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.

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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 iampinoypi.blogspot.com!

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!



paano tayo naiiba: how pinoy flatmates differ from others

IN AN OVERWHELMING majority the last decade-plus Mahal and I flatted (rented) around Wellington, our flatmates have been fellow Filipinos, kabayan that we’ve shared a flat (apartment) with both out of choice and necessity.

Choice because it’s easier to get along with people you’re already familiar with, their likes, dislikes, food, habits, culture and other things that define race.

Necessity because we know the likelihood of fellow Pinoys (Filipinos) getting along with us long-term is more than non-Pinoys doing so (nothing against non-Pinoys), so to avoid constant changes and abrupt departures, we usually advertise for, and get, kabayan flatmates.

But we’ve had our share of flatmates around the world.  A Canadian model from Toronto wanted to try his luck here, a Punjabi  lady who talked about India all day long, and currently a Colombian student who talks Spanish on Skype with her parents as fast as she does her chores before work and school (as she is a parttime working student).

This is what we observe with how our own kind get along as flatmates, we can’t vouch for the accuracy but, after nearly a dozen flatmates from the Islands, we can certainly vouch for the authenticity:

85% to 90% of all Pinoy flatmate behavior is influenced by their sensitivity to smell and hygiene.  Doing their share around the house. Taking daily showers, if not more often. Doing the laundry at least once a week, more during summer and hot weather. While these may not always be the regular expectation with Kiwis and other nationalities, it is unspoken behavior among most, if not all Filipinos as flatmates.

And we don’t just do it to be good neighbors. We do it for ourselves, because it’s how we were brought up, how it’s part of our personality and attitude, and because we want to smell good all the time, maybe a bit more than everybody else. I proved it to myself when, in an elevator with many other occupants from different origins, I later asked Mahal who was in the elevator with me “was it just me or did a lot of the other occupants smell funny?” Mahal vigorously agreed, but we suspected we were the only ones who felt (odor-wise) offended as nobody else seemed to mind on the elevator. Indeed, what bothers Pinoys may not always bother other people, certain races even less than others.

[ Let met tell you how sensitive Mahal is to odors: she once left her workplace at the mall for a toilet break at the same time a woman of indeterminate race ran across the mall to chase her restless child. She passed right by Mahal and because of the combination of the warm weather and the fact that the woman was tightly wrapped in garments and sweating, she exuded such an odor that Mahal felt nauseous (no offense)  almost immediately. In her own words, “baka matagal nang di naliligo at pawis na pawis sa kakahabol ng bata, nahilo talaga ako sa amoy nya.” So there, please let the nearest Pinoy translate for you. 🙂 ]

Usually (but not always) Pinoy flatmates are quiet until they call or Skype home. Nearly all Filipinos in New Zealand are employed, study or both. The time they spend home or away from work they use to rest, or spend quality time with family, who may or may not be physically present in New Zealand. In our experience, this means our flatmates, unless they’re heavy metal fans, vigorous rappers or extremely sociable types, spend a lot of down time sleeping, resting and just recharging themselves.

This changes when they have the time or have scheduled to talk with family they dearly miss back home. Doesn’t matter if it’s parents, spouses or kids, the joy is palpable and the change in sound level instantaneous. It’s almost as if Pinoy flatmates make up for the quiet and silence prior to the regular call to family with all the possible laughs, jokes and even tears making up for lost time with family.  Pardon me guys, while I call Mom.

A lot of Pinoy flatmates will wear religion on their sleeves but most will not hard-sell you on their faith, with very little in-between. All of the flatmates we’ve shared a roof with attend church on Sunday. Not all, but most of them are Catholic, but the born-again Christians are quite hardline as well. With their outward actions and behaviors, their Sundays are full-on (full-speed), and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Pinoys are quite active in church activities, especially because church is closely connected to Catholic schools where many Filipinos enrol their kids. Choirs, fundraising activities, feast day celebrations and similar stuff are days regularly marked on Pinoy family calendars, not to mention couples’ bonding and counseling groups, youth groups and children’s groups.  I know, because a couple of our flatmates have been deeply immersed in these schedules the time they were with us.

