ano naman ang ayaw nila sa ating mga Pinay? (now what don’t they like about our Pinays?)


Mixed race couple walking in a park holding hands, back view

[ Felicitations and every good wish for policy and political excellence as the first ethnic Filipino in the New Zealand Parliament, kabayan and now M.P. Paolo Garcia! Mabuhay ka! ]

Good morning Precious Reader. If you’ve followed or read this space even once before, you’ve known that now and always we’ve been positive about ourselves, our community and our identity. Specifically how it bounces back to us from friends, spouses, co-workers and other members of the migrant community we live in.

So a very slight change of pace this time. I was curious about the nega things people say about us Pinoys. Specifically, people who have, by choice or otherwise, lived up close and personal with us, spent quality time with us living, working, exercising, pursuing hobbies with or other activities where slowly but surely you get to know a person or persons. After all, those are the people who you’d expect to best know us right?

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Here are their observations, from a very small sample size. Up to you to discern any biases or obvious inaccuracies, but when you think about it, who are we to judge non-Pinoys on how they perceive us? Just a little qualifier here, most of the observations pertain to Pinays not Pinoys, for the simple reason that the respondents have had more exposure to the fairer gender:

Extended help to extended family. Nearly all of the respondents, not just the ones married to Pinays, were aware that a lot of us send money home regularly not just to immediate family (including parents and siblings) but unsurprisingly (to us) to cousins, nephews, nieces and grandparents as well.

There is no value judgment that those I asked make: it’s neither a good or bad thing, just that (1) they, the remitters (as they’re called) should think of themselves first, the money isn’t available forever , and (2) the recipients should have an appreciation of the efforts and intentions behind each remittance, specifically that it shouldn’t be an excuse for indolence and dependence.

OK, now don’t gang up on me, wag nyo po akong pagtulungan, I’m just the messenger here, accumulating a few well-meaning opinions that I solicited, nothing volunteered. And that’s that…

not a very good example for this topic, but as you can see, the guy (actor James Woods) is so much older than his girlfriend Kristen Bauguess. Easy to make wrong conclusions.

opportunism vs lovability. This actually is a very emotional and subjective observation, but some people say Asians, not just Filipinos, seek out Caucasian men especially from countries like the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in order to dramatically enhance their migration opportunities to said countries. But it’s a chicken-and-egg situation right? Did love, mutual love cause the decision to migrate to the guy’s country where, after all, life is easier? Or did a well-planned opportunity to migrate finalize itself in a decision to make oneself the prize to a lonely, lovesick guy from the land of milk and honey?

The level of bluntness in the last few sentences highlights the contrast between the love of couple who fell head over heels, and the dispassionate observations of friends and relatives with supposedly good intentions. How do you know they don’t actually love each other? How do you not know she’s not good for him? How do you know she’s not gonna leave him as soon as she sorts her paperwork? And so on and so forth.

And do you know to whom it matters , at the end of the day? Not the friends, not the in-laws, not even the best friends of both sides. It matters only to the couple, as it takes two to tango, and nobody ever forces anyone to do anything against their will. Enough said.

Timidity. This refers to both Pinoys and Pinays, and without asking for opinions and observations, I know many of our hosts think this to be true: We never complain, we never clarify, and we never tell the truth, which in this case is that we are sometimes taken advantage of at work. The common denominator here is we are afraid to speak out for fear of rocking the boat, or at worst, losing our jobs. This opens us up to potential abuse and human nature being what it is, we frequently do.

How many times have you seen Pinoy and Pinay workers doing the jobs of two people only because we never complain? How many times have you seen opportunistic bosses and supervisors asking Pinoys and Pinays to do night shift, the longest shifts, and overtime on weekends? Always and plenty. And how many times have lustful lowlifes harass their female AND male Pinoy staff who just bite their collective tongues and endure the humiliation? As they say, sindalas ng tilaok ng manok (as often as the cock crows). It’s a part of life that shouldn’t be a part of life. Because Pinoys and Pinays deserve better.

Bonus items. In the interest of fair disclosure, good and bad, I further enumerate what’s been said about us, even though in a slightly different environment, when the Kiwi visits us in our home grounds in the Philippines. Those who’ve spent a little time there love us of course (that’s why they married us), but think the following : we suffer from a propensity to gossip,  overcharge potential buyers who obviously don’t look like fellow Filipinos, and use too much of “Joe” and “sir” for white guys. A lovely observation I heard though is that Filipinas, just because they already have multiple kids, don’t stop pampering their husbands. Tutoo naman. (For sure!)

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Just because these are seen as negatives in Filipinos doesn’t mean we can’t turn it into positives. We can always send money home, to build better lives for families, for a better town, country in the future. We can continue to cultivate relationships and look for love, without getting desperate to use these relationships as a stepping stone to a better life abroad. We can learn to speak out and assert our rights without being troublemakers. We are a truly positive people, and we can’t just let negatives influence who we are.

