ang pagbabalik: raw notes coming home and the first 24 back home


thanks and acknowledgment to naira forum!

thanks and acknowledgment to naira forum!

It’s not even the first 24 hours, but I’m not drunk, I have a keyboard in front of me, and I don’t have a pressing engagement.  Not that I have any pressing engagements the next few days, weeks, or the rest of my stay back in the Philippines.  I’m here (1) to visit family, (2) to attend a nephew’s wedding, the only son of our eldest brother, the first of the next generation, and (3) to spend vacation leave like a real vacation leave.

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PREP FOR THE TRIP BACK HOME

As usual, we left a lot of odds and ends unsorted and loose strings unattached.  Ideally I think, after nearly a decade of going home and travelling 24+ hours at a time, the best time to prepare for a trip back home is around a week before.  But hey, who knows what’s best for each person right?

If you prepare too soon, the preparations you make will lapse or will need new preparations.  if you prepare too late, well, you’ll be late.

things like, someone watch the car please so batteries won’t go dead and won’t get shat on by birds? (we don’t have a covered carport.)  Anyone please watch the flat so the personal property inside doesn’t get stolen and unnoticed till we return? (our backdoor neighbor and daughter Ganda and boyfriend have graciously indulged.) Anyone please bring us to the airport and pick us up when we arrive?  (bless their soul, somebody has raised their hand.)

Milk going bad, too bad, frozen goods stay frozen, what? no pets to feed? and Noel, don’t forget to turn off the automatic water heater to avoid needlessly wasting energy.   Check, check, check?  That’s it.

THE TRIP BACK HOME

Because you don’t plan for these things, and it’s nearly beyond your control, it’s almost a given, that :  (1) there will be a baby or babies either next to your seat, behind you, or in front of you.  The chances of this happening are directly proportional to the length of your trip.  Please let me explain.  WELLINGTON to AUCKLAND, 45 mins. = very little chance of a baby in the vicinity.  Remote, if you ask me.  AUCKLAND TO WELLINGTON, approximately 3 hours.  = chances go up moderately.  If you’re lucky, you will hear cooing and gurgling sounds, in the 3 meter radius.  If you’re unlucky, they’re distressed, needing a good breastfeed or needing a major diaper change.  AUCKLAND to MANILA, 7-8 hours = chances go up dramatically, exponentially in fact.

It goes up even higher if you’ve been stress-free (meaning baby-free) the first two legs of the trip, probably 75% to 90%  A few Hail Marys would be useful now.  But looking at the baby carriers, eyebagged parents and feeding bottles around you at Sydney International, you know it will be a long trip.

As soon as you settle in your seat and fasten the seat belt, baby #1  starts crying.  This of course stresses out baby #2, and starts crying too.  They are both within 3 rows of yours.

[Sorry for the extra detail.  Raw notes, after all.]

BACK HOME

(Eight hours later.)  It’s not as bad as we dreaded it to be.  The babies actually kept quiet, would you believe a one-year old had his iPad keeping him occupied?  the unmistakable Aussie twang of the Qantas pilot cheerfully informed us that the flight was 20 (twenty!) minutes ahead of schedule, no traffic! he joked.

Alas, traffic welcomed us outside NAIA Terminal 1 to render the time saved totally meaningless.  The trip between the airport and the temporary hotel (we booked a day late, promo was negated by a non-discounted first night), around 15 kms away, took as a little over an hour, shocking in New Zealand terms but actually shorter than average for rush hour travel.

I can’t name the hotel because we didn’t choose in advance, the price was reasonable and they were quite friendly, but the carpet was threadbare, sheets smelled strongly of cheap fabric conditioner and cheap disinfectant (I’m sure the price difference between the next higher brand/s is centavos per kilogram), and the toilet flushed veeeerrrry slowly, a constant worry for me.  Of all the whines, moans and groans this paragraph, only the last one was enough for me to never recommend it to anyone; it is a famous, iconic brand that has seen better days, and is right next to the favorite mall of the snake-daughter.

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Backpedalling a bit to the airport: I made the basic steps: looked for my brother’s driver, booked a week in advance (he was exactly where Eldest Brother said he would be, dressed in the polo barong that he was supposed to wear and crew-cut hair), bought a SIM card and replaced the New Zealand one in my phone, SMS texted the most important people first: Mother, Eldest Brother, Second Brother and Fifth Brother (I am the Third).  Only Fourth Brother remains overseas.

As soon as we stepped outside the air-conditioned NAIA airport complex, the hot muggy air hit us: not as bad as we anticipated, as there was a low-pressure area that just left Metro Manila.  Maybe 19-20 Celsius.  The carbon monoxide definitely flavored the air, and as I mentioned earlier, what should’ve been a 20-25 minute ride tops in Wellington took us around an hour and a half.

