Nakadungaw sa Lindol ng Christchurch

Christchurch City (New Zealand) from the Port ...

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 [ NOte : A short post to just express our thoughts and solidarity with the fallen. ]

A MOST AWKWARD aspect of a natural disaster as it affects a community is being on the proverbial outside looking in. You possess a peculiar bond with the victims and heroes, you have a personal knowledge of the emotions, loss and disorientation associated with the general tragedy, and in a way you know the stages that the drama will go through: the widespread despair the befalls the widest spectrum of humanity, the miracle of hearing voices under the rubble, the general outpouring of assets, energies and resources towards pulling up the fallen, and the return to normalcy, making the bereaved community more united and stronger than ever.

Most of us know that it was a nightmare of sorts revisited last Tuesday, when the Sept. 2010 earthquake returned with a vengeance. If the previous tragedy spared lives, this one snuffed out at least 78 lives as of last count, with the number expected to rise. Where the damage last time was manageable, this time the total reconstruction cost has been estimated to be at least NZ$12 billion. Hundreds of the injured will bear physical and emotional scars that will last beyond the natural process of healing.

Without holding in judgment any similar disaster that has befallen other countries in the earthquake belt, the singular impression left on this Pinoy has been the value and preciousness assigned to each human life caught in the spectre of the killer earthquake. Townmates battered, bruised and bloodied carrying makeshift stretchers, bystanders going out of their way to rescue those stranded on beams girders and pulverized staircases, the whole community of New Zealanders voluntarily observing a no-fly zone in order to not disrupt sensitive rescue efforts, particularly in detecting voices feebly crying out under the rubble.

There are more than 100 persons who have yet to be accounted for directly or indirectly as a result of the Christchurch event, some may just be out of town, but authorities are implying that it is better to err on the side of caution.

We end this short post on a note of sobering concern, the fear that some of our compatriots may be among those missing, in one of the buildings struck down by the quake. Our prayers and concern are with these kabayan at this difficult time.

God bless New Zealand, and God bless the Philippines !


Pinoy Man vs Wild (in workingclass Wellington)

Looking southwest towards Cook Strait and the ...

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Dear kabatch schoolmates brods kabayan Huttmates and friends :

WE GREW up with Tagalog English and a bit of Bicolano at home, and all these at school, plus some Fukienese with classmates, and stiff Mandarin to the teachers. So we have a bit of experience on what sometimes gets lost in translation and the nuances that fall between the cracks, dialect to dialect.

What we can’t comprehend is the same thing happening, getting signals crossed we mean, among English speakers who spout plain speech among themselves. Same basic nouns, verbs and adjectives, same rudimentary grammar, and same subject-predicate construction. Somewhere, the message gets lost, but we are supposed to use the same lingo. Que pasa Kuya Eddie ?

The key word here is basic, cuz while apple isn’t banana, dogs chase cats and boy goes with girl, everything else is subject to however a word, figure of speech or idiom is used. We found this out in the course of our workday adventures with mostly blue-collar tradesmen and factory lifers in working-class Wellington, not only demographically a world apart from our office-bound job descriptions in Manila but also less homogenously diverse, i.e. we are the only rank-and-file Asian in the exclusively male workplace.

Because of various shades of meaning, the different ways words are accepted in different environments, and the wide spectrum of euphemisms associated with even the simplest terms, there is no black and white when you talk to people you haven’t been with for too long, and our Kiwi experience is no exception.

We have here only five examples of how bewildered we get when we hear Kiwi-isms, despite the fact that we’ve been here more than three years, we talk to the natives every day of our lives, and we keep the exchange of words and phrases as simple as can be. Do any of these sound familiar to you ?

Your turn to shout – To be fair, everybody at work gets a chance to treat everyone to lunch / dinner, be it due to a birthday, a won bet at rugby, or a tax refund. But some blokes need to be reminded, and others conveniently forget its their turn to shell out the cash, and they need to be told, it’s your turn to shout, shout being the Kiwi word for buy everyone a free lunch or meal. Etymologically and euphemistically, there is little to connect the word with how we imagine buying a foodie treat for your friends and colleagues, and this is why we’re mystified as to why shout is used as such. When our bisor told us, “NOel, don’t bother bringing lunch tomorrow, Dave won big at the races and is shouting lunch for all of us,” we couldn’t make the connection between winning and shouting, but now we do. And we work up an appetite in the process.

