what new zealanders REALLY think of us pinoys


[thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to productsfromnz.com! ]

SHAY MITCHELL of the world-famous TV hit Pretty Little Liars said it best, even if it was a little rude : when the half-Pinay was asked if her mom was a yaya (nanny or babysitter), she was reported by Cosmopolitan to have answered no eff-er, but even if she was, so what?  Do you know how hard it is to be one?  Being yayas, nurses and construction workers is just one of the multi-faceted dimensions of being a Filipino, and we do other things as well. But people all over the world have preconceived notions of us Pinoys, and it’s up to us to disabuse them of those notions.

As usual, I don’t claim to be an expert in what non-Pinoys think of us, but I DO have an advantage in that I’ve been living in New Zealand albeit as  a guest worker, and I do have encounters and interactions with New Zealanders regularly, but admittedly not as much as I’d like (I usually work in two-man shifts every other week).  Here is a short list of some of the things Kiwis observe about us, but of course the list is not exhaustive:

Pinoys are team players in the game of nation building and just want to do their bit while raising families and developing careers.  Sometime in the 1990s, New Zealand decided to meet the (then) labor deficiency challenge head-on and opened their doors to migration.  The result has been mixed, but Pinoy migrants have made New Zealand decision-makers look like geniuses.  Pinoys are productive members of the workforce, are not generally known to be troublemakers or criminal offenders, and you will hardly see any Pinoys unemployed or on the (employment or sickness) benefit.

These will be supported by statistics, but on personal experience, I can confidently tell you that no  Pinoy wants to be seen as idle by choice.  There’s always work to be had in New Zealand, as long as you’re not choosy.  And it’s part of the migrant way of thinking that, because you’ve been granted the privilege of living in a country, you do your part by pulling your weight, even if it’s doing jobs you don’t particularly fancy.  This way, you participate in the economy, at the very least pay taxes that run the engine of government, and don’t become a burden to your hosts.  Just common courtesy, actually.

Someone very close to me (please don’t ask me to identify him/her, as doing so would jeopardize my life🙂 ) had just become a permanent resident a few years ago but had had a particularly difficult time finding a job that matched his/her skills.  When I half-joked that at the very least, being on the dole (unemployment benefit) would be an option, he/she indignantly retorted, I didn’t come to New Zealand to be an unemployment beneficiary or words to that effect.  I then realized, belatedly, that such an option, option though it was, would be unthinkable for me as well.

Among a diverse group of migrant workers, Pinoy workers respond best to specific instructions and orders rather than a general set of goals.  I’m not entirely sure why this is so, just guessing that Pinoys prefer as little room as possible for doubt in executing tasks and plans especially when in an environment they’re not used to.

But probably the better reason Pinoys do better under detailed directions, and so have the tendency, over other migrant nationalities, to ask for such level of detail, is the fact that most Pinoys as OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) speak fluent English, almost as a first language (after of course the native  Tagalog, Bisaya, Ilokano or other dialects ).  Having heard and spoken English most of their lives, they are eager to show their Kiwi employers the relative ease in assimilating into and adapting to their new work environment, compared to other, non-English speaking races.

And finally…

Kiwis think Pinoys try hard to get along with everyone not only to be part of the team but to be likable by everyone.  This is, not just easily explainable but also understandable not only if you’re a Pinoy but also if you’ve worked with anyone Pinoy, half-Pinoy or married to one.  It’s part of Pinoys to work as part of a team, and consider all members of the work team (weeeeeell, anyone who WANTS to be part of the team) to be part of the family.

It’s second nature for a Pinoy to look out for each other in the work team, to fill in or help out if someone needs a hand, so to speak.  It’s natural for Pinoys to consider the office, workplace or factory as like a second home, where the inhabitants are totally comfortable and treat all the co-inhabitants as family members.

The downside to this is that, if Pinoys can’t convince themselves to like certain members of the workplace, they believe that they can’t work well with the same unlikable workmates as well.  Which is also probably why, on the assumption that liking Pinoys will foster mutual likability, Pinoys try quite hard to make themselves liked at the workplace.

