Forty-eight cents is forty-eight cents, take it or leave it (with a smile)

[ NOte from NOel : A blessed happy birthday to a cherished friend I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting for nearly 30 years, Dr Gerald M So, and a belated happy birthday to one of the greatest acting talents in our high school Passion Play, Mr Edison Ongpian !  Thanks in advance for reading ! ]

IT’S PROBABLY socially awkward to congratulate oneself or encourage the same, but yehey and kudos to me anyway for a minor milestone in my journey of accidental migration, no applause necessary : an additional 48 cents to my hourly rate.

Actually I knew it as soon as I passed a training module in my guild exams, and although I wasn’t formally included in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the employer and the employees’ union, the handbook for employees told me that that was the reward, on the way to being certified in my trade.  Very modest reward it was, but a reward nevertheless.

To most in the Third World who are used to zeroes and generously placed decimal places in all forms and shapes of prices and monetary designations (e.g., yen, pesos, baht, NT dollar, etc.) 48 cents doesn’t sound like much, in fact it sounds positively puny (whaaaat? not even half a dollar !?) but to me it is more than all right.

you've nothing to lose but your chains (and tacky work clothes)

workers of the world, unite... unless you're offered better dental plans 🙂

In the first place, the new CBA (to which I officially wasn’t a party to but was considered saling pusa as the mill manager gave any prospective benefits to non-union members) provided for a three percent and two percent increase in our hourly wage rates, respectively, on Years Zero and One from the CBA signing.  That translates to 30 and 20 cents approximately added to my obrero‘s payslip, not something I’d throw a party for but also better than nada, especially since I didn’t ask for it, and therefore wasn’t expecting it.

Secondly, my miller’s exams were a maze of engineering, food industry, health and safety, not to mention UK-oriented facts and figures that I was supposed to either memorize or understand and apply to sets of practical problems that assumed a 46 year old Asian like me (they all assume Asians are good with formulas and numbers, yikes) would understand and solve with their eyes closed.

Surprise, surprise, I chose the path of least resistance and tried to use memory work on things I only half understood, only to realize three-quarters of the way that if I couldn’t even remember what I had for dinner two nights ago, how was I supposed to burn in my memory the working diagram of a Buhler reversejet dust collector without which no modern, self-respecting flour mill could function?

To make a long story short, I passed the two hour, ten-question essay type module by the skin of my teeth and the reward was, on a weekly basis, 20 dollars added to the sweldo, which keeps body and soul together.

On the heels of an all-time high versus the recession-weakened, trillion-dollar-deficit ruined Obama dollar, those NZ cents mean a lot to me.  The overtime rate also goes up, and in the case of future increases, if the unions agitate aggressively enough, the base with which to apply percentage increases broadens a bit.

Just for additional perspective, a weekly grocery bill without the frills (ice cream, alcohol and sweets, almost all of which I consume on my own) comes to about $75-$100, the petrol costs about $10-$15, and the monthly energy bill during the winter months less our flatmate’s share is $200-$250.

For a few reasons this might be deceptive.  The food bill excludes rice, which the flatmate and I buy alternately for everyone’s use; because the flour mill I work for has a bakery for a sister company, we get free bread twice a week; I bike to work unless the rain or hail make it all but impossible to do so, and fuel use is kept to a minimum.

It’s not a kingly wage but it’s a lot better than minimum, with esposa hermosa’s contributions it pays the bills and I can still save a few pennies for a rainy day.  Most of all, the earnings allow me to send baon home to the kids, and anything left over after all that I’ve told you, as you might expect, is a bonus.

Thanks for reading !


Auckland Redo

SINCE MY accidental migrant adventure that started nearly five years ago, I’ve been home to the Philippines four times but I’ve never returned after leaving Auckland in June 2008.  Don’t say I haven’t missed Auckland though, it’s the one balm that soothes the homesick Pinoy who doesn’t have the wherewithal to revisit the homeland.

The City of Sails has the dizzying skyline, the peripatetic and unrelenting colonies of Asian worker bees everywhere you look, multicultural and cosmopolitan mindsets taking over the territory, all hallmarks of Manila and other Asian cities in which you’ve been born and bred.

