your kabayan’s five mins with Tatay D


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[Note :  Not only is this a work of fiction, it is also a piece of irony, most of it.  I think. Thanks for reading!]

I DON’T KNOW about you Precious Reader, but please indulge Your Loyal Blogger:  I feel the yearlong, Palace-led and Legislature-accommodated attack against our most well-known Senadora is misogynistic, unprofessional and uncharitable; that paying political favors by allowing despots’ burials on heroes’ ground is, to say the least, ill-advised; and spewing invectives against the most powerful nation on earth because one was denied a visa decades ago is childish.

But unless the PCOO is psychic, they don’t know this.

That’s how I get my precious interview with Tatay D, who is in New Zealand following a roundabout trip to Peru and back home.  A time-consuming way to avoid certain major airports, but what’s a few hours here and there, especially when there’s protests aplenty against you back home?

Believe it or not, the five minutes of fame I have been promised, is exactly that, five count-em minutes.  A New Zealand lady reporter is queued up after me, and this is what she looks like :

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Now you know why I have five minutes (mahaba na ata yun, considering).

A few ground rules though. (For a five minute thingy?) Only one politics-related question.  No questions requiring longish answers, and keep it short.  As if five minutes weren’t short enough.  Sigh.  OK lang po.

Thank you for the five minutes Sir.

Call me Tatay D.

Maraming salamat po sa five minutes Tatay D.  I won’t waste anymore of your time.  Why do you say that the controversial Marcos burial issue is the fault of Presidents Cory Aquino and Noynoy Aquino?

The past administrations before mine had 12 golden years to change the law and allow the burial, and they didn’t.  This is an issue between political families, and the past Presidents should have been non-partisan and buried (pun intended) the past.  Built bridges instead of walls.  Let bygones be bygones.  Instead, I have to fucking deal with this (pardon the French, it’s his)!  It’s a burden I could do without.

(Ahem.  Now I know why I’m limited to ONE job-related (his job) question.  Probably a blessing in disguise.)

Just one more question about recent events Sir, I mean Tatay D.

You seem to be especially impatient, not to mention short-tempered, with members of the foreign media during your press briefings.  Any reason for that sir?

Do you want the short or long answer to that, kabayan?

(putting on my earplugs) Any answer that you find satisfying sir.

OK.  All those reporters who ask me questions during my presscons, especially the white male reporters, are fucking GAY, ARROGANT BASTARDS AND SONS OF BITCHES with their own agenda.  I have no respect or time for them.

And how about the female reporters?

Well, if they have the time for coffee, and a little more time after that, as long as they’re below 30, o sige na nga kahit below 40, I don’t mind them at all.

(Double ahem.  Any more blessings in disguise?)

Tapos na ang political questions sir.  Here’s an easy one.  I’ve read somewhere that you are particularly interested in a renewed reclamation project off Roxas Boulevard.  Is this true sir?

Yes, yes yes!  It’s a project started by our former First Lady Imelda Marcos, whose husband I greatly admire and whose policies I study closely.  If you recall my precious campaign pronouncements, the casualties of the war against DRAGS that I have started will be dumped there, the Manila Bay.  if the dumping reaches a certain point the reclamation will be much easier.  Good for anti-crime statistics, good for the fishes, and good for reclamation.

(Yuck.  Kaya pala.  I don’t even know why I asked that question.)

OK, Ok.  You’ve been quite generous with your time sir.  Last question na po.  Now that you’re in New Zealand, you may have heard of the former Australian Prime Minister who is not only a very strict Catholic, but has also asked his daughters to remain virgins until they get married.  What do you think of that sir?

Magaling kung ganon kabayan.  Dapat, Mayor ang una.  Um, Presidente pala.

(Awkward silence.)

Thank you very much sir.

Thus ending the longest five minute interview I’ve ever done.

If you’ve reached this far… Thanks for reading and mabuhay!

 

 

 

 

 

 

a dambuhalang (giant) earthquake visits your kabayan’s night shift in Wellington


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Not me at my prettiest, but here I was cleaning  a packing bin just four days before the Big One.  Imagine if it had happened while I was cleaning the bin!  hu hu hu hu …

Dear guys :

JUST WANTED you to know, besides the fact that your kabayan (townmate, countryman) and family are safe, that just eight hours ago, I wasn’t so sure I would get out of this earthquake in one piece.  Hyperbole and exaggeration aside, I’ve gone through a few tremors in my life, but this was quite a strong one.  But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.

*****          *****          *****

Quarter to zero hour, that’s midnight, I was so looking forward (not!) to a week of night shifts, in unexpectedly chilly late spring weather, at work.  My focus was starting up the network of old machines struggling against wear and tear, lack of maintenance and startup crankiness (common to all old factories) in the middle of night, when everyone else was snoring in dreamland.