Do you agree?  These are based on specific experiences, quotes and anecdotes learned and earned here and there, so the above are highly subjective and easily proven (or disproven).  But if it can contribute,  even just a bit, to a better understanding of the lives Pinoy migrants have led in New Zealand, then it would have been worth it.  Just sayin’.

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!


etiquette for bedmates


Unfortunately, not many of us look this good when we’re asleep.  They’re probably models anyway.  Thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to sonalishinha.blogspot.com!

YOU SHARE an office with strangers and you make rules.  You share a flat (apartment) with acquaintances and you make rules.  Surely it’s at least as important (and practical) to have rules with someone you sleep with?

If you’re like me, you don’t.  idiosyncratically, some things are too personal, or instinctual, for us to make formal rules for.  We either love or hate the things they do, the people we sleep with.  We literally live with them.

I just thought I’d think up a few things that would serve as helpful, when you’re starting out with someone, when you’ve lived with a loved one for years and years, or when you’re just hooking up (hope it’s not an offensive term to my old-school buddies) overnight with a hot date :

Face-to-face is romantic, but not in the morning.  You know those lovey-dovey scenes where the lovers’ faces are less than an inch from each other as they fall asleep (presumably after doing the nasty) and as they wake at dawn?  It looks good on the silver screen, but not in real life.  Our noses, lips and other bits and pieces will often bump each other, not just awkward but sometimes unsafe.  And then there’s the so-called “dragon breath” in the mornings, when we don’t smell our best.  So we can kiss and enjoy each other’s beautiful faces, just not all of the time, and definitely not when we’ve just woken up.

Don’t grab pillows, don’t pull blankets.  Spouse Mahal and I share everything in life except our pillows.  Because she has the purse and the shopping acumen, she has softer, downier and fluffier pillows.  I have the pillows from the Salvation Army store and leftover sofa pillows with itchy upholstery (just kidding). So sometime in the night, unconsciously or not, I begin to use some of Mahal’s pillows.  It’s alright as long as Mahal isn’t bothered or woken up by such (unauthorized) use, but when I begin to (unconsciously or not, again) pull our shared blanket towards me to preserve heat, especially during the winter, she wakes up and pulls right back, towards her.  I usually grunt, half asleep and don’t care.

The lesson in all this?  First, you have to make sure that there are enough pillows and that the blanket/s are large enough for the user/s.  Second, there has to be thoughtfulness and solicitousness so that pillows and blankets, regardless of whether there are enough, are shared equally among the bedmates.

Snoring, sleep talkin’ and sleep walking.  My eccentricities are not limited to my waking hours, Mahal never ceases to remind me.  I am a terrible snorer, I talk in my sleep and occasionally sit up and walk around the bedroom.  Oftentimes these are just indicators of other things going on in our lives, like an obstruction in our airway, a little too much stress in our lives, etc.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) Mahal is also a snorer, talks and even laughs in her sleep.  So we watch out for each other, know when we are going to snore loudly (it’s when we are very tired or have colds, coughs or other minor respiratory issues) and wake each other up when we’re doing something funny.  It’s just extra dosage of concern for your bedmate that can go a long way.

There are other guidelines we live (sleep) by.  Come to bed observing hygiene, otherwise you get no good night kiss.  No sneaky moves when the other partner isn’t ready for “conjugal activities” ( I enforce this rule too, although Mahal benefits more from the rule, I admit).  Don’t bother the other person when he or she is on a late night shift.  And so on and so forth.  The  guiding spirit of these rules and guidelines is usually being considerate of the other person’s needs and tastes, which is, when you think about it, common sense among people who love (and live with) each other, don’t you think?

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!


startled by the stump

Athletics - Women's Long Jump - T47 Final

Anna Grimaldi of NZ wins gold at the 2016 Paralympic long jump final.  Thanks and acknowledgment to the Otago Daily Times for the pretty picture!

Last week I saw on TV one of the first Paralympic finalists from New Zealand.  Her event was the long jump.

