where has the real Game of Thrones gone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

the birthday that time forgot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

on reaching the business end of a mother’s day conversation

a recent photo of Mom and Dad, thanks & acknowledgment to the Dely Imperial photo library!  happy mothers' day to all!
a recent photo of Mom and Dad, thanks & acknowledgment to the Dely Imperial photo library! happy mothers’ day to all!

[Note : just by being yourself, you are already a legend.  To all moms, please take a bow today.  Happy mother’s day to all! ]

IT SEEMS improbable, but I’m willing to bet a week’s sweldo that with half a lifetime’s bonding, the amazing array of communication tools available, and the era of open, honest and leveled communication now upon us, most of you, like me, still find it a little difficult to talk and be at ease with our mothers at the same time.

We empathize, feel, relate with any kind of person mass media brings before us, we can keep in touch with people halfway around the world on numerous platforms, and we are in complete touch with the widest range of emotions as the moment requires, be it for entertainment, education or edification.

Back to our mothers.  We can talk to our moms on a wide range of topics, as long as it doesn’t concern our emotions.  We can also be at ease with our mothers, as long as we aren’t communicating earnestly.  So what I’m saying is, we can’t talk to and be at ease with our mothers at the same time.  (Or maybe it’s just me?)

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So many maybes come to mind when I think of why this might be.  Maybe because of the generation gap.  Maybe because the previous generation grew up repressing their emotions, at least in front of elders, and therefore expecting the same from their descendants.  Maybe because children grew up with an overload of admonishment, overcorrection and micromanagement from their parents, and to show emotion would be a sign of weakness, error or extreme behavior, none of which might be seen as ideal behavior.  But remember, these are all just maybes.

The only thing I’m sure of is that as her third son, now nearly half a century old, I still behave like a little boy when I happen to share a conversation with Mom.

Sure, we talk about pleasant, everyday and important things.  We talk about them often enough, and I always get the feeling that on either side ideas, information and other good stuff go through.

But the really important stuff isn’t as easy to pass through.  There’s this filter of awkwardness, trying to say the right thing, and not lingering on how you really feel, that pervades most conversations with my mom.  And if I know you like I know myself, I’m just guessing here, you know where I’m coming from.

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So, just to make it a little easier for you and me, I’m going to tell you what I plan to tell Mom when I call her this Mother’s Day weekend.  (Don’t really know where the apostrophe should be, but that’s not important.)

I will tell her first about the rest of the family, her daughter-in-law, her grandkids, and maybe, just maybe, future members of the family.  If any.  This is easy, because it’s not hard to talk about other people.  And it breaks the ice.

Next, I’ll tell her about my immediate plans and dreams, and how I’m tracking.  This is a little harder, because there’s the potential for success (or failure) assessment, which is the inalienable and God-given right of every parent, so proceed at your own risk na lang. But this is always good to do, because Moms feel important when you report to her your progress (or lack of it), at this advanced stage she feels you still value her input, even though your ear is further from the receiver than at any other point in the call.

Last, and this is like I said in the title, the business end (or money shot if you prefer) of the talk.  You tell her exactly how you feel about her, and how much she has impacted your life.  It is the most important part of the call, so while you can wing it or improvise on the other parts, on this part you don’t.  You tell it like it is.

If your mom is like mine, and I’m betting that she is, she has made you into the person that you are today.  So go ahead and say it.  I have good points and bad points, but most of the former, I owe to her.  I’m nearly certain you’re the same.  So go ahead and tell her.  And a lot of times I was in trouble, real or imagined, she was the first person I thought of running to.  And almost always, ultimately I did run to her. If you feel likewise (and I’m guessing you do), remind yourself, and herself of that, and tell her how grateful you are of that fact of life.

After these, you may now, appropriately, wish Mom a happy mother’s day.  :)  And an “i love you Mom” wouldn’t hurt.

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Look, you don’t need to tell this to Mom everyday, beyond her birthday and mother’s day.  After all, in her eyes, you are already perfect, and every good thing you do is already a bonus.

But every little bit helps.

