mga laro ng aking kabataan (games of my childhood)

[  Thanks to Darius Marquez of the Palarong Pinoy sa Wellington games committee for the info! ]

BEFORE SOCIAL media, before the Internet, before video games, in fact before any kind of electronic games, all we had was our creativeness and ingenuity.  That, and each other.  Pinoy kids played piko (a sort-of hopping game), habulan (tag), patintero (a territorial tag team game) and all sorts of physically-oriented games that didn’t require batteries, laptops, computer consoles or controllers.  All we had was our imagination.


That, and a little piece of wood and string.  With the Yoyo, a wooden disc around which string was wound, you could do all sorts of cool stuff, like “rock the baby,” “walking the dog,” etc.


Patintero was played with teams of at least 2 to 5, with one team guarding the middle line, and two other teams trying to cross the lines from opposite ends.  In practice, it looks more fun than it sounds.


Sipa was/is basically hitting a game piece (called a “sipa,” a washer with colorful threads attached to it) with you foot as many times as you can without the sipa touching the ground.

These and many other games will be played, with an adult, children and men’s/women’s divisions, at the Palarong Pinoy sa Wellington weekend starting 22 October Saturday at the ASB Sports Centre, Level 2 in Kilbirnie, Wellington.

Although teams from Pinoy communities all over Wellington are expected to send teams, everyone, Pinoy or non-Pinoy, is invited.

See you there!

letter to young Erlinda, 19, from future son Noel


happy birthday mom!

Loving something, or someone more than yourself is a celebrated form of love throughout history and literature, but in reality the best proof that we have of selfless love is in that of our mothers. Over our lifetime and beyond, we can never show enough of our reciprocal love and appreciation for them. My mother celebrates her birthday today, enough said. What better time to tell her she is the best?  Happy birthday mom!

VIA SOME unheard-of technology, powered by a new unlimited and clean energy source and infra-infra range temperatures (discovered by those recent Nobel Prize winners), my body has been transformed into faster-than-light particles (and back to my body) that easily traverse the time-space continuum.  I’m not drunk or dreaming, this is actually happening.

Because it’s an auspicious date today, my mother Erlinda’s birthday, I select her last birthday as a dalaga (a maiden or single lady).  I alight from the time travel highway (for lack of a better term) in 1958, when the Philippines was a virtual 51st state of the American Union, and everything was much cleaner, less cluttered, and less populated than today.

Almost immediately I’m stuck by a quandary: I want to tell Erlinda all the things that will make her future a happier and better version based on my particular hindsight and peculiar foreknowledge, but if I do so, I might change fundamental aspects of our family history, including  (and especially including) my existence and that of my four brothers.  I’ve seen too many time-travel movies not to know that your (altered) past (literally) eventually comes back to haunt you.  I might even unwittingly influence (hopefully positively, but hoping NOT negatively) the lives of countless others my mother touched, and continues to touch today.

I want so much to see her and talk to her, but ultimately decide not to. Instead I write a letter and have it hand-delivered to her.

“Dear Erlinda :

“I don’t want to scare you, but I know quite a lot about you.  I know that you will get married soon, and that you want to start a family very soon after that.  But with the help of technology, I have the gift of knowing far more than that.  I know that you will succeed being both wife and mother, friend and lover.

“Because of your natural gift of canniness and improvisation, you have been successful in your various endeavors.  But you’ve also had family behind you.  I know that you’ve paid this forward, and will continue to pay it forward in the next few decades.  I don’t know if this foreknowledge will help you, maybe a self-awareness will make it even better.

Spur your children to greater heights.  You will always be there for them, but inspire them to make better use of their gifts, and do more to improve lives around them.  These sound like lofty platitudes, but when it comes from you, it will count for more.  Don’t ask me how I know, I just do.

Take better care of your health.  Like many women of your generation, you will be eating smart and avoiding vice (unlike your menfolk).  The problem is, your preference for certain foods and having to carry five strapping male babies to term will take its toll on your body, still youthful now, but human after all.  It sounds blunt and clinical, but watch your weight more and avoid sugary and starch foods like the plague.  It will be worth it.

And lastly…

Try to have a daughter.  You will have no shortage of sons, grandsons and granddaughters.  But you are too beautiful to not pass on your looks to a daughter.  As they say, pagandahin ang lahi (improve the race) at magparami.