Bloody crazy, bloody hard, or bloody good – This is less in used among Maoris and Kiwis than UK transplants and second generation Brits here. They seem to liberally use the term bloody in place of any and all adverbs when they run out of normal superlatives, especially the males in describing aspects of work, sports and females with superior physical attributes.

On Pinoy sensibilities, this naturally has unsettling and indelicate effects, given that the literal translation (madugo) conjures unsavory images totally unrelated to the supposedly positive and invigorating connotations of the said modifier.

[ NOte : a certain word in next item, represented by similar f-words is used in the demonstrative or ironic sense only and is not intended to offend or outrage.]

liberal use of the F-word – Very similar to previous item, for example the effin’ rain ruined the fishing, when are we gonna get some effin overtime, or how about those freaking Hurricanes ey? It is used to generate a variety of picturesque feelings and emotions, usually intense, about manly ( or even not-so-manly ) interests. It might also be used to convey mild anger or frustration, as in when the eff is that delivery truck coming, or what the eff is he doing in the toilet so long ???

Where we come from, the use of that word signifies three things : you’re spoiling for a fight, you’re extremely angry, or you are quite drunk. It took a bit of paradigm shifting to get accustomed to this, as we didn’t know whether to defend ourself, get into a frisky debate, or prepare some strong coffee or some sobering substance. Turns out that we don’t need to do any of that as the typical Kiwi worker is bred with a tongue as salty as the nearby Cook Strait, and this quite ironically contrasts with his good nature and even termper.

You have to do it / boss sez do it – The surest way to rouse resistance and lip from the staff, in our experience, is to phrase the request as an order, even if in reality it IS one. This our Sri Lankan manager knows too well, and never fails to assign even the most important and basic tasks to lowest peons like ourself in the most courteous and disarming way.

It’s probably the most precious lesson he’s learned, something that’s still lost from time to time on our supervisors, who earn a lot of grief and B.S. even if they assign the most routine and elementary chores that the assignees would’ve ended up doing in the normal course of duties anyway. It’s even worse when the boss’s name is dropped, as in boss sez you should do this, or boss asked me to tell you to do that, when in fact the Big Guy had no idea. This is probably due to the fact that most Kiwis are wary of authority, love their independence and bristle at having to be told what they do all their professional lives.

F-off or bugger off – We fittingly thought of this last as it’s what our workmates love to say when the end of the workday draws near or a wearying shift is at hand. Time to bugger off, mate is both an amusing and heartfelt goodbye issued us by the person coming in to replace us on the next shift, Why aren’t you f-ing off yet, get out of here is the rough but friendly way of getting rid of us by others. Which all goes to show that the gruffest guys can still retain their good spirits and charm, using the code of machospeak and good-work-now-get-rest-for-tomorrow-is-another-day mentality.

Thanks for reading !


Things 2 Do B4 I Die ( If I’m Mayan)

Waiting for the book Harry Potter and the Deat...

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

HAVEN’T seen the movie, but 2012 is supposed to be when the Mayan calendar reaches its last page, life as we know it exceeds its shelf life, and the entire planet hits the proverbial fan.

Now, such a calendar, if it actually exists, hasn’t been used in a couple of thousand years, and apocalyptic scenarios have been formulated and discarded since depressed evangelists, existence-obsessed philosophers and henpecked husbands came into being.

 But you can’t be too sure, right? You never know if the universe will just uproot itself from its cosmic foundations, or just hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete after a bad hair day.

On the galactic scale, we’re about as infinitesimal as bacteria on the head of a lice on a hair of a carabao, and we’re just hanging along for the ride. Whatever happens, happens, and there’s not much we can do about it. Which is why before our atoms and molecules split into smithereens or our health and well-being is made redundant, there are admittedly a few things we’d like to do or seen done.