Welcome home Noel.

hacking the genome sequence of the Pinoy relationship DNA (with Pinoys Pinays either or both)


phoenix-picture

carefully posed “couple” picture.  We were actually harassed and stressed at the time.  

(Note : thanks for indulging me with the longish title, and thanks Glenda Laserna for reminding me. 🙂 Happy birthday Karen Hulleza-Luna and Spencer Tee!)

As it’s recently been the day of hearts, love and relationships, we’re putting on our relationship analyst hat, being eminently qualified with the requisite number of relationships (each one I’m grateful for), number of heartbreaks (most of which I’ve survived) and mental state (as the sign on the door sez, quietly going crazy in an outwardly sane world, kaw rin no).  Now dear Precious Reader, whether or not you’re crazy enough take the pieces of advice below is entirely up to you,  caveat emptor.

Love is universal.  Kabayan like you and me (and everyone else) are sensible enough to avoid the conceit that Pinoys and the way they love are unique, with a few minor exceptions, love across homo sapiens sapiens is consistent, predictable and, given a uniform set of facts or situation, will produce a uniform outcome.

But Pinoys are worth mentioning that we blend the traditional with the modern, the religious with the secular, the zealot with the infidel, the parochial with the cosmopolitan.  We cannot be a cookie-cutter, love-is-love and happily-ever-after love culture.  We have to have our teleserye complications, twists and turns, conflicted inner and outer conflicts and wishy-washy crazy-love lunacy that defines Pinoy love.  (Obvious ba na love-scarred ang inyong blogger? :p )

In a relationship, Pinoys are self-centered, Pinays like to be indulged.  Notice I didn’t say selfish, there’s a difference.  The reality in a relationship is, Pinoys like to think in terms of me all time, a result of history, culture and gender.  What is my breakfast?  Is my underwear ready?  Am I going to do the nasty tonight?  And so on and so forth.  Now, see how his counterpart thinks:  What breakfast will I prepare?  Have I fresh underwear for him?  Is he gonna ask me to do the nasty tonight?  Whether or not you are comfortable with this or want to tweak the relationship somewhat is entirely up to you, but in a nutshell, that’s the template.

Conversely, in return for all this me-me-me preoccupation with themselves, Pinoys acknowledge that recognition, respect, tributes (meaning gifts), especially faithfulness and loyalty, and we’re-not-worthy posturing should regularly be paid to their girlfriends-spouses-partners.  It’s just part of the equation, without which there would be serious imbalance to the relationship.

Frequent hugs and kisses.  Oh-I’m-the-luckiest-man-alive!  exclamations.  Gifts and presents for no reason at all.  Complete surrender of the finance and budget portfolio to the missus.  These are just part-and-parcel of the philosophy of, in return for treating you like a king, treating your woman like the princess that she is.  Good bargain, if you ask me.

Holding your tongue at any and all times, especially when it concerns the following :  Her appearance, specifically her figure, her pretty face, and how she perceives herself.  The standard response may vary (a vigorous yes, regurgitating whatever self-opinion she has of herself, artfully rephrasing what you know is her self-image), but the simple formula is : absolutely yes, you are 100% percent correct, my dear.  There is no deviation from this timeless formula.  Stay the course and relationship success is assured.  Stray from this winning solution at your peril. Nuff said.

Acknowledging the sacred cows of the relationship.  with some Pinoys it’s family.  With others it’s religion.  With still others it’s a combination of the two, children of a previous relationship, politics, what-have-you.  Whatever, it’s a quirk of Filipinos that our very strong family ties, Roman Catholic upbringing, regionalism, etc etc etc will frequently impose themselves at some point on the relationship.

Rather than push back, resist or fight centuries-old institutions that will not easily go away, methinks it would be best to be like the bamboo and bend with the wind, not break and in the process thrive on the chaos.  Admit that sometimes, relationships take second place.  Go through the motions of following Catholic practices (I will probably burn in hell for this).  And if your Pinay sez Ilokano is better than Tagalog, or Bisaya is better than Waray, just nod along, who knows who is correct, in the ultimate scheme of things?

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It sounds simplistic, but many, many relationships I have seen and experienced have survived on knowing these simple truths.  It doesn’t matter if only one or both are Pinoy and / or Pinay.  It works.  Not all the time, but it works.

Happy Relationship or Freedom from Relationship Day everyone!

belated congrats to Ganda!


nicole-gradI’ll never get tired of saying this, but as soon as you become a mom or dad, your life is no longer just about you (or at least, you alone).  Your dreams, energies and aspirations are focused on your family, specifically on the little bundle of joy you’ve brought into this world.

