(Barely) Legal Again this 2012

Magingat sa paputok, mahirap magtext sa paa. – modern Filipino proverb.

Magpaputok sa labas, huwag magpaputok sa luob – another modern Filipino proverb.

[ Note : This is probably one of the least-organized conversations I will have with you, but that doesn’t make it any less personal.  Thanks to all the Yahoo! and Facebook groups the past 2011 who’ve so graciously allowed me to post (voluntarily or otherwise), on their pages.  Maraming maraming salamat po for your continued readership all this time, if I have added a little light of levity in the dark seriousness of our lives, it is my pleasure.  Happy 2012 ! ]

IF NOT for Galileo, Copernicus, other stargazers and skywatchers, and later Pope Gregory XIII, we wouldn’t know about the time it takes Mother Earth to revolve around Sol, the phases of Luna, and most practical of all, a convenient way of counting the seasons, marking the stages of our lives, and justifying the constant renewal of our wishes, hopes and dreams, no matter how vain they are.

We wouldn’t have one of the most efficient and God-fearing (“in the Year of our Lord“) inventions of Man, the Gregorian calendar of 12 months, 52 weeks and 365 days.  We wouldn’t have birthdays, anniversaries, national holidays, spring festivals, summer solstices, harvest fairs and winter wonderlands, vainglorious dynasties (The Thousand-Year Reich), lofty imperial greetings (May the Emperor live Ten Thousand Years!) and our well-loved religious traditions (Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan).

Notwithstanding the long-winding and elaborate intro, I have a reason for paying homage to the invention of the calendar year.  You see, I am starting it quite auspiciously , having been issued a freshly-minted Work Visa, formerly known as a Work Permit but for all legal intents and purposes the same thing.  Ever since, I’ve usually been issued one near the middle or around the last quarter of the year, so this is the first time I can remember one being issued so close to the end (and therefore the start) of the year.  It’s a good time for banishing the bad old habits and welcoming good new habits, but before that I thought you’d want to know why the new visa came so close to year-end.

First was the troublesome passport, but which I daren’t badmouth since it’s one of the most important symbols of Pinoyhood, right up there with my skin color (mocha), eyes (chinito) and height (very average, actually below average 🙂 ). I would never give up my Filipino citizenship. . . well maybe take on dual citizenship if ever the opportunity presented itself, but you know what I mean.  I had to renew my passport, good thing the Philippine Embassy was already in Wellington.  But since renewals are centralized in the Inang Bayan from all over the world, a waiting time of at least two months was needed, and my grand plan to apply for a work visa way ahead, in advance, fell behind schedule by two months as well.

Then I think I told you that I almost jeopardized my application by forgetting to apply for a new NBI / police certificate / clearance, which delayed lodging my application for another month, and if not for the help extended by kabayan would’ve been longer.

But as soon as submitted my documents for the last time, I didn’t feel the same dread that I felt in previous years.  A large part of it had to do with bringing the Philippines to New Zealand, courtesy of esposa hermosa.

Not my picture, but Mahal's creations look a lot like this. Thanks to jengshomecooking.blogspot.com for the pic!

Whether it was the nostalgia-inducing spicyness, the euphoria generating gata (coconut milk) on hipon or fish, or the explosion of flavors that sinigang, tinola or adobo create, Mahal had gone over and beyond the call of duty to elevate our upbeat and confidence levels while waiting for the work visa.  Either that or the fact that this was the 4th attempt to register ourselves as a guest worker, each year bringing increments to our skill and competency levels for the job.  We had at least even odds to get legal anew.

But 50-50 is still 50-50, sez the half-empty half-full glass beholder.  And slim-to-none odds from a lenient, open-minded visa officer are better than odds-are-even from a strict, no-nonsense bureaucrat, who cares little that foreigners contribute substantially to NZ’s national economy, or that the net migration figures of a former 1st World powerhouse had gone down for the second straight year (in favor of Australia, almost surely).  Given the fact that my visa / case officer was a youngish-sounding Ms Joshika Prasad, I liked my chances.

I couldn’t be facing any better prospects back home anyway, where at least three-quarters of my contemporaries in high school and university were paying off their mortgages, sitting atop a modest pile of earnings, looking forward to a handsome retirement nest egg, or simply living off the fat of their productive careers.  Given their hard work, strategic planning / positioning and my poor choices in life, I could hardly begrudge their easy streets and golden years.

But back to the present. For such an important document, Mahal and I hardly made arrangements in the event that our passports (to which the visas hopefully would be stickered) were delivered and neither of us were at home.  And that’s exactly what happened one Thursday morning in December and AGAIN (unbelievably) on a Friday when a frustrated courier left a Second Notice claim card on our doorstep.

Naku anu ba yan suspense pa, kung package baka andun na yung papel (document) diba, ventured Mahal.

I hadn’t the heart to tell her that it (the package) could just as easily contain our rejection letters and deportation notices for good measure.

Yun na yon Mahal I responded with automatic cheery reassurance.

Coming out the door of the CourierPost pickup center, I purposely waited until I was back in the car, so that we could open the package together.

Eeeeeeeee, di ko na kaya, tingnan mo na lang at sabihin mo na agad Mahal, the suddenly-anxious better half of my life said.

I couldn’t stand the pressure anymore, and so I just tore up the plastic wrapping and beheld the items inside that dared to pass judgment on the paths our lives would take, for at least the next 12 months.

And as soon as I saw the blue stickers with hologram stamps and security paper bannered across the first few pages of our E-passports, I knew that manna from heaven had fallen for yet another year.  Before I could say another word, Mahal, who had already seen the blue-and-silver of Kiwi visas wrapped around the maroon of our passports, was already delirious, screaming with happy excitement.

After what seemed like an interminable wait, we were legal in NZ again, and hard though we would work, another gateway opened up on the long, unfinished expressway towards our Destiny.

Thanks for reading, and isang mabiyayang 2012 sa lahat !