She looked very young, very new in her chosen field.  She took a step back, looked one last time at her target, and ran towards it.

She hadn’t known it then, but it was the longest and best competitive jump of her life.  It was more than enough for her to win the gold medal.

I told myself while watching, she’s good, but I wonder what made her handicapped, or qualified her to participate in the Paralympics.  I probably had that thought because she looked very normal, ordinary, cute even, in her New Zealand singlet.

Then, of course, I saw it.  One of her hands was missing.  In its place was  a little stump where her arm ended.

I was both happy and sad for her.

Thanks for reading!

via Daily Prompt: Stump

perchance & happenstance: daig minsan ng swerte ang maagap at masipag


[  Wish there was a happy ending to this story.  I still continue to fight the good fight, solider on, and live every day as if it were my last.  But in the game of life, don’t we all?  ]

SHOW ME an overseas Pinoy worker (OFW), and I’ll show you a migrant-in-waiting.  Behind every successful migrant was once an aspiring OFW willing to try his luck anywhere he (or she) is wanted.

It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s much easier to migrate when you condition yourself to be an OFW first.  A host nation is much more welcoming to potential migrants who look for work first before attempting to become one of its citizens.  But one needs to be hyperalert, hypersensitive and hyperaware of all opportunities that lead to the OFW’s ultimate goal, which is to work in an ideal situation abroad…

…or, you could be lucky, and just be at the right place at the right time.

THE FIRST LUCKY BREAK.  It all started with a generous aunt, who brought a different set of nephews and nieces each time she went on a vacation overseas.  That particular year I was lucky enough to be taken along, and because she had a nephew there (my brother), she chose to visit New Zealand.

After we had seen the sights and enjoyed our reunions with relatives, my brother asked me, if ever he gave me the initial assistance (board & lodging, initial paperwork, etc), I would fancy finding work in New Zealand.  It wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.  But then, given that I didn’t exactly have the awesomest job back home, what did I have to lose?

*****          *****          *****

Inside and out, I don’t come across as a typical OFW.  I don’t have the marketable skills in the medical, construction and technology industries that are so desirable all over the world.  I’ve never been tech-savvy, I’ve got little to no aptitude in health care, and I definitely don’t possess the particular strength and skill that serves well in housebuilding occupations.

No coincidence, these are among the skills prioritized under the umbrella  Skilled Migrant pathway, on the premise that jobs that fuel the economy can’t be filled by locals alone and the backlog must be picked up by migrant labor.  These skills are listed, unsurprisingly, on what’s called a Long-Term and Short Term Skills Shortage List.

Nope, I didn’t have any of the skills on either list.  And that’s where my second lucky break came…

*****          *****          *****

THE SECOND.  Almost a year after my first work visa was issued, my luck was running out.  The company that hired me under that visa went out of business, and the position that I was hired for (something that I barely qualified for) no longer existed, so I of course had no more job.  I was back to square one, in fact one step backwards, because like I said above, I had already abandoned my last job in the Philippines (not that it was any great loss) and had already used up a lot of favors getting my first visa.

At the last moment, barely weeks before my only option would be returning home, one of my brothers acquaintances from church gave me a referral to an employment lead.

With the slimmest of hopes I snagged an interview with the site manager.  I would be trained from the ground up, with minimum wage but on a case-to-case basis (not based on general work visa policy), I had a chance at a visa.  Biting the bullet and kapit sa patalim, I took a leap of faith, and cursed the darkness…  (any more dramatic idioms, kabayan?)

*****           *****          *****

That was 2008, nearly eight years ago.  The good news is, I’m still here in New Zealand.  The bad ?  Well, there is no bad news.  Only a slight disappointment, in the sense that I’m still on a work visa.  But given all that I’ve been through, I’ve been very lucky.

I’ve trained as hard as I can in all aspects of my work, so that (surprise!) I’m now a qualified tradesman in my line of work.  But because it’s such a specific specialty, unless I go out of the country (again), my employment prospects are quite limited.