Mabuhay, thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

nang nakuha ni Kiwi ang kiliti ni Pinay (when Kiwi tickles Pinay’s fancy)


 

 

 

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[ Note : the title above you see is an attempt to use our beloved pambansang wika (national language). since I’m not comfortable using purely Tagalog (an irony because of my brown skin), my makabayan (nationalist) self made a compromise with my blogger self by using Taglish. the original title was paano nagkikilitian ang Pinay at Kiwi but it sounds too dodgy or awkward, thus the result you see. thanks for reading, and thanks so much for the couples who allowed use of their precious photos! ]

YOU’RE PROBABLY tired of hearing this from this space but it bears repeating : the length and breadth of New Zealand (1600 km and 400 km respectively) is dotted with the most quaint and pleasant phenomena: Kiwi (New Zealander) and Filipina couples, known also as “blended” couples, accompanied by their cute and mestizo (biracial) children. They are anywhere and everywhere, in the malls, churches, parks and of course, schools.

Something that’s always intrigued me is what in the Kiwi’s character or personality attracts so many of our kabayan Pinays. Filipina women are attractive, speak English well, and know how to take care of their partners. These qualities make them popular with potential husbands all over the world. What makes them choose New Zealand men? I crowdsourced a few Pinays in my immediate circle for answers, and a few responded:

intelligence. Some qualities stand out over others, and if you were to listen to some women in Kiwi-Pinay relationships, it’s what Kiwi men have between their ears that’s more important than the rest of the body. An ability to talk about anything under the sun, a keenness to discuss the technical, the complicated, and the creative, and a willingness to discuss topics most people don’t have time for is superattractive for many Filipinas. If you ask me why, I think it’s because it indicates to a potential partner that a person is willing to first listen to the other’s point of view and then counter with an alternative point of view, and so and and so forth.

Alam nya lahat, napakatalino nya, he’s so smart and knows everything, I’ve heard not just once, twice or even thrice from my on-the-spot, spontaneous talks with kabayan I’ve just met in the mall with their smiling hubbies and supercute babies in tow. The ability to acquaint her with the Kiwi environment and world in general seems to be a super turn-on with the Filipina when describing her man, and it’s not hard to wonder why: we leave the Philippines for a strange country like babes in the woods, helpless and new to everything. Our mates are like intimate tour guides that open our eyes to everything wonderful and new. slowly and carefully lest we get a rude awakening to the Kiwi universe. To us they seemed like benevolent superhumans that knew and reacted to everything well, not just to their own environment but to a tiny little Asian girl that just got here.

At the end of the day, the mental part is what carries a relationship past the physical, when we’re old and wrinkled. This is true with Kiwi-Pinoy couples as much as with everyone else. What are you going to talk about when you come home from work, both tired and cranky? After the intimacy, the energy of your youth and the physical activity, the inevitable letdown will be there and the true meaning of companionship, communication skills and friendship will be crucial. Intelligence and EQ (emotional IQ) are important tools that many Pinays think Kiwis use well.

Empathy. Like any other relationship, there is a getting-to-know-you and preliminary phase, and again Filipinas usually like what they see in Kiwis, based on what we’ve heard. Helping around the house, babysit with kids (if one or both have kids from a previous relationship, obviously), a backrub or massage when needed, anything actually to make life easier, no traditional you do this and I do that setup where the male just provides financial support, food and shelter and everything else is done by the female sort of thing.

Even better, according to my respondents, many Kiwi partners husbands also double as hands-on dads, no practice needed, just be ready and hit the ground running, be it cooking, cleaning round the house, grocery shopping and changing diapers. That about completes the list of essential chores if you ask me, and the particular Pinay I chatted with , as of last count, is happiest with the choice she made, as she thinks Kiwi guys are keepers.

Empathy also means adapting and adjusting to the Pinoy tradition of sending money home to the relatives, for big and small reasons, every occasion, and without anyone asking for it. In virtually all the stories I’ve heard, Kiwis either fully support or at the very least tolerate our practice of remittances, because of our strong concept of filial piety and love for extended family.

Commitment. In two examples out of ten I’ve examined, the Kiwi guy went straight for the jugular (main artery), so to speak: even before consulting the Pinay girlfriend and as soon as he thought SHE was the one, he packed his bags, booked a flight and told the girl he was visiting in the Philippines, as soon as he was sure there was nothing she could do about it.

Buti na lang (just as well) in 100% of the cases I’ve known and heard about, the visits turned out successful, as the Kiwi ended up tying the knot with our kabayan. That would’ve been awkward otherwise 🙂

But the ideal of commitment goes far beyond turning on the charm offensive, putting your best foot forward and asking for the Pinay’s hand in marriage via pamamanhikan. In a few of the cases, when our kabayan gets sick or becomes temporarily handicapped, the Kiwi unhesitatingly stands by her side, ready to hold her hand and support her in every way possible. Especially knowing that she would do the same if the shoe were on the other foot.

There are so many things that make Kiwis and New Zealanders ideal mates for our kabayan Filipinas, intelligence, empathy and commitment just three out of dozens. But at the end of the day Pinays are still old-fashioned. A Bicolana friend summed it up for me. Every day when I wake up, I know he is there to be my knight in shining armor.

Well said, and to all the Kiwi and Pinay couples, mabuhay kayo!

