Belated Birthday Thoughts for The Incredible Tita Lily / LBY / Mrs Yang

I AM almost never at a loss for words.  In a previous life, I may have been a lexicographer, a surrogate writer of love letters (like the main character in G Garcia Marquez’s Love In The Time of Cholera), or a royal speechwriter.  I am at ease expressing myself, especially using the written word.
Which is why I’m a bit surprised, putting pen to paper, when attempting to communicate my thoughts about a particular person who came to mind on her birthday.  She is not so much remarkable as she is incredible, as she has made, in my life among many others, an impact that is beyond compare.  I am momentarily unable to say what I feel.
At least, I will try.  There are many, many instances on which I have witnessed the greatness of this person, but on one particular occasion she asked me to help sort out items which she had stored in boxes from decades past.  Through the years, she never threw out anything which she felt was a record of her busy life, and as a result she had a room full of journals, envelopes, folders and assorted containers of artifacts of her life.
She asked me to take my time, not to rush, and to sort things by the year, and to consult her first before dumping anything. 
My first impression was that not a scrap of paper was thrown away from the last four, maybe five decades.  Receipts, lists, notes, letters, bills, statements, mass cards, novena cards, promissory notes, greeting cards.  Every scrap of paper that documented the length and breadth of human transactions, business, personal and whatever else, was stored in those boxes.  
The one thing that stood out, and which made a real impression on me was the consistency of two particular things :  Cancelled cheques and thank you cards.
Over and over again, this remarkable person issued cheques almost every day of the week, every week of the month, and every month of the year.  She issued cheques for tuition payments for children she would never see, bill payments for people she hardly knew, donation remittances for charities she had hardly heard from, and even utility payments for people who could no longer support themselves. 
She was an equal opportunity, across-the-board, all-weather philanthrophist, although her favorite activity, I noticed, was writing greeting and gift cards herself, replying to thank you cards, and buying big bags of sweets and delicacies, then dividing them up for redistribution for nephews, nieces, grand-nephews and grand-nieces.
Like a freshly-glazed mirror image, all these perfectly reflected what she was/is at work.  I was fortunate enough to be a worker bee three years at 105 Paseo de Roxas and most of my free time, I chose to hang around in her office, which never ran out of tasty merienda, candy, chichirya and Friday club provisions.
I never saw her turn down a request for help as long as her inner compass pointed to the request as legitimate.  Three quarters of the time, she knew the assistance, in the form of loans, would take forever and a day to return, the remaining quarter she chalked up to spreading good karma that would eventually find its way back to her.
And find its way it did, in a BIG way, tenfold or more probably.  Because she is blessed in almost every way; she has resources for herself and everybody else (and the number is considerable) who depend on her; friends relatives and loved ones that keep multiplying like YouTube hits; health and a youthful countenance that doesn’t quit, and above all a positive outlook that renews itself everyday.
It would be no exaggeration to say that she has sent more or less a thousand children to school, been primarily responsible for the professional careers of hundreds of practicing doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and nurses, sent so many migrant hopefuls (including myself) on their way to their land of promise, and paid for the life-saving hospital expenses of people who otherwise might never been able to shoulder it themselves.
Besides the magnitude of this once-in-a-lifetime generosity, the collateral wonder is that unless the moon is blue, the sun is dancing or Halley’s comet has chanced to pass by, you would never hear about it, all these unceasing gestures of altruism, least of all from her.  And she probably prefers it that way.
**               **               **
It’s a very belated birthday greeting that I have for her, almost a week past.  I’m ashamed for myself, after all she has done for me, my children, my brothers, my parents, and everyone else in my family.  It comes as no surprise that she has been like this all her life, to co-worker, colleague, neighbor, co-CWL devotee, co-parishioner, and has never made a distinction between relative and friend; even people who have not been kind to her have been recipients of her legendary kindness.
I have only one other anecdote about her, among so many others, and this concerns her driver, Mang Gaudencio.  He and his three sons, along with the rest of his family, have been helped by her sterling recommendations on the way to good jobs and stable lives.  Mang Gaudi told me once that, despite his age, if his employer ever needed them and his organs (any of them) were still serviceable, he would gladly donate his kidney, liver, eyes, lungs or heart to her.  And he would consider himself richer for it.
[ The knee-jerk reaction I felt was that why did he think of it ahead of me?  Because no greater source of pride would I have than to be able to say that a part of me could be used by this person I’m talking about, now. ]
He was probably exaggerating when he said it, but I couldn’t blame him.  For besides my parents, I know of no other person who has so enriched my life, in terms of her immeasurable  and inspiring selflessness, as this person.  I once thought that it would take my entire lifetime to repay her for all the things she has done for me.  Now I know that one lifetime is simply not enough.
Belated happy birthday Tita Lily / LBY, you are definitely one of a kind.  Speaking for myself and the rest of the Bautista and SycipLaw families, I love you very much, thank you for being in our lives !
Your nephew