Oh yes, it’s true that I’ve been at the right place at the right time, picked my spots and played my cards right.  (What if my aunt brought another nephew or niece with her the year she vacationed in New Zealand?  What if I was introduced to my brother’s friend a week or two before or after the job opening surfaced?  And so on and so forth.)

But I also persevered, perhaps more than I thought I would.  Many, many times I thought I would give up.  A quarter of my job involves manual labor, another one-fourth  a little discipline,  plus a little pakisama. That adds another quarter.  Most of the time, it’s just showing up, and showing up on time.

It would sound arrogant if I didn’t admit that I’ve been blessed to find work as an unskilled tourist coming from the Philippines, to First World New Zealand.  But I would be less than candid if I didn’t say that sipag at tyaga has played a major part.

Diba, sometimes they mean the same thing?  Luck and good fortune.  Sipag at tyaga.  Sometimes we make our own luck.

Thanks for reading kabayan!







admiring Dad on fathers’ day

selfie with mom dad and george

The man of the hour, flanked by 4th Brother (standing), Mom on Dad’s right, me on his left, and Mahal shooting the selfie.  Happy Fathers’ Day to all fathers and father figures!

COMPARED TO the mother’s biological tasks related to babymaking, the father’s involvement is a breeze.  Literally, we only need to work (if you can call it work) for a few minutes if at all.  The rest of the job, lasting at least 36 weeks and 9 months max, belongs to our noble mothers.

But that doesn’t make our responsibilities any less when it comes to our offspring.  Almost universally across all cultures, fathers provide, nurture, inspire, educate, and act as our first role models.  Plus, we should be ready to wash the dishes and be ready for carpooling to school and PTA meetings when the primary parent (Mom) is unavailable.

*****           *****          *****

My father stayed with the script, and more.  He was always ready to spend time and just have fun with us, if not after school, then on rest days and weekends.  He wasn’t an all-star playing coach for pickup basketball, but had more than enough time for us for Saturday trips to Chinatown and Sunday fun runs astride Manila Bay.

*****          *****          *****

Dad has slowed down now, but his mind is as clear as the day his firstborn arrived.  He no longer takes his long walks but tight skirts and long legs still bring a twinkle to his eye.

He enjoys being pampered  by his wife, albeit with the inevitable scolding if ever he indulges in his minor vices.  But the thing he enjoys most is that anytime he summons his sons scattered across the seven seas, they will show up (via Skype or FaceTime), and that every now and then the latter still seek his timeless counsel and wisdom.

Including of course, how to catch the eye of those leggy mini-skirts (just kidding, Mom!).

Thanks for everything Dad.  Happy Father’s Day, and mabuhay to all fathers!



why walking (& even running) is better than standing for this middle-aged OFW


thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to spinecarechiropractic.com.au!

[ Prayers and concern for our brother and sister kabayan in Davao City and environs. ]

THE FIRST TIME i felt the pain was when I was carrying a moderately heavy load, a half-bag (sack or supot) of product, between 5-10 kg I think.

Aray, ouch, not a sharp twinge of traumatic impact pain but rather a dull bag! of discomfort, more like a heavy knock between my upper thigh and buttocks, classically where sciatic nerve pain occurs.  The pain wasn’t remarkable enough for me to cry out and complain the usual way I do (I’m a neurotic complainer), but it was enough for me to stop and take stock of the situation.

Now, that’s different.  I don’t remember anything like it before, although I’m used to fatigue, bumps and bruises and other pains associated with specific events.  This one happened out of nowhere, although at the time I had been performing a manual task.

The pain lessened somewhat after a break, one I took every two hours on this longish 12-hour night shift. (I’m assuming it was on nights because I do a night shift every other week now).  But as soon as I resumed regular work and chores, the nagging pain returned.


The irony was (is), as long as I walked or even ran (except for the first few minutes, I always suffer a little stiffness coming from sitting or prone positions), I was fine.  The pain, which now alternated between dull throbs in my upper thigh-buttock area (left leg only) and pinpricks on the lower thighs to upper legs, was most prominent when I was stationary, a position I now logically avoided at all costs.

