fighting the urge to say “buti nga sa yo”(serves you right) to fellow migrants from China

[thank you for Al Jazeera for the video, I’m not the owner, and thanks to Filipino Migrant News for naming as one of the Social Media Influencers in the Pinoy community in New Zealand! Grateful and humbled po, please continue to visit our site kabayan and friends ! ]

IF YOU. Precious Reader, thought that there were (are) a lot of Filipino migrants in New Zealand (at least 35,000), there are even more Chinese migrants (at least 171,000 as of a 2013 census), outnumbering us at least four to one.

Our migrant counterparts, fellow immigrants from China, are like Filipinos. They’re sociable, work hard, pursue the New Zealand dream of health, contentment and safety from war and violence, and just try to get along with everybody.

Actually, that’s a white lie. I’ve stretched the truth a bit.

Using a very subjective standard (subjective because I can only compare everything else to myself), Chinese are not that sociable  (I’m being honest now), definitely not at all the way Filipinos are. There are two main reasons for this:

First, they don’t make too much effort to learn or improve their English. Whatever the reasons are, they just don’t. (No value judgment in this) And second, related to the first reason: because they don’t familiarize themselves with the local language, they tend very strongly to keep among themselves. It’s a fact that despite their numbers, the Chinese are quite a closely-knit community, in New Zealand or wherever else.

Whether it’s intentional or just a character of the Chinese, we can’t fault them for it. In recent times, because of the Chinese incursion into our waters, the way Chinese workers show disrespect for our surroundings in the Philippines, their (admittedly) poor hygiene practices, and the general way we are given less than our due respect between sovereign states, we have apparently even more reason to gloat and say buti nga sa yo (serves you right or you deserve it) when so many Chinese (more than 30,000 now as of last count, and definitely more coming) are suffering from the coronavirus originating from animals and now confirmed to be transmitted human to human.

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They won’t admit it, but the Chinese economy will be affected for months to come. Because the Chinese economy accounts for at least 15% of the world economy, probably more, with all its generation of products, services, consumption and ultimately wealth,  everywhere around the world, all economic activity is expected to experience a downturn, tourism especially, not the least in both the Philippines and New Zealand.

If ever there was a time to gloat, point to karma for all their bullying ways and shout to the whole world that what comes up must come down (or that the good times must end sometime) it would be NOW. It’s so easy to tell the Chinese, get the eff away from my country, I don’t want your money or business, and keep your virals and infected away from our country (just like zombies in a sci-fi movie or TV series), be like gone for the next couple years OK?

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But it’s not right. Just like it’s not right for China to be stepping all over us figuratively and literally the last few years in the South China Sea (only named such because they named it)? you may ask? Yes kabayan, it’s not right, but just because somebody is wrong doesn’t mean it’s alright to be wrong too.

I refer specifically to the way Chinese overseas (not Overseas Chinese, the term some Filipino Chinese use for themselves, but Chinese from Communist China) are being treated, in the Philippines and elsewhere. Being kept away from crowds. Being discouraged from entering restos and malls. Being talked about right to their faces and frankly, being asked to leave because they are, by association, an infected nation.

Nothing could be worse in this day and age, and Filipinos should know better. First place, hindi naman porke’t Tsino ay may virus na. (Being Chinese doesn’t mean you’re sick.) We all know that. Secondly, there are a group of reasons why we shouldn’t behave like racists and treat Chinese in New Zealand and the Philippines (much as it’s our human nature to do so) as second-class, sick and deserving of our insults.

It’s good business. Besides “Winter is coming,” do you remember the House sigul (motto) of House Stark in Game of Thrones? (I’m pretending everyone is a GoT fan.) Yes, it’s “The North Remembers.” Well, using our real-life example, China remembers. It will remember who treated it well and who didn’t. Because we’re already bending over backwards and being extra-nice to China (for all the wrong reasons) we might as well do it for the right reason. China is down, and you don’t hit somebody when he or she’s down. 101%, China will rise again, very shortly, and it will to reiterate, have an elephant’s memory. I’m not saying set up hospitals and take all their sick, just treat them decently, allow their citizens the same rights and privileges as any other visitors here (with the exception of letting in travelers from infected areas, iba na ‘yon), and it will be to our advantage. It’s good business to treat others decently.

It’s good manners. As a member of the family of nations, it’s our duty to extend a helping hand, to the extent reasonable, when someone needs help. China obviously is in dire straits now, and though its pride won’t let it do so, China needs all the help it can get. The Philippines may not be in a position to be altruistic and generous, but we do have human resources available if the need arises, in the form of medical expertise and skills. Subject of course to our own needs and the requirements of health and safety.

It’s good for the soul. When all else fails, we can use the golden rule. No, it’s not the Chinese version (“He who has the gold, makes the rule.”) but “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” Simply put, you scratch my back, I scratch yours. If we were in deep doo-doo, we would ask help from anybody and everybody, and China isn’t there yet, but getting there. Let’s not wait to be asked and just help anyway we can. It’s good for our soul. It’s good for karma. It’s good for neighborliness. Believe what you want, but it’s a good look. Not just a good look, but it’s good. Period.

