a lit cigarette in an ashtray

Image via Wikipedia

[ NOte from NOel : I thought of writing this e-mail since November, my third anniversary of tobacco cessation, informally known all over the planet as quitting smoking, but other things got in the way, early Christmas and a wedding being just two of them. I almost put it off permanently, but I realized that if I can cause just ONE kabatch/schoolmate/ kabayan/brod/officemate to quit after reading this crazy blog, I consider it a raging success. Which is why you’re reading this now. Happy birthday to Carolyn Co – Huang and Desu Enriquez, congrats to all the organizers (special mention to SJCSAA Pres Johann Tan and finishers of the SJCS Fun Run, and kudos to Kuya Chat Uy for the post run venue ! Galing-galing ! ]

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

KNOCK on wood and not tempting Fate, but per se or on the rebound I’ve been lucky most of my life. I’ve matriculated in good schools, and although I never had the smarts or discipline to pursue careers made possible by the first-rate education, I’ve been able to get respectable jobs. I fell in love, fell out of love, and ended up lucky in love again. I’ve had three unqualifiedly great kids, been an absentee dad different times in their lives, and (hopefully) still enjoy a quality relationship with all of them. Now, wouldn’t you call that lucky?

Make no mistake though, I’m not pushing the odds. I will do my best not to use lots of statistics about smoking here, you’ve probably heard enough in one form of advocacy or another, across all forms of media. But even the most clueless are aware that deaths from smoking are the single biggest preventable cause of death on Earth, and while an exact figure is nearly impossible to obtain, it’s a safe bet to presume that around fifteen million (15,000,000) people die a painful, horrible and extremely uncomfortable death every year (adverbs added largely for dramatic effect, but you get the idea).

Like many of us, I started smoking when I was very young, right out of high school, trying to emulate elder male relatives. Ironically, at around the time I picked up the habit, my father was a vocal reformed former smoker, who took time to lecture anyone around him (especially his sons) on the evil and wastage generated by smoking.

Right away, this gives you a personal perspective on the World Wide Weed : first, that it targets the young, pre-adult demographic, and second, that no amount of deterrence agitated by family, education or society, will stand up to the slick and massive advertising and counter-culture (actually establishment culture in many respects) appeal propped up by the big business-mass media bandwagon.

From there, all those who stand to benefit the most from our tobacco addiction need to do is let (human) nature take its course : we find ways to rationalize ignoring the reality of our addiction : that it is slowly killing us, draining precious resources for retirement, and depriving us the opportunities for comfort and enrichment, whether now or in the future.

I hope I don’t sound like a puritanical do-gooder, as some of you who know me are aware that for large chunks of my life I’ve been a bohemian free spirit given to tolerance and a c’est la vie attitude. But I’ve seen quite a few people, otherwise intelligent and common sensical, who’ve persisted in continuing a nasty habit when all evidence suggested that it would be the death of them (literally) to feed their stubbornness.

I’ve witnessed a person literally gasping for air every labored breath, the last few days of his life, brought about almost surely by emphysema, or the gradual death of lung cells. If the sight was traumatic to me, his bedside visitor, you can imagine how it was for him.

I can recount an experience of watching a person lunching on nothing else but two cigarets, unable to afford anything else. Neither his bronchitis or his asthma mattered, as he was unable to ingest actual food or address his addiction.

Worst of all, as mentioned above, are the sometimes tragicomic rationalizations created by smokers to justify nursing their habit. It’s like there’s a carefully structured world of rules and beliefs, only three of which are set forth below :

“I can always quit anytime I want.” Pardon me, but if you could, why haven’t you actually stopped, and when are you stopping? The peripheral oddity of this philosophy is that everything else about the evils of smoking, the proponent of I can quite anytime accepts and understands, which is why he sees the wisdom of tobacco cessation, just that he can’t do it now, for one reason or another. Which is fine for the cancer stick companies. You are welcome to quit the lovely habit, just not today.

Smoking gives me _____ (fill in the blank with your personalized benefit that can’t be substituted by anything else).” Whether as an post-dinner treat, an after-sex tradition, an aid to thinking creativity, something or other, there are a thousand and one reasons smokers can’t give up their beloved Marlboro reds, Philip M menthols or Winston Lights. The fallacy of these twisted reasonings comes to light when one realizes that you can’t enjoy much of Life, these smokers’ benefits included, when you lose precious health, the one thing you need to continue savoring Life’s hard-earned pleasures. I could go on and on debunking the best-laid plans of mice and smokers, but I’ll just stop here. What could be more important than Quality of Life, or for that matter, Life itself? ‘Nuff said.