But as we workers, Pinoy,  OFW or otherwise, all know, work involves a thousand and one positions of the standing, sitting and mobile human body.  We are forever finding new combinations of  bodily activity to adjust to our multi-tasking, enhanced-activity, productivity-greedy jobs.  We stretch, crouch, squat, half-sit, half-stand, kneel, crawl all the time, every hour of the day, without a second thought.

All of which is murder, one killing blow at a time, to our lower backs.


I can’t blame anyone for my suspected sciatica (suspected cuz it hasn’t been confirmed, but the signs are pretty clear).  All my life, I’ve been abusing my body beyond reason, beyond repair.  I remember staying awake 48 hours, smoking used butt of cigarets, and drinking alcohol well beyond my limits.  But this was during my failed experiment with youth.  The rest of my working life, my abuse has mostly been walking too much, standing too long, and spending too many days (nights) on physically exhausting extended shifts.  My body is only responding to the wear-and-tear I’ve exposed it to.

I can still work normally, but I need to take regular breaks now, apply warm compresses to my back on those freezing Wellington nights, and use my days off for quality breaks.  As any middle-aged person in his/her right mind should be doing.

The most important things I can do now regarding my pinched-nerve situation are specific stretching exercises that seem to relieve the pain and tightness in the area, rest whenever I can, and STAYING AWAY from the stationary, standing position.

If I can remember to do these simple things, then for the rest of my so-called life, I’m good.  For now.

Thanks for reading and mabuhay!








the man behind the title

Amba with KABAYAN staff[ with thanks to everybody concerned, including the good ambassador, our KABAYAN publisher Didith Tayawa-Figuracion, KABAYAN executive editor Meia Lopez, and associate editor Judith Balares Salamat.  And of course, KABAYAN staff and everyone who took part in presswork and post-production!  Reposted with permission from the Winter issue of Wellington KABAYANews magazine, an online copy of which may be accessed through https://www.facebook.com/KABAYANews/photos/a.1076553995756761.1073741848.480225498722950/1076554655756695/?type=3&theater.  Thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook photo library of KABAYANews Magazine. ]

JESUS GARY Domingo, the man, defies definition, escapes categorization, and eschews the expected narrative of his life.

As our country’s highest public official in Wellington, New Zealand, he meets and breaks bread with prime ministers, princes and ambassadors, but later in the day takes selfies with kabayan nurses, dairy workers and caregivers.  As a diplomat in the Middle East, he employs every ounce of his energy and skill set to negotiate for and repatriate our wrongfully accused OFW, and yet he later serves as impromptu DJ in a kabayan dance party.

As a senior ambassador and respected policy maker in the Philippine Foreign Service, he firmly believes in the traditional government-to-government and institution-to-institution levels of interaction.  At the same time, he tells you that there is no limit to the potential of every Pinoy to be his/her’s country’s ambassador, a challenging task for the nearly 50,000 ambassadors (and counting) currently living in New Zealand.

Having said that, it would be an understatement to say that Jesus Gary Domingo is a man who wears many hats.  But right now his main preoccupation is the hat that says “Jesus Gary Domingo, Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand, Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa and Tonga.”  It is the gig of his life, and he has hit the ground running.

It would be too long to put it all here now, but he has a dozen initiatives baking in the oven, not to mention keeping firmly in place the projects started by his predecessor Her Excellency Ambassador Virginia Benavidez.  He has already touched base with the numerous Pinoy ethnic, civic and community organizations dotting the North and South Islands.  He will not miss a club meeting, church event, salu-salo, kasalan or binyagan, as long as you invite him early and give him decent notice to iron his barong.

He claims not to possess a balladeer’s voice ala Martin Nievera or Erik Santos, but a clever Eighties playlist will keep him on the dance floor until midnight (and beyond).