And that’s why, we shouldn’t turn our backs now on China and its migrants and overseas workers. Not in New Zealand. And not in the Philippines.



bato bato sa langit… trusting our own kabayan, in cash and in kind

[ thanks and acknowledgment for the video to  ilovejamich, thanks for reading! ]

SA MGA BLOG post natin, hinikayat ko at pinilit ko na sa habang panahon, laging positive ang mga paksa at usapin dito. I’ve always tried to highlight the good side of migrant life, the positive attributes of the Pinoy migrant, how well we get along with fellow Pinoys and with others, our famous industriousness, sociableness, civic mindedness etc.

But like any other migrant community in New Zealand, there is always a shady, darker side.

People taking advantage of newcomers’ ignorance or lack of experience as migrants. Migrants stealing from fellow migrants. Enterprising members of the same community pretending to help newcomers, or even countrymen back home, only to be exposed later as using the kindness of others to line their pockets with ill-gotten cash or property.

The basic theme is this: where there are people to be taken advantage of, there will be people to take advantage. Where there is a thriving migrant community such as ours, kapwa Pinoy (fellow Filipinos) “off-the-boat” (recently arrived from the Philippine), less-informed or less sophisticated financially or professionally will always be easy targets for the unscrupulous or looking to make a quick and dodgy dollar. Cheating and thievery are universal across all cultures, and we Pinoys are no different. The temptation is simply too much.

It doesn’t even have to be illegal or criminal to qualify as migrants taking advantage of fellow migrants. It might be too sensitive to specify a particular good or service so I won’t. Say for example a desirable item or service is offered by a kabayan (literally “townmate” but used by all Filipinos to refer to each other) to his fellow countryman, a recent arrival to New Zealand. The latter, trusting the word of his new friend not only because they are both Filipinos but come from the same province and city, speaking the same dialect, immediately and gratefully accepts the offer, believing it to be a superior, or at least competitive price.

What newcomer kabayan doesn’t know is that the price that he is paying to his new kabayan friend is not only uncompetitive but is much higher than market price, or what the fairest price would be. But because he trusts his countryman, he will pay the price for his naivete. A costly lesson, which he could’ve avoided had he not been so trusting or at least used the internet to check prices and the friendship of his new-found and soon-to-be ex-friend.

Over the last few summers and autumns (it’s summer now in Wellington), we’ve dealt with and been exposed to many kinds of Pinoys, mostly good and a few not-so-good, and for what it’s worth, bato-bato po sa langit, ang tamaan wag sana magalit (nothing directed against anyone) here are my five centavos’ worth of advice:

Maintain a healthy sense of scepticism, no matter how much you share in region or dialect with a goods or service provider, or the things (hometown, schools attended, sports teams you follow) you have in common. So you grew up within 5 kms of each other, went to the same mababang paaralan (primary school), follow Ginebra, follow Pacquiao, follow everything. You just met five minutes ago, and you’re like twins in likes and dislikes. Soulmates! Does it follow then that you should buy his 1998 Mitsubishi Pajero that has only logged 200,000 kms but has years of life left (based on the optimist’s assessment) in it?

This is only a random example but it has happened many, many times in New Zealand (with facts and details slightly changed of course). Make a new friend, discover all the things you have in common, learn how similar your likes and dislikes and inevitably the subject of things you need and will purchase soon will surface in the kilometric conversation. The other guy might not have even intended to make a quick dollar or pull a fast one, the temptation is just too much. But the situation presented itself, and by the bare facts presented you just seemed too eager to believe everything he said, so…

understand that as a newcomer (if you’re a newcomer), everything is new, including pricing and the market. respect your ignorance, for lack of a better way to say it. Not only the currency and exchange rate are something to be learned when a migrant is FOB (fresh off the boat), everything is new. From basic commodities like groceries and fuel to rent and basic services, each item must be learned and taken to heart price-wise, not just by the primary income earner but also the homemaker and the elder members of the family. The market (forces of supply and demand) determines price, but what is the market? Like the Philippines, New Zealand has its own set of peculiarities that every Pinoy learns automatically, but some learn faster (or slower than others).

And this different rates of learning is what some unscrupulous Filipinos take advantage of. Again we go to the example of the car, which to 85% to 90% of people living in New Zealand is an absolute necessity. (If you have no family and live in highly urbanized areas like Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington, maybe you won’t need it. But as a Filipino migrant, you’re part of a very small minority.) As in the Philippines and nearly anywhere else, a car is the costliest purchase you will make after buying your house. BUT there is a wide range of choice, from brand-new luxury cars to cheap utility second hand models.

To a relative newcomer straight from our homeland, who knows next to nothing about buying a car in NZ, he or she is an easy target for people who will take advantage, selling to them overpriced, low-quality cars that they can ill-afford to buy and use for the next five years. The question is, are those who take advantage of these newcomers our very own countrymen? I leave this question unanswered, and just advise Precious Reader to pass it on, think ten times before making a big purchase. Whether or not you are buying from a kabayan. And finally…

Do your research. This tidbit of commonsense advice is companion to the first two above, but it can stand alone. Do you check prices before buying anything you like? Ask around for word-of-mouth tips? Of course, we all do! Doing so, we help prevent people taking advantage of us, kabayan and others alike. We spot outrageous offers instantly, know a bargain when we see one, and we also don’t need to be a manghuhula (psychic) to know if someone is trying to help us out with a purchase or just unloading an unwanted and outdated item on us, leaving us with the proverbial empty bag.

There is a wealth of information at our fingertips. Literally, there is an ocean of information on the internet, all you need to do is surf and google the information you need for links to further sites who specialize in analyzing the market for the goods and services requested. Every supermarket and sometimes dairies (small grocery) provides bulletin boards and price guides for cars, applicances and garage sales. On and Facebook Marketplace everything is offered on sale everyday. There is no excuse for not using this available data to just take a deep breath, read, and make an informed decision on anything you buy.