“Beyond these trifling pieces of advice, there is nothing more to say to you.  You will lead a near-perfect life.”

From 2016 to 1958, happy birthday Mom, I love you forever.

Your future son


the hardest adjustment for a migrant

[ Host Wellington and the Wellington Pinoy community welcome all kabayan participants and competitors of the Pistang Pilipino 2016 sa Wellington,  kudos to the organizers, officials, marshals and other volunteer staff.  Mabuhay kayong lahat! ]

NOPE, IT’S not communication or language.  Most Pinoys (an endearment Filipinos call themselves) treat English almost as a first language, having been taught the King’s English from nearly the very start of their lives.  In fact, I remember in Pinoy Mass (once a month, celebrated by a Filipino priest), the priest delivered his homily in (of course) perfect English, for the benefit of the non-Pinoy parishioners who insisted on attending Mass with kabayan.  After 10 minutes of a short discussion of the Sunday Gospel, he said, I now respectfully continue the sermon in Taglish, which everyone was expecting.  In both versions, Father Kabayan was outstanding (and uplifting), and considerate of  both English and Tagalog speakers.  So, adjustment to our host’s language is no biggie.

A little more complicated is the way people travel, both on the road and on the footpath (sidewalk or walkway ang tawag natin).  The New Zealand Road Code tells motorists to travel on the left side of the road, so when you cross the street (usually a two-way street), you look to the right first, then to the left when you’re in the middle of street.  It took me a while before i got used to that, and got me quite a lot of honks and four-letter words from drivers who never get used to Asian pedestrians like me.  It got a little worse when I started learning to drive, because I frequently reverted to the mindset of driving on the right side of the road, not very safe and definitely taking a little more adjustment than walking.  Still, as long as you keep focused on your walking / driving, and remember that you’re in New Zealand, not the Philippines, you should be OK.

And then there’s the work culture or culture of interaction, I can’t go any broader than that for fear of using too much space.  Kiwis or New Zealanders generally speak their mind, but are aware of the need to save face at all times, especially for Asians.  So they temper the sharpness of their tongues with subtle digs and lighthearted witticisms, sometimes using good-natured sarcasm, in short, very Pinoy, when you think of our sawikain (literary expression), salawikain (proverbs), parinig (hints) and other figures of speech that dull the kaanghangan (spicyness) of our criticisms.  Definitely, there are more similarities than differences when you compare social intercourse /s of Pinoys and Kiwis.  The key words are civility, pakisama (attitude of “getting along” with each other) and the golden rule (do unto others what you’d want them to do unto you).

Even better, as long as you let your work and your work attitude talk the talk and walk the walk, you can’t go wrong.  Kiwis may find you strange, different and awkward, but if you do your work right, work within the team concept and go the extra mile, you speak their language, and speak the universal language, the language of hard work spoken anywhere.

*****          *****          *****          *****          *****

No, the biggest adjustment you have to make is accepting the realization that the next time you go back to the Philippines, it’s no longer to return to your home base but as an excursion to a place you used to live in, to visit friends, loved ones and family, only as an interruption of your regular life… as a migrant.

The biggest and most lifechanging adjustment you make is a shifting of allegiance from the country of your birth to the country of your future, to the country you will soon (if not already) call home.  Loyalty is on unstable, shifting ground, no more so than for the migrant.

You will never lose gratitude for the country that gave you existence, blood and identity, but your migrant life changes everyday, and your migrant life waits for no one.  Least of all, old memories and old attachments.

You can always go home, back to the Philippines, but with different eyes, different attitudes, and different perspectives.  That is as hard as any adjustment  you can make.

In a very real sense, you can never go home again.

Thanks and mabuhay everyone for reading!



what new zealanders REALLY think of us pinoys


[thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to! ]

SHAY MITCHELL of the world-famous TV hit Pretty Little Liars said it best, even if it was a little rude : when the half-Pinay was asked if her mom was a yaya (nanny or babysitter), she was reported by Cosmopolitan to have answered no eff-er, but even if she was, so what?  Do you know how hard it is to be one?  Being yayas, nurses and construction workers is just one of the multi-faceted dimensions of being a Filipino, and we do other things as well. But people all over the world have preconceived notions of us Pinoys, and it’s up to us to disabuse them of those notions.