You’re everywhere and anywhere in one place, a Babel of tongues and rainbow of races overwhelm all five senses, but when you’ve lived in the Third World most of your life it feels, more than anywhere else in New Zealand, amazingly like home.

Naively I thought I would be able to visit at least the majority of those people who had extended hospitality and kindness to me when I was still between visit and work visa status in Auckland, but the reality was I hadn’t enough time to even see the most basic sights in the CBD.

As it turned out, I could only show esposa hermosa Newmarket, which reminded me most of Glorietta in Ayala Center Makati City, Sky Tower which was the subject of many NZ postcards, Sylvia Park which was the weekend catchbasin for many Asian, Islander and migrant mallgoers, and of course the nationally famous Auckland CBD.  Everything else would have to wait for another trip.

Just a sample of the sinful donuts. SHIELD not included. 🙂 thanks Franz D!

Unexpectedly, the things that would serve as mementoes of Auckland were a skinny jeans purchase she made from a Korea-HK fashion dominated mini-mall that you couldn’t find anywhere else in New Zealand, a short snack we shared in Wendy’s, a popular fast food franchise back in the Philippines but unable to gain a foothold in Wellington where we lived, and finally, Dunkin’ Donuts takeaways that likewise weren’t available in Windy Welly.

**               **               **               **               **

reminds me of the Chinese Filipino Friendship Arch in Binondo

no official Chinatown in Auckland like this, but I wouldn't be surprised if it materialized in the next few years.

Even in 2007 when I left there were already so many fellow Pinoys, and I have not the slightest doubt that our demographic is the fastest growing among the top five migrant groups (among which are Chinese, Indian and of course ourselves), notwithstanding the fact that there are many kinds of migrant Chinese (from Mainland China, Taiwan, Hongkong, etc.) as well as migrant Indians (from the subcontinent, Fiji and Malaysia, to name just three).

I don’t have the citation right now, but an article in the Dominion Post has found it remarkable that from nowhere, Filipinos have soared to the third largest migrant community after the Chinese and Indians.  Sorry for belaboring it, but the point is I saw even more Pinoys than I thought I would see, and I was already expecting lots of kabayan.

In the CBD, the university areas, and of course the malls, everywhere esposa hermosa and I went, there they were, hurrying to work, talking amongst themselves and with Kiwis, and of course, returning our smiles.

**               **               **               **               **

I regretted not seeing my buddies at the PBA (Pinoy Basketball sa Auckland) who were holding their regular tournament, Efren and Butchie Pascual, who helped me up when I was down, Pinoy friends I made through blogging, and of course my brother George who stood by me in good times and bad.  One good thing though, we were able to enjoy the hospitality and warmth of couple Jerome and Lady Jalbuena, who showed off their elegant newly purchased home.  Mabuhay ang lahing kayumanggi!  Thanks for reading !


PS.  If ever Jollibee makes it to Auckland, let’s hope there’ll be showdowns like this, pampaalis boredom lang po …

Straight from the heart (via Catherine Vi Clausen)

I can really identify with the author of this post (a high school classmate by the way), and to prove it I am reblogging it in my own, please read more of her blogs when you have time, thanks!

Old habits I remember these two lines and the melody from a song, which title or artist I don't recall: "'Cause loving you is just an old habit, And old habits are sometimes hard to break." There are different estimates to the amount of time it takes to form a habit. They range from 21, 30, 100 days or maybe even more! Are new habits that hard to develop? Do old habits really die hard? True – rarely does it take just 1 single day to create or bre … Read More

via Catherine Vi Clausen

Pinoy Reveries Biking Home One Wintry Night

Steel-toe boots, aka safety boots. These boots...

