the first job for the rest of your life

don’t forget to dream!

[ Note : it’s been slow days and even slower nights for Bunso, whose sleepy eyes above are indicative of what for him must be an interminable wait to find a job.  With his permission, I’m posting below a letter I wrote him, hopefully to cheer him up.  Write to him some encouragement if you’ve some time as well, will you?  Thanks in advance and thanks for reading! ]

Dear Bunso :

YOU MUST have been on the front row when God was handing out smarts and wit because hands down, you’re one of the smartest kids I’ve ever encountered, among a group that includes your siblings, your contemporaries and many children I know.  You’re not the Mensa polymath type, but ever since you learned to string two coherent thoughts together, your head has been chockfull not just of facts and figures but of ideas bursting out of their megawatt bulbs just waiting for you to explain them to the rest of us.

It takes a lot to get you bored, as you can always get lost in your own world while deeply immersed in the many books you read.  I swell with pride to say this, but you are at ease with the spoken as well as the written word, a facility that is as rare as it is special.

Unfortunately, not all the intellect, articulateness and value-addedness of a young migrant like you will be an assurance of being hired despite all the verve, earnestness and energy you’ve put into your job search.

You’ve tried every approach : distributed your CV, knocked on cold doors, tried all the want ads looking for qualifed hopefuls in any industry that seeks entry-level people who make up for their  green horns with the zest to learn and the dedication to go the extra mile.  So far you’ve not reaped results, but the day is young.

I probably won’t gain any additional respect by telling you, but it took me an excruciatingly long time to find a job in New Zealand, after my first job overseas fell to pieces in the recession.  Just to keep body and soul together, I became a nameless cipher in the underground economy, earned half the minimum wage from an Asian grocer (he knew I needed the job and made me work for every cent), whispered salamat to a Pinoy video store owner who gave me parttime work, all the while hoping against hope that I would find a real job before my visa ran out.

And I don’t need to remind you that it took Kuya nearly a year, fits of depression, and mind-numbing boredom before he landed his first job.  You might also want to take heart with Ganda’s efforts at networking, schmoozing and all-out marketing herself before she got hired.  Before too long, you will become a bundy-clock slave too.  Savor your idle moments for now.

Job referrals can come from the oddest places, but almost always, coming when you least expect it, a bit of information from a kabayan, being at the right place at the right time, and a nugget of good fortune coming from a prayer, can yet bring you the first job of your life.

It might not mean anything, but introductions and meaningless conversations with people you met from other Pinoys, friends of friends and acquaintances might suddenly open doors, lead to informal interviews that end up in situations that finish with, well would you be interested to work with us?  Unlikely, I know, but nothing to lose right?

Meantime, smell the crisp spring air, keep your ear close to the ground, and above all, enjoy yourself.  There are worse things than being 17, fit as a fiddle, and cute as you are.

I love you always


belated happy birthday Arlene Ayuste !

Arlene with her kids ! hard to believe.

You’ve had a classmate since Grade Six, but it seems like you’ve known her forever.

She’s always been an overachiever and a do-everything type, but after school, from everything you’ve heard and seen, she’s outdone even herself.

Outstanding mom, risk-taking businesswoman, and friendly batch 82 member.  And these are the modifiers and descriptions I’ve heard about her for years and years now.

One thing we’ll never get tired hearing, and I’m sure she’ll always pause for, is the tag she truly deserves : loyal friend.

So sorry for the late birthday greeting loyal friend, you’ll always be Number One for us, happy birthday and many happy returns Arlene!

YLB Noel

groundhog day for your OFW kabayan

they had time to pose for a team-building pic. Thanks and acknowledgment to!

Oh, dear.  I promised esposa hermosa I would finish it today, bundle it up and throw it into the dropbox at Immigration NZ tomorrow.  But it’s taking all of my energy to just sort the documents today.

I shouldn’t have too much problems with this, as I’ve been doing it, not counting the first time when I was a new hire, three times previous, applying for a work permit, now called a work visa, as a guest worker in the Land of the Long White Cloud, or New Zealand.

Unlike many of my kabayan (countrymen) who’ve gotten here under the Work-to-Residence policy stream, my right to work depends largely on whether the visa officer thinks there aren’t enough locals who can do the job and fill the position I currently occupy.  Failing that simple test, my status as a work visa-holder ceases to exist and I go home.

