Speechless but not wordless : Many thanks, muchas gracias, xiexie nin & maraming salamat po

Not sure if nomination means the award itself, but I'm claiming it ūüôā

THE LAST time I earned an award was 1972 in 1st Grade, when I was able to use in a single drawing¬†all the crayons in my 16-size Crayola box, Teacher Xu (Shu between a schwa and an umlaut)¬†was so¬†dazzled by my triangle-and-square house and stick figures that she gave me an unheard-of 82 in Art, and proclaimed my drawing (that day) to the rest of my bewildered classmates to be “Most Creative.”¬† Needless to say, my artistic career was all downhill from there.

Seriously, I don’t ever recall ever being given an award so this one, The Versatile Blogger Award really means a lot to me.¬† Moreover, coming from a very popular and outstandingly inspiring blogger, Ms Alpha Miguel-Sanford¬†of Aspire. Motivate. Succeed, it’s quite a humbling experience and is one of the few things I can truly be proud of.

I want to make it formal, so to Ms Miguel-Sanford, I thank you sincerely for nominating my blog, and for believing in me ! Because we are both Filipinos, I say proudly maraming maraming salamat po !

If you’ll allow a few personal insights on blogging : it starts out best when you’re at a solitary stage in life, when you are forced to step back and take stock on how much (or little) you’ve done to justify your existence.¬† Whatever your assessment is becomes(usually) your electronic output, whether it’s done as a chronicle, or as justification, a comparison with greater and lesser lights, or merely an observation of what’s been done, the finished product is a work in progress on that aspect of your life that you wish to expose to the world.

Admittedly, blogging is an exercise in exhibitionism; the more naked and unadorned it is (about ourselves), the better.¬† For many bloggers, it is unashamedly therapeutic, and the beneficial effects, mostly incidental.¬† Hopefully, the end justifies the means, right? ūüôā

Along the way, you discover kindred souls that say, hey I feel the same way man, and you just put into words what I’ve been feeling / thinking, and because of the power of shared experience, you either influence others into choosing the road you have traveled, or in some cases, avoiding the pitfalls you’ve encountered.¬† That word influence is a bit presumptuous and quite powerful, but if a person buys into your blog (figuratively only, there’s no purchase involved), you hold in your keystrokes quite a powerful tool that can add value, happiness and satisfaction in other people’s lives.¬† It may start out as an unintended consequence, but to help others as a byproduct of your blog is a truly rewarding experience.

Another rule that must be followed by the Versatile Blogger awardee is that I must share seven things about myself, which is actually a redundancy on my part as at least half of the blog is devoted to personal life experiences, meaning that by nature I rave and rant about me, myself and I.¬† So sorry for the self-centeredness, but you’ve probably figured out by now that blogging is self-absorbed¬†in a lot of ways, the way you share best is by sharing what you know best, which is you and your world.¬† It’s like saying, here I am, warts and all.¬† Nevertheless, boredom alert sounded and damn the torpedoes,¬†here are my seven tidbits :

I was born on a lazy Friday afternoon at 2.00 pm, barely out of the birth canal and already aching for a TGIF brewsky.

Interpret it any way you want, but I have 4 brothers and no sisters.  I also honored my folks with their first granddaughter, also born on a Friday.

I group these three into one factoid : I love to watch people dance, but suffer congenitally from two left feet; I like being a nocturnal person by overcoming clumsiness in the dark but suffer from selective night blindness; and I can’t swim beyond five feet and four-and-a-half inches (which incidentally is my height).¬† Don’t these lovable traits go together?

I can’t elaborate on this, but I am probably the oldest student driver I know.¬† Don’t hate me please.

I don’t have a favorite food / dish, but if I had to recount the most memorable taste experiences, the dishes involved would probably be pork sinigang, Sichuan spicy noodles, Cadbury Picnic bars, Shakey’s Pizza, and my Ilocano yaya’s ginisang sitaw with adobong peanuts.¬† All these unleash floodgates of memories of yesteryear.

Don’t ask for a reason, but at least once a week, I exercise like crazy early in the day, and then later, undo all the fitness momentum generated by gorging on chips, pastry, soft drinks, and anything else I can get my hands on, and just stuff my face indiscriminately.¬† I can diet-wise go from supermotivated to superguilty before half the day is over.¬† I have to do something about that, because esposa hermosa usually catches me, I don’t know if it’s the health negatives or the getting caught that depresses me more.¬† As they say, at least I live to fight another day.

Have we reached seven yet?¬† This is related to Tidbit # 4 , but I still bike to work everyday.¬† I’m getting tired of using the pushbike while fighting gusty winter winds, so it will probably change this year.¬† Beyond that, I will probably elaborate later.

I pay forward the Versatile Blogger Award to the following :

1. Foodtrip by Nors Vargas

2.  Story of a girl by Katt

3.  Text and Photos by Jude Bautista by Jude Bautista

4.  Straight from the heart by Catherine Vi Clausen

5.  Something to read by Lilia Nicole

6. Lawyer on the Run by runningconsiglieri

That’s it for now.¬† I can’t think of anything more to say, other than something humorous and tongue-in-cheek¬†: “I am a drinker with a writing problem.”¬† Given all the treasures afforded to us by bloggers and blogging, a writing problem is certainly one we can all live with !

From the bottom of my heart, thanks all the guys in WordPress.com, Alpha Miguel, and all the visitors to our crazy little blog !  God bless you all always !


Pinoy eccentricities that make Kiwis scratch their heads

i have to acknowledge this properly, and I will promise, asap ! thanks again Alpha!

[ Note : we are beside ourselves with excitement, profuse thanks and eternal acknowledgment to Ms Alpha Miguel РSanford of Aspire Motivate Succeed, a five-star and world-class blogger who nominated us for Versatile Blogger Award.  For now, we can only say maraming maraming salamat po and we will hopefully live up to your lofty expectations AMS ! ]

EX-DIEHARD-BACHELOR SuperBisor is now a diehard boyfriend / fiancee.  Why am I not surprised to know that the betrothed is a kabayan with whom I share the same DNA, bagoong-scarred taste buds and kayumanggi blood coursing through my veins? 

