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.


napakasakit Kuya Eddie – why Pinoys accept physical abuse at work

[nothing as outrageous as the video above, but when abuse is tolerated and accepted at the workplace it opens a Pandora’s boxThanks to South China Morning Post for the vid!]

WE READ and then reread the article about a kabayan Filipino being maltreated and abused  by his employers in the South Island.

It got to the point where we were disoriented, dismayed and finally disgusted that such could happen in this day and age in modern-day New Zealand, but that was on the surface.

You know what? Deep down, I wasn’t really that surprised.

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When I was in Auckland little more than a decade ago, my flatmate told me (and he had no reason to lie) his Countdown (supermarket) supervisor flicked an open hand across the back of his head in annoyance, something that never happened to him in the Philippines.

Goodwife Mahal had barely been in Wellington for more than a month when we both witnessed a food court manager doing the same thing (between a kutos and sapok) across the back of the head of his female cashier while we were waiting for our burger and fries order. We didn’t realize the consequence of the situation (a male supervisor physically assaulting a female staffer in front of multiple witnesses) until long after we got home.

And I myself received a flick of two fingers to the back of my earlobe (called a pitik back home) by a senior mentor a few years back. Granted, the mentor is/was very old school (in his 60s) and was done partly in jest or good-natured annoyance, but I’m not justifying it. It’s always contextual, but anytime interaction between manager and staff becomes physical, you have to take a step back and say, wait a minute, let’s bring the level down a bit.

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What was reported in the article was certainly shocking, but it wasn’t new by any measure. Just two weeks back, another kabayan was forced to leave work after suffering neck and arm bruises just because he walked out of his work area, not that any situation justifies physical harm or abuse from the employer.

So we’re now more or less settled : physical abuse not only exists in the NZ workplace, it’s not rare, and empirical evidence shows it can happen in any industry or region. But an equally perplexing puzzle that comes to my mind is, why do Filipinos like you and me seem to tolerate it? There’s no proof of this, but the fact that it took quite a while for the subjects in the situations above before formally making a complaint, legal or otherwise, is quite astounding. But you and I kabayan know that this kind of reluctance is far more common than anyone will admit, and it is quite common.

These are the reasons I’ve come up with:

Old school respect shouldn’t mean tolerating abuse. There’s a very large variety of age groups among Filipino workers, from the teens, working students, twentysomethings all the way to the very senior, primarily because, well,  there are quite a few  Pinoys in New Zealand, but also because there is no age discrimination in New Zealand. But despite the various age groups, we’re very old-school, meaning traditional, when it comes to respecting and acknowledging authority in the workplace. (New Zealanders on the other hand are generally more collegial and collaborative.) This has its roots in our Filipino traditions for respect for our elders, respect for those in authority, and respect for the head of the family, instilled in us since time immemorial.

Because of the extreme trust we place in those who manage above us, it is prone to abuse, sometimes literally. What can sometimes begin in innocent jokes can lead to verbal abuse, and finally to physical abuse. We Filipinos are only too vulnerable to such, because we frequently avoid arguments and are rarely confrontational, to the point of keeping quiet even when we are clearly uncomfortable.

We accept abuse as part of reparation, because we think we deserve it and are paying for it. Deep down, when we do something wrong in the workplace, we think we deserve to be punished. Again, it recalls an era when we were very young, particularly the baby boomers (born late 1940s to mid 1960s) and Gen X-ers (1970s), when corporal punishment was administered to us without the bosses batting an eyelash.

We think that because we are given some sort of “punishment,” verbal, physical or otherwise, we sort of “pay” for our mistake, and life goes back to normal. This is of course unacceptable. Mistakes are part and parcel of work life, and no amount of effing up justifies a slap, whack or worse punch from your superior. It doesn’t matter that previous bosses or managers used to do it and it was accepted as part of the norm. It is unacceptable at any level and in any situation. Filipinos should realize that, the sooner the better.

Fear of reprisal or dismissal. This is more universal, but Filipinos value job security more than many other Asians, and definitely more than local New Zealanders. Why is this so? Well, the simplest reason is that a lot of us are first generation migrants, and acquiring our jobs took much more effort than our non-migrant colleagues. Aminin man natin o hindi, we prize our employment as much as our permanent residence,  our standing in our community, our relationship with our hosts. it is huge part of our pride, our honor.

Now whenever this job security is threatened in any way, we are ourselves threatened. Never mind that we can find jobs elsewhere, and never mind that we are protected by good NZ laws in our job security. We only leave our jobs on our own terms, and we do everything we can to stay in our jobs. If this involves sacrificing our self-worth,  enduring humiliation and accepting abuse, so be it.