Hihirit Pa Si Manoy, At The Very End of 2010



waiting for the celebrant, too late to change your mind, Hazel mwahaha 🙂


[ NOte from NOel : Many many thanks for all the kind greetings from friends, relatives, brods, officemates, kabayan and everyone else who’s been a part of my dysfunctional world ; a safe, prosperous and healthy 2011 to all ! ]

Dear anakis :

LIKE many wonders of the 21st century, Facebook has a way of overtaking me far, far beyond what my myopic eyes can see. I initially thought that posting a few pictures of my recent happy event was just a courtesy I was extending to relatives, friends and people who’d been in my corner rain or shine, and been there through every joy and pain.

By recent happy event, you know what I mean. Sure I told you that I (or rather, we) had been planning to make the big step, but I would’ve wanted to tell you about every detail, show you every picture, and maybe tell you about the mementoes of our wedding.

There, I said it. Even if your Tita H and I had gotten married last week, I would’ve wanted to tell you that day, call you before we went to the Registrar of Marriages, and call you again afterwards during the modest gathering that we organized. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

But that’s what I mean about The Social Network. Barely a few hours after posting (which was previously done by Tita H on her FB page), it was all over, and you probably saw the pics before I did. I’m just happy I was able to tell you a little about it, tell you who were going to be there (your bro, Tito George my bro, Tito Eric my cousin and Tita Maya another cousin; Tita H’s bosses and workmates) and where we would be later.

I know it sounds corny, but I wanted you to know that I did not arrive at my decision spur-of-the-moment or without more than a little deliberation. Tita H came at a time when I had all but given up on love, and was ready to face the rest of my life solo flight.

I will say this only one more time, as if I haven’t said it enough times : Tita H is wise beyond her years, looks after my health and well-being (not that I’m too old to do it myself), understands completely that I have three almost grown-up kids, and is well aware of the realities of a 40something tying the knot with someone in her mid twenties.

That’s it. All I have to say about her is limited to the above, and I’m quite thankful that the few times you met her back home, you were able to spend some quality time and make a connection, even if it was on the not-so-serious things.

I probably need to say something about your mother at this point, and I need to tell you that there will always be a bond between your mom and me, and that bond is YOU.

Whatever happens, we will always be your folks, and neither of us ( or at least I ) will ever use you to score points or get back against the other. If there is one issue on which we will not argue, it is your welfare and future. I have to add ( and she deserves this ) that she has always been a good parent to all of you, something I wish I could, but honestly can’t, say for myself.

Well, that’s about it. This e-mail I should’ve sent you at least a week ago, but things kind of got in the way.

Oh, two more things. DETAILS. First, we got married in a place called the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, where as the term connotes, people go to have births, deaths and marriages registered, or where they announce the same to the world.

We got married in a room that seated 16 people max, and we invited 100% Pinoys, including your brother, uncle and my two cousins. The celebrant (the person officiating) was casting-wise, the unlikeliest sort of person, not a Yoda-looking, naphthalene smelling oddball, but someone who looked more like a Prince William-type of guy (blond, six-foot plus, and baby blue eyes) that the girls checked out more than once. The one time I needed to look dashing, I failed miserably, next to this guy.

But your Tita H more than made up for it, going above and beyond the call of duty with her shoestring budget, and looking every bit the blushing bride. After the simple ceremony where we exchanged I do’s and rings (hulugan sa alahero), we proceeded to a Chinese resto for a small reception.

We had to wind up soon as I had early morning shift at the mill the next day, while Tita H had her parttime job at the nail salon. But not before we had a few pictures taken near Parliament, a durable tradition for couples who don’t have much to spend.

PROMISE. Second : In advance I am allaying your concerns about me having a wife again. My priorities have not and will not change, and you may rest assured that whatever support (or lack of it) you have enjoyed from me, shall remain the same.