Happy Mothers’ Day Mom, I love you very much!  And happy Mothers’ Day to all the moms in the world!

the idea of a birthday + the idea of Ganda = happy birthday Ganda!

daughter Ganda : may or may not be perfect, but always has the benefit of the doubt.  happy birthday and love you always!
daughter Ganda : may or may not be perfect, but always has the benefit of the doubt. happy birthday and love you always! thanks & acknowledgment to brother Jude for the screen grab of a video Ganda posted, please support Ganda’s makeup channel by viewing https://youtu.be/sLRDglqCs6Y advance muchas gracias hermanos y hermanas!

I CONFESS that at the still-reminiscing-puberty age of 27, I hadn’t given thought to how a potential daughter would’ve looked like, much less grown up to be like, as I was still coping with a son born to me at the ripe old age of 22, a time when most of us are still coming to terms with Catholic guilt, teenage angst, massive acne and unresolved crushes.

That said, a girl borne of my seed (hope that doesn’t sound too awkward), in my fallible estimation, would be pretty but not too pretty, intelligent but also modest, charming without being fresh, respectful without being servile, and clever but not at the expense of others.

These are subjective, egocentric and self-absorbed standards about a daughter ideal, for what are offspring ideals if not abstract extensions of our physical and metaphysical selves?

If you Precious Reader or I had a daughter like that, she probably wouldn’t be human, but an untouchable avatar representing our yearnings, longings and expectations of the generation that succeeds us.

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Instead 23 years later I have a tempered, balanced and more realistic version of the daughter ideal described the last two paragraphs, and that is none other than Ganda, the name I have given my real-life daughter in my (less than real-life) blog world.

The amazing thing is, she may or may not be such, but she has actually turned out to be pretty without being too pretty, has become real-world intelligent while being cyberworld modest, has always been charming even while learning not to be fresh.  And yes, it’s too good to be true, but she’s also respectful without being servile, and clever but not at the expense of others.

It goes without saying that you don’t need to believe me, after all, I am her father.  But I have also seen Ganda from Promil and Pampers to eye shadow and mascara, and everything in between.  Of course, she hasn’t always been that perfect.  But to me, she’s the real deal.

Part of me cringes to see her with her grown-up affectations, her little-girl insecurities, and her old-lady fears.  But most of all I still die a little when I see her kiss and hold hands with her (coincidentally) Pinoy and (on the surface) respectful boyfriend, quite a surprise because despite being born in Mandaluyong has lived practically his whole life in New Zealand. (I’m secretly happy she has chosen a Filipino beloved, but she’ll never know, that is, unless you tell her.)

But if you know me like I know me, you know that Ganda is Ganda despite me and not because of me.

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And that’s why, on her 23rd birthday today, I love and cherish her like a flawless blue diamond, which as you may or may not know, is the most precious gem in the world.

Which is, as you may or may not know, not even a close second to Ganda.

Happy birthday Ganda, from all of us who care for and love you.  And everybody else in the world!

PS.  Hope that was the best pic of you I used.

extending mary jane veloso’s Day of Miracles to other kabayan on Death Row

Taken only a few days before her execution, Mary Jane is inexplicably all smiles.  Perhaps she had the foreknowledge that God and her kabayan would not abandon her.   Thank you Indonesia!
Taken only a few days before her execution, Mary Jane is inexplicably all smiles. Perhaps she had the foreknowledge that God and her kabayan would not abandon her. Thank you Indonesia!

[ Note : sorry for the typo and errors, I was so excited to post this.  The first miracle was that the person who tricked Mary Jane into becoming a drug mule surfaced, and the second miracle was that the Indonesian Government listened.  Hopefully other miracles will follow.  Today is a great day! ]

TO BLOG is essentially a self-centered enterprise.  No matter how much you want to help your fellow man, do the right thing, etc., you want to do it on your own terms and via the things you love doing, not the least of which is blogging!  But that’s alright, that’s the way the world works, you have to get at least something out of doing your thing, even if it’s the thrill of being read by at least one other person.

I blog about a motley group of things, mainly about my own life, and how I cope as a middle-aged Overseas Filipino Worker, that’s OFW.  But every now and then I concede that there are things bigger than me, more important than me, and things that will outlast most of us long after we’re gone.

