the man behind the title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to New Zealand, Ambassador Gary!






why we willingly endorse vanity while ageing

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

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

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

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

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

*****     *****     *****

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

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

*****     *****     *****

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

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

I have good reasons too:

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

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

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

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





this recognition we’ll take anytime :)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****     *****     *****

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

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

Nothing to do but soldier on, Noel.

*****     *****     *****

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

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

*****     *****     *****

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

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

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

Sarcastic lang pala.🙂

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!



bakit di laging masama ang kaplastikan sa trabaho


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





running the whole show, walang tulugan

lost in the machine

[Happy 3rd Anniversary to my favorite Kiwi-Pinoy publication, a true community paper, KABAYAN magazine!  thanks and acknowledgment for the pic above to! ]

IN MY late, so-called adult life (so far) I’ve learned to work into the wee hours of the night, with the owls, crickets and bats (and other night creatures), trained myself to get by on less than the usual hours of sleep after shift, and not the least, learned to sleep during the day.  Adjusting to change, the needs of work, and the vagaries of migrant living is a must, as simple as that.

But to do all the above, while running the whole show?  It’s something new for me, for the last few months at least.

[ It’s also the reason why I’ve hardly been showing up here and sharing your company Precious Reader / kabayan, something which hopefully will be corrected by coming back here more often.]

*****          *****

Positives first: there are obvious advantages to working at night.  You work under little supervision, actually none, work at a pace that is your own, and you take as many breaks as you want, within reason.

The disadvantages?  If things turn to sh*t, as they sometimes do especially in old factories like the one where I work, you get no help from anyone except your assistant, you rely only on your training (very basic, in my case), your ingenuity and initiative (even less, in my case) and any help you solicit (from the production manager and/or plant engineer, usually quite tired and already asleep) will be viewed with a jaundiced eye and much annoyance, and which will almost surely affect future requests of assistance from you.  Malas mo lang. (Tough luck for you.)

I previously didn’t care too much about running the factory when I was the assistant not too long ago, content to running my own machines and taking responsibility for my tasks and chores during my shift.  This didn’t always sit well with the shift supervisor, and now I understood why.  Not only is it the shift assistant’s priority to assist his supervisor the best way he can, it’s also ideal to show interest and initiative in running the factory with the ultimate goal of improving himself.

I only learned this when I was already training to be the shift supervisor, and now unless I do it diplomatically and constructively, I can’t very well tell the assistant to show more initiative.  Mahirap sumaway ang pasaway.:)

*****          *****

I’m responsible for all four storeys of the factory, including 11 roller machines on the ground floors, two giant sifters on the 2nd floor (each the size of a small bahay kubo or nipa hut), and a complicated network of spouts and negative pressure suction machines on separate floors.  As a single operator, I can’t monitor them all constantly, so I go between floors and inspect most of them every hour on the hour, throughout the shift.  Hard, but someone has to do it.

I also need to do tests on the product at least every two hours, more often when the production is special, or a bit on the high-end side.  Spot-checking, trouble-shooting and measuring of the silos are all also part of the job, each taking a few minutes a time, but taken together comprise a huge slice of my eight-hour shift.

*****          *****

I’ve had good shifts, I’ve had bad shifts.  The only difference with my previous position is that the buck stops with me, I’m the one and only gatekeeper between smooth production and chaos.  And also, it’s usually in the dead of night, when I’m torn between trying to (1) find out the source of the problem, (2), decide if I can fix the problem on my own (unlikely) or ask for help from the production manager (usually the latter), and (3) gather myself and tell the irritated person on the other side of the line the nature of my problem.

Oh, it’s happened.  More than once, I’ve let a little teeny-weeny bit of a problem evolve into a giant mountain of poo-poo (literally), all because I wasn’t on the ball.  Legally, I can take a break every two hours, and because there’s only one other person on site, no one really cares if I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace during my break, but believe me, if I leave my machines unmonitored for more than 10 minutes, let’s just say I’m asking for trouble.

*****           *****

There.  Just my way of telling you I’ve bitten the bullet and accepted a new role at our worksite, more hours, more grief, but I get to be a bigger member of the production team.  Quite a turnaround, because in stature I’m the smallest person around.

Joke lang po.  It’s always nice to assume more responsibility, if you’re not afraid of hard work.  In my case, I’m more afraid of being less needed, which as you know is not a good thing when you’re a skilled migrant worker.  Wish me luck in my work journey, thanks.

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!



kabayan, meet our new Ambassador!

breakfast with Ambassador Domingo
A Pancake House breakfast, Star Wars and stories about serving OFWs in the Middle East.  A treat like this helped us forget the aches and pains of a half-marathon only a few hours before on a Sunday morning back home in the Philippines.  Thanks Ambassador Gary!

IN OUR UNIVERSE of mere mortals, diplomats, seal-bearers of monarchs in ages past, are part miracle-workers, part rock stars, and part storytellers.

We say miracle-workers, as diplomats, in the midst of all adversity, try to do the impossible, witness the ambassadors who tried to forge a cessation of hostilities in the Syrian War (and did it, two days ago).  Rock stars, because, representing the best of their country wherever they go, they reject the adulation and try, with the power of words and engagement, make everyone around them look better.  Storytellers, because having gone around different realms many times over, they carry with them enough tales to fill a thousand and one nights.

It’s a tough gig, but diplomats manage to do all these with dash and verve.