 These things or deeds aren’t so much goals as they are mileposts to be reached, to bring to a satisfying conclusion the crazy string of dreams, failures and wild imaginings that have so far made up my so-called life.  If at this point in time, we are to call it a day and zoom off into the next plane of existence, here are what we would have wanted done :

Enjoy Part 2 of HP7 : Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and/or LOTR’s The Hobbit. This sounds a bit frivolous, especially for someone our age, but when you think about it, both franchises have been a big part of our lives especially in the last decade or so.

During our sad times, the great story line, superb acting and of course, crisp writing made us forget our mundane existence and spurred us to better things. Converting into screen magic the awesomeness of fantasy novels is sometimes a tired formula, but the success of these two movies is practically a sure thing ( knock knock ), and watching them would give us enormous satisfaction that we haven’t had since, well, watching HP7 Part 1 and Lord of the Rings : Return of the King.

Acquire Lolo NOel status without anakis sacrificing career and happiness. Biologically you celebrate being a citizen of God’s Earth twice over : first when produce offspring, and second when the latter produce their own, making you directly and indirectly responsible for two generations. Have you ever heard of a grandparent not proud of his/her grandchildren, unwilling to play the clown for the children’s party, or distribute cash or favors they might have hesitated giving to the earlier generation?

A bit unfair to the kids, but it’s like a crowning achievement, a feather on the cap of every person who participated in giving life to another. Now, we’re not applying any pressure on our brood of three, one of which has finished school and is ready for work, but it would be nice to see how our apo would turn out, in our lifetimes and while we can play with them.

Now, if only Panganay could start a family as soon as he gets a nice job . . .

Witness NZ win the 2011 Rugby World Cup. We’re not the most rabid rugby fan, nor are we a full-fledged KiNoy ( Kiwi Pinoy) yet, but rugby is arguably the preeminent sport here, and the love and unqualified support for the NZ rugby team, known as the powerful All Blacks, is infectious.

Every rugby test (that’s what matches are called), every new player selected, and every All-Black injury are all national media events, and the buildup to the World Cup, namely the Tri-Nations Cup, the exhibition matches, and the European Tour, have all but cemented the thinking that New Zealand will bag the RWC, something that hasn’t happened since 1987.

It will either be a huge countrywide celebration or a national day of mourning after the tournament, and I’m hoping the positive mood in case of a win will turn the tide in my favor, should I apply for permanent residency (wink, wink). Go All Blacks !

Tell them like it is. We got this from Charlie Sheen in a Two And A Half Men episode, certainly not the best place to get role models, but for A, every girl we made misrepresentations to and/or contemplated less than honorable intentions on, B, for every undeclared crush we allowed to pass us by, and C, for every rejection / basted we received, we want to revisit the female in question and declare the following :

For Category A : I was young, I was a jerk, and half the things I said I was just making up as I went along and didn’t even know if they made sense, I wasn’t aware of the consequences of what I did or said, and if I knew such would hurt anyone, least of all you, I would have thought twice.

For Category B : All the time you were there, I was hopelessly in love (or lust) with you, just didn’t have the guts to tell you so, but years and years later, I can now just laugh about it ( really? ) and so just to set the record straight and so you’ll know what could’ve been, had I been a little more confident, I had this humongous crush on you, so there.

For Category C : So you think I could never be good enough for you, and your time was better spent waiting for Mr Right or anyone better than me? I’d like to thank you for that, it kept my feet firmly on the ground and taught me to focus my energies on the reachable and the realistic.

** ** ** ** **

In some way I hope that if the Apocalypse doesn’t materialize, the last good deed will pay itself forward and in a perfect world, lessen somewhat the chances of  daughter Ganda getting similar treatment from a guy like me, twenty years my junior.

That’s my bucket list, for sure there are a lot of things I want to do before I die or if the world goes poof ! but it’s a good start, don’t you think?

Thanks for reading !


Baby Fat Slash Asian Fat Slash Happy Fat

A bowl containing rice grains (Long).

