Gauge nowhere near “F” & Golden City on the event horizon

[ Note fron Noel : As long as I’m already worrying about my immigration status and continued viability for NZ work, I might as well fret about how well I’m set up for late middle age, how I can cope when work is no longer an option and the alkansya’s run out, not a pleasant prospect I know.  Ironic given the depressing content but the blog is longer than the usual, pls bear with your accidental migrant kabayan, belated happy birtday to Teacher Aissa Apostol – Sta Maria,  belated happy birthday and congrats on passing her preliminary Australia CPA board exams, Ineng Montenegro Agustin and welcome to Wellington Atty Ronald “Samboy” Concepcion and Atty Nino Juan !  Lastly, the YouTube clip above symbolizes how fast time flies by, at least in this blogger’s life.  Take care everyone! ]

SOMEONE SMART, right now I forget who (almost everyone I know is smarter than me), once said that, depending on my lifestyle, tastes and tendency to get in and out of tight fixes, I need anywhere between 15 to 25 times my annual income for my proverbial nest egg, which as if you didn’t know is the fund on which I will depend in the years I’m put out to pasture.

So many caveats though : the nest egg itself is supposedly tax-free, but all the income you’ve earned or potentially earned to build it up ISN’T, so I can’t project reasonably if I’ll be sitting on my fat behind counting all the grain I’ve stored in my silos (figuratively of course, recalling Luke 12:13-21) or strumming on a banjo assisted by a dancing chimp (not unlike Dr Parnassus, after his Imaginarium was destroyed) and begging for my bread; it all depends on how much P-Noy (or his successors) has extracted from my pay envelope after all those years of hard labor 😦

Going back to the 15 to 25 rule, not only is it unrealistic, it also doesn’t take into account inflation and the dwindling purchasing power of the peso or whatever coin of the realm you happen to be toiling in.  Unless you are a super entrepreneur (like S.Jobs, God bless his soul) or an ahead-of-your-time visionary who can create markets for newfangled goods where none previously existed (also like S.Jobs), you are probably several zeroes short of your ideal pension goal.

To be brutally self-effacingly honest about it, I wouldn’t be in such an destitute state if I had listened to mi padres and pursued a respectable profession (like a bro), avoided marrying early and prioritized career advancement instead (like another bro), or hadn’t wasted time chasing windmills and grown a stable business (again, like yet another bro 🙂 )

It gets worse.  Pair the 15-25 mentality with the rule of 72, which tells you (roughly) in how many years, in peso or dollar terms, the cost of certain goods or services will double.  For example, if the current inflation rate is 8%, divide 72 by 8 (giving you a 9, last time I checked), and this means in 9 years or so, if you need P30,000 a month to survive, that amount, to buy the same basket of goods and services needs to be P60,000.  Pardon the simplistic thinking, but whatever figure you need to survive on, don’t forget to adjust it for inflation and reckoning how many years away you are from retirement.  We can start crying now.

For someone like me, whose worldly wealth consists of the coins jingling in my pocket, my sense of catastrophe is on a fundamental disconnect with cold reality, so that it seems almost comical at this late stage to start planting seeds.  But I’ve got to start somewhere.  I don’t even want to think of asking for an assist from Crazy Good Son, Ganda or Bunso in the near future, as they are just starting out and don’t deserve to reap the harvest of my indolence and lack of foresight.

Clearly, the only alternative is to work till the day I die, if health and a future free from accidents is my fate.  Whether my kabayan and co-travellers in life share my sentiments,  I don’t know for sure.

***         ***         ***         ***         ***

The photo that launched a thousand discussions. Kudos to the mom for her resilience !

What I do know for sure is that not all Pinoys think we shouldn’t involve our kids post-retirement.  A picture appearing on the local paper’s World section, published a month ago, earned me some pogi points among my co-workers. ( I don’t have the pic right now, but if it appears above then I found it in time. )  Evidently a Tondo couple produced all of 22 kids in their happy reunion  (17 of which survived childbirth) and were all living in the same one-bedroom dwelling, not counting spouses and kids of married children.  Quite a few of my colleagues couldn’t believe it, and a kind-hearted fellow even wanted to take in one or two of the children.

I told them that large families were often the norm back home although this brood was large even for our elastic standards.  Later in the day at home I told Kuya Flatmate how sympathetic the natives were to the kabayan family of about 30 living cheek-to-cheek in what was most likely a 25 to 30 square meter shanty.