Most have moved on into their own homes, but the practice has been preserved regardless of who our flatmate is. Everyone reserves a day for Mass during the weekend, you don’t actually need to be a Pinoy to do this as New Zealand is still by and large a churchgoing country.

Like we said, Pinoy flatmates don’t go aggressive in talking about their faith and their culture, it’s an internal thing, actions always speak louder than words.

Do you have anything remarkable to say about Filipinos as flatmates?

Thanks for reading!



great in his time, great for all time

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thank you for reading. Short remarks given during the necrological services for my father Joe last 2nd September at the Santuario de San Jose, Greenhills East Mandaluyong. Congratulations for a life well-lived, mabuhay Dad!

GOOD EVENING. Thank you all for coming and giving Dad a grand hello and goodbye.

First things first. My second son Bunso, one of Dad’s seven grandkids, beat me to it and posted about his lolo on Facebook ahead of me.  In his post, he used his lolo’s graduation picture. My wife Mahal took one look at the graduation pic and said, walang nagmana ng kagwapuhan ng dad nyo. I looked at Dad’s pic, and said nothing. I had no answer to that.

Next. Many of the speakers ahead of me have already said all good things about Dad. I’m therefore going to turn around, and find fault with Dad, just to make things interesting.

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It’s not easy to find fault with someone like Dad. He doesn’t have many faults, but if I had to say something, it would be about Dad’s healthy sense of vanity.

One of Dad’s favorite things to do was to take long walks around our neighborhood. Sometimes I would join him.

At least once during every single walk we took, he would nudge or elbow me. He would then point me to a girl, usually an attractive one. Then he would tell me, Noel, do you see that girl? I caught her looking at me and smiling at me. I think she likes me.

Upon hearing that, I would then give me the only response possible : I would smile and nod approvingly, because whether or not Dad was imagining things, a good son should always support his dad.

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A lot of you know that the majority among us brothers have been living abroad, and I am one of those. I’ve been working the last 10 years as an OFW.

I’m going to take a risk, and bet my last OFW dollar that every person can say, at least nine-and-a-half out of ten, that they have, or have had a great dad.

in my humble opinion, this is because of two things.

First, because of human nature. Who wouldn’t want to let people know that they’ve had great parents? Success begets success, and behind you praising your parents, you imply that they’ve raised their children well. Which of course, speaks volumes of YOU.

Secondly, because of the  awesome responsibility of parenthood and the magnificence of living up to it, we cannot help but be awestruck of anyone who does well as a father. Being the recipient of this love, nurturing and caring, when someone does well as a dad, his children have no choice to see it as GREAT. To a son or daughter, just having a good dad is the greatest thing ever.

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but in his own way, our father is and has been great, and I speak not only for my brother Tim, Doc Donald, George and Jude, but for our mother as well.

He has been a great father, and a great husband.

He is great because he has always been there for us. Not just during our childhoods, or part of our awkward adolescent years, and some of our adult years when we ourselves became parents.

But for all of our lives he has been there, quietly in the background, careful to balance between imparting the wisdom of his years and allowing us to grow and make our own mistakes.

He is great because of his uncompromising work ethic that values work to justify you, work to dignify you, and work to complete you.

He is great because of his rock  solid devotion to God and his church, kindness to his fellow man and his conviction that actions always speak louder than words. He lived his faith, and lived it till the last day of his life.

I could go on and on for the rest of the day about Dad, but the most remarkable thing about him is that, like a Dad checklist, he checks all of these things, and more.

If it’s true that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, then that is Dad.

Just two more things. I could not end this without mentioning Dad as a husband. I will do our Mom a favor and affirm what most of you already know. Dad is the gold standard, as good as any, when we talk about husbands.