He has enthusiastically engaged my “voluntary” services to translate Taglish idioms that defy dictionaries, illuminate persons, places and events unique to Pinoy culture,¬† and delineate aspects of the average Pinoy personality (for instance, clannishness, utang na loob, etc.).¬†

There are limits, though.¬† Some things you just can’t explain.¬† Just this afternoon, SB passed me a piece of paper on which was written a single word, purportedly to explain why she was curled up¬†in bed all day after an uncharacteristic cold snap in Manila brought about by a low-pressure area.¬† The word was bati.¬† I knew what it meant and the context it was used, but it wasn’t easy to explain it away, which kabayan girlfriend had¬†requested I do.¬†

Trying hard not to sound like a UFO-certified nutcase, I said : “If you believe in positive and negative waves, including brain waves, microwaves and sonic waves, sometimes these things come from persons near and around us, and according to your girlfriend, she took a hit from negative waves.”

I got exactly the response I deserved, Bisor looking at me like I was a confused little boy who lost his mommy.  Have you been smoking too many funny cigarets Noel he asked, trying to make light of the situation but clearly incredulous and requiring a little more by way of explanation from the only source of enlightenment he would get, for miles and miles around.

Sigh.¬† I won’t stretch a futile story for you kabayan, just that this bati thing extends particularly to babies from people they’ve met for only the first time, and the requirement to swab the baby’s heel with a sprinkle of your laway (saliva) to avoid propagation of the said negative waves.¬† Methinks that was enough to cut the explanation short.¬†

Another quaintness shared by many Pinoys is when the latter pass through a garden or similar corner of natural beauty and must tread around the place, we need to say tabi-tabi po (excuse me please) lest we overturn some half-hidden anthill or termite mound that will be a source of endless suffering for the rest of our life here on earth.  This belief has evolved from mythology and folklore into urban legend that neither you nor I are willing to disrespect , witness the saying wala namang masama kung pakinggan ang matatanda or a little superstition never hurt anybody, loosely translated.  Try explaining that to your non-Pinoy friend the next time you tiptoe around the bushes, and watch yourself turn red.

And have you noticed we have Christian-themed holidays, an Islam-inspired holiday, and now a Chinese New Year national holiday (last I heard) back home?¬† Forgetting momentarily the separation-of-church-and-state awkwardness, what do we tell our dayuhan colleagues when they ask, what’s up with that?¬† That our formerly homogenous Christian state is now a demographically diverse country with various religions, or that politician lawmakers need to please everybody and pass a holiday law at a drop of¬† a pin?¬† As they say, only in the Philippines.

And lastly, there are two aspects of our national flakiness that belong together, before I forget.  The first is the supposed endearment of padala whenever a person makes a journey back home or whereever there are Pinoys.  The nearest thing I can come up with for this is a bailment except that the person making padala reposes complete trust on whoever carrying the object of padala, whether it is cash, electronics, signature items or other objects of value.  The fact that in many cases the padala fails to make its way to the intended recipient, for one reason or another, never deters the person from requesting padala, again and again.

Companion to this Pinoy oddity is stuffing the suitcase or pasalubong box with imported goods that are easily purchased back home in specialty stores, duty-free shops or even the big supermarkets and department stores in malls.

Bisor made the observation when we told him about it, observing that (1) if it was really important , why didn’t we just post the stuff instead of stressing ourselves by dragging it through check-in and customs, and (2) wouldn’t it just be cheaper and more convenient to send money with which to buy the apparently desirable goods, hassle-free, in SM, Rustans or DFS after the chaos of departure and arrival?

The famous nuno sa punso and his condo

Agree on all counts, and I vigorously nod my head on that, but you don’t complete the ritual of sending off and welcoming back¬†of the OFW, even though these events might be a year or even two years apart.¬† Each person who’s wished the OFW well is entitled to a pasalubong or gift on the way back; not only is it bad luck to forget a promise to send or remember a token of gratitude before the OFW made his/her fortune, it is also a recognition of all the goodwill and sacrifices made in order that the foreign worker earn his/her bread overseas.¬† The humblest Toblerone bar, Las Vegas keychain, or¬†cheap souvenir¬†T-shirt, is a source of pride to the recipient even though in the grand total of repatriation budgets it means next-to-nothing and costs more to stuff it into the maleta, the airline scales be damned.

Again, try explaining this to Bisor, for whom every gram of baggage will be scrutinized and discussed, and you might as well forget afternoon tea.¬† As if explaining bati and nuno sa punso wasn’t enough.

Thanks for reading !


Why Dennis Sy is my favorite Fil-Chi-American

TO BE ABLE to say something profound enough about someone, it’s probably important to say that you’ve known him for some time. From early early on, we can’t say we were THAT close (hold two fingers together) with the subject of this discussion, but considering how long ago it was, and how much has come to pass since then, it’s probably close enough.
*** *** *** *** ***

Ten years before graduation, when we were still in short shorts / skirts and liberating our noses free from snot, high school batch 1982 of St Jude Catholic in Manila Philippines was a large, unwieldy bunch of around 250. It was understandably hard to see who would be great, who would be captains of industry and who would be giants of their respective professions. But though no one knew who would be great, you could see the rough silhouettes of who would acquire the aura of specialness around them.

One such aura holder was Dennis. We weren’t in the same section, but from afar it was not hard to witness, even with a bit of amusement, that this kid, with his quiet confidence, superior bearing and mini-swagger, was a BBOC (Big Boy On Campus), figuratively and literally. I didn’t even know his name, but I knew that he was SPECIAL. Little did I know how prophetic my intuition was gonna be.