Filipinos are naturally sociable, willing to help each other out, and have the best intentions. But let’s not always be too trusting, and use common sense. That way, we don’t have kabayan, and later only ourselves to blame.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!


Pinoy message in a (Kiwi) bottle 1


NOBODY WRITES LETTERS anymore, least of all Pinoys. Instant messaging, social media, Skype and even SMS for the older guys have all but sliced the world in half, no matter where we move ourselves to overseas. We are spoiled by the technology of fiber optic superfast and lightspeed communications, demand world-class service and often get it, when we compose, deliver and exchange messages with our loved ones.

It’s a sign of the times when NZ Post, the equivalent of the PhilPost or Philippine Post Office here is in danger of losing so much money that it will cease to exist and surrender all its functions to the private sector.

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It was therefore a surprise when I saw an enveloped letter given to me by a friend of mine who picked it up in, of all places, a post office. The address was incomplete except for the word “PHILIPPINES” at the bottom, the detailed address probably meant to be filled out later.

Poor guy, nageffort na nga magsulat ng liham, di pa nakarating sa pinaroroonan. When I opened the contents to help see identify the sender, it was no help. It was in a dialect I was unfamiliar with. To those who don’t know, the Philippines is chock-full of sub-languages spoken by even more people than the Tagalogs in Manila. Bisaya, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Kapampangan, Pangasinense and Chabacano are only a handful out of the dozens of brogues spoken all over our archipelago.

As a tribute to the effort of our kabayan I am reproducing the letter here, hope he doesn’t mind. If you Precious Reader can help translate, please do, send it back to us in the comments (thanks in advance), while we also figure out how to best reach the original intended recipients (it’s not a long letter):

different races

Mama og Papa kumusta namo diha? Buotan mga tawo dinhi sa NZ, ganahan kaayo sila og pinoy, mo respeto sad sa mga asian, tungod kay kita kahibaw mo respeto sa usag usa dali ra kaayo ma hire, bisan gamay rame sa amo company.

Taking a wild guess, given my total lack of knowledge of dialects outside Tagalog, Pangalatok (my wife’s tongue) and Bikolano (my mother’s childhood language), I’m going to say this paragraph is a positive one, and it’s obviously about employers hiring more of us, probably because of Pinoys’ sociable traits (but I could be wrong).


Tungod kay kamao ta mo halobilo makig timbayayung, ang mga tsino kay deli makigkuyog sa deli nila kalahi, mga bumbay sad kamao sila mag paraya pero suheto sa tanan, puti sad buotan, unya taas og pasensya, mo tudlo sila sa angay buhaton, kusog lng mo inum nya usahay tapolon mo trabaho, kay taga dinhi man,

Here is a candid depiction of various races and nationalities I think, with the Chinese not too friendly with those not of their kind, is that right? Indians I’m not sure what the letter-writer thinks of them but it can’t be that good 🙂 I’m guessing “puti” refers to European Kiwis who whether good or bad, are so because they’re locals.

mga langyaw ang ng maneho sa mga farm, kay ang mga puti deli ganahan  dinhi na lng kutob, e.kumusta na lng ko sa tanan natong kaparentehan og ka igagawan nato diha, pasensya gyud wala koy pamasko sa inyo og sa mga barkada ko.

The last paragraph is an obvious commentary on the dairy industry: because locals don’t like working on farms, the vacuum is taken up by Pinoys, and this I know because a special visa pathway has been set up for our own kabayan, just to work on farms. The letter writer is obviously a relatively young person, as he is still close to his group of friends (barkada) that he made during his youth.

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Well, I’ll be very surprised if I hit the mark on even 50% of my amateur translations. I’m shortlisting the dialect used to between Cebuano and Hiligaynon, and I think it’s Cebuano. To the parents of this mystery letter-writer, you should be proud of your son/daughter, who I think is hard-working and misses you very much. So sorry if I can’t translate efficiently.  Guys, please help translate on the comments below if you can.

Mabuhay, thanks for reading!



mga pahabol na pamasko sa ating kabayang naka WV

[I’ve said this many times before, but this blog is definitely not meant to be advisory in nature, we can’t be responsible for any action arising from reading this crazy blog. Please engage the services and advice of a licensed immigration adviser in New Zealand. Thanks for reading, and thank you to
YouTuber amadeusiom for the awesome video!]

BASED ON GOVERNMENT records, of the 193,000 plus plus work visa holders (also known as guest workers) in New Zealand right now (I say plus plus because expanding the strict definitions in practical ways may make it much much more), between 11,000 and 21,000 (based on approvals the last two years, it could be a little more if you include three year visas) are our very own kabayan, or brown-skinned brothers and sisters.

It’s common sense to assume that these work visa holders want to be permanent residents after a while, after all that’s the reason most of them (99.9%) came here to work in New Zealand. At the very least, you sacrifice the best years of your life away from family, friends and loved ones in the Inang Bayan in hopes of giving your children and grandchildren a better life. For the hard-working guest worker, becoming a resident and eventually a citizen allows him/her access to decent retirement benefits, a decent health care system, and a simple but comfortable way of life in New Zealand.

