nagalit ang patay sa haba ng lamay : FAQs on this OFW & night shift, the last nine years


Darkknightillustration14[ A very light-hearted title, tongue in cheek of course. Paumanhin (apologies) to any sensitivities I might have offended. thanks and acknowledgment to webastion.wordpress.com for the awesome pic!]

IT’S NOT CALLED Windy Wellington for nothing,  with Storm Signal No. 1 winds (60 to 90 kph) here as common as an overcast, matrapik day. If anything a more accurate name for my adopted city is Chilly Wellington. The vivacious weather girl forecasts 9 to 15 minimum maximum temperature for the weekend, but the wind chill factor makes it feel far colder than that, closer to 6 to 8 in the deepest of night, mahigit kumulang.

Enter your Loyal kabayan Blogger’s secret weapon, hot, steaming showers come in, warming you up on the inside and outside, unclogging your arteries and veins, opening up those bara-bara  (fluid retention) in your arthritic joints and ligaments, and extending your waking hours until you’re ready to finish the shift.

In fact, hot hot showers are my solution to almost anything: sore muscles and gouty ankles? Hot showers dissolve the lactic acid buildup and gout crystals if you’re patient enough, and no one else has queued up to use the shower. Can’t get rid of the cobwebs in your brain and had a little too much of the amber bottle last night? Again, hot showers will take care of your sluggishness almost instantly, not too hot though, baka matanggal na’ng balat mo. Feeling lazy and uninspired for the day’s labor? A few minutes of nearly steaming ablution will do wonders, and you’ll be raring to go as soon as you dry yourself from the droplets of vapor, which are gonna slide off you in the cold air anyway.

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A word of caution though. One thing the hot hot shower WON’T cure, in my years as an OFW here, is a chronic lack of sleep, which is defined as a deficiency in zzzz’s from a few days to God forbid, a few weeks, after which you had better see a doctor to find out what’s wrong with you kabayan.

A totally different case or situation however is when we suffer or endure lack of sleep because it’s the nature of the job and part of the hazards of the job, usually brought about by shift work, specifically night shift or extended shift work.

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Ironic, but in a way I prepared myself for shift work in my last job back home in the Philippines, working in an outbound call center. Because we had to call during the day, US time (Eastern, Central and Pacific times) our work needed to be done at night in the Philippines, that’s when the money was made in the form of questions answered and surveys filled.

But I was younger then, so much younger than today, the desk work of call centers wasn’t too strenuous (although ubos lagi laway mo), and the physical nature of my present job makes shift work a little more stressful. Coupled with the fact that it’s no longer practical for me to leave my work now, and you can see why I have made working at nights second nature.

I’ve divided myself between interviewer Noel and interviewee Noel to share with you my answers to FAQs or frequently asked questions about night shift and the OFW, specifically me.

I assume you compensate for not sleeping at night with sleeping during the day. Are these the same? Yes and no. I have to explain that wishy-washy (neither here nor there) answer. First, I’m fortunate in that I only do night shift every third week, or roughly once a month. If ever I don’t get quality sleep because I turn my sleep cycle around, I go back to normal after one week. Secondly, I have found that as long as you keep your sleep location as dark as possible, keep your sleep uninterrupted and compensate with healthy food and drink, I strongly believe your body will adjust. But that’s just me.

Can you relate regular night shift to your general state of health? Again, I have to qualify. If, even before you’ve engaged yourself to work nights, and more nights the rest of your natural life, you’ve been smoking like a chimney, drinking like a fish, and consuming processed food, sugar and trans-fat like you owned a Seven-Eleven (which btw doesn’t exist in New Zealand), now, how in your opinion would working night shifts make it any worse? On the other hand, if you’ve generally kept yourself fit and healthy with good nutrition and exercise, kept yourself well-maintained by staying away from vice, stress and the wear and tear of strenuous work, then if you compensate for regular shift work by resting on the weekends, drink more liquids and avoiding depending on alcohol to sleep, I doubt if you’ll be bothered too much by night shift, assuming you enjoy the work, which brings my interviewing self to…

Can you catch up on sleep by regularly taking a beer or two, or a glass of wine? I know this sounds like a trick question, because so many people I know, including myself, use a beer or glass of wine to help go to sleep, especially when it’s broad daylight outside and you’re going back to work in less than 12 hours. OF COURSE you can, but drinker beware. A glass or two doesn’t sound like much, in fact it helps with the drowsiness and sends you to dreamland oftener than not. But (1) you learn to depend on it, paano na kung naubos ang alak? and (2) alcohol has been known to disrupt the regular light and deep sleep patterns that regulate our rest. In simplest terms, you can almost bet that when I’m forced to take two Heinekens or Asahi’s, I WILL fall asleep, but in less than three hours I’m inexplicably awake, admittedly it’s also because I need to go relieve myself or because I’m too warm; in any case I’m usually back to square one, because I can’t go back to sleep again. In the meantime, I can’t use alcohol again (facepalm). Too much na.

Last question Noel. Does shift work make you age faster? To be blunt, does shift work make you feel older? Please forgive the ambiguity of my answers Precious Reader / kabayan, but if you believe in mind over matter, it’s all a matter of perspective. If you think that after a long night shift, coming in at dark and finishing in the  brightest of day, you still retain your sunny disposition, if you convince yourself that as long as your work provides for family, provides for your basic needs and you make a contribution to society, then anything else is worth your while including working while everyone else sleeps. Attitude wins over the day, anytime and everytime. I may feel old and wasted some of the time after night shift, but feeling good about myself more than makes up for it.

Thank you interviewer Noel, muchas gracias interviewee Noel, and maraming salamat, Precious Reader. Mabuhay!

 

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the king is dead, long live the king!