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Dear kabatch, schoolmates, brods, kabayan, officemates, Huttmates & friends :

EATING BEHAVIOR that is a surefire recipe ( pun intended ) for what are now known as eating disorders were as recently as half a generation ago considered perfectly normal or near-normal in our childhood. I discovered this when I realized how difficult it was to lose weight after confronted with a choice facing many kabatch, brods, kabayan, schoolmates and co-travellers in parallel timelines of life : lose weight or expect to get sick with lifestyle diseases ( sooner ).

By lifestyle disease I’m fairly sure you know whereof I speak : hypertension, cardiovascular ailments ( not the least of which are hardening of the arteries, enlargement of the heart, etc ), arthritis, back problems, gout ( which I already have ), enlarged prostate and related problems, and of course, that big unwieldy family loosely termed cancers, tumors and related stuff.

Given our culture, way of life and physical proclivities, we will earn these merit badges sooner or later. Getting them when you’re otherwise fit and strong ( a contradiction in terms ) in my view is already beating them but I’m veering off the sidewalk.

It’s so hard to lose weight not just because of age, so little free time and so many distractions. The things we’ve been brought up with since childhood, what we’ve been led to believe, our sedentary way of life, and manufactured processed food all conspire to make it so hard to slim down. Here are just a few :

Finish your food / Clean your plate. In the 60s 70s and 80s, I don’t know how many times I was told to finish all the food on my plate, rice, dish and all, never mind that I’ve loaded myself to the brim, my stomach’s distended till Tuesday after next, or that the food doesn’t agree with me.

The mindset of finish-your-food-at-all-costs is a product of the wartime years, the food shortage crises, the ( reasonable ) fear of being deprived and just the social blight of wastage and excess in an otherwise modest household. I don’t know how many variations I’ve heard on this theme/s. “The rice grains you leave (uneaten) on your plate are equivalent to the pockmarks / pimples on your future spouse’s face” ( so un-PC and so hard on the less-than-perfect complexions ); OR do you know how many starving children in Africa / Asia / Mindanao ( just choose your favorite economically depressed area ) would be so grateful for those table scraps you’re so sinfully leaving on your plate?

Years later, I realized that this mentality had unfortunately extended to eating other people’s excess food: scraping off all the tira-tira of your kids; polishing off a seatmates’s smorgasbord platter so you had a companion returning to the eat-all-you-can sushi bar; and finishing off the party buffet for fear of offending the celebrant. Guilty on all charges.

Rice and sugar : Kissing cousins of comfort eating. I’ve heard from a former officemate, Ms Cora V Rosales, that rice is chemically and molecularly identical to sugar, just that you can’t gorge on the white crystal without throwing up. However, you CAN eat yourself to kingdom come on plates and plates of rice, as long as you like the companion dishes and you have a typical Pinoy appetite, which accommodates rice on phenomenal levels.

But Pinoys are not the only guilty parties when it comes to rice ( over ) consumption. Across East Asia, people are known to be a spartan, uncomplaining lot, eating anything from dried fish to mung beans ( mongo ) as long as there is hot, fragrant rice. Take that away, and you have an uprising on your hands.

The trouble is, as people age, and their physical activities decline, their appetites and eating capacities do not, particularly the magnitude of rice eating. Again, on a personal level, I’m facing difficulties in this area on a daily basis, the fortitude demanded from me is formidable.

The fiesta / lauriat mentality. Again, sorry to sound like a skipping CD, but this is related to the previous reason. The extended family system, unexpected visitors dropping by, boarders / students from the province, and all other diners crashing by behoove not only extra provisions available every meal but also the variety and number of items on the menu, all the more to keep everyone happy and avoid alienating the picky eaters.

A typical dinner years ago, when no one cared about diets and health, were three or four dishes for everybody, a fishhead soup from my maternal grandmother when she was alive ( she lived nearer the big market and had better access to seafood ), Chinese takeaway from an eatery an uncle managed, and a dish or two just for my dad, who had less tolerance for spicy cuisine that was standard fare for everybody else.

