love or hate other races & your own : can’t have it both ways


[ Note : Apologies to all if I don’t make complete sense below; it’s probably the product of trying to cram too many thoughts into limited space! ūüôā I’ve never thanked them before or only in passing, so please allow me to thank and acknowledge contemporary Atty. Argee Guevarra for a pic of his ¬†taken in the Forbidden City, Beijing, Philippine Collegian editor Noel “Nowie” Pangilinan for a pic of his cross-country post-tendinitis rehab (and for another Collegian ed Cris Godinez-Pangilinan for expertly taking the pic), and Ms Zaida Angara West for her world class photo of Aniao Islets in Baler Quezon; belated birthday greetings to batchmates Wilfred Chua (1st Jan), Dr June Tiu-Lim (5th Jan), Mevelyn Tang-Critides (10th Jan), Irene Chua-Co (17th Jan), Elena Sy-Goddard (21st Jan), ¬†Annette Lim-Parks (23rd Jan) and Dennis Sy (24th Jan)! woo-hoo! ]

versatilebloggeraward11SATURDAY MORNINGS Mahal likes to imagine we’re moving to a flashier, more aesthetically pleasing flat, so when appointments are available, we visit new apartments around the area we work in.

The particular viewing today leads us to an extra-pretty flat which the agent has no trouble inviting prospective tenants to, and Mahal and I discover that a couple has beaten us to view the property first.  As we approach the flat, we overhear snatches of a candid conversation between the agent and the couple.

I’ll just ring up Raj (thinly disguised name of agent’s boss)¬†and tell him that we’re taking the flat, insisted the guy.

That’s great, agent smiles, but the final decision will have to be the landlord’s, blah blah blah said the agent, who was trying to be audio-visually inoffensive and not show that she was getting annoyed at the over-eager manner of the couple.

We’ve come from so far and live in the city and so we have so little opportunity to find a flat we like, that’s why we think we should take this right now. ¬†Could you call Raj and tell him to please not advertise the flat anymore? added the girl.

The agent nearly rolled her eyeballs through her transluscent spectacles (I loved her just for doing that), caught herself in time, and said well if you can reach Raj, then maybe you can convince him, but again as rental agents we can only show you and shortlist everyone, honestly you can’t get anything done over the weekend, Rental Agent explained patiently.

Mahal and I were mute witnesses to this exchange, and telepathically tried to convey to each other : are you thinking what I’m thinking about this pushy couple?

It occured to Mahal (but not to me, cluelessly) that they were acting the way they did because of us (and other prospective lessees who were soon to be within earshot) to discourage anyone else from even thinking of vying for the prize.  The prize of that well-lighted, airy, quiet, one-carport and thickly carpeted urban center flat.

By coincidence, the couple belonged to a demographic that many Pinoys have likened to being one of the more arrogant, parsimonious and (sorry to say) pretentious around.  This rather extemporaneous display of behavior did nothing to change our way of thinking, unfair as it sounds.

Shortly after the couple left, the agent confirmed our thoughts almost wholesale.  We asked her, after some small talk, how she felt about them.

They may be friends with Raj, but it doesn’t make a difference if they think the flat will go to them. ¬†A flat like this will certainly have more than a few interested takers, and all applications will probably treated the same way.

She was quite diplomatic in describing the couple’s interest, but agreed 101% when we asked if the couple wasn’t being a bit too pushy for comfort.

***               ***              ***

Which led me to thinking, notwithstanding the political incorrectness in both Mahal and myself thinking a bit negatively of the couple, but which was it : were they too pushy or vexing for our taste, which formed part of our conclusion that they must come from that part of our continent, OR did our pre-conceived notion that people like them are naturally arrogant and disagreeable affect our finding that kaya naman pala¬†sila (so that’s why they are) pushy and arrogant, they are after all members of that race ? Was it the chicken or the egg?

But just as curiously :

As if it weren’t odious enough, race-related intolerance for me resonates with the concept of self-loathing. ¬†It’s not the prettiest example, but isn’t it true that some of the “qualities” we associate with the couple above, like pretentiousness, conceit (to some extent) and niggardliness, we’re guilty of ourselves? ¬†And doesn’t it sometimes ring true that what we hate in others is what we hate in ourselves?