LOOK WHO HAD US FOR LUNCH. Cabeza de Barangay de los Islas Filipinas and Secretary-General elect of FIRST Union, His Excellency Amb Gary Domingo and Kasamang Dennis Maga, just orienting us about the new Labour government. Mabuhay kayo!

[ Paunawa: in my five-plus years of blogging, I’m trying something new Precious Reader, albeit just for this post only. I’ll stop “journalistic pretense” or neutral discussion of the issues coinciding with the arrival of the new Labour Government in New Zealand, and tell it like it is, how these issues affect me personally. it’s one of the few perks of blogging, which is using an exclusively personal perspective, which is after all, how we live life, diba? ]

ESPECIALLY  IN countries with a parliamentary government, change can come in an instant. Call a snap election, regret it for the rest of your life. Just ask Theresa May of the United Kingdom. I’m not 100% sure, but Bill English could’ve taken his sweet time before announcing elections, although in hindsight, the writing was on the wall.

I confess I was one of those who were concerned about the ascension of Jacinda Ardern and the Labour party to power, with a little help from Winston Peters and his friends in the New Zealand First party. The only thing worse than a bad government is fear of the unknown; to what depths  a mismanaged economy will lead us, and the backlash against migrants and guest workers that  new government brings.

On the other side of the coin, there is a bukangliwayway  (sunrise) of new initiatives, new policies and ambitious plans to uplift the standard of living of people, renew the drive to preserve New Zealand’s 100% Pure brand, and other schemes that the previous government somehow lost sight of.

No matter what side of the fence you sit on, you can’t help but give the new custodians of government the chance to do well, even though, as human nature dictates, one resists change, embraces the old comfort zones, and is wary of efforts to change the old ways in favor of the new.

Please believe when I say this, Kabayan or Precious Reader because, even with my cozy comforts in New Zealand, I’m still caught between a rock and a hard place, the devil and the deep blue sea if you want. Sure I’m comfortable with a good job, a great environment and a very peaceful host country. But without getting into too much detail, I have no permanence, no long-term status, nothing I can call truly my own as a guest worker in New Zealand. So if there’s any change, and I say I’m wary about it, you might wanna give my words more weight than usual.

Courtesy of a kabayan who now has the ear of the Labour Party and has been working for both Pinoy OFW and resident workers in New Zealand long before the Labor-led coalition, he personally wanted to clear up a few of the concerns I aired in a previous blog (nakarating sa kanya, wow!):

Raising the minimum wage immediately, and up to $20 by 2020. I’m very lucky to be receiving a little more than the minimum wage of $15.25 an hour, especially since for a 1st World nation, it doesn’t leave much after the very basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter. One of the first priorities of the incoming Labor government is raising it towards the goal of the so-called living wage of $20. Many of our kabayan in the South Island are grateful to be working in New Zealand, but are not receiving much more than minimum, if at all.

This sounds partisan, but please don’t believe titans and apologists of big business when they say that kung tataasan nyo ang sahod hanggang di na namin kaya, magsasara na lang kami (If you’re gonna raise minimum wages to unreasonable levels, we might as well shut down the business). In the first place, there is always a balance between keeping your workers happy and keeping the business viable. Wages should always be a factor in maintaining your enterprise, no make that reasonable wages. I don’t want to use my example too much, but our employer negotiates with our site bargaining unit every two years, and encourages non-union members to join, all the better to keep moving forward across the board. It may sound harsh but it’s the reality: a business who can’t pay the legislated wage rate has no business to be in business (and keep using lame puns like this) 🙂

Maintaining realities and priorities in keeping migrant numbers where they are. You will start hearing this from the party in power now, and it makes sense: You can’t stick to a hard number when it comes to net migration. In the first place, it’s the economy, not legislation, that dictates the ultimate number when it comes to how many migrants are needed. Look at Dubai, Singapore and other countries that have readily admitted the migrant reality: a vibrant and growing economy cannot survive without migrant labor. That’s the simple truth. Overall, the two priorities of the incumbents will be tweaking the Skilled Migrant visa pathways (there are many under this general policy) so that only truly qualified migrants continue to come in, and reducing the Student Visa numbers, which admittedly is the area where abuse is rampant. There’s no other way to say that last sentence, nadadamay ang mga Pinoy dahil sa ginagawa ng ibang mga lahi sa student visa, with the cooperation and tolerance of educational institutions here.

Making it easier for those who are already here. I’ve used this phrase often, but I’ll use it again.  There are more than a few guest workers in NZ who have a reasonable expectation of deserving NZ permanent residency, and yet have “fallen between the cracks.” How so ? They are useful enough to be considered skilled, and yet not skilled enough to be considered for residency. They are skilled enough to be granted work visas, and yet aren’t paid enough to be considered for permanent residency. And so on and so forth. Their jobs have disappeared from the so-called long term and short term skills shortage lists, yet strangely enough, continue to be in the rosters of their employers for years and years.

This isn’t fair for them. Because of the Christchurch rebuild, Pinoys (and other migrants) have a chance to get out of their limbo and apply for residency, but shouldn’t this privilege be granted to all who deserve it, New Zealand-wide? Pinoys are highly valued, dependable and loyal workers who in many cases have worked for their bosses, faithfully consistently, and without fail. Labour has made the right noises in this direction, and this will give many kabayan all over New Zealand, this blogger included, a big sigh of relief.

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I have to give credit to the new Labour Government, specifically my kabayan source who so rapidly told me it’s not all doom and gloom under the new order. Thank you very much Ginoong Dennis Maga, Secretary General-elect of the FIRST Union, and an acknowledged champion for workers rights, not just Pinoys, but everyone who works an honest 8 hours a day in Aotearoa. Thanks too Your Excellency Ambassador Gary Domingo for gamely providing such a filling lunch in the process!  Mabuhay kayo!