Image via Wikipedia

[ NOte from NOel : I don’t have a cohesive story to tell, just remembered a few anecdotes and have tried to quilt them together, do they make a sensible whole?  Happy birthdays to batch association officer Ms Evelyn Cheng, macho cousin Vincent Lizo, and pretty cousin Carlyn Caballes – Lizo! ]

Dear kabatch, classmates, kabayan, Maroonmates, officemates, Huttmates and friends :

WHETHER IT WAS last night or twenty-five years ago, I can never get the dream details straight.  I’m not sure if the friends, relatives or lost loves were already long gone from my life when they were still living in the dream.  Places long forgotten and houses demolished, keepsakes long dead and buried, why were they still existing, functional or still very much alive in my hand in the universe of my dreams?  Do I ever dream in color? Sometimes I can’t even ascertain if some countries were established, some historical events actually took place, or if other planets existed alongside ours in the netherworld of my Nighttime Never-Never Land.

Only one negative detail I can confirm, in all of the dreams I have remembered and un-remembered (and remembered again), and that is the fact that I have never, as far as I can tell, dreamt in anything other than warm weather.  I guess this shouldn’t be such a big surprise, as I was born in, grew up and spent most of my adult life in the tropics.  The only reason it feels a bit strange for me is the fact that I’ve spent the last five years in a country with four seasons, with all its attendant culture, way of life and physical realities that, without the little so-called amenities of modern living, sometimes make the difference between bitter cold and warm comfort, or even life and death.

**               **               **

A good way to start would be the first night I spent in chilly Wellington from nippy Auckland, which on a good day reminds me of a cold day in Baguio.  I spent the night enduring tough cold and realizing why people needed numerous layers of blankets, comforters and thermal clothing just to make it through the night, especially for ambitious Asians wishing to stake out a new life here.

Breakfast the following morning, I tried to put on a brave face and told my host, kaya ko naman pala harapin ang winter dito, pagtyagaan ko lang yung kagat ng lamig.  Nothing too hard (or cold) for the hardy Pinoy accidental migrant, even polar blasts near the South Pole, maybe it’s for the best that I arrived the coldest time of the year.

Huh? my hosts said to each other.  What tourist guide have you been reading, kabayan?   Winter hasn’t even arrived yet, the first official day of winter isn’t until next week, that’s when things will start getting really chilly.  We’re actually lucky to have mild weather now.

Ngiiiiiii, I told myself, doing a mental facepalm while doing the ha-ha-ha’s, OK you got me there gestures.  Seemed that coldwise, I got more than I bargained for, cause I never was enamored with the perpetual goose-pimplyness of Auckland, and the only encouragement created by the change in scenery was the job offer and the prospect of becoming a permanent resident because of such job offer.  If I had  to become a Kiwinoy  by wearing Eskimo suits and thermal underwear 24/7, so be it.

**               **               **

While I’m at it, I have to confide to you that since 2007, or probably even a year or two before that when I worked in a call center, I  can’t recall wearing anything other than running  shoes, unless it was the one time, in a span of 24 hours I got a new work visa/permit, booked and confirmed a ticket, got home and attended my folks’ 50th wedding anniv, a spectacular event organized by the brothers back home.

All that changed though after getting to Wellington and starting my workman’s gig in proletarian Seaview, an industrial zone built from scratch on reclaimed land known more popularly as a location shoot for Peter Jackson’s King Kong.  Beyond hi-viz jackets and hard hats, everywhere I looked people were wearing safety boots with the requisite steel toecaps.  Since the only regulation boots I could wear were a size too big for me, I had to wear 2+ pairs of socks in order not to impede agility and locomotion, which I need just to keep up with my bisor.  Eventually I realized the extra pair of socks served another purpose, which was to keep my feet and toes extra warm and prevented them from going numb on me especially in the icy dead of night.  Necessity is the Pinoy mom of Kiwi invention.

**               **               **

Another time, my flatmate and I (after I moved to another flat closer to work) actually went on a short expedition to look for driftwood to feed our malnourished fireplace; at the time we were too cheap to buy electric heaters and the thought of buying ready-made and pre-cut firewood, just after sending all our wages home, was positively uninspiring.  Since gasoline was in short supply and the frigid night was at hand, we tried the easiest spots which were near trunks of old trees and the beach left exposed by low tide.  And who should be there scrounging around for branches to burn but other desperate Pinoys ourselves.  We shared a few laughs, cursed the cold of our hosts, and went on our scavenging way.