 

 

ingatan ang naumpisahang pangarap sa NZ


 

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[Kent Espinosa, Hannah Ramoso, and the kabayan who made the supreme sacrifice, Angelo Tuyay. Lives taken too soon. So sorry we didn’t find pics of Allan Allarde Navales and the other kabayan who drowned in Whanganui River. Thanks and acknowledgment to the families of Kent, Hannah and Angelo. ]

FOR WHATEVER REASONS and despite the Philippines being an archipelago surrounded by the seven seas,  we Pinoys haven’t been that lucky in water here. Three drowning deaths  in the last 12 months and one machinery-related on a cruise ship in New Zealand waters is high enough in absolute terms, but given the strict health and safety culture and relatively small numbers of Filipinos in NZ, unacceptably high.

We know the tragic deaths were accidental, because outside of one where a middle-aged kabayan selflessly gave up his life to save others, the three remaining Pinoys were all in their late 20s to early 30s, all in the pink of health and just beginning to enjoy the fruits of their hard work in both the Philippines and New Zealand.

[A fifth accident involved a Pinay unfortunate enough to be hit on a Christchurch intersection along with two other pedestrians, and succumbed to her brain injuries less than 24 hours later.]

I have a very simple way of viewing things, going by the saying when you have eliminated all of the possibilities, the one remaining, however improbable, must be the truth. In all the accidents involving Filipinos, great care had been observed, the ones we lost were all good swimmers, and the weather wasn’t that bad. We can only surmise that in the respective environments the Pinoys were in, not enough attention was paid to the risks involved in swimming in those areas.

River currents, usually manageable can suddenly turn against you and pull you all directions. Undertows or rip currents are treacherous and can make even the most experienced swimmer disappear, even in relatively shallow waters. And almost needless to say, the sudden change in weather, that New Zealand is notoriously known for is known to play a great part in adding to the dangers of swimming outdoors.

There’s not much we can do in managing nature, but we can manage the odds when it comes to safety in swimming. Put health and safety above everything else, no exceptions and 24-7. Health and safety never takes a day off, so neither should we. No matter how safe a beach or river is, there are certain areas that are to be avoided. Let’s just avoid those areas! Like driving, we should just swim to the conditions.

Then there’s also the matter of evaluating yourself before and during swimming. Do you go ahead and enter the water after a full meal? Do you swim when intoxicated? Do you swim in adverse conditions like poor weather, nighttime or in beaches known for their dangerous conditions? If you said yes to any of those questions, maybe it’s time for a shift in paradigm. Getting to New Zealand and settling down here is hard enough , let’s not waste half a lifetime of effort and dreams by carelessly spending free time in dangerous waters.

Lastly, the tool of communicating any and all safety information before we enjoy beach and river activities is literally life-saving and therefore essential. Knowing where lifeguards and the availability of emergency services might mean the difference between life and death. The Philippine Embassy in New Zealand goes further, recommending that any kabayan coordinate and seek advice of the Pinoy community wherever and whenever we swim. In this particular situation, the spirit of bayanihan will keep us all alive and well.

Thank you for reading and mabuhay po tayong lahat!

 

“utang na loob,” sa pananaw ng OFW (the Filipino’s debt of gratitude, in an OFW’s eyes)


rock-climbers-helping-each-other-1[Google Translate says it all : type in utang na loob in the space for Filipino and the English translation says “indebtedness” which very insufficiently describes what you want described. Just a few of our thoughts on the matter. thanks for reading, thanks and photo acknowledgment to carryonfriends.com]

NAPAKAHIRAP IPALIWANAG sa dayuhan ang kunsepto ng utang na loob. Sa simpleng formula ng dagdag at bawas, once nakapagbayad ka ng utang, tapos na yon. Di madaling intindihin ang tuloy-tuloy at walang-tigil na pagtanaw ng utang sa katrabaho, kaibigan o kamag-anak. Kung hindi ka Pinoy or may asawang Pinoy, di makukuha sa unang paliwanag (o kahit pangalawa) ang katagang utang na loob.

What we fail to explain to many non-Filipinos (and probably to ourselves) is that although the idea of utang na loob is abstract to others and particular to our culture, in my humble opinion utang na loob in itself is subdivided into different levels and degrees. A good situation in which to explain utang na loob is the OFW (overseas Filipino worker) setting, where at the outset, the OFW is almost always forced to ask help from others.

But before that, I need a working definition of utang na loob that hopefully you will agree with, that we can both use. From personal experience, what we hear, and popular culture, utang na loob for me is a debt that may or may not be financial, so massive that it may take a lifetime to pay, or a debt that can never be repaid, from the perspective of either the creditor or debtor, or sometimes both. Does that work? OK.

For a better understanding of utang na loob, the theory is that all debts under this category take a lifetime of payback, that you keep paying it back, only in different degrees. The person you borrow from may think you returned too much, or “sobra ang bawi,” and may likewise feel obligated to return some of it, therefore repeating the process of having to pay it back, and so forth and so on:

Minor utang na loob, or little things to help the OFW’s family while the OFW is away. When the OFW leaves, his wife is left with multiple kids and responsibilities. Undoubtedly she’ll need a little help babysitting and minding the household. You do this, because well you take care of your own kids anyway, what’s one more. Besides, your kumpare’s son gets along with your own. The two boys become as close as siblings, going to school together, playing after school, even having sleepovers. You look after the boy as if he was your own. Your kumpare never forgets this small kindness, and when you yourself need a little assistance when it’s your turn to go abroad, he looks after your son. Just returning the favor.

