with great smarts (& looks) comes great responsibility : happy birthday Bunso!

to be young with nary a care in the world... happy birthday Bunso!
to be young with nary a care in the world… happy birthday Bunso! Thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to the Facebook photo library of Bunso. :)

[ For the nth time, I ask Precious Reader to indulge me in bit of what sounds like selfish immodesty.  At the expense of people who haven’t had kids, let me talk about very personal feelings about having a son like Bunso. ]

IT SURELY smacks of insincerity whenever I accuse Bunso (to his face and witnessed by his sister, no less) that one of his few shortcomings is his vanity, because chief among his reasons for his comely looks is the fact that he looks a lot like me.  About his rationale I certainly have no complaint, but now I have to start finding other ways to find fault with him.

Because in truth, I can’t find much that is wrong with him.  He is kind, intelligent, charming to a fault, is disarmingly agreeable but will fiercely discuss debatable issues with you well into the night, if that is your cup of tea.  He will spend his last peso (now dollar) helping pay a friend’s overdue rent, and will secretly stamp extra stars on your loyalty card to get you closer to your free mochaccino (shhh, he used to be barista in that ubiquitous multinational-owned cafe, not that it matters).  And every other time we sit down for a java, he will insist that he at least pay for a muffin, reasoning out that we are both peons in the salt mines of life, earning wages levels not much different from each other.  “Papa, you can’t pay for me all the time,” he sez with an eye twinkle that means well actually yes you can, but just not this time.

And of course, there’s the looks that you can’t mess with. (irony indicating smiley face here) :)

*****     *****     *****

With all these gifts comes great responsibility to make use of them, paraphrasing Stan Lee’s Uncle Ben (Parker).  Bunso is not just a clever brain resting inside a pretty face.  His is a combination of ruthless ambition and focused drive, something he has nursed like a fever inside him since he discovered his purpose in life : to be the best he can be.

Scary as it sounds, and without exposing himself too much (although I’ve every right to as a doting dad) he knows exactly what he wants to be in the space-time curve he has plotted, in two, three, five and ten year intervals.  In a role reversal, if I had the forward thinking and determination he now has when I was his age (becoming 20 as we speak), I would in every sense of the word be successful today.

Obviously I’m not, unqualifiedly successful I mean, but I am a resounding success in at least one aspect.  My attempt at fatherhood has produced an individual that any father can be proud of, and that is of course none other than Bunso.

I am so happy you’ve turned out the way you have, and every day you’re looking better.  I love you always, and happy birthday Bunso!

juan tamad gets poked gives blood sees double atbp for the visa physical

hope you don't think it's in poor
hope you don’t think it’s in poor “taste” (get it?), thanks & acknowledgment to memeblender.com! :)

IT’S THAT time of the year again, Precious Reader.  Roll of the dice, shell game or single bullet in the chamber (sorry for the morbid metaphor), call it what you will, but the parchment that permits our stay in Disneyland to earn our pieces of silver another year needs to be renewed, based on many factors but mainly on whether or not the job we perform is important enough that even non-permanent residents like me should be left alone to do it.  And continue staying in the land of milk and honey by the way.

But that’s not our topic du jour prepared especially for you Precious Read.  Rather, every now and then (as opposed to every year, at least they’re not that cruel) Immigration New Zealand sees it fit that we guest workers submit ourselves to medicals and physicals to determine whether or not we are fit and healthy enough to continue working in this paradise.  That is what I wanna talk to you about today, how I went about doing it.  Or rather, how I went about having it done to me.

I had to in summary, submit to a basic physical, give blood and urine, then see the doc again if there were any issues based on the bloodwork and other tests.  Easier said than done, but it’s not like we had a choice.  Moreover, the entire thing would set me back roughly $500NZ, a pretty penny but well worth it. The doctor, a white Kiwi in his mid-50’s tried to be as professional as possible, but I couldn’t avoid  getting a creepy feeling.  I remembered him from last time, which wasn’t difficult because he touched my family jewels for a little longer than a few seconds.  He also tickled my smelly heels with a semi-sharp instrument, ostensibly to check my responses but likewise to see how Asians laugh.  But that’s just me.

Just before that was the usual twenty questions, which any sane worker wanting to continue staying in New Zealand would answer no to.  Have you ever been exposed to : tuberculosis, HIV, drug abuse, any communicable disease, ever been treated for mental illness, ever been operated on, ever stayed in bed for more than a week, etc. etc. etc?  His tone was cordial, but his demeanor and eyes were screaming :  you would be crazy to answer yes to any of these apocalyptic-sounding questions, and, as I had been doing the past eight-plus years, answered no no no no no no, and for good measure, a resounding NO!  To which he replied, with deadpan understatement, that’s good then.