As usual, I don’t claim to be an expert in what non-Pinoys think of us, but I DO have an advantage in that I’ve been living in New Zealand albeit as  a guest worker, and I do have encounters and interactions with New Zealanders regularly, but admittedly not as much as I’d like (I usually work in two-man shifts every other week).  Here is a short list of some of the things Kiwis observe about us, but of course the list is not exhaustive:

Pinoys are team players in the game of nation building and just want to do their bit while raising families and developing careers.  Sometime in the 1990s, New Zealand decided to meet the (then) labor deficiency challenge head-on and opened their doors to migration.  The result has been mixed, but Pinoy migrants have made New Zealand decision-makers look like geniuses.  Pinoys are productive members of the workforce, are not generally known to be troublemakers or criminal offenders, and you will hardly see any Pinoys unemployed or on the (employment or sickness) benefit.

These will be supported by statistics, but on personal experience, I can confidently tell you that no  Pinoy wants to be seen as idle by choice.  There’s always work to be had in New Zealand, as long as you’re not choosy.  And it’s part of the migrant way of thinking that, because you’ve been granted the privilege of living in a country, you do your part by pulling your weight, even if it’s doing jobs you don’t particularly fancy.  This way, you participate in the economy, at the very least pay taxes that run the engine of government, and don’t become a burden to your hosts.  Just common courtesy, actually.

Someone very close to me (please don’t ask me to identify him/her, as doing so would jeopardize my life🙂 ) had just become a permanent resident a few years ago but had had a particularly difficult time finding a job that matched his/her skills.  When I half-joked that at the very least, being on the dole (unemployment benefit) would be an option, he/she indignantly retorted, I didn’t come to New Zealand to be an unemployment beneficiary or words to that effect.  I then realized, belatedly, that such an option, option though it was, would be unthinkable for me as well.

Among a diverse group of migrant workers, Pinoy workers respond best to specific instructions and orders rather than a general set of goals.  I’m not entirely sure why this is so, just guessing that Pinoys prefer as little room as possible for doubt in executing tasks and plans especially when in an environment they’re not used to.

But probably the better reason Pinoys do better under detailed directions, and so have the tendency, over other migrant nationalities, to ask for such level of detail, is the fact that most Pinoys as OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) speak fluent English, almost as a first language (after of course the native  Tagalog, Bisaya, Ilokano or other dialects ).  Having heard and spoken English most of their lives, they are eager to show their Kiwi employers the relative ease in assimilating into and adapting to their new work environment, compared to other, non-English speaking races.

And finally…

Kiwis think Pinoys try hard to get along with everyone not only to be part of the team but to be likable by everyone.  This is, not just easily explainable but also understandable not only if you’re a Pinoy but also if you’ve worked with anyone Pinoy, half-Pinoy or married to one.  It’s part of Pinoys to work as part of a team, and consider all members of the work team (weeeeeell, anyone who WANTS to be part of the team) to be part of the family.

It’s second nature for a Pinoy to look out for each other in the work team, to fill in or help out if someone needs a hand, so to speak.  It’s natural for Pinoys to consider the office, workplace or factory as like a second home, where the inhabitants are totally comfortable and treat all the co-inhabitants as family members.

The downside to this is that, if Pinoys can’t convince themselves to like certain members of the workplace, they believe that they can’t work well with the same unlikable workmates as well.  Which is also probably why, on the assumption that liking Pinoys will foster mutual likability, Pinoys try quite hard to make themselves liked at the workplace.

Do you agree?  These are based on specific experiences, quotes and anecdotes learned and earned here and there, so the above are highly subjective and easily proven (or disproven).  But if it can contribute,  even just a bit, to a better understanding of the lives Pinoy migrants have led in New Zealand, then it would have been worth it.  Just sayin’.

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!


etiquette for bedmates


Unfortunately, not many of us look this good when we’re asleep.  They’re probably models anyway.  Thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to!

YOU SHARE an office with strangers and you make rules.  You share a flat (apartment) with acquaintances and you make rules.  Surely it’s at least as important (and practical) to have rules with someone you sleep with?