This didn’t happen all the time, but there they were all of us five hungry omnivorous boys, cousins from all over the Islands, and extended family who also worked in our dad’s printing press and mom’s baked ham business. As long as you were young and active, eating a lot, often and everyday wasn’t going to be a problem. But by then the bad eating habits had left their mark on you, from then till now.

** ** ** ** **

By this time, you’ve probably gotten a more-or-less clear idea of how hard it is for me to consistently stay on the straight path of reaching my ideal weight. The bargain seems to be in exchange for a moderately healthy next three or four decades, I need to give up three-quarters of all the bad eating habits I’ve picked up from the previous four-and-a-half. It’s simplistic, but reduced to the lowest terms, it’s giving up a bit of Happiness for a little more of Health. Get back to me in 10 years and I’ll tell you how well ( or badly ) I’ve done.

Thanks for reading !


Why Airports Are Not Your Happy Place If You’re Asian : TVOne’s Border Security

Border control in the United States (U.S. Cust...

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[ NOte from NOel : Apologies, the subject matter this time refers to Aus/NZ TV content only. Maraming salamat po Kuya Pat, Ate Belen and all the other members of Barangay Northern Hutt Yahoo!group for accepting us , happy birthday to kabatch Wilson Lu; kudos to Doc Gerry So and Olive Montenegro Ferrer for hosting SB XLV, and to the good people of Egypt, may the Force & the spirit of the First Quarter Storm and EDSA 1/2 be with you!]

Dear kabatch, schoolmates, brods, kabayan, officemates, Huttmates & friends :

BECAUSE so many people do them both as pasttime and professionally, I don’t generally succumb to the temptation of writing TV and film reviews, although as they say, everyone’s a critic. It’s always fun to pan this or that production, especially those splashed in hypermedia (the double episodes, the supersequels and sequels of sequels), even the reviews themselves are reviewed.

So if I’m not a paying customer, and unless there’s so much media buzz I see it coming out of my own ears, the consumer is king, and caveat emptor, or let the buyer (or viewer) beware.

I can’t avoid donating my unsolicited 60 centavos though ( two NZ cents times 30 ) on a particular TV show I watch Monday nights, whenever I’m not on early evening or late night shift, because it provokes so many reactions from me (emotional and otherwise) on different levels. The show is innocuously entitled Border Security and is popular on both sides of the Tasman Strait ( Aus and NZ ), and unconsciously I manage to prioritize it over almost everything else except ESPN SportsCenter, CNN breaking news, an ultra-wacky Man vs Wild episode ( carried by at least three channels; particularly when the preview shows the host chomping on fresh meat just to survive ) or, when I can catch it, a Justice League or Dark Knight back-to-back on Cartoon Network 🙂

And I’ll tell you why. The show is touted as a straightforward day-to-day docu-cum-reality combo on how Australian Immigration and Customs screen the sea of human and cargo traffic, in the thousands of units daily, and the drama and unexpected situations that ensue.

I admire without qualification the composure, politically correct and dispassionate way with which the Aussies handle the situations. Given the hundreds of judgment calls that come their way, whackos and the criminally inclined that can potentially wreak havoc on health and safety in their jurisdictions, the authorities shown in Border Security deserve a medal each time they pull their punches, corner the guilty or go easy on a naive, poorly prepared or ill-informed first-time traveler.

But there are memorable exceptions. I need to make mention before I forget that between half and three-quarters of the “suspects” they interview, potential drug mules, smugglers of prohibited items ( biosecurity hazards, products processed from endangered species, or undeclared food items ) are of Asian or Eurasian ethnicity.

I’m not being touchy, racially sensitive or anything like that. It’s just a fact of life I have learned, not only from watching the show but from personal experience (more on that later). If you so much as stare at any lawman, show a bead of sweat on your forehead, appear a tad too worried and/or waiting for someone else, and are tan, yellow, brown or anything else other than Caucasian, consider yourself fresh meat for a second scan ( margin for error is granted for things missed by human eyes, but not on take 2 ), short-listed for a full baggage search and longer-than-usual interview.

