s more diplomatic in the way she criticizes, and takes into account everything before saying something.

In this case at least, the chismis was worth it.

thanks for reading!



giving back to our river

Hutt River cleanup group

[A portion of the 15 September 2018 Hutt River cleanup volunteer group, led by His Excellency Ambassador Jesus Gary Domingo, and the Hutt City Mayor Hon. Ray Wallace of Hutt City. Also in the picture are leaders of Pinoys in the Hutt community like FILIFEST president Anita Mansell, QSM and KASAGIP  Chairman Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Phil Army Reserve), Alice Lozano, Trustee of the Filipino Migrant’s and Worker’s Trust; and members of the Estonian community in Wellington, who made up for their modest number with energetic participation, and the hardworking Philippine Embassy staff in Wellington. Believe it or not, that’s my hand raised in the background. 🙂 mabuhay ang kalikasan! (thanks to Marivic Reyes of the Phil Embassy for the pic!) ]

THERE’S NO SUCH thing as oversleeping. You sleep as much as you need, and you need as much as you sleep, limited only by obligations and responsibilities like work and family.

The only time I can indulge in sleeping on demand (or sleeping in, as Kiwis/New Zealanders like to call it) is on weekends. But Saturday had a higher calling, a bit more important than getting rid of sleep debt. The region’s most important waterway was beckoning.

As part of World Cleanup Day, the local council (equivalent of our Sangguniang Panglungsod) organized a river cleanup for a body of water that serves more than 100,00 residents, provides a secondary source of water to the larger Wellington region, and is one of the more restful and picturesque sceneries anyone can imagine.

I know, because as an active runner and exerciser, I run alongside the Hutt River at least thrice a week and I have shared endless walks with Mahal my wife enjoying its company more often than I can imagine.

Doing a cleanup is the least I can do for the Hutt River, given all that it’s done for my health and well-being. I would be doing it with kabayan from my Filipino community in Wellington, and other citizens of Hutt City, or Lower Hutt as it’s more popularly known

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

Amazingly, no exaggeration, due to the energetic efforts of the Philippine Embassy and local Pinoy clubs, more than three-quarters of the cleanup team of 100+ volunteers turn out to be ethnic Filipinos like myself. We are divided into teams that focus on Hutt Central, Moera and other nearby areas each team.

Honestly, the riverside and surrounds are relatively very clean compared to similar counterpart areas I’ve been exposed to back in the Philippines. I’ll leave it at that.

We put wastes into different bags depending on how they would be ultimately disposed. Regular rubbish, paper-based and similar stuff get chucked into one bag. Recyclable things like plastic, into another. Finally, glass and hazardous substances, into a bucket that’s carried by one person per team.

The dodgier stuff that I remember picking up: cigarette butts, shards of broken beer bottles, I think I even picked up a used condom. Overall, it wasn’t supposed to be a pretty sight, picking up the refuse and detritus of a riverbank, but I remembered that a few homeless people living in their cars ended up spending the night on the riverside, and that probably accounted for most of the rubbish. The river didn’t deserve this, but then again, that’s probably why we were there.

It was a good experience, helping cleaning up the Hutt River, which has been so good to me. I want my kids, grandkids and great grandkids to see what I see, enjoyed what I enjoyed.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the cleanup regardless of race, political affiliation, creed and belief. The river was and is for you, me and everyone, now and forever.

It was a good day.


napakasakit Kuya Eddie – why Pinoys accept physical abuse at work

[nothing as outrageous as the video above, but when abuse is tolerated and accepted at the workplace it opens a Pandora’s boxThanks to South China Morning Post for the vid!]

WE READ and then reread the article about a kabayan Filipino being maltreated and abused  by his employers in the South Island.

It got to the point where we were disoriented, dismayed and finally disgusted that such could happen in this day and age in modern-day New Zealand, but that was on the surface.

You know what? Deep down, I wasn’t really that surprised.

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

When I was in Auckland little more than a decade ago, my flatmate told me (and he had no reason to lie) his Countdown (supermarket) supervisor flicked an open hand across the back of his head in annoyance, something that never happened to him in the Philippines.