On the 14th day of Christmas my true love malled with me

Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special !  How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer.  Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? – Bill Watterson

[ Note : belated happy birthdays to Dr Janet del Mundo and Jo Nolasco (21st Dec), SJCSAA Pres. Johann Tan (22nd Dec), Noel Avisado (24th Dec) and John Santiago (26th Dec), not being cynical with the quote above btw, though it seems like the media, and therefore its advertiser-masters, have taken control over Christmas.  Manigong bagong taon po ! ]

AMONG FORMER Commonwealth and Anglophile countries, there is a 13th day of Christmas, an extra 24 hours for those who haven’t had enough of the celebrations, shopping and feel-good moments with friends, relatives and loved ones.  The equivalent of Black Friday in the US, and the scattered “midnight madness” sales back home, it’s the hysterically commercial and inventory-obliterating Boxing Day sales in countries like NZ, where your accidental migrant currently resides.

The origins of Boxing Day are obscured by age and history, but tradesmen used to bring around boxes for gifts and donations from people who wanted to show their appreciation at the end of the year.  Later, the term expanded to “boxing” Christmas gifts or putting them in boxes, after finishing up with the stress of preparing Christmas dinner, which was after all the central event of the season.

This year, as you very well know, Christmas fell on a Sunday, and so the statutory holiday was supposed to fall on the next day.  But since Boxing Day automatically fell on the 26th, we couldn’t have TWO free days crowding one 24 hour period, and so for the first time in long time (in NZ at least) there was a free Monday and Tuesday following a Christmas Sunday.  That’s why instead of the already-generous 13th day, we were going to have yet another, 14th day, which Mahal (and by extension, yours truly) was sure to take advantage of.

Ironic, but Mahal, a mall worker, wanted some down time at the mall.  She’d spent all her working hours rolling sushi and mixing seafood morsels within a one square meter space next to the bento counter.  She wanted to see the rest of the mall, and no amount of feeble protestation from Your Loyal Batchmate / Accidental Migrant kabayan would stop her.

Why?  Well for one thing, it was our very first anniv as esposo y esposa, certainly a milestone for all couples swimming in the sea of love.  Next, for as long as we could remember since the silly season started it was the first time both of us were on days off together.  Before, it was either her or me between shifts, on regular leave or forced leave.  Never both, and so this was probably the only time now and in the next few weeks we were going to have some time together outside the house.  Indoors we were always sleeping or eating, or if I was lucky, doing the nasty. >:)  Lastly but not the leastly, Boxing Day also happened to be Mahal’s birthday.  How much more eventful could this get ???

To be sure, it was nowhere near the mall experience that she or I, or any other Pinoy we knew was used to.  Even the largest mall in the Wellington region, impressive Westfield Queensgate which any Wellingtonian (the region, not just the city) is proud of, has “only” around 45,000 square meters of store space.  Compare this to MegaMall back home, site of so many of our adventures, which (not including support space like parking, administrative areas etc.) is a mini-city of 348,000 square meters!  Unbelievable as it sounds, it’s not even the largest mall in Metro Manila. 😉

For additional perspective, Queensgate Westfield boasts of foot traffic of around 8 million per annum.  This is admittedly impressive for NZ standards, but Megamall gets an equivalent number of visitors every two weeks, no exaggeration given the fact that it can comfortably host 4 million mallgoers an any given time, and you and I know that the mall is frequently filled to the brim with window shoppers and commuters trying to beat the heat, especially on weekends.

But back to our down time together.  Given the fact that we had anniversary, birthday, not to mention Christmas merrymaking to make up for, I was more than ready to accompany Mahal not just to the mall but to every shop she chose to visit.

First was a telecom provider store, with all the nifty gadgets and handhelds showcased in user-friendly demo modules, which I quickly got bored with, good thing she was only looking for a case to protect her device.  I was not as lucky with the next few stores : a shoe store, an accessory store, and a store for summer garments only.  I tried to act interested in her selection of styles and color schemes, how tall her shoe heels as befitted her outfits (it seems that there is now no limit to how tall your shoes can be, as long as you can walk in them stilts), and how gaudy and brilliantly eye-hurting her earrings bracelets and headbands (yes, some headbands can hurt your eyes if you look too closely at them) could be.  After much rolling of eyes, I think I gave up after the fourth store, and she mercifully suggested that I wait in the corridor in front of each store area as she entered and exited them.

The first thing I noticed as I was waiting was that there were other bored/stressed spouses/boyfriends doing the same thing I was doing: waiting, and trying not to be bored to death while doing said waiting.  Of course, eventually we realized we were looking at each other.  Kids were a bit luckier since they were having fun in temporary playpens thoughtfully provided by the mall (and which were probably designed to keep their moms in said mall longer).

Given all the crazy sales, the surplus of shopping time, and the gift-giving mood, it didn’t take a genius to predict that we would later be laden with shopping bags filled with gifts and treasures that, in a day or so, we would never see again.  Well, being generous once a year was a fair bargain, given all the blessings we’d enjoyed.

And for at least ONCE a year, the mall in our temporary adopted land, thousands of kilometers away from home, reminded us of Divisoria, Bulacan and Megamall.  Cheek by jowl with rabid, hysterical buyers that didn’t yield an inch.  There certainly is no place like home, Christmas and the rest of the year.

Thanks for reading !

Fate & randomness in the Year of living dangerously happy

[ Note : Rambling, raving and regurgitating lots of scattered thoughts, that’s what I’ll be doing today sorry to say. Kudos to the sterling and selfless efforts of all NZ-based groups to help our kabayan ravaged by typhoon Sendong, mabuhay kayo!  ]

IF NOT for the singular event of meeting Mahal, I would have tolerated, but not believed in Fate disguised as randomness.

I would have conceded that we are astounded by most of what befalls us in Life, only because it is unknown.  For is not Fate that which is, until the crucial moment, undisclosed to us, even if all sense and training prepare us for it?

In other words, finding the one person who you choose to live with the rest of your life, can happen with one eye closed, in the blur of the moment, and unsurprisingly, when you least expect it.  Hate to say it, but most of what those rom-coms say are true.

After my personal experience (a redundancy, for isn’t all experience personal?) I’m a firm believer in this.  As you might expect, I’m also mulling my extreme good fortune, because it is to the day the first anniversary since we wed in happy circumstances before friends and harrassed relatives (harrassed because I asked them to attend on such short notice, thanks).  But it was no whirlwind affair, as Mahal and I had been together for nearly five years before she made an honest man out of this accidental migrant.

