chismis, pakisama & bayanihan : what pinoy migrants will & will not do for each other

Mayon Volcano, one of the most gorgeous sights in the Philippines. Thanks and acknowledgment to!

IT’S PAINFULLY obvious on both sides of the screen, but sometimes I need to restate it : blogging is above all a subjective exercise, what’s delicious and irresistible to Blogger X is blah and repellent to Blogger Y, though with less intense modifiers probably.

I remind the Precious Reader of this fact of blogging life, as I enumerate a composite of what Pinoys far from home might or might not do for and to their townmates, neighbors and countrymen who happen to share the same pigment, accent or condiment, namely kayumanggi, Taglish and patis :

Pinoys will give you the clothes off their back, share with your their breakfast, lunch and dinner, and tuck you in the most comfy bed in their house, and will happily do you any favor, a kabayan stranger, as long as it does not involve money.

Let me explain.  This surplus of altruism and thoughtfulness goes back to the days of bayanihan (neighborliness) when the barrio was one big family, everybody was kinsman to his neighbor and   if ever you needed anything from a kabayan (literally, “townmate”) all you needed to do was ask, witness the classic Filipiniana tableau of transporting a nipa hut by neighbors, a practice that is less common today but still persists in remote places.

These days, newcomers to Auckland who have yet to find permanent lodgings need only to request kabayan assistance on the various Pinoy yahoogroups  and FB groups and shortly offers will come to lend shelter to these newbie families.  Most of these offers will come without any need for recompense, I have seen these firsthand and have been the beneficiary of this fond vestige of bayanihan.

However, like many in countries in the Third World, we have been so inured to fraud and deception that though our hearts and homes are sensitive to cries for help, we become wary and mistrustful of stories and requests for monetary assistance from strangers, even (and maybe especially) if the source is from kabayan themselves.

To sum it up : there is a boundless wellspring of generosity that emanates from every Pinoy migrant home, but think twice when asking help in the form of money.  Otherwise you will be surprised how spontaneously kind-hearted we are to our own kind.

A popular bayanihan painting, townmates helping move house (obviously) 🙂

Pinoys will, at least on surface, never judge you, pigeonhole you or stereotype you.  But that won’t stop them from asking you about your most personal stuff, nothing sacred and nothing off limits.

Examples of cringe-worthy (but well-meaning) Pinoy questions : Anung trabaho mo sa Pilipinas (OK, this isn’t too bad; what did you do back home, but…); Katoliko ka ba?  (Are you Catholic?) Kasal ba kayo?  (Are you and your significant other married?) Sa asawa / kasama mo ba lahat ng mga anak mo?  (Are all your kids fathered/mothered by your current spouse/partner?)  And so on and so forth, usually asked with a straight face, as if the answers would change anything.  You find it hard not to be accommodating with your answers because not only is kabayan helpful, he or she volunteers all counterpart info to you, whether or not you want to know such info.  Believe it or not, it is not at all unusual to hear Pinoys you meet for the first time ask questions of these nature as casually as they do about the weather or the latest showbiz sensation back home.

Pinoys will instantly make you part of their basketball team, church choir, bingo/tong-its/mahjongg circles but it will be a long while before you will be considered part of the inner circle.

The contradiction to catch here is that while Pinoys are sociable, intimate creatures, you will be warmly welcomed only to a certain extent, somewhere halfway down the hall.  We are extremely parochial, somewhat tribal, and there are some limits that will never be breached.  These limits are set by blood, affinity, deep friendship, and geographical connections that have been existing for generations.  For the most part though, you will not realize this exclusivity until you have been with Pinoys for some time, the stranger / newcomer is given a feeling of belonging, but more often than not you are on the outside looking in.

There.  Those are my subjective, empirical observations on how Pinoys are and aren’t, ready for you to agree/disagree with.  As the bad guy in MIB 3 sez, let’s agree to disagree.  But chances are, if you are Pinoy, or know one well, or have lived with one for some time, you are familiar with some of what I’ve said above.

Ganda learns and earns ( and takes us to dinner )

I DON’T remember ever using the word here, but there has to be something momentous about an offspring receiving his/her first paycheque, and treating you to breakfast/lunch/ dinner (and maybe a little dessert), it’s so disorienting, because part of you still sees the small, innocent child in the newest member of the workforce, and yet so gratifying, because you know that no matter what happens next, nothing can ever take you away from your moment of pride and achievement, even though the milestone is not yours but your son’s/daughter’s.

