ang pagbabalik: why homecomings are important to Pinoy migrants


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

alin ang naiiba? the subtle differences of migrants vs OFWs


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

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


[thanks and acknowledgment to,, and! maraming salamat sa mga kabayang nasa mga larawan!]

Dear Honorable Minister Lees-Galloway:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


a nameless worker




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


cy and mike

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PS. for more info on our favorite store, please visit thanks and maraming salamat po!

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

Mga Pintados ng Wellington 2: kahanga-hangang 3-in-1 kabayan superdad

NOT A TRICK SHOT. Our kabayan Carlo carrying his Vietnamese bride Jessica, almost reaching Sky Tower!

MOST PINOYS (Filipinos) are quiet achievers in New Zealand. Whether as professionals, tradesmen or miscellaneous workers, we take our jobs and contributions seriously (but never ourselves seriously), generally keep our collective heads down, and just try to get along.

But every now and then you see remarkable kabayan (countrymen or women) doing unexceptional things in an exceptional way. He’s very modest in ways and means, but it doesn’t make him any less cool as a 2nd generation migrant in Middle Earth.

It’s amazing when you’re make it to the gym regularly, but it’s even more amazing when you’re mistaken as the gym trainer and resident beefcake more often than anybody else, including the actual gym trainer.

And those making the common mistake actually have a point, as you have less than 5% body fat, know all the basic techniques for fitness and bodybuilding beginners, and frankly look more chiseled and cut than any gym staff on the roster.

Nothing surprising really, when you take a hard look at Carlo Sevilleja’s daily disciplines of diet, exercise and fitness. In an indirect manner the pic above shows how advanced he is in developing each and every muscle group in the body, as he maintains a careful carbo-protein balance every meal, every day (except on cheat days at our place, heh heh), and he has achieved such a high level of bodybuilding excellence that he has qualified in national competitions for his weight class without too much heavy lifting (pun intended). On his own, and with the littlest fanfare possible, Carlo has become the Wellington Pinoy community’s best bet for bodybuilding glory in New Zealand.

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But like every sports activity outside rugby in New Zealand, to get ahead, you need to fund your own equipment, training, competition fees, not to mention related and incidental expenses. If you’re not a high-income earner like the 99% of the population, you become a weekend warrior, do an honest day’s work, and find some other way to augment your daily bread, like Carlo.

Except that Carlo, besides his Mr Universe aptitude, has very special skill set. You see, he is fluent in guitar, piano and drums. That’s right, because he has theoretical and artistic backgrounds in the major musical instruments, he can after a couple minutes listening to a random tune, strum it out and play it back to you in either strings or keyboards. (He also plays the ukele  and is learning the violin.) Sort of like a kayumanggi Ed Sheeran without the red hair or the musical genius, but with the ability to make good music nevertheless.

So that’s how he has augmented his income, by teaching piano and guitar lessons to whoever might be inclined, and whose unintended consequence brought him to meet his future wife and daughter. So whichever way his fame and fortune goes, his being a music teacher has already brought him the loves of his life.

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“this is C Major . This is A Minor. Ok, ok enough na, here’s your dede…”

And finally, as you might guess, being sportsman, musician not to mention workingman (he is nightfill (stocking) manager in a major supermarket in town) is evidently not enough for him, as he is also superdad to his daughter, a budding gifted child herself. Brings her to daycare, takes care of her all his waking hours, and as seen in this second pic, teaches her the basic keys, chords and keystrokes and the best available music tutorial to a 2-year old that’s possible.

He made the almost effortless transition from happy-go-lucky gamer, bodybuilder and musician to disciplined dad as soon as Maxine (his daughter) came along, and every day brings new challenges.

So between the gym, the sound studio, hatid-sundo to Maxine and his job, there’s not much time left for our kabayan Carlo. But he wouldn’t want it any other way. Which is why he’s our coolest Pintados ng Wellington selection this time, a classic talentadong Pinoy every which way.

Mabuhay ka Carlo, and mabuhay tayong lahat!

Thanks for reading!