If you’re like me, you don’t.  idiosyncratically, some things are too personal, or instinctual, for us to make formal rules for.  We either love or hate the things they do, the people we sleep with.  We literally live with them.

I just thought I’d think up a few things that would serve as helpful, when you’re starting out with someone, when you’ve lived with a loved one for years and years, or when you’re just hooking up (hope it’s not an offensive term to my old-school buddies) overnight with a hot date :

Face-to-face is romantic, but not in the morning.  You know those lovey-dovey scenes where the lovers’ faces are less than an inch from each other as they fall asleep (presumably after doing the nasty) and as they wake at dawn?  It looks good on the silver screen, but not in real life.  Our noses, lips and other bits and pieces will often bump each other, not just awkward but sometimes unsafe.  And then there’s the so-called “dragon breath” in the mornings, when we don’t smell our best.  So we can kiss and enjoy each other’s beautiful faces, just not all of the time, and definitely not when we’ve just woken up.

Don’t grab pillows, don’t pull blankets.  Spouse Mahal and I share everything in life except our pillows.  Because she has the purse and the shopping acumen, she has softer, downier and fluffier pillows.  I have the pillows from the Salvation Army store and leftover sofa pillows with itchy upholstery (just kidding). So sometime in the night, unconsciously or not, I begin to use some of Mahal’s pillows.  It’s alright as long as Mahal isn’t bothered or woken up by such (unauthorized) use, but when I begin to (unconsciously or not, again) pull our shared blanket towards me to preserve heat, especially during the winter, she wakes up and pulls right back, towards her.  I usually grunt, half asleep and don’t care.

The lesson in all this?  First, you have to make sure that there are enough pillows and that the blanket/s are large enough for the user/s.  Second, there has to be thoughtfulness and solicitousness so that pillows and blankets, regardless of whether there are enough, are shared equally among the bedmates.

Snoring, sleep talkin’ and sleep walking.  My eccentricities are not limited to my waking hours, Mahal never ceases to remind me.  I am a terrible snorer, I talk in my sleep and occasionally sit up and walk around the bedroom.  Oftentimes these are just indicators of other things going on in our lives, like an obstruction in our airway, a little too much stress in our lives, etc.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) Mahal is also a snorer, talks and even laughs in her sleep.  So we watch out for each other, know when we are going to snore loudly (it’s when we are very tired or have colds, coughs or other minor respiratory issues) and wake each other up when we’re doing something funny.  It’s just extra dosage of concern for your bedmate that can go a long way.

There are other guidelines we live (sleep) by.  Come to bed observing hygiene, otherwise you get no good night kiss.  No sneaky moves when the other partner isn’t ready for “conjugal activities” ( I enforce this rule too, although Mahal benefits more from the rule, I admit).  Don’t bother the other person when he or she is on a late night shift.  And so on and so forth.  The  guiding spirit of these rules and guidelines is usually being considerate of the other person’s needs and tastes, which is, when you think about it, common sense among people who love (and live with) each other, don’t you think?

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!


startled by the stump

Athletics - Women's Long Jump - T47 Final

Anna Grimaldi of NZ wins gold at the 2016 Paralympic long jump final.  Thanks and acknowledgment to the Otago Daily Times for the pretty picture!

Last week I saw on TV one of the first Paralympic finalists from New Zealand.  Her event was the long jump.

She looked very young, very new in her chosen field.  She took a step back, looked one last time at her target, and ran towards it.

She hadn’t known it then, but it was the longest and best competitive jump of her life.  It was more than enough for her to win the gold medal.

I told myself while watching, she’s good, but I wonder what made her handicapped, or qualified her to participate in the Paralympics.  I probably had that thought because she looked very normal, ordinary, cute even, in her New Zealand singlet.

Then, of course, I saw it.  One of her hands was missing.  In its place was  a little stump where her arm ended.

I was both happy and sad for her.

Thanks for reading!

via Daily Prompt: Stump

perchance & happenstance: daig minsan ng swerte ang maagap at masipag


[  Wish there was a happy ending to this story.  I still continue to fight the good fight, solider on, and live every day as if it were my last.  But in the game of life, don’t we all?  ]

SHOW ME an overseas Pinoy worker (OFW), and I’ll show you a migrant-in-waiting.  Behind every successful migrant was once an aspiring OFW willing to try his luck anywhere he (or she) is wanted.

