The Moment That Defines a Kinoy

We've never been to this part of NZ, we're waiting for you :)

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[ NOte :  Just to be asked to contribute a piece for the Pistang Pilipino 2010 sa North Shore ( Auckland ) Labour Weekend event  ( 22nd-24th Oct ) is certainly an honour for us ; whether or not it’s actually used we don’t know, but it appears below.  We did our best to stay close to the theme of capturing what it means to be a Kiwi + Pinoy. Thanks for reading ! ]
THERE are many emotional highs and few lows when one contemplates what it means to be a Kiwi + Pinoy — or as more popularly known these days, a Kinoy.
Is it when one is granted, after a dramatic Work-to-Residence period, life-changing Permanent Residence (PR) status, the crowning achievement of every Kinoy migrant?
Is it when one receives the acknowledgment of both Kiwis and fellow guest workers in the workplace, crystallizing the overachieving role played by many kabayan in various fields of endeavor in the Land of the Long White Cloud ?
Is it the extended blessings enjoyed by every Filipino family whenever one of their own marries a Kiwi, who is only too willing to share the benefits and benevolence of a First World country with his new relatives?
Since the answer to all of these is undoubtedly yes, we can’t help but select instead a defining moment that links all who seek a second life as members of one of the most hospitable nations in the First World.
What captures the moment, as one searches through the personal adventure of heartaches, dreams and hopes towards being a Kinoy?
Again, it could be a thousand and one scenarios, too many to mention. 
Attaining an NZ driver’s license, a first Kiwi home, or even a first child born on Aotearoa shores?  Just three of the numerous benchmarks that indelibly mark our album of memories.  But do they define one’s existence here?
Arrayed against the good memories are the painful ones : for every permanent resident status awarded are ten rejections, equals 10 kabayan going home starting from scratch. 
 For every work permit granted are probably a dozen expired and unrenewed, sending home our frustrated countrymen despite excellent work and an even more admirable work ethic. 
And everyone knows that not every mixed-culture marriage between Kiwi and Pinoy ends in permanent residence.  All the signs of love and commitment must be there, lest the institution of marriage be abused for less romantic ends.
Now that we have the wide-screen view, having witnessed the peaks and valleys of the Kinoy migrant experience, we ask anew what moment for us defines being Kinoy?
It’s a bit more abstract than all those previously described, and it can happen any point in the migration timeline. 
But it seems to be this : when you discover that you are no longer just part of your homeland, but evolving into someone part of a new land; not merely Pinoy but not fully a New Zealander; not yet a transplant but no longer rooted in the land of your birth… this particular moment in time, whenever it may be, defines your existence as a Kinoy.
It is being part of both worlds, yet laying claim to none.  For that is the blessing and curse of migration, of coming and going, leaving and arriving.  More particularly, it is the essence of being Kinoy, a mixture that we don’t mind at all.
               **               **               **                **                **
The interesting part of our Kinoy adventure is that we have yet to reach our goal.  For three years running, we have held a work permit, but not fortunate enough to deserve permanent resident status.
No rush though.  Just as success is a journey and not a destination, so is migration.  If being Kinoy means taking Life’s best shots and taking advantage of every break that goes our way, so be it.
There is a confident sign that aspiring  to be a Kinoy is consistent with the Pinoy spirit of migration.  This is the fact that despite the ambiguous policy adopted by the NZ government, our numbers continue to increase.  Each of the 40,000 Filipino souls in the land of our hosts serves as an inspiration for more to come.  Like an idea whose time has come, Kinoy growth is strong and for the moment, has no limits.
God bless each and every one of the 40,000 Kinoys ; may there be 40,000 more.  Mabuhay !
[ Noel B is a work permit holder currently based in Wellington, but still holds out hope that some day, the permit will transform into a Returning Resident’s Visa.  In the meantime, he thanks every Kiwi, co-migrant and kabayan who has taken time to enrich his life by showing him their personal version of New Zealand.  Maraming salamat po! ]

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

From right to left, Morticia, Fester, Aristotl...