But back to the serendipity and randomness of our encounter, which I think is one on which everything else revolves.  To anybody who cares to know and ask, I always tell this cautionary tale (cautionary to those who don’t believe in meeting your future spouse at the drop of a pin), but to my knowledge I’ve never recorded it for reference and posterity.  I also do this at the risk of incurring Mahal’s ire, as I’m sure you’ve deduced that, compared to the open-book policy on my life, she is intensely private, and would rather not disclose any of her details to strangers and friendly acquaintances.  So if ever you meet her, just pretend you haven’t read this OK? 🙂

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

I was coming off the nightly graveyard shift at the call center I was working in  when I realized I’d run out of load / phone credit, my only source of communication with family.  The nearest place being Megamall, the breakfast catchbasin of all wasted call center agents, I dragged my carcass to Fax N’ Parcel, not ideal given the distance from the mall entrance, but certain at least to be open at 10.00 am.

Although I was expecting early birds there, it was an unexpectedly long queue that greeted me, and I sighed a second time, presuming having to wait for at least 10 to 15 minutes.

It wasn’t long before I spotted a head of chestnut brown hair three spots ahead of me.  You and I know that such hair color, in a sea of ebony black hair, instantly stands out, so it caught my attention.  the owner of the chestnut hair also had on saleslady attire covered by a tastefully chosen maong jacket, which I thought a bit cheeky given the strict dress code for salesladies everywhere in the mall.

One could be forgiven for the standout mane and the maong jacket, but her dazzling smile so early in the morning and in such mundane surroundings seemed unfair. Its luminosity, I’m sorry to say given my bias, lit up the room.   Probably it was the fuzziness in my sleep-deprived brain, but voices began to gnaw at my center of nasty thoughts : forget everything, but don’t leave the shop without her number, or are you too chicken ???

Yessss, we wants it, I wanted to say, but my seat of prim and properness said : WTF??? are you crazy?  Magkakalat ka at 10 in the morning in front of all these people (yes, my conscience could curse a blue streak if it wanted to, apologies)?  Do you want to be wasted AND embarrassed?  Hmmm.  Good point, but my id was working overtime too, it usually does when I haven’t slept for almost 24 hours.

At the same time, resourcefulness and improvisation also have a way of making themselves handy, and I hit upon an idea.  Most of you who haven’t been away from the Philippines for too long know that in quite a few stores, one is required to note down one’s cell phone number for the merchant, to easily verify the transaction in case of complaints later.

Drawing upon that suddenly-important piece of info, and counting the number of places between her and me on the queue, it was easy to find out which number was hers on the loader’s logbook, from which I duly copied said number as soon as my turn ( to be served ) came.  She was long gone by then, but not to worry, I had captured my precious prize. 🙂

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

A few hours after some much needed sleep :

Hi. nagkita tayo sa Fax N Parcel, sensya n po nakopya ko cp mo mkpagkila2 sana.

I could also feel the minutes of hesitation crawl by.  A reply came forthwith.

Thnx.  Cnu k po run ? Me ngtxt na nakawhite, student daw sya, may 1 nakipagkila2 rin.

Omg. To make a long story short, not one, not two, but three count em three individuals including your accidental migrant took down the number and craftily put it aside for sinister purposes (except for me, who had nothing but honorable intentions).

Serendipitously again, I was the only one who didn’t chicken out.  She courteously asked all three of us to show up at her workplace, partly to check us out, and partly to get to know us.  I was the only one desperate enough to apply for the position.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Lots of good (and a few bad) things have happened between those first few days and our wedding day last year.  I choose to shorten this story to focus on the randomness of predestination.  Those eternal romantics who declare to their dying day that in the infinite world of infinite souls, there is only one soulmate, may be the very same romantics that I ask : how do we know that the first, second or hundredth person we meet is The One?

The short answer is WE DON’T, and therefore the element of randomness is kept alive by foreknowledge kept hidden and our unique privilege to never stop making mistakes, in life and in love.

Happy 1st anniversary Mahal, I love you always and thanks for everything !

Thanks for reading !

Everyday is Count-Your-Blessings Day

[Sigh, another stream of consciousness rant.  Thanks for all the kind (and less kind) comments, the well-wishers, Christmas greeters, and if ever I’ve been able to give you reason to take a deep breath, forget the day’s troubles, and smile, it will have been worth doing this for me.  Merry Christmas! ]

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

EVERY DAY IS COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS DAY.  Apart from other occasions, there is no set time for doing this, and there are practical reasons for such : (1) you gain blessings everyday and therefore it seems logical, NOT superstitious, for doing it.  Of course, you may lose blessings as well, but that’s besides the point. (2) for those who believe in positive energy and related stuff, if you affirm receipt of blessings and thank a Higher Power for them (whatever your faith, and whether or not you have a faith, you’ve gotta believe in a force in the Universe other than yours, responsible at the very least for Intelligent Design, not necessarily personally interested in you, but that’s for another conversation OK?), chances are, positive acts and events beget ditto, and while I’m not recommending lying supine under the bayabas tree, recognizing blessings is sometimes its own blessing.  (3) and last, you never know what will happen tomorrow, this afternoon, or even an hour from now.  You may lose that all-important opportunity to acknowledge, even if only for yourself, that you’ve been one lucky person most of your life.  Enough said :

I’m thankful that no disaster has personally rocked my world.  The most clueless response I can think of whenever I come across news of a major disaster like the one that visited Mindanao last Sunday is, omg how horrible, but that could never happen to me could it???  Let’s admit it : our breathtaking naivete, smug conviction that awfully bad things happen only to other people, and the law of averages all combine to tell us that while we can condole and sympathize with the unlucky ones, we can safely reassure ourselves that we are somehow immune from such misfortune.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Part of the tragedy last Sunday was that typhoons hardly ever visit Northern Mindanao, but it happened.  High tide, the lack of absorption from the soil, the fact that the flash floods occurred late at night, all point to the mentality that a catastrophe of such magnitude was furthest from the minds of leaders and those responsible for preparing for it.  Even in Christchurch, New Zealand, where government and the Kiwi culture are known for disaster-preparedness and safety consciousness, and where a previous earthquake was enough warning, no one could’ve imagined the death and destruction that visited one of the worlds’s most beautiful cities last February.  Among many culprits?  “It can happen, but we have time to prepare.”  Returning to my own little world, I know that disaster can make its personal mark on me anytime, and I’m just grateful it hasn’t.