**               **               **

These days we can afford a few creature comforts like baby heaters and double-comforters, but the days of desperate driftwood and keeping a pair of hot-water bottles to keep the bed warm will never be totally forgotten.  We may have all the armor to fight the New Zealand cold, but in our hearts we long for the long days and warm nights of the perpetual Pinoy summer.

Thanks for reading!


Things I Can’t Get Away With, at 46 & A Half

[ NOte from NOel : As usual, TMI alert for this rant & rave.  Belated happy birthdays to awesome Arizona nurse Noemi Bolanos (6th July), table tennis whiz Chris Tomas (7th July) and elementary school memorable James Dy (9th July) ! ]

EVERYONE close to me above a certain age suffers from one intractable form of health issue or another; above ANOTHER certain age, at least two.  Need I say it (but I’m saying it), I belong to the first set, and likewise to the second, which is merely (or ominously) a subset of the first set, and I have no intention of joining a third.

But like a housetrained hubby who thinks he can come home ( unscheduled ) after midnight without consequences, go unmonitored for longer than a few hours without a hall pass or takuza permit, or like the house dog who scarfs up forbidden treats without a stint in the penalty box later, we all do things we think we can get away with.  Our mind may conveniently forget, but our body, especially in delicate middle age, most definitely won’t.

So, now that you’re on the interchange between Middle Middle Age Poblacion and Late Middle Age  Motorway (towards Golden City, which actually exists by the way in Sta. Rosa Laguna, Philippines), you’re stumped by the discovery that you’re in reasonably good health, reasonable for your age, your vices and your perversions.  Don’t think anymore what you did to deserve it, but maybe we should start thinking of what we can do to maintain such reasonable good health.

Before you tsk tsk tsk and shake your head at my perceived neglect, I actually watch my weight, allowing for a tolerant margin of error of 5 kilograms, try to exercise when the weather allows, and coinciding with visa renewals, submit to a checkup cum tuneup every year.

False modesty aside, I think I’m in reasonably good shape, love handles notwithstanding, for my four-and-a-half decades.  The annual tuneup of CBC’s, basophiles, BUNs, and serum reports tells me I have not managed to totally destroy my earthly temple with years and years of brain-cell smashing, lung-busting, liver-squeezing and kidney-crushing misadventures with alcohol, fatigue and funny cigarets.  (Wine, women and song doesn’t sound too honest, to be honest.)

So there are no forbidding shadows on the x-rays, awesome.  No blockages on the major arteries, fluid pathways, kudos to me, and we’re not gonna start forgetting how to wash our baby bottom, based on a few CT scans and MRIs.  Well and good, so the whitecoat (with blue eyes and blond hair, just like in House and Grey’s Anatomy) tells me, much more than I deserve.  Before I get struck by lightning or earn the indignation of the less healthy, let me say I’m terrifically grateful I’ve emerged unscathed from the wars of wasted youth and decadent living that have marked my Seventies and Eighties.  Okay, Nineties and Noughties as well.

Like a good overgrown boy, I’ve imbibed the mantra of clean living, scrupulously scraped away my 7-8 hours of sleep, bit the bullet and substituted honey for sugar, green tea for regular, decaf for caf, and lite for everything heavy (soft drinks, ice cream, potato chips, for gosh’s sake), bike when I can motor and walk when I can bike, even Shaolin monks would roll their eyes at my regimen (my favorite Shaolin monk is Jet Li, by the way).  Somedays I swear, if I drop dead at 46 I would mourn all the cigs, pale pilsen, kapeng barako and Classic Sugar-Rush Throat-Biting Coke that I futilely foreswore for good luck, good health, God Bless You 😦

Thing is, I DON’T know if I’ll die prematurely (knock knock) and so I have to watch it, my so-called Health I mean, until there’s no point and I’m as old as Dolphy, who has survived all those who’ve reported and been reporting his untimely death/s since Martial Law.  Until then, I have to report to you the things I can’t get away with at the ripe old age of 46 :