Goodwife Mahal had barely been in Wellington for more than a month when we both witnessed a food court manager doing the same thing (between a kutos and sapok) across the back of the head of his female cashier while we were waiting for our burger and fries order. We didn’t realize the consequence of the situation (a male supervisor physically assaulting a female staffer in front of multiple witnesses) until long after we got home.

And I myself received a flick of two fingers to the back of my earlobe (called a pitik back home) by a senior mentor a few years back. Granted, the mentor is/was very old school (in his 60s) and was done partly in jest or good-natured annoyance, but I’m not justifying it. It’s always contextual, but anytime interaction between manager and staff becomes physical, you have to take a step back and say, wait a minute, let’s bring the level down a bit.

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

What was reported in the article was certainly shocking, but it wasn’t new by any measure. Just two weeks back, another kabayan was forced to leave work after suffering neck and arm bruises just because he walked out of his work area, not that any situation justifies physical harm or abuse from the employer.

So we’re now more or less settled : physical abuse not only exists in the NZ workplace, it’s not rare, and empirical evidence shows it can happen in any industry or region. But an equally perplexing puzzle that comes to my mind is, why do Filipinos like you and me seem to tolerate it? There’s no proof of this, but the fact that it took quite a while for the subjects in the situations above before formally making a complaint, legal or otherwise, is quite astounding. But you and I kabayan know that this kind of reluctance is far more common than anyone will admit, and it is quite common.

These are the reasons I’ve come up with:

Old school respect shouldn’t mean tolerating abuse. There’s a very large variety of age groups among Filipino workers, from the teens, working students, twentysomethings all the way to the very senior, primarily because, well,  there are quite a few  Pinoys in New Zealand, but also because there is no age discrimination in New Zealand. But despite the various age groups, we’re very old-school, meaning traditional, when it comes to respecting and acknowledging authority in the workplace. (New Zealanders on the other hand are generally more collegial and collaborative.) This has its roots in our Filipino traditions for respect for our elders, respect for those in authority, and respect for the head of the family, instilled in us since time immemorial.

Because of the extreme trust we place in those who manage above us, it is prone to abuse, sometimes literally. What can sometimes begin in innocent jokes can lead to verbal abuse, and finally to physical abuse. We Filipinos are only too vulnerable to such, because we frequently avoid arguments and are rarely confrontational, to the point of keeping quiet even when we are clearly uncomfortable.

We accept abuse as part of reparation, because we think we deserve it and are paying for it. Deep down, when we do something wrong in the workplace, we think we deserve to be punished. Again, it recalls an era when we were very young, particularly the baby boomers (born late 1940s to mid 1960s) and Gen X-ers (1970s), when corporal punishment was administered to us without the bosses batting an eyelash.

We think that because we are given some sort of “punishment,” verbal, physical or otherwise, we sort of “pay” for our mistake, and life goes back to normal. This is of course unacceptable. Mistakes are part and parcel of work life, and no amount of effing up justifies a slap, whack or worse punch from your superior. It doesn’t matter that previous bosses or managers used to do it and it was accepted as part of the norm. It is unacceptable at any level and in any situation. Filipinos should realize that, the sooner the better.

Fear of reprisal or dismissal. This is more universal, but Filipinos value job security more than many other Asians, and definitely more than local New Zealanders. Why is this so? Well, the simplest reason is that a lot of us are first generation migrants, and acquiring our jobs took much more effort than our non-migrant colleagues. Aminin man natin o hindi, we prize our employment as much as our permanent residence,  our standing in our community, our relationship with our hosts. it is huge part of our pride, our honor.

Now whenever this job security is threatened in any way, we are ourselves threatened. Never mind that we can find jobs elsewhere, and never mind that we are protected by good NZ laws in our job security. We only leave our jobs on our own terms, and we do everything we can to stay in our jobs. If this involves sacrificing our self-worth,  enduring humiliation and accepting abuse, so be it.