I’m grateful I have a job. Period.  No complaints about it being overseas (and away from kids) and the wage rate (not high but not too low, either).  The reason being that so many people are unemployed, underemployed, employed in shabby circumstances, exploited, exposed to hazardous conditions and substances, or worse, hate their job.  The hours are not-so-great, there is some manual labor involved, some tasks are tedious and boring, but I could do a lot worse.  I can do tedious and boring, especially after a week of  helping pack 20-kg flour bags when the mill went into slowdown early December and Bisor and moi packed the equivalent of 18 tons (bag by bag of course) into paper bags one damp and dreary night.  I know a lot of people, especially locals, would kill for a job like mine, where the pay is steady and the company is stable.  That only makes me more grateful, and glad that I can get along with colleagues and superiors.The fact that my work visa status gives me even less employment prospects (I can only work for the employer stated in the visa) makes me even luckier as (for now) they’re not slave-drivers, communicate with the union as often as time allows, and try not to take advantage of migrant workers like me.

I am grateful that I’m in reasonably good health.  Once a week or thereabouts, I wake up with a gout attack (or whatever it’s called) caused by more than a glass of red wine, or a little too much red meat in my lunch or dinner, a dip in temperature of more than a couple of degrees.  All of those are avoidable, so I have only myself to blame.  An ophthalmologist -friend (Atty Fe Makalinao, thank you) tells me that I, along with a few billion other middle agers in denial, suffer from presbyopia, which is a type of nearsightedness caused by age.  This is on top of regular myopia and astigmatism, but just like my job, I could do worse.  I have early onset creaky knees, aggravated most probably by my insistence on running around the block on warm days, early onset narcolepsy ( I wait up for my favorite shows only to start snoring even before the same is half over ), and endure high blood sugar and high LDL cholesterol, understandable given the wild excess of my youth.  Otherwise, I’m in relatively good health and have maintained my weight and fitness, as long as I don’t abuse my body’s longevity, durability and forebearance.  I need to add that probably 90% of the maintenance and upkeep, especially on the cosmetic side, I owe to esposa hermosa, who has done her best to update my appearance for the 21st century and hopefully the succeeding decades.  For this I am doubly grateful ! 🙂

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

You believe me now when I say I’ve so many things to be thankful for?  By no means is this list exhaustive, there are probably a million other blessings I must one day record, acknowledge and pay forward.  In this season of thanksgiving, giving thanks is only half the equation, and acquires more meaning when you pass it on (the blessing) to someone else, especially someone who needs it badly and who least expects it.

Maligayang Pasko my friend, thank you for your readership, and a blessed Christmas to you and your family!


Reblog : It’s complicated

The picture says it all. Acknowledgment and thanks to globalbalita.com

[ Note : Most of us Pinoy migrants, being laymen, are not only far from the current constitutional controversy physically, we’re also unaware of the dynamics of legality and authority between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of our government.  I’ve had a special opportunity to hear a very personal perspective on the issue, from a university classmate who’s had a chance to know one of the principal actors in the controversy close-up.  I believe her Facebook post, written (and reblogged here with her permission) while waiting for her daughter’s party to wind up, speaks for itself. Thanks for reading ! ]

The sad part about this (Supreme Court Chief Justice Rene Corona‘s) impeachment is it is polarizing the legal community. Graduates of the UP (University of the Philippines) College of Law are divided; so are the members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and I’m sure, the Ateneo Law School for that matter.

Though I worked for Rene Corona for five years when he was still the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs, I will not say his appointment as Chief Justice did not disturb me. From the very start, it was my opinion that he should not have accepted the appointment. I would have declined it, had I been in his position; in the same way that I declined an invitation of my former boss to serve as the Director in the new Disciplinary Office that replaced the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, because I knew that there was a more senior lawyer than me who should be offered the position first.

For me, Justice Corona‘s fault was in accepting the position. His ambition really got the better of him. But that is not an impeachable offense. Not to mention that the Supreme Court has already upheld the legality of his appointment. Next they will say that is because the other Justices are mostly (former President Gloria) Arroyo appointees. So, are the decisions of the Supreme Court now void simply because most of the Justices are Arroyo appointees? Since the answer is obviously no, he now has this impeachment case filed against him, as a last ditch effort.

I can debunk all the eight charges against him if need be; but what’s the use? (Italics mine.) The House came up with 188 votes and those who voted for the impeachment didn’t have any idea at all what the grounds for impeaching him were. In the Senate all they need is 16 votes. I know better than to believe that those senators will vote based on their appreciation of the charges and the evidence.

Justice Corona is a good and decent man. I have known him for 18 years. Though I don’t know if the Corona I knew during the Ramos Administration is still the same Corona post SC appointment, neither does anyone else. What I am saying is, that he has sold his soul to GMA (former President Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo) is pure conjecture or speculation, that can never be proven in any trial.

His detractors claim that hitting him is not tantamount to hitting the Supreme Court, and that attacking the two should not be confused with each other. I say then that they are right.  Corona is not the Supreme Court, so don’t blame him for decisions of the entire Court, which were arrived at by 15 Justices, and not by Corona alone. The congressmen say that they will also impeach the other justices who have voted consistently in favor of GMA.

Where will that bring us then, if not to a regime where the Executive Branch has made sure that the Supreme Court will only vote as is pleasing and favorable to the Executive Branch.  (National media personality) Ted Failon so disappointed me this past week as he did nothing but bash Corona with statements that were so inconsistent, one could easily see that he did not really know if he got his facts right.