Ganda had spent lots of anxious moments looking for a job, nervous situations surviving those final interviews, and finally gained a foot in the door towards holding down a first-ever job in NZ, and in all the time she never wavered in her resolve that, barely seconds after getting off the boat (figuratively) she could become a vital cog in the convalescing NZ engine of growth.

Notwithstanding, it was as a footsoldier in the hamburger-and-fries battalions of the fast food armies of which every member of society, First World, Second or Third, could be a stalwart.  But because there were precious few jobs whose prospective applicants might multiplied by a factor of one hundred (i.e., three openings vied for by a potential 300 candidates), that priority in NZ  was given to Kiwis and Maoris as a matter of political correctness, and lastly that Ganda’s credentials were limited to internships and on-the-job traineeships back home, actually landing a job so soon after getting here would be a challenge.

And true enough, the shortlists and breaks handed to our intrepid jobseeker were few and far between.  Despite the fact that barkada, well-meaning friends and two sets of parents had already advised her that it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, Ganda’s initial attempts at snaring a job were bound to end in disappointment.  CV’s, applications and walk-in interviews were easy to hand out, fill in and conduct, but the reality was, for Ganda to expect anything out of these daily endeavors was shooting for the moon.

It was therefore going to be a ritual of handing out your bio-data in the hundreds, pounding the pavement and zooming in on anything that resembled a job referral in the adventure of finding a job.

a previous dinner with Panganay, Ganda and Bunso. This time dinner was on esposa hermosa 😉

That she actually found a job within a month from obtaining her permanent resident status was a pleasant surprise for all of us, her circle of friends, and not the least Ganda herself.  Granted it wasn’t in the rarefied executive offices of Wellington CBD, but she wasn’t dreaming.  Better-paying and more career-oriented jobs would be there, but for now getting her feet wet and filling out her resume’ (experience-wise) was the most important thing.

We wanted to grant her wish of treating us to lunch last weekend, but at the same time we didn’t want her to splurge too much so soon after starting her new job.  A compromise was reached : she would choose any place (that wasn’t too similar to her fast food employer) and we would shoulder half the bill.

Considering that it was a marvelous grilled chicken dinner, that we hadn’t seen Ganda (and sidekick Bunso ) since they started looking for jobs (for weeks and weeks), and the conversation and bonding were outstandingly feel-good, it was hands-down a world-class way to celebrate entering the workforce.

For one sweet meal it was a reversal of roles, the providee becoming the provider, and the younger generation embracing the role of host.  It was also a very unsubtle way of reminding us that after a certain point in life, time begins to fly, and pass you by if you don’t hold on like your life depended on it.

Congrats Ganda, and thanks everyone for reading!

why beer isn’t a sure thing even in a bar & resto district

Beer aisle

Beer aisle (Photo credit: diwong)

STUMBLED INTO a bit of barya* recently after late adjustments to guild exam-pay rises (up 11 cents to 59 cents an hour for successful candidates, those cents add up if you keep an eye on those pennies 🙂 ), a retroactive pay rise and corrections based on a new wage schedule, retroactive as well.

Before you ask for balato**, it’s been spent all of it, took care of an advance made by Bunso & Ganda’s mom, and tried to make a small dent on the obligations incurred the last trip home. But because I owed a few favors to both esposa hermosa who’d been working like a(n attractive, female) horse the last few days, and to SuperBisor who helped in agitating for the pay rise, it would’ve been poor form for me to not even suggest a small Chinese dinner treat in the popular nearby bar-and-resto district in Petone.  To which they said yes, of course, despite the short notice.

I think I’ve told you more than once that though I’m no stranger to vice, drinking like a fish is not one of them, but I thought that the company and occasion were enough reason to justify even one tiny bottle of beer, never mind if the mood happened to ask for seconds just in case.

The waiter, who unsurprisingly was Chinese, took our orders rather haughtily, but even with his curt manner what he said was jolting : instead of taking a request for a bottle of local beer, he replied we don’t serve alcohol but you can bring your own, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the door.

I don’t know if he was referring with his “glancing” gesture to a table of Kiwis who brought their own rather generous baon of wine or a sign near the door that said B.Y.O.W. (“bring your own wine”).

So that‘s what that sign meant; I always wanted to know what it was trying to say.