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

Again, this mindset can’t be allowed to continue affecting our kabayans’ hearts and minds. It’s our inherent right to stay in our jobs as long as we do our work properly and with integrity. No one can be allowed to bully us out of our jobs, and this includes supervisors, managers, and owners of the businesses we work for.

You can say it in so many words and ways, but in the end it’s as plain as the nose on our brown faces: physical abuse is unacceptable, on any level and in any situation. The sooner we Pinoys understand this, the better for all of us.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

can pinoys be bullies in the NZ work place?

thanks and photo acknowledgment to FFE.com!

TEKA, teka, teka. I can hear you ask, you sure you don’t have it backwards ? You gotta point there, because in my own work site, for quite some time, I thought was bullied a bit here and there before I realized everyone went through the same thing.

Not even thinking about it too much, Pinoys seem more like the victims than the bad guys in a bullying situation because of their physical and social attributes. Pinoys are less than average in height and weight, eager to please, happy to just get along with everybody, always put the team ahead of self, and have very little ego whatsoever.

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

But the reality is, anyone who persistently uses power (position, authority, seniority etc) over a colleague that is offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting, covertly or otherwise, may be guilty of workplace bullying.

Pinoys may not be physically imposing or intimidating, but can cause distress to workmates in other ways.  Who among us has not experienced constant sarcasm, being isolated or ignored, being undermined or overloaded in work, and being subject to constant (though subtle) ridicule that can wear you out eventually? It may not cause the obvious cuts and nicks, but the damage inside is as bad, and maybe longer lasting.

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

These are typical, but actually authentic sounding scenarios. Any of them ring familiar to you kabayan?

Case 1.  Bhong, a supervisor, made romantic overtures to Denise, a new member of his work   team and was rejected. He responded by telling the rest of the team that the new girl was hard to work with, not a team player, and not worth the attention of everyone else. Coming from a weekend break, Denise quickly realized no one was talking to her, and helping her get adjusted to her new work environment. She ends up resigning before the end of her first year.

Case 2. Ricardo, a new worker, passes the final interview over a more popular candidate. The staff immediately makes this known to the successful applicant by making unreasonable work demands his very first week, forcing him to work overtime just to keep up with the workload, and requiring the new worker to produce work output not justified for someone barely a month into work. The worker survives the probationary period, but the physical and emotional stress takes its toll and resigns as well.

Case 3. Marian, a female worker produces better than average output and becomes the favorite of Dingdong, the manager. She then becomes the subject of baseless and malicious gossip from unidentified members of the mostly-female staff. Marian’s personal life suffers as a result and, with little support from management, leaves her employer shortly.

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

In each of these cases no physical mistreatment, or threat of such, was used, but the behavior under present New Zealand law could be prosecuted in a court of law.

More importantly, this type of indirect or “passive-aggressive” behavior is typical across a wide range of workers, in all industries, not the least where migrants do well. Because Asians like us (di lang naman tayo) avoid direct confrontation, we resist or express our conflict in an indirect or lateral manner. Sadly, we would rather resolve our differences by obliquely attacking someone we perceive as undesirable.

Such an unlikely situation, when after coming so far to New Zealand, and working so hard to make a meaningful contribution here, we become the very bullies that we want to avoid. Getting along with everyone at work means exactly what it says, getting along with everyone, with good will to all and malice towards none. New Zealand and our employers have been good to us. Let’s pay it forward!

Mabuhay tayong lahat!



tinimbang ka ngunit kulang (so close and yet so far): the curious case of kabayan Juliet Garcia

kabayan Juliet Garcia doing the work she loves with Switzer resident Kathleen Bowater. thanks and acknowledgment to Northland Age!

(Note : To fellow Filipinos and Tagalog speakers, I agree in advance that the English translation of the initial title isn’t that accurate, yet for my purposes it’s quite apt. Bear with me please, or better yet give me a better title. Medyo mahaba po ang blog. Thank you for reading!)

