Going M.A.D. ( Mahal Appreciation Day)

Ganda's only vice is the need to look gorgeous each time she steps out the door! :)

Ganda’s only vice is the need to look gorgeous each time she steps out the door! ūüôā

versatilebloggeraward11TODAY,¬†THE 26th it’s all about Mahal.* ¬†Let’s call it Mahal Appreciation Day (MAD) for brevity. ¬†All gifts to be exchanged bundled up, more gifts wrapped for people unmet during Christmas Day, laundry done and food prepared for later tonight, then off to the mall we go!

It’s but fitting that we celebrate MAD in the mall. ¬†The mall is where I met Mahal, the mall is where she worked, both at home and now in New Zealand, the mall is close to our flat and the mall is where so many of our kabayan congregate, it’s like a second home for us.

Mahal spends a bit more time getting ready, agonizing over two outfits, concedes that my suggestion about a third outfit appears more sensible, then goes right back to her two original choices. ¬†Sigh. ¬†It’s all good.

After 10 minutes of travel (the mini-traffic jam takes longer than just walking to the mall), 10 minutes of finding a suitable parking spot (we don’t want sudden rain to ruin her summer outfit) and five minutes of walking between the parking lot and the mall proper, she remembers that the most important reason for the trip (exchange the present I gave her for another, sexier one) we forgot to bring and is gathering dust on the dresser back home. ¬†Since a parking spot here, once we give it up, will be next to impossible to find, would I be a dear and walk home (much faster) and retrieve the forgotten item ?

No worries Mahal. ¬†As I said, today’s all about you.

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We decide to snack a little before continuing MAD (which started out with a pedicure/ manicure instead of the foot spa she misses back home, the gift exchange and buying odds and ends for a very short gift list), and because of the impossibly packed food court, we end up sharing a table with an Indian couple and a Arab couple.  Given the famous NZ demographic diversity in urban centers, nothing surprising.

What did raise my eyebrows and elicit internal double-takes was the devil in the details : the Arabic couple was eating chicken, the Hindu couple was eating pork, and we were, of course, eating beef.  We were all within garlic-breath distance of each other, meaning we could all see, smell and hear what each other was eating.

We all smile at each other.  There is after all no need to be uncivil to heathen and unbelievers, but inwardly I think each of us present are quite awkward and uncomfortable, to say the least.  Us Pinoys have the least awkward time, granted.

The day ends, after more shopping, a shared coffee (due to strength and volume, one medium mocha latte is enough for the two of us), a little more pampering for Mahal (it is her birthday after all), and a surprise visit from Ganda and Bunso, with a dinner treat from the celebrant.  Mahal typically wants everyone to be happy, even on her special day, and she gives us a memorable dinner.

I know you already know why it’s important for me to set aside Mahal Appreciation Day, but I’m saying it anyway for the record : for the person who cooks for you, wakes you up in the morning, drives you to work if it’s windy and rainy, tucks you in at night, does your laundry, fixes snacks for you, and picks out the clothes to make you look half-presentable, hangs on to your every word, shows you how much she loves you and otherwise makes you wonder how you ever did without her, showing her one day a year that she is at the very least appreciated is, literally, the least you could do for her.

I love you so much Mahal, thanks for being in my life, and you complete me! :’)

*not her real name. ūüôā

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who is your favorite Kinoy* of the year ?

Botong FranciscoA LOT of us, secretly at least, start out whining and sighing when we hear from them.

The organizer who never gets tired soliciting your time and energy for yet another fundraiser, the community leader championing lost causes back home, the civic-minded neighbor who wants to help the less fortunate through his Pinoy group, or the culture-conscious kabayan who doesn’t want you to forget Filipino music, dance or theater with the passage of time.

By the time they are finished with us, not only are we energized and inspired, we are guilty that we couldn’t have done more as red, blue and yellow Pinoys, and happy that there are people like the above who have done more than their share as descendants of Gat Jose Rizal, the scions of Plaridel, and the reincarnations of Atang dela Rama. ¬†They do it in so many ways, but the bottom line is the same : they make us proud to be Pinoy.

Among all of these kabayan overachievers there must be one who stands out, universally inspiring us to be more than we could ever be, join hands as lahing kayumanggi and pay forward all the good things that have happened to us over the last 12 months.

That’s why I’m asking you my dear kabayan and friends to nominate your personal choice as Your Favorite Kinoy of 2012.

There are no guidelines to be followed, just a simple rule : that your nominee promoted and generated positive awareness for the Pinoy and the Filipino community at large.

If you need examples, let me enumerate a short list culled from my own little blogs : Didith Tayawa-Figuracion, Norman Latosa, Gladys Grace Stephens, Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, former Consul-General Emilie Pe Shi, Chichi Abadingo , Kirsten Garcia, Marilou Guangco Scott, the AKLnzPINOYs family, and Sonny and Nieva Lim.  Your nominees are certainly not limited to these examples as we have many many countrymen and countrywomen going the extra mile to promote awareness of what we are and what we can do.