And thanks kabayan and friends for reading!

kung bakit dehado ang mga bisitang obrerong Pinoy sa pamahalaang NZ Labour*


it’s becoming harder and harder. Thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to thefifthstate.com.au!

IN A PERFECT WORLD, Pinoy guest workers in New Zealand will continue to receive the benefit of the doubt on whether or not they are still needed in the country,  potential applicants will continue to be invited to apply for permanent resident status, and the  parent sibling and other categories under the Family Category visa pathways will soon be reinstated, much to the relief of Pinoy families of both sides of the Philippines – New Zealand divide.

In the land of reality, however, you and I live with the cold, hard facts:  the crow’s feathers will whiten (pagputi ng uwak) before the closed visa pathways will be reopened, any guest workers who’ve fallen behind when the gates were shut will probably stay there under a Labour Government, and the general climate for Pinoy guest workers from today will get a lot worse before it gets any better.

[ This is not professional opinion, just a tiny voice in the roaring wilderness, not being negative but putting up a wet finger to gauge the general direction of the wind. Napag-uusapan lang po. ]

Unless you were in a cave, comatose or hiding under a great big rock, you probably heard that last Thursday the 19th, the New Zealand First party, holders of 7% of the party vote, gave its support to the New Zealand Labour Party, which won around 35% of the seats in NZ Parliament. Combined with the Greens party votes, it was (barely) enough to hold a majority, which gave Jacinda Ardern and the NZ Labour Party its first taste of power in eight years.

By itself it doesn’t mean anything, but (1) a commitment to cut student and work visas by 25,000 to 30,000, (2) a general policy to promote jobs for New Zealanders (a motherhood statement but one that Labour will be held to for sure) and (3) the focus on reducing unemployment, reducing people on the benefit and easing underemployment all point to stress and unease for Pinoy guest workers in NZ.

Let me tell you why:

Caught between the cracks. Under the Essential Skills work visa program, if an employer (1) can’t find qualified locals to work in a particular job or position, (2), finds it impractical to train New Zealanders for said position, (3) can find suitable guest workers for that position, then a Work Visa can be issued to a non-New Zealander.

Many kabayan have gotten jobs this way. It is reasonable to expect them, after a while, to be eligible or qualified to be permament residents especially if their employers continue to hire them, encourage them to apply for another work visa, or even broach the idea of permanent residence in the future.

However, to be invited to apply for permanent residence, the kabayan must qualify under specific Resident Visa pathways, two of which (there may be others, but I don’t know about them) are the Short and Long-Term Skills Shortage List, or the Work To Residence Program. These pathways are independent of the Work Visa program and require different evidence from what the Essential Skills Work Visa require.

Now, under a Labour-led coalition government, where the cutting of migrant jobs and locals-centered job generation is the centerpiece policy, do you think any Pinoys holding work visas can expect a friendlier visa regime? As my wife Mahal sez, mas malabo pa sa sabaw ng pusit.

Remuneration bands. Now, shortly before the elections, the National Party government decided to tweak the immigration policy in a vague, not to mention belated attempt to win “pogi points” (brownie points) from the New Zealand public. Among the measures were the introduction of “remuneration bands” to determine if a guest worker was skilled enough to qualify for future residency. Below a certain amount ($47,000 annually I think) you were considered unskilled. Earn in a certain range ($47,001 to $70,000), you were considered mid-skilled. Anything above a certain amount, and you were considered highly-skilled, and automatically qualified for residency.

I don’t know if you’re aware of this kabayan, but under the special Dairy Worker visa pathway in the South Island, some of our countrymen are already practically running the farms for their employers, from sunup to sundown. Their bosses love them for accepting jobs Kiwis won’t take, love them for dedication, and love them for turning up to work every single day of the year.

But you know why else their employers love them? Because our kabayan are willing to work for wages New Zealanders won’t even consider in easy jobs (farming is definitely not easy), much less in physically and mentally challenging roles. This same reasonable, bargain-basement rates that Pinoys are willing to work for are the same “remuneration bands” that will NEVER let them get within a kilometer of becoming NZ permanent residents. Sad but true.

Now, do you think anything will change in a Labour government? That crow (uwak) better get some serious reading material before it thinks it will become a dove (kalapati).

And lastly . . .

temporarily closing Parent Category. Late last year, as a means of putting its finger in the dike against overwhelming permanent residence applications, Immigration New Zealand (the government office issuing resident visas) temporarily put on hold Parent Category Visas, where obviously parents of permanent residents, three years after the latter were granted resident status, could apply for residency themselves. Word was, anytime next year, the Parent Category could and would be reinstated,

But that was under a National government. Everything changes with a change of government, that’s as clear as day. It’s becoming a tiresome refrain, but under a Labour-led coalition government, can you expect an immigrant and migrant-friendly policy, to the extent of honoring commitments of the previous administration? As they say, all bets are off. Another nice way of saying it would be it’s a very fluid situation, especially for kabayan who haven’t started anything application-wise.  I wish I could be more positive, but the reality is anything but.

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You’ve probably noticed this Precious Reader, but this is more than just dispassionate discussion for me. Blogging is an intensely personal endeavor, whether it’s about a hobby, your religion, or ideology. For me, it’s just about my life, experiences and my gut feel about certain things. It should be obvious why I have strong views about this particular issue, but telling you now would color your own views further, about the issue and about me (for sure, there are always two sides to every issue, I concede). Maybe next time.

Suffice it to say now that for a lot of us kabayan in Aoteroa, these are uncertain times.

thanks for reading, mabuhay!