It’s as simple as that, every year.  Most years the case officer just follows the script, respects that procedure has been properly followed and ticks all the boxes in my favor.  Every now and then though, there is someone who is even more than a stickler for the letter of the law, who thinks that New Zealanders enjoy the first, second and last priority for jobs all and sundry, and that as it is, there are already too many migrant workers in Enzed (NZ).

this theoretical visa / case officer is correct on all counts, except for the following: the basic law sometimes bows to the reality that there is no one currently qualified to perform the work for which the permit/visa is being applied for; that the jobs are there for Kiwis and Maoris to take, but what if they’re not interested in particular jobs? and three, it is true that there seem to be a tad more foreign workers, maybe too much for comfort for the previous generation of New Zealanders, but if you take away all of us, who’ll be left to work?

Regardless of the wisdom of the strict officers, and how politically correct it is to allow migrant workers in a country that has unemployment problems up to here (point to neck), I’m just happy to avoid the above kind of bureaucrat, and to keep my nose clean and my application airtight.

By airtight I mean all documents updated, that I’ve done my part to improve my training and education, and that I enjoy the support and endorsement of my employer, which incidentally, I’ve done and I do.

I’ve kept on file my employment contract, which contains all the bells and whistles (anti-harrassment, opportunities for advancement, legal terms of work, etc etc) but also all the bail-out clauses in case the employer doesn’t like me anymore.  It’s pretty dated, because it’s deemed renewed if no one objects to it, and since I’ve signed it 2008 it’s been good as gold

I’ve passed at least one training module every year that consists of a written exam and optional quizzes spread throughout a five-month period, supported by the worldwide guild with branches in Australia and Europe, and I only need two more to be certifed in my trade.  I’ve kept copies of my passing certificates for the officer’s scrutiny.

Back home, I remembered to update my National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) clearance to prove my nose has been clean all of my adult life, or at least proves I’ve never been caught  😉

Experience has taught me to keep copies of unanswered job ads for my position in publications to show the case officer that no one is qualified, or even interested in my job.  It helps him/her a whole lot in deciding in my favor, in short to issue me a new work visa.

Once, my previous boss even went so far as to advertise in Work and Income NZ, a job placement agency staffed by the national government, for eight straight weeks just to show that the physical and technical aspects of the job attracted very few local applicants.  That year it was enough to clinch my precious work visa.

All the above, plus the crucial written endorsement from The Man that I’ve been a good little boy and that it would cost them more to lose me and train someone from scratch, I’m to compile, complete all the applications, and not the least, add the application fee, zip to the office in Wellington City, and dump the package onto their dropbox

I hope to be as lucky and blessed as I’ve been the last four years.

Thanks for reading !


the mall is where the (pinoy) heart is

KIWIS LOVE their weekend barbies (barbeques), Polynesian islanders love to fish for paua and kawhais, assorted Asians love to do a wide range of things (cooking, eating and playing mahjongg) that involve communal activity, but if you want to see what Filipinos generally do on their free time, just do what I do : go to the nearest mall.

Research is not my strong area (one of my weakest, actually) and my ADHD always leads my interviews to a dozen off-the-Google-Map detours (just ask Ambassador Virgie) so I only have my own sensory tools and natural noseyness when forming my shaky judgments, but I think I stand on solid ground when I say that Pinoys possess a preternatural affinity for malls.  Ever since the days of Harrison Plaza and Makati Commercial Center, Filipinos have turned to malls like ducks to water, frogs to swamps and tuna to their spawning grounds. I think it’s the unique mix of commercial chaos, anonymity among multitudes and food court orgy, combined with the current mood of the mallgoer, that create the mall experience.  Gamechanging trends in the mall industry made possible by Henry Sy and the SM Group provided us Pinoys with the Mall Generation.  Could any of us born after Martial Law imagine our childhood, puberty and young adulthood without Megamall, SM North City and all those other malls of our lives?

Sorry to digress.  I just meant to say that a lot of Pinoy migrants, me included, have brought this mall consciousness (of relating almost every aspect of social life to mallgoing) to our new and adopted lands, regardless of whether or not malls abroad are more beautiful, more glittering and more inviting.  (They’re not.)  We do it almost subconsciously, connect almost everything we do to the mall.  Would it not just be the next step, if the opportunity presented itself, to associate job prospects with the mall?

This is what happened to esposa hermosa, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  The mall supermarket, fairly-sized and competing with two others in the area outside the mall, is staffed by two Pinoys.  One of them is Ate Emma, a cashier, who came with one of the earliest waves of migrants in the late 1980s or early 1990s.  I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I’m guessing her Kiwi husband was a former pen-pal who exchanged correspondence, visited the Islands (and her) on a whim, and came back to New Zealand with a Pinay bride.  But of course, my interaction with her is limited to checkout banter, smiles and short-but-sweet phrases like kumusta na magsisimba ka ba and sobrang lamig ng winter sana uminit sa spring no?  the other pinoy is the duty manager James, an Ogie Alcasid lookalike that I often see attending to the self-checkout machines that require supervisor approvals for alcohol purchases.  He gives me a friendly wave and returns to his duties.