As to whether you will have a brother or sister in the future, there are no firm plans as of now 🙂

I love you both very much, wish you were here, and I hope you will enjoy 2011, if possible visit here later in the year.

Kaawaan kayo lagi ng Diyos.


Unlikely Thoughts on Christmas

A Danish Christmas tree illuminated with burni...

Image via Wikipedia

[ NOte from NOel  : For all the impositions, I beg your indulgence, and for all the kind feedback, as well as constructive criticism, I am grateful.  To friends and compatriots in SJCS Batch 82, SJCS Alumni, Alpha Phi Beta, Auckland Pinoys, UP Alumni sa NZ and Sycip Alumni yahoo!groups, Facebook and Multiply friends, I wish you every blessing these blessed days ! ]
Dear anakis :
First of all, I’m very glad your mother was able to go home to be with you for the first time in three years.  I know how badly you miss her and how long it will be till you see her again.
[ Conversely, although I’m sad I can’t be with you this year, you will I hope understand that I was able to come home each of the last three years.  The countdown to Christmas 2011 has begun ! ]
Next. I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to send you enough money for the laptop you asked for.  I know that these days, having a computer for both school and personal use is an absolute necessity, and moreover, you are able to keep in touch with everyone who’s physically out of reach, including your mother and me.
But I guess between a roof that was ready to fall off and a laptop, it was easy to choose which expense was more urgent, and while you don’t have ready access to YM, Chikka and Facebook, at least you won’t have a drenched second floor everytime you sense monsoon rumblings, which happens almost any time of the year.  Put it this way : by the time you have enough for an Acer or Asus (affordable but dependable), hopefully early next year, you’ll be comfy, dry and waterproof.
**               **            **
Staying overseas for the better part of your teens is one of the sadder realities of my lot in life, and at no time is this more evident than during Christmas.
It’s easy to say, for example, that since we can’t do the holidays this year, we’ll just make up for it the next.  But the set of memories, situations, interactions and all other events peculiar to just that point in time, will never be reproduced as part of the sum total of our times together.  The consolation is that we can still communicate, and rightly or wrongly I can tell you the things I see and the feelings I have during these senti moments of Kapaskuhan.
And perhaps one of the unexpected lessons I can draw and relay to you is a most cynical one : notwithstanding all its universal messages of peace, hope and love, it’s just another day for many people, especially in the non-Christian world.  I hope you don’t judge me a wet blanket ; it’s a perfect time to count our blessings, stop thinking of ourselves for a brief moment, share our good fortune and all that, but the reality is, you can do all these laudable things any other day of the year. 
It just pricks our conscience a little more deeply on the 25th of the last month, the beggars seem a little more pitiful, and the efforts of the charities a little more profound.  Less than a week after Christmas, it’s almost no surprise that we forget about all the feel-good energy generated from our altruistic activities.  That’s when it becomes obvious that our month long Christmas spirit should be sustained much longer than the malls, movies and bonuses allow.
*         *         *
Then I don’t know if this is related to the season at all :  it’s not intentional, but I live in a block where there are plenty of Indian residents.  To my left, right and two units away live a second generation Indian family (kids born in NZ), a Fijian Indian family, and finally an Indian family recently arrived from the subcontinent, about as long here as I’ve been. 
Christmas Eve I passed along to each of them a bag of flour from the mill I work in, and in passing asked if each of them knew the other two families.  None of them did, and I clarified just to make sure if these three families, from nearly identical ethnic backgrounds, really were unaware of each other. 
I got the same answer, and the only theory I could come up with, in light of the fact that next-door neighbors were trilaterally denying each other’s existence, was that they simply didn’t like each other.
I don’t know if there’s a lesson somewhere in the mix, but there must really be something screwy if people of the same race, culture and religion make an effort to get out of each other’s way. 
Pinoys may not express mutual admiration among themselves, but they don’t go to absurd lengths to avoid each other, right?  If we can’t get along with our own, how do we expect to be a functional community with diverse nationalities and shades of skin?
Strange days, indeed.
**         **         **
I have to revisit the topic of Christmas being a singular day among many remarkable days of the year :  If you know of anybody alone during the holidays and wanting for company, especially the human kind, please don’t hesitate to open your doors to them, even if it’s just for a dinner or merienda. 
It’s no coincidence that incidence of suicide and self-inflicted injury spikes during the holidays and Christmas / New Year are on top of the list.  If people make all sorts of efforts just to be with family at this time of the year, you can imagine how it is for the people without families, those estranged from spouses and kids, and lastly, those with no more loved ones to spend their special days with. 
I am so happy that you have each other this Christmas, and you have your mother to spend noche buena with.  Maligayang Pasko Ganda & Bunso ; I love you always.
Kaawaan kayo lagi ng Diyos.
PS. Your brother is lonely here, but he has a bright future ahead.  Pls e-mail him when you have time, would you ?