While it’s true that we tend to idealize or see only the good things after a person is gone, I could tell you that Dad was in love with Mom from the time he first met her in 1959, 61 years ago, to just last week, when in between fitful moments of sleep, all he would do was look for Mom and say, “honey, honey, honey.” An incurable romantic, Mom was and is the love of his life, such a rarity these days.

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I missed the old dad the last few times I spoke with him: he was irritable, lost his easy charm, and was often at a loss for words. I choose to remember him based on the entirety of his life.

All that I am, and all the good in me, I owe to Mom and Dad, and today we say goodbye to Dad.

Thank you for everything Dad, and keep singing for all of us up there.

helping the migrant in a sea of uncertainty


Goodheart in Auckland

Speakers at the insurance forum sponsored by Goodheart coalition and the Philippine Embassy: (from left, back) Eddie Katigbak, Ulrike Yukei and Romy Udanga. (from left, front) Dennis Panes Magcalas, Alicat Lozano Edgar Rondon Calapati, Cora Sitchon-Laquindanum, Lani Larsen, Mary Ann Guiao and Steven Friedland, Thanks for helping our kabayan!

IMAGINE GETTING INVOLVED in a car-and-train accident, less than a month after you arrive in New Zealand. Imagine suffering a brain aneurysm as a new OFW in this country. Or, imagine falling from scaffolding while hard at work a few days into your job, despite all the health and safety precautions taken.

Now, imagine having no protection at all against the health and financial (and other) consequences of these terrible events.

Pwera usog (knock on wood) and huwag naman sana (God forbid), we hope and pray these things won’t happen to us. And God willing, they probably never will. But believe it or not, to an unlucky few of our kabayan, those exact misfortunes described above happened to them barely getting their feet wet, or getting the shoe-polish aroma out of their shiny new workboots.

The effects of these accidents and health episodes were profound and long lasting, affecting the lives, careers and families of our kabayan long after the incidents. But equally terrible , due to the suddenness and unexpectedness of the events, were the loss of life, jobs and income to our fellow OFWs and migrants that will never be replaced.

Which is why, even at the cusp of a new life abroad and with your dreams almost within reach, OFWs and new migrants alike are constantly advised to protect against uncertainty and plan for the future. And the best way to do this, according to experienced and expert kabayan advisers in New Zealand, is to purchase insurance.

At an insurance forum organized by a new Pinoy initiative, Goodhearts Coalition, experts and insurers from different areas of insurance expertise spoke last weekend before an audience of new migrants and OFWs not to sell their products but to explain they whys and hows of insurance protection in New Zealand.

For instance, the health insurance speaker, Bobby Chua of Peak Insurance informed us that because the population pressure on the public health sector increases by 40,000 per year (from migration alone), delays in receiving badly needed health services are becoming  a problem. Ordinary, non life-threatening surgery might require anywhere between six months to one year of waiting. Bone surgery or those more urgent (but still not life threatening) would require a two to six-month waiting period. There have been cases of patients dying a day before their scheduled surgery.

The best way to lighten the risk of aggravating health problems from undue waiting, would be to purchase health insurance available to anyone with at least a work visa for the last two years.

Funeral insurance also helps prevent the double tragedy of first, the loss of life and second, the problem of returning the deceased’s remains to the Philippines.

Good if your parents are wealthy and can afford to spend at least NZ$20,000 in shipping the remains home, but the overwhelming majority of our Filipinos do not have this luxury, according to Romy Udanga, financial planner and specialist.

His Excellency Ambassador Gary Domingo also pointed out that the Philippine Embassy cannot be expected to be a source of funds every time tragedy befalls our Pinoy brethren, as it is not in mandate of the Embassy to provide such. Insurance protection therefore becomes just as important to the migrant as basic needs like food, clothing and shelter.

