belated happy birthday Andy Lim !

it’s a compliment to Andy that like good wine, the years have only made him better. sorry for the late greeting friend!

belated happy birthday (14th August) to a fondly remembered classmate, Mr Andy Lim !

There are so many good memories of Andy that it wouldn’t do him justice to pick just one or two.

He had a highly developed sense of humor as early as Grade Six when we are all barely into puberty.  He knew how to make all of us laugh, and how to push the teacher’s buttons.  He also knew how to turn the class sentiment for or against whatever issue of the day that was raging.  Whatever, there was no doubt that he was highly intelligent and gifted in many facets of human excellence.

In sports he was also off the charts.  He could excel in most sports with one eye closed and one hand tied behind his back, when most of us were just learning the basic skills.  He had enough leadership smarts to organize teams just on the strength of his character and charisma, and for many 15 year-olds that’s saying a lot.

He was respected enough to be selected as one of the leaders in citizen military training, and was one of the senior members of the officers corps.  There was enough overlap for him to be selected the first president of the alumni batch association.

Since then he has made his own fortune and made his own destiny (in Toronto Canada), for others to follow and admire.  The past seems so distant now, but we will always remember Andy for being a charmismatic leader, without forgetting to be just one of the guys.

So sorry for the late greeting, blessings always to your family, hope we can meet someday soon in one of our reunions, and many happy returns!

remembering Tito (uncle) Val

standing (from extreme left) : nephew Kuya Tim (Bautista), grandson Kevin, and Tito Val. Sitting (from extreme left) brother Joe, a friend, sister Lily, and sister Cary

I HOPE my cousins aren’t offended, but I always considered Tito (Uncle) Val as the taller, quieter version of my father.  They looked remarkably alike, except that Tito Val was nearly half a head taller, and as I said a whole lot quieter.

He possessed a piercing stare and a naughty smile, if you could imagine such a combination.  In family gatherings from the earliest years of the 1970s I could tell he ran a tight ship at home, because his kids (Ann Marie, Dennis, Glenn and Marcia) behaved like very young adults surrounded by their  rough, rowdy and rambunctious counterparts, namely me and my brothers.  It didn’t take much for him to communicate his disapproval to his brood or any other children around, although he did it and acted very subtly.  That only added to his mystique during my childhood.

In later years, his exterior softened to reveal a charming, world-wise uncle that I always found interesting to engage with.  In conversations, he often stumped me with his pithy one-liners which would require a double-take to parse and analyze, but which I would later realize was both witty and perfect for the occasion.

Because he was so laid-back and unassuming, through the years and decades that I beheld him, I never stopped to notice that Tito Val wasn’t just a cool uncle but also a devoted husband and diligent dad, despite the fact that all that time he had around him as my contemporaries his two sons and two daughters (each outstanding in his/her own way), as well as the love of his life, Tita (Aunt) Marilou.  It was such an effortless gig for him to wear three hats, and it’s a bit sad that I never told him about what I remember about him now.

One more thing.  Our Tita (Aunt) Lily, the acknowledged head of the extended family, always kept him close not just physically but I guess to pick his brain and solicit his opinion on various matters.  It was an unspoken evidence of how valued his counsel was and how important his presence was to our aunt, who was and is a source of strength and support for our entire family.  In that sense, I am sure his absence is felt most acutely by the person who has known him the longest.

These and many other fond thoughts I have chosen to set forth in remembrance of Valentin “Val” Bautista, who left us July 30 last year and whose first death anniversary was marked not with mourning but with love and gratitude from his wife, children, sisters, brother, nephews and nieces who will forever treasure his memory.

We remember you always, and thank God for the gift of your life and love.

First day at work, last day at work in Middle Earth

another day at the office…

[ Note : It’s a bit fuzzy, and it’s not very well defined, but there’s a straight line between the two people in these stories, the first on one end, the second on the other, and coincidentally, I’m somewhere in the middle, though my own destination isn’t that far away.  Thanks for all your prayers, kind thoughts and donations to Jerome and Lady Jalbuena, the latter well on her way to groundbreaking therapy. ]

I’M NOT allowed to say anything yet, lest I jinx her, but wait… is that what she said ???  OK, media embargo over, Ganda tried and tried, applied and applied, never lost heart and recently found her very first job here in NZ, finally joined the workforce after the jobsearch of a lifetime, for her of course.  She set her sights high but was realistic enough to accept whatever came her way first, played the numbers game by trying out for as many jobs as possible, one of those potential employers was bound to find some merit in her earnestly written CV, which boasted of NO NZ experience and one, countem one part-time, internship-like gig back home.  Keeping that in mind, it’s not so hard to realize that it was an uphill climb for Ganda in finding her first source of livelihood as an independent working girl.