“Can’t you understand it’s an addiction? I hate smoking, but I’m helpless.” Let’s parse this into three, OK? First, I do understand that it’s an addiction, but it’s not impossible to cure. Indeed, out of 100 smokers who try to quit without pharmaceutical or medical help, only seven eventually kick the habit. This is an incredible stat, and shows you why of all legal addictions, tobacco is the most vicious. But it’s doable, stopping I mean.

Second, what do you mean you hate smoking, when it’s the first thing you reach for and last thing you insist on doing in a day, every day? It’s hard to admit, but even three years removed from smoking, I still acknowledge certain pleasures associated with puffing : the near-instant buzz that hits you straight in the brain ( that’s magnified on an empty stomach, NOT advisable ), the clarity of thought, and the diminished appetite if you’re a dieter.

So three, whether or not you’re helpless is subject to discussion. Ultimately though, the cardiovascular dangers, the diminished lung capacity, the multitude of poisons that create a favorable environment for cancers, and the lifetime of suffering all but shut down the debate : only the most naive, or irresponsible, would continue smoking, in the face of all the evidence.

“I’m only a moderate smoker.” I used to think the same way, but there is simply no justification for opening yourself to the likelihood of moving up from one to two cancer sticks a day, to half a pack, to one-plus packs, to ultimately two-packs a day, which is like Russian Roulette with five bullets in a six-round barrel. The same is true for all other addictions, where it takes more and more hits to sustain the same amount of pleasure, whether it’s alcohol, sex or Two-and-A-Half Men / Big Bang Theory episodes.

** ** ** ** **

I initially wanted to end this with trying to appease the PC (politically correct) crowd ; the choice, tolerance and democratic society debaters. Kudos to them. Instead I think of the things the smoker will probably be hardput to experience later in life : Flying a kite on a meadow with your grandson (your diminished lung capacity will make this all but impossible); experiencing the full flavors of your granddaughter’s/ daughter’s/daughter-in-law’s freshly baked muffins (taste is one of the first things to go with heavy smokers), or enjoying a vigorous post-retirement activity like regular walking, hiking or swimming (a no-brainer, but weakened heart lungs and atrophied muscles make these activities unlikely). I understand that beer, pulutan and great conversation are simply unthinkable without ciggies, but you might want to reconsider.

[ An additional thought : Although roughly a quarter of the male population smoke (not sure on the female side, it must be similar), smoking is an intensely personal activity. All the quit programs will help, but it starts from you. ]

It’s very hard to quit my friend, but you have to at least try.

Thanks for reading !






Wide Awake Sleepyhead With Eyes Wide Shut

Ortigas Skyline sunset

If you really can't sleep, you might as well enjoy the view of Pasig from Antipolo. The smog is depressing, though.