[Shameless plug : For those needing a gym trainer or piano / guitar lessons in and around the Wellington region, Please contact Carlo 022 1702855. Cheers! ]

bakit apihin ang Pinoy sa NZ atbp (why Pinoy workers are easily oppressed in NZ)

thanks and acknowledgment to!

[ Strong opinions sometimes in this humble blog of ours, occasionally without even any research or facts to back them up, please feel free to interact or discuss with respectful language, mabuhay!]

ALMOST TO A FAULT (halos kasalanan na), Filipinos (“Pinoys”) are crowd pleasers, moderators, facilitators and coordinators. We are eager to please, loathe to disagree or argue, and doggedly try to take one for the team at all times, at risk of life and limb. Masyado tayong magaling makisama.

But do we sometimes go too far in playing the nice guy? Do we too often risk our dignity, self-respect and well-being in our desire to defer to our boss and peers, keep our head down and maintain good relations?

Put another way, how many times have you seen kabayan  (countrymen or women) suffering from timidity, low self-esteem and an unusually high dose of self-deprecation?

I may be wrong, but the weight of tradition and culture bears heavily on typical Filipino  behavior. Tradition dictates that we respect or defer to our seniors and elders (at home and at work), to “never outshine the master,” to avoid direct confrontation unless totally necessary, and all these combine to produce a typical Filipino prone to bullying and harrassment.

May I offer a few examples or reasons of the above?

thanks and acknowlegment to!

ang Pinoy masyadong matiisin. Google Translate offers a few translations (“patient,” “stoic,” “long-suffering”) but none quite captures all the nuances and layers of meanings involved in matiisin. In a concrete example: If as a worker you were paid 35% to 40% less than your non-Filipino counterparts, bunked at least four to a room in crappy quarters,  charged exorbitant rent and interest by landlords and lenders, and yet chose not to divulge such distressful circumstances to anyone in authority, that would be an outrage, but not for your fellow Filipinos in the same boat.

You might find it hard to believe this actually happened, but this was the finding among a significant number of Pinoy builders (carpenters, masons and scaffolders)  in the ongoing Christchurch rebuild program in the southern part of New Zealand.

In many situations, in someone like me (a blogger) lies the responsibility to explain, give more details or at least shed some light on a situation I read about. But not here. Just read the story and everything is self-explanatory. Ginigisa sila sa sariling nilang mantika, and not one word of complaint will be heard from them.

Matiisin in this case might be seen as a virtue by our countrymen back home, but given the suffering, relative unfairness and lack of response by the NZ government, I’m not so sure. And remember, beyond the sacrifice of every Pinoy worker here, there are at least two more people (a spouse and a child) back home.

thanks and acknowledgment to!

ang Pinoy madaling magtiwala ng kapwa Pinoy. Here’s another shocker. Imagine working at least 10-hour days with no breaks for six days a week (and getting paid for only 40 hours), living in a makeshift room in your employer’s garage (and paying $150 weekly for such spartan lodgings), and not getting paid the last 3-and-a-half months of your 18 month contract. Worse, you would be “reported to the police” and sent home if you didn’t perform well in your job.

And the reason you naively believed and abided in such work conditions ? Mainly because you were a guest worker in faraway New Zealand and, worse, you trusted that you would be taken care of by fellow Filipinos, who ultimately took advantage of your trusting nature.

You can read all about this shocking case of exploitation here.

it’s good that kabayan Juliet Garcia loves caring for Switzer resident Kathleen Bowater. but our nurses can excel elsewhere too! thanks and acknowledgment to Northland Age!

ang Pinoy di marunong halagahan ang sariling kakayahan.  All over the world, you hear of the excellent and world class quality of our Filipino nurses. Not only are our nurses hardworking, dedicated and treat their patients like family, nurses are skilled enough to specialize. We have Filipino surgical nurses, cardiology nurses, neurology nurses, pediatric nurses who are trusted by doctors and medical teams the world over, who have the technical and professional expertise well beyond their years.

And yet, inexplicably, these same Filipino nurses are being set aside to work almost exclusively in aged care wards and institutions in New Zealand. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but our nurses can do so much more. We are kind, compassionate, treat our wards and patients like family, but that is not enough reason to employ our nurses for aged care alone. It sounds like we are being underutilized and at worst, tolerates a mild form of racism.