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Again, this mindset can’t be allowed to continue affecting our kabayans’ hearts and minds. It’s our inherent right to stay in our jobs as long as we do our work properly and with integrity. No one can be allowed to bully us out of our jobs, and this includes supervisors, managers, and owners of the businesses we work for.

You can say it in so many words and ways, but in the end it’s as plain as the nose on our brown faces: physical abuse is unacceptable, on any level and in any situation. The sooner we Pinoys understand this, the better for all of us.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

can pinoys be bullies in the NZ work place?

thanks and photo acknowledgment to!

TEKA, teka, teka. I can hear you ask, you sure you don’t have it backwards ? You gotta point there, because in my own work site, for quite some time, I thought was bullied a bit here and there before I realized everyone went through the same thing.

Not even thinking about it too much, Pinoys seem more like the victims than the bad guys in a bullying situation because of their physical and social attributes. Pinoys are less than average in height and weight, eager to please, happy to just get along with everybody, always put the team ahead of self, and have very little ego whatsoever.

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But the reality is, anyone who persistently uses power (position, authority, seniority etc) over a colleague that is offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting, covertly or otherwise, may be guilty of workplace bullying.

Pinoys may not be physically imposing or intimidating, but can cause distress to workmates in other ways.  Who among us has not experienced constant sarcasm, being isolated or ignored, being undermined or overloaded in work, and being subject to constant (though subtle) ridicule that can wear you out eventually? It may not cause the obvious cuts and nicks, but the damage inside is as bad, and maybe longer lasting.

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These are typical, but actually authentic sounding scenarios. Any of them ring familiar to you kabayan?

Case 1.  Bhong, a supervisor, made romantic overtures to Denise, a new member of his work   team and was rejected. He responded by telling the rest of the team that the new girl was hard to work with, not a team player, and not worth the attention of everyone else. Coming from a weekend break, Denise quickly realized no one was talking to her, and helping her get adjusted to her new work environment. She ends up resigning before the end of her first year.

Case 2. Ricardo, a new worker, passes the final interview over a more popular candidate. The staff immediately makes this known to the successful applicant by making unreasonable work demands his very first week, forcing him to work overtime just to keep up with the workload, and requiring the new worker to produce work output not justified for someone barely a month into work. The worker survives the probationary period, but the physical and emotional stress takes its toll and resigns as well.

Case 3. Marian, a female worker produces better than average output and becomes the favorite of Dingdong, the manager. She then becomes the subject of baseless and malicious gossip from unidentified members of the mostly-female staff. Marian’s personal life suffers as a result and, with little support from management, leaves her employer shortly.

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In each of these cases no physical mistreatment, or threat of such, was used, but the behavior under present New Zealand law could be prosecuted in a court of law.

More importantly, this type of indirect or “passive-aggressive” behavior is typical across a wide range of workers, in all industries, not the least where migrants do well. Because Asians like us (di lang naman tayo) avoid direct confrontation, we resist or express our conflict in an indirect or lateral manner. Sadly, we would rather resolve our differences by obliquely attacking someone we perceive as undesirable.

Such an unlikely situation, when after coming so far to New Zealand, and working so hard to make a meaningful contribution here, we become the very bullies that we want to avoid. Getting along with everyone at work means exactly what it says, getting along with everyone, with good will to all and malice towards none. New Zealand and our employers have been good to us. Let’s pay it forward!

Mabuhay tayong lahat!



tinimbang ka ngunit kulang (so close and yet so far): the curious case of kabayan Juliet Garcia

kabayan Juliet Garcia doing the work she loves with Switzer resident Kathleen Bowater. thanks and acknowledgment to Northland Age!

(Note : To fellow Filipinos and Tagalog speakers, I agree in advance that the English translation of the initial title isn’t that accurate, yet for my purposes it’s quite apt. Bear with me please, or better yet give me a better title. Medyo mahaba po ang blog. Thank you for reading!)

WHAT IF? You spent your best 10 years (no, 11!!) working as a guest worker in New Zealand…

WHAT IF? You worked, not just in an industry where migrant workers were sorely needed (the medical and allied services industry), but in a region where no locals and New Zealanders would work, outside the comforts of the major urban centers…

WHAT IF? You were appreciated not only by your employer in that place of work but by those you cared for everyday, as if they were your loved ones and cherished members of your family, not just for the wages and remuneration (which isn’t that much by the way) but because you had grown to love them, out of love for your fellow man, and love for your profession…

WHAT IF? Despite the strict immigration and labor laws you persevered, patiently building up your skill level to the point where at least, you had a fighting chance to stay in New Zealand permanently, in New Zealand where, after all, you paid your dues, never mind the blood sweat and tears you could have paid anywhere else…

WHAT IF? Despite all these what ifs, brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, friends, Romans and countrymen, the benefit that you prized most of all, the right to stay permanently in the country you served so well, was cruelly denied you?