[ NOte from NOel : As you might guess, I just got home from work and I can’t sleep.  Even more unfortunately, I have no PC, so if you can believe this, I’m writing this by hand, kulit ko no, and by the time you read this I will have hopefully gotten a bit of sleep.  Buenas noches ustedes !  ]
Dear batchmates, schoolmates, brods, officemates, kabayan and friends :
THE WORST scenario, by a wide margin, is facing the next night without a wink of sleep, having been issued and / or using a roundtrip ticket on the WideAwake Express the past 24 hours. 
Without a doubt, this is the single greatest dread of the conscripted night shifter caught between the cracks of fatigue and accidental wakefulness (more on that later). 
But there are varying degrees of torture above rock bottom.
For starters, how about intermittent, disturbed slices of hour-long rest that you endure until you give up on uninterrupted, restful sleep, condemned to being the walking undead among the alert and the refreshed?
Try this : everytime you doze off into tentative sleep, a sudden noise or sound reverts you right back into wide-eyed mode; the bright sunshine doesn’t help, and the speeding motorists zooming by your proletarian flat don’t seem to care.
Your consciousness is like a PC on screensaver :  it’s never turned off, but because your energy and rest is depleted, you can’t function fully, since you are merely a half-life masquerading as full.
Lastly, each time you are inadvertently roused from precious sleep, for one reason or another, it becomes progressively harder to return to your previous status of near-sleep.  It’s a familiar paradox : the harder you try to sleep, the more tense you get, the further the goal of achieving a relaxed state, and ultimately the unlikelier Dreamland becomes as a stress-free destination.
Since I got here four years ago last month, there haven’t been many jobs I haven’t tried, training regimens I haven’t submitted to, employers I haven’t gotten along with, and customers I haven’t appreciated.
The one aspect of work I’ve never gotten used to, that I’ve never looked forward to as part of the job description is the so-called shift work, specifically night shift work.
Early mornings are OK, working till midnight is tolerable.  But it’s the all-nighter, sometimes called the graveyard shift between 11 pm and 7 am that gets to me and ages me weeks and months (instead of days) at a time.
I’m not complaining.  It’s only one week a month, and needless to say (although I’m saying it now) anyone working a decent job in a decent country has no cause to moan and groan.  But in an ideal job there is always the scab, the persistent itch that can’t be scratched, or the sore that won’t heal. 
Blame it on age, being set in my ways, or just an inability to make snap adjustments in my body clock, but my energy level goes down whenever it’s my turn to work through the dead of night.  My shift boss is at least 10 years my junior and hardly seems to be bothered by the ungodly hours.  If anything, he relishes the nocturnal serenity, all the more to focus on getting the job done and finishing all tasks with the least drama in the mix.
But the nip of the cold night wind, the disorientation of working without the gradual changes of daylight, and lack of human interaction (there are only two of us throughout the shift) don’t make it any easier for us.
[ By the way, by accidental wakefulness in paragraph 2 I mean drinking too much coffee, getting overly hyper ( if there’s such a thing ) for anticipated stress and potential problems, or getting too much sleep Sunday, like 10 to 14 hours, before a week of night shift.  So it’s true young Grasshopper, you CAN have too much of a good thing. ]
The irony is I worked back home in Call Center City, that’s Ortigas Center Pasig, and we didn’t feel as badly the dull throb of resetting your body clock, probably because the work was livelier, there were dozens of us in communal work stations, and our team leaders found ways to keep the laughs coming and the energy levels stoked.
Again, no complaints here, but not only are we now half a world away, performing this type of night shift work, as a pawn in the eternal battle of Man versus Machine, is a world of difference.
**               **               **
Now if I can only acknowledge work with the following realities I know I should be fine :
(1)  I’ve given up the notion that the Sandman will issue me the necessary eight hours of shuteye.  This is impractical post night shift, because as mentioned earlier, it’s much harder to sleep in a daytime environment.
(2) I’ve accepted the distinct possibility that my quota of sleep is best filled cumulatively , whether in two halves, three thirds or four quarters.  Now, whether I’m able to dream and achieve REM ( precious Rapid-Eye Movement of deep-sleep ) is discussion for another day (or night).
(3) Since it takes so little to rouse (not arouse) me from sleep and much more to get back into the groove of sleeping, I should invest in protecting the brightness and noise levels of my slumber area, especially against sudden and unexpected incursions.  Common sense, but easier said than done.
(4) It’s a luxury, but prudent to keep the Saturday right after night shift free for sleep recovery.  After that, I’m right as rain and good to go.
Sleep well everyone, and thanks for reading !

Short Note to Ganda

Dear Ganda :

I dreamt about you last night.  It surprisingly seemed pedestrian and non-symbolic, unlike many of my usual dreams (tumultuous and symbolic, but which I can’t figure out anyway) :  you make fun of my new dentures, my snoring and my stinginess.   I diplomatically accept all your (constructive) criticism, but when it’s my turn to comment on your taste in guys and your frivolity, you shut down and refuse to interact further.  So much for healthy discussion. 