Just let me give a short, short enumeration on what I see as three ways racial intolerance evokes self-loathing :

When you stereotype certain races according to the negative (or even positive) qualities they’re known for, which is more commonly known as racial stereotyping or profiling. ¬†When you identify certain groups for beauty, skin color, intelligence and athleticism on the one hand, and terrorism, parsimony, dullness, lasciviousness or poor hygiene on the other, you subconsciously declare contempt for similar qualities (or lack of such) in yourself. ¬†The longer I think about this, the more it makes sense. ¬†But I admit such thinking needs definition and qualification.

When you justify, rationalize and even celebrate certain negative aspects associated with your own racial demographic, as if to say this is my race, I won’t ever change no matter what as if race and not the individual determines a person’s contribution to the external world. ¬†When you seek to explain away your destiny with a conclusion, then, indeed you are doomed to a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When you deny your race and your upbringing, reject the role played by race in your existence and avoid any references and associations with people and culture (once) identified as yours.  This is in some ways the reverse of the previous paragraph, but the net result is the same : ultimately you distort one of the most important truths about yourself, that part of you is determined by the way you were brought up, by the fact of who your parents were, and by the God-given race you were born with.

Like I said recently, the above is quite opinionated, but I’ll sink or swim on my own. ¬†Thanks as always Precious Reader for reading, comments for or against are always welcome!

very random thoughts on interviewing an A-lister pinoy style

I just spent a first full day in a different department at work, and it’s been tiring and stressful. ¬†And this is just my way of venting. ¬†Pasensya na po.

First thought : Anne H wasn’t as uppity and suplada as the blogosphere and Yahoo! Philippines portrayed her to be, apropos the Ricky Lo interview. ¬†Probably 90 to 95% of the interview she was or attempted to be professional and engaging, and the money shot portion, where she was allegedly sarcastic, could be interpreted either way. ¬†She could have tried to deflect Ricky’s question in an admittedly awkward manner (though Ricky’s question itself sounded awkward) or was pointedly trying to be “difficult” which, given her superstar status, couldn’t have been a biggie for her.

Second thought : the central issue the whole interview has brought out to me is : on balance, which is more important, maintaining the proper poise that an A-lister, polite sort of interviewee and eager-to-please media personality is expected to have OR maintaining a professional, non-intrusive and non-aggressive demeanor as a journalist. ¬†You can skewer on live coals either of the parties to the cringe-worthy interview as a prickly prima donna or a celebrity interviewer who decided to wing it on a very important interview. ¬†But to a large extent, I’ve seen this as a judgment call. ¬†It’s too close to call who’s the bad guy here. ¬†Or is there one at all?

Third thought : You can’t deny this : you can only push being a Pinoy-style showbiz interviewer so far before it becomes tiring. ¬†Anne was quite glowing with her unabashed admiration for Lea Salonga, and Ricky might have quit while he was ahead. ¬†I admit that asking your interviewee to invite the general public to your movie is quite amateurish, and although it works back home, Ricky should’ve known better.

There. ¬†Those are my instant, instant thoughts. ¬†I’ve only seen the interview once and I must’ve missed some of the finer points, but I sink or swim on my own.

Ricky Lo will continue to give us great interviews and great journalism, and Anne Hathaway will continue to dazzle with an already brilliant career.  This interview, hopefully, will just be a bump in the road for both of them.

why Zenie Lorenzo Low is our favorite Kinoy*

Zenie with OgieEVEN THE faintest awareness of the Pinoy community in Auckland New Zealand will tell you that Zenie Lorenzo Low, or Tita Zenie is one of its best and brightest. ¬†She has always lent her considerable energy, talent and presence to most of our big, big, Kinoy family’s plans and projects through the years.

Extra feathers in her cap are her labor of love, the Filipino Herald and ZLL Productions Ltd, which through print media and homegrown talents seek to showcase the best that the Philippines can offer.  She almost never seeks recompense for her efforts, asking only that she breaks even for her modest investment, spread happiness among her co-migrants in Aotearoa, and helps spread the word about how good we are in what we do, which is a little of everything.

Yet another milestone in her long line of achievements bringing A-1 local talent to NZ shores is her grand project, Ogie Alcasid : Boy Pick Up, Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang Sa New Zealand?  Bringing to Auckland probably the pre-eminent musical and performance talent of our generation, Tita Zenie has succeeded in bringing the multi-awarded, multi-talented and universally admired Ogie A to our neighborhood for a one-night-only performance, April 20 at the ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane, Auckland.   The achievement speaks for itself.

While it would not be fair to use this endeavor to define the sum of Tita Zenie’s business, marketing and promotional genius, it certainly comes close. ¬†With due respect to every artist who’s come before and after, Tita Zenie has certainly pulled off a coup, and this is one event that needs little help to get off the ground.