Again, because Filipinos are grateful just to work in New Zealand, don’t complain until we are in the most desperate of circumstances, can’t assert ourselves the way other nationalities do, and are respectful, sometimes too respectful to our hosts, you will never hear anything about this form of inequity until someone takes a very close look at the situation.

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So there you have it, both direct and indirect exploitation of Filipino labor in what is supposed to be one of the best places in the world to work in, New Zealand. I still believe in the fairness and justice of the latter, but definitely these situations above are no longer just the exceptions to the rule.

Needless to say, these are gathered not just from stories and anecdotes from our kabayan and colleagues, but from actual newspaper reports, interviews and surveys. Please add any of the horror stories you know in the comments section below.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat, at mabuhay ang New Zealand!

Thanks for reading!



how OFWs make good husbands (or life partners) and fathers

OFWs coming home from Libya. thanks and acknowledgement to!

[Note : please read the companion post how OFWs make good wives or life partners in coming out very soon, maraming salamat po!]

AFTER FINDING LOVE, FAMILY AND GOOD HEALTH, for many Filipinos (Pinoys) what  remains on top of the list of desirable things ? I can hazard a few guesses, like a job you like, fulfillment in your career, and travel. Put this all together in one situation, and you get the life of an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) right?

Well, not all the time. Often, our countrymen pick up the first job available overseas, borrow money from family members, and send money home to their young and growing brood as soon as they can. They work long hours, sometimes under hostile conditions, and just get by and do the best they can. All for the people they love. This is why I know, deep in my heart, that Filipinos make good husbands and fathers.

Still I’d like to make a list detailing the relationship between being an OFW and being a good husband. It is completely unscientific, unsupported by any evidence. Just good old haka-haka and asking around:

Responsibility –  You can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. If you asked for her hand in marriage, did the wedding video and got a dozen pairs of godparents, afterwards you have to be a dutiful husband. If you gave your gorgeous wife three kids in two years, took all the perfect baby photos and posted the binyag (baptismals) on Facebook and Instagram, you have to match it with good, solid head-of-the-family work: provide for your family.

Because the type of income you need won’t be generated by trabahador work in the Philippines, you have to be more creative and look for better work overseas. A short vocational course can lead you anywhere in the building industries worldwide. If you’re not choosy, you can work on a ship, lead a lonely life a couple years, but come back to a healthy wife and bouncing toddlers to meet you at the airport in what you’ll later realize was just a wink of an eye. All because you did your job, literally, and got responsible.

Being responsible is probably the one good asset all husbands need to have in their back pockets if they want to impress the wife, the wife’s barkada and the future in-laws. You can be a slob, have a ten-word vocabulary, or be a charmless caveman. If you’re responsible, know what you need to do, and do it every day of your life, you will have a happy wife. And as Confucius say: happy wife, happy life.

Discipline – Work is work, anywhere and everywhere. You wake up early just to be at work on time.  You get along with people you don’t like. And you listen to the boss and do everything he/she says, even though the latter is frankly, someone who got the job just because he/she put in more time at the company before everyone else. If you think it’s hard, imagine the same situation, except for the fact that nobody else is Filipino. That’s right, there is only one or two of you in the group, no one is cutting you any slack, and if anything, because of the famous work ethic of Pinoys, your being brown is actually an expectation that you will work at least as hard as anyone on site.

AND SURPRISING EVERYONE, most of all yourself, you DO work hard, because you want to to keep your job, because everyone thinks that you, being the smallest, lightest and scrawniest worker, will give up and give all sorts of excuses to leave your job. But you don’t, leave, you don’t complain, and in fact you do your job quietly, patiently, and without incident. You become the hardest worker, and actually (though it’s not noticed), the best worker. All because you stuck to your guns. All because of discipline.

Transfer this discipline to married life, and you’ve got it made. Do the chores. Wake up on time. Work every day of the week (act like you love your job, because it’s the only job you’ve got). Hug and kiss your wife as if you appreciate her (because you do!). Marriage is like a muscle. If you keep working out on your discipline, sooner or later, you won’t need to flex your marriage muscles. You’ll be so impressive, you look good just standing there.