The good part is, this is just a dream right?  In the real world, I like to think that we are thick as thieves, as thick skinned as Willy R., especially with his new-found messianic complex (think of all the lolas he wants to distribute P1000 bills to).  I can call you out as quickly as you can voice your disappointment with my many flaws.  Respectfully, of course. 
More and more, as scientists decode the blueprint of life, demystify the arcane swirls in our DNA, and discover more secrets via gene mapping, I’m beginning to believe that traits and character can definitely be inherited. 
I say this because you have your mom’s combination of her frankness and congenital inability to hide the truth.  You couldn’t have gotten it from me, every brain cell and neural pathway in me equivocates as second nature.  Many times you have chosen silence over ingratiating yourself to pompus people; often you have chosen the truthful over the convenient. 
At your age, I could never have done that, and I doubt if I could do so even now.  It’s not always popular to say this, but I hope you have learned ( as I am still
learning) that character is more important than wisdom, than talent or charm. 
All your other gifts are secure.  You know very well, but it won’t do your ego any harm to reiterate that you are quite pretty, you have a sharp head on your shoulders and, given the fact that you will be finishing university in two years (at least with one NCAA title while you were in school) and you can join your mother overseas, you can plot the career that you fancy, seize the day, stay true to the path and fight the good fight.
That’s it for now.  Please help Bunso in his choice of school, give Nana and Lolo a ring every now and then to show you care, and stay safe always.
I love you very much and miss you both terribly.
Kaawan ka lagi ng Diyos.

Wednesday Merienda With Panganay, Wellington McDo CBD

Photo taken from Wellington Botanic Garden loo...

Image via Wikipedia

 [ NOte from NOel : By pure coincidence, Panganay is in NZ with his mom. It is awkward, but we arrange to meet, at where else but McDo, in town. Besides editing for length, minor grammar and continuity, everything is nearly verbatim. Reading commentary, like everything else, is optional, and may be dangerous to your mental health 🙂 Thanks for reading ! ]

ME : Musta bro ?

Panganay (P) : Musta Pa ? ( Fist bump, chest thump, bear hug, but no beso-beso. )

 Have I told you that one of the coolest things about seeing your kids fully grown is talking to them like an adult?

( After pleasantries, it’s all downhill from here. . . )

P : (between gulps of fries and frozen Coke) Lamo Pa, ang unang mali mo, kinampihan mo mga kapatid ko, kahit sa anong issue dapat diba fair ka? Pangalawang mali mo naman, pinagpilitan mo yung naging decision mo. . .

ME : Ganuuuun ???

Then again, have I told you that one of the awkwardest things about seeing your kids fully grown is THEM talking to YOU like an adult ? Promise, this was probably his third or fourth sentence from hello. He was cordial, but it had probably been bottled up a long time…

Seriously, Panganay’s easy-going manner does NOT come from my side of the family. And the fact that GF worked so hard to get us together was enough for me to just bite my tongue on that one…

(After a minute of awkward silence . . .)

P : Uhm, dala mo ba pang – gym ko Pa?

ME : Oo naman. Dala mo ba yung padala ni Ganda na simkard ko?

I earlier promised to share in his gym membership, ultra-reasonable actually considering that it’s a community gym, he has a youth discount, and his mom’s husband is chipping in. In return, GF gently reminded him to bring my OFW simkard Ganda thoughtfully bought back home.

P : Hiningi ko kay Mama nung Sunday eh. Di naman binigay sa ‘kin.

ME : Di mo hiningi kanina? Bago tayo mag-meet? Lamo namang magmi-meet tayo?

( Smiles at his own excuse, knowing how ridiculous it sounds. The best excuses are wasted on the young. )

P : Chaka di mo rin pinaalala. (We did.) na hingiin ko uli Pa. Para namang di mo alam na marami rin akong ginagawa, dapat kinulit mo (uli) si Mama. Busy ka ba talaga?

I don’t press further, cuz obviously commuting halfway across town for 45 mins (on bus), leaving work early and bringing him his gym money isn’t in his estimation a full enough plate for me. (deep sigh…)

He does look buff, compared to his scrawnier years back home. Looking for common ground, I point to my impressive Bill Blass ( bilbil ), hoping for some magic ab-forming techniques… He quickly switches to sympathetic mode.

P : straight up sit-up, anggulohin mo pababa Papa. Kahit abs ko nawala eh (pats his six-pack) ; kaya nga kailangan uli mag gym diba?

I roll my eyes but only for a millisecond, I don’t know if his ego is as delicate as it was back home. Probably not.

Inevitably talk turns to his Tita H (GF), and for some reason he finds it appropriate to assume the role of wise old owl in matters of the heart.

P : Di ka na makakahanap ng tulad ni Tita H Papa, bait na, maganda pa, masarap pa magluto ! Swerti ka na sa kanya !

 I don’t know if he says this to please me ( highly unlikely ) as an honest assessment of mi esposa ( less unlikely ) , or misses Pinoy turo-turo back home. ( Least unlikely. )

ME : Sabi ko naman sa yo anak, kahit kailan pumunta ka lang sa bahay, pagtyagaan mo lang yung mga ulam namin, promise ko lang di ka mauubusan ng kanin. It’s a thinly veiled reference to the fact that, due to cultural and practical realities, they hardly eat rice at home.