No Christmas on Christmas Island

35 Vietnamese refugees wait to be taken aboard...

Image via Wikipedia

Dear batchmates, schoolmates, brods, officemates, kabayan and friends :
15TH DECEMBER – Particularly during the Christmas season, it’s like rubbing rock salt over fresh wounds : you escape with nothing but your life, by the skin of your calcium-deficient teeth, from racial genocide in Iraq ( as a Kurd ) or intra-religious strife in Iran and Afghanistan ( as a non-fundamentalist Muslim ). 
You temporarily gain a reprieve in a halfway inn, sometimes called a refugee processing / detention center, but it’s more or less a dreary, shapeless limbo, with days of waiting stretching to months or years, and a temporary host nation indifferent at best and hostile at worst.
You desperately  grab at straws by availing of the services of persons best described as the scum of the earth, human smugglers that provide the crudest of sea transport, wooden outriggers with the smallest of motors and the barest of flooring. 
After braving violent churling swells of inhospitable waters between Indonesia and Australia, you somehow manage to elude the vigilant eyes of the Royal Australian Coast Guard, only to meet a cruel end at the jagged limestone cliffs of the Christmas Island shore: not only is your puny vessel shattered, but you and the rest of your co-travelers meet your end at these vicious and unyielding rocks, rendering futile all your previous sacrifices and sufferings.
Facts are scant and the list of names of the departed will probably never be official, but the story is crystal clear : people who seek better lives without the protection of lawful travel and the aegis of governments that watch over its citizens are risking life and limb for very uncertain rewards.
The true tragedy lies in the realization that those who perished earlier this week were the lucky ones, those who were able to leave the persecution, whether religious, racial or economic, of their homelands. 
For every Iraqi on that boat, there were probably hundreds more who endured state sponsored discrimination, first from Saddam Hussein‘s regime, then the US invasion supported adminstration that followed. 
For every Afghan that boarded that doomed vessel, hundreds fell prey to the fanatical fundamentalism of the Taliban. 
And Iranians who sought refuge from the seas either escaped the deadly Shiite-Sunni rivalry in their own country or the sporadic border warfare with Iraq as well.
Filipinos lead lives far from ideal at home, but we don’t suffer from a dysfunctional culture that allows people from one part of the country to decimate kababayan from another part; and we’re not burdened by intramurals from neighboring countries that cause injury and death to our citizens; and finally, we have religious leaders that don’t always lead by good sense and example, but they don’t ask us to conduct holy wars and massacres in the name of God.
For in our humble view, that is the root cause of all forced migration : lack or total absence of respect for human rights, the right to a decent living, the right to practice your own religion / beliefs, the right to form and raise a family, and most of all , the right to life itself. 
It beggars belief that in this day and age, we have states, governments and regimes that build vast armies, wage wars across oceans, monopolize trade agreements and hold as hostage whole continents and economies and yet cannot understand the basic concept of life on our Lonely Planet : that respect for human rights is respect for humanity itself.
Two weeks ago was Human Rights Week, last week brought us the Christmas Island tragedy, but this week, and every week thereafter, might as well be NOel’s Count My Blessings Week forever
I’m not a permanent resident (yet), but I got to a First World country LEGALLY and SAFELY. 
I don’t have the PERFECT job, but I get to earn decent wages, and I even get to send home money as well.  That’s infinitely more than any forced migrant can ask for. 
I’m not always treated as a first-class citizen (and I don’t always ask to be welcomed with open arms), but at least I’m not persecuted for my race, color or beliefs, and my stay doesn’t hang on a thread. 
I may not have reached the life others dream about, but it’s loads better than the life of tens of thousands of other migrants on frail boats, strange shores and uncertain horizons.
If you’re not busy today, please whisper a short prayer for the Christmas Island refugees, and join me in gratefully thanking God for the lives given us abroad or at home.
Thanks for reading, Maligayang Pasko po sa ating lahat  !