Maybe it was just as well that Ganda was a babe in the woods when it came to finding a J-O-B, there wouldn’t have been anything to encourage her had she stepped back and taken a bird’s-eye view of the employment situation.  Not only did New Zealand suffer from the second highest quarterly unemployment rate in recent history, it also was hit badly by the mining slump in big brother Aussie, suffering job losses just as nastily as Australian miners and those depending on the mining industry.  So many people unemployed, underemployed and on the benefit, best not to tell young people like Ganda who during the low points and slow days of bagging the short-list job interview, keep their hopes high and chins up.

I hope if you ever meet Ganda just before she starts her first day on work that you don’t discourage her as well, fully knowing that employers like to squeeze every available minute of work out of the thirteen-plus dollars per hour minimum wage they give to their peons, that their breaks are strictly timed, and that the only idle time you often experience in first time jobs are just before you punch the bundy and after you punch out.  It’s best that you work the hard jobs when you’re young, inspired and hungry.  Because Ganda and her colleagues will never work harder for the rest of their lives.

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

I’ll never forget Davey.  When I walked into the mill the first time in my life to start my first day, he was the very first co-worker to smile at me.   He obviously didn’t know me and I probably looked as foreign to him as lanzones or rambutan, if he was aware of those fruits, but still he welcomed me to the workplace flashing his broadest, toothiest smile.  I appreciated that.

He was in his early 60s even then, but he was strong as an ox, easily able to lift 20-kg bags of flour hundreds of times a day, as it was his job to pack flour into paper bags, stack them up on pallets, as he had been doing for twenty odd years.  He liked to impress us with his tall tales when he was much younger, but mostly he loved his horse racing tips and schedules, and couldn’t stay away from the bars on payday.  We all liked Davey, and we understood that old bachelors like him needed their pasttimes.

But of course it was part of the agreement that you could bet as much of your wages and drink as much as you want, as long as you showed up on the job the next day.  He nearly always honored this gentleman’s agreement (actually one we honored with the Bossman if we wanted to keep our jobs), but sometimes he drank a bit too much, and a bit too early, even before his shift started.

He did this once too often, and one day Bossman said he went beyond the red line.  Even after two ownership changes, dozens of mill managers and thousands of paychecks, Davey shouldn’t have taken too lightly his final warning, because this time Bossman really meant it.  We all knew he had no choice, and strict rules from upstairs (meaning management across the ditch) had given Davey many previous chances before.  The sad part was that he was the longest-staying, one of the most well-liked and dependable workers around, and yet his weakness for firewater and a penchant for one too many extended hangovers doomed him to an early goodbye from our team at work.

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

Thinking about both Ganda and Davey on their first and last days of work gave me time to think about my own.  Work gives you food on the table, a roof over your head, respect for others, and gratitude from your family.  It defines your day, defines your attitude, and in many ways can define your destiny.  To those just starting out like Ganda, good luck and may you always be inspired to respect your job and the benefits you derive from it, and to lifers like me and Davey, may we always find the discipline and endurance to stay in our posts and give justice to the trust reposed in us by our employers.

Congrats again Ganda, we’re so proud of you, and good luck Davey!  Thanks for reading everyone!

belated happy birthday Tess Aldeguer – Tangco !

Tess in a recent reunion with Eunice Cobankiat – Pascual

belated happy birthday (13th September) to Ms Tess Aldeguer – Tangco !

My only regret when I remember Tess is not knowing her earlier.

From late elmentary to middle school straight to university, Tess and the warmth of her friendship was a constant presence in our lives.  She had that engaging manner that always put you at ease, more so if you joined her circle of friends.

Years and years later, she has retained a closeness that has stood the test of time, never hesitating to ask how you are and how life is treating you, no matter how long you’ve been apart.  It’s as if once you’ve been pals with her, she’ll never stop being your friend, and indeed she has never stopped being ours.

So sorry to have missed your happy day Tess, take care always, and best regards to your loved ones.

YLB Noel

Ganda & Bunso adapt adjust and assimilate

I’m not sleepy, the sun is just too hard on the eyes. Snow is almost gone on Mt Ruapehu so as traditional Pinoys we dutifully pose for the Facebook post later. They are almost all grown up !