Again, I don’t want to raise your hackles or elicit indignant self-righteousness among the Lahing Kayumanggi. Good for you if you think there’s something fishy going on, but on each episode of Border Security, it’s an unfortunate part of policy to stereotype the potential source of problems. I won’t go so far as to use the term racial profiling, but history and experience require them to go with the odds, and the odds are that if there’s a problem, the source will be an Asian.

Believe you me, everytime I’ve gone home or back to work, whether I pass through Sydney or Melbourne, when my stopover is more than an hour and to loiter on the airport is a necessary evil, I am subjected to a random body search, no matter how I look or how seasoned a traveler I pretend to be.

Everytime I’m in a queue, I’m separated from the rest, inspected ocularly from head to toe while given the patronizing probing questions. Each time they find nothing wrong with me, just your generic garden variety Asian OFW itching to get to work / get home, spend the holidays or get back to the grind. Despite my famous glib tongue ( loose lips sink ships 😉 ), I know better than to make careless comments or terrorist jokes, and within 10 minutes they send me on my way.

That’s not always the case. In Border Security, a constant theme ( in fairness to the producers, they’re just as enthusiastic to show boners on the side of authority ) is the unintended comedy of airport or customs authorities struggling to justify making life difficult for the casual traveler.

In one episode, two red flags stood out for a bearded, long-maned, tattooed Brit. He declared he had a criminal conviction ( probably smoking one too many funny cigarets ) and secondly, traces (but nothing tangible) of cocaine were detected on the soles of his shoes. Immediately he was asked, and agreed to an extensive body search, and later the customs officer agreed that in all probability the controlled substance could have come from anywhere, and in summary there was no legal ground to bar his entry to Australia

No legal ground, of course, except the fact that everyone would lose face by allowing him into the country after subjecting him to all sorts of difficulty. In the end and to their credit, the airport heavies allowed him in, apologized for the inconvenience and wished him well.

[ Two thoughts on that : there was the slight chance that their sense of decency was swayed in the right direction by all the cameras around, and second, can you imagine that happening back home, where you can earn a night in the stockade for sticking your tongue out at Manila’s Finest ? ]

Even more memorable to me was another episode where a Filipino was again, singled out of the queue and his passport scrutinized. Part of the dialog went like this :

Interviewer : What is your occupation sir and how much do you earn ?

Pinoy : I am a businessman and I earn roughly P50,000 a month. ( asks politely ) May I ask why you are asking ?

Interviewer : I ask because I find it hard to believe that you would spend one month’s earnings just to visit this country, which I assume is to see the sights. Which reminds me, can you name any of the sights you plan to see in Sydney?

Pinoy : (visibly surprised at the question) I’m sorry but I can’t. I was hoping my girlfriend would show me around.

Interviewer : Oh, yes. She must also be part of the reason you are here. Would you mind if we called her ?

I’m cutting it short, my recollection of the interview, but you probably get my drift. Sadly for our countryman, after they failed to reach the girlfriend by home, the officer decided not to allow him entry, and sent him home on the next flight back to Manila.

My singular line of questioning here is : Can you imagine the officer asking questions like that if the guy was not a member of the non-white races, and would the officer be asking any questions like those ( bordering on the offensive ) if the interviewee were white?

** ** ** ** **

[ Note that I don’t even touch on whether or not the officer was correct in her decision, discussing that issue is probably moot as it is entirely within their authority to grant or deny entry to visitors. It would maybe just bother you a bit to wonder, as it did me, if the same decision would follow had the visitor come from the UK, Canada or Europe. ]

If you will forgive our attempts at reverse racism, the exchange above was one of the notable exceptions, and it stood out only because the traveler was a kabayan. But this is why I enjoy watching Border Security and similar shows. I am well aware, and appreciate the noblesse oblige of the First World, the post 9/11 culture of paranoia, and the need to keep borders safe.

But the frailties of human error, prejudice and prejudgments will always be there to cloud the reliability of reasoned thinking. And as the program manifests, the true-to-life situations therein bring out both the best and the worst in us.

Thanks for reading !