*or “why it’s against the odds for Pinoy guest workers in a Labour-led government”

 

the BIGGEST non-issue in NZ elections ’17 and why it still matters


LunchAtopASkyscraper

longer lunch hours for migrant workers will definitely help improve the profile of whoever forms a coalition government with New Zealand First 🙂

[ Paunawa: sincere apologies everyone, nothing here is backed up by research, stats or expert analysis, napag-uusapan lang po and is based on the Man on The Street’s barbershop opinion, mabuhay po tayong lahat! ]

THE CLOSEST THING anyone got to talking about the biggest non-issue last NZ elections was when dearly departed Labour Party leader Andrew Little (who did his party the biggest favor by giving way to Jacinda Ardern, I’m not being partisan by any means), days before his resignation from the Labour Party leadership, said something like when we win the majority in Parliament, we will take away thousands of jobs away from immigrants.

As simple as that. He spent the next 24 hours and the next media cycle (a period of time during which a major news story get coverage on multi-media, and after which media moves on to the next big news event) explaining himself, what he meant exactly and how he intended to do such a thing. Unsurprisingly, such a thoughtless statement didn’t score him any points on the polls and, falling on his sword, he handed in his resignation a very short time later.

Without consulting anyone, I can remember this fairly clearly because it was one of the more memorable pronouncements of the campaign. Nobody, and I mean nobody makes a statement like that, taking away jobs, whether from immigrants or what-not, and not expose himself/herself to repercussions. It was a mighty gamble, designed to win sympathy from the unemployed and underemployed, and whoever thinks migrants are taking jobs away from New Zealanders, but here’s the thing : the skilled migrant visa pathway of the NZ Government works, and most migrant jobs are jobs that New Zealanders can’t, or won’t take.

Note I didn’t say the whole residency / visa pathway of Immigration works, nor that there is an imbalance in the number of guest / foreign workers in New Zealand, and what New Zealand can absorb without harming its own citizens. That would take a lot of figuring, analysis and economic models requiring serious study taking longer than the time it takes to post this blog, or prepare tonight’s dinner.

You’ve probably guessed what that hot non-issue is: the unlamented Andrew Little gave his two cents about the IMMIGRATION issue, paid for it with his resignation (although he might have survived, he would’ve led Labour to oblivion under his leadership anyway), and guess what? NO ONE of consequence, not National’s leadership, Labour’s leadership, or any of the other fringe parties said ANYTHING about the IMMIGRATION issue (I’m typing it in caps just so there’s no mistake) for the rest of the campaign. See how a sensitive topic it was?

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And yet, whoever forms a government this October (we have a hung parliament, or an elections that produced a parliament without any single party holding a majority of seats needed to govern), will have to deal squarely with the issue of immigration. It is more important than education and crime, and perhaps equally as important as the economy, employment and the quality of life in New Zealand for the next decades. I’m no expert, but this in my humble opinion is the single most important issue the next government needs to tackle, particularly because:

Immigration is a gamechanger for national life. Migrants fill jobs. Migrants are contributors to the trades and professions. Migrants are contributors to research, development and innovation across the cutting edge fields of science and technology. Migrants jump start massive consumer spending. And migrants via entrepreneurship and investment further spur growth, repeating the cycle of business growth leading to more and better jobs leading to increased spending. Reset, repeat.

Government knows this. Migration may not always be a good look if you want to keep locals happy, but the alternative would be almost unthinkable. It doesn’t matter if you’re National, Labour, Greens or New Zealand First. Can you or I or anyone imagine a New Zealand without Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Pacific Islander or all other races of migrants. In an unguarded, candid statement, then Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman said it best : without immigration, the outlook is bleak.

And even then, regardless of any more immigration tweaks, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. If we need any more idioms: locking the barn door after the horse is gone, aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo, hope you’ve had enough. The “multiplier effect” of each migrant assimilating into New Zealand is staggering: spouse or partners and children of productive and income-generating migrants are not only expected but also anticipated by New Zealand, as the gravitational pull of love and family towards the lucky migrant is universal.

Whoever forms the next government, they can’t pull the plug on new migrants based on relationships with migrants already in New Zealand. Even the mothballed parent and sibling migrant pathways won’t stop immediate family members following their successful relatives on their own merit (on other pathways).

And how about current special work visa pathways specific to Pinoys and other Asians (dairy workers, scaffolders, Christchurch rebuild)? The world is not going to come to a standstill when a new government rises in the Beehive (NZ’s version of the Batasan). The fact of the matter is, migrants will continue to be in demand, in NZ, Australia and elsewhere. Is that so hard to accept?

And lastly…

Immigration is an issue that won’t go away. Let’s face it. All of the guest workers currently in NZ are potential permanent residents. They wouldn’t have taken the chance to work so far away, in uncertain circumstances, if they didn’t at least have a ghost of a chance to become future citizens here. Whether migrant entrants year-on-year are to be maintained, increased or decreased, it is reasonable to expect that migrants will figure prominently in the New Zealand economy, for good or bad (but mostly good).

It didn’t figure prominently during the campaign, probably because it was too hot to handle, but the migration / immigration issue, believe you me kabayan, will affect every single New Zealander for the next 50 years.

And probably long after that. Mabuhay and thanks for reading!

 

meet maricel the dreamcatcher


Maricel Holger and new PRs

Maricel (light blue shirt in the middle) with her family Holger and Katerina and just a few of the kabayan whose dreams she helped fulfill in New Zealand.

[Note: The second of my two-part padyak series, Wellington to Auckland, meeting remarkable Kiwi-Pinoy Aucklanders. First was on Cong Lito Banal, and second is Binibining Maricel Weischede.  So sorry it took so long, thanks for reading, mabuhay! ]

NO ONE will question us Kabayan when we say that the Pinoy who chases the dream of a better life abroad is the captain of his/her fate, the master of his/her soul (thanks and acknowledgment to that Invictus guy). Blaming no one for our setbacks but sharing the credit for our successes, you and I are the authors of our fate, the makers of our destiny. Given na yan (that’s a given).