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Dear kabatch, schoolmates, officemates, kabayan and friends :

 We uncharacteristically had three events to attend over the weekend, but two of those three were with kabayan, relatives, work-related, or all of the above.
The last was a Kiwi invite to a family affair, which we were flattered to participate in as it implied that we were considered, um, family.
On the way to the venue, we realized that we were witnessing our first purely (besides ourself) Kiwi gathering, and so we gathered our tools of perception, extended our social-cultural feelers to better appreciate how the natives conducted their festivities, and thanked God that we remembered to brush teeth and apply deodorant. 🙂
[ We were guests in a few Auckland parties three years ago, but it was different then, the hosts were usually Kiwi-Pinoy blended families, or the host/s was considered part of the family by many Pinoys. So those don’t count right? ]
For preliminaries, care had been taken to preserve the surprise shindig for the celebrant, who (of course) didn’t know that one was shortly being held in her honor. Cars were parked on the far end of the block, provisions and party paraphernalia were quietly brought in, and we almost thought we would be asked to tiptoe into the party area. No effort was spared to avoid a spoiler.
Either we don’t have enough fun-filled memories back home, Pinoys aren’t as OC about surprise parties, or Kiwis just know how to have fun.
Here’s where the similarities start: 90% of the guests were family, and had known each other for years and years. We realized almost instantly that if they hadn’t had the party planned, they would’ve met anyway in some other fashion or reason, with the same people and probably the same food.
We’re not exaggerating : the very same people before us, almost to a man, could have exchanged places with the people in the gilt-edged picture frames lining the living room walls, fireplace ledge and other areas available for display. With the singular exception of a relative in Australia, everyone else was present, accounted for and ready to participate in the festivities.
For a fleeting nanosecond we recalled those funny Addams Family / Scooby Doo episodes where subjects in family pics looked exactly like their real-world counteparts, and slits were cut in the pictures where eyes were supposed to be, for spying, or the figures might even come to life and step out of the picture. And this was before we had a single sip of alcohol.
Being a non-relative, a non-Caucasian and a non-member of their circle of trust (think Ben Stiller vs Robert de Niro in Meet the Parents / Fockers), we stood out only a bit less prominently than a arthritic sore thumb complete with unmanicured nail.
[ Everyone else is white, everyone else shares a surname or middle name, everyone else knows each other from the 20th century. We were the only Asian, shorter by at least three inches than anyone else (including the women), and nobody, besides the celebrant and the host, knew us. Yup, we’re thinking the same thing : How’d we get into this? ]
But back to topic : You see the similarity with Asians / Pinoys, right? Family is first, second and last in all things celebratory, friends are good to have in happy times, but you don’t forget your rellys.
At least one mom brought her baby, who couldn’t have been more than six months old. While she was in full 70s garb (the party theme), she brought along a baby carriage, walker, and a mini-cot / carrier for her young. Don’t forget the baby seat back in the car.
Nobody batted an eyelash at this motorcade of baby transport. (Except maybe us.) Nothing gets in the way of a party, not even nursing your newborn or the hourly breastfeeding.
(We wonder if the mom’s milk made Baby tipsy or more googly-eyed, but never mind.)
And this is the overlap into the second comparison. Parties are lovely excuses for Kiwis to enjoy their drink, although socially, legally and politically, eyebrows are properly raised before everyone takes the obligatory swig at the mug, shot glass or emerald bottle. It’s no big secret that Kiwis are per capita among the most formidable drinkers in the world.
Please don’t misunderstand. None among our hosts and fellow guests drank too much, or behaved badly, whether you use the standard of NZ (not that high) or our own (even less). But there was quite a healthy streak of randy jokes, inside jokes (which of course we failed to get) and politically incorrect jokes, which as you know are standard agenda among family members.
We appreciated the famous way Kiwis talk self-deprecatingly, the way they make guests to their country feel at home, and sometimes wonder if they bend over backwards just to make certain races (like ours) feel welcome. Well, you take your breaks where you get them.
At this point, it wouldn’t be fair to make an objective comment on the gastronomic fare that had been readied for the guests : crisps (Kiwinese for chichirya) and dip, crackers and dip, and salted nuts and dip; safe to say that the finger foods were meant to be an afterthought to the libation and dancing. There were pies and savories (parang mini-pies) as well, nobody cared too much that the choices were limited, and this easy-to-please Pinoy wasn’t about to ask for kalderetang kambing, relyenong bangus or chicken pork adobo that were standard fare for handaan back home.
Within an hour from the time the celebrant was surprised and serenaded (she seemed actually shocked; we half-expected her to arrive in a duster and rollers); everyone had either a pleasant buzz or a silly smile on their faces.
Everyone, that is, except the designated drivers, who impressed us by not grabbing a gulp, stealing a swig or snatching a swallow of the bubbly when no one was watching. The current political climate condemning drink-driving (drunk-driving in the US), random police checks and the opprobrium directed at irresponsible motoring were enough deterrents for that.
In all, this account probably doesn’t do justice to the remarkable way with which our temporary hosts are known to celebrate; they certainly work hard and play hard. If there is any defining similarity that unites Pinoys and Kiwis, it is that when they are with family and friends, they love to take their wildest swing at Life, and very often Life accommodatingly swings right back at them.
Thanks for reading !