I don’t know if we can classify this as utang na loob, actually, because it’s not massive and it doesn’t take a lifetime to pay back. But it’s the unanticipated sneakiness of the transaction, for example I do this for you, you do this for me. It’s almost like an I scratch your back you scratch mine affair. Before you know it, there’s been a lifetime of doing and returning favors. But still the spirit of utang na luob is there.

Moderate utang na loob, or favors relatives would do for each other, that makes life a lot easier for the debtor. A good example for this is the newcomer or newbie OFW in a strange land. His friend or distant relative has been there ahead of the newbie, and therefore has had a chance to settle his affairs, found a place to stay etc. or even bring in all or part of his family to stay as long as he works in said strange land.

So the one ahead (let’s call him the kuya  or senior OFW) does the natural and decent thing: he takes the bunso or younger OFW in, gives him room and board, feeds him a couple of weeks, does everything for him while the latter prepares himself for living overseas. Even documentation, paperwork, getting a car, all the little (but big) things that make life so much easier, and more importantly, shelters the junior OFW from unscrupulous and the fraudsters, sadly some of them OFWs themselves, and saving him a whole lot of wasted cash, disappointment and hassle.

Because of this, junior OFW gets settle in easily, gets his family earlier than expected, and his life prospers ahead of schedule. What does he do? Years later, when senior OFW gets sick, needs to go home (he has not prepared for the uncertainties of illness and occupational hazards) and leaves everything behind, bunso or younger OFW takes in the family of the elder who have suddenly become homeless and vulnerable, filling in the gaps while all the resources are devoted to Kuya’s recovery. And when Kuya OFW’s retirement finally arrives, who else is there for the help and support while Kuya’s family gets back on its feet? Of course it’s Bunso OFW, now a manager, who hires Kuya’s eldest son to work abroad, repeating history, and paying forward the kindness he so gratefully received from Kuya years back.

Madalas tayong makakita ng pagganti ng utang na loob between our kabayan, but in reality it’s often seen between co-workers, townmates (magkababayan) and relatives. It’s a revival and extension of the Golden Rule, doing for others what you’d want them to do for you. Especially in times of need.

Major utang na loob, or massive favors that change the lives of the debtor for the better. I forgot to mention that junior or bunsong OFW even before being helped by Kuya OFW, already incurred a massive debt of gratitude from his godfather or Ninong. His godfather not only paid the recruitment fee that enlisted Junior for that precious job abroad, Ninong also lent him money for the airplane ticket, without which his first day on the job wouldn’t have been possible.

The utang (debt) was a “soft loan,” meaning pay when able, payable whenever and wherever Junior and his family was ready to pay. Loans like these are often without interest and can remain unpaid for many years if at all. No matter, Ninong never expected it to be repaid anyway.

But Bunsong OFW was and is a man of gratitude and long memory. He not only repaid the debt in full within three years (albeit without  interest), when Ninong unexpectedly died and left behind a widow, Bunso not only rushed home to take care of the funeral and post-funeral details, he also asked his Ninang (not really a godmother but out of respect a title given to his godfather’s wife) first to visit them abroad, and then ultimately to live with them. This, something Ninang’s own children couldn’t do for her.

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But Bunso, his wife or kids didn’t care. For him, it was merely a debt being repaid, although the principal was repaid many many years ago. He was merely doing what he thought was expected of him. Not only was his Ninang like family to him and considered a second mother, he and the rest of his family felt happy doing it. Unsurprisingly, his family was all the better for it, as Ninang, grateful for being needed and the company of a second family, gave all of her life and energy, until literally the end of her life.

All’s well that ends well, for such is the nature of utang na loob. For sure sometimes it’s abused, but on balance it is here to stay with us Filipinos.

What is your idea of utang na loob? Answers will be appreciated, kabayan or no.

Thanks for reading, happy Easter! Maligayang Pasko ng Pagkabuhay!

a small Pinoy community’s Russell Westbrook moment


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I ENJOY WATCHING him play (like I do all basketball players), but I’m not a Russell Westbrook fan. (Westbrook is a rich, talented and oftentimes moody pro basketball player in the American NBA) However, he did something that I admired recently. Knowing : (1) he risked tipping the balance of public sentiment against him, (2) he would be fined regardless of who would be found at fault, and (3) he was already a polarizing media figure, he went ahead anyway and retaliated (verbally) against a racist taunt made against him in the course of an NBA game last month. (his response wasn’t perfect, but if you were confronted with a racist taunt against you, how perfect would yours have been?) Opinions were mixed, but ultimately he was proven right, and vindicated.

Doing the right thing, not necessarily popular thing, standing up for your race, humanity and beliefs isn’t an easy thing in this emotionally charged, hyper PC day and age. I call what he did his moment, or the Russell Westbrook moment.

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Fast forward to a few days ago, in the Ashburton area (township and surrounds) of New Zealands, Canterbury region (the cradle and hotbed of rugby union excellence). Population of around 35,000, probably a goodly portion of which are migrants, of which a lot are Filipinos.