As soon as favorites emerge, we will blog all about them, and preferably before long we will present the Favorite Kinoy of the Year. ¬†Please remember, it’s not my choice, it’s yours.

Thanks in advance for sending in your vote, send it here, or any of the e-groups / Facebooks in which you see this busybody blog.

Mabuhay and maligayang pasko po sa inyong lahat!

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

just another day at the office (?)

somebody's got to do it ...

somebody’s got to do it …

AT WORK, we undergo all sorts of training, besides the actual skills we need to perform. ¬†First aid, health and safety, food safety, confined spaces training, et cetera. ¬†It’s to keep our limbs attached to our bodies, for us to come home to our families in one piece, and to generally keep life hassle free for everyone concerned. ¬†On the other hand, it keeps the company liability-free and the bottom line free from injury and lost-time man-hours, and in the black as often as the profit margin allows.

Depending on how you look at it, I was lucky (or unlucky) enough to be available for Elevated Working Platform training, also known as working at heights, or simply heights training, and my shift partner (Rasputin the Racist, remember him?) was also free, so it was auspicious for the two of us, since we were usually expected to work in pairs, even beyond normal shift work.

I know the brochure said Working at Heights, but I simply did not connect the course title to what we were going to be trained for, duh.  It slowly dawned on me while we were segueing from the theoretical to the practical session that we were going to be high on the roster list when working at heights was to be the flavor of the month (day).  Working. At. Heights.  Get it, Noel?  Whatever, just pass the free biscuits at teatime OK?

Sure enough, on the Saturday the warehouse was being prettied up for the Woolworth’s audit, everyone who had no excuse was rounded up to clean, and I mean clean the place. ¬†It’s not filthy, but there were corners there that the sun hadn’t shone on since the Spice Girls were still hot (weytaminit Noel, they’re still hot ūüėČ ) and our cleaning expertise was sorely needed.

What I hadn’t contemplated on was that the warehouse was much higher than the mill area ceiling wise, and the scissors lift that was made available wasn’t there for picture-taking purposes. Guess, kabayan, who was expected to volunteer himself to get up on that platform, as in elevated platform ? ¬†That’s right, little old me.

Which brings me to the picture above. ¬†I didn’t have the best of mornings, but it wasn’t, as experiences go, that bad. ¬†The trick for me was to not, under any circumstances, look down. ¬†I didn’t, and my irrational fear had no choice but to try another day.

I know it doesn’t look like me (especially if you’ve seen me before), but that’s me.

And yes, I survived.  Thanks for reading!

dinner with white people

versatilebloggeraward11[ Note : this is not meant to disparage mock or make fun of our hosts here in New Zealand, just that the title sounded catchy, and of course, since we are of the Asian persuasion, the whiteness of Kiwi friends here stand out rather famously among brown brothers like us. ]

EATING IS a universal exercise and it is elementary to existence.  So is drinking, specifically drinking alcoholic beverages like wine, beer and spirits.  Such that you would expect people to eat and drink in almost the same way across races, countries and continents.

The reality of course is that there are as many ways of eating and drinking as there are shades of skin, combinations of eyes, nose and hair, or nuances of culture. ¬†Using the left hand for example when you’re eating is frowned upon in countries where Islam is dominant. ¬†On the other hand, slurping soup or making noises with your cutlery or chopsticks is quite normal, in fact is indicative of rave food reviews, in China and the Far East.

Being the parochial Pinoy that I am, I’ve hardly broken bread with my esteemed hosts here, but had a few chances for catered and sit-down dinners with my workmates, majority of whom are Kiwis. ¬†Here are some observations :

Basic bread and butter. ¬†It’s pretty much meat-and-potatoes in many Kiwi barbecues and repasts, often there’s the main dish which is grilled steak, grilled burgers and grilled sausages, roast beef, roast pork and roast lamb, see the pattern? ¬†Salads, greens and pasta will usually oblige to be the side dishes, but give your average Kiwi bloke some meats and all is good. ¬†The bread is quite basic, nothing fancy, and the dessert is the famous Pavlova and cheesecake, you won’t hear any complaints from the crowd.

what u c is what u get :)

what u c is what u get ūüôā

On the other hand, it’s no boast, but there are multitudes of dishes from Asian fusion, Spanish-influenced and Western-influenced cuisines from Pinoy cooking alone, not to mention double approaches if the hosts are from blended (Pinoy and non-Pinoy) unions. ¬†No two meals are alike, but I admit that there are basic Filipino comfort foods that I can’t go long without.

there are as many beer brands as there are dialects in our humble Philippines... maybe more :)

there are as many beer brands as there are dialects in our humble Philippines… maybe more ūüôā

Beer and wine.  And this is the reason why Kiwis are not that picky when it comes to food.  Just bring out the twelve-pack for the men, and chill a couple of Merlots for the ladies and everyone will be buzzing with delight (emphasis on the buzz), as the firewater is known to bring out the mellow and the charm in all of us, especially during these festive days.  On the other hand, try to organize an event without alcohol, as our head office did two years ago, and the grumbles and annoyed faces will be seen almost immediately.  What, no grog? What kind of party is this? I can almost hear them say.