But along the way, we owe little and big favors to those who help us carry our load, those who, accidentally or not, eavesdrop on our dreams and help us chase them, those who have the talent and tools to realizing our most cherished goals more realizable. Filipinos may be below-average physically, but figuratively we can always stand on the shoulders of giants who helped paved the pathway towards our rainbow’s end.

If so far you’ve indulged me in this rare mood of poetic flair, please indulge me some more. I came across a kabayan of such a description, who’s spent a good part of the last decade helping fellow Pinoys jump-start their dreams by catching the sparkle of their dreams and filtering it through the sieve of hard realities, useful advice and immigration laws of New Zealand.

If the role of dreamcatcher sounds demanding, that’s because this kabayan has demanded the utmost from herself in terms of training and professionalism. Back in the days when  immigration consultancy was a cowboy, hole-in-the-wall industry, Maricel Weischede was the first fully licensed Filipino immigration adviser in New Zealand in 2008 . Not only that, her proactive stance led her to be the only kabayan to be part of the consultative Immigration Advisers Association (IAA) Reference Group for two terms while also serving as three-term director of the New Zealand Association of Migration and Investment.

Maricel knows that the best way to bridging the gap between dreams and realities of migrant hopefuls was with two weapons: expertise and experience, so the decade-long success she has achieved has been due in part to her being the first Pinoy to obtain the qualification (equivalent to a certification) from Massey University (Certificate of Proficiency in Immigration Law and Policy) as well as the first Pinoy to obtain a Graduate Certificate in Immigration Advice from the Waikato University – Bay of Plenty Consortium.

By far however, Maricel’s signature experience as an immigration adviser is being part of the Cadbury Dream Team that, against all odds, brought a family together two years back. In case you missed it, here’s a video clip, sorry we couldn’t find the whole episode (probably for copyright reasons):


Which doesn’t take anything away from each and every success story from the hundreds of Filipinos and their families she has helped migrate to, and reunite in, New Zealand. Just as every green-lighted application has been as satisfying as her very first (way back in 2006), each denial has brought her down to earth, with a resounding disappointment that only makes her work harder.

Although no service or profession should be judged purely on numbers alone, Maricel’s consultancy has recently brought in its 1000th successful application, counting all immigration and visa categories, and she has no intention of stopping.

As if all these weren’t enough, our kabayan will add value to her services by seeking admission to the New Zealand bar next year, completing all her requirements by the end of this year.

*****     *****     *****

It sounds like a high-tech slogan, but Maricel, for the hundreds of families she has helped, has augmented their reality by adding details, comforts and possibilities that have made their lives so much more enriching, in a land of unlimited potential.

In her own words: Migration is a life changing decision. I wish to make a difference in that life-changing decision by providing immigration advice that is straightforward, with no gimmickry, and just honest to goodness options and presentation of eligibility to various visa pathways.

Duh? You have ALREADY made a difference in so many kabayan lives Maricel. Mabuhay ka!

Thanks for reading!

*It’s not a plug (actually, it is), but you may contact Ms Maricel Weischede and her immigration consultancy NZ Immigration Help Service Limited either by visiting http://www.nzimmigrationhelpservice.com or contacting her Auckland branch +6498364935, her Christchurch branch +6434218138, or emailing her directly at m.weischede@nzimmigrationhelpservice.com. Cheers!

why surrendering my ATM to Mahal is ultimately better


of course this is an exaj. The real symbol is male and female, hand in hand. 🙂

SATURDAY AND SUNDAY last weekend I felt an odd sensation in my back pocket; specifically my wallet. A certain item there made my billfold (a nearly useless article, it hardly contains any bills or banknotes) a little bulkier than usual: it contained my ATM or bank card.

*****     *****     *****

Let me backtrack a bit for your enlightenment Precious Reader. An hour before she left for work, I asked Mahal my beauteous wife if I could go out for a Kiwi Big Breakfast at McDo on my own, it being my last rest day before another week of night shift and with unexpected sunshine to enjoy (with its defrosting gale-force windsearly Wellington spring is sometimes a bit colder than winter, brrrr). No problem she said, and out from her purse she whips out my ATM.

Haven’t seen that in a while, I quip.

Oo nga, so alagaan mo sya, she comes right back at me. (yeah, so please take care of it.)

So I buy myself a fast-food and nutritionally underwhelming breakfast (I’m so cheap I really just wanna read the free weekend paper, just as much), buy a few meaningless things at the riverside weekend market, and gamble on a lotto ticket (which might turn out to be a one-way ticket home, malay mo), but overall it was a feeling I hadn’t had for some time: alone, and spending money. For this reason, let me tell you why.

Shared stress in budgeting. For a few years now, by mutual consent I’ve surrendered possession of my ATM to my better half as it is by itself a symbolic and actual abdication of any and all responsibility to pay the household bills. This delicious prospect shouldn’t be confused with the actual duty of earning salapi with which to put food on the table, pay power and telecom bills (water in Wellington is generally free); I am bound to that forever. However, since I have forsaken access to funds for that purpose, I am no longer saddled with the stress to deal with same on a daily basis. Guess whose pretty shoulders that unenviable task now falls on, since she now has sole access to the funds (wink wink).

Don’t get me wrong please. Mahal, baka due na yung Trustpower? or Mahal, nalimutan mo ata yung beer sale kahapon sa Countdown are still helpful hints that I can nudge Mahal with. But that’s about it. Ain’t life great? 🙂

Added sympathy vote. Believe it or not, when you no longer have control over the principal bank account, you actually gain sympathy when it comes to asking for money for your own expenses, as human nature favors the person who gives way or forfeits power. So when I spot my favorite Batman or Game of Thrones collectible action figure on sale, or when there’s an unexpected beer and wine sale at the corner supermarket, all I need to do is smile my sweetest smile at the ATM custodian, and ask in my cutest voice, penge namang $20 love, panggastos lang?  It never fails.