So the next time you sit down and make serious planning, please remember our kabayan who suffered serious accidents, not just for the sacrifices they and their families continue to make, but the example they set. Migrant life is full of surprises, but we needn’t face them unprepared.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay and thanks also to the Goodheart coalition for this initiative!


3 ways pinoys are hurt/offended by others & why we shouldn’t take offense

[I originally wanted to entitle this post “silly ways Pinoys are offended…” but realized it doesn’t help to label us in negative ways. What’s silly for one person may not be for another. thanks and acknowledgment to YouTuber and influencer Jessica Lee for the video, which I don’t own. Thanks for reading! ]

A GOOD WAY to realize that Filipinos (Pinoys) are more “hurt” than “offended” by perceived slights by other races is to use Google Translate, English into Tagalog. Type “offended” into the English box for translation and you’ll see “nasaktan” which, as every bagoong-blooded Pinoy knows, translates to “hurt” more than anything else.

There’s no scientific evidence backing it up, but I believe Filipinos are among the most “emotionalized” people on Earth. Instead of getting offended, we are hurt by certain things, because we “emotionalize” things, meaning we have to like or dislike things, not just interpret everyday things and gestures as what they are, things and gestures. When you think about it, people don’t do things for us to like and dislike, they just do.

One way to describe it is our tendency to be hurt rather than offended , a kind of “cognitive bias” (or slightly wrong way of seeing and perceiving things), although to other cultures and races it would be a reason to be offended, outraged or embarrassed. It’s important to remember that bukod-tangi (uniquely) here are a few ways this may happen:

When Filipinos smile to someone, and that someone doesn’t smile back. Filipinos are big smilers. Unless there’s something seriously wrong with my day, or my world is being turned upside down (to use a mild hyperbole), ) nearly always smile at whoever I encounter. Not so with other people, or other races, as I have come to observe living in New Zealand more than a decade.

Before, when I smiled at someone and that someone didn’t smile back, I immediately put it down to something being wrong, e.g, I did something wrong to or for that person and that person was trying to make me realize such. Or, that that person hadn’t been having a good day, or was in an otherwise bad mood.

Those are two out of many, many possibilities, but Filipinos like me, for some reason or other, tend to focus on the above. Indeed, I pass by friends, acquaintances and workmates who hardly acknowledge me when I smile at them, and after a few moments we engage in serious communication. I have gotten used to this now, the lack of smiles in the workplace, and everywhere else. It’s no longer a biggie for me.

When a person is eating, and doesn’t invite you to join him/her in the meal. Ewan ko (I don’t know) how it started or when it became a cultural thing, but inviting someone present or passing by to partake of your meal is automatic to a Pinoy. It’s probably a history of common hardships and barangay (village) fellowship combining to evolve into a pleasant, altruistic tradition.

Modern living and realities of privacy have in time caught up with other cultures and even our own. It’s no longer unusual for diners in an office lunch room to eat together and exchange pleasantries without sharing food. Similarly, when I pass by someone having a late lunch or early merienda, I don’t expect that person to offer me his/her food. And anyways, even among fellow Filipinos, I don’t expect to actually share in the meal, just be asked.

Raising the voice and being argumentative either during discussions or stressing a point. Let’s all admit it, almost unanimously, that Filipinos are a bit on the sensitive side. As in first point above, di mo lang ngitian (just forget to smile), and misinterpretations are bound to arise. Malimutan mo lang batiin (just forget to greet), and hurt feelings are sure to follow.

What more when voices are raised, sometimes in passion, sometimes for emphasis. Among  colleagues, contemporaries and co-workers, you can’t avoid this. It’s part of human nature, across genders, races and generations.

Just not among Asians, particularly East Asians. The Confucian orientation of so many countries this part of the world defines gentleness, subtlety and tactfulness as the ideal way of communicating. So that brusqueness, bluntness and directness are seen as being uneducated, rude and just not the way to do things.