BUT THE RULES KEEP CHANGING FOR THESE GUEST WORKERS. Not just the actual requirements, like the conditions of work, amount of wages, how badly you’re needed by the business or employer, but how these requirements are determined, the way they’re assessed, and terms or definitions of these requirements.

It’s almost like, you start a tournament basketball game with the standard goal 10 feet above the ground, and referees to officiate the game. At half time, the officials’ table suddenly decides just for the heck of it to raise the goal another foot (to 11 feet) and change both referees from professional to amateur, just to show that they’re worth the talent fees they’re paid. Nakakabaliw (crazy), right?  The analogy is a bit extreme, but every now and then, to keep numbers down, and to keep the balance between inward and outward migration, the rules are constantly changed for residency hopefuls.

It’s long past the season of giving, but we thought up a short list of giveaways that would help our kabayan work visa holders:

Expand ANZSCO, or get rid of it. I’m no expert, but I do know that ANZSCO is a list of occupations defining all kinds of jobs in both Australia and New Zealand. It was created in one of those countries, Australia I think, and was adopted by New Zealand to make it organized, easily classified for jobs useful for both countries. The problem is, New Zealand is not Australia, and I’m willing to bet my last peso that there are jobs currently filled by work visa holders not on this list.

ANZSCO might be helpful but there are lots of jobs that fall between the gaps, and therefore make it more difficult for residence applicants. If your job isn’t on ANZSCO, you will have a harder time applying, unless there is a special residence pathway for you. There have been a couple of new versions of the list, but I’m guessing there are a few more jobs that aren’t included.

Retain remuneration bands for purpose of defining skill levels. To be considered skilled and therefore deserving to be invited to apply for residency in New Zealand, working an  ANZSCO listed job isn’t enough. (See what I mean about ANZSCO?) You have to be earning a decent enough wage to show you’re important to your employer and that your job is valued enough to be paid serious coin. Fair enough. But you know what? Just because a rule says it’s a hard enough job and complicated enough job to be paid a certain rate per hour doesn’t mean those working that job are actually being paid that amount.

That’s right. If a scaffolder from Butuan, based on industry rates, should be paid around $27 an hour , enough under the current rules to classify him as mid-skilled and therefore a possible candidate for residency (assuming he complies with other requirements) , it doesn’t mean he actually gets that. He may have signed a contract giving him less, or he may have to earn his desired rate after some experience or qualifications reached. And because he earns less, he is considered unskilled. (So unskilled kinuha pa sya from the Middle East ng recruiter, but I’m being sarcastic OK?)

In a perfect world, sana ifreeze muna ang remunerations to give time, at least to those who’ve already been working here a couple years, to apply first. But no. Next month, after only two years, the rules on this topic are changing again. And if you blink, you might miss the next change…

Make it easier for parents to get in.  This is not really for work visa holders but all migrants, but then again we all want our parents to be with us, so… The latest change in the parent visa category have all but made it impossible for parents of regular migrants to become New Zealand residents. You have to be earning like a senior, senior manager or tops in your field, like a PhD or doctoral degree holder AND earner before your parents can be considered.

Family is very important for many, many migrants in NZ. Having immediate family, and after this extended family is among the priorities for many migrants, among them Asians and Filipinos, when considering New Zealand as a migrant destination. The stereotype of bringing in grandparents to help take care of toddlers and growing children is seriously misplaced and hinders New Zealand from genuinely understanding family as part of the equation in migrating to New Zealand.

The Labor Government made it look like they finally reopened the parent category that was suspended for so long, when actually,  by (again) drastically changing the rules and making it possible for only the fewest of the few (maybe less than 10%) of migrants to bring in their parents, they just broke a lot of hearts. Maawa naman kayo Labor Government, bring back the old rules!

So many late Christmas wishes for our kabayan guest workers in NZ, and chances are they’ll remain just that, wishes. But to get what we want, we sometimes need a rebellion. And as one of the most memorable Star Wars quotes go, rebellions are built on hope. And for now, hope is all we have.

Maligayang 2020 sa lahat! thanks for reading!

happy last day of the year day, kabayan

[ thanks for all the blessings this year, the visits to this site, the kind comments from you Precious Reader. We face the new year with hope and energy, but for now we celebrate. Don’t drink and drive! ]

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER. In my ripe middle age, I’ve come to a belated conclusion, one that any person not born yesterday would’ve discovered after a couple of new years’ eves: it’s probably the only day of the year when it’s socially acceptable to drink, even get smashed with alcohol: we drink to forget the regrets of the year. We drink for other reasons of course, but I’ll get to that later.

I regret not spending more time with my father. on the surface this seems a perfectly reasonable and commonsense regret, until you realize that I had the previous 50+ years of my life to spend quality time with Dad, who died middle of this year. I did spend good times with him, first as a child, then as a young adult, then as a sidekick, and finally as a (younger) friend. To have spent a half-century of growing up, laughter and related joys with such a remarkable person is not that bad. I just could’ve spent more.

I regret not saving more.  Every year I start out with the same lofty goals: hit a savings goal, cut down the credit card debt, and diversify investments. Before the year is half over I realize I’m nowhere near where I set out to be, and call it a day. 2019 was no different for me, and I can’t even say I’m a year older and a year wiser. I’m ever closer to retirement, I need new income and revenue sources, and more than ever, I need discipline. I can’t rely on winning the Lotto anymore.