[ Note : Happy birthdays to Andrew Ong (9th Sept), Tess Aldeguer-Tangco (13th Sept), Archie Mallare (15th Sept), Stephen Liao (16th Sept), Wilson Ong (16th Sept), Martin Go (19th Sept), Ronald Y Lui (23rd Sept), and my former boss at Coke, JB Baylon (25th Sept), thanks to all the support and prayers for Jerome and Lady Jalbuena, her therapy is ongoing, and congrats to the UP Pep Squad on the successful defense of their UAAP cheerleading title ! Woohoo ! ]

THAT EAGLES tune is catchy, timeless and endearing, but it’s hard to be the new kid in town.  You feel all the eyes on you, you don’t have a single friend to hang out with, and there’s no one save your folks, usually clueless and too busy themselves, to give you tips on the places to go and sights to see.

The above is true only three-quarters of the time, because during the odd weekend esposa hermosa and I try our darnedest best to show Ganda and Bunso around, the two having been in Wellington less then five months this week.  Their own mom and stepdad, with whom they stay, are also model guides and mentors to Asians acclimatizing themselves to probably the southernmost capital city in the world, with the bonus of being one of the most diverse, multi-lingual and multi-cultural demographics around.

But during workdays they’re on their own, and there is only so much time you can spend in libraries, museums, parks and the like before you have culture and greenery flowing out of your ears.

Being Pinoys, one of the most social creatures in the world, their next impulse is to seek out people, preferably people of their own age.  This isn’t too practical as well, most of their age group being in either university or middle school most of the time.  I advise them not to be choosy in selecting friends and acquaintances, in fact seeking out people of different races, the more multi-colored the better.  Given their natural shyness and /or propensity to gravitate towards youth in their demographic, i.e, Southeast Asian 18-20s, the inclination is to find Pinoys, in the food court, on the street, wherever.

I’m unqualifedly happy that the two, particularly Ganda, have taken the time to tell us about their goings-on in their new environment, I’m sure it’s a heavily edited version, what with all the TMI details that she thinks her folks don’t want to know about, and which only heightens the usual paranoia that fathers reserve for their daughters, particularly those in the blossoming stage.

But I’m under no illusion that our kids tell us everything about their lives.  In the first place, except in relation to the big picture, a lot of the time it’s not my affair anymore, they are after all already young adults and in another era would’ve been encouraged to marry and start their own families.  In the second place, humans reach that inevitable phase when you have to let them soar on their own wings and succeed and fail on their own terms, damn the torpedoes and bite my tongue when they something incredibly clueless and breathtakingly naive.

Don’t tell them that I told you, but I don’t envy them right now : extracted from the comfortable environment of friends, org-mates and BFFs in their respective universities back home, they have been abruptly transplanted into an unfamiliar, less-than-colorful and not-so-welcoming milieu.  Plans for summer vacations, internships and endless frolicking in beaches, rest houses and giant malls have been scuttled indefinitely.  For Ganda, almost a college graduate, and Bunso, barely out of the multi-tasking of high school honors section, it was a lot to ask.

But they have handled it well, with elegance and a maturity beyond their years.  They have adapted to so many things, having four parents instead of two not the least.  Add to that chilly nippy and goose bump-inducing temperatures that pummel them each time they venture out the door; a diet that is not exactly conducive to the Pinoy palate, and having to overhaul their personalities just to be able to make new friends.  It’s just as well that they are just beginning their lives as citizens of the world, for youth are better positioned than any age group to adapt, adjust and molt their skin into any environment, I just don’t know how long it would’ve taken me.  You won’t hear me tell them, but I admire their resiliency, as Asians, as Pinoys and as owners of half my DNA.

I feign indifference when Bunso tips me off about lurking potential suitors in Ganda’s 50-meter radius, but I take it yet as another sign of normalcy : which parent, when you think about it, wouldn’t be proud that the fair members of his brood receive flattering attention?  Not to put too fine a point on it, but if she gives brown skins, black hairs and sub-five-sixers (like her dad) equal priority with the Chris Evanses, budding Mark Zuckerburgs and future Nobel laureates of their new universe, all would be right in my world.

Thanks for reading!

The quiet brilliance of Perry’s understated life

He is surely smiling now. 🙂 Many thanks and acknowledgment for the awesome pic to Rachel Consunji’s Facebook page, and to Rosemarie Consunji who originally shared the photo.

[ Note :  A friend from school, Atty Perry Consunji, left this world last 14th September.   I would never have made it in time for his wake in the Philippines, even if I could afford travelling (I can’t), but below is what I would’ve said had I been there.  Maraming salamat din kay Atty Carlos Roberto “Tito” Lopez, Perry’s Ateneo and law school classmate, for reading this during the wake.  Thanks all for reading and please whisper a prayer (when you have a moment) for a friend for the ages, Perry the Gentle Giant ! ]

I TRIED to sum up in a few words how to best describe Perry in the eight plus years I’d known him in university, and it was hard.  One sentence, however, struck me and here it is :

After all this is over, what will really matter is how we treated each other.