Patience. So you’re the most junior worker around. So you’re the least impressive looking. And so you’re the one with the least credentials. Of course, without saying a word, everyone else makes you aware of your junior status, least impressive stature, and least credentials tag. You don’t care. You just do your thing, go the extra mile when needed, smile everytime you’re asked to communicate, and be a team player.

Slowly you’re appreciated. Slowly you’re acknowledged. Before anyone knows it, you’re up for supervisor, without asking for it, without lobbying for it, and without brown-nosing for the post (well, a little food-sharing here and there never hurt). And you know what?  Everyone likes you, everyone approves of you, and you end up being the team leader. You’re the natural choice, and everyone wonders why you didn’t get there sooner. But you don’t wonder. You got there because you were patient. After everyone else effed up on the team leader job, you were the last man/woman standing, and you just opened your hands to receive the promotion.

If you wait for the right moment, don’t fall or trip over yourself trying to develop a relationship, believe me kabayan, it will show. Patience is  a virtue not just at work or in your career, but in everything you do. Sure there are situations where going for your gut and following your impulse is a good thing. But unless you’re a psychic and know that the girl in front of you is the love of your life, patience works and works nine times out of ten.

And that’s why women love patience, too. OFWs who do well overseas are usually responsible, disciplined, and patient, and will almost always make good husband material. Too bad, because at that point, most of them are already taken. Word of advice for those with OFW suitors: snatch him up, sis, before somebody else does!

Mabuhay, thanks for reading!

forever Kiwi, forever Pinoy : mabuhay ka Angelo Tuyay!

Angelo Tuyay. apologies in advance to the Tuyay family for blogging about him in advance without consulting them. photo acknowledgment to the New Zealand Herald.

[Posthumously the Order of the Knights of Rizal Wellington Chapter has awarded kabayan Angelo Tuyay a certificate of commendation for his heroic and brave act, a small token of our immense appreciation. Two nations are grateful to you kabayan! ]

AFTER LONG days and graveyard shifts, my lower back feels sore and dodgy (sinusumpong). My joints aren’t that great, either, but it’s partly due to a little too much beer, no fault of my body and all due to my stubbornness. It takes longer to get ready in the morning, but ask anyone my age and that’s no surprise.

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I’m alive though, and to greet the day alive and well is more than anything I could ask for. Besides knowing my family is likewise alive and well, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

For a certain kabayan though, some things are worth more than the things we take for granted above. For him, helping others in need, in trouble, is the reason for being in this world. There is no limit attached to this duty of helping others, not even to the extent of making the supreme sacrifice.

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Facts are scant, but to use a Filipino term, traydor (treacherous) rip currents hid beneath otherwise calm waters at Hot Water Beach near Auckland last week.

Kabayan Angelo Tuyay leapt head first, fully clothed into the water upon hearing the cries of two girls who were in obvious distress due to rip currents, also known as an”undertow.”

Angelo was able to keep the girls afloat until help arrived. Unfortunately, he was himself in trouble and unable to keep himself from taking water in.

Fifty-five minutes were used by four doctors present trying to revive our kabayan. At that point, he was declared dead.

In retrospect, we would like to define in those fateful last moments Angelo’s heroic acts:

instant and without hesitation – The moment he realized the two young girls were in urgent need of assistance, he used every last ounce of his energy, wasting not a single moment in reaching the helpless. Which was just as well, because any delay would’ve been fatal to the girls. He made the instant decision, without regard for his own safety.

selfless– Human nature is after all, a lifetime of self-preservation. But we become bigger than ourselves and our nature when, against common sense, we reach out to help someone. Angelo decided to go against human nature and put aside fears for his own welfare. That gift of himself that he gave to those two girls, the latter will treasure for the rest of their lives.

generous – We can spend our entire lives building up savings, wealth and prosperity in order to give gifts to our loved ones. But nothing, nothing can match the gift of offering up one’s own life in order to preserve those of others. It is a gift that is both priceless and precious. It has no value in money terms, and yet it is the gift that is worth more than any material thing that the wealthiest man on earth could give.