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If it sounds too improbable, too unfair to be true, then truth might as well be stranger than fiction Precious Reader, because in a nutshell it is what happened to Pinay countryman (woman) Juliet Garcia:

The Radio NZ website tells the short, sad story best, so we’ll quote it directly (everything in bold font):

“Ms Garcia qualified in dementia care and diversional therapy in 2017 to gain enough points to apply for a residence visa as a skilled migrant.

However, she said changes to the immigration rules that took effect last August meant she no longer had the points needed to apply for residence when her work visa runs out in mid-2019.

Under the new system, which limits some migrant workers to three years in New Zealand, she was uncertain that even her work visa would be renewed.

“I used to have points [towards residence] for ten years for work experience here and having a sister in Auckland. But I’ve lost those points under the new rules, and I don’t know if I can keep facing the stress of not knowing every year if I can stay, and the expense of applying,” she said.

If you think kabayan Juliet is on her own trying to stay here, she’s not. Her employer practically loves her, as Radio NZ continues:

Switzer Trust (Juliet’s employer) has been required by Immigration NZ to advertise Mrs Garcia’s job every year, but has never found a New Zealander to replace her.

“We have advertised locally and nationally at considerable expense. We’ve had it on Facebook, on TradeMe we had about 360 hits and that came down to three applications,” Mrs Simkins said.

“Two pulled out and the last person standing from that very expensive advertising session was not qualified.”

Switzer Trust (Juliet’s employer) had appealed to the Immigration and Health Ministers to review Mrs Garcia’s case and let her stay but to no avail, she said.

Far North mayor John Carter said Mrs Garcia was the sort of immigrant the district needed and Immigration’s stance was inexplicable.

“She’s done a tremendous amount to get qualified; she’s done all the things that this nation has asked of her, that the Switzer Home has asked of her, that the community has asked of her and now when it comes to the last hurdle we’re getting this negativity.

“We need people like Juliet and her husband who [are] contributing to the economy and the community up here as well. They are good people,” Mr Carter said.

Northland District Health Board chair Sally Macauley also believed Mrs Garcia should stay.

“It is hard in the north to obtain such professionalism as I know Juliet has,” Mrs Macauley said.

“She is one of a class of caregivers that we find difficult to retain. She has been with us since 2007; she’s loved by everyone at the Switzer and works extremely hard.”

Both the DHB chair and Far North mayor have asked the Ministers of Health and Immigration to look into Mrs Garcia’s case for residence.

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So Juliet ticks all the boxes. No one likes her job, but she does. She’s in a job that’s always in demand because there aren’t enough New Zealanders to fill it. And on the surface she earns enough to be considered highly skilled in this country. No problem diba?

But wait. On the points-based system (effective August 2017) under which enough points earns you the right to be considered for permanent residence, which with all the attendant benefits is the ultimate prize for all migrant workers in New Zealand, the rules recently changed.

To make it worse, she upskilled and retrained in order to raise her skill level, only to be tripped up by the same set of new rules that declared her 10 years work experience useless (for purposes of residence application) as it was no longer “skilled enough.”

According to Juliet herself (above) the NZ work experience and having relatives in New Zealand used to count for points towards literally reaching the promised land. But these were recently taken away.

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Kabayan immigration lawyer Maricel Weischede who has taken up the fight on Juliet’s behalf, is baffled by the lack of practicality and compassion shown by the traditionally labor- and migrant-friendly Labour Government.

Again lets give a kabayan the floor, courtesy of her FB page:

we only asked (in Juliet’s residency application) for one requirement to be waived. The rest of the requirements could still be tested under the current immigration policy.

(Because of a technicality) It is disappointing that people like Juliet who spent more than years of her life working here can no longer claim for the number of years of work experience under the skilled migrant category because of new rules.

Abogado de campanilla Maricel has given her free time, expertise, and goodwill, even the audacity to go all the way to the current Labor Government (represented by its Ministers for Immigration and Health) to knock some sense and compassion into the powers-that-be.

But even then, it might not be enough.

It’s truly heartbreaking to know that many other migrants in our major NZ urban centers work jobs that utterly fail the logic of skills shortage, essential skills and contribution visas, and yet kabayan like Juliet are desperately needed, work wholeheartedly  in the heartland of Aotearoa, never think of working anywhere else, and yet fall short of the requirements of a full welcome.

Tinimbang ka, ngunit kulang.

Let’s not give up the fight for Juliet Garcia.

For we are Juliet Garcia, and Juliet Garcia is us.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

ang tamang pagsuri ng “f-bomb” ng Kiwi


THE MOST important thing to remember when listening to my hosts Kiwis, especially working-class, blue collar New Zealanders talk, is to not take it personally.