This is why I was beside myself when after three schools, two countries and countless dreams, daughter Ganda picked herself by the bootstraps (does anyone still use that idiom?) picked up lessons from textbooks, her colleagues and the streets and alleys of the world, and along the way picked up and earned herself a double Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Management last December from the Victoria University of Wellington.

All guardians and elders but particularly parents can relate to this:  an education is by far the best gift one can ever impart to the next generation.  It’s a gift that keeps giving, and a legacy that pays itself forward far beyond the immediate lives and generations concerned.

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And as parents, grandparents and guardians, we can choose whether or not to do so, but every little (hopefully) positive thing our children, grandchildren or wards do, we can claim as a reflection of ourselves.  It may or may not be fair to everyone  concerned, but that’s just the way it is.  The apple never falls far from the tree.  Kung anong tinanim, sya ring aanihin.  

On balance, Ganda has been more a source of pride than anything else for me.  Her double degree, graduation and entrance into the work force is just a culmination of all the happiness she has brought me.

I don’t know what else to say here, but Ganda, your life is just beginning.  You can do anything you want, and your potential is limitless.  Your graduation is just a consequence, and not a cause, of your winning attitude.  I love you always, and mabuhay ka!  Congrats again!

irresistible tech, the human need for affirmation, and unequal partnerships (between me & Mahal)


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item subject of negotiation, and the freebie beside it. read below for the full story please.

IN MY tiny, well-structured world, despite my old, dilapidated phone (four years old, a hand-me-down from Mahal; I’m not complaining), no one can convince me I need a brand-new replacement. It’s just too frivolous, luxurious, and expensive.

There are only three exceptions.

First, my generous fitness tracker (free, mapmyrun) encourages it.  Second, the South Asian sales guy I (inexplicably) trust at the mall tells me I would be crazy not to consider his one-day-only deal (I always fall for these things so I try not to listen too hard when I pass by the provider’s kiosk).

And here’s the clincher: when Mahal tells me it’s an unavoidable, ultimately inescapable deal to be doing.

And herein lies the rub: in most marriages between Pinoy husbands and the wives they adore, it is essentially an unequal partnership.  The lalake (guy) may profess to wear the pants, make the decisions, blah blah blah, but when the wife doubles down, cashes in her numerous IOUs (in Tagalog, makes those sumbat-sumbat from an atraso you incurred a month ago staining the immaculate new carpet), and otherwise throws her weight around, we menfolk essentially have no answer, other than the two words American husbands are famous for : Yes Dear.

But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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After two weeks of depressing windy-stormy-windy stretches, I woke up to a nearly perfect summer afternoon.  On days like this, sun in the center of the sky and no clouds (cumulus or nimbus) in sight, you forget that you lack sleep, you forget that your extremities are cramping and sore, you forget that you have yet-another night shift tonight, and you just step out of the shade and run like crazy.  Heat and being out in the sun makes you forget you have problems, when you are in a temperate zone.

So I’m out running, on my fourth kilometer, breathless but thrilled to be up and about when I should be sleepless, tossing and turning (the unexpected adrenaline might also be due to the lack of sleep) in bed, and five minutes away from having smelly underarms (another side-effect of intense summer days but worth it, if I’m gonna get my exercise) when the phone registers an incoming from an unknown number.

boing boing boing.  throwback rotary phone ringtone, oddly out of place from a smartphone. boing boing boing.

I don’t answer these calls, because, having worked in an outbound, soliciting call center back home, chances are this call is a solicitation, a survey call, or a call from the bank.  (The last one Mahal can handle, that’s why I obediently handed over my ATM to her diba?  🙂 )

(But it could be a Nigerian prince who might inform me I just won in their lottery and just a small transfer fee away from facilitating the process.  I’m a sucker for these promos.  Woohoohoo!)

Hello?

good day Mr Noel, your wife wants to take advantage of my one-day-only deal, unlimited data, brand new (toot*, brandname of phone that everyone just HAS to have) phone, for just an extra $55 a month.  Will you authorise your wife? (trick question.)

that sounds good, but may I speak to my wife please?

(almost instantly Mahal is on the line.)  Love, kunin na natin. (Toot**, name of super-aggressive telecom provider) na ako diba?  sumali ka na sa akin, shared data tayo, pero isang bayaran lang.  tapos dagdag yung cost ng phone mo sa akin, extra $55 lang, modelo pa,  walang talo eh. ( I can feel her smile, and an even bigger grin on the salesguy’s, hanging on the phone.)

Naturally, I need to slow down.  You can’t think clearly about these things when you’re jogging.

sigurado ka kaya natin Mahal?  aalis na yung flatmate natin, walang sasalo ng share nya.

OK lang yon, may papalit agad.  matatapos na rin yung hinhulugan ko, kaya bababa pa cash out natin.

hmmm.  despite the short time elapsed, I could see that some discussion and haggling had transpired.