The Curious Case of NOel Butones in Creeping Middle Age

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Dear batchmates, schoolmates, officemates, kabayan and friends :

WITHOUT realizing it, we have stumbled into a lifestyle almost unrecognizable from barely 10 years ago.

Empirically this owes to a number of factors, not the least of which was/is a spartan way of life demanded by guerilla migration as well as a greater reliance on muscles + ligaments that until recently were little more than vestigial organs of a sedentary paper-pusher grazing in concrete jungles and urban savannahs.

We are proudest of the bad habits we’ve discarded, not necessarily to give way to the good, but in partial recognition of creeping middle age and inevitable mortality that befall all who have unceremoniously fallen off the wagon of youth and excess.

Excess of everything, in case you asked.

Bad habits are not just decadence and vice, though it’s a good way to start the list. We’ll be off tobacco for almost three years now this November, and though we’ve never been one to kiss the bottle, having one too many brown bottles during the weekend was always a familiar theme, whether it was in front of the idiot box or lamenting a lost youth with fellow travellers in life.

Talking about the telly, spending too much time either watching reruns of reruns, stale DVDs or last year’s reality show caused us to turn our circadian rhythm upside down. Accompanied by the fickle habits of sleep, either too much or too little of it, and our manifesto to a ragged, abused and burnt-out lifestyle was complete.

The first aches and pains of not-yet-old-but-no-longer-young, that stage that we dare not give a name, started after our interminable pickup basketball games with Panganay and fun runs with Dad.

The former activity was played with a gaggle of teens, twentysomethings and weekend warriors like ourselves who had developed unsightly guts and unlovely love handles.

The latter activity was with a man at least three decades our senior but who had not only rehabbed from previous excesses himself but had also gone through a fitness makeover, having run numerous 10Ks and half-marathons, mostly after hitting 60.

When you dribble off your foot too often, fall more than half a step behind on the fastbreak, or your fingers bruise from one too many chest passes, you begin to wonder if You’ve (Still) Got Game.

Similarly, after our smile turned into a grimace while running abreast with Dad, and we no longer laughed off his challenges for another lap around the Luneta Oval, it was high time to rethink our fitness mindset.

For sure, we hadn’t gone to flab, and we had many good years before being led out to pasture. But what was wrong with our bodies, prematurely sagging and no longer able to run and play for long hours under the hot noonday sun?

Speaking of flab, we constantly need to remind ourselves that it’s not the buttons flying out that are badly sewn, or the “skinny” pants with substandard zippers but our stubborn rolls of Bill Blass ( bilbil ), not to mention our idiosyncratic man-boobs ( or the misleading moobs ) that cause unsightly wardrobe malfunctions that ultimately befall gladiators of generations gone.

Too much inactivity, too much of the soft life, and not enough healthy stress to get us lean and mean, and hopefully a fortysomething fighting machine ( how pathetic that sounds ).

To top off our disconnect with reality : the older we get, the younger or more unrealistic our self- image becomes. We concede that this discussion is better served by a full space for another day.

Till then, good luck on those fitness machines, calorie regimens, and other devices that will probably last another half – wink of an eye, or the next supersized takeout orgy in front of the Is That Talent? finals, or whatever passes for an excuse to pig out in our fat-schizophrenic household. Please rest assured, comrade : You are not alone. 😉

Thanks for reading !


Filial birthday thoughts for an awesome mom

A photograph of a 2 month old human infant, hi...