Unexpectedly he turned the issue on its head.  Diba dapat hangaaan ang swerte ng magasawang yan he opined, leaving me with a dumbfounded huh?

Syang tunay.  Kung kahit kalahati lang jan sa magkakapatid ay magiging propesyonal , diba tiba-tiba naman ang mga magulang sa tulong at suporta?

Oo nga naman I conceded.

And so that returns us to the option I initially eschewed, soliciting help and support from my soon-to-be income generating progeny, not for the entirety of my needs mind you, but only little things like Mini Coopers, junkets overseas, Nike Shox or Kindles.

I don’t know if, creature comforts aside, my senior citizen ego can handle that.  Sunrise, sunset…

Thanks for reading !


It’s not always about the money [ but it helps :-) ]

[My life wasn’t that hard back home, but this scene reminded me of difficult times in younger years, and I couldn’t help but smile at the work of art of Mr Chaplin.  Time for a laugh, kabayan ! ]

ANOTHER NO-BRAINER among the many gems I’ve come up with lately (tongue-in-cheek) , I’ve come to the astounding conclusion that the overall benefits I enjoy go far beyond the monetary rewards currently received on Middle Earth, where hobbits, elves and orcs gambol in J.R. Tolkien‘s and Peter Jackson’s eternal imagination.

A better way to put it would be, notwithstanding the fact that I’ve never earned as much in my life as I’ve done here, I would need to earn even more money if I wanted to enjoy the same or equivalent benefits back home.

It’s not easy to quantify the benefits to which I refer; there are accurate ways to measure them but it’s done on a macroeconomic or economy-wide level. (That’s probably the first and last time I use that word in a blog. ;))

Rather than try to enumerate such benefits according to specific areas, I think it would be less boring if I come up with specific examples of why I think I have just as much to lose (besides the income) if I were to go home abruptly without a smooth transition or a buffer fund against financial displacement.

On night shifts I can go home from work on a bike without too much worry from motorists and other nocturnal hazards.  There are peace and order and crime-related issues here like any other cosmopolitan and highly-urbanized  nation.  But they (such issues) pale in comparison to how it is back home, where ordinary citizens fear not only common criminals and organized crime but also hulidap specialists in the police, incorrigibles in the military, gangsters in politics and hoodlums in (judicial) robes.  I regret the generalization here but the disparity is too much.

To reduce it to the ridiculous : besides one isolated bike accident I attribute more to stupid negligence than anything else, I haven’t suffered anything untoward cycling to and from work for nearly three years, but if I had the same opportunity to bike the same distance on a night shift back home, I would decline every single night, although I would gladly ride the taxi or FX on a well-lighted bus stop.

I can run and exercise to my heart’s content in relatively pollution-free air, relatively safe streets and sidewalks that are more-or-less friendly to joggers.  Let me try to illustrate this opinion in another way.  For me to enjoy running in approximately the same way back home, I would have to run in a gated community, far from the center of Metro Manila where all the work is done, with as little traffic as possible (unlikely anywhere urbanized), and preferably with wide cinderpaths, greenery and tree-lined lanes.

Because of my financial circumstances (very modest), residential location choices (very limited) and career options (very narrow), you probably come to the conclusion that I won’t get those running conditions.  While I’m not an obsessive runner, I do enjoy its universal appeal and undemanding nature (you can stop and start anytime), and the fact that you don’t need to much equipment (shoes and shorts lang) and companions (running alone is enough company most of the time).  Wellington seems to be very runner-friendly even without trying to, if you can hack the initial chilliness and the rare unfriendly dog-walker (and their dog/s, of course), and I appreciate very much the unintended benefit my adopted abode has provided my fitness and general appearance.  I don’t foresee the same enthusiasm if I had to repatriate in a hurry, unless I had extra cash for a flashy treadmill or gym membership (improbable).

Esposa hermosa and I can enjoy quality groceries and commodities at reasonable prices despite our humble wages.  The best cuts of meat, the cleanest and most healthy vegetables, succulent fruits and hygienically-baked bread products are available from all the supermarkets at reasonable prices.  Not dirt-cheap OK, because NZ has to support its agrarian industries at a certain prices, and taxes, a living wage and realistic overhead are all factors we have to live with, but as long as you have a decent job, you don’t have vices and you keep eyes peeled and ears pricked for the juicy sales, you will have nutritious and clean meals on your dinner table every evening.  If Kiwis and locals can do it, you can imagine the miracles dollar-conscious and creative Pinoys can do with their food budgets.  Sadly, a living wage back home is no longer deserving of the modifier “living.”  You probably know what I mean, the peso can only stretch so far and can you imagine a four-or five-person household surviving on P1,500 – P2,000 pamalengke a week?  Honestly, I can’t.