All very good then, but my general denials had to be backed up by my blood chemistry, x-rays and related stuff, which had to be sorted out and organized in two different clinics nearby.  Said establishments were very quick and efficient, much like seasoned workers herding obedient cows and goats to the milking stations.  Which was in a sense what we were, since body fluids and other unmentionables were gonna be secreted out of us nervous individuals.

[I say nervous because let’s face it, I had recently reached my half-century mark, and this was the time for all good men to face the reality of middle age, where lifestyle diseases start to make their presence felt, where Mother Nature tries to cash cheques your body wrote out years and years ago, and where you start paying for the foolishness of misguided youth.  You can’t blame me for thinking if any of this silliness starts looking for payback in the form of red marks on physical exams.]

*****     *****     *****

Coincidentally I had a lung capacity, blood pressure and eye/hearing test done at the workplace the previous week, but for slightly different reasons.  Occupational hazards like unacceptable noise levels, dust levels and the realities of physical exertion required that we maintain a certain level of fitness, and that we haven’t broken down from said occupational hazards, and the only way to determine this was if the employer itself conducted physicals. My BP was an acceptable 125/60, hearing and lung capacity roughly the same as last year’s, but because I brought an old pair of spectacles to work that day, I didn’t pass the eye exam.  Let’s just say if I was taking a driving test that day, I would’ve been sent home for a retest.

All told, I’m generally as fit as a fiddle for a man my age, but I’m still waiting for the results of my blood and x-rays.  We never feel as mortal as when confronted by the reality of the state of our bodies, and I try to be as realistic as the next human being.  We are only as good as our last physical, and thank you God for every sunrise that we wake up to!  Thanks for reading!

day of mini-wonders

one of my first pictures taken in New Zealand, December 2006 in Newmarket Auckland, with nephews. The cute boy in blue (son of 2nd Brother) is now a young man towering over me, and the teenager next to me is  now a clever accountant.  I'm still searching for my pot of gold in Hobbitland.
one of my first pictures taken in New Zealand, December 2006 in Newmarket Auckland, with nephews. The cute boy in blue (son of 2nd Brother) is now a young man towering over me, and the teenager next to me is now a clever accountant. I’m still searching for my pot of gold in Hobbitland.

THE ONLINE VERSION of the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines wonder three ways, but my favorite is that which defines it “as something or someone that is very surprising, beautiful, amazing, etc.”  That one works well for me, especially when you hear about my day yesterday.  Because they’re not that surprising, beautiful or amazing, I classify them as “mini-wonders”, thus the title above this blog.


It started in a very humbling way.  An unscheduled staff meeting produced a backhanded compliment from our supervisor, who very routinely handed out the week’s shift assignments.  For the first time in eight years, I was on shift not to perform regular shift assistant’s work or chores, but to train as a shift boss, to be trained by the most experienced and most reliable shift boss, lucky me.

I’m not sure if bisor realized it, but it was an affirmation of the years I’d put in the outfit, and the discipline I fashioned.  True I’ve never been a mechanically-inclined person, and my initiative to learn to troubleshoot factory breakdowns and work in faster ways left much to be desired.  But the little I learned, I did my best to do well.  I could’ve been trained earlier, and given more responsibilities sooner, but I had no outstanding skills, and it took me more time to absorb. It was meant to happen the time it did.


Once again I’ve fallen into the trap.  As an inevitable part of being a sports fan is internalizing too much of a sports team’s fortunes (or misfortunes, as the case may be),  I followed the path of success of this particular team, which I likened to an Irresistible Force, breaking down one adversary after another in the NBA playoffs, only to meet the Immovable Object in the Finals in the person of LeBron James.  After a close win in their homecourt, they lost two games to the future Hall of Famer, and now it looks like LBJ will pick up yet another title on his way to immortality.

Except that yesterday, they achieved the unlikely feat of tying the series 2-2 in their best-of-seven, and keeping their hopes alive.  Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavs may yet eventually capture their well-deserved title, but for yesterday at least, the City of San Francisco, California and their beloved Golden State Warriors were champions-in-waiting.  That for me, is a wonder.