Almost immediately I got discouraged; not only was there a BYOW fee of $3, you also had to buy outside, preferably very soon as the food was coming.

I needed not only to loosen my tongue and unwind, I also had to find takeaway beer in a hurry.

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SuperBisor thought he saw a dairy (small grocery) a couple of blocks down the street, I also sighted quite a few bars before entering the Chinese resto.  Surely with all these choices I could sate my thirst?

The small grocery was the first “x” on my list.  No license to sell alcohol, the South Asian proprietor said.  Lotto or cigarets maybe?  No thanks as I scooted out.  The beers on the bars weren’t very inviting, price-wise.  And how would I look carrying a glass of takeaway beer outside the bar?  Pretty lame, and I’d look mighty similar to an alcoholic for sure.  Obviously I hadn’t thought this out.

I returned to an amused SuperBisor and his girlfriend who were a bit sympathetic to my beerless search.  Mahal was not so sympathetic : ibig sabihin nyan wag ka nang uminom, mamaya ka na lang bumili.  It’s a sign for you to drop the beer idea, amigo. Maybe later.

Thankfully, the dinner was sumptuous, and everyone was happy.

Later on while settling the bill, I tried my primary-school Mandarin on the waiter, who was also the cashier (probably one of the owners as well) : his manner improved dramatically and in so many words this was what he answered to my question regarding their failure to serve alcoholic beverages :

Eating establishments may have one of two licenses regarding liquor.  You may either have a BYOW license (heard about that one already) or sell liquor.  It’s easier to maintain a BYOW license, and besides we need training and a “responsible” person for the second kind of license.

He actually told me (and didn’t I deserve it?), in his charmingly abrasive way : Next time, bring your own beer?  No, please, ifs, and buts about it.

Sure I will !  If ever, that is, I get the munchies for, and can afford, crispy duck again.

Thanks for reading !

*loose change                             **treat, “blow-out”, lunch/dinner on me

to be asian is to embrace 3/5 of all people, and 2 of 4 hemispheres

THE NICE thing with being Filipino is that often you are mistaken for being : Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Taiwanese, Laotian, Burmese, Nepalese, Japanese and to some extent Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan.

In short, when you’re Pinoy, prepared to be perceived as Asian, in as many ways as possible.  Ways here is actually to be read as hues, colors and races and any other marker of nationality, which doesn’t matter too much when you’re a Southeast Asian.

See the picture above?  You might not be able to decipher the text, it says : “For sum (sic) Asian Man had to pop off sumwea (somewhere).”

Some Kiwis have a blind spot when it comes to discerning the different nationalities of Asians, for them a Pinoy might as well be a Cambodian, and a Papua New Guinean might as well be a Sri Lankan.  It’s not their fault, just like it’s not our fault when, unless we’ve lived among them for ages, we can’t distinguish between Australians and New Zealanders, or for that matter between English, German, French, and other Middle Europeans (until they start talking).

But back to the note in the picture.  I passed by the Salvation Army store jogging around the block, and saw a few toys that would look quite good in my collection.  I couldn’t take the risk of someone else buying them before I could rush home to get a dollar, so I decided to buy them on the spot, and ask the counter guy (a new volunteer, I know the regular Salvation Army volunteers) to hold them for me while I got the cash.

Obviously, the new volunteer couldn’t stay much longer beyond his shift, and very helpfully wrote the note and attached it to the toys to unburden everybody from any potential mix-up.  I liked the note so much I asked for it for this blog.

Thing is, I often think and perceive of myself (naturally) as Filipino, and a bit less often, as Chinese (I am part-Chinese), but because of that note, I thought that in a country like New Zealand I am just as frequently perceived as Asian, with the only wrinkle being that there are as many as 48 different kinds of Asians, 46 if you don’t count Russia and Turkey, which are as much part of Europe as they are Asia, but that is neither here nor there.

Point is, when you’re Asian, you embrace the positive as well as the negative aspects of all members of the Asian family.  You may be more East Asian and Southeast Asian than Middle Eastern or Central Asian, but as far as many New Zealanders are concerned, an Asian is an Asian is an Asian.  But not all.

It acquires a bit of significance when ASEAN cultural festivals, Asian Games and Pan-Asian conferences are held, but there are so many things that bind us, and we definitely have more similarities than differences.