**      **     **     **     **

I could go on and on beyond these three examples, but I’m sure you know what I mean.  If you have other ways to show how non-monetary factors make it extremely hard to consider going back home, I would gladly hear them.

I’ve said more than once that among my siblings, I’ve been the most wayward and hard-headed, and this has resulted in my enduring a harder life than theirs.  The only good thing that’s come out of it is that I’ve seen and gained an appreciation for how the greater part of our kabayan live, and how unsurpassed we are in our blessings and good fortune, to live the way we do, not least of which being the simple but comfortable way of life of Pinoys in NZ.

Thanks for reading !


Master of the House w/ Wife’s permission 2 say so

Two words that must be learned for the success of any marriage. 🙂

IT WAS one of those small porcelain plates with proverbs and wise-cracking aphorisms printed on it, I remember it cuz it was one of the earliest puzzling things I read in the living room, circa 1970s.  Paraphrasing it, it shone dust-free near the oft-used ashtray (Dad still smoked like a chimney then) :

I am the Master of this House, and I have my Wife’s permission to say so.

I never bothered to ask Dad (or Mom) what it meant, discretion wasn’t in my portfolio of 7-year old verbal and non-verbal skills yet, but common sense was, meaning I didn’t want to get stuck in Dad’s crosshairs or pick up any more kurot or pingot from Mom, who had enough on her plate.

Nevertheless, years later, I’ve got a good handle on the subtext of such witticism which in so many words means OK, the male parental unit is the acknowledged head of the family and all that he surveys, from front gate to back yard, Lord of the Realm and all that.  But cross his wife and do anything not to her liking and he risks the wrath of the Power Behind The Throne.  All along, that was what I and my four brothers discerned from the gung-ho and uneasy detente that prevailed in our household 😉 Dad was strong and firm but always accommodating; Mom deferred to Dad on the policy decisions but ran a tight ship and kept things running day-to-day.

Ego tells me it’s more or less the same with me and esposa hermosa, fast forward to the present day, but in reality there are some hard and fast rules hammered down in the short span of our romantic partnership, I’d like to say legislated by us jointly, but most of them her inventions:

No using of socks and underwear more than once, and shirts more than twice.  I pat myself on the back on this ordinance, as I fought for the second clause tooth and nail.  I know this is a no-brainer on hygienic grounds, but I like particular shirts and our work area is a no-sweat environment, literally, so no undesirable by-product of extensive (8-hour shift) use is created.  No dice for E.H. though, she draws the line in doing as the Romans do (or Kiwis) when it comes to undergarments and similarly situated stuff.  To show her seriousness she has augmented my intimate wardrobe at least threefold since she arrived (do I need that much?) and I have no choice but to be a Dan Carter model, give or take a few Bill Blass of fatty tissue 🙂

Selection of food during mealtimes is limited to one from each of the basic food groups.  Again, I’m proud of this one, as I fought for balance and this is the result.  My basic food group categories by the way are McDo french fries group (actually Wendy’s is lots better, but there are no Wendy’s in Wellington 😥 ), Burger King onion rings group, KFC chicken nuggets group, and Shakeys’ Chick N’ Chips group (again, sadly, no Shakeys in NZ).  Would you believe E.H. has a different version of the groups : colorful veggies, payatot lean meats (before I met her I NEVER saw anyone trimming the fat), fueling pastas and other carbs, hydrating fruits and legumes, and you know the rest.  It was paradigm shifting for me, to say the least, after being a diehard fan of Ronald McD, the King, Chuckie and Captain Shakeys, but given the fact that I’m well into middle age, EH would not tolerate any fastfood habits.  Or at least, most of the time.