Perry wasn’t the touchy-feely type, not always given to exuberant outbursts, although he had his moments.  But throughout the time I knew him, he radiated a sincere, genuine warmth, wasn’t the classically talkative person but knew exactly what to say, and what the situation demanded.

He wouldn’t strike you as the intense, impetuous type, but he wore his heart on his sleeve all the time. You always knew on which side of the fence he belonged.

In school, the last thing he wanted was to be seen as the studious, grade-conscious type, and you could see it in the way he approached class work, grades, and getting on the professor’s good side.  And yet, behind everyone’s back, when no one was looking, he was a model student, and walked the extra mile to get good grades.

He hated mushy, romantic ballads, always preferring classic rock, and hard fast tunes.  But deep down he was an old soul who would wax eloquent, matching anyone with rhyme and verse in front of a cold beer and a long night.

He avoided bleeding heart causes and hug-a-tree liberals, but to his friends he was a notorious softie who could never say no to a friend in need, I know this because many times I was that friend.

In short, he was someone who was blessed with a good heart but somehow thought that good hearts didn’t last long in this world.  For this reason he went to great lengths to camouflage his goodness in the craftiness and jadedness of the real world.  Too often though, his real side would expose itself.  That was the side of Perry I knew, the side that would endure till the very end.

Unfortunately for all of us, Perry was proven correct in his own mortality.  His good heart was not long to last in a world such as ours, and such a good heart is now lost except in the world of our thoughts, and memories.

I thank God that in my life I had such a friend as Perry, and together with Mr and Mrs Consunji, Vivian, Liria, Irene, Gretchen, Rachel and Jesse, and the rest of us, I say good night, but not goodbye.  I love you good friend!

Remembering my friend Pericles “Perry” Consunji

This is Perry as how I best remember him, off-the-wall funny, wacky, and full of life. And this is how we still remember him, eons later. Rest easy, my friend. :’) Thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to Ms Loida Poliquit-Mayo!

THE TROUBLE with subjective and selective memory is sometimes “false” memories, those about events that never actually happened, take their place alongside real and accurate counterparts.

If I remember correctly, my friend Perry and I ran a full marathon, saw the UP-UE finale when the Fighting Maroons won its only UAAP championship in 1986, and attended a Journey concert and were right there when Steve Perry sang “Separate Ways,” his favorite song.

Problem was, I don’t remember correctly.  We ran a few laps around the Academic Oval, if at all.  We saw a few University of the Philippines elimination games, but it wasn’t during the championship season.  And the closest we got to a Journey performance was watching an MTV video together.

I do remember that one of the very first times I experienced the pleasure (pain) of alcohol was with Perry, who passed away last night, the 14th of September.  We were both freshmen and he was surprised I had never tasted Ginbera San Miguel, which Perry said was the drink favored by real men.  Ito ang iinumin natin dahil tunay tayong Pilipino, he declared, funny because nationalism was not one of the qualities I associated with drinking, but what did I know?  In my short friendship with him, Perry obviously knew more, had experienced more, and what’s more important, was willing to share what he knew with me.  Famous last words.

There were many more happy events after that, not all of them associated with alcohol, and Perry’s friendship was one of the best remembrances I would have of my college years.  I did not see much of him after that, but I am sure he was successful in what he did, as a tax lawyer, and true to his loved ones, friends and colleagues.  He was a genuinely real and humble person, in that he took his life’s work seriously, but never took his success and himself too seriously, lest he got too full of himself.  That was Perry when I knew him, and that is Perry as I am sure he is now.

Atty Pericles “Perry” Consunji, 47, succumbed to a heart attack yesterday and has left this world, but he lives on in the hearts and minds of those he left behind, especially his loved ones, friends, and family.  Our prayers and kind thoughts go to the Capampangan-Consunji family.

why Kirsten D Garcia is my favorite Kinoy*

TO SAY that her height is her most impressive feature would only be partly correct, for indeed, for a Filipina, Kirsten Garcia’s five-feet-and-nine-inches (may actually be more since it’s been quite a while since we’ve last seen her) is quite statuesque, but she’s much more than just tall.  She’s definitely one of the prettiest young Pinays in Wellington, if not all of New Zealand, and she would compete quite favorably in any beauty contest held here, against either her own kabayan or Kiwis as well.

Not coincidentally, her complete package (height, beauty and brains) is crowned by her impressive length of hair, which is like many Asian beauties, long, black and complementary to her impressive frame.