It would be a mistake to think that this is the grandest and ultimate effort in Tita Zenie’s impressive career as an impressario. ¬†More like a continuing show of dazzle and brilliance that will shine in our Kiwi-Pinoy milieu for years to come.

For this and many others reasons, Ms Zenie Lorenzo Low is our favorite Kinoy!

Thanks for reading!

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

the great divide

hard at work and happy to have a job

hard at work and happy to have a job

versatilebloggeraward11THERE’S A hazy line that divides the wage earners and peons at our workplace. ¬†We do basically the same work, do the same shifts and bear the same responsibilities. ¬†The difference is that some of us don’t enjoy benefits like health insurance, dealing with management as a single bargaining unit (provided we join the union, of course) and similar goodies.

In short, we have something that’s known back home as security of tenure; it’s not so easy to get rid of us even for good reason, while our colleagues across the breach can be told goodbye, see ya at a moment’s notice if the latter so much as comes late or picks his nose once too often.

Trouble is, these hardworking guys are aware of their status, not being born yesterday, and the senior guys know it as well, since they’ve seen everyone come and go. ¬†They know they’re doing the work, they try to keep their nose clean and be good little boys, but nothing short of new policy straight from the top will grant them regular status.

employee of the month especially because he works for free, did you know that? :)

employee of the month especially because he works for free, did you know that? ūüôā

Ever since the 2008 subprime mortgage bubble burst, affecting every civilized economy on this planet, growth has been flat or even negative for many industries, ours (food and manufacturing) no exception. ¬†Expansion has therefore taken a back seat to survival and keeping our existing customers happy, and holding on to our modest market share. ¬†Everything else, including new hiring, has gone below the radar, if you what I mean. ¬†The translation for foot soldiers like me is thank your lucky stars you’ve got a job, and I thank God as well.

It’s hard to start a conversation with the temps, as they’re called, although some of them have been working with us for at least half a year now. ¬†They’re chipper enough and full of energy whether at work or at teatime, but inevitably the talk, when you talk the talk, turns to how long they’ll stay here before they’re granted the same rights and privileges that the regular guys enjoy. ¬†And when you think about it, how can you disagree with someone who only wants what everyone else is getting?

Not that it’s that black and white, comrade. ¬†Each and every member of the worksite is aware of one of the last official hires, Vladimir (not his real name, of course) and the backstory. ¬†He was full of initiative, ready for work every day and a quick study in all the tasks assigned to him. ¬†He never backed away from extra shifts, did overtime when requested to, and not a word of complaint came out of his stoic mouth.

Lo and behold, a few months after he was regularized, he began missing Mondays and the day after payday, his sickies grating on his supervisors’ patience. ¬†He also began keeping company with the more indifferent staff members who weren’t that concerned about work ethic. ¬†Before long he had acquired a string of AWOLs, offenses in themselves if not for the slack cut him from understanding superiors. ¬†It didn’t make much difference to him, because by then he had come to work only when he felt like it; was a good enough worker when he was available, but you can’t rely on a good worker unless he’s there every time, all the time. ¬†And so as quickly as he was converted to regular worker from casual he was cut loose, and the company would think once, twice and thrice before hiring another. ¬†Why would they, when the staffing agency was full of hopeful temps, and when someone they gave so much trust to burned them just like that?

I know what you’re thinking. ¬†Why should someone suffer for another person’s previous shortcomings and all that? ¬†Well, in the first place like I said unless there’s a very good reason, payroll positions ¬†are to be put on hold, given the uncertain economic climate, and second, like I told you, once bitten, twice shy, thrice even. ¬†Vladimir didn’t know it, but he didn’t do himself, and anyone after him, a lot of favors by letting all of us down. ¬†Sigh. ¬†But still, it’s an awkward situation, working, eating and trading stories with your mates, and knowing deep down that you’re not being treated equally.

The situation bodes special significance to me, because although I’m one of the lucky ones with regular status, my job is particularly important : unlike everyone else in the room, I’m on a work visa, which means my job is the reason I’ve been able to stay in the country. ¬†A part of me is happy to stay here, but at the same time, I’m thinking : do any of my colleagues think I’m too lucky to be a guest worker, a regular status worker, and enjoy what they’re not enjoying?

And that’s why I’m lucky just to be working right here, right now.

uneventful Saturday not so after all

is it that obvious?

is it that obvious?