To enumerate these ties that bind, and similarities would take definitely more than the finite space here, and it’s simplistic and a glittering generality, but I would like to make one thing clear : I am proud to be Asian.

thanks for reading!

PS. Asia comprises 4 out of the current 6 billion people on Earth, and fill up practically all of the Eastern Hemisphere, and a huge chunk of the Northern Hemisphere.

goodbye Tita Amy !

TITA (aunt) AMY Sy became fast friends with our Tita Lily relatively late in life, but that didn’t stop her from being a beloved member of the family.  Originally part of their Saturday mahjongg games, Tita Amy became a regular in family events, religious gatherings and anytime something was celebrated or commemorated.

What most of us in the family didn’t realize was that Tita Amy was a devoted member of her own church for many many years, and had been a well-loved and regarded Tita of everyone, who helped with both the physical and spiritual well-being of anyone who might be in need.

Before I left the Philippines to try my luck overseas, Tita Amy would always ask me how are your children?  Are you alright?  Are you taking care of yourself?  I never stopped wondering how a woman who was usually alone to care for herself (her husband had passed away years back and both her daughters migrated to the US) could care so much about others.

After I left our homeland, Tita Amy often saw Ganda and Bunso and asked about their goings-on, if they had any pressing issues and gave unsolicited advice the way grandmothers do.  Together with her good friend Tita Lily they watched diligently over dozens and dozens of nephews, nieces, grandnephews and grandnieces as if they were their own children.  Without much fanfare she had endeared herself to many of the sons and daughters of the next three generations, long after she was gone.

And indeed last Friday Tita Amy joined our Creator after a short bout with serious illness, the shortness matched only by its sadness, as Tita Amy as always looked like she was in the pink of health.

You many no longer be with us but your spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of those you left behind, and we thank you for the gift of love and life.

missing mangga, snubbing progessive lenses and saying hi to an honored NZ guest

FROM EITHER sleeping in this morning or one glass of wine too many last night, I can’t think coherently enough for one topic in this space today, so if any of you care I’m sorry.  I can think, though, of a few fleeting thoughts (about home or related to home) that occupied me.

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Good news travels fast, and if the news is about good food, specifically good food back home, news travels even faster.  I got mine last week from an honorary Pinoy, SuperBisor and his kabayan girlfriend, who happened to pass by the fruit & veggie store.

You better pass by Jina’s if you don’t want to miss out, they’re probably almost gone today was the cryptic comment I got from SuperBisor that morning, confirming a photo post I saw on the FB page of esposa hermosa’s friend.  Golden mangoes (from Guimaras,  Zamboanga or Pangasinan, I don’t know) were being sold here, and they were going fast.

A minimum six boxes containing 2 dozen mangoes each box were brought out by the store, according to the apologetic grocer, and they were all gone before the end of the day, according to esposa.  It didn’t take a Mensa candidate to figure out who the mysterious hoarders were, either countrymen who were lucky enough to pick up the scent or Kiwis, Maoris or (Polynesian) Islanders in the know.  Me myself, I hadn’t had a taste of the orgasmic fruit of my childhood since my last Manila vacay earlier in the year, and the sweet-sour tangy flesh that Pinoys could never get enough of, I could only savor in my dreams.

[ Afterthought : and if you thought stocking up was a penny-smart alternative to paying for more later, the mangoes cost NZ$4.99 each, definitely not the poor man’s fruit in these parts, but just the same they sold like (White King) hotcakes. 🙂 ]

Hoping for a new shipment a week later, esposa and I dared not hope too much and passed by the same shop again today.  Would you believe it?  Another six boxes gone in less than 24 hours, and only a pale shadow counterpart, Australian mangoes, sat in mute testimony to their absence.  The only upside to our sad mango-less situation :  The mango trade was so brisk that the owner was bound to get more in the near, near future.

For many of us here in Wellington, near future couldn’t be soon enough.

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I went to two suki optometrists back home five months ago, buying a pair of eyeglasses from each to make sure I’d always have a visual aid for my stubborn myopia, my surest sign that middle-age hood was well on its way.  Each of the eye doctors there told me the same thing :  that my myopia-cum-astigmatism hadn’t deteriorated too much, but I might want to consider purchasing progressive lenses to avoid the inconvenience of removing and replacing the spectacles.