If you’re looking for a healthy contrast among teetotalling, abstaining and fitness-conscious Pinoys, well good luck to you. ¬†Pinoys aren’t heavy drinkers, but from early childhood are taught that San Miguel Beer is the universal drink of red-blooded brown men, that Ginebra San Miguel (by coincidence similarly-named) is the drink of true Filipinos (ang inumin ng tunay na Pilipino), and that imbibing coconut wine (lambanog) in a shot glass rounds till everybody topples over is a rite of passage for youths all over the archipelago. ¬†So put Pinoy and Kiwi drinkers together in one drinkathon, and you will have one happy, if intoxicated shindig.

Conversation. ¬†The basic components of conversation during Kiwi get-togethers are rowdy and sometimes off-color jokes, whining about the boss (if he/she’s not present) and, if the sob stories get thin, more lame jokes. ¬†Which isn’t that much different from material during Pinoy gatherings, except for one crucial difference. ¬†You have to get both the pitter-patter intonation of Kiwi accent, and the usual themes of Kiwi humor. ¬†Otherwise, if you’re like me, clueless and unwilling to stand out, you just go with the flow.

The Kiwi accent is not any of the various American accents, not a British accent, not a more-or-less neutral accent (like the Canadians or Europeans) and definitely not an Australian accent. ¬†Asserting a negative doesn’t mean anything, so just try to listen to the way Anna Pacquin (of X-Men and True Blood), Temuera Morrison (Star Wars’ Bobba Fett) or Peter Jackson (LOTR and The Hobbit) talk, as the trio are all Kiwis.

Surprise, surprise! ¬†Most of the conversation in Pinoy parties isn’t much different, except that friends who aren’t present better beware, because they usually end up as Topic Number One in discussions among their so-called friends. ¬†ūüėČ Whining about work isn’t the hottest issue (good jobs are after all still scarce back home), but it definitely ranks in the top five. ¬†Politics is a perennial favorite with kabayan, along with entertainment / showbiz, but only because the two worlds frequently collide. ¬†With Kiwis, counterpart buzz among politics and entertainment crowd out rugby, rugby and rugby only during the latter’s off-season. ¬†And why not? ¬†It’s only the national sport, it has a grassroots following, and New Zealand is the reigning Rugby World Cup champion.

Just remember to do as the Romans do, and pretend you understand every word you hear, and you’re good to go. ¬†Until, of course, you’re exposed.

now’s always good in thanks giving, but often is better

the first to help you up are those who know how it feels to fall down. thanks to betteroffread.com for the pic!

the first to help you up are those who know how it feels to fall down. thanks to betteroffread.com for the pic!

IN THE Unknown Soldier (not to be confused with the tomb of the unknown soldier) comics, the principal character says¬†“one guy can affect the outcome of a whole war! One guy in the right place… at the right time…”

I read this comic book an eternity ago, but the words have remained with me since.  One person doing good for another in a moment frozen in time may be a trifle, trivial in the grand scheme of things and long-forgotten since, but the ripple effect it creates may be incalculable for so many other people.

It’s hard to overestimate this, but I can’t explain it here. ¬†I just want to thank a few people who’ve directly and indirectly been responsible (when you think about cause and effect, is there really anything that you can call indirect?) for exactly where I am now. ¬†Again, now’s always good in thanksgiving, but often is better. ¬†I’ve thanked them once or twice before, but it never hurts to be grateful again.

[ Note : because it’s a moderately short blog, my thanks extend primarily for the last five-plus years only, and if it appears (more than once) that I’m a basket-case and candidate for mental health treatment, the truth is I probably do ūüėČ ]

Folks. ¬†Mom and Dad have always been there for me, always been there in my corner, (almost) never questioned my stupid decisions, and unfortunately (for them) have been there to help me clean up my mess. ¬†Always hoping against hope, they’ve never lost faith in me, and never ask for anything in return. ¬†How can you not appreciate them? ¬†OVER AND BEYOND : they were there for me when I was an absentee dad for the last five years, acting as gold-standard parents for Panganay, Ganda and Bunso. ¬†You can’t do much better than that. ¬†Maraming salamat and thank you, Mom and Dad.

Aunt. ¬†Tita Lily has been more than a second mother to our clan, she has been a shining example of generosity and thoughtfulness to so many other people. ¬†To me she has been nothing short of selflessness personified, literally being there for me every time I’ve been down and out and believe me, there have been many times. ¬†She asks only two things in return, and that is for me to be a morally upright, God-fearing person and to pick myself up everytime I fall down. ¬†I don’t know which has been harder for me, but she has always believed in me. OVER AND BEYOND : in one of her overseas trips, she very generously let me tag along with her to New Zealand, and as you will see below, something even better followed.