I regret not educating myself. YouTube, podcasts, self-learning modules, etc etc, even jobs where you don’t get paid with anything except the training, these are the tools of the day. Everything is being done now so that learning is easier, textbooks and rote learning is now merely among the many, many ways to absorb skills and expertise. Age is no barrier, certainly not an excuse, and every day I wake up I need to challenge myself to learn something new.

But we also drink to celebrate the blessings of the year.

I celebrate being healthy this year. No modesty in this aspect, when you’re healthy you’re healthy, and any person my age, occupation and location (pang Tinder data), when you can still do the things you do, you’re lucky.

I celebrate having someone to love and be loved. Self-explanatory mostly, but scientists are just beginning to prove in understandable terms that love is a human, physical need. Loners die earlier. Couples thrive in the hardiest conditions. And families who look out for each other, flourish in the worst situations. It’s not quantifiable, only observable. And the best way to observe it is in your own life. I’m happy to say that this year, I’ve stayed in love and found more ways to appreciate it, my situation and my loved ones. Happy for that.

I celebrate having the job I have, in the country I’m in. I’m not sure what job I would have if I stayed in the Philippines, but given the comfort, convenience and stability that goes with my job in New Zealand, it’s a neat package.  Work now in agreeable conditions, short commute to work near the sea and valleys, clean air and blue skies, with (hopefully) reasonable health care and semi-retirement waiting. I can’t complain.

Lots of things to be sad about this year, but even more things to be thankful for. We celebrate the new year tonight, but for now we are grateful for the year almost done.

Thanks for reading, happy 2020!


my father the Jedi knight

[He’s definitely not a Jedi Knight in Star Wars’ Rogue One, not even a major character in the Star Wars saga, but Chirrut Imwe a.k.a Donnie Yen reminds me a lot of my dad, so I’ve chosen to use their pics here side-by-side, hope you don’t mind. Now everytime I see him in a movie, I remember Dad when he was young, healthy and happy. Love you Dad. ]

BACK STORY.  What every OFW (overseas Filipino worker) dreads turned into reality for me this year, missing my dad’s last few days before he died late August.

I will never be able to take his precious long walks with him again, talk to him about yesterday and yesteryear, the greatness of the 1930s, the 1940s and 1950s. I will never hear his caramel-sweet singing voice again, singing Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble.

But I have memories, that much I have. It’s the first Christmas I won’t get to call him, or even imagine him and Mom having a bit of holiday cheer. Like many semi-orphaned baby boomers, I took for granted their presence in my life and never contemplated a life without them.

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The last year of his life my father was a shell of his articulate, vibrant self. His long, entertaining discussions and arguments with anyone had been reduced into one-sentence soliloquies and a couple of words that passed for replies and comments.

Even his precious walks and strolls were now almost completely gone, and his visits to the hospital due to kidney issues were becoming more frequent.

On the odd good day though he could still gather enough energy to get up at 6 am, ask his faithful alalay-cum-driver Val to accompany him to McDo U.N. Ave for breakfast and walk with him around the Luneta Oval. (How I wish I could’ve been home to be there with him even a couple times!)

He would ask to talk on Skype to his great grandson Theo and ask about the lives of his grandkids. Mom would marvel at his energy level, and struggle to keep up with him. But those days were few and far between.

But I’m not here with you to talk about Dad’s last days. I want to tell you more about the person he was the majority of his life.

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Balance in the universe. He wasn’t an overly religious man, but he believed there was a balance in the universe, not so much good vs evil but more like positive negative or action reaction sort of thing. He was a firm believer in karma, not upsetting the natural course of things and letting things be.

Wisdom. He believed in the power of words, words to praise just as much as words to hurt. Often he would choose his words, pause between phrases, and be careful not to hurt anyone with blunt or undiplomatic talk. He wasn’t the wisest man ever, but he was an avid reader. He could discuss with you Confucian philosophy or the latest political thriller, and everything in between. It wasn’t his intention, but in his late years he became a sage ageless man. He was my Yoda.

Mind-bender. He had his own version of the Jedi mind-trick, albeit with me, his naive, adoring son. Whenever he wanted to sway me to his way of thinking, he wouldn’t cut me off in mid-sentence or argue with me, he seldom did that. Instead he would ask me leading questions like “how about looking at it this way?” or “Have you thought about doing it B, instead of A?” He would never use threats or humiliation, and in the end, without realizing it, I would often be convinced that his was the better way.

He wasn’t a superhero, the richest man in the world, or even the most successful. But my father was certainly a remarkable man. In his own reality, time and place, he was the Jedi knight of my life. Being a Jedi is one of many things I can call him, but it is one of my favorites.

Missing you this Christmas, Dad.

3 things to do when you’re the only noypi on site

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[ Please enjoy the slideshow while playing Pinoy Ako by Orange & Lemons. Thank you for the YouTube video to YouTube poster John Kenneth, and thanks so much to our kabayan for allowing use of their photos. Mabuhay! ]

LATE 2000s, YOUR KABAYAN was leaving for New Zealand and while I wasn’t aware then, I was starting a new chapter of my life working in NZ. In the process I never got to be a Pinoy Big Brother fan. the soundtrack of “Pinoy Ako” by Orange & Lemons has stuck to my mind and spirit all these years though.

Every time I think it’s not worth it anymore working as a Filipino in faraway New Zealand and showing our hosts what we’re all about, I just hum through the song to myself, get a little emotional, think of how lucky I am being an OFW with the job I have, and renew my reserves of energy for work.