On an Ashburton Facebook page popped up a neighborhood watch type post about an intruder spotted in a residence, fair enough for a neighborhood FB page. Unfortunately the post-er proceeded to describe the intruder as “Filipino looking.” The certainty and certitude of the poster was beyond doubt, no ifs and buts about it. The post is as you’ve probably already seen reproduced above.

The comments that followed the post , unsurprisingly, are numerous and varied, but heartwarmingly the identities are not just but mostly Filipino, the outrage palpable. If not for the unique English used, you could almost feel the anger, the incredulity and the viciousness of the responses.

It takes a kabayan (countryman) to make out and understand the comments, but the gist is this: who are you to judge firstly that your unknown intruder is a Filipino, and then to make a sweeping judgment that Filipinos are thieves or criminals?

The comments could’ve been more circumspect , made in a more diplomatic way, or the Pinoys in the area could’ve referred the matter to police, just to get the heat off them.

But no. Instead they let off steam and let known to the poster what his comments were: hurtful, indiscriminate, and for the words and context, simply racist.

There is a place for tactful and positive discussion, and there is a place for immediate response. The Filipinos of Ashburton did not have time nor patience, and for this situation they chose the latter.

This was their Russell Westbrook moment. This was our Russell Westbrook moment.

Mabuhay po kayo Ashburton kabayan!

(for the curious, here’s a capsulized version of the Russell Westbrook incident. thanks to The Guardian website.)

a unanimity of kindness, a plurality of beliefs: a migrant’s lesson from Christchurch


those who made the supreme sacrifice in the name of religious freedom.

I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it. – attributed to Voltaire.

SPENT A few weeks back home in the Philippines, so I’m getting used to looking right (instead of left) before crossing the street again. Also getting used to the weather, speaking in Kiwi English instead of Taglish (Tagalog + English), not putting tuyo (dried fish) in the office microwave or anything strong smelling like that.

But New Zealand is also back to a little getting-used-to me, your kabayan. My infectious smile, laughter and tendency to get in the middle of your daily goodmorninghellohowareyou with my concern for your daily life and issues. My funny accent and way of saying things. Generally, my being Asian, my being Filipino and admittedly my being sensitive both ways (positively and negatively).

It’s no big deal. New Zealand is famous for its tolerant, welcoming mood as regards visitors, guest workers and migrants, opening its doors to those running away from war, poverty and persecution. It may not be as much as others in the first world, but NZ punches above its weight, for its size and population, when it comes to admitting migrants refugees and people who most need the help from the cruelties of modern history.

At least, this is what I’ve seen and I’ve known. I’ve learned to trust in the warm and welcoming nature of both New Zealand and New Zealanders.

Until the middle of March, when a gunman opened fire in two Mosques in Christchurch, in what the New Zealand news media has called the Christchurch shootings, but what should more properly known as the Christchurch massacre.

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Despite the horror and bloodshed that took place, my perception of New Zealand hasn’t changed. Most of the country is rightfully outraged and horrified that such a thing could happen here, maybe naively believing that it would never happen, but still hoping that it’s a “one-off”, meaning an isolated incident that is not indicative of things to come.

Out of every 1,000 New Zealanders believing and doing the right thing, I have to admit there are one or two who believe it was something that was bound to happen, and is a reflection of the multitudes of opinions and beliefs that are part of the environment of a free and democratic society that is New Zealand.

This is the reality that not only migrants like myself but everyone must live with in one of the most open, freedom-loving and pluralistic countries in the world where all values are respected, or at least allowed to co-exist.

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Migrants, as much as anyone, must accept the reality that in New Zealand, we accept the good with the bad. Everyone (within reason) must be allowed to live according to what they believe is right, just and moral. It’s part of the deal when you live here.

Initially we are the outsiders, welcomed into the fold of a hospitable host country where eventually we become part of the family. In that family, there are ideal, average, good, objectionable, and downright bad. We may or may not like all our family members, but that is what they are : family. The family of New Zealanders.

More than anything else, this is the lesson I have taken out from the Christchurch shootings. New Zealand, yes, is the land of the free. But freedom means you always need to look to your left and to your right, just so you are aware of who your fellow New Zealanders are.

And if need be, just to be safe, to look behind your back.

 

ang pagbabalik: why homecomings are important to Pinoy migrants


 

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Sa gitna ng dilim
Ako ay nakatanaw
Ng ilaw na kay panglaw
Halos ‘di ko makita
Tulungan mo ako
Ituro ang daan
Sapagkat ako’y sabik
Sa aking pinagmulan  – lyrics from an Asin song

[Maraming salamat, to sya, muchas gracias and thanks very much in advance for making our visit to the Inang Bayan so memorable and enjoyable. Sa uulitin po! ]

NANG PAGBALIK namin mula sa probinsya this year’s vacay, where I met and paid respects to my in-laws, I have been meeting friends, contemporaries, relatives and more friends.

No exaggeration, four Manila gatherings in five nights, I couldn’t say no because each event was organized for me, and people made the effort out of their busy schedules just to see me. So no way I could  miss each and any of those balikbayan get-togethers, in incidentally my first visit since late 2016 to early 2017.