AFTER A hectic week, Mahal deserved her Saturday sleep-in, and had a birthday brunch planned with her posse of provincemates (no kanoodling, cuddling and snuggling for you Noel) and so I expected an uneventful Saturday for myself, mixed a bit depressingly with temp work at 7 in the a.m.

Although I’ve got regular worker status with my employer, because it was with a different department I was asked to work extra hours on, and because I was working with other temps, I preferred to think of it as temp work.

It was a bit tedious and tiresome, but I made a new friend, yup I did.  He was quite an atypical temp, because (1) he was a working holiday visa holder, and (2) he was from South America, Chile to be exact.

He knew next to nothing about the Philippines, and was quite surprised when I told him that, as was the case with his country, there was a fiesta-load of Spanish influence in Philippine history and culture. ¬†He was astounded by the number of Spanish words in our language, like mesa, nobya, ventana, etc. that had either root words in Spanish or were bastardized versions of the original. ¬†I was eager to regurgitate my basic college Spanish with him, so when we were to switch posts on the flour packer, I blurted vamos a cambiar Samuel, and when it was teatime I ventured¬†vamos a comer ūüėČ ¬†He smiled at that, and began jabbering in Spanish. ¬†I said I didn’t know much more than that.

Everytime during the shift I remembered a Filipino word or phrase I was sure originated from the Spanish, I confirmed it with him.  He also said that in general, South Americans like himself spoke Spanish at a pace much faster than Central Americans like the Mexicans.

He and his girlfriend were staying at a backpackers motel in town and, as their visa policy allowed, were both working to augment their pocket money as they were seeing all the available sights in New Zealand.

I wished him well and additionally, told him that Panganay had an Argentine and Paraguayan flatmate and might know other South Americans in town. ¬†This pricked his interest, naturally, and got Panganay‘s cellphone number. ¬†I’m hoping Panganay can show them around town.

***               ***               ***

I confess that I’m a loyal Salvation Army store regular, not just because of the very reasonable prices, and not just because the Sallies help everyone, especially those down and out (without being judgmental, as their ads show), but also because you never know what you’ll find. ¬†It’s so darn interesting, and I end up staying longer than I should.

But today was especially memorable, even for a certified bargain-hunter like me.  Look at the picture below and see if you can find a common theme among the books I found :

great looking and great reading books!

great looking and great reading books!

You’d be either a genius or psychic to know the answer : they’re all free, let’s spell that, capital F-R-E-E, and all books on subjects I find terribly interesting : a sports biography on Andre Agassi that’s still on the bestseller lists in NZ;¬†George Martin’s A Clash of Kings (Bunso recommended Martin’s¬†A Game of Thrones and I haven’t put it down since); an all-time favorite of mine, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude;¬†Jonathan Franzen‘s Freedom;¬†two books on running, and other gems.

The store staff deemed that there would be so little interest in the books that they didn’t even bother pricing them, and unceremoniously dumped them in a bin that practically screamed please go knock yourself out and take as much as you can.

I immediately registered my (happy) disagreement with their book rating by picking up as many books as my little knapsack could carry and skipped all the way home. ūüėČ

I strongly suspect that a single person owns (now used to own) all those books and needed to dispose of them right away. ¬†A person with impeccable literary taste enjoying a staple diet of Nobel and Booker Prize winners, with occasional attempts at reading quality fantasy novels, dabbling in autobiographies of 1990s sports icons, who is also into running. ¬†Not the smartest of guesses, but I simply can’t believe my luck!

By the way, the books aren’t in the best condition, but when you’re a bargain-hunting book lover, looks aren’t that important to you. ¬†Literally (pun intended), it’s the inside story and story inside that counts!

And as it turns out, the uneventful Saturday wasn’t so uneventful after all.

Pacific islanders our brothers (and sisters) in race, culture and migration

[ Note : before anything else, may I respectfully remind the Precious Reader about my humble little My Favorite Kinoy of the Year survey, for guidance please view a previous blog, thanks in advance for your input; for managing every little detail of your wedding, birthday or anniversary, please contact events planners Marj Magno and Marie Garcia 029-7738616 in Wellington !  Please allow me to thank Ms Zaida Angara West for her beautiful picture which she has graciously allowed me to use as a masthead on my blogsite, thanks Zaida!]

versatilebloggeraward11THANKS TO your kind indulgence, I’ve blogged about a lot of aspects about my accidental migrant adventure, from the kind Kiwi hosts, to fellow Asian wayfarers, to kabayan co-migrants that have my life here heaps easier. But something I almost never mention but which is a mainstay of the NZ milieu, at least in my neck of the woods, is the Samoan, Fijian, Tongan, Cook Islander and Tuvaluan presence. ¬†For brevity, I’ll call them the Pacific Islander fraternity.