For Pinoy Ako, intentionally or not, embodies how proud the Pinoy migrant and / or migrant worker should be in his/her work ethic, his dreams and his craft, anywhere in the world. It’s almost like the song is talking to each and every Filipino worker, telling us: You’re not perfect. But with all your faults, you’re the best the Inang Bayan has to offer, you shine brightest away from home, show the whole world the best face of the Filipino, and come back home to your country’s warm embrace.

But enough of that, I just wanted to show you how in my experience we best showcase our Pinoyness when we’re the only Filipino in our workplace, as is often the case in New Zealand (unless you’re a nurse in a big hospital or a builder in a big construction worksite). If we can just manage to do these three things we balance being the best Pinoy version of ourselves and at the same time show how good we are as interdependent  citizens of our adopted New Zealand:

Highlight the positives, downplay the negatives. As any sociable person would do, when we meet someone new, we talk about the good things first, we put all negative aside for a more candid moment later. As a people, facing other races, we do likewise. We are hardworking. We get along. We smile regardless of the occasion. We make friends with other races easily, and so on and so forth.  Then of course the negatives. We are gossipy. We suffer from crab mentality. We don’t support our own. But the nega, these don’t need to be broadcasted to Kiwis and fellow migrants. When we are in front of others, we put our best foot forward, represent ourselves with the best characteristics ever. As it should be.

Never be ashamed of ourselves. For a long time, I was not only the only Pinoy at our work site, I was the only Asian, probably the first full-time worker who wasn’t European New Zealander (which really means white), Maori or Pacific Islander.

Then a funny thing happened Around a year and a half ago, a Punjabi Indian assumed the role of assistant plant engineer , decent enough, but when I mentioned to him that we were the only pair of Asians on site, he matter-of-fact corrected me.

I’m not Asian bro, he said.

What ??? What are you then I asked, knowing full well the answer.

I’m Kiwi of course. Everyone within earshot laughed, but I knew he meant it. He probably considered himself Indian before, but that was a thing of the past, he was a Kiwi now.

But whether he was just joking, half-meant it, or was serious, I myself would never deny my Filipino origins and ethnicity. The unchanging nature of his appearance only added to the absurdness of his claim, but in my case, brownness or no, I will forever remain a Filipino first, and maybe New Zealander second. I suspect many other kabayan feel this way, without explaining why, and I feel we will be respected more this way.

Stop riding the stereotypes. There was a time when our womenfolk were popular as “mail-order brides” as a way to escape poverty and lack of opportunities back home, and this dubious distinction made its way to New Zealand shores. When one of my colleagues remarked that he might ask a favor from me to procure himself a Pinay bride, I went along with the joke, and promised to look up a prospect or two. I later regretted it, as it didn’t help our image as a decent, hardworking people any. Of course our Filipinas continue to be popular as partners to many New Zealanders, but never let it be said that any of our Pinays are for sale.

There are many other stereotypes. Our being little brown brothers to white colonizers, our  being entertainers of the world at the expense of our equal abilities as scientists, tradesmen, artists, and entrepreneurs. Our being bad drivers. The list goes on, and we don’t need to perpetuate these stereotypes at all. Just be ourselves.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat!


a naive but simple formula for better chances of residency in NZ

dreaming the dream, but in the meantime going back home every year ! 🙂

[ Note : opinions expressed in this blog are haka-haka lang po, the product of an overactive mind on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Maraming salamat po! ]

VISA AND RESIDENCY RULES in New Zealand are getting harder all the time. The points system is almost impossible to comply with compared to only a few years ago. So-called “remuneration bands” which are actually minimum wage rates you have to earn to be considered for residency are going up almost every year. Additional requirements are frequently being added to parent, partner and other family residency visa rules.  Pahirap nang pahirap talaga.

As I’m still in the middle of my migrant journey, I don’t even know if I’m in any position to give unsolicited advice to migrant hopefuls like myself. But during my stay here in New Zealand, if there’s anything I can vouch for na walang kaduda-duda (without a doubt) at walang mintis sa pagiging obrero sa bayan ng Aotearoa, ito po yun:

The Pinoy worker and migrant in New Zealand is respected a different way than migrants from all other countries, including those from China and India.

It’s only my opinion, but I think the above  is so important that it deserves its own paragraph.

And this is my reason: Among all other migrants, Filipino aspirants depend least on business, investment, student or all the other visa pathways to get to New Zealand. It’s almost purely on skill that Filipinos try their luck when achieving the migrant dream in New Zealand.

I don’t have the numbers, but Statistics NZ always puts Filipinos in the top 5 countries / nationalities in the Skilled Migrant, Essential Skills and Talent categories whatever year and whatever season throughout New Zealand. Wherever there’s skilled work needed, whatever it is, papatulan ng Pinoy (accepts the challenge).

Because of our sense of duty to family, country and community, and because we’re simply a hardworking and responsible people, there will always be people from the Philippines applying for jobs in New Zealand.

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And that is why, di naman nagbubuhat ng sariling bangko (not blowing our own horn), we are respected a little differently from all other races by New Zealanders. Whether we care for their sick, mind their aged, manage their dairy farms, install their internet, put up their scaffolding, or a thousand other jobs, we are dependable, loyal, hardworking and responsible. No other nationality or lahi (race) is looked upon as highly as we are.

Which is what brings me to this humble suggestion, especially to our brothers, sisters and kabayan who are continuing to dream the permanent residency dream: work harder, upskill (or improve our skills) and value our jobs in New Zealand.