Fast forward to golden high school years, and Dennis was almost certainly an alchemist with the Midas touch. His rich baritone and facility with the guitar was one of the signatures of the anticipated Mass choir. I can recall, when most of us could hardly carry a tune, him performing a Michael Johnson number in front of the school body, and strumming his guitar with ridiculous ease for good measure.

He was a multi-sport athlete who wore the school colors not just because he owned the skillz but also because he projected flash and flair, in nearly every sport he dabbled in. He had enough leadership smarts to be selected one of the senior officers in the ROTC corps. In hindsight, academics probably bored him, but he hit the books just hard enough to please Mom and Dad. You could tell that beyond all his extra-curricular accomplishments, there was a smart head between those impressive ears, as most of his spare comments were thoughtful and his insight, usually incisive.

Fast forward again, this time to university. Barely after graduation, and Dennis was setting his sights at a possible game changing career when he aced an extremely competitive admission exam given by an on-the-rise software company back home, an exam that sifted the top 1% from the ranks of the many, many exam candidates. This company paved the path to Dennis’s career in the IT industry, where he has distinguished himself and (he will probably admit) generated both financial and professional success as a citizen of the First World.

Along the way, he never forgot and has in fact nurtured his first and true love : creating and performing music that inspires and uplifts all who behold his musical talent. His band Chapter 2 is well-known in the New York tri-state area, and they have provided complementary talents to many visiting icons of music from the Philippines. He is never afraid to experiment with different musical genres and influences, but his most impressive instrument is his versatile voice that can interpret ballads, OPMs, mellow rock, R&B, jazz and even improvisational pieces that soothe the soul and amaze the senses.

As evidence of their depth, versatility and range, Dennis and Chapter 2 have been asked to perform in numerous venues and festivals, and have been honored by no less than the L.A. Music Awards in 2006.

Each time our countrymen and women back home are beset by tragedy, be it a typhoon, earthquake or similar calamity, Dennis and his crew are the first to come up with an event to raise awareness and funds to extend a helping hand, knowing fully well that the visibility of talent attracts attention easily.

Dennis is likewise never timid to use the transcendent tool of music and video to recognize and give testament to social change in the Philippines, whether it’s via the ballot box or peaceful protest.

Whether you judge him on a continuing life’s work, his many passions, or his solid friendships, Dennis is truly a man for all seasons.

As always, I strive to end a blog on a personal note. Twenty-three and a half years ago, when I stumbled into fatherhood as a young man unsure with what lay ahead the rest of his life, you visited me and my newborn as soon as you heard. I don’t know how you found out, who told you, or where I was. But somehow you found us, wished me well on my journey as family man, blessed my 12-hour old son, and went on your way. It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since then my friend, but that little kindness has not been forgotten. Then and now, you are and have always¬†been a great friend.

Happy birthday Dennis !



Dorian Gray in your own barrio (village)

[ Note : This is a dated video, but the subject is simply a remarkable individual, and quite appropriate for my rant today.  Thanks for reading ! Happy birthday to kabatch Mr Dennis Sy, please continue to inspire us with your musical talent ! ]

MANY MANY YEARS ago, on Mom’s island hometown somewhere between Albay and Masbate, on¬†its far end¬†in a then-sleepy fishing village called San Pascual, our hosts brought me and my bros to a 101-year old senyorita sipping steaming coffee in the middle of the day.¬† I’m not sure if she had quit smoking by then, but she looked like she was having a nicotine fit, maybe for some Bataan Matamis or Champion Menthols, or maybe it was just my imagination.

Boys, magmano kayo kay Mamay,  your great-grandmother. ( Loosely translated, we were asked to kiss her hand, a beloved Filipino tradition showing respect for elders. )

Before we could appreciate the uniqueness of the moment, realizing that in this soporific hut-by-the-sea were a motley crew representing four generations, we were peppering Mamay with enthusiastic yet respectful questions.

Ilang taon na po kayo ?¬† Isa’t – kalahati (a good natured joke at her expense, being that she was around 101 and a half¬†years young).¬† Naabutan nyo po ba ang panahon ng Kastila?¬† Panahon po ni Rizal at ni Aguinaldo (funny, but she was the one making po to us).¬† Ilan po lahat ng apo nyo?¬† Di ko na po alam, kilala ko lang mga dumadalaw sa akin (a reminder no doubt for her scores of great-grandkids to visit her more often).

The day was short and the small outrigger needed at least a few hours to return us to the township, and so we bade goodbye to Mamay, in what would be the first and last time we would ever see her before she joined our Creator.¬† I don’t recall how old she was when she died, but till that point she had lived a considerable length of life on Earth, and there was certainly no shame in breaking the century mark, for any of God‘s creatures.

In fact, I don’t remember enjoying a personal encounter with anyone over 100 then and now, back home and in my temporary adopted land.¬† I hear a lot about centenarians here, and it could be due to the healthier environment, the cleaner living, but there certainly are a lot of lolos and lolas who’ve conquered Father Time in both Metro Manila and the provinces as well.¬† In any case, when you’ve reached triple digits, it’s a life well lived, regardless of the country code.

Whether you believe beating the odds is a result of luck, spartan living, good genes, perfect nutrition, superhuman maintenance, a combination of the above or all of the above, the massive jungle of the longevity mystery, of how and why some people reach a ripe old age while others¬†don’t, has just been cleared a few hundred hectares of foliage.

Once the science is streamlined, even infants can be tested if they will live healthily until and after the age of 100, according to a recent article.  Newest inroads in gene mapping have made it possible for tests to reveal if you and I possess genetic characteristics shared by those who continue to live high-quality lives long after their contemporaries have died.

We can only do so much to stay healthy and avoid tempting Fate, especially with the stress and slow-death poisons of modern living, but certain people seem to stay both durable and healthy despite the said realities.  On the other hand, most of us need to contend with not just the worrying shelf life of our vital organs, but not knowing also if the rest of our bodies will start deteriorating after an unknown deadline.