Side Dish to OFW’s Main Course

Blue vacuum cleaner

Image via Wikipedia

[ Notes from NOel : I’m not sure of the blog-worthiness of this activity, just that it was a first for me, at least in this city, though it certainly won’t be the last. So sorry for the late birthday greetings to Sec A memorables Dr Jo Te-Enriquez (29th Nov), Dr Gilbert Jao (1st Dec), Daisy Chua (4th Dec) and Jesse Chu (6th Dec), Liza Pavon-Wong (4th Dec), 3-point shooter Rodney Uyan (6th Dec), laugh-a-minute Jeff Lu (12th Dec), world class graphic designer Christine Chiang – Schultheiss (14th Dec) and 6-E buddy Klemson See (17th Dec) ! Many happy returns ! And sincerest condolences to schoolmate Mr Dan de Guzman and the rest of the family of Ms Nena de Guzman – Alvarez who passed away recently.]

Dear kabatch, brods, schoolmates, officemates, kabayan and friends :

Whether you’re a tradesman, IT guy or medical professional, a little extra cash never hurts, and fellow Pinoys know this only too well. Your mortgage payments get a little help, you’re able to sneak in a rare movie at the mall, and the kamag-anak back home get a little more than chocolates and the souvenir T-shirt.

During the holidays, the noche buena buffet table gets more crowded, more gifts are placed under the tree, and the trip back home becomes less of a dream. Kabayan all around know about it, but unless you’re this close (hold two fingers together), magaling makisama (get along well) and are willing to forego TV hours and weekend nappy time, you won’t hear about the open secret : there’s serious barya to be earned cleaning houses and offices.

Obviously the easiest way to get cleaning jobs is the referral method, although there may be gigs had via agencies and cleaning companies. As soon as you signify your willingness and you don’t look like you’re afraid of hard work, the vacuum cleaner (and mop, scourer, detergent and other stuff) is yours.

 As fate would have it, the house on our cleaning hit-list belonged to an Asian couple, a Malaysian married to a Singaporean, with three sons. They looked so similar to Filipinos that, if not for their accents, there would hardly be any discernible difference.

Modest to a fault, they said that spotless, perfect work wasn’t an essential to satisfy them, although if you were starting a job and wanted to impress, doing mediocre work would hardly be ideal. (more on this later.)

Modest in their dwelling as well, it was an impressive facade outside, double garage and manicured lawn, but the interior was surprisingly spartan and furnished with basic, no-frills furniture. The only luxury we saw, if you could call it that, was a beautiful, expensive looking piano, around which were dozens of sheet music and exercise books.

We started work immediately, working our way literally from top to bottom. Our plate was full : Sweeping cobwebs on the ceiling moulds, using both damp and dry rags on the bookshelves and ledges, mopping the tiles, changing the sheets and pillowcases, and finally, vacuuming the carpets.

[In case you’re wondering, there are two of us, and although my spirit is willing, the bulk of the cleaning is done by my more experienced partner, to save both time and energy for other pursuits. And just to be on the safe side, seeing all those reality / hidden camera shows that spy on nosy cleaners, I paid little more than cursory attention to any item unless I held it for cleaning or gently pushed it out of the way.]

Earlier I said that we worked literally from top to bottom, and though the explanation is common-sensical, it’s not common knowledge, at least not for ignorant little me : Starting from the top avoids the problem of having to repeat some cleaning in case dust or dirt resettles on some place you’ve already done.

I also cleaned from the furthest places retreating into the most accessible, since doing the opposite would’ve resulted in me redoing spots I would almost surely come back to before winding up. I couldn’t help but notice, despite my earlier commitment not to be nosy, that the heart and soul of the house was the academics and well-roundedness of the pre-teen and teenage kids. Reference books, reviewers for university entrance exams, learning software for technical topics, and other similar stuff were standard fare for each non-adult inhabitant, which I conceded was an attribute for ultra-competitive Asian families.

But the fact that this clan was also flexing its muscles among fellow migrant overachievers was a factor, because while initially it seemed a luxury, the need for each child to own a PC or laptop, in light of the necessity to submit well-prepared work (reports and term papers), advances in the hard sciences, and keeping abreast of promising careers, made such appliance an absolute essential.