(Of course, this  observation is more useful to those who are already in NZ or who are about to get here.)

Let me explain please.

The reality is, New Zealand has to maintain a balance between allowing skilled migrants to continue coming into NZ, while allowing locals and New Zealanders access or first priority to precious jobs and income to feed their families and build the nation. After all, whichever Government is in power, its highest priority is to its citizens and residents.

But this responsibility of Government must be balanced with the need of businesses and employers to hire skilled workers to keep their businesses alive and thriving.

Di maipagkakaila na (we can’t deny that) if demand is greater than supply, Government has no other choice but to keep allowing workers from all over the world. Not just allow, but invite and make conditions better. New Zealand has no choice, if it is to keep its economy vibrant and growing. In short, with all the rules and current difficulty, New Zealand needs workers like us.

Keep improving your skills, ask for extra training, and volunteer for advanced training if it’s available. It might not seem like much now, and it might look like a sacrifice, but in the end it will be worth it, especially if it keeps you ahead of the game and ahead of your peers.

*****     *****     *****

Call me naive, call me simple-minded, call me anything you want Dear Reader. But in my Reduced-To-Lowest-Term world, if you are needed by the boss, by the employer, by the owner, the latter will find ways to retain you, keep you in your job and ultimately in New Zealand, long term.

It may take a little more time, there may be bumps on the road, pero as Ted Ito says in the song, ang pangarap mo’y makakamtan, basta’t maghintay ka lamang.

Thanks for reading!




ang bagong bayanihan: joining the 2 sides of the NZ pinoy community

I am not the owner nor do I seek to profit from this pic. Thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to!

DURING PINOY MASS in our town every first Sunday of the month, kabayan (our own word for fellow Filipinos, literally “townmates”) fill the church to bursting. Through prayer, song and sermon, it is a solid sea of brown and kayumanggi (olive skin), Hands are held, voices blended, and spirits joined in one family of worship and praise. Here there are no Tagalog, Ilokano, Bisaya or Ilonggo here. No dilawan, loyalist, Duterte diehard or any other. Just Pinoy, under one roof.

After Mass beside the church related activities, most of our kabayan go their own way. Still we don’t see the differences, but the subtle divisions start to show. Some of our churchgoers are big families that are truly extended. Most are siblings who’ve arrived in New Zealand one by one, and the next generation are already starting to grow up. Others are smaller families, and still others are singles and new couples, obviously relative newcomers.

It’s not obvious, but the red line between the very-happy Pinoys and the happy-but-could-be-happier counterparts is best described by two words:  permanent residence. For sure the second category of kabayan are still happy, being able to work here, live with their families and give them a standard of living not possible back home, but as the term implies, there is no permanence in all this happiness and contentment. Uncertain as it is, it could all be gone next year.

Of course, kabayan, going through the first part of this blog, your next question is almost immediate: why haven’t these fellow Filipinos gotten their permanent resident status? Well, there are many reasons, but these are the chief :

Qualifications. To grab that precious permanent resident status, there are a few ways to do it, called pathways, depending on your job, your experience, or your wages (as a group, let’s call them qualifications). Some pathways require only one of these, others two, others all. As you can guess, our kabayan may have one but not the other, or nearly one, or not at all. They get in the house via a “side door” (work visa pathways), but aren’t welcome to stay the whole time, because you have to get it through the “front door” (residence visa pathways).

Rules change and visa holders don’t always adjust as well. Migration policy, and by extension visa policy, doesn’t always rely on logic and common sense. At the start of a majority government’s business cycle (soon after winning the national election), it may set policies based on a balance of national development and migrant-friendly labor market.  Midway into the usual first four years, the government may decide that such a policy may not sit well with its voters or supporters, and jump into a locals-first, anti-migration (for lack of a better term) policy. In fairness, this can happen with either of the major parties, no party is immune to the kapit-sa-patalim (or “the end justifies the means”) syndrome.

What does this mean for kabayan? The bottom line is, they have to contend with a potential change of rules almost every 18 months, designed to keep guest workers like Filipinos in New Zealand but at the same time be difficult enough to show the locals, “we’ve kept it hard for outsiders so you can get work more easily, but you just aren’t trying!” In short, looking good for their voters at our kabayan’s expense. Of course the reality’s not that simple, it’s a little more complicated than my kwento  but you get the idea.

Three year stand-down period. I single out this rule among many others because it’s a killer among the new rules set by the government for work visa holders. If you’re earning less than NZ$25 an hour, you’re considered unskilled, no matter how important you are to your employer and no matter how indispensable your skills are. After the third year of work from the time of this rule’s effectivity (last year I think), you’re “stood down” and have to go home regardless of your circumstances. Don’t ask me about the rationale or wisdom behind this rule, just imagine how many not just of our kabayan but of all other work visa holders will be forced to go home within the next couple of years, because of this mindless, obviously brainfreeze rule??? Any chance or plans you’ve got towards permanent residency will now have to give way to this inexplicable, cruel rule.

Volumes of applications and snail’s pace of bureaucracy. Sheer work visa applications amount to over 25,000 a  year, and around only 200 staff to evaluate, assess and grant or deny these applications. The usual waiting time is a month plus for an application, longer if there are issues or problems with the applications, and even more if the application is complicated and involves multiple persons, situations or employers.