And that’s just it ;¬†at some undetermined point in our lives it’s an immutable, unassailable truth that our bodies start breaking down, and the best we can do is to one, avoid the major illnesses which science has not conquered, and two, stay fit, nimble and supple to sustain the quality of life with which we are accustomed.

Conversely, there are a few people who have avoided cancer, hypertension, diabetes and cirrhosis, mostly lifestyle diseases that ravage the system and eat us up from inside.  These same people unsurprisingly are paragons of fitness, who outrun, outstretch and outlast people half their age, and continue reaching milestones like marathons, three-day hikes and endurance events.  Supervised by medical advisers, of course.

I would love to be one of these fortunate few who keep bounding out of bed every morning ready to seize the day, conquer the mountain or cross the Rubicon, but I don’t know if it’s in my DNA to be a SuperLolo, leaving all my contemporaries to eat my dust.¬† (Sorry for the uncharitable mental image, I think I’m getting carried away ūüė¶ )¬† But wouldn’t it be great not only to leap past the mid 21st century, but also to enjoy all your bodily functions at the height of your mental and physical powers while doing so?

Like Mamay, I would live to see all my grandkids and great-grandkids, see how well (or not-so-well) they turn out, compare notes with other SuperLolos and SuperLolas, and use the considerable wealth of my experience in dispensing unsolicited advice.  Every little bit will help.

I would be able to enjoy the momentous strides of Science begun during the previous century against disease, pestilence, poverty, pollution.  Because Man would no longer be distracted from basic struggles to acquire food, shelter and protection against the elements, naked aggression to compete for scarce resources would die a natural death, and humans would be allowed higher pursuits.

Of course these are just pie-in-the-sky assumptions I’m making.¬† And of course I would want my longevity to be a pleasant experience, otherwise it would be just as well if I clocked out like everybody else.

It’s just that living past your time is but part of the natural instinct to want to correct past mistakes, give vent to career frustrations, and live out childhood dreams.¬†¬† We keep forgetting that in life, nine times in ten you only get to do the important things ONCE, and most of us never get a second shot.

It’s true I met the closest thing to a Dorian Gray that 1970’s summer afternoon in San Pascual when I kissed Mamay’s hand.¬† But looking back, I know deep in my heart that she would’ve gladly exchanged her 101-and-a-half years for the satisfaction of knowing that she did everything right.

Thanks for reading !


Why George Bautista is my favorite Kinoy*

George in a recent visit back home to the Philippines. In the background is Doc Donald, another brother. ūüôā

AFTER THE LAST SCREAMING fan has left the building, the last points scored, the last game of the tournament played, it’s just you and the ball again.¬† You and your 11 teammates, volunteer support staff (if any), chalkboard and playbook, and the oh-so-many raw aches, sore joints and pulled muscles that feel bad now, but will feel a lot worse tomorrow.

Welcome to the world of playing coach George B, who has been an icon of Auckland Pinoy basketball for as long as anyone can remember.

Take away the adulation and glamor, notoriety and now-or-never competitiveness that is club basketball in the Filipino community, and basketball is simply a nuts-and-bolts game of five highly-motivated, purposeful and disciplined players seeking to outdo, outlast and outsmart their counterparts on the basketball floor.  Talent, physical ability and natural gifts like height and heft are important, but not decisive.  Think of five fingers acting as one hand, exploiting strengths and hiding weaknesses, reaching the pinnacle of club success playing team basketball.

This is what George has been hammering into his teams year in, year out and in so doing has been in the thick of things for nearly two decades as either player, coach or doing both with as little fanfare as possible.¬† In the process, he’s only been building boys into men, turning gangs into powerhouses, and doing his share to give team glory and immortality to the overall success that is the Pinoy Basketball sa Auckland (PBA) organization.

As you might guess, he is a basketball workaholic, living and breathing basketball.¬† He hates individual accolades, but uses it as a tool if it will spur the team to greater heights.¬† He loves the idea of molding individual competencies into a dynamic whole that, on the court and off it, pinpoint the weak link and gray area in an opponent’s offense or defense, and plunge the dagger deepest into the rival’s underbelly.¬†

He will probably kill me for this, but the coach I am reminded of most when thinking of George is Bobby Knight

After the buzzer sounds, he is the first to congratulate the opposing coach first, then each and every member of the other team.¬† Then it’s back to work, scrimmage and diagramming plays.

A product of the De La Salle University Green Archer organization, George first showed his brilliance in the PBA¬†via his court generalship and uncanny long-distance marksmanship, once converting 12 straight three-pointers in a game.¬† He added value to his game by lending his vast leadership and organizational talents not only to the PBA teams he has coached but also to the Auckland basketball selections that have won numerous Labor Day Weekend, Queen’s Birthday Weekend and other Filipino basketball intercity and interleague tournaments held throughout New Zealand’s Filipino community.

And while George will be the first to admit the winning is important, he likewise will stress to you that the forging of lasting friendships and links among kabayan, strengthening ties between kabayan of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton, Dunedin, and every other town, and playing a part in maintaining Pinoy-ness among countrymen through basketball, is probably equally important a factor in the formula of his basketball life.

That he has gained immeasureable respect and admiration from colleagues, fellow basketball lovers and gym rats is no doubt secondary to him.

He will never tell anyone as well, but as a natural downstream to his work as an elder in the Auckland sports fraternity, George has since the 1990s provided temporary shelter and lodging to countless Filipinos new to New Zealand and still looking for a place to stay.¬† He does so quietly and by calling the least attention to himself, preferring to allow people to think of him shooting three’s, aligning X’s and O’s, and being a master motivator of delicate egos.

And this, as well as the fact that he is my beloved bro, is why George Bautista is my favorite Kinoy.

Happy birthday George, love you always kapatid !