We share obvious similarities with the inhabitants of Polynesia because of race, climate and history, so instead of pointing out the distinctions between the islanders, I’ll tell you how much they remind me of ourselves and our Pinoyness.

1st_Honda_OdysseyFamily. ¬†Like many Asians, family ties whether by blood, marriage or affiliation are very important to our islander co-migrants. ¬†Just take a look at the pre-eminent car of choice of an overwhelming portion of the different Polynesian communities, the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Estima, and counterpart 8-seaters of other brands. ¬†Such that if you see a car like this in the population centers here, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s either Asian-owned or Polynesian. ¬†Islanders love to stay together, so once a migrant makes it as an NZ permanent resident, expect the rest of his family, no matter what size, to follow him/her to New Zealand.

Some grumblings on this last situation have been heard from European New Zealanders and other locals, which would make sense but for the fact that more people are now leaving NZ than entering it, strange but true. ¬†The net migration rate here has been flat or going down the last few years, so skilled and hard-working islanders and other migrants are actually a good thing for the xenophobes, you better believe it. ūüôā

Ginataang-ManokLooks, sounds and tastes. ¬†Fijians are a bit on the mocha side and have a very Hindu-themed racial heritage, Tongans are a bit too solidly built, and Samoans are simply superhuman in athletic potential, but on the whole Pacific Islanders look so much like Pinoys that I have been tempted many times to talk in Tagalog to a lot of them before hearing their accent and realizing that they’re not Filipino. ¬†Otherwise, even kabayan who’ve been living among their own kind would take a little time before distinguishing between Filipinos and Polynesian brethren, simply because I suspect that genetically, we are probably identical.

We have very similar complexions.  Our facial features are uncannily reminiscent of each other.  Even our respective languages contain words that have kindred meanings.  The Samoan word for drink is inu, the Maori (and Cook Island) word for death is mate.  Do they sound familiar?  And all the island cuisines scattered all over the Pacific use coconut milk liberally, so our ginataang tambakol, Bicol express and ginataang manok find eerie parallels among our Polynesian co-migrants.

Wanderlust and work ethic. ¬†I don’t know the exact New Zealand policy, but Polynesians particularly Samoans Fijians and Tongans are allowed special migration privileges by NZ, who acts as a big brother to the smaller nations of the Pacific. ¬†Because of this, Auckland is known as the city with the largest Polynesian population in the world, home to large Tongan, Samoan and Fijian communities.

Many Islanders have done well here, and they are proud of their migrant tradition, as Pinoys are of their own (not only here but all over the world). ¬†It’s just like the Pinoy dream : ¬†given better opportunities to raise families and build wealth overseas, they take full advantage of their chances, and hitch their star to the migration wagon. ¬†Doesn’t this sound a lot like our own hopes and dreams?

***                ***               ***

Have you ever met a sibling or long-lost relative that you never knew you had, and stared at him or her in wonder?  Followed by hours and hours of bonding and revelations of things you shared but never knew about?  This is how many of us Filipinos feel about our brother Pacific Islanders, and we have just begun to know more about them.  The fact that they are migrants like us makes the experience doubly profound.

Thanks for reading!

belated happy birthday to the best aunt ever !

you're the best aunt ever! Tita Lily with Dad, thanks to bro Jude Bautista for the pic!

you’re the best aunt ever!

After all my blather and slather, you’re probably used to the level of hyperbole and superlatives in almost everything I say, it’s a hazard of the job. ūüôā ¬†But I have another astounding tale up my sleeve, because of the astounding personality behind the tale.

Conservatively, my Tita Lily has sent around a thousand children to school. ¬†Some she has sent as part of her commitment to family, some godchildren,¬†children of godchildren,¬†children of friends,¬† and even grandchildren of friends. ¬†Still others she has given tuition support because of the recipients’ earnest desire to go to school. ¬†And, yet some more, she has sent to school because they would have no other chance otherwise.

She has stood as godmother to hundreds and hundreds of weddings, proudly witnessed as ninang (godmother) to untold numbers of baptized and confirmed little inaanak, and has been sponsor to a goodly number of ordinations, silver (and golden) anniversaries, and many other milestones of other remarkable people.