And finally… I still can’t be too specific about the last wonder, knowing very well the taboo attached to counting your eggs before they’re hatched and all that, but a very important wall was breached in the obstacle course of migration in our Land of Promise.  Let’s just say that, after seven years the rusty wheels were finally greased and had begun to turn, but the queue of permanent resident hopefuls was long with no end in sight.

At the very end of this queue was not even the beginning of the end but rather the end of the beginning, where the chaff would be separated from the wheat, the serious applicants from the gamblers, and only those with real chances of being considered would actually be heard.  That queue, Precious Reader, we invested in and we were finally favored with a crack in the opening, or a foot in the door.

Because we had not been moving in the queue for so long, we had begun to give up hope that we would even be considered, but yesterday, through the magic of online status updates, we realized we had just been kicked upwards to the next level.  No more pushing and shoving here, but still no less uncertainty.  But still exhilarating.

All these, in one day.  Wouldn’t you agree we exceeded our daily quota of wonders?  And oh yes, levels in both Candy Crush Saga and Candy Crush Soda Saga that took us more than a few days to finish, we inexplicably finished, today.

Certainly worth two bottles of beer, at least.  Will wonders never cease?  Thanks for reading!

seven things to know about Joe and Linda on their 56th anniv

Mom and Dad on one of  many happy occasions spent together.  Here they are with Fifth Brother, who cuts a dashing figure himself ;)  Photo courtesy of the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial.
Mom and Dad on one of many happy occasions spent together. Here they are with Fifth Brother, who cuts a dashing figure himself ;) Photo courtesy of the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial.

AFTER A short week of night shifts, you learn to savor a good night’s sleep.  That’s why even after only 7-8 hours I was drunk with zzz’s this morning, although I had a slight half-memory of an important event today.

Sure enough, two of my favorite aunts remembered on Facebook Mom and Dad’s 56th wedding anniversary today. Their love is truly the gold standard, having passed the test of time through so many trials and challenges. So in return for reminding me, here are a few tidbits I’ve culled about my folks here and there :

Theirs wasn’t a long courtship.  Then as now, when you saw a good thing, you grabbed it.  My dad saw in mom everything he wanted.  An ideal wife, good mother to his future children, and equally important, someone who would keep him rested and well-fed for life’s many battles ahead.  I don’t have the numbers, but I would be very surprised if Mom and Dad didn’t marry less than a year after meeting for the first time.  How I knew this : simple math, because Mom was a very maidenish 19 years old when she tied the knot, so Dad couldn’t have known her for very long.

They originally planned to have a son and a daughter.  Then after Firstborn Son came Son No. 2, Sons Nos. 3 (me), 4 and 5.  THAT WAS ENOUGH, said both of them.  Five sons, though unexpected, have been good for them, as has been their life together.  How I knew this : from Dad and Mom themselves, who must’ve told me at least a few times.  They must’ve thought twice about their decision after a few of the awesome messes we made.

There was a seven-year difference in their ages, something that might be considerable now, but not that unusual then.  Men were as always slower to mature than women, so you would naturally expect women to gravitate to older men. As the years pass, the differenced mattered less and less, until it doesn’t matter anymore, as if it ever did.  How I knew this : common sense.

Their personalities weren’t a perfect fit, but in most matchups, whose are?  My mother is more the extroverted type, friendly, engaging and gregarious.  My dad is more the ambivert type, picks his friends more carefully.  In other areas, they are the converse of each other, and appear more to complement each other and fill each other’s gaps.  In the end, whose marriage isn’t a combination of the best (and worst) of each other’s good points and bad, thorns and roses?

In my 50 years, I have spent roughly half that time with them, and I have only seen them in an argument a grand total of one time. Sure there have been disagreements, quarrels and spats, but I’ve never been witness to them, and they’ve always been sweet and loving, I’m sure not just to the world, but to themselves as well.  Hard to beat.

They celebrated with style their 50th wedding anniversary last 2009 with all their children, grandchildren, loved ones and friends in attendance at the Philippine Columbian Association ballroom.  I made it by the skin of my teeth, commuting on a 16-hour flight from Wellington to Manila via Auckland and Sydney, catching the last 45 minutes of the happy occasion.

Lastly and not leastly, to this day they still give gifts to each other, sweet and practical, in gestures grand and small.  After all, what is life but the sweetness between the daily grind of routine?