Brothers. ¬†All my brothers are great guys, and I’m terribly fond of each of them, but while we were in New Zealand Donald conceived of the idea that I should try my luck there. ¬†George, who had already settled in, warmed up to the idea and together, I’m happy to say that they are conceptually responsible for me not leaving after a two-week vacation and staying here the last five-plus years. ¬†OVER AND BEYOND : Donald has helped me with so many things that I’ve lost count, and has been my therapist (he’s a doctor) each time I’ve effed-up big time in my personal life. ¬†George gave me food, clothing and shelter my first year when I was looking for work in Auckland. ¬†To both of them, as well as my other two brothers Tim and Jude, sincere and profound thanks bros.

Kuya Efren, 2nd from right during a Philippine NZ Business Forum event, with a very special guest from the homeland ;) thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to Kinoy business leader Mr Lito Banal!

Kuya Efren, 2nd from right during a Philippine Embassy event, with a very special guest from the homeland ūüėČ thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to Kinoy business leader Mr Lito Banal and Mr Clark Figuracion!

Auckland couples. ¬†I haven’t spoken to them much since I moved to Wellington, but two couples who gave me jobs not only did that, but gave me confidence and time to look for a more stable and long-term job. ¬†Steve and April Dods and Efren and Butchie Pascual gave me jobs when I needed them most, and the great thing about them is they would’ve done it to anyone in need. ¬†I last saw Kuya Efren in a Facebook pic with President Noynoy Aquino during his New Zealand trip, and I’m happy to see how well they’ve done !

Ross Colmenar. ¬†He may not remember it anymore, or may not make too much out of it, but his job referral to me, when I was almost ready to leave New Zealand, changed the course of my life for the next five years. ¬†A chance introduction, impromptu conversation with Ross and the effort to take down my number led to an interview, which led to a probationary job, a move to Wellington, and five years later, I’m still in that job. ¬†I haven’t had a real opportunity to thank him, but I’m thanking him now. ¬†Maraming salamat kapatid, your small gesture became a game-changer !

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This list, I’m sure you’ll agree, is not exhaustive and is the start of many many more similar lists. ¬†If ever you see any of the people mentioned here, please give them a small salute on my behalf for the difference they’ve made in many lives, I know they’ve made a massive difference in mine. ¬†Christmas is a great time for gift-giving, but it’s great for thanks giving as well. ¬†I hope I was able to share with you my gratitude for these (and many more) people, advance Merry Christmas friends !

not only because i ran out of time today, but because it was such a great blog, I’m reposting it, thanks bro, and hope you enjoyed it as much ūüėČ

Jude Bautista Gallery

Written and photographed

By Jude Bautista

For the first time, Pacquiao was caught on cam in tears and it wasn’t in the ring after being KOed by Marquez. It was in his hotel room after seeing the reaction of his countrymen to his loss against Marquez. Seeing the disappointment and collective frustration and pain by his countrymen hurt him more than any of the powerful punches that actually put him down the canvas.

Even when he was physically broken down he was still thinking of his countrymen more than himself. One of his priorities when he got home was providing relief goods to those who suffered from typhoon Pablo just days before the fight December 4. His province mates and the whole of Mindanao were battered. Places that never experienced a typhoon in decades were devastated. A total of 700 or more lives have been lost and billions of pesos…

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can’t-miss markers of our pinoy accent

[ Note : just another blog on Pinoy accents; thanks and acknowledgment for the awesome video above to Mikey Bustos of YouTube ! Congrats Pao dela Costa Montenegro on your graduation, everyone’s proud of you! it doesn’t take a Nobel ¬†laureate, but there is obviously a direct relationship between the senseless killings in America and the said nation’s (duh) gun control policy. ¬†Absolutely incomprehensible. ]

versatilebloggeraward11I KNOW of at least two Pinoys here in New Zealand who will never lose their Filipino accent, and I can identify only one of them (later below) with consent. ¬†The first, who I think I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, has been in New Zealand for the better part of two decades, isn’t all that pronounced with his Pinoy speech, but talk with him an instant and you know where he’s from.

Certain vowels, intonation, nasalness and our fondness for certain consonants are not unique among languages; it comes from phonetic favorites in our words and phrases and the same goes with other tongues. ¬†Sometimes we sound like Malaysians and Indonesians, not surprising because we share the same root language (Sanskrit), other times we sound like Vietnamese, Thai and even Cambodians, most probably because of the shared Chinese influence on our language/speech. ¬†But ultimately we distinguish ourselves with friends and speakers all over the world because we love to speak English with so-called native¬†English speakers, sometimes pretend to be better than English than they are (and actually convince them a good part of the time), and in the process stamp our personal signature on the King’s English.

