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.

***               ***               ***

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 !

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