I can’t eat two straight meals or snacks dominated by fatty food, nuts and beans without blasting twice my daily quota of flatulence. 🙂 In the first place, I’m not even supposed to eat anything in the bean / legume family due to a predisposition to gout, rayuma and fluid in the joints, but that hasn’t stopped me whenever I find any baked beans, mung beans (munggo) dishes or jelly beans that I fancy.  Then there’s the urban legend that as we age, our body’s ability to fully digest fiber and similar foods falls into decline.  The result is I fart anywhere, everywhere and whenever it’s most embarrassing, tabi tabi po and I need to constantly remind myself that you do the nasty and you reap the whirlwind (literally).

Some say that some people are predisposed to flatulence but given the smell, the volume and the repellent effect on esposa hermosa, my fart experience is certainly unique enough, I won’t care to find out how unique it is…

I can’t drink more than a few bottles of beer / glasses of wine without a king-sized headache the next day and disrupted sleep the next two days.  I may sing half an octave higher to the chagrin of my videoke rivals, and tell a story a tad more colorful when inebriated, but it doesn’t make up for the throb I feel in the temples and the sour taste and dryness at the back of my mouth which I expect usually lasts half a day from the previous night’s entertainment.

The sleep issue is another matter altogether as I do shift work, night shift one week and early evening shift the next. Whether it’s daytime or late night when I get to gather my zzz’s, merrymaking and too many happy hours the weekend before is sure to affect slumber patterns the next night or two.

I can’t stretch more than the length of my arm to pick up or reach high or low without suffering pain for a few days.

If I look cute enough, will you forget my boner?

 Sounds stupid I know, but you’d be surprised to what lengths of brainlessness my laziness will allow me to reach. The last time I did this, around two years ago, I hyperextended a ligament or did something as painful, and the muscle memory remains.  Exacerbating the pain is the length of time it takes me to heal nowadays, as I remember being on Omega Pain Killer for 2+ weeks, and the paracetamol I used more as a crutch than anything else.  Relatedly, I discourage myself as much as possible from climbing stairs two steps at a time, hurdling elevated footpaths or platforms as these sometimes lead to muscle strain that no longer heal after a good night’s sleep.

I can’t dwell on more than one source of stress without feeling faint, pulling my thinning hair, or worse, palpitations.  We all have different kinds of stresses : stress from work, stress from family, stress from driving, even stress from anticipating stress itself.  Well and good if I can deal with these stressors one at a time, my fight-or-flight defense is still stable enough to perform the necessary adjustments, but when more than one stressor is there, well let’s just say I begin to test the limits of body and mind, and how well they stay in one piece.  In one sense I already know how to react to these challenges; in another sense I am too aware of my limits and capacities to exceed what I can confront successfully.  Does that make sense?

I can’t not use eyeglasses for too long while walking / running / working without funny and unintended consequences.  I suspect that I need to have new glasses refracted as my myopia has flourished dramatically the last two years.  Economics and fund priorities (the same thing actually) have however forced me to postpone this till my next visit home.  The net effect is not using the glasses (temporarily misplacing them or leaving them at home) results in my having to squint more  intensely, which unfortunately sometimes gives females, especially those scantily dressed, the impression that I’m admiring their impressive anatomy.  Which, subconsciously, I’ve probably been doing anyway.

Thanks for reading!


How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love Harry Potter

Guess what they're waiting for? Clue : it's not the Queen...

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

A FEW DAYS from now, on 14th July to be exact (NZ time), theaters worldwide will open to the general public Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2, the eighth and final slice of the adventures of the boy-wizard.  Across multiple media on various platforms across the seven seas and seven continents, you’ve probably heard more than you care to know about the franchise, so I won’t add any more superlatives, just two observations :

(1) First, that there will be relatively fewer people who will watch pirated, copied or otherwise illegal versions of the movie.  Casual and serious fans alike have waited too long and have invested too much in both emotions and expectations to see an inferior version of what will probably be the most intense, action-filled and (expectedly) climactic episode.  I can only be certain about my own experience, and after being enthralled and captivated by the storyline, imagination and near-perfect pacing of the saga, I wouldn’t want to diminish the experience with a poor picture, shadows of moviegoers flitting across the screen, and an imperfect suspension of disbelief which is de rigueur with all cinema in the fantasy genre.