** ** **

After a few more minutes of exchanging news back home, self-serving comments about siblings, ex-spouses and former in-laws, we book dates to watch movies, visit museums and eat more McDo.

All the angst and heartaches of missed Christmases, shouting matches and bypassed birthdays, graduations and reunions were compressed into those 30 minutes. It felt weird just passing the time of day with Panganay, after all those years of arguments and misunderstanding. . .

(After the repeated process of chest thump, fist bump and bear hug . . .)

P : Me papasabi ka ba kay Mama Pa?

ME : Yup. Pakisabi sa kanya patulugin ka sa amin minsan. At maraming salamat sa lahat.

P : Para saan ?

ME : Alam na nya yon.

P : OK. Salamat sa McDo Papa.

ME : Wala yon anak. I love you, ingat ka.

( Some things you just can’t avoid saying, no matter how grown up they are. )

Thanks for reading !






Moning Whisperer

[ NOte from NOel : My gosh, all those general and mini batch 82, Judenite, Alphan, Auckland Pinoy, NZ Maroon and other reunions recently held, with all the gastronomic and karaoke delights ! Happy holidays and kudos ! Our paternal pride is close to bursting level right now, love and congrats to Elijah Brent Emmanuel Bautista for passing his DLSU and AdMU entrance exams ! Awesome ! ]

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

Of all the things, GF (please indulge me, I’m not used to calling her mi esposa yet) has recently developed a skill, and for lack of a more accurate, less glamorous term, the best way I can describe it would be to call her a sometime cat whisperer. But that’s getting ahead of myself.

A few months ago shortly after GF arrived, a forbidding black cat began lurking around the grassy backyard. We assumed she (pasexy earns a she) was one of the neighbor’s pets, so we paid little mind. Around mealtime, and especially after we had fish, Moning (we had to call her something) would pretend to be chasing some invisible rodent or insect closer to our backdoor, then rub herself against whatever was available (tree stump, clothesline post, human legs) giving her the previously incongruous attributes of being hair-raising and irresistible, hoary and endearing. It didn’t take much for us to discern that the fishy smells were attracting her to our territory.

As soon as we issued her the requisite fish bones and remains that she initially inspected with caution but later gobbled up with feline gusto, she would wander away, gradually so as not to reveal that food source was all that we were to her, and later drop ninja-like out of sight. Which was fine with us.

As weeks passed, Moning became less picky, but her wariness and slow starts to dining continued. We noticed two extremes : she never ate beef (was probably friends with a few cows on a nearby pasture), and the only time she started eating without reservation was when the menu was daing or smoked fish, not easy to come by in these parts but an open declaration of olfactory war on our whole UCB (United Colors of Benetton) barangay. And of course, the first to attend the pow-wow was Moning.

Later we realized that she was wary of indiscriminate eating because other cats or more aggressive creatures might come to challenge her for the spoils of charming us to pieces. No amount of convincing, viz Moning, walang kalaban or “you have the exclusive license to mooch here” would sway her from the food-&-premises inspection ritual.

To be sure, there were other cats, although they were not as friendly, and Moning was the only one who truly adapted to our (naturally) Filipino cuisine. There were also hedgehogs, seagulls, swallows, and other types of birds, although as I’ll tell you later, the latter hovered over the vicinity at their own peril.

We were likewise aware that we were not the only benefactors of our new friend for whom the more pungent or spicy the food was, the better. Who was her human master/s? Weren’t they looking for her whenever she practiced her food-tripping around the block? And why were we her favorites?

Obvious naman diba? (Isn’t it obvious) our flatmate quipped. Type nya mga putahe natin (She prefers our food).

Indeed, compared to the blase’ protein granules that guaranteed meowy nutrition but weren’t that appealing tastewise, the snapper (tilapia counterpart), tarakihi ( pritong galunggong ) and discounted salmon fillets must have been irresistible to Moning.

I almost forgot the reason for the email’s title : the only downside to tolerating a pusang gala on the family estate was the mysterious appearance in our backyard of birds falling from the sky : nope, not Arkansas, not Louisiana, not Stockholm, just a sheepish look from the newest member of the household, sneaky green eyes, fur-licking, curly footlong tail and all.