WHAT IF? You spent your best 10 years (no, 11!!) working as a guest worker in New Zealand…

WHAT IF? You worked, not just in an industry where migrant workers were sorely needed (the medical and allied services industry), but in a region where no locals and New Zealanders would work, outside the comforts of the major urban centers…

WHAT IF? You were appreciated not only by your employer in that place of work but by those you cared for everyday, as if they were your loved ones and cherished members of your family, not just for the wages and remuneration (which isn’t that much by the way) but because you had grown to love them, out of love for your fellow man, and love for your profession…

WHAT IF? Despite the strict immigration and labor laws you persevered, patiently building up your skill level to the point where at least, you had a fighting chance to stay in New Zealand permanently, in New Zealand where, after all, you paid your dues, never mind the blood sweat and tears you could have paid anywhere else…

WHAT IF? Despite all these what ifs, brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, friends, Romans and countrymen, the benefit that you prized most of all, the right to stay permanently in the country you served so well, was cruelly denied you?

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

If it sounds too improbable, too unfair to be true, then truth might as well be stranger than fiction Precious Reader, because in a nutshell it is what happened to Pinay countryman (woman) Juliet Garcia:

The Radio NZ website tells the short, sad story best, so we’ll quote it directly (everything in bold font):

“Ms Garcia qualified in dementia care and diversional therapy in 2017 to gain enough points to apply for a residence visa as a skilled migrant.

However, she said changes to the immigration rules that took effect last August meant she no longer had the points needed to apply for residence when her work visa runs out in mid-2019.

Under the new system, which limits some migrant workers to three years in New Zealand, she was uncertain that even her work visa would be renewed.

“I used to have points [towards residence] for ten years for work experience here and having a sister in Auckland. But I’ve lost those points under the new rules, and I don’t know if I can keep facing the stress of not knowing every year if I can stay, and the expense of applying,” she said.

If you think kabayan Juliet is on her own trying to stay here, she’s not. Her employer practically loves her, as Radio NZ continues:

Switzer Trust (Juliet’s employer) has been required by Immigration NZ to advertise Mrs Garcia’s job every year, but has never found a New Zealander to replace her.

“We have advertised locally and nationally at considerable expense. We’ve had it on Facebook, on TradeMe we had about 360 hits and that came down to three applications,” Mrs Simkins said.

“Two pulled out and the last person standing from that very expensive advertising session was not qualified.”

Switzer Trust (Juliet’s employer) had appealed to the Immigration and Health Ministers to review Mrs Garcia’s case and let her stay but to no avail, she said.

Far North mayor John Carter said Mrs Garcia was the sort of immigrant the district needed and Immigration’s stance was inexplicable.

“She’s done a tremendous amount to get qualified; she’s done all the things that this nation has asked of her, that the Switzer Home has asked of her, that the community has asked of her and now when it comes to the last hurdle we’re getting this negativity.

“We need people like Juliet and her husband who [are] contributing to the economy and the community up here as well. They are good people,” Mr Carter said.

Northland District Health Board chair Sally Macauley also believed Mrs Garcia should stay.

“It is hard in the north to obtain such professionalism as I know Juliet has,” Mrs Macauley said.

“She is one of a class of caregivers that we find difficult to retain. She has been with us since 2007; she’s loved by everyone at the Switzer and works extremely hard.”

Both the DHB chair and Far North mayor have asked the Ministers of Health and Immigration to look into Mrs Garcia’s case for residence.

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

So Juliet ticks all the boxes. No one likes her job, but she does. She’s in a job that’s always in demand because there aren’t enough New Zealanders to fill it. And on the surface she earns enough to be considered highly skilled in this country. No problem diba?

But wait. On the points-based system (effective August 2017) under which enough points earns you the right to be considered for permanent residence, which with all the attendant benefits is the ultimate prize for all migrant workers in New Zealand, the rules recently changed.

To make it worse, she upskilled and retrained in order to raise her skill level, only to be tripped up by the same set of new rules that declared her 10 years work experience useless (for purposes of residence application) as it was no longer “skilled enough.”

According to Juliet herself (above) the NZ work experience and having relatives in New Zealand used to count for points towards literally reaching the promised land. But these were recently taken away.