Love nabasa ko sa internet na kapag may decision kang di ka pa sigurado, it’s always best to use one day to think about it.  Wala namang mawawala diba?  (using all the tricks in the book to delay the inevitable.)

Then, as always, comes the clincher.

Love, bibigyan ako (notice the “tayo” becomes ako) ng libreng tablet! Walang bayad yon!

(kaya nga libre diba?)

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Well, that settles it.  Sabi ko sa inyo, when the final round of bargaining starts, Mahal, and many others like her (the wives) simply won’t take no for an answer.  Spark (oops, nabanggit ko rin yung telecoms provider) knows consumers can’t resist freebies like FREE TABLETS (gosh, could you Precious Reader resist that?), on top of spread-out instalment periods, shared unlimited data, ano pa hahanapin mo?

Honestly, all Mahal was asking me to do was fill her very human need for affirmation.

And tell you what, kabayan / Precious Reader.  Remember the unequal nature of our relationship?  The unequalness is directly proportional to how much we want to please our partner, till it hurts. 🙂

That means, without the tablet, without the shared data, and without the affordable instalments, I would’ve said, you’re the boss Mahal.

There’s always the exception to the rule.

Thanks for reading!

PS. Free Spotify pa!

*Korean brand  that sometimes bursts into flames

**Spark, but I told you that already right? 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

outdoing herself anywhere she goes: bon voyage ConGen Arlene!


congen-arlene-with-allan

The Philippine Embassy’s Minister and Consul-General Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa, also known as Kabayan Arlene, with husband Allan.  Thanks for the pic guys!

RIGHT NOW, the image of our government, looking from the outside or in, is horribly bad.  I mean, really bad.  I’m no expert, but offhand, there is simply nothing good we can say at this time.  (Whether or not it’s deserved is something I leave to you Precious Reader.)

Except for the Philippine foreign service.

Owing either to exceptional good luck, or just the basic high standards set by tradition, training and recruitment, both New Zealand and its Pinoy migrant community have enjoyed, in flash and substance, quality from officials and staff of the Philippine Embassy.

I’ve mentioned this to you at least twice in the form of critically good reviews for our current ambassador, His Excellency Jesus Gary Domingo, but his Number Two Man (actually a woman) is every bit as good as he, in the person of Minister and Consul General Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa (Arlene na lang, please, I can almost hear her say).

No exaj, she has hit the ground running under previous boss Her Excellency Ambassador Virginia Benavidez, nailed the Mobile Consular Services Outreach gig all over New Zealand, has ably assisted Ambassador Gary in many liaisons with MFAT (the DFA’s counterpart) and the diplomatic corps in Wellington, and lent her organizational and managerial pizzazz to nearly everything our Embassy has been involved in, the four years she’s been here.

As long as you provide her the plan and vision, she is usually the person who gets down to brass tacks, the intricate and involving details needed to see a project through.  Her strong suits are research and preparation, but she is just as fine networking and negotiating our embassy’s way through swells and tides.

I was lucky enough to have a chat-cum-interview with ConGen Arlene for our KABAYANews summer 2017 issue before her tour of duty here in Wellington ends next month.  (Hopefully Precious Reader you’ll see it soon, please watch this space.) She will work out of the DFA’s home office for the next two years before another overseas adventure in… who knows where the globe stops spinning?

No doubt she will outdo herself anywhere she is posted.

Don’t worry ConGen, we’ll get you a copy of that summer issue wherever you are!  Mabuhay ka, kudos and salud, Kabayan Arlene and family, from all of us in the Pinoy community of New Zealand especially Wellington!

Thanks for reading!

 

3 NZ myths busted by this OFW


breathtaking view of Milford Sound on the west coast of NZ's South Island. thanks to beautyscenery.com

breathtaking view of Milford Sound on the west coast of NZ’s South Island. thanks to beautyscenery.com

I WILL never consider myself an expert on New Zealand, no matter how much time I’ve spent here.  However, I HAVE stayed here the better part of a decade, and I’ve seen and heard things enough to qualify me to tell you what is and what isn’t true about this remarkable country, called, variously, Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud, sometimes Middle Earth, and sometimes Godzone (God’s Own).

The following are a hodgepodge of personal experience (is there any other kind?), info collected in the course of work and moving around, a little travel, et cetera.  In other words, reader beware.

an actual (horror) movie poster poking fun at the "sheep" and dairy culture of New Zealand.

an actual (horror) movie poster poking fun at the “sheep” and dairy culture of New Zealand.

You see more sheep than people in new Zealand.  The actual urban legend is “there are more sheep than people in New Zealand” (and this is true) but the belief I think one is being led to foster is (intentionally or not), for every person you see here, there are a dozen chewing grass around him/her.