It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s much easier to migrate when you condition yourself to be an OFW first.  A host nation is much more welcoming to potential migrants who look for work first before attempting to become one of its citizens.  But one needs to be hyperalert, hypersensitive and hyperaware of all opportunities that lead to the OFW’s ultimate goal, which is to work in an ideal situation abroad…

…or, you could be lucky, and just be at the right place at the right time.

THE FIRST LUCKY BREAK.  It all started with a generous aunt, who brought a different set of nephews and nieces each time she went on a vacation overseas.  That particular year I was lucky enough to be taken along, and because she had a nephew there (my brother), she chose to visit New Zealand.

After we had seen the sights and enjoyed our reunions with relatives, my brother asked me, if ever he gave me the initial assistance (board & lodging, initial paperwork, etc), I would fancy finding work in New Zealand.  It wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.  But then, given that I didn’t exactly have the awesomest job back home, what did I have to lose?

*****          *****          *****

Inside and out, I don’t come across as a typical OFW.  I don’t have the marketable skills in the medical, construction and technology industries that are so desirable all over the world.  I’ve never been tech-savvy, I’ve got little to no aptitude in health care, and I definitely don’t possess the particular strength and skill that serves well in housebuilding occupations.

No coincidence, these are among the skills prioritized under the umbrella  Skilled Migrant pathway, on the premise that jobs that fuel the economy can’t be filled by locals alone and the backlog must be picked up by migrant labor.  These skills are listed, unsurprisingly, on what’s called a Long-Term and Short Term Skills Shortage List.

Nope, I didn’t have any of the skills on either list.  And that’s where my second lucky break came…

*****          *****          *****

THE SECOND.  Almost a year after my first work visa was issued, my luck was running out.  The company that hired me under that visa went out of business, and the position that I was hired for (something that I barely qualified for) no longer existed, so I of course had no more job.  I was back to square one, in fact one step backwards, because like I said above, I had already abandoned my last job in the Philippines (not that it was any great loss) and had already used up a lot of favors getting my first visa.

At the last moment, barely weeks before my only option would be returning home, one of my brothers acquaintances from church gave me a referral to an employment lead.

With the slimmest of hopes I snagged an interview with the site manager.  I would be trained from the ground up, with minimum wage but on a case-to-case basis (not based on general work visa policy), I had a chance at a visa.  Biting the bullet and kapit sa patalim, I took a leap of faith, and cursed the darkness…  (any more dramatic idioms, kabayan?)

*****           *****          *****

That was 2008, nearly eight years ago.  The good news is, I’m still here in New Zealand.  The bad ?  Well, there is no bad news.  Only a slight disappointment, in the sense that I’m still on a work visa.  But given all that I’ve been through, I’ve been very lucky.

I’ve trained as hard as I can in all aspects of my work, so that (surprise!) I’m now a qualified tradesman in my line of work.  But because it’s such a specific specialty, unless I go out of the country (again), my employment prospects are quite limited.

Oh yes, it’s true that I’ve been at the right place at the right time, picked my spots and played my cards right.  (What if my aunt brought another nephew or niece with her the year she vacationed in New Zealand?  What if I was introduced to my brother’s friend a week or two before or after the job opening surfaced?  And so on and so forth.)

But I also persevered, perhaps more than I thought I would.  Many, many times I thought I would give up.  A quarter of my job involves manual labor, another one-fourth  a little discipline,  plus a little pakisama. That adds another quarter.  Most of the time, it’s just showing up, and showing up on time.

It would sound arrogant if I didn’t admit that I’ve been blessed to find work as an unskilled tourist coming from the Philippines, to First World New Zealand.  But I would be less than candid if I didn’t say that sipag at tyaga has played a major part.

Diba, sometimes they mean the same thing?  Luck and good fortune.  Sipag at tyaga.  Sometimes we make our own luck.

Thanks for reading kabayan!







admiring Dad on fathers’ day

selfie with mom dad and george

The man of the hour, flanked by 4th Brother (standing), Mom on Dad’s right, me on his left, and Mahal shooting the selfie.  Happy Fathers’ Day to all fathers and father figures!