I saw classmates, friends and peers I hadn’t met in years and years. Most of them had married, gone through tough times in both work and business, kids and relationships and survived. Most had worked their way from the bottom, and were now reaping the fruits of their labor. Kids in good schools and nearing the end of their mortgage, these guys were looking forward to comfort in middle age with an eye towards retirement.

What about me? Looking at these guys, I couldn’t help but feel like Rip Van Winkle, asleep around twenty years in a cave, only to wake up and find out time had passed him by. Of course I hadn’t been asleep, only working in a land far away and staying out of the loop from people I had spent most of my life with, previously.

Had it been worth it? I won’t know for now. I don’t even know if I’ll end up staying permanently in my second home overseas or come back home from my years away.

I only know that despite seeing the people and things I missed, I need to keep doing this, coming back as often as I can:

My parents aren’t getting any younger. Dad is 86, Mom is 79. I would like them to be around forever, they’ve always been there for me, and in the same way I’d like to be there for them. But the laws of God and nature limit us to fourscore and 10 (90), and anything above that is simply a bonus. Being overseas limits my time with them, so going home as often as I can allows me the most time with them that I can manage.

I need to see what I missed to inspire myself to work harder. For sure, I missed seeing my family grow up in the Philippines. I missed the chances and opportunities of developing a career back home. I missed bonding with friends and family in the place I grew up in.  All this for a chance to live a better life abroad. So far it’s been a good choice. But I will always ask myself what could have been. I can’t answer that question yet, but I know I’ll have an answer eventually if I go home every chance I can.

I need to keep in touch with the land I was born in. Nothing is sweeter to the displaced Filipino (voluntary or otherwise) than to go home to his village, his family and his country. Before the sense of nationalism, there is the strong affinity for the community to which one was born, and before that of course, there is the sense of identity with the family one is born into. This hierarchy is common to many cultures, and none more so than to our own Filipino culture.

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It may sound cheesy, but I’m energized, inspired and refreshed every time I go home. My sense of perspective and purpose gets a reboot every time I see my family members and renew my sense of belonging. Above all, I get to remind myself what’s important: where I came from, and where I will always belong.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

alin ang naiiba? the subtle differences of migrants vs OFWs


 

Many times, an OFW is just a migrant-in-waiting.

LET’S ADMIT IT: probably three-quarters of all Filipinos travelling anywhere in the world at this very moment are Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) temporarily working and residing abroad, earning foreign exchange and wages in jobs they otherwise would not find back home.

On the other hand, most of the remaining quarter IMHO (in my honest opinion) are migrants who have transplanted themselves in second homes without losing sight of their original motherland. They frequently and regularly go back to their respective hometowns across LuzViMin (Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao island groups), continue to send money home to immediate and extended family, some even taking advantage of the new Philippine law recognizing and giving dual citizenships to our kababayan (countrymen). These are the true balikbayan who profess their love for our country again and again.

On the surface you won’t see much difference between those described in the first and second paragraphs above, respectively. We are all lahing kayumanggi (brown race), share identical features on the average, height, hair color, skin color, and non-Filipinos would find it nearly impossible to distinguish between OFW and migrants. And we all know that a member of one group can easily shift into the other.

But there are subtle differences. And these differences are best spotted during the time both groups are travelling, and by nature because air travel is the great equalizer, OFWs and migrants seen together in one aircraft can be distinguished. It’s not easy and takes a little practice, but after awhile you see the clues and cues and ask yourself why didn’t I notice these before?

General demeanor. Because I’m an OFW, a lot of my observations regarding OFWs are relatable to my own. I may be subjective and therefore biased, but that’s just the way it is. I therefore confirm my own behavior when I see others in similar situations. For example, OFWs travelling can never be truly relaxed. They are either on their way from work, or going back to work. There is no in-between.

Therefore, they are always thinking residually of work situations left behind, or readying themselves to get back to the grind. Ganon talaga; and you can see it in the way they carry themselves. They appear to be lost in thought always, sleep fitfully during long-haul flights, and generally appear more stressed than any other set of travelers.

Migrants have long since passed the stressful phase, having become citizens of desirable country destinations. They just look forward to reunions with family and friends, with the unspoken humblebrag of reaping the ultimate benefits of a First World passport as a reward for years of sacrifice. They almost always carry with them disposable income saved up precisely for the purpose of a long vacay filled with much-deserved merrymaking, piling up weeks and weeks’ worth of leave. They leave with the blessings of their employer, having earned trust and confidence of the latter. So these are the kabayan passengers who fall asleep literally minutes after takeoff, take the time to converse with fellow passengers with little or no inhibitions whatsoever, and are seasoned travelers accustomed to every scenario.

Clothes and shoes. accessories. This is a bit more complicated. Pinoys love to dress themselves up, male or female, but because I’m male, I’m obviously more familiar with my gender. But general observations are made here. Both OFWs and migrants are eager to show they’ve arrived literally and figuratively, by using branded and signature clothing, shoes and accessories.

The slight difference is OFWs are a bit overeager to show off, I say this without casting any negative qualities to my brother (and sister) workers: they have had disposable income for a somewhat shorter period, and are subject to a little more uncertainty regarding job and finances than their migrant counterparts. So the choice and fashion sense is affected a result.