Don’t worry kabayan if the usual list of accomplishments, credentials or curriculum vitae doesn’t accompany Amba Gary’s name in this story.  You’ll find it on any search engine worth the mouse-click (he’s not one to talk about what he’s done, anyway), he usually lets his actions do the talking, and after all, the Pinoy community has the next six years to get to know this multi-faceted  kabayan.

Welcome to New Zealand, Ambassador Gary!






why we willingly endorse vanity while ageing

dagdag wedding shot

trying to keep up with Mahal in the looks department.  Hard job, but someone’s got to do it.🙂

[ Kudos and support for the efforts to touch base with the Pinoy Communities in Wellington, Auckland and elsewhere by our new and dashing Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand, His Excellency Jesus Gary Domingo.  Mabuhay ka Sir! ]

OWING TO a recently acquired taste for running in my advanced middle age , my feet, in the kindest words possible, would not pass any casting auditions as models for Dr Scholl, pedicure or anti-fungus commercials.

I have cultivated kalyo (calluses) all over: middle of the heels where the impact is greatest, knuckles of the toes,  back of the heels, and so on.  My toenails have weathered storm after storm of fun runs, half-marathons and trail runs, with a couple not surviving the January 7-11 Run 2016 in Filinvest. I also have bunions on the sides of both feet from wearing poorly-fitted shoes, but I guess that’s too much information for you by now.

In summary, I just want to tell you that I’m in constant pain and inconvenience, and because I don’t stop running, any remedy is only for pain alleviation and I can’t do much unless I don’t stop exercising (which I can’t).

*****     *****     *****

My point is, with all this going on with my feet, probably the most important asset I have for work and livelihood after my scatter-brained head (I need to walk and run for my job, after all), I wouldn’t mind it all if it meant I could keep my face the way it is.  

Yes my comrades, aging and vanity are constant if grudging bedfellows in the journey of Life, for men and women alike.  And the road gets rockier when you get to be my side of 50.

*****     *****     *****

In fairness to the discussion, I’ve actually been quite lucky face-wise.  I’ve avoided the ravages of aging that beset those who’ve written cheques that their bodies can no longer cash, I’ve more or less been careful with cleaning, rinsing and moisturizing, with the supervision and monitoring of dutiful wife Mahal.  I’ve survived the acne days when I thought I would never recover from the debilitating scars of puberty and oily complexions.

But there’s no hiding from Mother Nature.  The wrinkles and furrows are starting to surface, and while I can de-emphasize or disguise them a bit, they are there to stay.  It’s slightly delusional to think I can reverse, arrest, or even slow down the ageing process as regards my looks, but I read the articles, scan the aisles for anti-ageing creams, and continue to convince myself I can cheat Father Time.

I have good reasons too:

Mirror of health.  It’s not infallible, but the state of my face reflects the state of my general health and fitness.  If I pay attention to my complexion, including the fine lines and wrinkles, I feel better about myself, feel less stressed and face life (pun intended) better.  I realize this is more psyching myself up, but my mental well-being is now equally as important as the physical counterpart, don’t forget that I can eat and sleep better when I look good.  So looking good is now identical to feeling good.

Good for the ego.  When you know you’ve taken care of yourself, when you’ve done everything you can to feel less than your age, then thing start taking care of themselves.  You feel more confident at work, you exude and absorb confidence with people around you, you get positive comments and feedback that reinforce the good things you’ve started in looking better.  Again, this sounds superficial and self-serving, but at my age and situation, anything to help me feel better about myself I will not hesitate to use and re-use.  And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!🙂

Personal.  Not to boast about it, but Mahal is more than a few years our junior.  My job is quite physical in nature, and demands long and tedious hours.  Not the least, I’m starting to get long in the tooth.  Just one of these reasons would be good enough to pay a little more attention to my appearance, but all of them taken together makes it absolutely important to do so.

You and I often hear that any discussion on ageing is an exercise in vanity, because essentially you can’t fight getting old.  But looking good while getting old isn’t a crime, in fact it’s the challenge of our times.  There’s no shame in looking after yourself, and no shame in looking after your looks.  Mabuhay!





this recognition we’ll take anytime :)

employee of the monthAMININ MAN natin o hindi (whether we admit it or not), we all crave and enjoy recognition.

