Pinoy Reveries Biking Home One Wintry Night


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

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[ 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!

NOel

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