Without even pausing to ask what they were, I politely declined, not realizing that they would be a huge help to me since the myopia that bothers me when I try to focus on things from a distance doesn’t bother me up close, specifically when I’m reading.  In short, the glasses I use for distance are actually a nuisance when I try to read.

Unless, you guessed it, I use progressive lenses.

Which I totally neglected to try in the Philippines, on the ground that I thought they might be more expensive, which was nonsense because not only was the additional cost practically negligible long term, the hassle it would’ve saved me, as I’m agonizing over now, would’ve been tremendous.  Because of the foolhardy savings of a few pesos, I’m suffering a hundredfold in terms of frustration these days. 😦

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President Noynoy Aquino is coming, in fact is probably already here in New Zealand up there in Auckland, but because so many kabayan want to see him, and because each town in New Zealand is sending so many of its unofficial delegates, it’s almost not worth the bother trying.  He will be attending a few Filipino-New Zealand themed events and this is quite good for the Pinoy community, and will needless to say raise his stock with Pinoys, family and friends lucky enough to see him in person.

When an event of this magnitude reaches migrant shores, there will always be those who will have something negative to say about it, and the bottom line about it is you can’t please everybody.  There will always be people who will be told that there’s no more room inside, there will be people who no matter how far they’ve come will be disappointed, and there will be kabayan who will miss him by just a few minutes.

It’s probably safe to say that the man is trying his best to reach out to as many countrymen as he can, trying to do as much as he can in the short time he’s in charge, and if he can inspire as many of us as he can into supporting economic growth back home, I don’t mind if I can’t see him in person, as long as everything goes well during his visit.

Mabuhay President Noynoy, have a safe trip back home and please take care of our Inang Bayan while we are away!

you don’t alter your pinayness, you alter yourself to fit being a pinay

NOT ONLY did esposa hermosa not find a recent article I read about bridal tube feeding an alarming commentary on the lengths women will go to look “acceptable” on her wedding day, it actually inspired her to do something similar to fit into a picture-perfect party dress that she declared was the ONLY outfit that would satisfy her norm in looking good for an event.  I didn’t believe there was actually a pop culture adage to the effect that you don’t alter (a certain fashion designer’s dimensions), you alter yourself to fit (that designer), certainly commercially-conceived consumer hyperbole, but I saw it brought to life by esposa herself, declaring a one-day fast (save for smoothies and crackers) just to look fabulous (she already looks fabulous to me) for said event.

Which just brought to mind the various pressures women are subjected to just to prettify themselves and therefore give themselves the veneer of acceptability (let alone beauty) in civilized society.  It would all be very well in absolute terms, but we all know that men are not subjected to this pressure to paint our faces, finger nails and toe nails, put on at least half a dozen different substances on multiple layers to moisturize, lighten and strategically shade spots on their faces, specifically eyes, cheeks and noses;

Routinely in weddings, debuts and formal occasions, nobody gives us men a second look (even in our supposedly virile 20s, 30s and 40s) with our beer bellies and five o’clock shadows, but these same men would thumb their noses at their mates if the latter came out with anything less than flawless complexions and hourglass figures.

Obviously with my resume’, I can only speak for Pinays, so I hope there are some parallels you can draw if you’re other-Asian, Caucasian or of some other persuasion.

Depending on the amount of time a poor girl has before a big event, she can either pick out an outfit she’s never worn before or buy a brand-new one, usually worth several paycheques, pick out or buy shoes that match said outfit, replenish her store of makeup and hair care products or outsource the hair-and-makeup job to a professional who’s paid by the minute, and don’t forget the sidetrip to buy accessories, real jewelry and fashion jewelry, all the above to attend an event that besides the celebrant, no one will remember, to partake of food that will be a distant memory the morning after, and attended by people half of which she doesn’t even know.

And her boyfriend / date / partner?  He gets to wear the same suit he’s worn for Junior-Senior prom, graduation, his wedding, and probably the same suit he’ll be buried in (sorry to be morbid).  A sprinkle of face powder, deodorant and some after-shave, if he’s saved some from last time comprises the full range of aesthetic preparation he will undertake for the same occasion.

Nothing new for him, but hopefully everything will be freshly laundered.  All he needs to do is keep his shirt free from wine and ketchup stains, prevent scuffing the dull sheen of his loafers, and comb his unruly hair every now and then to avoid negative comments about hair gone awry.