From the humble certificate recognizing volunteer barangay tanods (or night wardens), to Oscar nominations and awards watched by billions on TV and the internet, recognition of excellence, effort and energy in whatever form or shape, is not only a reflection of achievement, but is sometimes a goal in itself.

How many times have you gone for the extra sale, extra points, or extra work, just to get the award and the “victory march” to the podium?  I know I have.

Except that, shortly after my training for a higher position at work, I had no right to assume that I was due for any recognition, in view of my less-than-stellar performance.

True, I was just getting my feet wet and allowance had been made for rookie mistakes and slipups.

But I was fast wearing out my welcome.  Each hour that the factory was not running meant that around 4 tons of product was not being manufactured.  And each mistake I made, counting shutdown, startup and down time, translated to minutes that led to hours that led to, well, tons of product unmade.

Because I was responsible for the whole factory, each shutdown, however minor, was on my hands.  The dozens of dozens of machines, all tied together in a network, usually functioned well, but the inevitable snag, breakdown or blockage, although not fatal, frequently stopped the whole operation, if not checked ASAP.  And it was up to me (and my assistant) to make sure this happened, accompanied by the appropriate response.

*****     *****     *****

A few weeks after Christmas, I didn’t need to be psychic or supersensitive to know that my colleagues were starting to doubt if I was up to the task.  Already, the production manager was asking if I wanted retraining or if there were areas in the training I wanted to refresh.

Only my confidence and everything in the training, I wanted to tell him, but I was afraid everything would crumble if I said so.  Everything was riding on my job, as you may know.  My well-being, my migration status, in fact life as I knew it was dependent on me doing my job well.

Nothing to do but soldier on, Noel.

*****     *****     *****

Crucial to me was pushing up my work ethic, repeating and practicing without fail the procedures taught to me step by step without short cuts, speeding up my reaction time, and learning through my mistakes.

I wasn’t about to let management think that it made a mistake reposing their trust in me, and I didn’t want to let down everyone who had confidence in me.  All my life, I’d never been a mechanically inclined person, but no job can’t be done at least to a decent level with hard work, hard work, and hard work.  I was prepared to do all three.

*****     *****     *****

That was three months ago.  I still make mistakes now, but they’re less and they’re not as huge (touch wood).  I react faster to potential breakdowns now, and I do my best to learn from said mistakes.  Every time he has a moment, the production manager takes me aside to tell me I’m doing a better job.  I appreciate everything he says.

Tipping point was Friday, when unfortunately I couldn’t attend the weekly meeting.  After averting a potential factory problem, I entered the meeting room to catch up, where the plant engineer sternly told me :

You missed an important announcement, Noel.  Especially for you, actually.  You were voted Employee of the Month.  How could you miss your moment?  Congrats, now get out of here.  

Sarcastic lang pala.🙂

Flabbergasted, I quickly thanked the engineer and quickly reported to my Number One Fan, the production manager, who obviously already knew:

See Noel?  It’s not just me who’s appreciating you now.  Your production is going up, you don’t call the engineers in the middle of the night as often now (touch wood), and you’re making life a little better, for yourself and everyone on site.  Pat yourself on the back, Mr Employee of the Month.

In my understated way, the recognition is a bit premature, considering that I’ll make many more mistakes and I’ve got so much more to learn, but it’s recognition I’ll take any time.

Thanks for reading!



bakit di laging masama ang kaplastikan sa trabaho


[ Hi there: I can’t apologize for the wry or pessimistic nature of the post; but I hope you’re not too put off by it Precious Reader.  Most of the time we celebrate the positive aspects of the Pinoy personality.  Just not this time.  Thanks and acknowledgment for the plasticman pic to cooltoyreview.com and  happy workweek ahead, everyone! ]

YOU KNOW it, I know it, we all know it.