Businesslike schedules on the fridge whiteboard, neat aparadors, and a garden that hardly needed maintenance gave this CSI wannabe another clue : that each family member pulled his or her weight in duties and chores, all helping out in the daily (or weekly) upkeep of the nest.

Remember we said that despite the tight ship, the kids looked well-rounded? This was why : Cricket practice and games, soccer practice and games, piano lessons, bible study were all part of each son’s sked, and these were the regular fare. And beholding the wall pics and awards, the lucky kids seemed to enjoy all these aspects of being young Rennaissance Men. I mentally saluted their broad-minded folks on that.

* * *

Have I said that cleaning house without being nosy was next to impossible if one was by nature a curious person? If no, I’m saying it now.

A few more details : We were paid the minimum hourly wage for what the homeowners thought would be a job fairly done in four hours. At the outset we thought this would be a breeze since a quick overview gave the impression that we would be in and out in a brisk two-and-a-half hours, three at most.

As the hours dragged on, and we kept adding on to our to-do list, we realized that three $20 notes we were paid was actually a bargain : our pride and gigil would not allow us to leave without vacuuming every cobweb, sweeping every speck of dust, and scrubbing to nothingness every ounce of grime.

In all, I signed off at the four-hour mark and my partner put in another 90 minutes before declaring the job finished. The owners probably knew this; by saying they didn’t expect much, they diplomatically ( if not psychologically ) put the burden on us to go beyond expectations and go overboard on the job. Whether or not it was the intention, the house became ultra – clean as a result.

The furniture, colors and interiors of the house we cleaned, notable in their simplicity and tastefulness, reminded me of many homes back in the Philippines. If anything, I realized that there was a marked effort to remind the visitor (even accidental ones like me) that, despite its being in NZ, the house was inhabited by Asians who someday would be going home.

Which, after all, is what most migrants dream to do, after doing well in their adopted land. An ageless fact of migrant life, confirmed in a most unexpected place of part-time work.

Thanks for reading ! NOel

Trouble in Paradise

Dear batchmates, schoolmates, brods, kabayan, officemates and friends :

THE naivete ended long before, but somewhat defining the moment of such end (in a wanna-be dramatic life such as mine, there are always defining moments) was a short, short exchange in our smoku room (cafeteria) a month or so ago.

If you remember the intense, violent (but short-lived) typhoon that swept Northern Luzon the time, there was a picture of a house made of light materials that found itself on the sturdy branches of an obviously much stronger acacia-looking tree.

This picture spoke a thousand words more eloquently than any narrative on the storm, so the international news agencies carried it and such picture found its way to the local paper of our host city.

Whereupon one of our colleagues commented on how many Filipinos must have perished in such a short time the storm flexed its muscles, and to which another replied, “(snort), storm should’ve killed off the lot of them.”

Loose translation : dapat nga naubos na lahi nila.

I don’t know which was more outrageous at the time, that such an racist-inspired utterance was actually made, or that the same words were spoken so casually. Whether or not it was meant as a joke, the person who heard what was said (who incidentally was my supervisor) was outraged and decided to report the matter to the plant manager straightaway. (Employer has a near zero-tolerance policy against harrassment, racist and sexist situations.)

At the last moment however, for some reason, he decided to consult me and find out if I found the same offensive.

Which I initially had a hard time deciding, since (1) I wasn’t there at the time of the incident and (2) I was trying to figure out how serious the statement was since, light jokes, which from time to time include race references, are made all the time in the premises.

Eventually I realized that any grievance that would be redressed wasn’t worth the potential trouble and brouhaha it would cause, and I advised him to drop the matter.

He resolved the situation by saying (kamping-kampi talaga sa mga Pinoy) that one way or another, he and a few others would make sure any perceived slight I felt would be paid back to the alleged offender twofold. Sniff, sniff.

But seriously, by now you probably would’ve discerned the naivete of which I speak : that which assumes that every face, every voice and every smile in our adopted land is one that sincerely welcomes us as one of their own.

For every broad-minded Kiwi with a 21st-century worldview that encourages brotherhood (and sisterhood) and interdependence among countries, there will always be a counterpart xenophobe who can’t avoid feeling insecure with the rainbow of races making its appearance in NZ the last few years.

Difficult as it is to contemplate, the reality is that in this paradise of equal opportunity that respects self-reliance and hard work, there will always be people like the colleague above, and there are many more like him, in varying degrees of intensity.