On the other hand, his mate, harrassed Pinay, has a thousand-and-one items on her inbox.  Hair in place?  Check.  Face perfect?  Awesome for now.  Gown, bag and shoes coordinated? OK.  Now just hold that pause for the next three hours for the pics and Facebook posts so we can get this show on the road.

Sigh.  It’s hard enough to be pretty and sexy.  Harder when you’re young and eligible.  But it’s truly a challenge to be all that, and Pinay.

kabang the Pinoy’s best friend

a bit hard to look at but I don’t think this doctor (and the two girls Kabang saved) would mind staring at Kabang all day long :’) thanks and acknowledgment to

KUDOS NOT just to Kabang the hero dog for saving those two girls but to the owner as well, who must have trained his dog and given it enough love to literally put its body on the line for the welfare of its masters.

We don’t own a pet now in our temporary adopted land, but a Japanese spitz named Sherry lived with us almost throughout my preteens in Sta Cruz and Paco, Manila.  She bathed in our family’s undiluted attention in our first home, but had to compete with a half-breed named Liza after the moved to Paco.  Once, Sherry got bitten so badly by Liza that she had to spend a night at the vet’s for stitches.

We also owned a mixed-breed terrier named Fu-chi who was never out of energy, ran inside and out the house all day long.  Sadly, Fu-chi’s life was cut short after sampling a too-generous portion of rat poison.

a dog that looks remarkably like Fu-chi

After I became a family man and one of the first apartments we lived in was in a (very) low-iincome neighborhood, I actually saw at least twice two whole dogs being roasted on spits.  The partakers of this grisly feast were already intoxicated when they did this, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered, as this practice sadly is not that uncommon in my home country.

Thinking of my pet preferences, I can be both a dog person and cat person, but if you have a dog like Kabang who will do anything for his master/s, then I would have to be swayed, if I had the budget, to allow into our home (and our hearts) man’s best friend.

happy birthday mom :’)

Mom when she got married. Glamorous no? happy birthday po!

AS THE sun rises and sets, so must the child view his / her mom‘s greatness through the prism of self-interest.  It’s not selfishness, it’s just how things evolve.  There is hardly any world outside your comfort and primary wants of enough food and sleep, and you can’t help but put whoever provides these needs in the center of your attention.

Years later, in so many other ways but in the same unconditional manner, she is there for you, with you and for you, no question about it and though you’d never impose, there isn’t a thing she wouldn’t do for you if she knew it would help you.

But in little ways and in unintended situations, I’ve found out that Mom has been a whole lot of other things for a lot for other people.

For one thing, she has helped so many people go to school.  Mostly these were children of our helpers (if not the helpers themselves), literally scores and scores of them through the years.  The strange thing is outside of a few that we found out about inadvertently, she never told anyone about them, save perhaps Dad who must’ve known.  As long as the interest to learn was there and they were willing to put in the time, effort and of course stay with us while going to school, Mom never declined.  Most of the time Mom’s scholars didn’t finish, got married early or went back to the province to help their own folks, but it was never because Mom gave up on them.  The only time we would find out who made it and thought enough of Mom to thank her was on Christmas and New Years, when one or two would make the trip to our home to express simple gratitude.  A few words of pangaral (advise), a full plate of leftover noche buena and a broad smile from Mom was the usual response.

Another hidden talent that Mom’s used generously through the years is the number of people she’s brought together via her matchmaking skills.  She knows instinctively who stand a good chance of being compatible and hitting it off as a pair, and she loses no time bringing these potential mates together.  It matters not that the people she introduces to each other are a generation (or even two) younger than her, she has the innate sense of knowing who might be good for each other, and the latent clues, some physical but mostly otherwise she easily picks up for reference later.

But one of the most remarkable things I learned about my mother I learned when we circumnavigated the small island near Masbate province where she was born more than 25 years ago.  Those days health and safety was little more than a murky concept, and five of us, my mom and three of my brothers rode an outrigger canoe (called a lancha) that fit barely two dozen people, and we visited a few villages wherever she had aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews and nieces, and all sorts of extended family.

In every village we visited, little more than a cluster of huts and fishing boats, there was always a small semi-concrete hut for Sunday worship, and usually there was a small marker near the door, thanking the donors for the efforts they made in making the structure possible.

Guess whose name I inevitably found inscribed on all those humble markers?

Thanks for bringing happiness in your own special way Mom. On your birthday, please accept heartfelt thanks from five grateful sons, seven grandchildren on whom the lessons of life and love will hopefully be treasured forever.