You may find this hard to believe, but I have never seen her refuse outright a request for help, assistance or support, especially when it involves family.  Facing a choice between protecting oneself against being taken advantage of and extending a helping hand to someone down and out, Tita Lily 99% of the time would rather err on the side of compassion.

She has been a paragon of professionalism, hard work and consistency throughout the six decades that she has worked, and for a single employer at that. ¬†She has served as model for quality performance, honest toil, and innovating her craft as administrator in one of the country’s largest law firms, and continues to serve as one of its valuable resource persons.

Among the many many things I remember about her as a massively fortunate nephew, I once accompanied her on a visit to a nearby hospital. ¬†The person she visited was battling a lingering illness, and entertaining her visitors was the last thing on the patient’s mind. ¬†She hardly recognized my aunt, but the latter treated her as if she were the dearest friend in the world, stayed for quite a while to reassure her that her friends were still around, and offered her prayers for recovery.

On the way out, I asked Tita Lily who the friend was, and why she hardly recognized her. ¬†She said, we have been friends for over half a century now. ¬†I have many friends like that, and I visit a lot of them often (in hospital) these days. ¬†They have very few remaining relatives and even less friends. ¬†I’m just doing what I can for them.

I was touched by that. ¬†My aunt, not that young anymore, but still moving actively and sharing her time and energy for people who can’t do much for themselves anymore. ¬†But then again, that’s what Tita Lily has always been most of her life, thinking of others first and second, and then only does she think of herself last.

Thank you for always being there for us Tita Lily, I love you so much!  Belated happy birthday!

workmates Nanay never told you about

versatilebloggeraward11[ Note : I almost never put in anything other than my endlessly meandering thoughts, when they strike me as unusual, and otherwise positive thoughts about others. ¬†But it wouldn’t be a candid and realistic blog if I didn’t think and relate aloud thoughts about actual face-to-face experiences, good or otherwise, in my migrant adventure right? ¬†With that caveat, please read on Precious Reader ! ]

IN ALL workplaces bar none, you spot at least one of them : the oddball, the anti-social, or the non-conformist. ¬†Man being the social animal that he is, tends to form gangs, cabals or cliques or at least be aware of these groups, and so the individual who shuns them, or moreover pretends that they aren’t part of modern existence at the very least gambles with the more-or-less positive way with which his colleagues view him, or worse, doesn’t care at all.

What in the world are you driving at Noel? ¬†I can almost hear you saying. ¬†Well first, you’ll forgive me for feeling that we’ve become good friends by now, so I can tell you about something personal to me, and secondly I constantly live by the blogger’s fear that before I’m able to tell you about something that I feel strongly about, I’ll have forgotten. ¬†So there.

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

Let’s call him Genghis, because his actual name recalls one of the most famous pillagers in history, and I can’t very well tell you his real name. ¬†His physical appearance is a portent of what he is inside : aloof, unsmiling, totally focused on whatever he was doing, whether it’s conducting tests on the product, monitoring the machinery, or troubleshooting a problem in the conveyor or spouts, it’s almost like he had invisible blinders that prevented him from seeing anything that was lateral to his vision, or for that matter, his work.

And whether or not those lateral things were actual people and co-workers like me did not matter.  There are only two occasions on which he would acknowledge you : at the start of the shift, when he would nod or repeat your greeting, or when there was a problem in the site, in which case he would take care of it himself, ask for your help only as a last resort, or give you a withering look as if to say you can take care of that yourself.

That last quality, I can honestly say 99% of the time he means without malice or annoyance, especially when it involves routine matters which you would’ve learned without consulting him (except as a matter of courtesy, being the supervisor). ¬†But faced with a choice between saving face in the form of being cock sure about ¬†your areas of responsibilities and machineries, and risking a small unchecked problem growing into a giant, system-wide problem, I’d always opt for his arrogant (albeit unmalicious), withering stare.

Except that it wasn’t the only problem with aloof, unsmiling, socially frigid and arrogant Genghis, who if you can believe it, was otherwise alright to work with. ¬†The problem? ¬†In so many words, if there was a way to do things that wasn’t right in his books, it wasn’t right. ¬†In short, anything that wasn’t the way he did it, was wrong with a capital W.

And in his typical Genghis way, he wouldn’t tell you outright you were wrong. ¬†He would say something like this : Well you can do it the way you like, but I have been doing it for more than 10 years, and besides I do it the way the training manuals describe it. ¬†Therefore the odds are on my side, unfortunately for you.