In fact, unless you go out of the major urban centers like Auckland Wellington or Christchurch (among others), you will hardly see any bovine activity, although of course, anywhere else in New Zealand it is a common sight.  Most remarkable on my few trips seeing sheep lamb and cows grazing on meadows, leas and hillsides were the “coats” or cold-resistant clothing worn by the more sensitive (and probably more valuable) cows in wintertime.

For the record, there are 4.6 million New Zealanders and 60 million sheep, which means my hosts the New Zealanders will probably never run out of wool.

Everyone is rich,  there’s plenty of work for everyone, and being poor is unheard of in First World New Zealand.  Going by the traditional GNP, per capita income, quality of life and life expectancy metrics, New Zealand is indeed, way up there on the global list of desirable nation-states.  But below the surface, there are inconsistencies.  Income inequality is alarming.  Both unemployment and underemployment figures are high for a First World country.  And poverty is more common than anyone can imagine.  (Sorry to say this about my hosts, NZ is still a great place to live in nevertheless.)

Like many other nations,  New Zealand has its share of problems.  But unlike many, New Zealand is doing something about it, recognizing among other things that migration is a key factor in national development.  Which is my way of thanking this country for letting migrant workers like me take part in its nation-building. 🙂

images-1New Zealand is very liberal in its migration policy, practically welcoming guest workers, seasonal workers and refugees with open arms.  While this was true maybe 20 years ago, ever since the recession of the 1990s, the mini-downturns of the naughties, culminating in the global economic crisis of 2008, New Zealand is no longer the migrant paradise that many would-be migrants thought it would be.

In the first place, New Zealand always needs skilled workers, professionals and service providers like any other advanced, industrialized nation, to take care of its young, sick and aged population.  The problem is, the supply of workers from all over the world (including the Philippines) is nearly limitless, and therefore New Zealand is either forced to raise its standards for migrant workers seeking entry, postpone or reduce its migrant entry quotas, or stop allowing migrants entry into New Zealand altogether.

Suppose you had a farm, and needed maybe 200 workers to harvest your products and load them into transport.  You sent out the word, and almost instantly, 20,000 workers rush to your farm, seeking work, any kind of work, and demanding that you process them immediately.  What to do?

This is the problem New Zealand is facing, from applicants all over the world, but mainly from China, India, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.  The toothpaste is out of the tube, and can’t be returned.   This is why drastic measures are now being put in place to make sure people are now being made aware that sure, New Zealand still welcomes skilled migrants, but only in very specific situations, skills and numbers.

Hope this clears up a few misconceptions we’ve nurtured about New Zealand, certainly still a  great destination for many of us, and still the land of great promise.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

thoughts on the last working day of the year


Businessman Sitting Top Cliff Rock Mountain

[ Note : Sorry if we haven’t been getting together too often Precious Reader.  But beyond my quit-smoking post on Nov most years, this is the blog that I try not to forget, the count-your-blessings post.  Thanks 123RF.com for the pic, and thanks everyone for reading! ]

WE ALWAYS work in pairs, but halfway in, my shift partner had to go home early.  So I finished my last 2016 shift alone, although there were packers on the other end of the work site.

Surprise, surprise, everything worked out well just there and then.  Everything clicked, and product was churned out ton after ton, like it was the most natural thing in the world.  More important, it went straight to packing, nothing saved, nothing wasted, probably straight into a waiting truck into bakeries, restos and supermarkets.  It was THAT urgent.

Of course there was the shift partner (gone hours ago) who helped me set up the machines and raw material, the veteran who warned me of specific issues and situations to avoid, and of course the packers who checked in on me in the production area every now and then, but in the end, after half a shift of working alone, I turned out 31 tons of product.  Working on my own.

It was then when I felt, for all the trouble, training, dramas, stresses and sore legs, arms and unending fatigue, that I liked my job.  In fact, I liked my situation, and in sum, I liked my life.

I’m not being boastful, exemplary or trying to make this a teachable moment.  One person’s survival is another person’s perfect situation.  Perfect situation being :  you have a decent job, you have a little money saved in the bank, you are in reasonably good health, and you live in a country that respects human life, liberty and property.  Not a bad-looking list, especially using the eyes of someone in Africa (almost anywhere in Africa), or someone in the Middle East (almost anyone or anywhere in the Middle East) or someone in Syria (anyone, anywhere in Syria.  Except for that guy making it miserable for everyone else).

Decent Job.  It’s not a dream job, but I get paid better than minimum wage.  In New Zealand, that means you have money for the basics, and a little left over.  The job involves a little physical labor, and moving about, but so what?  It keeps me fit, and being fit at my age is a definite bonus.  To work my job, I need to be fit, and working allows me to continue being fit.  So it’s a gift that keeps giving.