Almost every other ladies wear and accessories store is staffed by Asians, and I’m pretty sure at least half of them are Pinays, this type of merchandise attract the female of our kind, who are usually already experts in the art of making and keeping themselves beautiful and trendy in most of their outfits, not easy when you consider the downsized Asian budget.

But the real proof that Pinoys are creatures of the mall are on the walkways, the Warehouse store, the foodcourts, everywhere else.  In singles, in pairs, in families, even in groups of barkadas, they literally fill up the place.  You know other Asians, Islanders, Kiwis and tourists, and you definitely know if they are Pinoys, the familiar chatter, the in-between features of Asians, South Europeans and our very own ethnic minorities.  They are in their element, each Pinoy diving into their favorite store, hanging out with friends, or just chillin’, hope you don’t mind if I use that youngster word.

One more thing.  The foodcourt cleaning staff is filled with Pinays who do their work proudly, picking up in nanoseconds any stray tray, plate or cutlery that is no longer needed, returning the non-disposable stuff to the respective kiosks / stalls, and generally making themselves available to the dining public, especially the kabayan.

Did I say I was getting ahead of myself earlier?  Oh yes I did.  Esposa worked most of her professional life in a mall, so it was natural for her to look for a job in a mall, taking the first availble job in Westfield’s most popular sushi place.  Very fortunately for her (and me, by osmosis) the employer was above average, it’s been (and continues to be) a good gig, the hours are friendly, and the patrons even more so, save for the occasional flakey customer demanding what he/she feels is original wasabe.

In sum, we buy necessities and derive livelihood from a mall, it’s close to our flat, and we see lots and lots of Pinoys in it, almost any day of the week.  Life is good.

Thanks for reading!

How can you not smile after watching this?

Just more proof that the incarcerated and those undergoing reform are more in touch with the world than you and me.

For background, the original dance / video has reached 341.2 million YouTube hits, and has shown no sign of abating, or plateauing.

The video above hasn’t done too badly on its own, and will probably top 800,000 hits before the end of the week.  It might even exceed the 1.06 million hits generated by the Thriller (M.Jackson) dance number.

By the way, CPDRC stands for Cebu (Philippines) Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center.

Thanks for watching!

why Filipino Mart is my favorite Kinoy*

Mahal, Ms Balmadrid the manager and Mareng Sheila 🙂

[ Note : This is one of the few times our favorite Kinoy is not a person but a business / social entity, thanks for reading ! ]

IF THE profit motive is the sole reason for opening a business that targets your kabayan clientele, then you will probably, in the long run, be disappointed.  Razor-thin margins on inventory, searching for a thousand-and-one items to keep customers happy, and an extra eye peeled for those extra-strict best-before and use-before expiry dates that Asian preserves are known for : it’s definitely a labor of love.

That’s why it takes a special kind of kabayan who’s able to combine both service and entrepreneurship, just like the people behind Filipino Mart and its newest branch in Lower Hutt Wellington.

Lest you think that this is a (paid) endorsement of the said establishment, we’ve never met formally the owners Keith and Rosita Turner, and have only met the store manager Ms Wynda Balmadrid in passing.  In fact they don’t even know us, and it’s probably just as well, as we prefer to be one of the many anonymous admirers of their shop.

They carry an impressive range of products, specializing in Filipino wares that you won’t find on the supermarket shelf down the street or in the mall, and go as far as to peddle bagoong, bangus, tocino, longganiza, even ingredients you might need for dinuguan and kare-kare.  They have the complete line of sauce mixes for all the popular Pinoy dishes like adobo, sinigang, kaldereta and afritada.  The lineup of brands and packages for chichirya or Pinoy snacks is both colorful and up-to-date.  As it should be.


Although at least three-quarters of the stock is food and food-related, toiletries, and personal care products from Pinas are also on the shelves. Enough to make you homesick!

The prices are of course a bit higher than those you’d find on similar products in the mainstream supermarkets but that’s because they go the extra mile to import these goods to Pinoy consumers who miss them terribly.  Each slurp of tangy sinigang reminds you of monsoon evenings back home, each spoonful of rice and adobo reminds you of all those lunches in the Makati grind.  And each slice of mango (if you can find it) served with a dollop of bagoong saves you from the wrath of your pregnant wife, who can’t sleep until she gets her mangga and bagoong.

I could go on and on but really, it would be much better if you just visited them here in 231 High St Lower Hutt, or in Johnsonville if you’re nearer.  I would say enjoy yourself kabayan but I already know you will!

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