Below are some markers that indicate that a Pinoy speaker is within two to three meters from Ground Zero, there are many others, but time and space today are limited to :

the short a’s, short e’s and short o’s. ¬†When we were in primary school, we were taught that sounds for every vowel were distinctly divided into two : short and long. ¬†We took this literally, as in apple was AH-pple, dad would always be dAHd, and fat from a Pinoy sounds regularly like fAHt. ¬†It didn’t matter to us that English speakers all over world say something between the short and long version; and that sip, lip, tin and sin for us are like saying IP, IP, IN, and IN; ¬†and that fog, log, mop, top are OG, OG, OP and OP with the consonants before and after just incidental. ¬†It’s just the way we are, we seem to be in love with the short vowel sound, nothing wrong with that, but to people who aren’t used to it, it can be a bit startling and disconcerting. ¬†Otherwise, especially because we use it ourselves, it becomes endearing (?) .

avoidance of schwa. ¬†This is the converse of the first observation above. ¬†Because media is heavily peppered by US references, it would be a reasonable presumption that a good part of our pronunciation is filled with the schwa sound. ¬†I venture to say that the schwa sound has taken over about a third of all vowel sounds in the American English speech pattern, but when you listen to me and my countrymen speak, it turns out that the schwa is not that popular. ¬†Reason? ¬†As mentioned earlier, we are enamored with our short and long vowel sounds, and we like to stick to them. ¬†It is almost like the way continental Europeans speak English; they have retained the original commands of vowels (think of any German, Italian or Scandinavian speaking English). ¬†I know we’re not Europeans by any means, but unless we are call center specialists or diplomats, we won’t be picking up the schwa sound anytime soon.

Infatuation with the “r” sound. ¬†This sound might initially be identified with Northern speakers like the Ilocanos, Panggalatoks and our kabayan from the mountainous regions, but when you really really think about it, we Filipinos as a group all like our “r” sounds like we like patis in our sinigang, bagoong in our kare-kare and puto with our dinuguan. ¬†We don’t care that the British and other former Commonwealth nations have all but dropped the “r” at the end of words (butter, waiter, winter), or that a lot of American speakers soften the “r” sound, for us the “r” sound, particularly at the end of words is similar to a small motor or lawn mower, the more our “r”s vibrates, the better.

Unaspirated “t”, absent “f”s. ¬†Like the video says above, we aren’t very vocal about our “f”s and “v”s, probably an influence of Spanish colony years (almost three centuries), but have you paused and tried to find out why those “t”s sound so understated when we talk? ¬†We hardly aspirate them, even with short t words like talk, tender and tomato, sometimes causing our listeners to mishear us. ¬†And about “f”s, well I suppose the video says it all.

That’s all I have for today, and as I promised, I can only tell you about the second of two ever-faithful Pinoy accent users, and that is none other than esposa hermosa, who wears it like a terno wherever she goes. ¬†Whether it’s intentional or not it’s probably too early to tell, as she has only been overseas two-plus years, but to many of the people she meets, I guess it’s fair to say that it charms the pants off them (figuratively) ūüôā

Thanks for reading!

our accent marks us as migrants but also affirms our sense of self

versatilebloggeraward11[ Note : A little more opinionated, a little more candid, and a little less diplomatic this fair day for blogging.  Just spewing extemporaneous thoughts with little regard for the consequences, spoiler alert : the text suffers from ADHD and is incontrovertibly scatterbrained. Thanks for your time! ]

IN MY ultra-simplistic zero-sum yin-or-yang world, that recent royal-morning-sickness- aussie-DJ-prank tragedy can be ultimately reduced into : greed for information on one hand, and a sad lack of accent awareness, on the other.

Behind the naughty anything-for-a-laugh antics of those DJs who successfully attempted to access the Duchess of Canterbury’s sick ward, the whole world was waiting for news, any news about either the newest heir to the world’s most popular monarchy (rulers of the United Kingdoms of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Crown Dependencies and the remnants of the British Empire, on which the sun supposedly never set) or the Duchess’s early-pregnancy discomfort . ¬†Preferably, news of the former, but the latter would do anytime.

Straining credulity on the other side is the willingness of someone tending to an ultra privacy-sensitive patient to believe that her grandmother would make a personal call, identifying herself without the layers and layers of protocol expected , and lastly sound the way she sounded, more like an audio caricature of herself (“this is the Queen, you know!”).

Yes, the DJs involved were trying to nail a stunt, pull a fast one on stressed, distracted health workers, but they were also shooting for the moon, outscoop everyone in merry old England from Way Down Under, and squeeze from the proverbial stone golden driblets of information and enhance their dubious status as semi-media outlets in the sea of TV, radio and print pseudo-journalists.

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But the story would not be complete without a naive, albeit efficient medical worker quietly doing her job, day in and day out, but completely unaware of what a British national, much less a reigning monarch would sound.

Would you believe that if I was a 48-hour a week rotating shift worker (regularly alternating from days to nights), confining nearly all my professional and social contacts to people of my race, and spending almost all my free time with family, I would, despite living in a country completely alien to my culture for a decade, not know much about anything besides my native language and culture?  Of course you would.

Particularly among low-income migrant workers, Asians tend to be parochial in outlook and habit, keeping among themselves.  In enclaves of migrants all over North America, Europe and Australasia, everything that reminds them of home is preserved and affirmed, and language is certainly no exception.  Would it be a big surprise that migrants here retain the tongue and accent they have brought from their native lands?