One of those things is the universal respect for human life.  I don’t want to go into platitudes, motherhood statements that you already have heard enough of.  I just want to say that no matter what the crime is, no matter what you’ve done, the punishment should fit the deed.  And no crime deserves the punishment of taking away life.

You may or may not have your exceptions, I respect that.  And obviously the Indonesian people, represented by its government and laws, has seen it fit that self-preservation (of the state) warrants any and all forms of deterrence, the most powerful of which is the Death Penalty, in caps.

One of our very own, until a few ours ago, was to have received that harshest of punishments, along with eight other unfortunate individuals from Australia, Brazil, France and another country or two.  Out of those nine, no one received a last minute stay of execution, a reprieve, pardon, or any other act that would stop the legal murder of those unfortunate enough to have been convicted of a capital crime.

Except one.

Except our Mary Jane Veloso, who until a few hours before her execution was condemned to die by firing squad for the improbable commission of drug trafficking, considering her circumstances in life, her previous criminal record, and the simple unlikeliness of her being able to do what she was accused of doing.

The media reports will better explain the minor miracle of her survival, but for now suffice it to say that the person who actually caused the circumstances for her to land in her sticky situation has surfaced, and contrary to all expectations, the Indonesian Government has relented.  The day has been saved, and our kabayan lives!

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As of this date, around 800 Filipinos worldwide are currently being prosecuted, have been convicted or are awaiting sentences to be carried out, for capital crimes.  This is an outrage, and the only ones who are in a position to do something about it is the Philippine Government, and of course, the various governments of the countries where Filipinos are being prosecuted.  Our kabayan (countrymen) may or may not have committed the crimes charged, but most certainly they don’t deserve the supreme punishment.

By agitating our Government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and various Embassies, let’s extend our kabayan Mary Jane Veloso’s Day of Miracles to all our other kabayan.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat!

working with kabsat & learning about ourselves

I've used this pic before. Can you guess who our kabayan is here? He's the bespectacled guy to my left.  thanks for everything Kabsat!
I’ve used this pic before. Can you guess who our kabayan is here? He’s the bespectacled guy to my left. thanks for everything Kabsat!

[Note : Miracles still happen!  Let’s do all we can and agitate our national officials not to let up in appealing for clemency or mercy for kabayan Mary Jane Veloso, who is now on Indonesia’s death row for a crime she may not have committed. ]

TRUE to some of our kabayan’s regionalistic nature, my first and only Filipino colleague at work was equally as proud of his hometown (and home province) as he was/is of his country, because he introduced himself to our supervisor as such.  Having known this beforehand, I naughtily prepared my greeting to him as he entered the work area for the first time late last year.

Naimbag nga bigat, I shouted over the din of conveyors and machinery.

Even with all those ambient decibels drowning everything out, I could hear his wide-eyed response.

Ilokano ka rin????

I smiled and nodded to the negative, but it was enough of a friendly greeting to him.

Thus was how I met and encountered for the first time my Filipino / Ilokano workmate, who I’ll just call Kabsat (brother) because I think the nickname has rather grown on him.

I had no idea of how his final interview with the site manager went, but with his engineering degree, work experience and engaging manner, it was more than enough for him to get hired.  I don’t know if the fact that there was already a Filipino on site (me) helped, or maybe it didn’t.   Unsurprisingly it was up to little old me to familiarize him and show him the ropes, as we would be doing the same work throughout all our shifts.


The first odd thing that I noticed about Kabsat was that everytime I told him how something ran and how to change the setting of the latter, he would not say anything immediately, as a response or to tell me that he understood.  Instead, he would look at the machine, give it the once-over and see how the flow (of product) in and out of such machine took place. Only then would he register to me his reactions, on how well he understood me (or not).

Later he told me he was trying to assess the relationship of each machine to the rest of the system, something I hadn’t thought of doing till then.  He said that part of his training was to study each machine in relation to the whole. as it made for easier understanding of the whole process.

I just nodded, but inside I was already scratching my head.  This guy is different from you and me, I shouted mentally to no one.