Happy wedding anniversary Mom and Dad!  Love you lots and miss you more!

never get tired remembering Tita Lily

Tita Lily (center, seated) surrounded by loved ones including her nephews First Nephew and Second Nephew (standing, back row), First Brother (center, back row), Second Brother (extreme right) and Fifth Brother (extreme left, front row).  Thanks to the Facebook picture library of Mr Jude Bautista (http://judebgallery.wordpress.com/)
Tita Lily (center, seated) surrounded by loved ones including her nephews First Nephew and Second Nephew (standing, back row), First Brother (center, back row), Second Brother (extreme right) and Fifth Brother (extreme left, front row). Thanks to the Facebook picture library of Mr Jude Bautista (http://judebgallery.wordpress.com/)

[  Note May was the anniversary month (2nd) of my aunt Tita Lily’s passing, and yesterday was the last day of said month.  I cannot overestimate the impact her life has made over so many others, including that of mine, my immediate family, her colleagues at work, and the professional, religious and larger communities to which she belonged.  We all miss you terribly Tita Lily! ]

AS EARLY as four or five years old, whether Mom and Dad intended it, you were an important part of our birthday ritual.  Usually early in the morning, half-past six or seven you would be on the phone with Mom or Dad, and one of them would invariably mention it was my birthday.  You would then spend a few minutes greeting me and making my day.  Mostly because you, not unlike a fairy godmother, asked me “what would you like for your birthday Noel?”

Like a kid in a toy store, my pupils would dilate in wonderment, although I was previously coached to say, anything you would give me Tita Lily would make me so happy, but I had a little amendment of my own, young as I was, like a certain Matchbox model just sitting on the store showcase was just begging me to be owned by a birthday boy, and I happen to be that birthday boy, so…

Then it’s yours, Noel, just because it’s your birthday.  Happy birthday! or something like that, you would always say, then as now, taking time to make me feel loved, and special, and important.

Not knowing that you did it to all your nephews and nieces, on their respective birthdays.

Years later, you kept a short list of people you liked to take with you on your year-end office meetings, invariably held outside the country.  I wasn’t on that list, but everytime someone begged off, I was one of the first alternates.  Because of those few trips, I was able to see the land of our ancestors, the wealth of Singapore, and with my children, the magic of Disney World.  I would never have seen those wonders otherwise, if not for you.

Those things, after the success of your career, were your priorities.  Travel and keeping close track of your health.  Everything else took a back seat, and rightfully so, since you deserved to enjoy the fruits of your labor by seeing the wonders of the world, and you deserved to enjoy them in the pink of health, despite your advanced years.

Fortunately in the time you spent in this world you were able to enjoy both before God took you away from us.  I thank Him for all the happiness and comfort your shared with the least of your brethren, and I am doubly glad that I was one of them.

Remembering you always Tita Lily.  Thanks for everything!

where has the real Game of Thrones gone?

THROUGH THE kindness of a work colleague who has access, I’m watching the white-hot Season 5 of Game of Thrones (albeit on a delayed basis).  Each season is a revelation, especially with the recognition that this may be the second to the last season of the ground-breaking, genre-smashing fantasy series that may never be replicated again, on a par with Lord of The Rings, Star Wars and Star Trek.  It’s that good.  Even with a superlative comparing him as the American Tolkien, series creator George R.R. Martin does not and continues not to disappoint.

If you’re like me, and millions of other fans, you have your personal favorites, but easily the character you simply know will see it through the last episode of the last season (whenever that is) is Tyrion Lannister, a.k.a. The Imp.  The reasons for this are far and wide, suffice it to say that he has the best of both worlds, the bad guy you love or the good guy you hate.  You can’t even decide if he’s one of the good guys or bad (he’s neither — there are no good guys or bad guys in westeros).  He always has the best lines, he gets paired with the best guy or gal as foil to his acid wit, and there is never a boring moment with him.  All of which practically assure that, supported by the world-class acting of Peter Dinklage, his character will never disappear.

The problem with my viewing and my being a Tyrion Lannister fan is, I’m also reading the books, Books 1 through 5 of A Song of Ice and Fire, on which the HBO Game of Thrones series used to be faithfully based.  I say used to be because it’s finally happened:  the show is no longer an accurate representation of the books.  Let me explain.

Between 30 to 50 pages narrating The Imp’s travels out of Westeros on his way to Mereen have been omitted in the show.  Shortening or abridging story arcs or storylines is not unusual in GoT; sometimes it’s done to save time, or highlight more important events to show (there are after all only 10 episodes each season).  It’s only a bit blatant to me here because Tyrion is such an important character.