It’s quite subjective, and definitely there are no hard facts to back me up, but :

(1) can anyone forget morning NZ personality Paul Henry asking the Prime Minister on his impending selection of a new Governor – General : Can we expect a Governor General who looks and sounds like a New Zealander this time ?

It initally sounded as wacky as unlikely from such a respected interviewer, until most of us realized that a sizeable number of Kiwis silently supported Henry’s unspoken opinion; that is, that migrant numbers had been growing too rapidly and uncomfortably so.

(2) Among other TV ads that pass through our political correctness (PC) blood-brain barrier, two kinds of ads strike us as both amusing and slightly disturbing : the company that assures us that their customer service and helpdesk functions are performed by Kiwi-staffed call centers; and the brands that proudly proclaim themselves to be 100% Kiwi owned.

When one contemplates the first ad, the immediate problem is that talking to someone stretching his/her “e” vowel sounds, calls merienda “tea time” and pronounces “fish and chips” as “fush and chups” is no assurance that service will be provided, and the secondary problem is that, what if the caller and potential customer doesn’t require a Kiwi call center staffer, because such caller / potential customer may not be Kiwi himself/herself?

In the second, such ads that emphasize a misplaced nationalism fail to take into account the realities of an ever-growing migrant market, that foreign dollars are just as acceptable as Kiwi money, and are just as effective in wealth-generation and nation-building.

The long and short of it is, despite the altruism and good intentions of the best and the brightest in enlightened Kiwi society, there will always be the shortsighted and underachieving who inevitably blame others for their failures.

The easiest and most vulnerable targets, as you might expect, are the newcomers and outsiders.

It’s up to us to show them that we deserve the chance to live the Kiwi / Pinoy Dream as much as any of them, as long as we walk the walk, do the hard work and in true Pinoy fashion, do whatever it takes to shine.

Thanks for reading !


The Amazing (Kiwi) Race to Bring Pinay Brides Home

Traditional dance of the Philippines.

Image via Wikipedia

[ NOtes from NOel : umaapaw po ang aking pasasalamat sa mga dalangin at mga bati sa pagisyu ng panibago naming WP  (Work Permit) nakaraang buwan, mabuhay kayong lahat. Abot-abot sa Diyos ang aking thank you, no words can express my gratitude. (Although I’m trying now.) One of the few times I’m speechless, actually, and you know what a blabbermouth I am . If you will indulge me in the near future by continuing to patronize my rants and raves, I will have ample opportunity to thank you, but for now, just to be a Filipino, just to be lahing kayumanggi na tinimplahan ng dugong Tsino, just to be lucky enough to be a member of the uring manggagawa in NZ as well as the Pinoy community and subcommunities with its intricate overlapping circles of trust and friendship, I am proud to be . . . btw, kudos to all-around nice guy and schoolmate Mr Sam Dignadice for being accepted to the prestigious University of Auckland MBA program, itaguyod po natin ang bandera ng kapwa Pinoy ! ]

Dear batchmates, schoolmates, kabayan, officemates, and friends :

Prior to my close call, close shave, tightrope walk and hanging bridge adventure (of waiting to exhale between Work Permits) a few weeks ago, I had occasion to contemplate one of the more thought-provoking questions that both well-intentioned Pinoy and Kiwi minds pondered :

Why are Filipinas, especially as wives, so desirable to Kiwi men?

Everyone in my workplace either personally knows someone who has a wife, Pinay girlfriend, cyber girlfriend (or at least, that’s what they are told by such girlfriend) or are looking for a Pinay themselves. This is no exaggeration. We, or rather our countrywomen, are simply THAT popular.

Before we go further, we have two caveats : we claim not an ounce of objectivity in trying to answer the question we just posed, and second, we limit all our comments to our first-hand personal knowledge and verifiable hearsay material. Maybe later, I will explain.

But for now, we refer firstly to the scores of happy Kiwi husbands we’ve chanced to meet and befriend in our first few years in NZ, mostly in Auckland. Some I met through other Filipinos, others by chance, and still others professionally. The common denominator is that the wife keeps them happy, with one raised eyebrow discouraging any domestic mischief (kids’ as well as dad’s) and a hand always holding the kawali (frying pan) for those tasty and addictive Filipino dishes about which no elaboration is necessary.