I love you always

your son

pasaway answers to kiwi FAQs bout pinoys

participants in the Bacolod Masskara festival in the Philippines, thanks and acknowledgment to!

[ Note : Sincerest apologies if we sound a bit sensationalist, but politically correct NZ is not immune from the blight of indentured or involuntary servitude, as seen in this TVOne latebreaking newsclip surely making the rounds here. On behalf of Pinoy migrants and guest workers in dire straits they have helped and continue to help, we thank Dennis Maga and Migrante Aotearoa!  To be a migrant, like many things in the drama of life, is fraught with danger and challenges as it is with hopes and dreams. ]

PASAWAY MAY mean anything from cheeky to outright belligerent.  It could be edgy, dodgy and shady but could also mean audacious, fearless and brashly creative.  Thanks to Manny Pacquiao, Charice Pempengco, Lea Salonga and Arnel Pineda and similar heroes and heroines, Pinoys have more or less captured the popular imagination of many New Zealanders : a smiling, improvising and English-speaking Asian race capable of punching above their weight, proud of their good work attitude and engaging (if accented) conversation, but beyond that, questions about us keep recurring.  To stamp my personal punctuation mark on these FAQs, (and maybe to discourage duplicate questions), here are my pasaway answers :

Why are there many different kinds of Pinoys (Malay, Chinese mestizo, Spanish mestizo, Indian, etc) ? Don’t know if Kiwis realize it, but just as NZ will be a melting pot of races in a decade or two (if it’s not already), the Philippines‘ long history of intercourse with myriad cultures and porous archipelago make our sunny islands a kaleidoscope  of race, color and language.  There are our ethnic minorities, mestizo groups, hybrids of various Southeast Asian nationalities and even those with traces of Hindu, Arabic and other races of the Near East.  Because of all these influences on our gene pool, we end up with a special mix of beauty unique to any eye but universally admired.  Behold breathtaking sights like Margie Moran, Melanie Marquez, Chat Silayan, Miriam Quiambao and of course Ruffa Gutierrez.  These are only the most well-known of the eye candy known the world over, thanks to our intermarriages and assimilations that are an accepted part of Pinoy society.

Why do Pinoys speak relatively better English than other visitors / migrants / guest workers ?  I was surprised to hear that a former flatmate, who did tours of duty in Riyadh, Qatar and Dubai, was usually appointed the unofficial spokesman for his colleagues, most of whom were Pinoy, Hindu, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan, but it didn’t matter anyway, since anytime the Caucasian employers needed someone to discuss a pressing labor issue with, my flatmate was summoned as he could best articulate the sentiments of the workers.  We all have our native tongues, and we all profess to speak (our version of) English, but by default and because we are the last man standing, Pinoys often become other races’ interpreters when speaking with the so-called “native” English speakers.  Perhaps this is because of one of the last vestiges of American colonial rule (1898-1946) using English as a medium of instruction, as well as the fact that Pinoys are one of the most Westernized cultures in Asia, exposed to Western cuisine, show business and fashion.  As a result, we are frequently confident English speakers, and even if we aren’t, like to boast that we understand foreigners who visit us and who have no choice but to communicate with us in English.  An unintended consequence is wherever we travel, work or migrate in the world, we become better understood than other travellers, workers and migrants because of our facility in English, although sometimes we may overdo it.

(and last but not the least) why do more and more Pinays end up wives of Kiwis?  this is the question that I keep hearing not just from Kiwis themselves but from countrymen who’re beginning to notice a trend.  It could be a number of factors : that Pinays are predisposed to take care of their men, that Pinays are above-average cooks, that they are relatively efficient English speakers, and that in general they are faithful and devoted to their partners.  Your guess is as good as mine, but the obvious answer is economics and practicality make it imperative for many Pinays, who are also mothers, daughters, sisters and granddaughters, to make a go of it in a better life abroad.  Being a dutiful wife to a hardworking Kiwi is a good start, and Pinays know that the better they do their job loving and taking care of their husbands, the better their chances of attaining long-term goals.

That’s the pragmatic answer, but of course, you could always select the romantic alternative : that Pinays are the type who fall in love, fall in love hard, and want to live happily ever after, whether they fall in love with fellow Pinoys, Americans, Europeans, Australians or Kiwis.

thanks for reading !