Thanks for reading !

*Kinoy, a contraction for Kiwi Pinoy, is a non-racial term for Filipinos who’ve either been born or have migrated to New Zealand.

Kiwi rules / Asian hues / Pinoy smiles 4 ur kabayan weekend jogger

even in CartoonLand, running's the thing to do.

IF DAD never did anything again for me for the rest¬†of my life¬†(and he did lots more) I would still have been grateful if only for the fact that he imbedded in me¬†the itch to run for exercise, run for solace,¬†run to destress, and to run for everything else.¬† I don’t have completely positive memories of running, sometimes he woke me up on early Sunday mornings and like everyone else, I wanted to sleep in, but overall, the experience of galloping wild through nature like a thoroughbred, relying on your legs to get anywhere, everywhere and the pheromones of releasing so much potential energy was something few memories could match.

Jogging (that was what running was called) from the Paco family home to Cultural Center every radiant Sunday at the crack of dawn left such a lasting imprint on my DNA that although I would all but consign physical activity to the dustbin of history for half a decade or so, when I hit the three-oh, four-oh, and sometimes even in between I would remember that I had a surplus of days of euphoria whenever I made running a weekend habit, and just carry on from where I stopped.

By the by, I can’t stress this enough : as long as you don’t have a history of heart and cardiovascular illness and you have checked with your doctor beforehand, running is one of the easiest forms of exercise to take up, and there’s no pressure whatsoever to start at a pace you’re not comfy with.¬† In fact, if you want to start with a brisk walk just to go easy on your tootsies and marshmallowy heels, so much the better.¬†¬† The only equipment you’ll need are a sturdy pair of cross-trainers (running shoes not essential), shorts or jogging pants, and a T-shirt, preferably one that sez something silly like kiss the jogger, it’s good for your health. ūüôā

Back to my running revival.¬† The latest episode¬†had its special feature : the air I heaved and gasped for was pure as the polar blasts from the nearby¬†South Pole, the only problem being that the same air was as cold.¬† Other than that, as long as I remembered the customs of the place, didn’t call too much attention to myself, and stayed polite and courteous, I usually enjoyed myself.

This is what a typical Kiwi mom trying to combine exercise and taking her baby out for a walk, looks like.

My first focus of observation was the hosts, of course, the hospitable Kiwis and Maoris.  Like driving, runners and walkers tended to stay on the left side of the footpath, which is the logical thing to do.  For us outsiders it took a little getting used-to, but it was alright after a while.  As they pretty much value their privacy and want to enjoy their quiet time either running or walking their dog, taking out their baby or spouse / partner on a stroll, or anything that involves ambulant distraction, acknowledging them via a nod or small smile is the standard way of greeting. 

This is actually good for me, because I am usually huffing and puffing, trying to look cool while going 150 beats a minute, and maintaining the connection between my cellphone radio and my chipipay earphones that could unravel anytime.  So, the first two rules with the locals : Stay on the left side, keep the nods short and the smiles sweet.  After that, you just make up as you go along.

The Asian wayfarers are different.  Mainland Chinese septuagenarians in track suits fit as kung fu masters, Southeast Asians picking up or bringing their grandkids to school, and South Asian couples walking to work, not very many hogging the footpath as runners but friendly just the same.

getting ready for the Bombay-to-Calcutta challenge ūüôā thanks and ackowledgment to desinuts.com

It might just be a coincidence, but Asians tend to be a tad more colorful in their garb, whatever the age, region or religious persuasion.¬† As opposed to locals who are more conservative in their attire, and prefer black probably to hide unflattering body contours (I’m just guessing), Asians are naturally more flamboyant, don’t seem to care about color coordination and clash colors any time they fancy.¬†

Because of the the above and my natural affiliations, I end up being a little more friendly when it’s an Asian I encounter, although it’s not my intention.¬† I correctly guess that smiles are more easily returned and waves acknowledged, and bottom line it’s probably an it- takes-an-outsider-to-know-an-outsider type of thing, but it could just be me.

I reserve my best close-up smiles for Pinoys who’re running to the grocery, running to the Salvation Army store, or just running period that I occasionally encounter during the weekend.¬† Kabayan aren’t very big on running, because there’s so much to do on weekends, like attend Pinoy parties, go to Mass, do your groceries, and catch up on much-needed sleep, so when you do see someone of the kayumanggi persuasion who’s chattering with their companion with the familiar vowels, sibilants and plosives, I not only make a full stop, but make sure I’m heard when I say kumusta kabayan?¬† More often than not I get an instant reaction, especially with my broad smile and red-white-and-blue tee, if I’m wearing it.

It's not this beautiful, but a lot of the running lanes here look like this.

Tipping my cap off to the elderly ladies (especially the older ones), taking time to smile and ask about babies in their prams, shouting ni hao, shenti zemeyang to the Mainlanders; the little things don’t take too much effort,¬†but they make the difference when you’re greasing the joints, flushing the pipes and dusting off the cranial cobwebs on Godzone’s¬†brilliantly beautiful Sunday morning.¬† As a weekend Pinoy runner, it doesn’t get much better than this !

Thanks for reading !

The Re-education of Joelogs Jonas

"I don't think we woke up early enough, Comrade ūüė¶ "

[ Note : Belated happy birthdays to Mevelyn Tang (10th January), Raymond Ong (10th January), and Dr Annie Oliveros – Robrigado (14th January) Thanks for reading ! ]

LET’S CALL HIM Joelogs Jonas.¬† He loves to remind me that people call him the eldest of the famed brother group, and he does nothing to convince them to do¬†otherwise.¬† In the past two years I’ve known more about him than in the previous ten, and no exaj, everyday I learn something new.