(2)  But the second observation is where it gets tricky : Notwithstanding the expectation of viewers to very high (literary and cinematic) standards, or at least to that which they have become accustomed (HPs 1- 7), or maybe because of it, I dare to say that better than three-fourths or 75% of the viewing public already know how the story will end, or at least have a pretty good idea how things will turn out (no spoilers nor spoiler alerts here, not to worry).

Whether or not statistics will bear me out, this is impressive.  Movies have been adapted from novels and short stories before (Stephen King, John Grisham, Irving Wallace, J.R. Tolkien, etc.) but so rarely in filmmaking history have movies been crafted to become literally (pun intended) cinematic mirror images of the original work.  As a result of both deliberate design and close collaboration between writer and production/directing teams, important plotlines and character development of key personages are given due attention.  And yet, it is mind-boggling that interest and the box-office groundswell is, beyond already high expectations, at an all-time high.

But you’ve already heard so much of this and that, especially given the Hollywood culture of hyperbole.  Knocking on wood, the entertainment industry on both sides of the Atlantic, the monolithic combine of film and downstream industries (movie merchandise, apparel and theme parks) cannot afford to see a less-than-supernova ending to the Harry Potter film franchise, with the box office gross expected to be between US$500 to 700 million at least.  Anywhere in the civilized world, it is THE movie and box-office event of the year, to say the least.

It seems to require a gargantuan effort, but how to explain how a story about an idealistic, if naive boy wizard against a resurrected and much more powerful wizard captured the imagination of a jaded, desensitized and media-savvy generation of precocious online connoisseurs?

Attempting to just contemplate possible answers to this is daunting.  Harry Potter is many things to many people : reinventing the age-old belief that the world of magic exists; the cutting edge special effects that have been a Harry Potter signature from HP & The Sorcerer‘s / Philosopher’s Stone; the byzantine, multi-layered and symmetrically-perfect storylines in HP & The Prisoner from Azkaban, HP & The Goblet of Fire and HP  & The Half-Blood Prince, or simply the world-class acting from thespians like Alan Rickman, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith and (not the least, heh heh) Ralph Fiennes.  Simply put, there are so many reasons to enjoy the seven-part story.

Again, I can only speak from personal experience (what other kind is there?), while I  put in words why the Harry Potter experience has been so memorable for me.

Before I launch into another few paragraphs extolling the franchise, a public relations exercise that the movie hardly needs, I confess that I bumped into those remarkable books at a very difficult time in my life.  I was trying to pick up the pieces ( if any had remained ) of my life after relationship and career setbacks, and I had little to look forward to.

Without intending to, I absorbed the world in which Harry Potter and his friends inhabited.  So real and yet so different was it from the mundane, impersonal world in which I existed.  Enemies and dark forces awaited Harry at every turn, but his response to these were his emerging magical powers and his inexhaustible supply of gallantry, courage and love for his friends.

On the surface he was treated as an outsider-cum-newcomer to the wizarding world, but on a deeper level being a powerful wizard (and therefore an insider) was his birthright, he had only to assert himself and take what was his by destiny.

On more than one level this appealed to me, then and now.  I had lost a considerable amount of hope and  satisfaction in life, but the books reminded me that beyond the deep, dark forest there was a sunlit clearing that led to my destination.

Fast forward a few years later as a migrant in an unfamiliar land, I’m sometimes treated as an outsider and an unwanted newcomer.  Only hard work and striving for goals will allow me to earn my rightful place as an accepted immigrant in my adopted land.

Yes, Harry was kind and compassionate, but when the moment required, he confronted his foes and vanquished them with love against hate, truth against lies, and good against evil.  Sort of like telling me to confront my real-world problems head-on at full-tilt, the better to smash them to smithereens.