Money saved.  This is where it gets tricky.  While the going is good, money coming in, and the sun is shining, you just don’t see the urgent need to save and put aside blessings now for blessings in the future.  BUT, believe me when I say this, this is important, you won’t be earning the same amount of money all the time, and all through life, your earnings may or may not go up, but your needs will never go down.

Just to be able to save a little money, by choice, is a pure luxury for me.  And that’s what I’m doing now.  A bit late, but better than never.

Good health.  This is my ace in my sleeve.  My last physical, said my doc who felt me in places too awkward to mention in a general patronage blog, said I was, for my age, job and stress levels, in very good health.  Meaning, my numbers were good, tests looked good, and the remainder of my life, against all odds, looked promising.

Promisingly good.

Let’s all count our blessings, happy new 2017, and Mabuhay!

towards an unspoken code of flatmates and flatting


[ Note: To kabayan going home during Christmas, have fun, spread the wealth around, but please take care.  Cliche-ish, but it’s no longer the same Philippines you left.  Thanks for reading, and thank you for the video ABS-CBN! ]

PRIOR TO Mahal arriving and joining me here in NZ, I was a flatmate with kabayan two out of two years.  Then after Mahal and I went flat-hunting and finally settled on a flat (apartment) we liked, we found a flatmate, then a flatmate, then a flatmate.  It was initially out of necessity, then we realized that as long as the flatmate was reasonably easy to live with, we liked living with flatmates.

We did this, knowing the usual caveats when seeking out and getting accustomed to flatmates: DON’T be flatmates with your best friends (you will always disappoint each other).  DON’T be too close with flatmates.  DON’T generalize and expect behaviors from flatmates according to preconceived notions based on regions (for example, Ilokanos are frugal, Pampangos are boastful, etc).  We based our tendency to look for flatmates on economics,  but also because we knew that Pinoys, for all our faults, liked to help each other, especially Pinoy migrants in the initial stages of settling in New Zealand.  Paying it forward, kumbaga  (so to speak).

Without further ado, here are the do’s and don’t we have accumulated while living and co-existing with flatmates in New Zealand:

DO help with the chores around the house.  On paper, flatmates  only need to clean up after themselves and look after their own junk.  But in practice, it’s always common sense to put yourself in the shoes of the owner / landlord/ flat mate-in-charge, and do whatever is needed for the betterment of the flat. You needn’t go all out, just do a little vacuuming, sweep around the place or water the plants / feed the pet if there’s a garden or house pet. A little effort goes a long way.

DO be sensitive with special needs and situations of flatmates.  If a flatmate is on night shift at least once a month, the week/s he or she is on the graveyard shift, sleeping times are obviously inverted, meaning when you’re awake, they’re trying to rest, and when you’re sleeping, they’re up and about, or just about to come home.  That means we need to be a little quieter around the house, and realize that when we’re ready to be off to work, they’re trying to sleep…

A flatmate and his/her group conducting Bible study / prayer meetings Tuesday early evenings?  Just for that one night (in fact, just for a couple hours), vacating the living room to give them a little more privacy and focus in their godly activity shows not only that you respect their faith, but that you can accommodate people with as much tolerance as possible (as long as it’s not TOO much or abusive na ha, use your own good judgment).

DO be sensitive about shared facilities, particularly toilet and bathroom, kitchen, TV viewing and computers (if the latter is part of the rent).  In most flats, there is only one toilet, and one bathroom.  It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that where there are between four to six users of such toilet, usage must be distributed equally and sensibly according to need and the different schedules of flatmates.

The need to understand and appreciate the complexity of this reality, the reality of shared use of toilet and bath, is nearly always underestimated and neglected, to the detriment of the flatmate relationship.  For one thing, the call of nature is something that can’t be ignored or delayed, and yet because we fear loss of face, we just can’t tell someone to get out of the toilet because we just HAVE TO let our bowels or bladders loose.  This dilemma and insensitivity on the part of the current toilet user, shallow though it may sound, may later escalate into major arguments that lead to flatmates parting ways.

Use of laptops and desktops are nowadays not so much an issue because of iPads, tablets, phablets and smartphones, but there are still flatting arrangements where the flat sharing fee includes use of a common computer, especially for messaging and emailing.  Which means, the time we get around to messaging and emailing our loved ones in the Philippines, assuming our flatmates are kabayan, are roughly the same.  So you take turns using prime time.

DO recognize that activities or habits that you may consider normal may not be so for other kabayan.  This is primarily why the classifieds and notices for flatmates specifically ask whether the owner/primary flatmate minds smokers, drinkers, socializers, etc.   Pinoys in my experience are generally more tolerant and circumspect about these things but it’s always good practice to ask.  Just ask yourself:  would  non-smokers mind tobacco smoke in the flat?  How much alcohol consumption is too much, and what is considered reasonable?  A good balance of tolerance and rulemaking, being aware of the sensitivities of your flatmates, and managing your own habits is key to being a good flatmate.