For Pinoys in a discussion and everyday communication, you may get your point across and (apparently) win arguments, but you won’t win hearts and minds. Arguing for argument’s sake is a good skill for lawyers and debaters, but it’s not gonna make you many friends among Filipinos.

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I think the most important lesson that Pinoys, friends of Pinoys and other Asians could take from these observations is to never take things personally. There are a thousand and one interpretations of a person’s actions and gestures and yours is only one of them. For all you know, a person might not even be thinking of you when you are confronted with what you think is a hurting, or offensive gesture.

Second is, the way you and I and fellow filipinos take things is different from the way other people take them. You may be 100% familiar with the way your countrymen, kabayan and compatriots. There is no right or wrong way of interpreting actions and gestures, but we spend so much energy second guessing our encounters with others. In the end, our happiness (or lack of it) depends only on ourselves.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!


ang sampung utos (10 commandments) ng “pastoral care” sa NZ

[Not only is it a longish post, it’s also in Taglish. If enough of you Precious Reader request, I’ll repost one in predominantly English. hello and welcome to Wellington Mr Mel Fernandez! Thanks in advance for reading, and thanks in advance too to the kabayan subjects of the pictures as well as the owners of the same! Please send in your names should you wish me to identify you, to both subjects and owners! ]

KASAMA NA  sa pagsalubong at pagwelcome sa bagong salta mong pinsang galing prubinsya ay ang pakikisukob nya sa iyong munting dampa, pagsukob nya sa inyong hapag kainan, at paggamit nya ng lahat ng iyong gamit at kung kailangan, damit at kung anu-ano pa.

In other words, you tell your country cousin, what’s mine is yours, mi casa es su casa, and to a reasonable extent, feel at home (but don’t wear out your welcome). Because you’re new in my town, and it’s my town, it’s my responsibility to put out the welcome mat, get you settled, and make your entry into a new country as easy as possible.

Though it’s often taken for granted, for Filipinos in New Zealand we call this simple act (or acts) of kindness “pastoral care” although it’s done in the spirit of bayanihan (“townmate-ship” for lack of a better term) and pakikisama (“getting along”) but recently here it has been prone to abuse, for financial gain, taking advantage of the ignorance and vulnerability of the newcomer.

Do we have to mention that it’s un-Filipino, un-Christian and downright mean?

Just to help all of us along, handed down to us from our elders and ninuno (ancestors) are the sampung utos (ten commandments) of pastoral care:

I. UNANG UTOS : unawain ang pagkabaguhan ng bagong dating. (sympathize with the unfamiliarity of the newcomer) Parang sanggol (baby) ang bagong dating. He/she has to deal with the newness of his/her dwellings, the people around him/her, his / her new job, even the weather. (Suko na po ako, from hereon I’ll just use the male pronoun sorry.) Everything is new to him! So the biggest favor we can do for our kabayan is to recognize that he is just starting to take it all in, for the first time, ever. A little more patience, a little less hurry to settle him in, and unless it’s absolutely necessary for him to hit the ground running, a little more wisdom in letting him absorb things at his own pace.

II. IKALAWANG UTOS : ipaliwanag lahat ng pangunahing pagbabago sa pamumuhay sa New Zealand. (explain the basic changes of living in New Zealand a Filipino should make). Basic Kiwi English, getting around, life skills like cooking, using basic appliances, and driving are things that slowly but surely need to be learned by the bagong dating. There are no ifs or buts for this, if he is to survive and get by on his own, as anybody should. For sure it’s good to ease the kabayan into the new environment, but just as crucially, things like crossing the street (look right instead of left first) and avoidance of sir and mam, etc. should be learned. Dressing for the weather, avoiding dangerous areas and a little briefing about Kiwi’s do’s and don’t’s (it’s almost embarrassing to have to say this, but  knowing  that urinating in public will actually get you arrested might be important to many Pinoys of drinking age) . And things like that.