OFWs still spend on their clothing etc, but sometimes the concern is more with the label and trendiness than overall look and fashion sense. As long as naka-Nike na or orig ang mga suot, kahit di na bagay minsan , ayos nang suotin sa byahe. 

Like many other Pinoys, migrants still dress well, but ironically dress down when they come home. They don’t want to dress the way they do in the USA, Canada, or Australia. They want to blend in, being brand-conscious or trendy is no longer a priority for them.

[Note: I am as guilty of this as the next guy, eager to show that I keep up with current trends, little realizing that I am just an old man trying vainly to look young, with laughable results. So I say this as a commentary on myself as well as on peers and countrymen.]

Attitude. This is the pure opinion section of the blog, and so please feel free to attack the following opinion/s with as much vigor as possible, as long as it’s respectful and observant of online etiquette:  being an OFW is part of continuing stream of consciousness about so many things: doing well on your current contract, keeping two households across the seas well-fed and happy; keeping everything organized and on schedule on vacation; treating all the different groups of family, friends and contemporaries to keep up with appearances; transitioning effortlessly back to the job, and doing well enough to secure a new contract. Unlike Jayson Tatum or Ben Simmons where you just need one and a half good seasons to get that max contract, for the OFW every year is a contract renegotiation year, and you’re only as good as this year’s performance; you can’t get caught napping.

Things like this occupy the OFW’s mind all the time. If you were in his/her shoes, would you have much peace of mind, whether on vacation or not? That’s right, you never stop thinking. And that’s why the OFW is always stressed, always thinking, always in a constant state of mental planning, adjustment and readjustment.

The migrant’s state of mind? Not so much. Vacation time is vacation time. The big step of planting the foot in the land of promise (and keeping it there) has been made, everything from hereon is a bonus. Everything is a balance between sending the message that the migrant has arrived in the land of I-am-a-migrant-now on the one hand, and not being a show-off or hambog (arrogant) before the eyes of the guys you left back in the Philippines, on the other. And part of the balance is keeping it real, keeping your composure, and not overdoing anything, from purchases, partying to putting your personal stamp on the extended family’s festivities.

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I hope I haven’t been too detailed or personal in my narration of the differences between OFW and migrant. After all, it’s a very thin line separating the two,  practically nothing. To the extent of some even saying that the OFW is just a migrant-in-waiting. (if possible, please add your own observed differences based on experience.)

But it’s a long, uncertain wait, and if you look hard enough, you see the differences.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

isang liham sa ministro ng imigrasyon, ang Kagalang-galang na Iain Lees-Galloway


 

[thanks and acknowledgment to stuff.co.nz, scaffmag.com, and newzealandnow.govt.nz! maraming salamat sa mga kabayang nasa mga larawan!]

Dear Honorable Minister Lees-Galloway:

YOUR TIME is important, you have a million things to attend to, so I’ll keep this as short and to-the-point as possible, although I don’t think it will be that short.

Like all personal letters like this, it can only be about something that’s personal to me, the letter-writer.  That is one thing I’m an expert on, and on myself and my stuff, my opinion is not only accurate, it’s also the best available.

The coincidence is, there is one aspect of my personal affairs that concerns both you and me, and that is the matter of immigration. The only difference is it concerns you professionally, while it affects me personally. Thus, this letter, and without further ado let me hit the ground running:

three-year stand down period. Under the new essential skills work visa rules, unskilled workers must after three consecutive years of work “stand down” or leave their jobs  for no other reason than that they should go home to reestablish their roots with their home country.

I see two problems with this, with all due respect. “Unskilled” as defined under the rules is determined by two things : by a skill level based on industry and specific type of activity , a basis I might add originating in Australia and adhered to by New Zealand. It’s also determined by the amount of money earned by the worker.

What if the skill level was not considered high enough in one country but more so in another? What if skilled labor was, based on factors other than supply and demand, not remunerated well enough in a particular industry? And what if, circumstances have changed regarding how skilled a particular worker or position is?

Lastly, the concept of sending home, and therefore forcing a work visa holder to lose a job, because of what the government sees as a need to reestablish roots with a worker’s home country is a bit misguided. I can only use my own and many other Filipinos’ example: nearly all of us go home as often as we can, every year if we can.

(I forgot to add sorry, I’m one of 40,000+ Filipinos, one of the most demographically dynamic ethnic groups in your beautiful country New Zealand.)

You may have other reasons to impose a forced stand down period on work visa holders but to insist on your reason is a bit misleading. Worse of all, if I may say so, this policy will sadly just create an artificial labor shortage in a situation where none should exist.

ANZSCO rules. While I’m on the topic, I’d like to ask: why does Immigration New Zealand, enforcing rules that govern guest workers, foreign students and migrants to New Zealand, use a classification of occupations that were drafted in Australia?

I understand the rationale behind avoiding the need to start from zero, from scratch. I know the two countries have similar industries and ways of looking at jobs and occupations. I know the two countries have similar ways of doing things.

But Australia is Australia and New Zealand is New Zealand. Why do two different, sovereign countries have the same rules about something as sensitive as allowing guest workers in separate countries?

Besides, in as much as New Zealand is quite hospitable and welcoming to Australia, considering it as a sister nation, Australia sadly has not been reciprocating recently. Australia to be quite honest has not treated New Zealand as well as New Zealand has treated Australia. Why then should New Zealand continue to use Aussie rules? Just thinking out loud.