It is this gift that Angelo gave, that has honored life, and which has honored us all.

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In one act, Angelo has fused the supreme values of both Filipinos and Kiwis – that of helping others at the expense of self. Call it bayanihan. Call it Kiwi-ness.

That day, before God called him back to Paradise, Angelo Tuyay was forever Pinoy, forever, Kiwi, and eternally both.

God bless Angelo Tuyay, and God bless us all. Mabuhay!




why we are chismosos/as, backbiters, and intrigeros/as

thanks and acknowledgment to!

WHETHER WE ADMIT IT OR NOT, a lot of us love a bit of gossip, but a little less of us who love to gossip also love to talk about people behind their back, so to speak. Out of this smaller number, still a smaller group likes to provoke what we call “intrigues” or negative news, usually unsubstantiated, between a person or group of persons.

A newcomer in our work site started her stint with us on the wrong foot, ordering people around and criticizing the way we did things without bothering to find out the backstories of our site. In an attempt to stir up things and shift the paradigm, so to speak, she ended up getting a lot of “pushback” (resistance) to the extent that a couple of mini-confrontations had ensued.

In the meantime, something happened to me that I hadn’t experienced in my nearly 10 years at the work site. Every time I was out of earshot of the person concerned, or every time I had a chance to speak confidentially,  I talked about this person, the newcomer, in a not-so-flattering manner.

Unsurprisingly, I found colleagues who after initial reservations, were more than willing to discuss the said topic / person with me. At first we limited our verbal exchanges on the issue of the person’s comments on how things were done, but inevitably we started talking about the person herself, bordering on the personal. It didn’t help that this person was so obstinate and stubborn (at the beginning), threw out all alternative suggestions regarding her issues, and her mildly undiplomatic way of communication.

in the end, fences were mended and compromises were reached. It was obvious that the newcomer’s heart was in the right place, but that in her intensity and zeal, she rubbed people the wrong way.

What struck me was the way it was so easy for me (and by extension, the rest of my co-workers) to gossip and talk about this person behind her back. The word “backstab” is a bit strong, but I have no doubt that if we hadn’t met halfway, we would’ve started on that track.

I thought up a few reasons why I and my kalahi (people in my race) so readily indulge in this kind of behavior, without excuses but at the same time trying to review it in context:

Filipinos are not confrontational. We hate confrontation. We keep our punches and jabs subtle, via “death by a thousand cuts” but are so sickly sweet when facing our social rivals and antagonists. In my example above, the mini-confrontation, which happily solved our problem, was initiated by a Pacific Islander who had no qualms about giving it straight to the person involved. No sugarcoating, but at the same time no hurts and insults. I would find it very difficult to talk to a person, male OR female and tell him/her my problems with him/her. A lot of New Zealanders don’t have that problem, fortunately in this case.

And because we are not confrontational, when we don’t like a person’s actions (or maybe that person himself / herself), we don’t do the logical thing and go to that person and start complaining. We go to the next person, friend, actually any other person and starting venting about the person, who usually has no idea on how badly we feel in the first place.  In fact, we talk to ANYBODY who will listen, anybody that is, except the person concerned.  Am I making sense?

We need a pressure valve for our emotions. Now, as said earlier, we like to work ourselves up over a trivial matter like the way one person does things. But because we don’t actually do anything constructive like talking to that person, the latter isn’t expected to change or improve his/her behavior. The result is, we just go nuts and keep getting crazier until we can’t keep our emotions in check. The next time we encounter that person? We go ballistic at the slightest provocation, and we become the bad guy.

To avoid this, we need to regulate and manage the pressure building up inside us, and the best way to do this is to TALK about it. We find like-minded persons, usually those who are also annoyed and stressed by said person (who until this point STILL doesn’t know what’s happening). The natural step is we start talking about this person, whether we mean well or not, and because we release such tension and find people who share our concerns, we somewhat feel better. Or at least, not as bad as before. And that’s why we talk about their people behind their backs.  For emotional self-preservation, and equally positive reasons.