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Next thing I noticed was that Kabsat always paid attention to the systems in place, instead of wondering how things worked.  He realized not long after his orientation in our workplace, that because of unsynchronized projects that were started by different managers in previous years, there was both a mechanical and pneumatic system in place to transport product throughout the site.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that with his training and aptitude, Kabsat would soon overtake me in skills and knowledge about work, and I was honest enough to tell him this.

Ever the modest Ilokano, he denied it, telling me instead that his academic background and experience in the manufacturing industry made it easy for him to be comfortable in our milieu.  That, and his stories about his life in Baguio (St Louis University), a site manager in a Samsung contractor in the Cavite Export Processing Zone and his recent migrant adventures made us fast friends at work.

And even if all the above hadn’t happened, we would still have gotten along, because indeed, he has been my first and only kabayan in my job.  Hardworking, easy to get along with, humble, and most of all, efficient, Kabsat has not only proven worthy of his job, he has made me and future Filipinos in our workplace look good.  I could not ask for anything more.

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Perhaps you’re wondering Precious Reader why, after all this time, I’ve only told you about Kabsat now and not sooner.

I’ll tell you why.  Notwithstanding the ease with which Kabsat learned how to do our job, he was not gonna stay long with me.  He had too much experience, too many skills and managed people too well to just stay in the rank and file of a company, no matter how good that company was.

That, and the fact that his wife was the principal applicant for permanent residency, meant that I wasn’t gonna have a kabayan at work for long.  His wife, a specialist nurse, was headed for Auckland, and of course that’s where he was headed too.  I was happy for them, and I was happy we shared some good times at work.

For a while I was getting used to having a kabayan at work, but it was not meant to be.  I just to content myself with knowing that once upon a time, there was a slice of Manila in working-class Wellington.

Agyamanak for everything kabsat, and Agpakadaakon!

new city, new job, new life : happy birthday Panganay !

Panganay with a fellow Hobbit extra : kabayan Manny P would surely be proud.  Happy 27th birthday!
Panganay with a fellow Hobbit extra : kabayan Manny P would surely be proud. Happy 27th birthday!

WHILE it may or may not be true that children are first to reap the harvest of their parents’ success, children are certainly the first to bear the fruits of the former’s failure.  By being (literally or figuratively) closest to the point of impact, by being most closely identified with the glory or notoriety of the family name, and by being so dependent on the parents’ and family’s fortunes, children are in every sense helpless babes hostage to whatever ill-wind befalls the father, or in some cases the mother.

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In this regard, son Panganay among my brood (of Panganay, Ganda and Bunso) has borne the brunt of all my failures and shortcomings in my parenthood experiment.  He was there to endure my immaturities, my plans-gone-awry, my aborted careers, and the many times I came up short as a provider and nurturer.  Time and learning from my initial mistakes have helped soften the blow for his brother and sister, but if hunger and adversity were effective teachers, then Panganay would surely have been a masteral degree holder in the school of Life’s Realities by now.  No thanks to me.

Instead of being bitter and resentful toward me, he has instead built upon the barren earth of his youth and has turned it into arable, vibrant loam of a rewarding career.  True he has his own shortcomings and immaturities as a twentysomething, but these pale in comparison to how he has grasped being a citizen of the post-modern, interconnected and sensory-overloaded New World.  Along the way he has forgiven me for not being an ideal parent, and I am grateful for that.

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The last time I saw Panganay was some months back just before he left Wellington for a new life in Auckland, the premier city of New Zealand.  The reboot was both symbolic and actual for him.  New job, new city, new flat (of course), new everything for him, and of course he would be picking up new friends, new dancing, groups and partners (Latin American dancing is his passion).  Only the few memories he has of  Marikina, Paco, Cainta, and of course, Wellington, will remain.  Everything else will be sacrificed on the altar of Embracing The Future.

He is well-equipped to handle all of these, for after all, he is a child of the Twenty-first Century, and champion of the Brave New World.  I am just proud to have supplied my half of his DNA.  Today is the first day of the rest of his life.

Happy birthday Panganay !  Love you and miss you!