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

Kabayan immigration lawyer Maricel Weischede who has taken up the fight on Juliet’s behalf, is baffled by the lack of practicality and compassion shown by the traditionally labor- and migrant-friendly Labour Government.

Again lets give a kabayan the floor, courtesy of her FB page:

we only asked (in Juliet’s residency application) for one requirement to be waived. The rest of the requirements could still be tested under the current immigration policy.

(Because of a technicality) It is disappointing that people like Juliet who spent more than years of her life working here can no longer claim for the number of years of work experience under the skilled migrant category because of new rules.

Abogado de campanilla Maricel has given her free time, expertise, and goodwill, even the audacity to go all the way to the current Labor Government (represented by its Ministers for Immigration and Health) to knock some sense and compassion into the powers-that-be.

But even then, it might not be enough.

It’s truly heartbreaking to know that many other migrants in our major NZ urban centers work jobs that utterly fail the logic of skills shortage, essential skills and contribution visas, and yet kabayan like Juliet are desperately needed, work wholeheartedly  in the heartland of Aotearoa, never think of working anywhere else, and yet fall short of the requirements of a full welcome.

Tinimbang ka, ngunit kulang.

Let’s not give up the fight for Juliet Garcia.

For we are Juliet Garcia, and Juliet Garcia is us.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

ang tamang pagsuri ng “f-bomb” ng Kiwi


THE MOST important thing to remember when listening to my hosts Kiwis, especially working-class, blue collar New Zealanders talk, is to not take it personally.

Filipinos like myself who grew up in westernized 1970s Manila almost always take offense hearing the words “shit,” “fuck” and similar words used in polite conversation. (From hereon I hope you don’t mind if I omit quote marks from these so-called curse words as they are only used as examples of modern speech).

Millennials and youth today on the other hand think nothing of using the same kind of language every other sentence they speak, as they grew up hearing it not just among themselves (and adults) but also in mainstream media, popular culture and the like.

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

A very similar distinction exists when discerning the salitang kanto (street talk) when the listeners are on the one hand Pinoys who grew up in New Zealand, or newly arrived or relatively recently arrived migrants from the Philippines, on the other. Ethnically, racially and even linguistically identical, these two groups perceive the way New Zealanders’ casual talk very differently.

I’ve been here for some time, before Obama’s 2nd term, but I still think that when shit or fuck is used, it’s meant to insult me. Better than 99% of the time, it’s not.

More importantly, friends and colleagues of my kids talk that way too, and quite a few of them are children of kabayan. Again, it’s just the way it is now.

Let me give you an example of how a couple of words are used in several contexts or situations.

Fucking – when somebody says the fucking forklift gave up on me in the middle of the loading bay, or the fucking coffee machine ran out of mochaccino again, the accurate counterparts of the supposedly offending word in Tagalog, in this particular context, is bwiset, or putres, both mild cuss words in our language but not particularly profane. It’s meant to denote annoyance or amusement, or a combination of both. Specifically, yung bwiset na forklift tumirik sa gitna ng daan, or yung putres na coffee machine naubusan na naman ng mochaccino. And so on and so forth. The first time I heard it used this way, I thought the speaker was angry or intensely frustrated. Hindi naman pala. Now I know better.

fuck off — literally this means get out or get away, but the usage nowadays in New Zealand refers more to (1) leave after work and (2) get out of my face, a more or less friendly phrase of dismissal. For example, I say to my workmate, an ardent New Zealand Warriors fan, hey, your Warriors really got their asses kicked last night, huh (an increasingly common event now), the expected reply to me would be fuck off Noel. For number (1) by the way, fucking off is the immediate concern as soon as it’s time to log out of your computer. So if you ask me to answer an email when I’m about to fuck off, fuck off mate. Nothing personal.

fucked, or get fucked – even though I’ve joined them here, fucked and get fucked can mean two different things. I work in a factory environment, so fucked usually refers to machinery or a system that is not working and in urgent need of major repair. No short cuts or band aids here. When the plant engineer says Man, the gearbox is fucked you know there’s no point in arguing, might as well get a purchase order for a new part and call it a day. Get fucked is when you totally disagree with someone and want to tell him arguing is gonna get us nowhere, let’s just restart after lunch shall we? The short form is get fucked. Seriously, it’s a quick way to cut short a disagreement, when you’ve given up on someone and is the spoken version of the middle finger.