Now, multiply this template of applying Potter-good versus Voldemort-evil a hundred million-fold in everyday events in lives the world over, and I began to see why Harry’s creator and her masterpiece will most likely stand the test of time.  Potter is Everyman, Lord Voldemort is Everything That Is Wrong in Life, and we are limited in our triumphs only by the creativity we use in righting such wrongs.

In the end, in each and every one of us is Harry, and on Thursday a hundred million strong of us will be battle-ready to smack our Lord Voldemorts out of existence.  Now  that is the true genius of J.K. Rowling.

Thanks for reading !


Bro Appreciation Day : Happy Birthday Jude !

his job allows him to meet many interesting people...

Laugh hard, live truly, kiss slowly and NEVER regret a moment in life that ever makes you smile !

JUST came across this quote somewhere on the internet, and it reminds me a lot of my brother Jude, who celebrates his birthday this Friday.  It’s not so much the literal application of the saying, although I’m sure he’s done those things mentioned, but the fact that he savors to the max all the simple joys that life offers, and celebrates unapologetically every moment of life as if it were his last.
And because of the uncomplicated nature of my brother, how could I expect our relationship to be anything but?  We have none of the brother-brother / brother-sister angst that defines many sibling relationships, often marked by awkwardness and unexpressed emotions of a lifetime. I love him a lot, and I expect ( hopefully ) that he does likewise.
It helps that we share a little more than a passing interest in sports, TV and cinema, but it’s nice that we can talk about almost anything under the sun with little self-consciousness or inhibition, TMI alerts notwithstanding.
If I had to describe him using an everyday product of modern living without which life would be pretty much pointless, he would probably agree on my choice : Regular Coke.  None of the pompous tastelessness of Diet Coke, the half-strength of Coke Zero, or the artful cluelessness of Cherry Coke.  Just pure original full-strength pleasure that you expect on the business end of a soda can, that’s Jude.
His shutter eye and trigger  finger are unmatched as a fotojourno gunslinger, and he will probably crown his career with a couple of coffee-table folios that, through killer pics and slambang text will relive history before your very eyes.
I’m most grateful for the bonding that we do through memories and e-mails, his uncompromising presence in Ganda”s and Bunso’s lives back home, and his just being there for Mom and Dad.
Happy birthday bro, you are one in a million.  I love you always !

Kuya NOel
PS.  You can view and subscribe to Jude’s wordpress site at

Running & Malling With A Magic Multi-Colored Manny-P Jacket in Suburban Welly

for sindak value alone, it's worth the effort to wear...

In my heart I am an American. I am one of many, many people, and we are not who you think we are. We don’t just mow your lawns and babysit your kids and serve you tacos.”

Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Fil-American, who has been an illegal immigrant for nearly 20 years.

[ NOte from NOel : Kudos to proud Ma & Pa for the awesome birthday party of Meg and Kim Montenegro Agustin, and greetings to Tita Nanette, kids and grandkids on the wedding anniversary of Atty. Renato and Nanette Montenegro !  Belated  happy birthday to early June kabatch celebrants Ralston Lim (2nd June), Katherine Ang-Chuabio (5th June), Belani Chan-Uy (6th June), Marivic Ching-Chua (6th June) and Stephanie Chan-Lam (9th June) ! Hope you all had a wonderful birthday! ]

BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE, I acknowledge Kuya Palo, a Noli Locsin-lookalike if I ever saw one, and probably the best drill / crane operator Wellington region has seen (or will ever see) from San Pedro Laguna and Sariaya Quezon. Because the jacket was at least one-and-a-half sizes too small for him, and I chanced to mention that I always wanted a Team Pacquiao jacket, he passed on to me the red-gold-and-blue one morning and non-chalantly told me it was mine forever.

After the initial euphoria, I matter-of-factly assessed the garment. It was definitely from Greenhills, where brands burst all over and buyers beware. But the colors were correctly shaded and authentically hued, and I was feeling patriotic that day, so I wrapped said jacket around my thermal undershirt and running jersey, and started, not without a little self-consciousness, around the suburb.