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        [ Note from NOel : Yesterday First Brother probably treated Honorable Mother to a sumptuous birthday dinner; Second Brother ( a physician ) examined her and pronounced her fit as a 30 year old maiden ; Fourth Brother sent wondrous gifts from across the sea, and Fifth Brother ably served as her chauffeur and aide-de-camp on her day of note. For our part, via humble e-mail, we pay tribute to one of the most formidable mothers we have known, our own…]      


Dear batchmates, schoolmates, officemates, kabayan and friends :




PARTICULARLY on the subject of their offspring, mothers are known to be irrepressibly intuitive, preternaturally psychic, or creepily clairvoyant.


 Of my own mother I never thought as enjoying any of those gifts, but now that you mention it, everything she warned me about myself, had I been more prudent, I could have avoided.


 The ones that stand out : Your gifts are prone to misuse, and unless you are careful they will be your undoing.  

What you earn, you will squander / What you learn you will forget / What you love you will regret, unless you respect the value of all.
It sounds like a fortuneteller’s words, but I’m just dramatizing for effect. But through my elementary, adolescent and young adult years she harped on these themes, and as is the custom of wild, impetuous youth, I hardly cared for such advice.

 ( The one person she could not save me from was myself, an enemy she could not, despite her best efforts, vanquish. )

 Another of her fateful predictions : Others may be equally gifted , but hard work will carry the day for you. Remember that, and you’ll come out ahead every which way.


I dont know what possessed me to deny it then, but she was right. Proving the reverse of her theory, I found out too late that walking the extra mile was the last (and most important) ingredient for the success recipe. 

Don’t know if your mom was like mine, but she suffered split personality dramas whenever it came to her sons’ fortunes : hope for the best, but expect the worst. Do whatever you can to make your child draw aces, but rush to his side if or when he falters.

Don’t know if there’s anything more selfless than a mother’s lot in life : You use every fiber of your body into bringing another human into this world, use all your resources and energies into raising that human being right, and empty your vessel of knowledge and experience into this new human being, and still not be satisfied until you see the results.

But it doesn’t end there. However others might view the ignominy of the situation, should her child fail, and fail miserably, who should rush to pick up the pieces of failure but Mom herself?

She never hesitates to do so, and single-mindedly refuses to accept failure on behalf of her baby, restart the engine of inspiration in Junior or Ate, until the sun shines anew .

Such heroism would remain the stuff of legend and fable, had I not experienced this in my own mother, who celebrated her birthday yesterday.

Among the innumerable acts and gestures of kindness, altruism, and compassion, the apex of her life’s work, we are proud to declare, are her five grateful sons, seven wonderful grandchildren, and dozens of future great-grandchildren on whom the lessons of her world-class motherhood will never be lost.

Belated happy birthday, and thank you for being our mom.

Love always




Adios, +639159358337 !

Texting on a keyboard phone

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Dear batchmates, schoolmates, kabayan, officemates and friends :

After nearly five years of faithful service, we bade a sentimental goodbye to our pre-paid cell phone number last week.

Confirmation came from Unica Hija (UH, one of many terms for our daughter ), who asked a helpdesk person at the assistance center back home to renew its roaming registration, after we forgot to do it when the same expired.

[ Note : “Roaming” by the way is the term used in the Philippines for mobile phones that are used for both local and foreign calls and SMS text messages. ]

UH was told that not only had the roaming registration expired, but that it was long past the period during which it could be renewed.

Our long, deep sigh for the simcard‘s demise went beyond the rhetorical. Not only was it a source of dependable communication service between us and our children for the last three plus years, it was also a key element in getting to know our significant other.

This mode of communication, it seems, works for OFW, guest workers and accidental migrants like us. Conduct an impromptu survey among Filipinos here and you discover that a lot (particularly those who still have immediate family back home) maintain two mobiles, one for local use and the other to reach the homeland.

Some refine the arrangement further. The blessings of coupled with unlimited text allows us stress-free communication, in exchange for merely tolerating banner ads and the rather cheesy sound effect heard whenever a message is delivered.

Kinsmen back home need only to load up twenty pesos, barely a day’s busfare , on the Nokia 5110 (the kind even snatchers refuse to snatch) and you receive messages from them as if they weren’t half a hemisphere away.