Recently he’s faced probably the most daunting challenge of his life : to find gainful employment in a strange land.¬†¬† As a single, twentysomething Gen Y techie unawed by the trinkets and bright lights of White Man’s Land, working abroad was not in his list of Most Important Things To Do B4 I Start Caring, BUT perfecting his craft, looking cool and earning street creds among his peers, potential colleagues and former rivals in Most Likely To Be A Chick Magnet Whenever, Wherever, were.¬† Although not exactly congruent, he realized those two vocations were starting to run along parallel courses especially when he started to pound the pavement for a jay-oh-bee.

He started his job search a bit inauspiciously, drawing a bit of negative vibes when I dared to suggest that he pick up the first available job, whether it was gathering trays at the foodcourt, deep-frying hash browns as a counter cadet down by Happy Meal Avenue, or arranging hangers and racks, preferably at the Feeder Mall that draws Kiwis, Maoris, Asians, Islanders and all sorts of weekend warriors this corner of the world.

He uttered his now-famous phrase hindi ako nag-aral para gawin yung job na ganyan, raising eyebrows all around the household.¬† I don’t know about you, but if you weren’t willing to start from the ground up in whatever you did, your perspective would never be complete, and you’d never gain a classic understanding of the big picture. But well, naive hubris is wasted on the clueless young, and not all the diametrically opposite, devil’s advocate views coming from me (maybe especially from me) could dissuade him from his confidence.

Such confidence did not flag immediately, but you could see it come crashing to earth in steady swoops.¬† It wasn’t a free-fall, because he had a ready rationalization and credible explanation everytime he failed to grab a gig :

Overqualified daw ako; ¬†wala pa akong job referee, kailangan ko muna ng experience; kakatapos lang ng hiring nila, and here’s my favorite, mabobored lang daw ako at di ko sila magugustuhan as employer.

That last one really floored me, as if lost souls from the netherworld of the idle could actually play a part in picking apart the desirable qualities of those who would liberate them from their deprived¬†state.¬† I was still at that point where I was both loathe to criticize JJ’s jobhunt attitude and eager to lend him every bit of moral support.¬† Besides, each rejection from a prospective employer brought him closer to that elusive “you’re hired!”, so based on the law of averages, after so many no’s, he was tantalizingly close to joining the ranks of the working class.

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Evidently still not close enough, after a few more weeks.¬† He finally swallowed his pride and admitted that an I.T. certificate, the techie geek’s ultimate passport to job security ¬†wasn’t enough in the era of post-subprime recession and failing Euro economies, and by way of a white flag sought employment from the local government¬†job-placement agency, which¬† was powered by the overwhelming desire to reduce the burgeoning numbers of people on the benefit.

He promptly soared back to form by rejecting outright the gigs that were served on his plate, a tiler’s assistant and bricklayer, just-show-up and no-questions-asked.

Hindi ako ganon kadesperate, masyado namang mahirap yan para sa akin and meron pa naman sigurong ibang job para sa akin, were still-in-denial phrases I heard when he dismissed the job offers.  I wish to reiterate, these were jobs that were instant hires that only required that the candidate report for work, be a quick study, and show enough interest to stay hired for maybe the rest of the project.  Ummm, even one-out-of-three was gonna be a challenge for Joe tomorrow morning.

could you hold my spot? I need to check eBay, TradeMe and Nasdaq ūüėČ

After the week of the employment agency misadventure, Joelog’s head had shrunk enough that he was willing to try even the non-IT gigs, like maybe barista traineeships, retail positions, or even the dreaded foodcourt openings that at least gave away, from common knowledge, free lunches, leftovers that couldn’t be served the next day, and similar stuff that we didn’t mind having for dinner ūüėČ

What neither of us realized (I’m sorry to say that even I had naively overlooked) was that because of the severely skewed employer’s market that had been prevailing, there was extremely high competition even for the barest bits of scraps on the table; that only those who were showing the greatest initiative, interest and desperation were to be considered for these remaining jobs.

As you might have guessed, JJ was ill-prepared for this development, and each day that week he still came home dejected, downcast and empty-handed. He hardly made any final interviews, and in some cases was told outright that only those who had related experience for the job and were willing to commit to a certain amount of time to staying with the position were to be considered.¬† Given the fact that most of these positions were hardly career-makers, our jobhunter couldn’t even tell the white lie of saying he was willing to be a cleaner for six months, and stayed unemployed.

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This story doesn’t have a happy ending, yet.¬† As of last count, JJ hasn’t yet started earning his keep for the last eight months, but he is a long way off from giving up, mainly because he has no choice but to keep trying.¬† Most of his friends back home think he is having the time of his life living the life of an accomplished, fat-cat IT wunderkind enjoying everything his heart could desire.¬† For that alone, he is resolved to continue chasing the dream of earning First World dollars, in the job of his choice, and coming home to yehey-welcome-homes and blowout naman Mr Bigtime!

Di ka nag-iisa, J.J. !

Thanks for reading !

Liham kay Binibini & Ginoong call center agent

[ Note : konting-konti na lang duduguin na po ako.  Thanks in advance for reading ! ]

Dear Ms and Mr call center agent :

SINIKAP kong umiwas gamitin ang wikang banyaga dahil medyo maselan itong¬†paksang hinain ko.¬†¬†Pinapaalala ko lang na¬†dati nang baluktot ang aking log-Taga and kung si Gat Joey ang batayan, matagal na akong mas mabantot sa malansang galunggong.¬†Halos nabaon ko na rin sa limot ang Bikol ng aking kamusmusan at matagal ko nang tinabla ang mainit na pag-anyayang pagsasanay ng Cebuano at Ilokano sa aming kapatiran.¬† ūüôā Pipilitin ko pa rin, paumanhin na lang kunsakali…

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Una sa lahat tinitingalaan naming mga kabayan nyo kayong mga call center agent bilang mga bayani ng bagong milenyo.  Dahil sa inyong angking talino, likas na talento at katutubong diskarte, di nyo na kinailangang mangibang bayan pa para payamanin ang Inang Bayan.  Sa pamamagitan ng inyong pawis at dugo, pinatataba nyo ang Kabang Bayan, umasenso ang komersyo, at nabibigyang pag-asa ang susunod na salinlahi nating mga Pinoy.