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It would then not be a big leap to assume that, not being much aware of what one needs to know beyond work and necessities, the subtle differences of accent between various English speakers would just be so much detail that matters little in the grand scheme of things.

Despite having a brother who had been in New Zealand the last 15 years when I arrived in Auckland in 2007, I had almost no idea of what a Kiwi accent was like.  There were no stereotypes in media to which I could refer, unlike icons of Austrian accents (Ahnuld Tuhminaytuh), American accents (Al Pacino or Clint Eastwood), French accents (Inspector Clouseau or Gerard Depardieu) or British accents (James Bond and his various incarnations), although I knew that there was a passing resemblance between Kiwi and British brogues.

Not just vowels and intonation, but also common words that had added, modified or even completely different meanings.  flat for apartment, torch for flashlight, rubbish for garbage, tins for cans, jumpers for jackets, and so on.

More insanely, I had not only the Kiwi accent to contend with, but other migrant accents as well.  Indian accents, Chinese accents, even Korean and Vietnamese accents.  And if I thought that being of Chinese descent would help me, I was mistaken : the Northern Chinese and Cantonese accents were markedly different from the Fukienese (Fujianese) Chinese accent I was accustomed to at home.

The only way I was going to entrench myself as a migrant, in a babel of tongues and accents, was to expose myself and not be intimidated by the different ways people from myriad races express themselves.

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And if that meant exposing them to my Pinoy accent, inflection and idioms, so be it.

The very fact that Pinoy call centers and business process outsourcing is now one of the mighty powerhouses of the Filipino economy serves notice that, Pinoy accent and all, we are understood at the very least and appreciated by the English speakers of the world. ¬†It’s not so much that we have a way of speaking as the fact that we are understood by the way we speak. ¬†Because of and in spite of, take your pick.

[ distracting thought : If you ¬†talk the way you talk by the way, make yourself understood, and make your life easier, why make life hard and change your accent? ¬†I DO¬†concede though that a good part of our Filipino brothers and sisters speak with a very strong Pinoy accent, a little adjustment might be in order, but no biggie. ūüôā ]

Returning to the main kwento. ¬†Conclusion : If you limit interaction among the people you were born with, you will have minimal understanding of the various accents that surround you, despite their physical presence in your adopted world. ¬†Conversely, immerse yourself in the mixture of accents (and speakers) you hear around you and you will be conversant among strangers, friends with people you’ve never met before.

Even a passing awareness of how different races of people sound leads to better anticipation of what and how they are communicating, and ultimately to better understanding of these people, whether they are hosts or fellow migrants.

Consequently, we end up with a more profound appreciation of ourselves, as distinct yet interacting actors in the global village.

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

It’s so sad that a life had to be wasted in that episode of the Duchess and her morning sickness leading to Aussie DJs and their prank call, but we can’t deny the resulting lesson that many of our daily problems between people all over the world might be solved with a little more understanding, a little less concern with privacy, and a little less deceit.

Regardless of the accent.

Thanks for reading !

does Friday night get any better than dinner at the Ambassador’s ?

it's not often the official representative of the Republic of the Philippines opens up her home to ordinary people like me and family. Me, Her Excellency Amb Virginia Benavidez, Mahal and Bunso :)

it’s not often the official representative of the Republic of the Philippines opens up her home to ordinary people like me and family. Me, Her Excellency Amb Virginia Benavidez, Mahal and Bunso ūüôā

versatilebloggeraward11ANYONE WHO’S had the experience of knowing a Filipino as an acquaintance, friend, colleague or lover will sooner or later uncover this quirk of nature about us and our kind : love us or hate us, warts and all, but almost to a man, the Pinoy is an ideal host. ¬†Once you cross the threshold of his (I use masculine pronouns but I refer to all genders) munting dampa, you acquire the status of VIP guest, whether you are regular invitee or the guest of honor, of the Pinoy homeowner.

An invitation to share a simple meal, seek shelter for the night, or celebrate a special occasion is never taken lightly by our brown brothers and sisters as it means granting his guest every comfort, entertaining his every request, and heeding, with reasonable limits, his every pleasure.  It has been how most of us carry ourselves in parties, weddings, fiestas, through the centuries till now.

This was why we swept aside any previous engagement we had for Friday evening last (not that we had a busy calendar anyway) to accept an invitation, for two awesome reasons. ¬†First, that the inviter was a Pinay who had painstakingly made sure that the occasion would be remembered via thorough preparation, an impressive venue and her personal touch; and second, that the inviter was no less than the current Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand, Her Excellency Virginia Benavidez. ¬†ūüôā

Before you arrive at a hasty conclusion and accuse me of sounding like a starstruck fan, it’s because I admit I was and I am. ¬†I’ve never attended an official government function of either my temporary host country or that of the Philippine Embassy, I’ve never even been to the latter except to apply for a passport renewal. ¬†And now my family was invited to the official residence of my country’s Ambassador. ¬†How can you not be dazzled by that?