III. IKATLONG UTOS. Get the basic needs right. Yes, he is skilled. and yes, he has a little money for the first few months. But our newcomer needs a basic checklist sorted, and we need to help him out here. He needs to have a decent place to stay, a comfortable bed, basic kitchen and toilet facilities and a little moral support while he looks for his first job or on his first few days on the job. 95% of the time these needs are filled by the employer if he already has a job, relatives if he’s lucky enough to have some in the new city, or friends made from before the migration. Otherwise, kind souls like yourself from his church, or volunteers who specialize in “pastoral care” are his only way to adapt and adjust.

IV. IKA-APAT NA UTOS.  if it’s your duty or obligation to help him out, do it the best and most efficient way possible. If you’re the kabayan’s employer or his representative, make his transition into New Zealand living as enjoyable and pain-free as possible. It will come back to you in the form of employee gratitude and efficient work. If you’re the recruitment agency or latter’s representatives in New Zealand, then by gosh please do your job and provide every care and comfort.

V. IKALIMANG UTOS. Don’t take advantage. Especially if there is a conflict of interest, please do NOT do business or offer goods or services to the newcomer for gain. You are the first point of contact (well, besides the employer if one exists) of the newcomer. He owes you a lot, and human nature dictates that he will trust you. Please do not take advantage of this trust for your gain. Do not sell him goods that you yourself wouldn’t buy or you know he doesn’t need (yet), and if selling can’t be avoided, don’t sell at an unfair price. Don’t offer to do things for him, then charge him for services rendered later. Worse, don’t attempt to recommend things for him he’s not ready for, in the guise of trying to help, when you’re actually profiting from such transaction. A good example would be convincing him to buy your car, or a car you recommended, when he is as yet unqualified to drive. At the very least, this goes against the spirit of being a good neighbor and kabayan, and at worst it’s criminal and unkind.

VI. IKAANIM NA UTOS. Don’t exploit for other kinds of gain. Helping out is a good thing, but don’t do it for the wrong reasons, like for appearance’s sake, to look good for your other kabayan, your organization, your church or your community,  We all want to look good, but pride is always lurking behind every good deed. Let’s try to do goodness, for goodness’s sake. I know this is better said than done, and I’m no angel myself. But it’s still worth aiming for.

thanks and acknowledgment to today.mims.com!

VII. IKAPITONG UTOS. Don’t help in expectation of a favor to be repaid in the future. We all believe in good karma. Bad karma as well. But if you believe in the law of the universe, we might as well follow the rule that if things will happen, they will happen, especially in the case of positive things. Pastoral care is no different. Please don’t lend shelter, clothing or food to a bagong dating thinking that the same person or his family will help you out later. It is better to think, well, hopefully they will pay it forward to someone else who will need the same kind of help later. As you were helped, so shall you help, parang ganun.

VIII. IKAWALONG UTOS. Share the effort. I’ve heard it said once in New Zealand, many hands make light work. Same is true when you provide care for a newbie. If he and his family need temporary lodgings, a couple of families could put up the dad and a son and the mom and a daughter in separate houses, kung kulang ang kwarto (if there’s not enough room). A car pool could be set up to bring parents and kids to work and school, respectively. And so forth and so on. It’s more economical, and more sociable. Besides, Filipinos like to do things communally anyway, so it’s no biggie. Resources are saved, people are cared for, and the community is stronger. Everybody wins!

IX. IKASIYAM NA UTOS. Don’t spoil the newcomer. Give a man a fish, and feed him for a day. You know the rest. Encourage the new guy to start absorbing things and learning like a sponge from day one. It can’t be done any other way. Try to lead him out of his comfort zone. If things are TOO easy for him, he won’t be encouraged to do things on his own, and that’s when trouble starts. Driving, learning to interact with locals, and getting around are all things you can learn only by doing it yourself, it can’t be taught. And that’s why before long, the newcomer must be pushed to go it alone.