[ Note 2 : For now we have given up webcam and audio chatting on our rusty and virus-stricken Pentium, preferring instead the small comfort of knowing that, behind the steady texts are our loved ones and friends. Such is life! ]

** ** ** ** **

As in many of our relationships in the Age of Internet, stages of development tend toward abbreviation; messages therein, short and sweet.

As a result, we fail to give enough emphasis to quality time and depth of relationship, largely making it up as we move along. We take our chances where we can.

We try to make up for intensity with frequency of texts and obsessing with details, but we never get over the fact that absence and hands-on are crucial in the meat of the relationship. (Quite subjective, but this is probably true among lovers as well as in parenting.)

We can’t deny the great burden off our shoulders that texting, especially to our loved ones, has eased through the years, but at the same time we wonder if the same miracle of modern living does so at the expense of meaningful, substantive and quality communication.

Ironically, the pre-paid number (and mobile phone) was issued to us gratis as part of our employment benefit package at a call center, which of course uses communication not only as a fundamental part of its business, but also as an asset itself, absent which such business simply couldn’t function.

After the novelty wore off, we realized that the mobile phone was an airtight method used by the company to keep tabs on us and investigate straightaway if our sick calls were legitimate and our tardiness justified.

It was therefore a pleasant surprise to know that after we left the call center, the number wasn’t cancelled and we in fact were allowed to register it as a roaming account.

** ** ** ** **

Neither can we deny that expressing admiration or infatuation with a member of the oppostie sex is dramatically simplified by the 160 character canvas with which we could say anything we wanted to say, without being inhibited by flawed speech, flawed looks, or a flawed pick-up line.

We know this only too well, having surreptitiously pilfered (off the logbook) the mobile number of a complete stranger two places ahead of us in a cellphone credit loading booth once upon a time. If we hadn’t been able to introduce ourselves to her and establish communication via anonymous text, life for us four years later would’ve undoubtedly been vastly different.

Which in a nutshell, is what texting has been able to do for Modern Man. Allow us to make quantum leaps in social intercourse, without making us realize that genuine exchange of ideas, passions and emotions can only take place with more traditional communication.

For sure, 09159358337 will be replaced by a new simcard as soon as we visit the Filipino grocery, or a thoughtful son or daughter mails us one from home. But the mass of memories, messages and groundswell of emotions that number made possible will never return.

For that, dear number, we say thank you and farewell.

Thanks for reading !


Isang Linggong Pag-Ibig

Philippines - Eye / Mouth / Heart Nostalgia

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[ Note : just a stream-of-consciousness e-mail. Please excuse the candidness, and the spontaneity. ]

                                          Lunes .

“Hey NOWL, what’s Tey-galog ?”

[ Definitely a trick question ; knowing the asker, he’s already Googled and Wikipidiaed the term; still it’s a pleasant, if odd surprise that he’s asking about our language, or at least, one of them… ]

Back home, there’s no such thing as a national language like Maori or English in your parts, but if you’re looking for the nearest thing to a lingua franca anywhere in our Archipelago, Tagalog is the way to go.

“Hmmm. Okay, thanks for the info NOWL.”

[ Don’t think we’ll ever get used to being called Nowl, as in Nowl Leeming (a popular chain of appliance stores), but at least it’s better than Noelene or NOwl the Filipino, or Phil the Noel-pino, now leave me in peace to drink my well-deserved oxidant-banishing, and wrinkle-discouraging green tea… ]

As backgrounder, in itself it’s a wonder that he even thinks of asking us anything that doesn’t pertain to work, he’s straight-as-an-arrow, serious-as-serious-gets, and professional-as-can-be at work, so anything that distracts you from the mundane list of tasks for the next eight hours in the dead of night is a welcome digression.

Famous last words.

                                                    Martes .

“hey Nowl, just out of curiosity, have you got any idea how much a university education costs in your country relative to the standard of living and average wage, just off the top of your head ?”