It would’ve been understandable if we hadn’t been sharing our turo-turo fare with Moning or if she had been eating the proceeds of her deadly acrobatics, but after playing with her victims half and hour or so, she would abandon the poor birds to the sun, the rain, and the oxidizing elements.

This was, of course, unacceptable to GF, who one day did something about it. I came home from work to a clean backyard, no dead birds today? and asked her what had happened, asawak?

Kinausap ko sya. Pinagdilatan ko ng mata, tinuro ko yung mga pinatay nya, tapos sabi ko di na natin sya papakainin. Mamaya wala na yung mga ibon.

[ OK, here’s paraphrasing what she said : “I told her she would miss the yummiest part of her daily diet if she continued picking on all those birds, and also to get rid of her victims. After a while the dead things were gone.” ]

And just like that, the neighborhood enjoyed its first Moning Whisperer.

** ** **

Moning’s precocious knowledge of Pinoy dishes continues to grow impressively by the day, but doesn’t pick on birds anymore. We still don’t know who really owns her, or why her master allows her so much time outside the house, but I do know two things : that for those who’ve grown up at home in the Islands, homecooked ulam is irreplaceable, and that even our mamallian cousins down the food chain know this instinctively.

Thanks for reading !






Random Pinoy Snapshots as Shaped by the News Cycle

Apologies for the size, the "shot" that shook the world.

[ Warning : Please excuse the sporadic sarcasm, clumsy irony, annoying non sequiturs, disjointed premises, squeaky illogic and other pearls of wisdom here and there; these are not reflective of the serious purpose of the total effort. Well, maybe half the time only. Thanks for reading ! ]

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

AFTER the feel-good, fuzzy and senti lovefests, resolutions of self-improvement and parties galore ; the overflow of thanksgiving, gratitude and sharing that only the holidays make possible, it’s back to the sniping, griping, nitpicking and fussing that human nature is all about, distractions beloved by many, Your Loyal Kabayan definitely being no exception.

No doubt, I’m grateful for finding my place in the sun, for the love I’ve found, the kids who’ve made me look like a parenting genius (when in fact they’ve done admirably well without me), and the rellys who’ve always been there for me, but in the oddest places I’ve always found occasion to spot the difference, finger the weak link, and point out what’s wrong with the picture, PC (political correctness), CW (conventional wisdom) and race sensitivity be damned.

Among many pet peeves, I take issue with the way isolated, one-off (one-shot deal in Taglish) and quirky news items involving Pinoys get played up in the 24 hour international news cycle. In my humble view, this happens for a pair of reasons : (1) media supernovas like Manny P and Charice keep Pinoys visible on the media radar, and the trickle-down effect stokes the public’s hunger for similar news, (2) news editors in both print and electronic media are constantly on the lookout for sensationalist, crimes of passion, wacky and unique news events, and if these happen to involve exotic Asians either living in the First World or traditionally First-World environs, so much the better.

The first source of my histrionics is the iconic killer caught on camera picture that made it to the international newspage/s of many dailies all over the world — that of the assassinated councillor (alderman) unwittingly capturing the image of his slayer just moments before his death.

For newsworthiness (come on, a photo of a killer taken by his victim just before the act? A more compelling CSI-like storyline couldn’t be conceived), sheer audacity (well the killer probably didn’t intend to be literally in the spotlight, twas probably the doomed councillor’s instinct, but would you take a pic of someone about to shoot you?), “social commentary” value (what does it say about a society that can’t even leave in peace a man to take pics of his own family on New Year‘s Eve?) . . .

rarity (a shot like this comes along about as often as the planets aligning, but a cameraman actually shot Tiger Woods in a very similar situation, albeit a golf ball, instead of a bullet was the wayward missile), and last but not the least, shock value (have you ever seen pointblank, staring at the camera, the face of someone about to kill you without hesitation?), has the young year seen anything like this so far and so soon?

I think I’ve made my point, but the equally nagging issue now is : how in the world do you ever deny in the face of a picture like this, that our country isn’t filled with hired killer whackos who occasionally get caught in family pictures during New Year’s Eve festivities?

** ** **

Second news item thankfully has no picture, but is no less, in fact is more disturbing : a fetus found in an Abu Dhabi – Manila flight with the implications quite obvious : (1) that the author of the act spent some time in the UAE before going home to the Islands of Smiles and (2) such unwanted child was the product of something that happened THERE (UAE) and had to be hidden from someone/s HERE (the Philippines., our symbolic location).