Bilang pabuya sa inyong pwersa at kayod, di naman kayo napapabayaan sa pag-aaruga ng inyong mga pamilya.  Madalas ay nabibiyayaan kayo ng higit pa sa kaukulang sahod at insentibo kapalit ng inyong galing mag-Ingles and pakikitungo sa mga banyagang kausap sa Avaya.

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Dito sana ako tatawag ng kaunting pansin kung inyong mamarapatin.  Nung nakaraang linggo ay may lumabas sa pahayagang internet na may isang tumawag sa call center para magbayad ng phone bill, napilitang magbigay ng credit card number at mga detalye.  Sa kanyang susunod na statement, sinawing palad at nabill sya ng NZ$1500 sa transaksyong ginawa sa piso.  Iimbestigahan pa ang insidente pero ayon sa call center, di ito ang unang pagkakataong naabuso ang pagtiwala ng kliyente sa ahente.

At yun na nga ang susi sa buong usapin ng call center o business process outsourcing na sobrang biyaya ang naidudulot sa atin.  Tiwala o pahintulot na binibigay ng isang tao sa pangalawa para hawakan ng huli ang pag-aari ng una.  Ito ang ugat ng halos lahat ng transaksyon ng call center, outbound man o inbound.  Kapag nawala ang tiwala ng tao sa call center agent, malalagay sa peligro ang buong industriya sa Pilipinas na binubuo ng mahigit-kumulang 30,000 agents, na kumikita ng halos US$12.2 bilyon sa bayan, negosyo at sambayanan.

Sapaw nito ang usaping hanapbuhay o industriya na kinakasangkapan ng libu-libong Pinoy at kanilang mga pamilya.  Imahe natin at magandang pangalan ng Pinoy bilang global citizen ang nakakabit sa reputasyon ng industriyang call center.

Tulad ng bawat hagupit ng kamao ni Manny P, at bawat nota na binibirit ni Charice, tinataguyod natin ang galing at sipag ng Pinoy sa lahat ng ating gawain , bilang OFW, call center agent, caregiver, nurse, seaman, construction worker o anu pa man ang trabaho natin.

Walang singsarap ang marinig ang puri sa atin lahi twing may nagagawa tayong tama, galing o ganda.

Sa kabilang dako naman, walang sing asim o pait kapag may narinig tayong puna o batikos tungkol sa ating kahinaan sa tukso, katusohan o kagulangan.

Mabuhay kayong lahat !

Remembering Napoleon Dilag, Esq (March 13th 1932 – Dec 14th 2011)

Judge Napoleon Dilag to the right of future Ombudsman and Rep Raul Gonzales

LOOKING BACK TO THE bad old days of Martial Law in the Philippines, I realized that your bravery, steely courage or just plain blindness to danger could be measured by when you stood up to the authoritarian regime.

Towards the end of the conjugal dictatorship, post-1983, it became fashionable to rise up against the dying Marcos dynasty.  But before that, you just learned to watch your step and hold your tongue everytime you found something to do or say against the government.

Not so during the first few years of Martial Law, when the President and his tight circle of enablers from the military and legal elites held absolute power over the archipelago.  Anyone who dared to express disagreement, legally or otherwise, was considered not in his right mind, and only the hardiest of freedom fighters and libertarians were courageous enough to stick their head out and tell Mr Marcos that the Emperor had no clothes.   At risk to life and limb.

One of these brave few warriors was Mr Napoleon V Dilag, whose name (together with his co-petitioners)¬†appears as petitioner in one of the most famous cases in Philippine constitutional law, Javellana vs Executive Secretary, and should rightfully be considered part of legal history.¬† Together with his lawyer brethren, they successfully presented arguments to show that the leadership, via political sleight-of-hand, legalized an unratified Philippine Constitution and by virtue of such legalized a then-unheard of third term for the incumbent President.¬† If not for a slim majority of one or two votes in the Supreme Court, history might’ve been vastly different, but that the case reached the Supreme Court at all we owe to people like Atty Dilag.

After the so-called ratification cases (ratifying Martial Law declaration) were disposed of by the Marcos Supreme Court, Atty Dilag, like many of our country’s citizens, went about their business while keeping a long, vigilant watch over the country.¬† For most of the next two decades, Atty Dilag was also Barangay Capt Dilag, and was ward leader over one of the most populated barangays in Paco, Manila.¬† It was also the best time for him to look inward, becoming a hands-on husband, father, grandfather and everything else to his impressively sized family.

Towards the middle 1990s Barangay Captain Dilag was appointed The Honorable Judge N Dilag of the Cavite Regional Trial Court, where he now seized on the chance to apply and interpret his passion, The Law, from the other side of the bench.  Practicing lawyers seem to have the greatest aptitude for a vocation of this sort, and Judge Dilag was no exception.

But the thing that linked the professional and the personal aspects of his life was the passion that he lent to whatever it was that needed his boundless heart or giant intellect.  Whether it was disposing of the myriad aspects of a twenty-year old property case, filing a habeas corpus petition on behalf of a political prisoner, singing a lullaby to his youngest grandson, or remembering to greet happy birthday, in person or by phone, each of his eight children in the Philippines, Australia, USA or Canada, Judge Dilag never held back an ounce of effort or gesture of love.

Judge Napoleon V Dilag passed on to that great courtroom in the sky last December 14th after a lingering illness.  His great legacy of commitment to work, family and country will live on in all of us whose lives he touched.

Thanks for reading !