Wow Koya, iba na mga tanong mo ha. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were committing to pay for the education of someone back home, obviously someone a tad more important to you than the only other Pinoy you know, that’s ME of course . 🙂

[ of course, we’re not that suspicious, and in the midst of doing three different things, we couldn’t give it more than a raised eyebrow and a hurried 2nd thought, but still… ]

Tuition, depending on the quality of education provided by the school and the degree course and curriculum, costs anywhere between 30,000 to a hundred thousand in Philippine pesos per term. That’s a relatively reasonable 1000 to 3000 in Kiwi dollars, but you have to realize that resources are more scarce back home, average wages are much more modest, and families are usually bigger, are you thinking of any school in particular (or anyone specific) ?

“Hmmm (again, that disturbingly non-chalant hmmm)… no, not really. what’s for lunch ?” . . .

                                                  Miyerkules .

Shows me a piece of paper. “Read this, NOWL.”

(I almost cringed and wanted to say I didn’t want to, but inevitability and morbid curiosity gets the better of NOWL.)

M – A – H – A – L   K – I – T – A .

There was no one else in the building, but i whispered the translation, scared that anyone else would hear. (Smiles.)

I knew that, heh, heh heh (like a Cheshire cat). There’s another word that I failed to write, I need the translation and wanna know why it’s in the middle.”

(Sigh.) Okay, what’s the word?

(writes slowly) “D – I – N.”

Okay, your friend translates for you, gives you her answer, and then translates the same for you?

“Yup, I just wanna know why “din” is in the middle.”

Well, it would be inelegant if it were said anywhere else, and she probably already knows you have a Filipino friend, who’ll do the translation for you. And the interpretation.

[ Kinikilig itong lolo mo, NOel. ]


You know Boss ? In the two plus years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen you like this.


You look like you lack sleep, and you look like (shudder!) you’re bored with work.

“I guess I do. Been chatting with my Filipina friend three nights now…”

[ Shows me her pics, very pretty actually, a duskier version of Isabel Oly, in colegiala camouflage. ]

“Wants me to visit Manila straightaway, that’s why I’ve been picking your brain the past three days. Also wants me to see her family.”

Inay ko po.

Hey boss, aren’t you rushing things a bit? It’s just not like you to uhm, rush into things like this.

“For sure. Am not gonna be rushed into doing things. But let me tell you NOWL, she’s smart, sez she’s a simple Filipina girl, and from what I can tell, she’s not materialistic.”

[ Well, what can I say ? What would YOU say? ]

Barely audible sigh .


“Say Nowl, are there flights out to Manila from here that don’t pass through Sydney or Melbourne?”

Well boss, that’s the idea. Flights are cheap cuz there are so many passengers bound for Manila picked up from either of those cities. Sometimes both.

“You mean, besides the Filipinos IN HERE, there are lots more in Aussie?”

(Duh.) Actually everywhere. Say, are you really serious about going to the Philippines ? It’s just not sightseeing and beaches you’re after, yup?

(Actually I already know what, or who the reason is, I just can’t believe it’s reason enough for him to up and go.)

“Well I HAVE been planning to go on a long holiday, and you know the weather here can be quite frustrating. ( Pauses ). I just don’t know why she’s insisting that I visit her December.”

Whoa. Just my humble opinion Mastah, but unless you’re from there, you DON’T want to travel to the Islands Christmas season. And don’t ask why. Just too iffy, and too many unknowns. And it’s probably the most chaotic time of the year.

“Most chaotic compared to what ?”

Most chaotic compared to ANYWHERE YOU’VE BEEN.

[ Looks taken aback, but quickly recovers. ] “You’re not discouraging me from visiting your own country, are you?”

(I roll my eyes.) I’m not. Just… as you say, don’t rush into this, boss.

(Smiles a self-assured smile). I won’t be (rushed). You know me better than that, Nowl.

[Actually, I don’t. Not after the last few days.]

** ** ** **

Pardon our cynicism, but compressing my dozens of questions into three : Did Mastah know the first rule of online dating / chatting, which is NEVER to send, or even promise to send money, at least until you’ve gotten to know someone considerably longer than a week?

Second : Has Mastah at least taken the precaution of using either the webcam or Skype (or similar telephony) to see or hear if the person is indeed the one in the obviously flattering pictures?

This third is actually the hardest : Is Mastah naive enough to believe that he is the only one his friend is chatting with?

These are the Final Jeopardy questions we want to ask Mastah before the end of the Isang Linggong Pag-ibig. Cross our heart and hope to die, we really, really want to ask him.

But don’t bet on it.

Thanks for reading !