If you’re a fan of popular sit-com The Big Bang Theory, my co-worker almost invites comparisons to the funny way Jim Parsons brushes off anyone who doesn’t agree with him with a ruthless show of logic and facts, minus the funny punch lines. ¬†Only the straight-faced and unapologetic manner of telling you, you’re wrong and I’m right. ¬†Get over it. ¬†In so many words.

He would not countenance the philosophy/s that emerged between the time he started working (more than a decade ago) and now, regarding improved techniques, wear and tear (requiring the relaxation of certain rules running the machinery) and allowing for the occasional discrepancy between theory and practice.  Grudgingly he would, but that was a rarity.

From time to time, and especially after awkward talks with superiors, he would concede that an appropriate adjustment to his method of doing things was due, but I suspect he did this mostly to appease egos and to do away with what I think he saw as tiresome discussions after which he would just go back to doing what he was comfortable with.

And to a large extent, he was (and is) efficient and effective in his work.  He knows exactly how machines run, how to discern certain sounds coming from the innermost workings, when to replace parts, and when to perform crucial maintenance work.  Hardly ever did any of our factory managers interfere with him, and only when production schedules were to be altered or modified to medium and long-term orders would he actually pay attention to how these would affect him.

In only a pair of instances would his stoic, robot like mode of existence vary, and even then it was only for a brief while, opening a very small window into the person inside him.

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

For a few weeks now starting just before the Christmas break, we were joined as shift partners as the only two to not take any holidays outside the statutory rest days.  During this time I gave him sushi leftovers that esposa hermosa would take home after late night shifts.  Among all the awkward situations I shared with him, this was the least awkward, as he would mumble thank you very much and right in front of me consume the sushi rolls with obvious gusto.

I should’ve made the connection. ¬†As most of us know, sushi is one of the healthier Asian foods around, boasting of almost no fat, very lean meat (if at all) and is faithfully served fresh. ¬†It is almost always disposed of if not purchased at the end of the day, even if it is safe to consume. ¬†Genghis, who is a little older than me, is fastidious in his eating habits and is as fit as a man half his age. ¬†It was therefore no big mystery to see him enjoy the food that I offered him.

Even if I am your supervisor, you don’t have to give me anything. ¬†Just do your work, he said rather clumsily in a combination of formality and gratitude.

Oh no, it’s no big deal I replied, trying to mollify him and hopefully not wanting to offend. ¬†No one will eat anymore and we have to dispose of it, I’d rather someone eat it, one can eat only so much sushi before you get tired of it, referring to myself.

In that case, thank you was all he said, with what I thought was a hint of a smile.

I told you there was another occasion where he opened up a bit, and it was when we talked about the ethnic cleansing that had gone on for years and years in his homeland somewhere in Eastern Europe. ¬†He seemed to think that everyone else in the world had known about it and continued to be fascinated by it ( I for one definitely wasn’t ), and since it was probably the only time I was going to hear more than one work-unrelated sentence from him in one breath, I let him talk and talk. ¬†He unsurprisingly sided with his own ethnic group, but said that thousands of lives had been needlessly sacrificed for too long, and that was one of the reasons he migrated before his own life was wasted.

That, the fact that he saw his father perish right before his very eyes, and seeing many of his neighbors summarily executed daily, made me realize that his introversion, social detachment and sometime paranoia was not as abnormal as it seemed initially as it was a way of dealing with his former world.

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

One of these days I hope, Genghis will look out of the island that is his universe, and start interacting with the people around him.  In turn, I will rely on my famous Pinoy smile and win him over.

And who knows? ¬†It’s a long shot, but his life might one day be changed by a charming, understanding and patient Pinay kabayan.

proud of our repost, proud of our kabayan

success! we found the pic for our repost. The orig caption: "FILIPINO farm workers Dennis Debuyan, left, and Dexter Marayo at work on a dairy farm in Southland. $14 an hour instead of a day has its attractions. Mabuhay kabayan Dennis and Dexter!

success! we found the pic for our repost. The orig caption: “FILIPINO farm workers Dennis Debuyan, left, and Dexter Marayo at work on a dairy farm in Southland. $14 an hour instead of a day has its attractions. Mabuhay kabayan Dennis and Dexter! thanks and acknowledgment to Waikato Times, Dominion Post and for the awesome pic!

SORRY TO belabor the obvious, but when you’re a migrant worker (like me) working far away from home (like me), seeing your countrymen/women given star billing in the local newspaper is definitely not an everyday occurrence.