Brushing of teeth at least once a day, preferably before bedtime.  I hope you will reserve your judgment on me, as I do my best to preserve dental hygiene, but given my carbuncly ADHD , my premature dementia, the spinning-top nature of the typical day, and plain laziness, I have to be reminded to do the most basic things.  I guess I’m exaggerating, but Mahal will simply not allow me into the conjugal bed unless she is certain I have done the dental deed and emit fresh breath if I so much as even attempt to kiss her good night, much more try anything sneaky and unscheduled ( more on that, later.)  Double penalty is assigned to midnight snacks and forays into the fridge, I have to brush again hu hu hu 😦

Don’t smile too much, especially at parties and in front of company.  EH patiently explained to me the rationale, and I tend to believe her : First, when I show my pearly whites, I betray the fact that they’re too big, and I have an overbite (not that it matters at this late stage).  Well, I aim to please.  Second, things tend to get stuck between the ivories, and too-big smiles tend to get rather awkward close-up.  Lastly, get too close to my smile, EH warns, and you get TMI from my brand-new dentures.  On that note, I just decide to comply.

Change bed sheets and pillow cases at least once every two weeks, oftener during summer.  This isn’t as obvious as it sounds.  In college I actually saw people in dorms who could stand using the same sheets the whole semester.  Growing up in a family without sisters, it didn’t matter too much if you used the same sheets till well, you had to change them.  Women, we learned much later, are a lot different.

Getting a shower, shaving, cleaning everything possible and smelling like a baby before doing the nasty.  First of all, I’m sorry for using the term doing the nasty for an activity as natural as eating and breathing, I can’t think of any euphemism without blushing, it’s probably the Catholic school upbringing.  But you of course know what I mean.  Well, before I think of doing anything remotely approaching what I just said, I have to be as clean and immaculate as possible (though not immaculate in thoughts), smell like the perfume section of your favorite department store, and as much as possible have as little facial hair on me, for some reason it isn’t conducive to doing the nasty for E.H.  Because as mentioned earlier, I aim to please, and for doing the nasty I would do a song-and-dance wearing a Catwoman costume, being clean and sweet-smelling is something I can live with.

***         ***         ***         ***         ***

Wow, so many rules.  Some I understand, and some I don’t.  On the whole, I am aware that living with another person is as much give-and-take and being considerate, as it is promising something as abstract as professing your love forever.  It’s the day-to-day, small details that make living together tolerable, and if it means living with rules like these, I guess I can live with them.  For now.

Thanks for reading !

A Triple Helping of Prejudice w/ A Side Dish of Ignorance

Just another day at the office, serving All Blacks and RWC heroes 😉

[ Note from Noel : Just making sure, but the person pictured above (RWC quarter final watchers, take a wild guess?) has nothing to do with the story of the person below, although the venue above and below are one and the same.  Hope you don’t mind if I use the Old Testament quote again (thank you Lord), it seems apropos for almost every migrant story we have.]

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV

KIWIS AND other locals based on personal experience (what other kind is there?) are among the most compassionate and politically correct on the planet, the two by the way are not always synonymous, the New Zealand government vies to be the first to send peacekeeping troops in places that need them most; send humanitarian aid posthaste to quake-ravaged and tsunami-inundated countries; and NGOs based here do not dilly-dally when it comes to making official condemnations of archaic and barbaric practices like female circumcision and bridal burning that have survived the advent of human rights and gender equality.

However, when it comes to man-on-the-street opinions on topics like migration, labor issues like wages and unemployment, and race stereotypes, it’s not at all uncommon to encounter narrow worldviews, intolerant perspectives, and simplistic arguments to complex global issues.  In short, easy targets like your accidental migrant, in this day and age of collapsing PIGS and environmental disasters, move about in multicultural milieux at their own peril.

Sorry for the longwinded intro.  A funny thing happened at the office day before yesterday.  Not my office, but Mahal’s.  They were happily and busily rolling sushi rolls for the early morning takeaway crowd just before mall opened, and almost didn’t hear a Kiwi lady in her early 30s muttering something shortly after she was handed her receipt by Mahal’s fellow Pinoy sushi roller.

Luckily he (the kabayan) was just within earshot, so he caught the last word of the Kiwi lady, which happened to be that famous four-letter word used for human (and animal) waste.  Oh what the hey, I won’t be censored in my own blog, the word was shit.  Despite being taken aback, he decided to pretend he didn’t hear, and so that would’ve been the end of it had the lady not repeated herself.

“Shit.  You’re all shit,” was her clearer statement after the questioning look given by our kabayan, and the second utterance this time was loud enough for their supervisor (also a Pinay) to hear, and she had to retort, “is there a problem?”  still giving the customer the benefit of the doubt.