But no matter. It’s not like you need hints and metaphors to fully discern the latitude and longitude of a news item such as this. Is the baby Arab, Filipino or none of the above? Which country has jurisdiction over the matter? If a crime was committed, and the guilty is/are caught, where will sentence be served?

While the brightest legal minds ponder over these questions, how does this affect how the rest of the world views the most probable doer of the deed, and I’ll give you a clue : three letters, starts with “O” and ends with “W”.

Now Pinoys and Pinays are as a general rule royally screwed ( no pun intended ) as indentured servants in many parts of the Middle East; we know it’s part of the deal. But we sometimes get shafted twice over, i.e., our masters use both our skills AND our bodies, plus there’s the peripheral issue of having to deal with the consequences, such as unwanted pregnancies, adultery prosecutions and even sexually transmitted diseases.

But try explaining that to the casual reader of Dead Fetus Found in MLA Bound UAE Plane and we begin to realize just how difficult it is to explain ourselves to almost everybody abroad (except perhaps Mainland Chinese, North Koreans, Burmese and Iranians, who’re probably crazier than us, no offense intended to everybody). That we’re normal people who just want to earn our bread, breathe fresh air and live in God’s world.

The saddest part is that, this plot has taken place before, and most likely will happen again and again.

** ** **

There are many other random snapshots of Pinoys / Pinays that find their way into the news of the world : seamen swallowed by the sea, domestics throttled, raped or hurled over the azotea by their foreign masters, nurses, nannies and caregivers overworked or underpaid by their employers, or construction workers tied to one-sided contracts but unable to leave the eternal desert till their passports are released from the company safe.

Unfortunately, the 24 hour news cycle has time only for the earthshaking, the dramatic, the magnificent, the unique, and the eye-catching. And interest in news items in the previous paragraph die a natural death, even before the afternoon edition.

The unvarnished and unfettered truth is that the Pinoy dream of prosperity and peace, despite our valiant efforts, remains an elusive goal.

Thanks for reading !






Relearning the Dance of Cohabitation

[ NOte from NOel : Am momentarily stumped for accidental migrant

topics; I ran out of batch stories a long time ago; and for the

(fleeting) moment I’ve decided to temporarily stop writing senti letters to the anakis. Since I have committed to bother you more often this year (via my crazy site and these quite sociable Yahoo!groups), I have to extend the reach of my self-proclaimed expertise, which you will shortly read about below. Happy reunion to Judenite Batch 82 kabatch at John and Caroline Sy‘s residence, munch munch munch, welcome back to Tom & Ineng Agustin of Johnsonville, happy 18th wedding anniversary to Ambassador Anthony and Mary Ann Mandap, and don’t worry about those temporary stumbles on your way to keeping your 2011 resolutions, the best part of falling down is getting back on your feet ! ]

The past meets the present: Mahal, your crazy blogger and son Nigel

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

WE ARE, all of us, creatures of habit. Everything that gives us the foothold of familiarity, the rote of routine, the monotony of muscle memory, is what we usually go with, three-quarters of the time. Unless you’re the flaky fellow who does the same thing 99 straight times and expects a different result on the hundredth, we are nearly everyone of us addicts to repetition, human GPS jitterbugs when it comes to our regular haunts and places of work, residence and repast.

For this reason, I have had to unceremoniously unlearn all the things, habits and quirks I had accumulated when I officially re-tied the knot after 10 years of binatahood. For reasons of modesty, I refrain from mentioning the other half of my new partnership (unless totally necessary). The most symbolic of reminders, the ring that sits on my finger, is there everyday to tell me that my life is no longer just mine, but there are other things I must get used to.

SLEEPING HABITS. What has taken the most out of the way I have expected to live with myself is the way I sleep. This is harder than it sounds. Do you see in cinema the way some comedians toss and turn as they zzzz through their eight hours? How about the inert way some sleepers just curl up in a corner, hibernating between midnight and dawn?

Well, I’m somewhere in between, not needing a whole length of mattress as I’m not an “active” sleeper, but not a single-position “mantika” sleeper either. I adjusted somewhat the last few years of being a stowaway, hitchhiker and parttime rodent wherever my gigs have taken me in my temporary adopted land;  taken whatever bedspace available, whether it’s half a single bed, a sofa, or the unoccupied corner of a Pinoy boarding house, having learned not to move too much wherever my back hits the bedding, never to complain, and to wake up whenever my snoring gets too loud.