It may be a slight exaggeration, but the way most Pinays cook for, wash and iron for, and groom their husbands, the latter are practically a spoiled lot. We have no empirical data on how Kiwi women go about their day, but we daresay that their male counterparts who’re lucky enough to find Pinay mates have never had it so good.

We know a countrywoman who cuts her hubby’s hair, manicures his nails, prunes his unruly facial hair and does all the other household things with verve and elan the way only Filipinas do. And believe me, the bloke knows how lucky he is.

Not to be sexist about it, Kiwis can do these things on their own, as most of us Pinoys know and do. But because our kababayan sisses and kumares do such a great job taking care of their spouses, it’s so easy to just sit back and enjoy themselves.

In Windy Welly, the situation is no different. We know practically of no case where our hosts aren’t kept happy by their darling from the Islands, whether the introduction was made through the internet, by a common friend, or by a lucky encounter at work or at play. In turn, through word of mouth, referrals and friends of friends, the reputation and renown of the world-class Filipina wife/partner worth her weight in gold is perpetuated and spread far and wide.

Again, this is probably a unique case/s, but I know of at least two Kiwis who married Pinays, one for his first marriage and the other on the rebound, but the relationship unfortunately turned sour and they broke up after the birth of one child. Guess what? Both guys had second relationships with Pinays, now how’s that for the proverbial repeat sale?

This can only help the reputation of us Pinoys. First, Kiwis invariably ask us, after realizing we are Filipino, if we know of any eligible Pinay bachelorette. It’s not a frivolous or light-hearted question that they ask; frequently they are always on the lookout for such opportunities. Understandably, they prioritize potential mates that are already known by acquaintances or friends from the Philippines as well.

I say this because not every encounter with Pinays is ideal. Unfortunately, it has to be said that out of every dozen, one or two Pinays seek relationships for reasons other than romantic. This is no judgment on them; life is hard enough back home for us to criticize anyone for wanting to seek a better life overseas.

But there are compatriots who want to skip several stages in the pursuit of happiness (work, love, marriage, wealth-building, and so on), and if in the process they happen to break the hearts of guys gullible enough to believe their sweet nothings, so be it.

That last sentence was written in irony, not as straight opinion. While it’s true that no one ever enters into a relationship without eyes open, sadly, some Kiwis are naive enough to believe that the first Pinay they meet, especially in the virtual world, will love them for being lovable ( ? ) forever and ever. The moment they fall into that mode, they are in for a rude awakening, and the only difference between one case and the next is the amount of time before they guy knows he’s been had.

But back to the positives. The trickle down effect is that a Pinay wife who’s been true to her spouse, does the right thing and preserves the good image of the Filipina, is that future spouses get an edge and a head start towards better lives abroad.

Relatedly, all things being equal, I would probably have gotten my present job anyway, but I didn’t realize that at least one of the senior personnel where I started my training was married to a Filipina, and it was such a natural thing to him that Filipinos were all-around good people that he didn’t even bother to tell me.

But from day one, I had a good feeling, because no less than three kabayan had been hired by him recently, and he didn’t need to play favorites, he just treated Pinoys as fairly as he did anyone else.

** ** ** ** **

As we said earlier, it’s hard to be objective and dispassionate when talking about people of your race and nationality and at the same time assess a social phenomenon like blended marriages and families that are, so to speak, spiking the curve in terms of incidence and preference.

We don’t need stats to see that Pinoys have emerged stratospheric in terms of migrant growth rates in NZ. We just need to open our eyes and look around. And one of the biggest reasons for this is the fact that Pinays as wives are first, or at least near the top, in terms of preference and desirability.

A last word? I had a chance to talk to a Kiwi missionary who spent some time evangelizing in the Philippines, and of course he fell in love with, and married a Filipina. He was not a starry-eyed lover, having gone through a previous marriage and several children. Inevitably I asked him how Pinays differed from his life’s loves.

NOel, the best way to sum it up (on why Kiwis gravitate towards Pinays) is Filipinas take good care of their men. Of course, it helps that you guys (figuratively, guys include girls) speak English well, but the attraction is universal. My wife knows instinctively how to make me happy, and it wouldn’t be right for me not to at least try to do the same for her. I’ve been lucky and unlucky in love, but knowing my (Pinay) wife has made up for everything else.

Wow, not much you can add to that. Cheers to Pinay wives everywhere !

Thanks for reading !