To wit: LAHAT po, HALOS LAHAT po ng caso ni GMA ay bumoto siya pabor kay GMA. HALOS LAHAT po; LAHAT po; LAHAT PO, HALOS LAHAT po, pabor kay GMA LAHAT ng boto niya. I am not kidding nor exaggerating, he repeated it at least three times, the  flip-flopping between lahat and halos lahat. There is a hell of a difference between the two.

That Corona’s wife was appointed by GMA is not among the impeachable offenses either. As already pointed out, there are so many members of the same families holding positions in the government. Not to mention former Chief Justice (Reynato) Puno whose wife was Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court. Neither is the fact that complaints were filed against his wife for one charge or another, an impeachable offense. He cannot be implicated by mere affinity. That is absurd.

Even Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who just got elected to the International Criminal Court, admitted that her husband was corrupt but made it clear that she is in no way to be connected to his actions. With respect to the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, I don’t think Corona can claim that he has been filing it if he in fact has not. It would be so easy to verify that. In the second place, all the Justices, since time immemorial, were exempted from making public their SALN. Not that I agree with it; I don’t.  But this issue against the Judiciary has been around since time immemorial, so if Corona will be charged for this, let all the others be charged too.

In the five years that he was my boss, Corona never once tried to sway me to draft our decision in favor of any party. He was the only boss who praised work which was excellently written, unlike the others whose only concern was for us to finish deciding as many cases as possible; no matter if the decisions were so lousily written that sometimes the appellees’ names were interchanged with the appellants’, or there were two dispositive portions (or the paragraph/s where the actual judgment is rendered).

Anyway, this issue is putting a strain on everything and everyone. In their desire to be in the good graces of the President, people resort to Corona-bashing every instance they get. Take our Christmas Mass in the Palace, for instance, to our surprise, the priest included Corona in his sermon, by calling him Corona ng tinik (crown of thorns) ; and as if that wasn’t enough, before he gave his final blessing at the end of the mass, gave an additional sermon, starting off with how a statement of one priest should not be interpreted as coming from the Church; and, in the same light, a Justice’s statements should not be interpreted as the entire Supreme Court’s either; and how much he prayed that Corona will resign. My gosh! And I thought there was a Separation of Church and State Doctrine, and that using the pulpit for political purposes went out with Padre Damaso.

I’m sorry that this became such a long essay; the truth is I’m waiting for my daughter’s party to end and had nothing to do to kill the time. It’s actually almost 6:00 in the morning but their party hasn’t ended yet. I can still hear voices of people singing.

In the same way that I don’t know how to make the party outside end, I don’t have any idea how to end this piece. The whole country has such high hopes for the President. I voted for him and was so happy that he won. It was like finding light at the end of the tunnel. I would like to give the President the benefit of the doubt; that his intentions are pure, and that it is only because he is not a lawyer that he has the wrong appreciation and interpretation of how things should be done.

I choose to lift everything up to the Lord. He has never forsaken us and has always helped us through everything. When (Ferdinand) Marcos cheated Cory (Aquino) in the elections, He helped us drive Marcos out. When the senators refused to impeach ERAP (Estrada), He again helped us to drive Erap out. When we realized that we weren’t actually in a better boat with GMA, He helped Noynoy to win in the elections. When it was obvious that (Ombudsman) Merci Gutierrez was going to be an obstacle to the daang matuwid (or path of righteousness), He helped Noynoy to get her out of the Ombudsman’s Office.

In the same manner, I also believe that He will be here for us again this time. If Corona is innocent, He will help him get enough senators on his side. But if what the President believes is true; and that Corona would have devoted his entire stint in the Supreme Court to protecting GMA, then he will either give up the fight and resign, or be impeached by the senators.

This is actually contrary to the earlier view I wrote above, when I said that I know better than to believe that the senators will vote based on their appreciation of the charges and the evidence presented, but because I believe that there is a God, I won’t lose hope that people will do what is right.

All we have to do is pray.

Atty Diane Reyes

Thanks for reading !

Chasing Ghosts of Pinoy Christmas/es Past

Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny. – Tyron Edwards

[ Note : please pause a while and whisper a prayer for our kabayan who were victims of the flashfloods in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities and towns in Bukidnon and Negros Oriental provinces.  Maraming salamat Ka Uro and AKLnzPINOYs for the Carabao to Sheep award-winning migrant self-help volume.  God bless the Philippines ! ]

WE WOULD ANYWAY MISS all things Pinoy and anything that evokes memories of the Philippines, but in every which way the poignancy and void-in-our-hearts become more heart-rending come Christmastime.

Almost every image I hold fast in my mind that is associated with Christmas/New Year stands strong against the sifting sands of time; they will not bend or break with the cobwebs of time or withering memory.  First party, first camping trip, first crush, first heartbreak, first girlfriend, first Simbang Gabi, first trip abroad, first noche buena of one plate of instant pancit canton and a bottle of Coke for two, first noche buena as a dad, first noche buena as an accidental migrant, first noche buena married (again), and so on and so forth…

But whether  happy or not, you can only get so personal with Yuletide reminiscings, because Christmas belongs to all.  Pinoys prepare as early as four months before the actual date of Jesus Christ’s birth, the least we could do is be as happy as happiness allows.  And the way our culture, DNA and disposition is wound up, it seems enjoying Christmas is second nature to us.  Sort of like wired into our system.

Below are some of the things I miss about the Pinoy Christmas experience, because they are so intrinsic to our celebration of the season, and because they make it so easy for us to savor, treasure and resonate said experience in our minds and hearts.

Christmas games we play.  No matter  what group, club, workplace I inhabited or joined, come Christmastime there just had to be Kris Kringle, Secret Santa (exchange gift), paraffle and any other game slash activity that promoted gift-giving.  The mechanics varied, but the goal was to get everyone, even the tightwads and Scrooges, into the spirit of selflessness, thoughtfulness and spontaneous generosity , which was what Christmas was (is) all about.

I remember some guys asking to swap names of their monita (“baby” or gift recipient) just for a chance to get closer to the object of their affection.  Whether or not they actually succeeded with their crush is surely stuff for another story.