Which is why we are so amazed at what Kirsten has done recently.  She is so committed to showing solidarity with those who may suffer hair loss as a result of life-saving treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy that she didn’t mind missing the Leukemia and Blood Cancer Foundation (NZ)’s Shave for a Cure week of March 26-31, and with three of her friends went ahead and had their beautiful hair shaved, yes all of it!

if it’s for a good cause, we’re all for it, Kirsten and friends seem to say…

It’s easy to say you support a cause and pay lip service, but Kirsten has gone ahead and showed how much she cares for the thing she cares about, and has gone all out in doing so.  This just goes to show that our youth today is not just about fun and parties but about hope and commitment to the future.  Kudos to you Kirsten !

We can’t say enough about the way she has been raised by her proud parents Ramil and Marie Garcia, one of the friendliest and most down-to-earth couples I know in Wellington.

For this and many other reasons (but mostly this one), Kirsten is most definitely our favorite Kinoy!

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


nibbling at the realities of a pinoy fortysomething dieter

the lunch I bring to work, twice a week (sigh). the sausage roll is a concession to the rice-free and meat-free qualities of my new diet guidelines. 😦

YOU KNOW you’ve reached that netherworld of neither-old-nor-young when health and fitness has supplanted sports and entertainment as your top Yahoo! article topic; when the holiday/birthday/media extravaganza all-nighter has become rarer and rarer, almost a thing of the past; when you scour Facebook and alumni updates for news of lifestyle diseases whose incidence seems to increase every year; and when the concept of a healthful, nutritious and energizing daily diet is becoming less and less theoretical and more and more inevitable.

Before I continue, a little bit of domestic background : esposa hermosa enjoys twin humongous advantages that abandoned my ship a long time ago.  She will eat what she fancies, and what she fancies she can usually cook.  On my end, I can no longer eat with reckless abandon, and even more sadly, I have no notable culinary skills save boiling eggs or opening sardines or pork and beans.

But even this disparity of gastronomic fortune has further gone against me : esposa has recently laid down new guidelines to which I w0uld do well to adhere food-wise : at least two riceless meals a week, at least one salad day, and beloved greasy Pinoy breakfasts of Mighty Meaty, sinangag (fried rice) and tostadong itlog (fried egg) limited to one weekend day.  In addition, I’m to discard the daily ice cream habit (sob) and step up my fruit and veggie intake, as if the previous rules weren’t punishment enough.

The crime?  Long years of excessive, irresponsible eating,  sedentary weekends and an infatuation with beer and pizza for any and every occasion, a love for pastries, pies as well as all things sugary and starchy.  My personal chef and nutritionist has gone so far as to say that observing my formerly irresponsible diet has become a matter of life and death, so that what I eat (or not eat) for the next few years will determine if I live the balance of my life healthily, if at all.  Now that’s an incentive for me to eat wisely and well.

Fortunately, she has the discipline and creativity to prepare our meals.  Given the option to observe her rules at home or for my baon, I happily opt for the latter, knowing that I have work to distract me during my shift.  That’s why my colleagues look on with amusement at my colorful lunches. each hue of the rainbow represented in my salad, each fruit in the painting transferred to my lunchbag.

That’s not all.  Remember the illegal greasy breakfasts?  Swept under the rug, they’ve now been replaced by bran with fruit bits, cereal with berry, and multi-flavored oatmeal.  Regardless of the variety and the effort to prettify my morning repast, I can’t help but recall the spartan breakfasts of Dad and the regular fare in all those rest homes and retirement villas manned by my caregiver kabayan, when they talk shop among each other.

The bland menu and what passed for food that I thought I would never even consider eating, I now had to include in my regular schedule of consumption, if I wanted to clean out my indoor plumbing and purge myself of the poisons of all those fats and sugar accumulating years.

My chef, nutritionist and diet constable is not totally unreasonable though.  If I’ve been a good boy during the week, I get my just rewards, be it a Kiwi Big Breakfast, a Double Down at KFC or dimsum and noodle festival at Asian takeaway.  It’s a worn-out cliche, but I have to say it : Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!

belated happy birthday Raul De Los Santos !

belated happy birthday (5th September) to classmate Mr Raul De Los Santos !

Remembering Raul helps me remember a lot of good things in high school.

We were in the drum and bugle corps together for four straight years.  He lived far enough from school that we had to take a jeepney home (with other Quiapo-bound classmates) but not too far that we couldn’t pass by his house and kill time before going home.

It’s been a good number of years since we met and reminisced, but the memories are both strong and fond enough to keep us going.  That is, until the inevitable reunion.

So sorry for the late greeting kabatch, thanks for the memories, and many happy returns!

YLB Noel