The Ambassador’s official residence, to begin with, was no munting dampa, or humble hovel, it’s just a figure of speech I like to use in reference to my own abode, but which definitely doesn’t apply to Ang Bahay, the name the residence is given. It’s modest for a top-level envoy but tastefully bedecked with Christmas artifacts and Filipiniana within and without the house, a tradition started by previous ambassadors no doubt enhanced by the current occupant.

Friday evening by the way was to celebrate the accomplishments of the Wellington Filipino Sports Association in fostering friendship and Pinoyness among our Welly Pinoy community, but the good Ambassador used the occasion to show her appreciation for every Pinoy, present or otherwise, who made it easier for her and the Philippine Embassy staff to serve the greater Filipino community NZ-wide.

To be brutally honest, I had no more right than any Pinoy to be in that gathering, whether that Pinoy was a farm worker in Ashburton, an IT website developer in Auckland or a caregiver in Christchurch. ¬†But living in NZ’s capital city (where the world’s embassies hold office) has its advantages, and we were lucky enough to be a flagbearer during the Pasko sa Welly entry of colors parade, and the Ambassador, who never forgets a face, sought us out to be a lucky guest that evening.

Her Excellency  remembered to thank each and every member of the NZ Pinoy community, but the list of 36,000 was too long :)

Her Excellency remembered to thank each and every member of the NZ Pinoy community, but the list of 36,000 was too long ūüôā

During her very informal remarks, Her Excellency noted that while clear gains had been made back home since the start of the Noynoy administration, such success could not have been possible without the contribution, via both consumer activity and foreign exchange remittances of countrymen abroad, not the least of which was the Pinoy community in New Zealand.  It warmed our hearts to hear from her that the recent presidential state visit and one-on-one with NZ Prime Minister John Key was a resounding success, producing immigration and trade agreements, that, although in the preliminary stages, were going to be fruitful in improving Philippine-New Zealand relations.

As if reminding herself to avoid further use of officialese (if only for that evening ūüôā ), Ambassador Benavidez went ahead and thanked each and every person invited first for honoring her invitation and then ¬†for his or her personal contribution to improving friendships with and bonding regularly with Pinoys in Aotearoa. ¬†Even Mahal and Bunso, from their little corner in Lower Hutt and Vogeltown, got their own mention !

taho, almost unavailable in most of New Zealand unless pre-ordered, prepared here for lucky guests :)

taho, almost unavailable in most of New Zealand unless pre-ordered, prepared here for lucky guests ūüôā

The menu for the evening was Pinoy through and through : Pancit canton, nilagang baka, sisig and other classic Filipino dishes.  The dessert was eclectic, but no one could resist the taho and sago, which reminded us all of home.

Returning to the Filipiniana theme of the Ambassador’s residence, we were regaled by first, the beautiful paintings of the Philippine countryside and bukid scenes.

True enough, the paintings were done by famed artists Jose Joya, Malang, Paco Gorospe, H.R. Ocampo, Rodel Caparas, and Martin Manero, a favorite of the Ambassador.  Most of the collection would be strictly guarded in any museum back home, and yet here we were breaking bread  (and eating rice) right below such treasures!

Yet another remarkable eye candy that most of us couldn’t take our eyes off was the personal miniature Christmas village collection accumulated over the years by Her Excellency, lovingly and almost-professionally displayed in the foyer area of the residence.

The food must have been well-received, with rave reviews represented by the empty plates and bare buffet table, the paintings were oohed and aaahed,  the lively conversations took place in a beautiful house we were lucky enough to visit, hopefully not for the last time.

miniature Christmas village

I wasn’t able to take a pic, but the Ambassador’s collection looked a bit like this one, only more extensive. Gorgeous! (thanks & acknowledgment to loveingc.blogspot.com!)

Though we were thousands and thousands of miles away from the Philippines, at the Ambassador’s cozy nook in Wellington each Pinoy felt right at home.

Certainly not a bad way to spend a December Friday night.

To the overachieving Ambassador, Mr Pio Benavidez and family, her staff and friends, maraming salamat and maligayang Pasko from this humble blog and the Wellington Pinoy community!

Thanks for reading!

random inventory of a not-quite-a-technophobe’s pocket

contents of Your Loyal Blogger's pocket, note the patriotic screensaver on China-made celfone :) neatness optional.

contents of Your Loyal Blogger’s pocket, note the patriotic screensaver on China-made celfone ūüôā neatness optional.

[ Note : prayers and concern for our kabayan stricken by Typhoon Pablo, especially in Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and the rest of Mindanao and Visayas, may the government and kind hearts move swiftly to alleviate their misfortune this Christmas season. ]

I ONLY had a few moments before the bigwigs from Auckland would come by for a visit, the new equipment installed had made certain of that.  Tall as a two-storey house and worth a good chunk of the entire annual budget for our site, one of the two new packers just being broken in were going to streamline production, get us ready for 24/7 operations and hopefully keep the company in the black.