Simbang Gabi.  Probably this is the most dramatic and well-loved tradition of the Pinoy Christmas, when the community comes to life in the wee hours of the morning the last nine days before the 25th, to celebrate Holy Mass in a very special way.  All of the aspects of Misa de Gallo like the chilly dawn air, the urgency of everybody just to pencil in the church service at the start of the day, and the feeling of spiritual satisfaction later, make the experience extra special.  The funny thing is among the youth, some who would otherwise avoid religious affairs suddenly find the time to do so, with the chance to enjoy eye candy a side attraction.

Noche Buena.  Its famed gastronomic excess has in recent years been reined in a bit by health consciousness and fiscal restraint, but on the whole no Pinoy Christmas would be complete without the Noche Buena or Christmas dinner.  Consider : Paellas are cholesterol-friendly, relyenos are screened against excess of protein, Crispy pata is carefully trimmed for the fat-averse, and even desserts like leche flan and buko / fruit salad (Pinoy style) are prepared sympathetically for those predisposed to diabetes.  But those normally careful in all that they eat, 364 days of the year, let go just this once on bisperas ng Pasko when unleashing both the appetite and appreciation for good cooking is socially acceptable, this season only.

Family reunions. Who ever heard of Christmas without pamasko and get-togethers, reunions and reconciliations between family members long separated by distance, time and misunderstandings?  Whether it’s just an excuse, an obligation or sticking to tradition, the holidays are a good reason for each character in the clan to do his/her part and greet, hug and say hello to every other relative.

This is regardless of whether you like your kamag-anak or not, and in fact the urgency to socialize and interact with kin rises, the less popular or less acquainted you are with them.  December is probably the only time of the year when you will see them, and that is why social tools like great food and a little bubbly are there, to soften the impact of interpersonal awkwardness.  So kiss that great aunt with the Elizabeth Arden aura, or share an up-close-and-personal moment with the tabako smelling uncle.  You never know if you’ll meet them again next year.

Malls.  In themselves, malls have become self-contained aquariums of Christmas-themed performance art and consumerism.  Everything, from the giant, gorgeous and glittering Christmas decor;  the all-out orgasmic Christmas sales designed to empty your Christmas bonus envelope and get rid of every last item in their inventory; the unstinting bachanalia of food and drink in various food courts, to the unending exodus of shoppers in and out of mall gates is designed to celebrate the two most important aspects of Christmas activity : shopping for others, and shopping for self.  ( That actually adds up to shopping period, but two sounds better than one. )  Everything is calculated to create and expand foot traffic into the gleaming corridors of Megamall, Mall of Asia, Robinsons Malls, G-2, G-3 and G-4, create the primacy of want over need, and the urgency of now over later.

Whether it’s to appease, to impress, to elate, to reward and to acknowledge, the gift is the currency of the season, and is the primordial way to communicate feelings and emotions.  We can’t help it.  Gift-giving, and as a consequence malls, have become as Pinoy as Jollibee and Max’s which incidentally are found on every corner of your favorite mall.  Now, how convenient is that?

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For sure there are other equally important aspects of Paskong Pinoy, for example the yearly Christmas amusement parks, Christmas caroling, the Christmas long-distance call from OFWs, to name just a few.  But I’ll stop here for now.  I’m sure you get the idea.  Thanks for keeping true to the Pinoy Christmas tradition, wherever in the world you are.  Maligayang Pasko kabayan !

Thanks for reading !


Darkest Before Dawn

[Note : Thoughts I put down while waiting for the work visa.  As you can probably tell from the video above, impending Christmas holidays and my situation have also made me senti as well as anxious.  Claim card for a package (likely from Immig NZ) just came in, so I may be overtaken by events by the time you read this.  Thanks in advance for reading dear reader, and pls take a peek at the latest foodie blog of Kaka and Tata, http://keenbeans.blogspot.com/2011/12/la-porchetta-eat-live-love-italian.html!  Pahabol pa, thanks so much to Atty Argee Guevarra for the blogsite header pic above! ]

ON THE RARE NIGHT when my Bisor is extra busy and the air is moonlit and unfrigid, I volunteer to measure the contents of the hundred-ton silos for inventory.  Don’t worry, it’s easier than it sounds and Bisor is only too willing to accept the offer.

The silos are located next to the six relatively smaller 30-ton gristing bins, which by themselves are already hard enough to reach via raised platform atop the equivalent of four floors.  There is a connecting ladder that is used only once a shift if at all, and strong winds (that Wellington is famous for) discourage even that singular visit.

But to get to the top of the gargantuan silos, there is yet a steeper access ladder that one hardly uses unless the sensors are dusty and / or need cleaning.  This is why an offer to do the actual stocktake by someone other than the shift OIC is so welcome, something that comes once in a blue moon, like tonight.

I brave the steep staircase, accessway and ladder, climb the very tip of the silos and measure each of the bins using a special tape measure.  My bonus is that beyond the abrupt solitude, it’s the only place miles around where, to your right, are evergreen valleys that give the Wellington region much of its lushness and topography, and to your left is a small azure bay that provides a prelude to the momentous divide between the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

The stark beauty is enough to bring a tear to my eyes.  It also provides rich symbolism to the absurd abundance of blessings I have attained since embarking on my journey as a NZ accidental migrant.  It takes a lot to justify using the word idyllic for any destination, much less one that I’ve reached fortuitously (a bro asked me to extend my vacation, gave me a job in 2007, I’ve been here ever since).

But coming from a country where dead rivers are a way of life, vanishing tax revenue ( in the billions of pesos) ending up in overseas bank accounts is the reality of governance, and the term presidential plunder is more a redundancy than an adjectival phrase, living in NZ is about as close to living in a working, functioning welfare-state democracy as Manny Pacquiao is to boxing immortality.

Granted, there are a lot of flaws in this paradise.  Among OECD nations, NZ is on the low end in education, nutrition and access to quality shelter, has one of the least prosperous middle classes, and most pernicious poverty.  After the PIGS debacle and Euro currency massacre, there is probably no more First and Second World demarcation, the reality now reduced to a distinction between those who can and cannot keep their figurative heads above the engulfing waters of massive debt.  NZ is in the former class, but may not stay there too long.  Crime is a continuing , persistent problem, but only in the highly urbanized areas.