DO treat your flatmate/s as decently as you would your friend, relative or co-worker, as if you’d be flatmates forever.  Let’s be honest.  “Flatting,” or renting with flatmates, as it’s called in New Zealand, is at best a temporary arrangement, a relationship of convenience designed to fill gaps, scratch an itch, keep everyone happy until better things materialize.  But it’s not like, let’s just try to co-exist and after this, we’ll never see each other again.  It simply isn’t true.  While we may not be flatmates forever, flatting and being flatmates can be the foundation of a friendship that can last a lifetime.

This becomes possible when you do the simple thing and observe the golden rule.  Do unto your flatmates what you’d want them to do unto you.  Basic things like cleaning up after yourself, keeping quiet when you know flatmates are resting, staying out of the way when flatmates are entertaining visitors, and going out of your way to do household chores, are things that will create comments like, “that Noel?  yeah he was a pretty decent flatmate before he got married,” or “Noel for a flatmate?  we could do a lot worse!

Yeah, I wish I could get comments like those.  But you get the idea.  Be a good flatmate, and ultimately, you will get good flatmates.

You won’t see any of these rules, and you won’t find flatmates talking about it.  But here they are now.

Mabuhay, Maligayang Pasko sa lahat!

the bearable lightness of doing nothing (after night shift)


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with thanks to Pinterest and Google Images

[ Note: Advance happy birthday to one of my favorite aunts, Ms Emma Montenegro in Las Vegas.  Taos-pusong inaalay sa lahat ng kabayang uring manggagawa sa New Zealand, sa dairy workers, maggagatas, tagaalaga ng baka, tupa atbp, mga construction workers sa North at South Islands, mga obrero ng iba’t ibang uring trade work, at kung anu-ano pang mga industriya.  Mabuhay po tayong lahat! ]

(…Just got back from night shift.  I usually pick out a cold, cold brown bottle from the fridge, or half a glass of cheap Merlot, but I decided to spend it with you Precious Reader.   Charing!)

SHIFT WORK, among others, teaches me two great lessons: to appreciate the unit value of time, and to appreciate free time, even if it involves doing nothing.  Let me explain.

When you’re on afternoon or night shift, most of the time prior to work by absolute necessity is devoted to rest.  Rest to recover from the previous shift, rest to recover from aches, pains or injuries sustained during work, and rest to refresh both the mind and body for the work ahead.  Unlike a normal shift, rest will not come easily unless you deliberately and purposely lie your head on a pillow, remove all distractions, and knock yourself out into Dreamland.

*****     *****     *****

This is easier said than done.  If you’re like me, every little thing, from ambient noise, white noise, small movements, will distract your focus from relaxation.  Which, when you think about it, is actually a contradiction in terms.  You really can’t “focus” or spend energy relaxing, because relaxing is by nature NOT spending energy, a release from activity.  But you know what I mean.

So you spend a lot of time, at least half an hour to 45 minutes, getting into the netherworld between wakefulness and sleep.  So if you’re on a tight schedule (and I usually am), meaning you only have a six to eight hour window before you’re back on the road, even a tiny fraction of an hour can spell the difference between a good rest and a blah one that converts into a stressed workday.

On average, I do this five straight days every other week, and I’ve been doing so for the better part of a year now, owing to staff issues and the constant need for production.  Learning to sleep on demand at odd times and getting on with less sleep than normal is something I’ve learned to live with, but I don’t relish it, and I’ll never take sleep for granted.

*****     *****     *****

ON THE OTHER HAND, the last night shift, in fact the first few hours, minutes and moments after your last night shift, is a source of great exhilaration, because you are released from so many things.  Of course there is the weekend or rest days ahead (you will usually start late your first day back as a reward for doing night shift but not always).  But there’s also the exciting, exciting thought of NO MORE sleeping days, or afternoons, or stealing naps whenever you can.

More important, less than a few hours away, you will be able to sleep NORMALLY, that is, sleep at night, sleep in the dark, under the covers (it’s a little colder), and with no daytime noises inevitably interrupting your sleep.

But you can’t go to sleep at the moment.  The buildup to the end of your last hour of your last day of your last night shift has been so great, you’re still flush with a bit of adrenaline from anticipating the moment.

But what has it built up to?  Right now, right after work, right after earning your bread, you are actually idle, with nothing planned other than… sleep.  As if there was gonna be another night shift tonight.  Except that there’s no more night shift.

(Also, it’s early in the morning, when the sun is ablaze, birds are chirping, and the world is just starting to stir.)