Such a diplomat we met through a common friend last month back home, the top diplomat of Inang Bayan to our host New Zealand and newly confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, His Excellency Ambassador Jesus Gary Domingo.  I knew next to nothing about the man,  except that he was a successful diplomat specializing in representing our country as a relevant player in global organizations.  That, and only three other factoids: that he’s an unapologetic Star Wars fanatic, played American football (?!) and once worked as a part-time deejay.  That said, here is a short Q&A between your kabayan blogger and Ambassador Gary.  It probably won’t do justice to him, but it’s better than nothing, for now :

Without using too much analysis, your post as Ambassador looks markedly different from your previous post/s, would you confirm or deny this, and in what way/s?

Well, this would be the first time I would actually be heading a Post and not just a section, and working on overall bilateral relations with a country. My previous Posts were either Multilateral – the Philippine Missions to the United Nations in Geneva and New York, or mission-specific, – the Assistance to Nationals Section of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

At the cusp of your Ambassadorship, Philippine-NZ relations are especially warm. Do you have, just off the top of your head, any ideas to enhance this? (or is this a priority at all?).

Well, of course to build on the great work of my predecessor Ambassador Gie Benavidez. Also there is the program for our celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations. There are many things we can do to further the political, economic, labor, cultural and other dimensions of our relationship.  I’m also particularly keen on joint PHL-NZ humanitarian, development and peacebuilding projects for our other Oceania friends.

If you could define the thrust of your Ambassadorship in two sentences, what would they be?

To carry out my assigned mission to the best of my ability, that is to advance the PHL-NZ bilateral relationship (in its political, economic, diaspora and cultural dimensions) and the relationships with other countries under my jurisdiction (Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga). To help further empower the Pinoy / Kiwinoy Community in the country as a positive and dynamic force in New Zealand and Oceania.

What was/is, to this point the high point of your career as a diplomat / foreign service officer? The low point?

The low point? I would say there are two high points – first, being able to save the life of Ms. Violy Miranda, an OFW in Riyadh who was on death row (1999), and second, coordinating international humanitarian assistance for Supertyphoon Yolanda (2013-14). I couldn’t really say there is a low point – my DFA career has been a wonderful adventure and a chance to serve.

If you weren’t the incoming Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand, what would you be today?

I’d continue as Assistant Secretary for United Nations and International Organizations.





off morning shift till further notice

grumpy cat

[ Paunawa : Pasensya na to anyone I haven’t kept in touch with, I think in light of recent events (please see below), it’s more or less self-explanatory, hehehe, just my way of getting you to read further.  It’s been a glorious last few weeks here in Wellington NZ, thank God for a beautiful summer after an awesome January back home in the Philippines! ]

YOU AND I Precious Reader have, oftener than not, read enough internet articles, findings and correlations not to know that sleeping regular hours at the right time, meaning at nighttime, is part of healthy living.

You can burn the midnight oil for a time, turn your body clock inside out for a while, and sleep and wake like a vampire for only so long, but it’s not good for you.

There are many reasons for this, part of which is the hundred-thousand-year-old circadian rhythm that homo sapiens sapiens has established as part of normal living. There’s also the very basic bodily need for ultra-violet rays from sunshine, and then maybe not as essentially the rest that is best taken in darkness.

But there are exceptions.  People working in call centers (or business process outsourcing centers) get used to working in the dead of night and sleeping in brightest day.  Security guards are wide awake with the kuliglig and paniki and take breakfast at twilight.  And so on and so forth.  But if you’re like me, and I’m guessing you are, you start best at the crack of dawn and say beddy-bye just before the clock strikes twelve.

The (un)happy compromise is to work twilight shift.  You start later than most people, in fact when most people are already starting to leave work, and log out when some people are already snoring.  But this is better than working the graveyard shift, when there’s nobody awake except you and you try to sleep when the sun is scorching behind the drapes and curtains.

*****     *****     *****

I’ve always been a team player at work, especially since because of my migrant status locals and residents (if any are available) may potentially be given preference in job selection.   But rotating shifts (nights, mornings and twilight shifts before returning to nights, mornings, etc) has always been part of the deal, using the philosophy that everyone gets their turn at the dreaded night shift.

Unfortunately, one of the persons in our three-man rotation (the factory we operate needs to run 24 hours 5 days a week) is also our team leader, who needs extra training for planning our production schedules for the week, using the SAP software that no management team seems to be able to survive without, and other earth-shaking, indispensable management stuff.  Because the training can only be conducted during regular office hours, by default Your Loyal Kabayan and the other guy (by coincidence, also a migrant, albeit a former one) have drawn the short straws.  Between the two of us, we share the honor of doing twilight and night shifts for the next few months, or until our team leader finishes his team leader training, whichever comes last.😦

Weytaminit, kapeng mainit.  Whatever happened to rotating shifts, the right to a morning shift every third week, and the company’s concern for too many night shifts not good for the health?  Well, in the name of production, keeping the conveyor (as in product conveyor) running, and keeping the customer happy, some things have to be sacrificed and fall by the wayside.  For the time being.  In the hierarchy of priorities, starting from the client’s requirements, to the employer’s requirements, to the worker’s requirements, which do you think are the easiest to compromise?

*****     *****     *****

So that’s the way it’s gonna be.  Never mind that I don’t get to watch prime time for a while (I’ll be sleeping till a half-hour before going to work).  Never mind that I won’t have time to do the nasty with Mahal for a while (I’ll either be too tired or too hyper to do so).  And never mind that I’ll have zero social life for a while (not that I’ve had much of  a social life).  When you’re on the bottom of the totem pole, especially when you’re a migrant, you don’t have much of a say on what you do, or how you do it.  For now, just be lucky you’re working where you’re working, that you’re working at all, and that, shift hours aside, you’re able to cope with the daily pressures and stresses.

For now.

Thanks for reading!