I was therefore lucky : the factory had responded well to my ministrations and a recent lubrication project, I was starting the shift with a low-end product, not too much stress quality-wise and production-wise and, against the odds, the ebbs and flows, air pressure, and different settings of the more temperamental machines were holding and under control.  Things were looking good.

Famous last words.  Just when I was settling down to do my chores (unshuttering the windows to cool the rapidly heating machines), across the main production area, where by pure chance a door was opened showing me the adjoining area where packing machines and pallets of finished product were situated, I saw a scene that was straight out of Poseidon Adventure (a 1970s disaster movie, for those under 40).

All the hanging halogen-strength lights were swaying 45 degrees left and right, and the pallets of product, each weighing roughly a ton and stacked four high, were doing the Gangnam Style strut and starting to fall on each other.  I swear Mom (if you’re reading this), never in my 51 years had I seen something like that.

The packer who did night shift, a katutubo (native) not in my department but of course my brother-in-arms, looked like he’d chugged a few cervezas, glugged a liter of milk, a tub of ice cream and then ridden a dozen roller coasters, was pale as the Balete Drive Lady: he was ready to bail out of the site, not even bothering to shut down his machines but alert enough to shout to me:  EARTHQUAKE!  JUST GET OUT!

Sound advice, in fact the best I heard that night.  No arguments from me…

[For the record, I remember two biggie earthquakes, the July 1990 one that killed a few thousand in Baguio and regions, and the Christchurch one five-odd years ago that killed thousands, among them 11 kabayan nurses.  None of them felt as strong as this one, mainly because I was much closer to the epicenter.]

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Two other guys were in the site, and as there were just four of us, a roll call was foolish:  my shift partner Jacob, ready to retire in two weeks (he is in fact past the retirement age, being 70 years and barya), his trainee, another katutubo, the nauseous packer guy, and yours truly.  We weren’t gonna wait for the obvious : aftershocks which on their own were scary and almost as strong as the original tremor, and even scarier, the potential tsunami, which brought to mind  the tidal waves which killed more than 10,000 in Japan half a decade ago.

But a modicum of protocol had to be followed, and we each called our respective supervisors.  The packing supervisor wasted no time : just pack up and get out of there, you’re less than a kilometer from the bloody sea, for jeez sake.  My ops supervisor was somewhat vague, so vague that my call went to voicemail.

So that’s that, I had no choice but to call the overall site manager.

She was in Auckland out of town, an hour away by plane, but I hadn’t known it yet.

Because she knew my number, this was her first sentence:

Noel?  Are you guys OK?

She already knew.  The earthquake was that bad.  The whole North Island was shaken (literally).

A few spouts popped out boss, Pallets fell on top of each other, one big machine off the moorings, but otherwise the site’s fine.

Never mind that, I mean, how are you guys?  everyone safe and accounted for?

We’re OK all of us Boss, hope you’re safe on your end.

Turn everything off and shut everything down, and get the eff out of there OK? We’ll talk tomorrow. Stay safe.

And that, my friends, is why Boss is our Site Manager.

*****          *****

Less than an hour later, the inevitable tsumani alert is called by the local government, and the natural thing to do is to literally, head for the hills.  Mahal my beloved,  our two flatmates and Your Loyal Kabayan spend two hours in a car on the road up to Wainuiomata, which is the highest point on a 20 kilometer radius.  Our instructions from the Civil Defense Office are simple.

Stay off beaches.  Stay out of the water.  Do NOT go sightseeing.  And share this information.

Simple enough, but we are on a hillside, because we ALSO want to get down asap.  And hillsides are also known for landslides.  And guess what?  We just had a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, just what you DON’T need for landslides.

As soon as the tsunami alert stops wailing, we head down.  We don’t even think of passing by McDo or Burger King, as the employees have undoubtedly up and left their stores.

We stay by the radio and don’t go to sleep until 5 am.

For all its imperfections, New Zealand is razor sharp and steroids strong on safety alertness.  Which is why, if even one life is lost from this latest earthquake, it will be regarded as a national tragedy.

Which is why Your Loyal Kabayan, as long as he is wanted, will work in New Zealand.

mga laro ng aking kabataan (games of my childhood)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you there!

letter to young Erlinda, 19, from future son Noel


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happy birthday mom!

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

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

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

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

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

“Dear Erlinda :

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

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

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

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

And lastly…

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

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

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

Your future son

Noel

the hardest adjustment for a migrant


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and mabuhay everyone for reading!

 

 

what new zealanders REALLY think of us pinoys


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[thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to productsfromnz.com! ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally…

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

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

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

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

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!

 

etiquette for bedmates


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!

 

startled by the stump


Athletics - Women's Long Jump - T47 Final

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was both happy and sad for her.

Thanks for reading!

via Daily Prompt: Stump

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading kabayan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

admiring Dad on fathers’ day


selfie with mom dad and george

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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