Tips & tricks 4 aspiring Pinay GFs/spouses/mates of Kiwis


Not as perfect as this, but it's the love and commitment that counts ūüôā

[ Note : In no way do I intend to demean the romance of courtship, especially between Kiwis and Pinays, with such a blog title; it’s just borrowed from a gaming magazine that focuses on tips and tricks for getting ahead in wins, levels and scores.¬† Sorrys all around for all those unconvinced.¬† Belated happy birthdays to Wilfred Chua (1st Jan), Hilton Ngo (1st Jan), Ong Bun Hua Jr (2nd Jan), and Dr June Tiu-Lim (5th Jan). Thanks for reading ! ]

AT WORK, in the mall, at the Asian store, in church, and everywhere else people gather, you see them.¬† Usually, it’s the Kiwi husband and Pinay wife, but sometimes it’s the mirror reverse, the Kiwi wife and Pinoy husband.¬† They’re not many, but their numbers are rising.¬† The common wisdom is that Asians make good partners because they take care of their spouses, are good around the house, and rate high on the loyalty area.

But the reality is each happy couple is happy in its own way,¬† and it wouldn’t take too much analysis to predict that racially mixed or “blended” families in NZ are the wave of the future.¬† And if the dating websites, dating services and personal ads on mixed media have anything to do with it, that wave of the future will be one that a lot of our kabayan will be riding on, as more and more Kiwi men look for engaging, romantic and loyal counterparts from the Pearl of the Orient.¬† Not just because we come from the same place, but we think our Pinay compatriots, positioned in an array of beauteous Asian candidates, enjoy a decided advantage over many other¬†sisters¬†of the yellow, brown and mocha races.

I won’t¬†get into that, because you and I already know about those advantages.¬† Stay with your strengths, and¬†gloss over your weak areas seems to be¬†the can’t-miss advice for Pinays who’ve suddenly caught the eye of a lonely Kiwi internet surfer.¬† But there are certain pearls of wisdom, tried and true, which if you abide, will jack up the odds in your favor.¬† The odds, that is,¬†of getting here with the greatest ease and the least drama :

Don’t push it.¬† Don’t talk like you’re eternal soulmates fated to find each other in this frozen moment in time, or that there’s not a minute to waste before your bodies are joined in an inseparable embrace and that you can’t wait to bridge the distance between Manila and Auckland, in the first five minutes of live chat.¬† Trust me, that is probably the surest way to never see or hear from him again.¬† This is the best advice I can give you, because while Mr Kiwi Guy is viewing you (or your photo) and trying to come up with something cool and politically correct to say, fate, soulmate or marriage are not in the list of desirable¬†chat words and replies at the moment.¬† So, again : don’t push it.¬† For now.

Learn and/or practice English.¬† Oo naman, I know you already speak English, and good English at that. But two qualifiers.¬† First, iba po ang English spoken with fellow Pinoys versus English spoken with foreigners.¬† Second, Kiwi English is a bit different from American English, the latter being the English we’ve learned from school, absorbed from media, and acquired from the internet.

These two qualifiers will hit you like a bucket of ice water if you’re not ready for it, and it will do you a world of good to be ready.¬† High on your to-do list is to conduct an English-speaking campaign with yourself (if you talk to yourself) and with friends family and everyone else you interact with.¬† Believe me, every little bit helps.¬† Next on the list, and I’m assuming you don’t have many Kiwi friends (yet) is to visit the NZ news websites like http://tvnz.co.nz/ or http://3news.co.nz/¬† which have newsreaders born-and-bred in NZ.¬† Bottom line is Kiwi English isn’t that different from what we know, but learning it makes a difference.

Get to know him.¬† Making yourself easy on the eyes, ears etc is a two-way street, he should be good enough for you too.¬† I hope you don’t scare easily, but it’s important likewise to know within the first 15 mins if he’s not a crazy; the lights could be on but he might not always be in, if you know what I mean.¬† The good news is the most helpful clues are the most obvious ones, and the best impressions are the first.¬† Whether or not it’s intended, the first virtual date will tell you if he has a tendency to be a womanizer, sex-crazed, or worse, a pervert.¬† And in many cases, tendencies are more than enough.

Learn his culture, faves and hobbies.¬† This isn’t as much a biggie as the others, but they might help.¬† Many Kiwi blokes are DIY and car enthusiasts, I’m afraid I’m not much help there, but I do know that they love to talk about tools, car races and tinkering with their engines.¬† Kiwis love rugby, cricket and sports in general, but are particularly fond of rugby union, as New Zealand recently won the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and are certainly proud of that.¬† These are by the way sports that are hardly followed, much less played in the Philippines, so expect a little disconnect whenever he raves about his favorite players and teams.¬† And that’s why it might pay to look them up, the sports I mean, on Google and Wikipedia and other sites.

Don’t be a hard-sell.¬† You’re not selling encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners or insurance.¬† Which means you don’t have to hard-sell him.¬† You are essentially selling him the concept of a Pinay relationship, which when you think about it, isn’t a hard-sell at all; if anything, he should be selling to you a Kiwi relationship. (I’m just boosting your morale kapatid)¬† This means on your qualities alone you have more than enough.¬† Therefore, it’s strongly advised that you don’t use pity or compassion to go to the next level; don’t talk about invalid relatives, tuition fees needed for siblings or convalescing elders.¬† Don’t insist on a face-to-face unless he asks for it first, and even then make sure he’s serious.

Above all, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t ask for money for any reason unless it’s a life-or-death thing, and even then think many times before doing so.¬† You might not appreciate erring on the side of caution for now, but in the long run it will be worth it.

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That’s it.¬†¬†I don’t pretend to be an expert on Kiwi blokes, but I am a guy, and I know quite a few Kiwis in happy relationships with kabayan.¬† I’ve also seen two people hook up from day one, so I know a little whereof I speak.¬†¬† The¬†fact that you are chatting and talking at all is a¬†clear sign that he is interested in you, and from there only good things can follow.¬† Not everything ends happily but it’s pointless not to be optimistic at this time.

Good luck, and God bless !