This is just one word, and yet it causes so much discussion between users and generations, primarily because well, it’s so usable. It’s up to us Filipinos to know how it’s used, what it’s meant and not meant to convey, and how to react.



‘mabuhay ang kalayaan!’ to serve as honor guard 12th June

main room honor guards

Independence Day rites at the Ambassador’s residence in Wellington, New Zealand. I had the additional honor of carrying the flag. Extreme left is H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, KASAGIP Honor Guard Commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve). I am flanked by Miggy Siazon and Ted Lacsamana.

[Note: thanks and acknowledgment to KASAGIP, a Wellington Pinoy self-help volunteer group organized by Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, Rachel Pointon and others; KASAGIP Honor Guard commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve), the Philippine Embassy staff in Wellington led by H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, and many others yet unnamed. Mabuhay kayo!]

IN THE OLD days, kings and lords couldn’t have defended their realms with just knights, swordsmen and men of valor. The best and bravest warriors had to be close to the king to protect him.

That meant that the farmers, builders, bakers and butchers, the humblest of the king’s subjects, all “volunteered” to be first in line, against the barbarian invaders or rival kingdoms.

The tradition of common folk in the army, volunteering for their leader, came to mind our Independence Day (Araw ng Kalayaan) when we volunteered to march as honor guard, bringing in the Philippine national flag, at the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand’s official residence in Wellington.

We are all common folk. I was and am a factory worker; our leader, although he was in the Army Reserve back home, is an accountant by trade and worked in the finance industry. All the others were and are comrades hardly out of university and had just started their jobs in the city.

We met all sorts of Filipinos at the occasion: community leaders, volunteers like ourselves, and kabayan just wanting to celebrate our independence day. In the end, it was just like one informal gathering wishing we were back home in the Motherland. One day we will all come home and be with all our loved ones again.

Happy Araw ng Kalayaan everyone!




ABS (alak babae sugal): the conceit of “only in the Philippines”


thanks and acknowledgment to businessmirror.com.ph !

I’M NOT sure what the Pinoy translation of breathtakingly naive is (Google Translate says nakakaakit na walang muwang, and it just doesn’t do the job for me)  but admittedly I will always be breathtakingly naive when it comes to Pinoys outdoing and outperforming everybody else in the world. For me, we will always be the best in certain things, I don’t even need to cite examples. You know who you are, and what you do best.

Unfortunately, I’m also naive in thinking where we’re worst at, and not even living in New Zealand the better part of this decade has changed this. I actually thought Pinoys were the best (worst), or at least among the best (worst) in the traditional ABS vices: alak, babae & sugal (alcohol, womanizing and gambling). I thought that per capita and in absolute terms (on a per person as well as in total amount) we were by far among the world leaders.

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


luck and skill, although ultimately House Always Wins. thanks and acknowledgment to cardschat.com !

I now know that this is far from true. In a recent article, total gambling losses were divided among the total adult population to determine the gambling burden each person bore. You might be surprised, but the Philippines isn’t even in the top ten, average-wise. I’ll save you the trouble if you don’t have time to click through the story (but it’s quite cleverly written): Australia is Number 1, followed by Singapore. Ireland is #3. In this case, statistics don’t lie, because the magnitude of gambling is seen against the size of the country’s population.

In absolute terms, meaning, in total amount gambled, again, we aren’t in the top 10 either. In case you’re interested, Number One is Uncle Sam USA, China is 2nd, followed closely by Japan at third. This time it would be understandable because those are giant economies we’re talking about, they naturally would have bigger amounts to gamble with. But there are other medium sized economies in the top 10 as well. Either we didn’t crack the top 10 or we just aren’t the world-class gamblers we thought we were.