Extra help, here and there. And lastly, this is an unintended side effect, but for those times when the hard-earned wages for the week ain’t enough for the gastusin (weekly expenses), because Mahal has the first-hand or personal knowledge of the budget deficit, she is in the best position to shore up the shortfall, either from hidden savings she’s squirreled away, or from her own resources (she works 35 hours at the neighborhood mall). Either way, it’s an excellent assist from her in my effort to be principal breadwinner, in fact the enterprise is now a joint effort, and there is no shame in that admission.

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Years and years ago, when I was younger than I can remember, every fortnight on my mother’s bureau dresser was a thick envelope containing my dad’s sweldo. On the pay envelope itself was written all the figures my mom needed to know: My dad’s gross pay, less, withholding tax, less social security and medicare contributions, and any deductions from loans my mom knew about. Nothing was kept by my dad; he even recorded Christmas bonuses and overtime pay. Whether it was his utmost honesty or respect for my mother’s homemaking role, the result was the same: a tradition I and undoubtedly all my brothers have kept.

If I’ve ruffled any feathers or sown any discord as a result of this disclosure, apologies in advance. All I know is a happy wife means a happy life. For this and all other ATM-free husbands!

Thanks for reading!

 

a new breed of kabayan in the young days of spring


Lito Banal with Norman Latosa

Taken during the early days of the LS Banal Cup, here are Lito Banal (left) and Commissioner Norman Latosa, who has since remigrated to Melbourne. The LS Banal Cup is one of the most popular Pinoy basketball tournaments in The City of Sails!

[ Just wanted to share with you Precious Reader my padyak series visiting Auckland from Wellington, which just made me more homesick for the Philippines. I have just one other memorable kabayan we met in AKL which we’ll  post about next, hopefully soon. Thanks for reading! ]

KABAYAN, YOU and I don’t meet many people who have sports tournaments named after them. In fact, I haven’t met anyone, living or dead, who actually had his name on the streamers above the rows of spectators of the tripleheader of basketball games that Saturday afternoon I visited my brother in Auckland Last month.

But there he was, neither a forgotten hero nor corporate logo immortalized on the tournament trophy, medals or other awards that every participant was coveting. He wasn’t there for a photo op and then whisked away to a four-star hotel brunch leaving tournament organizers to fend for themselves.

He was on the sidelines in an actual game, on the official’s table, helping keep score and cheerleading one of the teams competing. Because of his unique position as name sponsor, he couldn’t favor any one team, so he was encouraging every team participating, without being partial to anyone.

Undoubtedly, he would be helping clean up later, scheduling more games later in the season, and engaging in informal meetings with team representatives and other sponsors.

In the do-it-yourself world of Pinoy basketball in New Zealand, Lito Banal, the driving force behind the LS Banal Cup is perhaps one of the most DIY sports leaders in the New Zealand Pinoy sports community.

But this is just one of his intersecting worlds. He was President and among the most respected servant-leaders in the Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy of Auckland. He is one of the past presidents of the New Zealand Philippines Business Council. And his company Kiwi Roofing Ltd is one of the most successful businesses owned not just by a Filipino but by an Asian in the building industry, in New Zealand’s most competitive business environment. In the process he has helped hundreds of Filipinos and their families on their way to achieving the Pinoy dream of prosperity and stability in the migrant-friendly country of New Zealand.

People of much less achievement would have been instantly enlisted for lofty positions of leadership, but not Lito. The self-made Kapampangan says making his own special contribution to happiness and contentment among Pinoys is its own reward.

Recognition, acknowledgement, and the public trappings of leadership may turn on others and provide the impetus to good works, but for Lito, to know that he has made a difference in the lives of others, notably fellow Pinoys and kabayan is more than enough for him, at the end of the day, to pat himself on the back.

Perhaps, it is this very unassuming nature that makes him ideal for leadership. We know no finer example of a Pinoy leader than Cong Lito Banal!

a vote for Paulo & Romy is a vote for yourself kabayan


Kung hindi tayo kikilos? Kung di tayo kikibo, sino ang kikibo? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?” (“If we do not act, who will act? If we do not care, who will care? If not now, when?”)  -Abraham “Ditto” Sarmiento Jr, UP Philippine Collegian editor-in-chief, 1950-1977

 

I’ll keep this short guys, I know we all have busy schedules.

For many of us in New Zealand, after getting married and having kids, migrating to a new land is the single most important thing we’ve done in our lives. Especially so, when the land we’ve migrated to has given us a better quality of lives for ourselves, our partners and our children.

After we’ve improved ourselves and our futures, the next step is to give back, assimilate, and use what we think has worked in our homeland and apply it to our circumstances around us in our adopted land. It’s common sense diba? In a sense we bring the land of our childhood and youth and bring it to our present, and try to have the best of both worlds, not just for ourselves, but for our countrymen, both in our generation and the next.

That’s what two of our kabayan have done. In their own special ways, Romy Udanga and Paulo Garcia have experienced the highs and lows of living in the Philippines and New Zealand.  They have built and sustained a comfortable life for themselves and their families, thanks to the welcoming and migrant-friendly culture of New Zealand,

Now, they want to give back. Confidently but not boastfully, they think and know that the Filipino way of life has much to contribute to a better way of doing things in New Zealand. They know that this is their unique way of interacting with Kiwis and other migrants at a very high level, and at the same time lending their leadership talents to their kabayan compatriots, at the same very high level.

That they do all the above under the guidance of different NZ political parties should not detract us from giving them our unqualified support. Both the incumbent National and Labour parties have their way of doing things but the objective is the same: a better life for all New Zealanders.