“You know what I mean.  You’re all criminals,” she clarified, this time leaving no room for doubt.  For good measure, she added, “the police will be coming for you soon.”

This was no bag lady with gray hair lugging around a suitcase full of her earthly belongings ( apologies to all bag ladies, the subject of this story gives you a bad name ) but a smartly dressed, ready-for-CBD office girl who was totally from left field.

Likewise, it was quite unfortunate that for that particular morning shift, three of the four Pinoys working in Mahal’s workplace were present, and happened to be working on the front line (either cashiering or serving diners/buyers).  So it was quite natural that they would take offense.

And this was exactly what their bisor did, straight from Pangasinan, who let loose in her best imitation Kiwi-English her own barrage of verbal counter-attacks, without once using a curse word or abuse similar to those Kiwi Lady used.

Obviously Kiwi Lady wasn’t prepared for the retaliation / defense unhesitatingly done by Pinay Manager, my respect for whom rose several notches after this story.  She began stepping back and headed briskly for the mall exit nearby, without however letting up on her verbal assault on everyone behind the sushi counter (and probably anyone in front of it, as well).

“You’re all criminals, and the police are coming for you,” she repeated, but only half-heartedly this time, as people were beginning to stare at her, some with amusement.

“Hey where are you going???  You’re the one they’re coming for, and they’re bringing you back to the asylum, where you belong !!!” shouted Pinay Manager, and this time Kiwi Lady threw in the towel and scurried outside, but not before quite a few bystanders gave Pinay Manager the thumbs-up sign.  Clearly, someone had been put in her place.

But barely had the heady euphoria of short-lived triumph died down when Mahal and her colleagues found themselves asking the following questions :

If Kiwi Lady was really pissed off (sorry for the French) with the establishment and its servers, why was she buying its wares?

Was their any particular reason for her unprovoked outburst ( The general reason, on its face being race and their being, well, Asian) ?

There will never be a conclusive answer , as you have already guessed, but Mahal and her tight group came up with quite a few theories.  Kiwi Lady had maybe kept it (her emotions) bottled up for some time now, but seeing an entire team of Pinoys serving her favorite food was probably too much for her bigoted sensibilities to bear, and she had to say something.

And the issue that bottled up her emotions in the first place?  You guessed it, the Rena and our kabayan sea captain that piloted its final voyage near the Bay of Plenty.

Setting aside for a moment all judgments and side-comments that you might come up with, we have to remind everyone that NZ has gone through one of its most stressful periods dealing with earthquakes, accidents and man-made disasters, probably as stressful as any period in its history.  At the same time, Kiwis are well-known for welcoming all sorts of people regardless of race, color or creed, to their verdant shores.

This is why more or less despite our blogging it here, we feel this is an isolated incident that nevertheless serves as a cautionary tale to remind us that in our United Colors of Benetton world, their will always be a clash of opinions, interpretations, and yes, a clash of colors.

Another mabuhay for Pinay Manager, and thanks for reading !


Dodging the annual bullet

[ Note from Noel : Just fair warning to you precious reader, this rant & rave probably beats all others in self-centeredness and introspection; I might as well put in length and depressingly longwinded as added attractions, pasensya na po; congrats and good luck to the marathon ambitions of Atty Cristina Godinez, Efren and Vangie Gregorio and Richard Yao, happy birthdays to Susan Lao (4th Nov), Ramon Tan Jr (5th) and two of our favorite kabatch across the miles, Annette Sy (7th) and Joy Rosenbaum (10th). Woohoo! ]

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt, I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV

IF I HAD my way I would run around the block everyday the Lord made (or bawa’t araw na ginawa ng Diyos sounds a little better).  Wind, rain and hale, erratic work scheds and the inevitable laziness creep in sometimes inconveniently but, on the whole, running, besides the obvious fitness and aesthetic aspects (keeps my love handles at a certain size), lends structure to my ADHD life.  I know that if I can’t decide between pigging out, reading, playing Tri-Peaks Solitaire or watching old DVDs, I can just lace up, trot around manicured lawns, wave at dogwalkers (and their dogs), gawk at babysitters (and their babies) and scoot away from aging motorists (and their death machines) and do something productive while marking the time.