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

And did you think Pinoy husbands had the most wandering eyes when it comes to leggy skirts, tight tights and generous bosoms? Again, with nine European countries in the list (the lone exception being Thailand, number one!) we’re not even in the top 10 when it comes to percentage of married adults admitting having had an affair at least once in their married lives. So point to Catholic guilt, the proverbial rolling pin or just plain old Pinoy values, there’s still hope for our Pinoy husbands.

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


And at 107th out of 191 countries whose data was recorded and analyzed by the World Health Organization, according to Wikipedia, we’re not even moderate drinkers by any standard. We only drink 5.4 liters per person, although the average is heavily skewed (or imbalanced) by lambanog (fermented coconut wine) and Ginebra San Miguel drinkers in the rural areas, where we all know most of the drinking and alcohol goes. In case you wanted to know, the top three nations in alcohol consumed, per capita, are Belarus, Moldova and Lithuania, 1-2-3 respectively. Russia, who gave vodka to the world, is a tipsy 4th, while Germany, where it’s part of the culture to start drinking beer in your pre-teens, is a surprising 23rd.

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

So we are probably known for other things in the world: our ability to work anywhere and with anyone; our smiles and hospitality, and our ability to speak English. But we’re not necessarily known for our vices, and now, we have the stats to (not) back this up. Bottom line, we’re very moderate in our guilty pleasures, good for us!

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!



may forever pa rin: do migrant couples stick together longer?


Thanks and acknowledgment for the Quinones family pic to newzealandnow.govt.nz and of course the Quinones family! maraming salamat po!

[ NoteCongrats to Anita Mansell, Bulwagan Foundation Trust and all the organizers, sponsors and participants in Fil-Trip of Wellington! ]

IF WE had removed that question mark at the end of the title above, it would be so presumptuous sounding. Why would migrant couples be considered any more loyal to each other than their home-bound counterparts? Why would I discriminate against couples who chose to stay in the Philippines, raise families and remain close to the extended family?

And that’s why, spoiler alert po, there is nothing scientifically accurate or facts-based about my idea that couples who migrate, either together or one shortly after the other (for practical reasons) have a better chance at their relationship than a similar couple back home.

But my experience and empirical observation (just looking around me and keeping eyes and ears open) leads me to believe that migrant couples have a lot of factors going for them. I’m almost sure that many  many couples have a stronger, stabler and long-lasting relationship relatively speaking, than if they had stayed at home, chose not to make sacrifices in terms of finances and career, and chose to devote more time to each other in the Philippines.

You see, more than singles or people recovering from broken relationships couples particularly tend up to give a little more leaving familiar shores of the homeland. They leave solid jobs, the comfort of extended families, the stability of home-based finances etc. The chances of earning more and saving more may be greater overseas, but the uncertainty is daunting.

The clear motive for couples is the future. Raising young families and committing more time for each other, returning to the basics of the marriage, that, as well as of course the quality of life, seems to be the focus. In my humble opinion, what do migrant couples have going for them?

Fusion of goals. In marriage and relationships we often hear of alignment or adjustment of goals. We do this for harmony in the relationship, or bonding of the couple, or spending of more time together, natural objectives in any long-term relationship.

When a couple migrates, the alignment or union of goals becomes not only desirable, it becomes essential to the continued survival of the two members of the relationship, which is what makes up the couple after all. Alignment is now fusion of goals, what is the goal of one becomes the goal of the other as well. Everything, from the finances, to scheduling of jobs, free time, even the minutest details of routines in daily lives, becomes a total team effort. Only migrant couples will fully appreciate this observation, but it is extremely relateable to any couple that strives to do things together. To a romantically neurotic degree nga lang.

Less or no secrets from each other. Aminin na natin (let’s admit it), no marriage or relationship is perfect. And one of the greatest thorns on the side of the happy couple are the secrets and skeletons in the closet. We’re only human, and there are things that out of fear, guilt or awareness that a partner might get hurt we tend to keep from our spouses.