We could do worse than having one of our very own in New Zealand Parliament. We might even have both. Sitting on the fence is not an option this elections, not when we have a chance to help chart our destiny as Pinoy migrants in New Zealand.

Vote National, vote Labour, it doesn’t matter. But vote Paulo and Romy. Vote for your own.

Mabuhay kayong dalawa kabayan, mabuhay tayong lahat!

Thanks for reading!

trying to look young, ending up feeling old


[ thanks and acknowledgment to YouTube poster Diran Lyons! ]

ALL MY LIFE, from the time I started to remember things to this very day, I’ve suffered from an alarmingly short attention span. For me, the here and now is everything. One second I’m on fifth gear, the next I’m snoozing. I could be laser-focused on a project, only to move on to the next big thing a moment later. (I’ll forget about this blog as soon as I finish it. 🙂 )

From teens to middle age, the Philippines to New Zealand, singlehood to husband hood, fatherhood back to singlehood, and back, old habits die hard. I’m still the same old eternally distracted, attention deficit-plagued OFW. I still want the quick fix, results-now type of solution, and avoid the long-term holistic and considered responses to problems.

That’s why, if you ask me whether or I want to feel good or look good, nine times out of 10, I’ll hit the 2nd button. The success mantra to be successful, you have to first appear successful, just sounds too appealing, and a lot of the time, it’s just easier to anticipate being healthy by first looking the part…

*****          *****          *****

The trouble is, when you get to be my age, which is no longer in the prime of youth, the present starts to feel acutely the sins of the past. I’ve said this more than once before, but the cheques you recklessly issued when you were young and beautiful, Father Time is already encashing every day now.

One day of sleep lack affects the next 24 to 48 hours. That previous sentence summarizes it best, can’t describe it any more accurately but since this blog requires 800 words, I’ll try: sleep is underrated as a basic human need. Whether you’re the richest dot-com entrepreneur in your neck of the woods or the humblest laborer in your work gang, adequate sleep assures you of an energetic, productive day ahead. Some people take in an all-nighter, recover from a weekend alcoholic bender, go on extended night shift for three days, and look none the less for wear. Not me, for sure. I don’t get sleep, and you can be sure I’ll be sluggish and light-headed for at least the next day.

For this reason, I don’t take coffee less than 4 hours before bedtime, prepare for difficult sleep on weeks I’m on night shift, and try to get in regular exercise to tire myself out before bed. The last few years have been more difficult than before, I put that down to changes associated with ageing.

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Too much of your favorite poisons means you die happy but still die. Like I said, no more coffee, kahit Seattle’s Best pa yan. One or two beers or glasses of wine is my limit, after that I consign the morning after to blahness for sure. Days when I consumed two to three plates of rice are in the distant past now. I don’t need the calories, I can get energy from healthier sources, and the anticipated extra weight is very hard on my joints and bones, not to mention my ego.

Whole blocks of Cadbury, Van Houten, Hersheys, you name it, I’ve done it. I’m particularly partial to milk chocolate outsides and soft chewy caramel insides like Snickers, Mars, Three Musketeers that give me a sugar high for a few minutes and send me looking for another fix almost immediately. That means pastries, hard candy and other sweet things are equally welcome

Years later I learned that these slowly affect everything in your pistons and pipes, your blood pressure, blood sugar, energy levels, ability to use and get rid of excess sugar in your body. I’m just lucky I’m hyperactive and locked to a manual job. Otherwise I’d have hypertension, heart disease and Type B diabetes. I’m pretty sure I’m already in the initial stages of many lifestyle diseases and so, for the rest of my life I need to moderate and tweak my diet, in short bore myself to death, unless I want to die sooner. Sort of like being caught between a rock and a hard place.

Gout, dodgy lower back, slow recovery from bumps and bruises. Those words speak for themselves. Seafood, alcohol and legumes are no longer things I can consume normally and expect to sleep pain-free. Of late, stretching has helped my sciatica, but it’s a part of the lifestyle I led in previous years. Bumps and bruises are things I can’t avoid but at least can minimize, because everytime I sustain injury, I take ages to recover.

*****          *****          *****

Now, to looking young, which in my particular life situation has its advantages.

First, God has seen fit to giving me a much younger life partner. Without sounding too boastful, I’m considerably older than Mahal, who only dresses maturely to deflect the disparity. She considers the Seventies the long distant past of ancient history, whereas it was the decade of my childhood. I’ll stop there.

So observing “cheats and tricks” to keep up the illusion of being only slightly older serves me well. I do the following:

Follow her every fashion suggestion. Cut my hair short. Dress to accentuate the positive and avoid the negative. (Although in my situation, I hardly have anything to accentuate anymore.) Dress to the occasion. Try not to overdo it. And other, sensible things.

Treat hair and skin as precious commodities. A lot of my contemporaries have now lost a considerable part or all of their head hair, and the overwhelming majority of us of have retained such hair are now turning gray or at least grayish. I can’t deny the aesthetic benefits of dyeing such hair to its former glory, but only because the greater part of my head (for now) is still black. I know that in time I will inevitably surrender to the preponderance of gray, but on balance, black is still the winner. As it is, I’m lucky to still have hair at all.

Skin is a different story. I use super moisturizer, anti-ageing serum, and sculpting cream while Mahal applies her own beauty regimen. It can’t just be vanity and obsession with skin health on my part, as mentioned I’m fighting an uphill struggle with Father Time and I’m severely handicapped, the ravages of the years, deadly vices and occupational hazards (night shift, manual labor etc) combine for the perfect storm I continually avoid. Every advantage I can use to maintain skin and hair, I will unhesitatingly use.