“Kaplastikan” (the first and last time I’ll mark the word with quote marks, it is, after all used almost universally where Filipino is spoken) is as much a part of Pinoy existence as rice, videoke and halo-halo.  It is time to acknowledge it, at home, in the workplace and in public life, and to accept it for what is: something that all of us use, recognize and live with.

As a working definition, let me offer one: behavior or speech that is often insincere but more or less acceptable to the listener or person/s around, designed to avoid awkwardness, unnecessary disagreements or minor misunderstandings which do not affect the result of the current interaction “facilitated” by such plastic behavior (the adjective form of kaplastikan).

Frequently we all deride or disparage our countrymen or women kabayan of kaplastikan but the truth is, all of us, no exception (unless you’re a living saint or a hermit), behave with kaplastikan regularly, occasionally or once in a while, as the need arises.

We do this to smooth things over, to please or mollify our superiors, or because we need a favor or two from someone we’d rather not interact with.  No one can deny the utility of kaplastikan, where we (1) avoid making statements that, although true, would hurt or criticize the listener, (2) exaggerate the qualities of the listener in order to make him/ her feel better, (3) make white lies to avoid conflict between the speaker and the listener, or even third persons not around.

I won’t say these are personal experience/s (wink, wink), but here are a few specific workplace situations where, in my humble opinion, kaplastikan works :

Your co-worker doesn’t observe hygiene at a level you’re used to.  This is probably one of the most common instances where kaplastikan is observed.  Someone doesn’t brush or floss regularly, is very lax on deodorant, and shampoos the hair only during holidays.  You would love to tell that person even ONCE that he or she is exhibiting oppressive behavior making life difficult for everyone around them.

But you don’t.  Moreover, you pay compliments that are likely to distract, confuse or divert attention to the real problem of the co-worker’s lack (or total absence of ) hygiene.  Reasons?  You work with this person 8 or more hours a day, five days a week, and 50+ weeks a year.  Whatever satisfaction you might derive telling that person off,  you have to live with the consequences because you will continue to co-exist with that person, who has now realized you can’t stand his/her bad breath / body odor / hair odor.

So you (try to) focus on the positives and compliment that person on his/her cheerfulness, work attitude, and clean uniforms.  You have to, because the alternative would be to hurt the person’s feelings (even if your sense of smell has long been offended).  That is kaplastikan.

Listener doesn’t take criticism well and is in a position of authority over you.  Specifically, in a position to make life miserable for you, all because you mentioned that person’s lack of fashion sense.  That’s just a random example, but a similar trifle or minor detail is enough to wind up this type of person enough to put you in his/her crosshairs, just because you were a bit too candid for comfort.

The solution?  It’s a bit drastic, but never mention anything negative, and only mention something when it’s positive.  If it means being less than truthful, then you’re doing it in the spirit of self-preservation, which is after all one of the pillars of kaplastikan.

Obviously, this takes a lot of discipline, self-restraint and with some persons, denying what you see right in front of you.  But keep practicing and with time, it will become second nature to you.  Trust me, kaplastikan works with a lot of Pinoys.

when the evil avoided by kaplastikan is greater than being honest or sincere.  You admit to everyone present that you are dismayed by your colleague’s quality of work. But in the process alienate yourself from everyone.  You withhold your praise for your supervisor (and thus deny him/her the unanimous approval of his/her team he needs for full bonus / incentives), not the least because he/she doesn’t deserve it, but because you’re the only one who withholds, you’re a moving target for extra work and sh*tty shift hours.  What to do, what to do?

Simple lang yan, bro / sis.  DON’T be dismayed, DON’T withhold praise, in fact go the other way and tell everyone within earshot that your work mate is the best and praise your bisor to the high heavens.

Why? Because that is the way of the world, and that is how things get done.  You go plastic, and you prove yourself a team player.  Yung nga lang, truth is the first casualty.  But you know what?  In this case/s, there are things more important than truth.

Just a few specific situations, but you get my meaning, kabayan.  Kaplastikan goes a long way, sometimes nga lang at the expense of truth.  But everything balances out in the end.