Because migration forces us to be extra extra-close to our loved ones, keeping secrets become impossible. Remember, nearly ALL our free hours after work are spent together. If ever we have recreational activities with or without the kids, 99% of time it will be spent together. Honesty and openness between husband and wife becomes second nature, the family could not survive otherwise. Anyone caught in a lie would spell disaster not only for the couple but the rest of the family as well. Anong mukha ang maipapakita nila kapag umuwi sila sa Pilipinas? And so out of necessity or love (or maybe both), the couple becomes true, or truer to each other. And the winner ultimately is the relationship.

Us-against-the-world circle the wagon mentality. Because of priorities, necessity and the nature of migrant living, everything takes second place to the family. All other distractions, like hobbies, physical activity, sometimes even religion are kept outside the focus of daily life of the migrant couple. Instead of making their relationship more difficult, it most likely will make them closer.

The couple (and by extension, their family) have no choice but to concentrate on each other, their needs, hopes and dreams. Not coincidentally, the partners’ hopes and dreams become similar, and ultimately identical to each other. Which, when you think about it, is what marriage and  a relationship is all about. When two become one.

Someday, psychologists, social scientists and relationship experts will find a way to break down how much more (or less) successful migrants couple are than other kinds. In the meantime, we’re just waiting to confirm what most of us already know: that in the migrant couple’s experience, may forever (there’s such a thing as forever).

Thanks for reading!

mga Pintados ng Wellington 1: Kabalen Kai !

kabalen kai

ready to sell out even before lunch, the happy couple behind KABALEN KAI, Nok and Edna Bognot, are all smiles on a rainy-sunny Saturday!

[ Note : It always makes my day to meet a Filipino kabayan in Wellington, whether at work or at play. Because it’s such a treat for me, I promise whenever I can to post it in this here humble little blog of mine. Centuries back, we used to be called Pintados, because we allegedly painted our faces. So welcome to my first in a series called Mga Pintados ng Wellington! thanks for reading! ]

THEY ARE the least obtrusive kiosk / stall at the Hutt Riverside weekend market, where Your Loyal kaBayan (YLB) Noel, when weather permits, spends precious downtime. To be quite honest: smallest food kiosk, least colorful food stand.

The menu is very spartan, admittedly a labor of love, but not that extensive: pork skewers (pork BBQ), BBQ pork bun (siopao); kutsinta, leche flan and Filipino kakanin (rice pastries), pork sisig (bits of pork sauteed and deep fried), and other exotic stuff. Not your normal New Zealand, Kiwi breakfast fare. However:

The Pork Sisig has sold out.

The Siopao has sold out.

Nearly everything else, save for the kakanin and leche flan (which admittedly needs an acquired taste) is gone.

Before noon.

Welcome to Kabalen Kai, loosely translated (in Kapampangan and Maori te Reo) to Homegrown or Homemade Food.

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

Nok and Edna Bognot (pictured above in their food truck) have always loved cooking for people.  For gatherings of 3 to 300, the Kapampangans (a region or province in Luzon, the North Island of the Philippines) in them have considered catering and pleasuring tummies second to nature. Only when somebody suggested that they do it as a business, starting out small before going big, did they consider actually catering formally.

It wasn’t an easy road. They enjoyed rave reviews, but the overhead ate up any profits. They always got four to five stars everywhere they went, but because they always chose taste over margins, they almost always ended up just over the break-even mark. Very little to show, except full stomachs, satisfied taste buds and good will among kabayan.

kabalen kai menu

yum yum yum! i want everything, pero ubos na 😦

Nok and Edna stayed the course though. Saving up on the fees and licenses, crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on all the paperwork, they literally rolled out, on a chilly rainy Saturday last April, their mobile resto named Kabalen Kai, a portmanteau of Kapampangan and Maori words.

Two out of four Saturdays (the Riverside Market is only open Saturdays) they’ve sold out, and surprisingly the patrons are not just kabayan like you and me. Asians, New Zealanders, every sort of hungry customer ends up coming back the next Saturday. Nok and Edna are happy, but then again they would be happy if they just broke even.

Masaya kami kapag nasasarapan ang customer, Edna shouts over the hiss and sizzle of the grill.

One more order of sisig, kabalen!

Thanks for reading and more power to you, Nok and Edna!