The temperature was no different from what I experienced the last few days : eleven to twelve Celsius, and just to jack up the degree of difficulty, my balahibo tasted the famous gusty Welly Winds + the companion wind chill factor. But the magic of wearing your country’s colors swept these discomforts aside, if only for a few moments.

Houses and flats I didn’t know were Pinoy-owned and rented revealed themselves. Rakers of late autumn leaves pause disbelieving at the mobile flag, and after a split-second smile a Filipino smile. Hands with unseen owners, preoccupied probably with ironing office shirts or folding laundry, wave from seldom-opened windows. Even pre-teens not too young to remember pre-school in the old country point to my sun-and-3-stars, and I point right back, hoping my lips echo back what my thoughts convey: “MA-NNY PA-QUIAO!”

Extending the facade of fame and familiarity were the honks and cheers of “PINOY” from cars whizzing past. After only a quarter of an hour I understood that these were kabayan who wanted to acknowledge the novelty of a roadside runner, and who undoubtedly were reminded of home. Of course, I waved back. One or two were actually Kiwis who asked me “Whatcha wearin mate?” laughed without even waiting for a response, and sped away. Of these I paid no mind, and ran the noble footrace of Pinoy Pride and Middle Age Fitness.

Best of all were the thumbs-up sign of fellow runners who did a double-take at the unusual duds but still appreciated the summer colors on a dreary day.

Hmmm. If I got these kinds of rave reviews outdoors, how would I do in the mall? Later in the day I joined the frost-avoiding throng and shuffled inside Westfield Queensgate, a winter oasis of Kiwi, Maori, Polynesian and Asian leisure warriors and heat-hunters during these cold climes.

Now I know there are about 10,000 Filipinos spread evenly across the cities of the region (Wellington City, Johnsonville, Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt) but right now there seemed to be more than our fair city’s share, especially in this mall at this moment. I knew there were sales and winter bargains that brought the Filipinos out of the woodwork, but everywhere I turned there seemed to be one or two (or three).

Di ka naman siguro proud magmukhang Pilipino dyan, no? quipped a lineman from Tondo that I met last year, giving me a spirited jab of good natured sarcasm, which I took in stride. I could not jab him back, as he was pushing his newborn bundled in a pram alongside his convalescing Misis.

Suplada (haughty) Pinays in tight miniskirts, leggy leggings and smart berets, some of them already born here, held me in their gaze through Pagani and Glassons windows. I imagined that they’d seen me before but always thought I was Chinese or some other Asian. Now they knew better, in my dreams.

Two very Visayan grandmoms actually interrupted their chatter to give me a once-over to confirm to each other that yes, this singkit-eyed bansot was crazy enough to be a walking bandila, and one of them chirped “biri nice kulurs iho,” which I acknowledged with a “salamat po.” Right back to their kwentuhan.

One high schooler I caught staring at my jacket and hurriedly looking away. Very kayumanggi-looking and obviously 2nd generation Kinoy. I dismissed him without a second thought.

If you can believe it, in the space of two more hours running errands I met a dozen more compatriots and their families, some of them actually asking why I was wearing the national colors, but most of them telling me they had similar jackets of their own.

Well, why don’t you wear them like I’m doing now, I ask. I know it’s tacky and others think it’s baduy, but overall the feel-good factor overrides everything else. I mean, it’s not like I’ll ever be a member of the national team or challenge Manny P., so you know it’s all just in good fun, right? They usually just smile sheepish smiles and salute me like I’m a flagpole.

**               **               **               **               **

In the course of our everyday, mundane lives we sometimes need to see a few things to remind us of what we left back home, and what we’re missing. If ever we didn’t wear our Pinoy-ness on our sleeves more often back home, and if ever we were less than proud to be Filipino, not to worry. Anytime (like now) would be a good time to start and, though they’re not essential, little reminders like Team Pacquiao jackets, Proud 2B Pinoy bumper stickers and saying something positive about our country and countrymen go a long way towards loving your very own, warts and all.

Maybe next time I’ll wear a salakot and camiso de chino to Filipino Mass, just to be as Pinoy as can be.

Mabuhay ang lahing kayumanggi!

Thanks for reading !