Ultimately, we want something positive to happen. We hate what the person/s are doing, we want to do something crazy just to get back at that person, but deep down we just want the questionable behavior to stop. or at least make some sort of compromise with that person.

Perhaps it’s clash of values, religions or traditions. Perhaps the person isn’t aware of the sensitivities of the place. Perhaps the persons concerned just need to be more considerate, and a little reminder of this would go a long way.

This is what chismis, backbiting and intriguing does. On the surface it looks catty and shallow, but actually it is a cry for help from the originator, wanting people to take notice and somehow carry forward the message to the intended recipient, to eventually realize the bother he/she is causing and to stop said behavior.

My story above had a happy ending. The newcomer realized she wanted results, but not at the expense of feelings hurt and negative feelings created. She’s more diplomatic in the way she criticizes, and takes into account everything before saying something.

In this case at least, the chismis was worth it.

thanks for reading!



giving back to our river

Hutt River cleanup group

[A portion of the 15 September 2018 Hutt River cleanup volunteer group, led by His Excellency Ambassador Jesus Gary Domingo, and the Hutt City Mayor Hon. Ray Wallace of Hutt City. Also in the picture are leaders of Pinoys in the Hutt community like FILIFEST president Anita Mansell, QSM and KASAGIP  Chairman Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Phil Army Reserve), Alice Lozano, Trustee of the Filipino Migrant’s and Worker’s Trust; and members of the Estonian community in Wellington, who made up for their modest number with energetic participation, and the hardworking Philippine Embassy staff in Wellington. Believe it or not, that’s my hand raised in the background. 🙂 mabuhay ang kalikasan! (thanks to Marivic Reyes of the Phil Embassy for the pic!) ]

THERE’S NO SUCH thing as oversleeping. You sleep as much as you need, and you need as much as you sleep, limited only by obligations and responsibilities like work and family.

The only time I can indulge in sleeping on demand (or sleeping in, as Kiwis/New Zealanders like to call it) is on weekends. But Saturday had a higher calling, a bit more important than getting rid of sleep debt. The region’s most important waterway was beckoning.

As part of World Cleanup Day, the local council (equivalent of our Sangguniang Panglungsod) organized a river cleanup for a body of water that serves more than 100,00 residents, provides a secondary source of water to the larger Wellington region, and is one of the more restful and picturesque sceneries anyone can imagine.

I know, because as an active runner and exerciser, I run alongside the Hutt River at least thrice a week and I have shared endless walks with Mahal my wife enjoying its company more often than I can imagine.

Doing a cleanup is the least I can do for the Hutt River, given all that it’s done for my health and well-being. I would be doing it with kabayan from my Filipino community in Wellington, and other citizens of Hutt City, or Lower Hutt as it’s more popularly known

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Amazingly, no exaggeration, due to the energetic efforts of the Philippine Embassy and local Pinoy clubs, more than three-quarters of the cleanup team of 100+ volunteers turn out to be ethnic Filipinos like myself. We are divided into teams that focus on Hutt Central, Moera and other nearby areas each team.

Honestly, the riverside and surrounds are relatively very clean compared to similar counterpart areas I’ve been exposed to back in the Philippines. I’ll leave it at that.

We put wastes into different bags depending on how they would be ultimately disposed. Regular rubbish, paper-based and similar stuff get chucked into one bag. Recyclable things like plastic, into another. Finally, glass and hazardous substances, into a bucket that’s carried by one person per team.

The dodgier stuff that I remember picking up: cigarette butts, shards of broken beer bottles, I think I even picked up a used condom. Overall, it wasn’t supposed to be a pretty sight, picking up the refuse and detritus of a riverbank, but I remembered that a few homeless people living in their cars ended up spending the night on the riverside, and that probably accounted for most of the rubbish. The river didn’t deserve this, but then again, that’s probably why we were there.

It was a good experience, helping cleaning up the Hutt River, which has been so good to me. I want my kids, grandkids and great grandkids to see what I see, enjoyed what I enjoyed.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the cleanup regardless of race, political affiliation, creed and belief. The river was and is for you, me and everyone, now and forever.

It was a good day.