Parent category. On the premise of keeping families together, allowing NZ resident children to be good sons and daughters to their parents, you created a visa pathway allowing parents to join children in New Zealand.

Two years ago, the previous Government suspended this visa pathway using the (at the time) valid reason of processing a huge backlog of parent category applications.

Moreover, you can’t be blamed for such suspension because the situation came to be under a different party in power.

But that was more than two years ago. Since then, so many parents and applications have been in limbo. Families continue to be separated. Parents in their twilight years cannot join their children. Not to nitpick, but visa application fees weren’t returned.

When can people expect the parent category resident visa pathway to be reinstated?

So much promise across many sectors of NZ society was seen at the dawn of the Labour Government’s first day in power. Among these sectors was the guest / foreign worker class, not strictly part of New Zealand society but one that makes a solid contribution nevertheless.

We continue to hope that the Labour Government, represented by the good Minister, will continue to promote and defend our interests, look out for us, and at the very least protect the rights we hold dear.

Sincerely

a nameless worker

 

 

 

Mga Pintados ng Wellington 3 : Mike & Cy’s store is also our tambayan, atbp


 

cy and mike

Above : Cy and Mike in their beloved store. Below: the store premises on 245 High St Lower Hutt.

AN ONLINE ROMANCE ACROSS THE SEAS, a job rejection, and an earnest desire to create a Filipino community tambayan: in themselves individually they don’t mean anything, but taken together these events influenced our kabayan to put up one of the most popular Pinoy stores in the Lower North Island: the Philippine-Pacific Products store in Lower Hutt.

Online romance. But let’s backtrack a bit, to the first factor, the online romance. Nothing blends better together (sampaloc/tamarind, green chili, tomato and onion for sinigang, so to speak) than a Pinay (Filipina), an overseas guy, and a laptop/smartphone. Hundreds of thousands of happy couples worldwide get linked up, figuratively and literally, through the magic of online dating.

Cyrell and Mike were no different, except that they were both in it for the long-term. No isang-linggong pag-ibig, Tinder swipes or rash decisions for them. The online acquaintance became a relationship, and the relationship became a commitment culminating in Cy (as Cyrell’s called) arriving in Wellington May of 2012 after getting married in the Philippines, right into Mike’s waiting arms.

Job setback. Shortly after a sweet sweet (and much anticipated) honeymoon, Cy our kabayan set about to find a job to support Mike as provider. Would you believe, with two Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a masteral degree, Cy scored only two interviews out of 50 responses to her job applications, and landed zero acceptances? For such an academic background, the Filipino-Kiwi couple didn’t expect such a setback, but decided to turn it to their advantage.

They realized that the lack of job openings for Cy was a strong sign for them to look for business opportunities just waiting to be discovered — preferably one taking advantage of Cy’s Filipino connection.

Then, it was as if the sea parted, the trees bent and the grass bowed to make their store possible. After a fruitless search for potential stores and locations in Wellington proper, Newlands and Tawa, the former owner of Filipino Mart in Lower Hutt, after being referred to them, asked Cy and Mike if they were interested in buying the store, assets and all. The rest was history.

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philippine pacific storeCommunity tambayan. Yet, the story wouldn’t be complete without the third factor we mentioned upstairs: the couple’s wish to create a Lower Hutt  tambayan (literally “waiting area,” but evolving to community center) where everyone, being welcome, could spend a couple moments meeting kabayan before heading home.

It’s a natural catchbasin for human overflow: Pinoy tradesmen coming home from work, Pinay nurses finishing their shifts, and Pinoy kabataan (youth) leaving class. Even the latter waiting for rides from their parents can wait at the store.

No numbers are taken, but dozens and dozens of Filipinos and Kiwis go through the doors of Philippine-Pacific store daily to shop, browse, just see how things are going with the rest of the grocery buying community, and even ask about services offered and enjoyed by many Pinoys in our Lower Hutt barangay.

And by the way, every sort of Pinoy product can be found here. UFC ketchup, del Monte spaghetti sauce, Star Margarine, Lady’s Choice sandwich spread and Magnolia ice cream are just a few of the well-loved Filipino brands not usually found in New Zealand supermarkets but readily available here. Even ingredients for menudo, sinigang, dinuguan and all other traditional Philippine dishes are regularly sold in Philippine Pacific Products.

But back to the couple’s vision. Mike and Cy want the store to be a community hub or center.

Said Cy: “we want our store to be a place where people stop over not just to buy or shop for things but to share their day with me and (her husband) Mike, to swap stories and tell us about their daily lives. We love that part of her job and business, just as much as making a living and earning a profit at the end of the day.”

Well said Cy and Mike, and mabuhay Philippine Pacific Products!

PS. for more info on our favorite store, please visit http://www.philippine-pacificproducts.co.nz/ thanks and maraming salamat po!

[ material for Pintados ng Wellington? Pintados was one of the first terms used by the historian Pigafetta for the early inhabitants of the Philippine Islands, a term we now proudly use for overachieving, friendly and nationbuilding Pinoys in Wellington and the larger New Zealand. Please send us your material and data for anyone or any group you want featured here, kabayan or not! ]