As you can imagine, this bohemian lifestyle has presented some practical problems as soon as I decided to remarry: in the first place, the marital bed can no longer be the solitary hole-in-the-wall I have gotten used to.

Now, whenever I turn, I consciously rotate on an invisible axis without taking up any more space lest I disturb my nighttime companion; I try not to flail arms and legs too much despite the natural need to stretch and curl even while in deepest sleep; I tended to do this as evidenced by memories of my teens and 20s, when upon waking up, I would see blankets, pillows and even books and magazines flung to the floor. My unruly limbs no doubt being the guilty parties.

This deserves a separate paragraph : Most of all, I have told esposa hermosa never to hesitate and wake me up whenever my snoring bothers her, I have even contemplated those devices that inhibit or totally prevent snoring, my sinusitis, semi-obstructed airway and probably the reality of aging have aggravated this somewhat. She has gamely complied, and has even taken to taking her revenge during our waking hours. I just have to be on my toes for a night’s raucous snoring.

EATING HABITS. But there has to be a high point when you shift your paradigm of living : since getting re-domesticated, I’ve been a spoiled sow, running the gamut of Pinoy turo-turo : adobo, sinigang, menudo, kaldereta, paksiw, binagoongan, you name it, I’ve had it. It’s just my luck that asawak (Pangalatok for the wifey) grew up watching Mom work in a karinderya and has itchy cooking fingers all the time, every time.

To allow me (and herself, by extension) to go hungry is unthinkable, and she constantly thinks up and revives every recipe you can think of, my tum-tums and I can’t conceive of a more ideal situation.

For perspective, I went to McDo probably five times a week prior to her arrival, and it wasn’t just for the free morning paper. The last three years in NZ I’ve never gotten tired of the McDo merienda of cheeseburger, fries and frozen Coke, the McDo Big Breakfast of hash browns, white coffee, bacon McMuffin and jam on toast, it was Ronald McDonald, HamBurglar, Grimace and Birdie all the way, every day. Would it then be a surprise that I’ve gained at least five kilos of “happy fat” since the Big Plunge?

Obviously I have to strike a balance between eating happily and living healthily, but for now I am not complaining. It’s just that for every hard run or grueling night at the mill, I end up with comfort food of my childhood, a mountain of rice, and I end up fighting a losing Battle of the Bulge. Oh well, there are worse problems.

FREE TIME. By far the most dramatic part of getting married again is the realization that your time, especially your free time is no longer yours to spend. Those endless hours reading, watching every stupid rerun on TV, watching mediocre sports matches just because your favorite team/s is on, and playing Mahjong Solitaire and TriPeaks Solitaire are no longer lazy options (thanks for reminding me, Atty Lilibeth Cueva ) whenever you’ve got nothing better to do on the rainy weekend.

It’s a fair exchange really. You go on endless window shopping sprees, stalk weekend markets for knick-knacks and bric-a-bracs that no one wants, take endless walks on hillsides and meadows, in short drive yourself crazy when you should be napping to your heart’s content.

In return, you get to live with someone who knows how to make you happy, and when you grow old, you get help when you misplace the dentures or forget your daily medication.

**               **               **                  **

In our day and age, we no longer expect our kids to take care of us after we get sent out to pasture, or even depend on the tender mercies of extended family when the haze of forgetfulness sets in. In the end, we either look out for ourselves, or tough it out with the love of our lives.

 More than a fair exchange, really.

Thanks for reading !






I’m Posting Every Day in 2011 !

 I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now. I will be posting on this blog once a day / once a week for all of 2011.

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.


2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2010. That’s about 6 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 64 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 27 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 16mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was February 2nd with 115 views. The most popular post that day was About.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were mail.yahoo.com, facebook.com, sjcs82.org, digg.com, and sjcsaa.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for ylbnoel.wordpress.com, auckland skyline silhouette, ylbnoel.wordpress. com, me no speak americano, and listen to me no speak americano.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


About February 2010


The Mortal Vanity of My Immortal Ego March 2010


Me No Speak Americano (anles da accent Pilipino) September 2010


My Lords Her Name is Mariang OFW & She Begs Your Succor March 2010


Countdown to 15 Mins / Two More Bad Habits April 2010
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