Eventually as it turned out the suits got delayed at the airport, by a certain movie premiere that tied up half the city in snags and knots, but at the time nobody at our site knew, so there was an air of anticipation for hopefully a seal of good housekeeping and stewardship of our (comparatively) provincial resources.

But back to my few moments.  I had pockets so bulky that they looked like they had half of my worldly belongings with me, and considering that, besides my happy meal toy and running sneaker collection, I possess a rather austere set of possessions, my accessories looked anomalous for a hi-tech holdout of the late 20th century that grew up with black-and-white TV, windup watches and toys, rotary telephones and, nostalgically, manual tak-tak-tak typewriters.

To look a bit more presentable and to forestall the obvious, that technically I was flouting the basic rule that no metal objects (save maybe a ball-point pen and a screwdriver) were to be carried on your person in the production area, I had (what I then thought was) literally minutes before 9 am, when late-model rentals ¬†would come blazing into the executives’ carpark.

So I won’t miss anything, I’ll just give you a short commentary of each item you see on the picture above.

Cell phone – (white, generic China-made with double-sim feature) a hand-me-down from esposa hermosa who of course recently got a flashy phone. ¬†Ordinarily I don’t fancy having a phone with me at work, especially since it’s frowned upon, but the last few days I’d seen so little of either esposa or Ganda and Bunso that any kind of communication from them would make my day go a little faster, and because thoughtful SMS texts about reminders to wear hi-viz jackets biking home, funny characters encountered at their sushi place / burger counter / library (regular haunts of the three) and updates are regularly issued by them, keeping the phone handy was a treat for me. ¬†But not, obviously, for the frayed pouch of my workpants.

Remote electronic gate-opener (white, rectangular) and door key (black, coin-shaped, attached to key ring/chain) – ¬†I pair these together as they perform the same functions, keep pesky visitors out and inmates in. ¬†Ever since the company adopted a more-or-less serious security policy, it’s become standard to issue staff with keys, but theoretically only shift workers get issued gate openers. ¬†The gadgets (does anyone still use that word?) all look flashy and make the possessor feel exclusive / important until you realize the so-called “restricted area” has multiple side-doors that anyone can open and use, and the site gate guards a porous location that can be accessed via adjacent factories, low fences and empty lots at the back.

USB flash drive/s (black, by itself, and black, attached to key ring/chain) – Today I happen to have two of these, one for document files and another for movies from persons I may “accidentally” bump into and mooch movies from. ¬†I don’t ask where they got them from and they don’t tell me, that way I enjoy plausible deniability if the movie sources are questioned. ¬†I know I’m dodgy that way but I’m also a loyal member of the video rental near the mall so it balances out naman, I hope. ūüėČ ¬†Anytime I need to have an important document scanned on a remote site, flash drives are the handiest things to have around, it’s like having a thick suitcase full of folders and papers that you can access (almost) anytime.

MP4 playerpink, so cheap thieves leave it alone, which I appreciate. I can’t afford a smartphone, I lost the charger of my iPod Shuffle (outdated anyway) and I need to listen to something while biking and running, otherwise I feel flat and tire easily. ¬†This is why the player above, despite the fact that it needs to be recharged twice a day, carries barely two dozen songs (for now Red Hot Chili Peppers tunes which are helpful for a moderate jogging pace, and Side A and Rivermaya standards for my sentimental moods) and keeps conking out on me, the MP4 is a constant companion. ¬†It also uses those tacky graphics and Taiwanese video prompts but the latter two features are bearable, just wanted you to know. ¬†It serves a purpose that makes routine nearly pleasurable, which is to serve comfort music when you’re all alone except for the wind, the road and your bike and/or running shoes.

inhaler (blue, filled with salbutamol vial) – This is a remnant of a recent bout with asthma, from which I suffer occasionally but which has become rarer in recent years and especially after I stopped smoking and started exercising regularly. ¬†It’s more like a security blanket for me because as far as I can tell, I’ve only used it once in Wellington, and as any patient with respiratory issues will tell you, it works like magic. ¬†However, it’s not very wise to be found with it at checkpoints and random searches, as you have to convince the inspector / searcher that you’re not using it for anything else.

rimless glasses (plastic, extremely lightweight) – you may be wondering, particularly since my pockets are filled enough, why this is a pocket item. ¬†Well, it’s not, usually, but because it’s not progressive lens, I take it off from time to time, like when I read or view things up close. ¬†Not very convenient, and given a choice, the next time I go home to the Philippines, it will be one of the first things I’ll purchase, a necessary luxury for me.

There, those are the contents cluttering my pockets, not to mention my notebook, small tools and pen. ¬†To repeat, I have resisted technology aggressively and have only grudgingly conceded its creature comforts against the inevitable victory of Age and Time. ¬†But some watchamacallits you pick up here and there, and you wonder how you ever got along without them. ¬†One, a few or all of the items on the list here you will probably share with me, and for those technogeeks and gadgetmasters who use the latest devices as soon as they’re available on the market, I’m happy for you and all that, but I’ll just catch up after coffee, don’t wait up!