[ By the way, it’s just a figurative block.  Actually it’s around 15-20 minutes’ worth of running, more like 5 to 6 blocks + an entire high school grounds worth of perimeter; and if I want to extract at least three-quarter hour’s exercise I have to run the route twice and then some. ]

The last few weeks, I’ve needed the running a little more : it relieves a little of the stress while applying for a new Work Visa.  Not reapplying, which implies some continuity of the old visa, or renewing, which recognizes the existence of the current one, but applying for a new visa, which is in our native Taglish back to zero or zero balance.  Such is the nature of temporary residence in NZ, which should by rights be expected from a First World country, albeit one sorely affected by the 2008 subprime economic crisis and whose primary industries are sensitive to the movements of international debt markets and rates of exchange.

There’s been no exact date since I started applying, but definitely it’s around this time of the year.  Fittingly, everything comes to life in Wellington: birds dogs and humans are warmer and therefore happier, days are longer, and nights are toastier.  Barbecues are inevitable and ball games of every sort pop up everywhere.  But I can never allow the general aroma of bliss (sort of like everything’s right in the world) to completely overwhelm me.

Roughly half of the 30,000-plus ethnic Filipinos in NZ came here on a “Work To Residence” Visa (WTR), meaning they met the requirements set by Immigration NZ, were invited to search for employment here that matched the set of skills they possessed, and promised permanent residence if they were successful in their search. Theoretically it sounds quite promising, but in practice… (I’m making kibit-balikat, waving my palms around and whispering Bahala na if you can see me now… better yet, click here for a personal account.)

The other half came here courtesy of various visas (Visit Visas, Student Visas, Working Holiday Visas, there are a few more) ,  and were somehow able to obtain Work Visas based on skills deemed crucial to the New Zealand economy.  Those skills are listed under the so-called Short-term Skills Shortage List and Long-term Skills Shortage List.

For better or for worse, I’m in the second class of workers.  Yup, the visit visa was turned into a work visa, another work visa and yet another work visa.  Yehey!

Not to be overly dramatic about it, but my blessing is also my curse.  I nearly gave up March 2008 on finding a job that would allow the (remote) possibility  of permanent residence before a referral by a kabayan ( Thanks Ross C! ) led me to being hired as a trainee miller, then as an assistant miller in Wellington.  But because the job was taken off both the short-term and long-term lists, I could never use the job as a springboard to staying in NZ permanently.  In short, I could choose to shoot for the moon and look for another job in the lists, or stick with the job that landed on my lap, and hope against hope to have luck on my side every time I needed to apply for a new Work Visa.

Which was what I was doing now, and unlike previous years, I was more or less prepared to meet any uncertainty (but how do you know if they’re by nature uncertain, hmm?).

Proof that Kiwis weren’t interested in my job?  I had newspaper, internet and Work and Income ads, even internal circulars that advertised a vacancy for a milling career, promising humble wages but lots of responsibilities (not good attractions for the locals).

Evidence of stability and consistency in my employment?  I had been in the same position since 2008, , enrolled courses to be certified in my trade, and had taken Health and Safety and accessory courses to help me improve my performance.

Just to be on the safe side, I secured declarations from the employer that there simply wasn’t enough interest in the job among Kiwis and locals and not more was expected, now or in the near future.

Just two weeks before my Visa was to expire, the carefully laid plan for me to seamlessly weave between my old and (hopefully) new Visa hit a snag.  My NBI / police clearance was two years old, and I had to get a new one.

I moved heaven and earth to get a substitute document, but because I was cutting it close, every effort had to be nanoseconds fast, and I had to use multiple approaches.  I requested the Ministry of Justice here to issue a document stating I had no criminal record, a process that inexplicably took 10 working days; I asked a big favor from a bro back home for a police clearance from their local PNP precinct, and I of course spun like a trumpo trying to renew my NBI clearance, which believe you me wasn’t easy with a window of less than two weeks.

All told, I was able to lodge my application with the deficiencies requested a week before Doomsday.  Unlike previous years, TWO lives were dependent on such application, mine and that of esposa hermosa.  Of course, another two academic careers back home (that of Ganda and Bunso) would also be drastically affected by a negative decision, so it’s only the most important decision of my life. 😉 For all the hospitable working environments so far that I have encountered here, political realities dictate that every effort is made to accommodate locals before foreign guest workers continue working here.  I know how the game is played, especially during election season.  But to be blunt about it, I don’t want to go home ; the work visa is my all-or-nothing ticket to stay, for now.

It’s the bullet I dodge, every year.

Thanks for reading !