But there are other alterations. In the book, the King Beyond The Wall survives, through magic, an execution attempt, I don’t see this happening on the show.  And probably most glaring, a marriage of convenience for one of the most evil characters, Ramsey Bolton, to a fake Arya Stark is changed into an actual match between Ramsey and Sansa Stark (the real Arya’s sister), which actually makes sense (according to the peculiar logic of the show) but renders the show almost irrecognizable from the original plot.  Sayang (too bad).

I hope you don’t misunderstand; I continue to enjoy the show and by most standards it is still a faithful retelling of the George Martin’s masterpiece.  But there are at least two questions that need asking :

There will be at least one more season (Season 6) of Game of Thrones based on the current five books.  If ever Martin writes or finishes a sixth book, how will this affect plotlines that have already been altered?  What I mean is, will the HBO producers try to readjust their storylines or stay their own (altered) course?

If you’re watching the series and (like many) are inspired to read the books, or vice versa, what’s the motivation for still doing so, knowing that the main characters in the series won’t end up the way they did in the book?  In short, the two works are already different from each other.  They’re still brilliant, once-in-a-generation works of art.  Only, the TV series can no longer claim to be a faithful adaptation of the books.

Thanks for reading!

the birthday that time forgot

pic collage : a labor of love by Mahal. :) thanks for everything!
pic collage : a labor of love by Mahal. :) thanks for everything!

AFTER ALL, it’s a birthday blog, so it doesn’t need to make (that much) sense, does it?  It’s just an excuse to say whatever I want, and if you don’t like it or aren’t entertained, well, birthday gift nyo na lang sa kin ang pagbasa, Precious Reader. (Just tolerate it as a birthday gift to me is the rough unGoogle Translate, Precious Read.)

I had anticipated either working for 10 hours in the dead of night, and/or getting a satisfying homemade dinner, very late in the night (or very early in the morning), on my birthday, because first, I asked for a birthday leave (which my employer graciously gives the celebrant) the day after, so as not to disrupt shift schedules (it would be complicated to find someone to fill in for my night shift), and to take advantage of a Friday leave translating into a long weekend.

No way goodwife Mahal would let me forget it was my birthday though, as she promised to cook up a sensational dinner for me whether or not I was up for it, I would either eat it 2 am after the shift ended or in the morning when I woke up.

As it turned out, a Wellington downpour unparalleled in the last 50 years intervened (it had to happen on my birthday right?), and for the first time in as long as I can remember, a work shift was canceled.  I was actually lucky because, being on a later shift, I was spared having to go to work in the daytime and facing the risk of the nearby stream washing out the bridge and cutting off commuters from the only road back home.

At the same time, Mahal came down with a stupefying allergy attack that all but stopped her from doing anything but going to work, it would be unkind of me to ask anything else of her especially since she’d been bringing me to and from work since the week started…

So as I said, I was prepared to work my behind off between 4 pm and 2 am and then have two or three beers with myself on a Thursday night, or at least have a late night dinner (also with myself), but not sit with myself the whole day with only the MagicSing videoke and Candy Crush to keep me company (Mahal also being at work, keeping regular hours).

*****     *****     *****

Not that I was complaining.  As anyone with normal body temperature, not a vampire and not a werewolf (or aswang or manananggal) will tell you, night shift sucks.  I’ll sleep at night any time.  But here I was, doing nothing, unexpectedly, on a birthday.  I also couldn’t take a walk or run, two of my favorite activities, because of the terrible weather.

I got dozens and dozens of Facebook greetings, thank you to all who bothered.  I tinkered with my settings without supervision, so I ended up not allowing people to post on my page, I could’ve gotten a few more greetings but that’s all right.  I got a missed call from Second Brother back home in the Philippines, too bad the phone was inside a bureau drawer.  Also got SMS messages from Eldest Brother (also in Manila) and Fourth Brother in Auckland.  Thank you brothers.

Late afternoon, I received phone calls and felicitations from the kids, the most emotional and heartwarming from Bunso, who still gives me the odd impression (caused by the similarity of our voices) that I’m talking to myself.  Said that the good times were only beginning, and that we think so alike that we can never stop talking to each other and about each other.  Thank you too, anakis.

The best part of having an altered work day that happened to be my birthday?  I slept normally that day, besides the love of my life, sharing her warmth and her company, which is more than any man could ask for.  After a few beers of course.

Thanks for all the kind thoughts, life has just begun!