But overall, for someone who has spent most of his 47 years in carbon monoxide-heavy smog, near smokey mountains of garbage and a dysfunctional economy, it hasn’t been a bad five years.

The inevitable tradeoff in the bargain  is the uncertainty.  I didn’t step into this eden with a marketable skill, enough for NZ to welcome me as a Permanent Resident into its nurturing, Caucasian arms.  As consolation, I wear the dogtag of guest worker, holder of a work visa that I apply for yearly under the tolerance and benevolence of my hosts, not ideal compared to the welfare-state benefits enjoyed by my more fortunate PR kabayan, but under the circumstances I haven’t much choice.

I’ve walked the walk and talked the talk.  Borrowed all the nice books from their extra-thoughtful library (Grisham, King and Baldacci), viewed all the nice DVDs, ran in my favorite Nikes and soccer jerseys and even asked Mahal to cook her award-winning dishes (all of them are award-winning), but I can only do so much.  Like the condemned man on death row, it’s not so much the Axman’s blade or Hangman’s noose that drives me nuts but the waiting.  On paper, my odds are even : I’ve improved my skills, secured the all-important employer’s endorsement letter, produced my supporting documents (contract, payslips, performance assessments), even obtained an attestation from the Justice Ministry that I’ve kept my nose clean and brain sober all this time.  But you never know.

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When I was six and still euphoric from a first-ever birthday party Mom and Dad threw for me, between kisses and hugs I naively promised my folks that when I was rich, famous and successful, I would gift them a jillion pesos on their birthdays, buy them Mercedes Benzes on a whim, and take them on tours round the world every now and then.

Years and years later, I am nowhere near that dream, nor do I think I will ever reach it.  but should I ever be granted Permanent Resident status, I will buy them MLA-Wellington tickets first chance I get, drive them around Wellington in our trusty (and rusty) 1992 Nissan Pulsar, especially to see the sights, and, given the comforts and conveniences of good old NZ, treat them like the king and queen that they are.  They deserve at least that much, and I hope it’ll be close enough to that six-year old’s dream.

God bless the migrant Filipino, and mabuhay tayong lahat ! Merry Christmas to all!

Thanks for reading !

on proud dads and budding poets

[ Note : I swear (although it’s bad to swear) it wasn’t my intention to engage in self-serving puffery or boastfulness, but Bunso just did something way cool.  So cool in fact that I had to re-post it in its entirety, no explanatory preface needed (except these breaths that I’m wasting now)By the time I’ve finished posting I will have found a picture of the author somewhere here, hope you enjoy it (his work) as much as I have, thanks!]

I made a Poem as my project for my Filipino 11 class (Panitikan) I want you guys to read it and rate it from 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest and 10 the highest just to expect what grade my teacher might give me 😀 God bless! P.S be brutally honest.


-Brent B

Pilipinas ang ating bayang minamahal at

Bayang kailan ma’y di magkukulang sa dangal

Panahon pa ng ating mga ninuno

Sa atin ‘to, satin’ mga Pilipino

Ang ‘Perlas ng Silanganan”Ay puno ng karangalan

At kailan ma’y di nawalan ng kagitingan

Ating inang bayang handa nating ipaglaban

Pilipinas ay puno ng kayamanan

Nandito lahat ng ating kailangan

Ang tubig at mga pagkain

Kay dami sa ating lupain

Maghanap-hanap ka lamang

Ito’y iyong makakamtan

Sa kasalukuyan tayo ay moderno

Bumuti ang buhay ng lahat ng tao

Puno ang bayan ng pagbabago

Gawa na din nating mga tao

The damage from careless dumping of garbage will span at least two generations

Ngunit itong ating tahanan

Tila ating hinuhubaran

Tayo’s nasa daan patungo sa kaunlaran

Kasama nito’y pagkasira ng kalikasan

an oil slick bird

Tayong mga tao’y di na natuto

Noon pa man ay wala ng respeto

Ang kalikasan ay ating ginago

Pati mga hayop tinarantado

Sabi natin tayong mga tao’y matatalino

Kelan ba natin to gagamitin para sa mundo

Ang Pilipinas, inabuso ng mananakop

Wari ito ay binastos at tinanggalan pa ng saplot

Ang mga anak nito’y ginalit at tinakot

Inalila, sinaktan tinrato masahol pa sa hayop

So much to steal and so little time...

Ngayon tayo nga ay malaya

Diwa naman natin ay sira

Kapangyarihan ay hawak ng iilan

Karamihan pa dito ay mayayaman

Ninanakawan ang kaban ng bayan

Mga mahihirap ay walang laban

Kaya ang ating bayan ay puno ng kahirapan

Sari-sari nating problema ay di’ maagapan

Mga politiko walang tigil sa pagkurakot

Di’ titigil hanngang lahat ay kanilang nahakot

Tayong Mga Pilipino ay nananatiling matatag

Mga Pilipino ay may sipag at tiyaga

Tayo ay babangon mula sa pagkakadapa

Daan patungong kinabukasan tayo ang maglalatag

Kailangan lang natin ay pagtitiwala

Tiwala sa ating mga kapwa

Mga problema ay mawawala

Mga isip natin ay huwag nating isara

Ang bayan natin ay puno ng pag-asa

Dahil bawat bukas ay bagong umaga.


Hope you enjoyed it! just comment your rating please. It would be much appreciated 😀 Thanks!

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Thanks for reading, and in case you’re wondering, he gets it entirely from his mother. 🙂


Why Sonny and Nieva Lim are my favorite Kinoys*

They are probably within two to three degrees of separation of any Pinoy in Wellington

FROM AN average of one a month for caterings and once a week for churchyard sales, Sonny and Nieva Lim have provided sumptuous handa for more than a hundred birthdays, binyags, weddings and other anniversaries, and definitely more than 500 churchyard sales of their Pinoy turo-turo, kakanin and Ilonggo delicacies after every Filipino  mass in the Wellington Region for at least the last ten years.