This however was exactly what greeted us during morning tea last Friday, when on the business page we saw the main picture and banner headline bearing familiar faces and an encouraging headline, Dairy farms turn to migrants.

Strangely enough, we were recently¬†just thinking that our brother Pinoys down south (on the South Island) weren’t getting enough kudos for the contribution they were making to building up the Pinoy‘s reputation in NZ (thanks to their solid contribution to the agricultural economy), when the story comes out in the Dominion Post. ¬†Of course, part of the reason Pinoys are able to do this is because our hospitable hosts let them and are honest enough to admit it needs manpower help from outside.

Before we get too far ahead of ouselves, the Post story, in so many words, makes us extra proud of the Pinoy community in New Zealand, that hardworking compatriots not just in Auckland Wellington and Christchurch are quietly helping Kiwis and Maoris, but also deep in the farming heartland, tending to grazing cattle and sheep, milking cows and nursing lambs.  In short, doing everything traditional Kiwi farmers do, except that many New Zealanders, more inclined to cross the Tasman strait for jobs in Australia, are no longer willing to do those same jobs.

You and I can’t overestimate what keeping farms staffed means for New Zealand.¬† Think of all those Anchor Milk, Anchor Butter and Bing Loyzaga ads and Birch Tree commercials in the 1970s 1980s and 1990s.¬† Where did all that dairy product come from, and where does it continue to be made?¬† That’s right, here in Middle Earth, and kayumanggi hands churning all that butter and squeezing those teats will no longer be an unusual sight.

[ Additionally, besides the repost here, there is another interesting article about Pinoys in New Zealand farming that you might enjoy, posted in our very own Filipino Migrant News published in Auckland (by Sheila Mariano not far from where we live) and where the Pinoy community is MASSIVE. ūüôā ]

Unless you have microscopic vision, you won’t be able to read the story from the clipping above (although proverbially the pic tells a thousand words), likewise I’m not 100% certain if the report is carried in the online version.¬† I’m happy to thank and acknowledge both Mr Jason Krupp, Fairfax News NZ (and of course the Dominion Post) for the sterling story and marvelous pic, respectively.¬† Although some of you in my town have already seen and digested it, what I’m trying to say is I’m reproducing the story below, with grateful attribution to the copyright owners, no commercial gain intended :

“The stereotype of a Pakeha (European New Zealander) farmer may soon be on the way out, as dairy operators fill their ranks with foreign employees to make for the low level of interest in milk production jobs shown by Kiwi jobseekers.

“Agri-lobby Federated Farmers estimates that about a fifth of all dairy workers hail from overseas.

“That means the person responsible for getting a pint of milk out of a cow and on your breakfast table is likely to hail from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, or even as far afield as Colombia.

“And it is an arrangement that suits many in the industry.

Willy Leferink, the chariman of Federated Farmer’s Dairy Industry Group, said New Zealand — much like many other developed countries — was in the grips of a structural shift whereby young people were more likely to take up studies in more glamorous fields than farming despite its importance to the economy.

“He said that has been exacerbated by the rapid growth of the dairy industry in New Zealand, but an overall lack of interest in working long days in rural conditions were also an issue.

“`We need foreign workers because without them we would be devastated.’ Leferink said.

“The upside for farmers is that they gain staff with skills, as the New Zealand Immigration Service only issue visas to people with appropriate agri qualifications.

“They’re also getting the benefit of experience, with many foreign workers, particularly from the Philippines (underscoring YLBnoel’s), having worked in foreign markets.

“A South Waikato farmer, who asked not to be named, said staff with Saudi experience were particularly sought after as they were familiar with working on huge operations using modern machinery and world-class standards.

“He said efforts by Work and Income (the government funded employment and recruitment agency) to place unemployed people with farmers seldom yielded results due to a lack of dairy-specific skills, while foreigners came trained and enthusiastic (again, underscoring mine).

“Bruce Porteous, who works for farm recruitment firm Immigration Placements, said New Zealand was an appealing place to work for foreigners as the immigration laws paved the way for permanent resident.

“Data from Statistics New Zealand backs this.¬† In the year ended November 2012, almost 200 people from the Philippines became permanent residents, up 8.7 per cent on the same period a year ago.¬† Similar net migration gains were seen from Argentina and the Czech Republic.

“Additionally, there was the pull of “earning $14 an hour as opposed to $14 per day,” he said.

Leferink said he’d like to see more done at a school level to steer young people towards careers in the dairy industry.”

Res ipsa loquitur. Mabuhay ang Pinoy!