But that’s perfectly OK.  You don’t mind.  You can spend the new day watching the news reruns from last night (if you can find it), read the newspaper, eat leftovers from last night, catch a McDo breakfast if you’re inspired enough, anything.

This is the bearable lightness I was talking about.  The infinite pleasure of doing nothing and everything.  The extreme satisfaction of doing nothing.

*****     *****     *****

It’s hard to explain, but doing night shift burdens you with multiple stresses.  The basic stress of work.  The stress of not getting enough sleep.  The stress of irregular sleep (when it’s bright outside).  The stress of having to prepare for the next night shift.

All these stresses disappear after your last night shift.  The unburdening is so great and so satisfying that even doing nothing is a nearly indescribable pleasure.

I’m not sure if I’ve been able to tell you how it is, but the bottom line is:  sleep is nearly as important as food and water on the list of basic needs in life.  

And you don’t need to go on night shift to learn that.

Thanks for reading!  Mabuhay po tayong lahat!

 

your kabayan’s five mins with Tatay D


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[Note :  Not only is this a work of fiction, it is also a piece of irony, most of it.  I think. Thanks for reading!]

I DON’T KNOW about you Precious Reader, but please indulge Your Loyal Blogger:  I feel the yearlong, Palace-led and Legislature-accommodated attack against our most well-known Senadora is misogynistic, unprofessional and uncharitable; that paying political favors by allowing despots’ burials on heroes’ ground is, to say the least, ill-advised; and spewing invectives against the most powerful nation on earth because one was denied a visa decades ago is childish.

But unless the PCOO is psychic, they don’t know this.

That’s how I get my precious interview with Tatay D, who is in New Zealand following a roundabout trip to Peru and back home.  A time-consuming way to avoid certain major airports, but what’s a few hours here and there, especially when there’s protests aplenty against you back home?

Believe it or not, the five minutes of fame I have been promised, is exactly that, five count-em minutes.  A New Zealand lady reporter is queued up after me, and this is what she looks like :

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Now you know why I have five minutes (mahaba na ata yun, considering).

A few ground rules though. (For a five minute thingy?) Only one politics-related question.  No questions requiring longish answers, and keep it short.  As if five minutes weren’t short enough.  Sigh.  OK lang po.

Thank you for the five minutes Sir.

Call me Tatay D.

Maraming salamat po sa five minutes Tatay D.  I won’t waste anymore of your time.  Why do you say that the controversial Marcos burial issue is the fault of Presidents Cory Aquino and Noynoy Aquino?

The past administrations before mine had 12 golden years to change the law and allow the burial, and they didn’t.  This is an issue between political families, and the past Presidents should have been non-partisan and buried (pun intended) the past.  Built bridges instead of walls.  Let bygones be bygones.  Instead, I have to fucking deal with this (pardon the French, it’s his)!  It’s a burden I could do without.

(Ahem.  Now I know why I’m limited to ONE job-related (his job) question.  Probably a blessing in disguise.)

Just one more question about recent events Sir, I mean Tatay D.

You seem to be especially impatient, not to mention short-tempered, with members of the foreign media during your press briefings.  Any reason for that sir?

Do you want the short or long answer to that, kabayan?

(putting on my earplugs) Any answer that you find satisfying sir.

OK.  All those reporters who ask me questions during my presscons, especially the white male reporters, are fucking GAY, ARROGANT BASTARDS AND SONS OF BITCHES with their own agenda.  I have no respect or time for them.

And how about the female reporters?

Well, if they have the time for coffee, and a little more time after that, as long as they’re below 30, o sige na nga kahit below 40, I don’t mind them at all.

(Double ahem.  Any more blessings in disguise?)

Tapos na ang political questions sir.  Here’s an easy one.  I’ve read somewhere that you are particularly interested in a renewed reclamation project off Roxas Boulevard.  Is this true sir?

Yes, yes yes!  It’s a project started by our former First Lady Imelda Marcos, whose husband I greatly admire and whose policies I study closely.  If you recall my precious campaign pronouncements, the casualties of the war against DRAGS that I have started will be dumped there, the Manila Bay.  if the dumping reaches a certain point the reclamation will be much easier.  Good for anti-crime statistics, good for the fishes, and good for reclamation.

(Yuck.  Kaya pala.  I don’t even know why I asked that question.)

OK, Ok.  You’ve been quite generous with your time sir.  Last question na po.  Now that you’re in New Zealand, you may have heard of the former Australian Prime Minister who is not only a very strict Catholic, but has also asked his daughters to remain virgins until they get married.  What do you think of that sir?

Magaling kung ganon kabayan.  Dapat, Mayor ang una.  Um, Presidente pala.

(Awkward silence.)

Thank you very much sir.

Thus ending the longest five minute interview I’ve ever done.

If you’ve reached this far… Thanks for reading and mabuhay!