Filipinos like myself who grew up in westernized 1970s Manila almost always take offense hearing the words “shit,” “fuck” and similar words used in polite conversation. (From hereon I hope you don’t mind if I omit quote marks from these so-called curse words as they are only used as examples of modern speech).

Millennials and youth today on the other hand think nothing of using the same kind of language every other sentence they speak, as they grew up hearing it not just among themselves (and adults) but also in mainstream media, popular culture and the like.

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A very similar distinction exists when discerning the salitang kanto (street talk) when the listeners are on the one hand Pinoys who grew up in New Zealand, or newly arrived or relatively recently arrived migrants from the Philippines, on the other. Ethnically, racially and even linguistically identical, these two groups perceive the way New Zealanders’ casual talk very differently.

I’ve been here for some time, before Obama’s 2nd term, but I still think that when shit or fuck is used, it’s meant to insult me. Better than 99% of the time, it’s not.

More importantly, friends and colleagues of my kids talk that way too, and quite a few of them are children of kabayan. Again, it’s just the way it is now.

Let me give you an example of how a couple of words are used in several contexts or situations.

Fucking – when somebody says the fucking forklift gave up on me in the middle of the loading bay, or the fucking coffee machine ran out of mochaccino again, the accurate counterparts of the supposedly offending word in Tagalog, in this particular context, is bwiset, or putres, both mild cuss words in our language but not particularly profane. It’s meant to denote annoyance or amusement, or a combination of both. Specifically, yung bwiset na forklift tumirik sa gitna ng daan, or yung putres na coffee machine naubusan na naman ng mochaccino. And so on and so forth. The first time I heard it used this way, I thought the speaker was angry or intensely frustrated. Hindi naman pala. Now I know better.

fuck off — literally this means get out or get away, but the usage nowadays in New Zealand refers more to (1) leave after work and (2) get out of my face, a more or less friendly phrase of dismissal. For example, I say to my workmate, an ardent New Zealand Warriors fan, hey, your Warriors really got their asses kicked last night, huh (an increasingly common event now), the expected reply to me would be fuck off Noel. For number (1) by the way, fucking off is the immediate concern as soon as it’s time to log out of your computer. So if you ask me to answer an email when I’m about to fuck off, fuck off mate. Nothing personal.

fucked, or get fucked – even though I’ve joined them here, fucked and get fucked can mean two different things. I work in a factory environment, so fucked usually refers to machinery or a system that is not working and in urgent need of major repair. No short cuts or band aids here. When the plant engineer says Man, the gearbox is fucked you know there’s no point in arguing, might as well get a purchase order for a new part and call it a day. Get fucked is when you totally disagree with someone and want to tell him arguing is gonna get us nowhere, let’s just restart after lunch shall we? The short form is get fucked. Seriously, it’s a quick way to cut short a disagreement, when you’ve given up on someone and is the spoken version of the middle finger.

This is just one word, and yet it causes so much discussion between users and generations, primarily because well, it’s so usable. It’s up to us Filipinos to know how it’s used, what it’s meant and not meant to convey, and how to react.



‘mabuhay ang kalayaan!’ to serve as honor guard 12th June

main room honor guards

Independence Day rites at the Ambassador’s residence in Wellington, New Zealand. I had the additional honor of carrying the flag. Extreme left is H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, KASAGIP Honor Guard Commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve). I am flanked by Miggy Siazon and Ted Lacsamana.

[Note: thanks and acknowledgment to KASAGIP, a Wellington Pinoy self-help volunteer group organized by Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, Rachel Pointon and others; KASAGIP Honor Guard commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve), the Philippine Embassy staff in Wellington led by H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, and many others yet unnamed. Mabuhay kayo!]

IN THE OLD days, kings and lords couldn’t have defended their realms with just knights, swordsmen and men of valor. The best and bravest warriors had to be close to the king to protect him.

That meant that the farmers, builders, bakers and butchers, the humblest of the king’s subjects, all “volunteered” to be first in line, against the barbarian invaders or rival kingdoms.

The tradition of common folk in the army, volunteering for their leader, came to mind our Independence Day (Araw ng Kalayaan) when we volunteered to march as honor guard, bringing in the Philippine national flag, at the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand’s official residence in Wellington.

We are all common folk. I was and am a factory worker; our leader, although he was in the Army Reserve back home, is an accountant by trade and worked in the finance industry. All the others were and are comrades hardly out of university and had just started their jobs in the city.

We met all sorts of Filipinos at the occasion: community leaders, volunteers like ourselves, and kabayan just wanting to celebrate our independence day. In the end, it was just like one informal gathering wishing we were back home in the Motherland. One day we will all come home and be with all our loved ones again.

Happy Araw ng Kalayaan everyone!