It’s not alarming or urgent enough for drastic action to get Pinoys already NZ residents to get involved, but we are part of the same country, the same barangay, and the same church. Surely that should be enough reason for us to get closer to the issue, especially when at least 1 out of 10 Filipinos in New Zealand are work visa holders who’re having a hard time applying for permanent residence.

If you’re friends neighbors or even churchmates with anyone whom you think is a work visa holder, and isn’t on the fast track towards residency, please do your best to give support, in your own special way. On the other hand if you think as a work visa holder you need extra help in getting that precious PR status, don’t hesitate to ask help from kabayan, your church, or even your Member of Parliament. you might be surprised to find out how willing people are to help.

In our great-grandparents’ days, the menfolk of the whole barrio would spend half the day helping a neighbor move house , literally moving the house on poles with nothing but their bare hands, and asking for nothing but buko and freshly steamed rice and tuyo afterward. This same renewed spirit of bayanihan, we wish, should prevail between the permanent residents and their kabayan counterparts in our new home Aotearoa. Diyos nawa.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

DON’T PANIC yet regarding new visa rules, says Maricel

Maricel with her business partner and hubby Holger Weischede (photo credit to Maricel’s FB photo library, thanks)

[ Paunawa at babala : This blog / blogger is NOT giving out immigration advice or any other kind, this is just a post po and purely in the nature of opinion and reporting what we have heard from the subject matter of the post. Maraming salamat po! ALSO: There’s another e-meet on FB  1st October 2019 8pm New Zealand time. Please visit the FB pages of Maricel Weischede or New Zealand Immigration Help Service, cheers! ]

MADALING MA-STRESS sa anunsyo nung 17 Sept ng bagong rules hinggil sa work visa kung panauhing obrero ka sa New Zealand.

( Translation: It’s easy to get stressed over the 17 Sept announcement of new work visa rules if you’re a guest worker in New Zealand, Taglish na lang po from hereon.)

You need increased wages to justify staying in New Zealand! Employers, start getting accredited, otherwise your workers go home! Workers, if you don’t start acquainting yourselves with the new rules, might as well give up and go home! And so on and so forth.

These are the stuff of bangungot (nightmares), the kind to destroy even the fondest hopes and most optimistic dreams of many Pinoys and other work visa holders hoping to someday live in Aotearoa permanently, raise families and live the migrant dream.

Not scaring anyone, but despite all the reassurances and spin (restatement of negative news) of Immigration New Zealand, these have been foremost in the thoughts of not just many Filipino guest workers, but of their families, loved ones, and those they’ve left behind in Pilipinas, as well as peers, bosses and employers who’ve come to depend on them the weeks, months and years they’ve put in as hardworking, no-nonsense and team-oriented Pinoy workers.

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Not to worry and don’t panic, says, probably the most hardworking (and surely the most energetic) Filipino-Kiwi kabayan immigration counselor Maricel Weischede, who along with her husband Holger and staff at NZIHS have helped thousands of Filipinos achieve the New Zealand migrant dream.

Well, not to worry too much (because the Filipino worker never stops worrying), but not to worry like the sky’s falling and there’s no tomorrow.

Besides the need for employers to be accredited soon, the change in wages for purpose of permanent residency and the stand-down period for low-skilled workers, most of the new rules announced don’t take effect any time soon, the earliest around next year pa, according to Maricel.

Referring to the increase in wages (from around $55,000 annually to $79k), this refers to workers who were already going to apply anyway, which means you either qualify or you don’t, you just need to hurry up a bit, in less than 10 days to be exact. This is about the Work-to-Residence (WTR) work visa policy under Accredited Employer.

(For more details, please call Immigration New Zealand or refer to your adviser, disclaiming right NOW to be advising anyone, just recounting an e-meet we were lucky enough to attend with Maricel recently.)

Referring naman to the proposed, three step “employer test, job test, worker test” gateway for work visas, kabayan Maricel said that informally this is already being done anyway and it’s just a more orderly way of making sure everything’s being done to protect both employer and worker.

And about the new mandate for ALL employers to be accredited, it’s a rule that was going to be inevitable (mangyayari kahit papano) anyway. If your employer doesn’t want to be accredited with Immigration NZ, it’s probably time to change employers while you still can, and if you’re already in New Zealand, you’ll be given time naman for the duration of your visa. (again, subject to more detailed advice applying to different situations of different workers.)

But Maricel saved the best for last. Just testing Precious Reader if you’ve read all the way to the end of this post, but when asked about the distressing three-year stand-down period for low-skilled workers, she connected such policy with the recent decision removing the restriction against low-skilled workers bringing family to New Zealand.

[The three-year stand-down period is the rule forcing work visa holders earning below $21.25/hour to return to their country of origin after three years holding a work visa ]

Why would Immigration New Zealand allow workers to bring family while working in New Zealand if the entire family (including the worker) were going to be forced to go home after three years anyway?

Maricel stopped short of saying the three-year period will be reconsidered, there is nothing to support this. But reading between the lines, there is nothing wrong with hoping. And for a lot of us workers, hope is all we have.

Madami pang pinag-usapan si Maricel, but for now,  in that e-meeting we attended on FB, the biggest message was: if you can do something about the proposed new work visa rules, DO IT, AND DON’T PANIC, because there’s still time. At the same time, just work hard, keep working, and listen to advice from your adviser.

Good advice. Besides for now, all we can do is work, work, work.

Thanks for reading, thanks Maricel, and mabuhay po tayong lahat!