X. IKASAMPUNG UTOS. Encourage the newcomer to pay it forward. This is just a reiteration of the seventh rule, but it’s worth restating it: the way of life of people helping people, bayanihan, getting along, whatever you call it, is a never-ending cycle. It works because people pass the good vibes on. Backwards is good, but forward is even better. The best way to recognize and acknowledge the good that was done for you is to do the same, for the next guy. That’s how it works. And that’s how pastoral care lives on, hopefully with the purest of intentions and bringing out the best in all of us.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat, thanks for reading!


“kung di tayo, sino? kung di ngayon, kailan pa?”

POLO officers and Filcom

[ Note : Title attributed to University of the Philippines Philippine Collegian editor, activist and political detainee Abraham “Ditto” Sarmiento, who died before his time. It means “if not us, who? If not now, when?” I may have used this title before, sorry ]

I MAY HAVE said this before (I won’t swear on it though) but when I was between work visas waiting for paperwork a few years ago, I answered an Auckland ad working in a “dairy” (small grocery store or supermarket). The pay was half minimum wage (don’t even ask how much), show up only when you get the call, no job description, just do whatever the eff boss asks you to do. I did it, and was none the worse for wear.

I didn’t know it then, but I put myself in a vulnerable position; it seemed harmless and just a temporary gig at the time, but I had put myself in a dodgy position of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. I was just lucky to have survived relatively unscathed.

Not so lucky were kabayan in recent weeks, five tragically involved in a train accident, Pinoy workers living in deplorable conditions, and in an unpublished incident, 2 Filipinos involved in a car accident.

What I shared in common with these unfortunate kabayan? It’s the conclusion that if someone had taken the time to tell us what we were doing was (1) not right, (2) risky, (3) not asserting our rights or (4) outright dangerous, then we would be still alive or at the very least, better off now.

Luckily, we have compassionate, tireless and visionary kabayan in Wellington led by Filipino Migrants and Workers’ Trust (Wellington) director Alicat Lozano and Chona Smart, one-man post-arrival orientation team Gregguil Besa, KABAYANews Wellington publisher Matilde Tayawa-Figuracion, KASAGIP Chairman Marcelo Esparas, Filifest chairman Anita Mansell and Wairarapa community leader Ryan Erwin Soriano who as a  bayanihan group met officials from the Philippine National Government, represented by Labor Attache’ Cynthia Lamban, seeking to set up a Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Wellington (POLO) to fully promote and defend the labor rights of OFWs not just in Wellington but elsewhere in New Zealand.

Discussed were horror stories of Filipinos being forcibly repatriated without any form of insurance coverage, the unscrupulous side of “pastoral care” (post-arrival care for newly arrived OFWs), and urgent and palliative are withheld from critically injured kabayan as no one was around to decide for them.

A fine line and distinction was made between responsibilities of the Philippine government and the duty of the employer in protecting OFWs from sudden repatriation from redundancy, unexpected events like sickness and accidents, and protection from fraud and criminal activity, sadly sometimes committed by fellow kabayan.

While it’s a bit ironic that it took an orientation meeting between government reps and volunteers to find out that what’s sustained Filipino labor during the dark times has been the helping hands of kapwa Pinoys (fellow Pinoys), it’s no longer time to assign blame from the past, but to rather look forward to unified efforts in the future.

After all, no one will help us except ourselves, and there’s nothing like the present. 🙂

Thanks and acknowledgment all around for the passion and volunteerism of our community leaders mentioned above and many many others, the Philippine Embassy in Wellington led by His Excellency Ambassador Jesus Gary Domingo, First Secretary and Consul Querobine Laccay, Third Secretary and Vice Consul Feamor Tiosen, Marivic Reyes, Marc Asilom, Katrina Ciara Garcia, and embassy staff and officials, all our tireless volunteers, and of course the eternal hero of our Inang Bayan, the Overseas Filipino Worker, who makes all our dreams possible!

Mabuhay po tayong lahat!