This they have done without much fanfare, announcements or tooting of their own horn.  They have gone about letting their product and service speak for themselves, using word-of-mouth more than anything else, and in the process earning for themselves quite a reputation as the Pinoy caterer and food service provider of choice in this part of the world.

Just one of the many offerings of Sonny and Nieva's catering outfit.

And truthfully, their expertise doesn’t need much help in promotion : the precise formulation and mixing of their ingredients and the effort of love that goes into every dish make the satisfied (and well-fed) celebrants and hosts of their catered event, their personal signature.

Their previous base of operations was Capitol Bakery, a store-cum-cafe located at the heart of a tourist spot called Petone, but they have recently chosen to focus their efforts on catering and events management.

One senses from the sense of purpose and military-like efficiency that characterize much of their work that they feed our kabayan with kare-kare and bagoong, puto and dinuguan, menudo, adobo and all kinds of pancit more as a devotion to their calling than anything else.  Although they have a lean staff of two or three, the husband-and-wife team can often be seen at other Pinoy events like Independence Day, Queens Birthday and Pinoy-themed basketball tournaments, peddling their wares on their own and cleaning up by themselves afterward.

The one dish that sticks to my mind as it is one of their specialties is the pork sisig that combines the juicy succulence of pork cheeks with their unique tangy style of sauteeing, I’m no culinary expert, but week in and week out, this dish never fails to impress.

But you don’t have to take my word for it, kabayan.  When you’re in Wellington and homesick for Pinoy cooking, just look them up via +64274495037, or e-mail them at tibiao@xtra.co.nz.  Your tummy will not regret it.

And that is why Sonny and Nieva Lim, among many, are my favorite Kinoys.

Thanks for reading!


*Kinoy is a contraction for Kiwi-Pinoy, a non-racial term for Pinoys who live, permanently or otherwise, in New Zealand.

Stream-of-consciousness rants

[Note :  Just experimenting with blogging self-help tips, as I am putting down whatever comes to mind and deciding if I should be logging it on the Blog of Life.  So if it appears, you’ll know I decided in the positive, or haven’t been able to put anything else. When you have time, pls take a look at what the comedian Russell Peters (above) has to say about Pinoys. And belated kudos to AKLnzPINOYS’s From Carabao to Sheep, a recent winner of the 2011 Migration Advocacy and Media (MAM) Awards ! Thanks for reading! ]

I CAN’T BELIEVE Panganay goes out Friday nights and does the following :

(1) Commute to the city.  (2) Try to get in a dance club predominated by Asians (I’m not sure what they’re called, in our time they were discoes or night clubs, yes?) (3) Meet his crew and try to get into another club, this time not just for Asians.  (4) Attract enough attention from people who appreciate their dancing, and get free drinks.  (5) Repeat (2), (3) and (4). (6) Crash the nearest friend’s place available, and dance some more (without hopefully raising hell with the neighbors) till the crack of dawn.  (7) Go home.

Unless he has something more important coming up, which is practically never, he does this every weekend.  He breezily waves goodbye (Bukas o Linggo na balik ko , ‘Pa), returns like a zombie 24 to 36 hours later, and is none the worse for wear after a few hours’ sleep.

I was young once, but I can’t remember expending as much energy and sleep loss for something like this.  He has no known vices (at least I hope he doesn’t do drugs; hates smoking and drinks little), doesn’t think of sex all the time like I did, and doesn’t suffer from post-teen angst and existentialist stress the way most youth do (OK, the way I did), so I can’t relate too much to his weekend nocturnal proclivity.  Obviously, he just wants to enjoy himself, seeks the company of his friends, likes dancing, and lack of self-confidence has never been an issue for him.  Perhaps my main source of amazement with him is that he is definitely more poised, polished and self-aware than I ever was at his age.

More notes : He commutes to the city although he has a license because he is saving on petrol, and there is the slight chance he will come home inebriated, and in Wellington (like Auckland) there is a late Friday/early Saturday bus (4.00 am) for the wasted, intoxicated and fatigued, very thoughtful of the city council and obviously to avoid possible accidents and alcohol-related incidents.  He starts clubbing in an Asian venue probably because he will encounter more friends there (Pinoy, Southeast Asian, Korean, Chinese etc) but will later gravitate towards the better clubs, which are culturally and racially more integrated.  I don’t know how structured the night life is here, I’m just basing it on the vague (and purposely hazy) stories he tells us.  A typical story for him begins with finding a bouncer/security guy who knows him and lets him in free, dancing their latest routine and grabbing the oohs and aahs from the club crowd, usually female, and ending up cozy with more than a few pretty girls, usually tipsier then they are.

The question I always want to ask but never end up asking him is, anak did you get lucky last night?  I first try to discern it from his stories and body language, but eventually just wait for him to volunteer said information, if he fancies.  Physical needs and male realities aside, what I can glean from him is that although he will not ignore opportunities as they present themselves, it’s not a priority for him.  It’s TMI at this point, but he’s definitely not the horny hormone-addled night-owl that his dad was, thank God for that.

Gosh I miss those days.

**         **         **

As if the uncertainty of waiting for a new visa wasn’t enough, the plant boss who hired me without even trying me out or giving me a probationary period was unceremoniously bundled out of the company after 22 years of faithful service.

He was the latest casualty of a regime of terror fueled by a misguided fanaticism in favor of health and safety.

Look, I’m as safety-conscious as the next guy.  But when you can no longer climb up a three-foot ladder without hitching yourself to a harness, or clear a choke without shutting down the entire system to avoid infinitesimal risks, the health-and-safety philosophy has clearly been reduced to the ridiculous.

Procedures we had been following for years were deemed unsafe, and new procedures that our machinery and architecture hadn’t been adjusted to were set in place.  A few of us were unable to adjust quickly enough, and by virtue of command responsibility our boss took the blame.  Worse, it was made to look like he had allowed all the old practices against advice and clear orders (I’m just guessing, but it was maybe to avoid liability), and because he was loyal to the company to the end, Boss accepted the blame and took the hit for everyone else.

In the clearest language possible, it just sucks.  The change has deeply polarized the staff, and nobody knows how to react without clearly exposing our displeasure over the turn of events and/or risking our own employment.

More later.

Thanks for reading !