Exercise, exercise and exercise. Did I say exercise? Physical activity begets a vicious cycle. You clean your tubes and get your internal machine running, which makes you lose weight, which gives you more energy and impetus to do more exercise, repeat the cycle, on and on. Plus exercise leads to clearer skin, extended hormones (for those in my age bracket who are losing it), lubricated joint and ligaments that make daily physical activity, and therefore daily life, much more enjoyable and easier. Isn’t that, in a nutshell, feeling young? For this reason, and against my id, I try to run a few Ks everyday, huffing and puffing around the block, despite the cold, despite the early (or late) hour, despite myself.

*****          *****          *****

Going back: The original thesis was, between looking and young and feeling young, my instinctive laziness and results-now mentality makes me go for the former. But my experience has taught me that you can, ultimately, go for both. I won’t even try to tell you that between looking and feeling young, the latter is better for the soul. And they’re not mutually exclusive.

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!

the last line of defense against legit migrants


Image: An Indian policeman uses a bamboo stick

thanks and acknowledgment to brovil.blogspot.com!

[SPOILER ALERT and DISCLAIMER : In this and many other posts, Your Loyal kabayan Blogger offers no rigorous testing of theories, no research, and therefore no analysis that springs from either of the former. Napag-uusapan lang po. Mabuhay!]

I NEED to get this exploding thought out of my head: first of all kabayan my mababang paaralan (primary school) education tells me that there is nothing inherently wrong with sovereign states (esp developed, industrial states) keeping migrants out.

Whether you’re the barangay tanod, Coast Guard or a Scout Ranger, your sworn duty is to protect Philippine territory (the territory that hasn’t been compromised to China, yun lang) against any and all outsiders, and migrants, strictly speaking and until they become permanent residents, are outsiders that, unless authorized to do so (under special visas and privileges), have no right to reside in our country. So we expect any civilized nation to do the same, diba?

What’s not right and very pasaway (naughty) of certain countries (my adopted country isn’t the only one) is trying to kick out and/or make life difficult for migrants already inside the country and therefore compromised, meaning they already have something to lose.

There are many reasons for this, but for now I can only give you a couple (I have to report for afternoon shift in 1.5 hours and Mahal is almost done with tortang talong brunch):

An obvious reason is,  a loose and liberal immigration policy that may have flourished during earlier decades may need to give way to a stricter and more pragmatic, inward-looking policy. Where before, everyone was welcome, so many job positions needed filling, and the economy desperately needed warm bodies, only 10 years later, the glass is nearly full, Worse, people are gaming the system, using tricks and short cuts to qualify but in reality are poorly suited for and unwilling to actually participate in meaningful work (ahem, ahem, migrants from certain countries, you know who you are).

My second reason is: Come election time (any time now), you can bet that both the incumbent party-in-power and opposition say pretty desperate things to both attract attention and curry favor with popular opinion, i.e. votes sitting on the fence (undecided). Sad to say, saving jobs for New Zealanders, and migrants take jobs away from locals are some of them. I don’t need to tell you that as soon as the votes are counted, politicians will return to their natural constituencies, which are Big Business and their local districts. Itaga mo yan sa bato kabayan.

So, now that you have migrants that are no longer politically feasible to welcome (at least, for the moment) but have already invested time, energy and  money (also known as blood, sweat and tears) in your country, in the midst of economic, social and political turmoil, what to do, what to do?

The first line of defense is the language test or barrier. TOEFLs and IELTS hurdles are there, but not always for the the reason you think kabayan. For sure, English proficiency is the first threshold to participating in social and economic life in an English speaking country. But the converse is equally peruasive. If you (1) don’t speak English, (2) don’t adapt to speaking English ASAP, or (3) don’t want to shell out cash to learn English, then right away you are turned away at the border. Wala na tayong pag-uusapan amigo. This is a pretty straightforward barrier, and you can’t fault New Zealand for imposing this very basic barrier.

But weytaminit, kapeng mainit. You and me know, this is not a problem for Pinoys like you and me (or friends and partners of Pinoys who happen to be reading this).  We are English proficient, don’t need to bleed blood from stone to communicate with English speakers and pass English proficiency exams without too much grief. So this is where another barrier comes in.

Proof of skills. After all, the main reason you’re invited to participate in an economy not your own is through your skills diba (there’s also investment, that’s an entirely different kettle of fish though) and, theoretically, as long as you own skills that are usable and applicable to the host economy, then you’re welcome.

But then there’s the point of saturation, and also that very thorny and sensitive issue: What if there are already enough skilled laborers (in your particular area), or what if there are already enough locals who have in the meantime (from the time migrants are welcomed) upskilled and educated themselves and now want your place in the factory? In a manner of speaking, you might have worn out your welcome.

As if these weren’t enough, now comes the third, and recently innovated barrier kabayan. They’re called “remuneration bands” but in reality they’re just wage scales. Below $41,000 (yearly) you’re considered unskilled. Above the same number up to sitenta mil, you’re mid skilled. Above that amount, you’re highly skilled.

Various consequences attach to those numbers, and as you might expect, it doesn’t take a genius to surmise that the unskilled workers better start thinking of other migrant destinations, while those earning skilled dollars have an inside track to residency.

But why an arbitrary number or numbers? Does earning below 40 grand doom you to unskilled status? Just because your employer is generous, does it make you superskilled?

It sounds brutal, but the market is the best indicator of skill status. “If you are paid peanuts, then there are more people where you came from. If you are paid your weight in gold, then you must be hard to find, then by gosh we need you, my good man!” (I don’t know who said that, but it’s a pretty fair assessment of what many first world nations, not just NZ are doing now).

That in a nutshell is the last line of defense against legitimate migrants like many Pinoys. In rugby, the national sport of NZ, there is an idiom for this: in the middle of the game, they keep moving the goal posts. Please look it up for me, because that’s what they’re doing now, and it’s very unsettling.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!