COMPARED TO the mother’s biological tasks related to babymaking, the father’s involvement is a breeze.  Literally, we only need to work (if you can call it work) for a few minutes if at all.  The rest of the job, lasting at least 36 weeks and 9 months max, belongs to our noble mothers.

But that doesn’t make our responsibilities any less when it comes to our offspring.  Almost universally across all cultures, fathers provide, nurture, inspire, educate, and act as our first role models.  Plus, we should be ready to wash the dishes and be ready for carpooling to school and PTA meetings when the primary parent (Mom) is unavailable.

*****           *****          *****

My father stayed with the script, and more.  He was always ready to spend time and just have fun with us, if not after school, then on rest days and weekends.  He wasn’t an all-star playing coach for pickup basketball, but had more than enough time for us for Saturday trips to Chinatown and Sunday fun runs astride Manila Bay.

*****          *****          *****

Dad has slowed down now, but his mind is as clear as the day his firstborn arrived.  He no longer takes his long walks but tight skirts and long legs still bring a twinkle to his eye.

He enjoys being pampered  by his wife, albeit with the inevitable scolding if ever he indulges in his minor vices.  But the thing he enjoys most is that anytime he summons his sons scattered across the seven seas, they will show up (via Skype or FaceTime), and that every now and then the latter still seek his timeless counsel and wisdom.

Including of course, how to catch the eye of those leggy mini-skirts (just kidding, Mom!).

Thanks for everything Dad.  Happy Father’s Day, and mabuhay to all fathers!



why walking (& even running) is better than standing for this middle-aged OFW


thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to!

[ Prayers and concern for our brother and sister kabayan in Davao City and environs. ]

THE FIRST TIME i felt the pain was when I was carrying a moderately heavy load, a half-bag (sack or supot) of product, between 5-10 kg I think.

Aray, ouch, not a sharp twinge of traumatic impact pain but rather a dull bag! of discomfort, more like a heavy knock between my upper thigh and buttocks, classically where sciatic nerve pain occurs.  The pain wasn’t remarkable enough for me to cry out and complain the usual way I do (I’m a neurotic complainer), but it was enough for me to stop and take stock of the situation.

Now, that’s different.  I don’t remember anything like it before, although I’m used to fatigue, bumps and bruises and other pains associated with specific events.  This one happened out of nowhere, although at the time I had been performing a manual task.

The pain lessened somewhat after a break, one I took every two hours on this longish 12-hour night shift. (I’m assuming it was on nights because I do a night shift every other week now).  But as soon as I resumed regular work and chores, the nagging pain returned.


The irony was (is), as long as I walked or even ran (except for the first few minutes, I always suffer a little stiffness coming from sitting or prone positions), I was fine.  The pain, which now alternated between dull throbs in my upper thigh-buttock area (left leg only) and pinpricks on the lower thighs to upper legs, was most prominent when I was stationary, a position I now logically avoided at all costs.

But as we workers, Pinoy,  OFW or otherwise, all know, work involves a thousand and one positions of the standing, sitting and mobile human body.  We are forever finding new combinations of  bodily activity to adjust to our multi-tasking, enhanced-activity, productivity-greedy jobs.  We stretch, crouch, squat, half-sit, half-stand, kneel, crawl all the time, every hour of the day, without a second thought.

All of which is murder, one killing blow at a time, to our lower backs.


I can’t blame anyone for my suspected sciatica (suspected cuz it hasn’t been confirmed, but the signs are pretty clear).  All my life, I’ve been abusing my body beyond reason, beyond repair.  I remember staying awake 48 hours, smoking used butt of cigarets, and drinking alcohol well beyond my limits.  But this was during my failed experiment with youth.  The rest of my working life, my abuse has mostly been walking too much, standing too long, and spending too many days (nights) on physically exhausting extended shifts.  My body is only responding to the wear-and-tear I’ve exposed it to.

I can still work normally, but I need to take regular breaks now, apply warm compresses to my back on those freezing Wellington nights, and use my days off for quality breaks.  As any middle-aged person in his/her right mind should be doing.

The most important things I can do now regarding my pinched-nerve situation are specific stretching exercises that seem to relieve the pain and tightness in the area, rest whenever I can, and STAYING AWAY from the stationary, standing position.

If I can remember to do these simple things, then for the rest of my so-called life, I’m good.  For now.

Thanks for reading and mabuhay!








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!