JUST AS important as the postcard sights, Michelin stars and travelogue accommodations of your vacation experience is the human factor. How senti (or sentimental) your reunions were, how awesome a time you had reminiscing yesteryear with contemporaries, or how many tears of happiness shed with long-lost relatives brought back to life. You may immerse yourself in the swankiest lodgings, admire the most breathtaking natural wonders, or savor the most decadent buffet, but who you meet and the stories you swap occupy a most prominent corner in your album of precious memories.
The people we met and spent time with during our short trip to Auckland (or the City of Sails, it sounds good for a title), fleeting as it was, made it doubly pleasing and trebly memorable. It may have been the amount of time we spent apart, the remarkable anecdotes shared and recounted, or just the good company, but without them our modest little adventure would not have been the same.
The day after we arrived, my old colleague Arlene Ahorro made sure we met her family and had lunch in their modest bungalow in North Shore just outside Auckland City. The time Arlene and I worked together a few years ago was a special time for her; she was chasing permanent resident status on the Work-to-Residence policy stream, which is Immigration NZ‘s way of saying if you don’t find get a job offer that suits your qualifications within six months from the time you get off the boat, your goose is cooked and back home you go. Arlene’s sticky situation was that she had a job offer, but it was from a company that was going under faster than the Titanic after it bumped Mr Iceberg. She had to consolidate her status and wrap up her application soon, otherwise her dreams as a migrant were going to remain just that, dreams.
To make a long story short, she made it by the skin of her teeth, and as you can see on the pretty picture above, she was able to bring her family to the land of her dreams (son Byron is taking the pic). They are by no means at the end of their rainbow, but they are getting there one day at a time, raising kids and building careers while enjoying each other’s love.
Oh, and I almost forgot, she sweetened the lunch invitation by preparing her world-class kare-kare and readying her kawali for a blue-cod (similar to lapu-lapu) dish that would have gotten rave reviews from any NZ Masterchef panel of judges. After that, we had chocolate mousse and home-made capuccino, a concession to Western cuisine for dessert, at least. Mabuhay kayo, Arlene and Jun Ahorro and family!
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One Kiwi (Peter) was a world-weary traveller who’d been all over Asia to find his fortune, and the other (Greg) was a world-class corporate communications specialist, and there was practically nothing in common with them, save perhaps their choice of partners, both choosing Filipinas from my country.
The latter two, Doc Arlene Gill and Aline Parrone were two kabayan I’d gotten to know at the Facebook page of my alumni in NZ, and they had varied, yet parallel paths compared to mine on our way to becoming migrants in this fair land. We found it odd that we knew each other well online but had never beheld each other personally, so we sought to remedy that situation our second day in AKL.
Over Japanese pica-pica and udon , we discussed how New Zealanders continued to marvel at how much their country has evolved in the last few decades, not the least because of the migration invasion. Thanks also to the union between Kiwis and Pinoys, we have meetings of the minds like the one between cultures and perspectives. Thanks for the opportunity, Arlene, Aline and your hubbies!
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Our best experience was saved for last. I would not have been able to obtain my first work visa in New Zealand without the assistance and generosity of my brother George and his wife Hazel. They figuratively held my hand, taught me to walk and talk, and finally weaned me from my circle of friends and supporters by helping me find my first job in New Zealand.
Nearly five years from the time I left Auckland, I saw them as a family again (pictured above), and they have remained the same engaging, hard-working and conscientious team of husband and wife, always there for their two daughters. The latter two have remained the same respectful, charming and intelligent pair of Kiwinoys I left, and I’m so lucky to be their uncle as well! It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say they charmed the pants off Mahal, who couldn’t stop giggling with them throughout our entire lunch (and follow-up lunch the day after)!
We would’ve gained probably an extra bilbil and double chin if we didn’t leave Auckland at the time we did, as George and family fed us lunch, merienda, and brunch until we could not longer take another bite. Such is the hospitality of family, and our brother made sure we would never forget this visit. Thanks so much brother, and may we return the favor when your family visit us in Wellington!
Thanks for reading!
- dodging awkward situations with your pinay wife / gf / partner (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- Migrant groups claim NZ not racist country despite poll (nzherald.co.nz)
- Love where you live: Auckland (nzmuse.com)
- New Zealand’s Exports to China Surpass Australian Purchases – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Migration turnaround surprises (stuff.co.nz)