Three shindigs, four families and a thousand smiles in the City of Sails


Auckland at night. thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to travel.usnews.com!

Auckland at night. thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to travel.usnews.com!

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 Ahorros of North Shore City : that's Arlene and Jun on one side, and their daughter Bea behind us on the other. We are all sitting like contented cows after a lunch of kare-kare and steamed blue cod. talap-talap!

the Ahorros of North Shore City : that’s Arlene and Jun on one side, and their daughter Bea behind us on the other. We are all sitting like contented cows after a lunch of kare-kare and steamed blue cod. talap-talap!

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!

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

with kabayan Aline and Arlene and their Kiwi partners.  Beer optional. :)

with kabayan Aline and Arlene and their Kiwi partners. Beer optional. 🙂

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!

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

from left: Hazel, their daughter Kimy, Your Loyal Blogger, Mahal, Hannah and my brother George.  in front of us is what remains of a humongous dimsum / yumcha lunch :p

from left: Hazel, their daughter Kimy, your loyal blogger, Mahal, Hannah and my brother George. in front of us is what remains of a humongous dimsum / yumcha lunch :p

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!

 

Advertisements

home for an evening with Ogie A & his music


Ogie the Pogi made even smaller from the nosebleed section

Ogie the Pogi made even smaller from the nosebleed section

[ Note : Sorry for the very ordinary pic, the seats we got were way up in the nosebleed section, the overflow crowd after the concert also prevented us from both an impromptu interview or even a snapshot with Mr Singer-Songwriter! 😦 ]

IMAGINE A situation where you entered your favorite pizza place for the first time in five years; for added realism let’s select one, Shakey’s.  You know exactly what to order : Manager’s Choice Pizza, with all the trimmings and specials, cooked on traditional thin crust, and four-piece Chick N Chips for you and your companion, chicken thigh and breast cooked just the way you like, with mojo potatoes.  The hunger pangs caused by waiting for the treats is dulled by ice-cold San Miguel Pale Pilsen, and the waitress brings the pizza and chicken with a flourish, just after your last gulp of cerveza and just when you thought your dinner would never arrive.

The combination of tastes and smells is just what you expected : slightly salty, slightly tangy, slightly sweet, and intensely delicious.  You don’t care that your tongue gets slightly burned by the first few bites, even this slightly stinging sensation is part of the package, and what a package it is.  Uniquely Pinoy, uniquely memorable and worth coming back for.

It’s this above experience that comes to mind when I recall the recent concert we attended in Auckland last Saturday with a great musical and entertainment talent that made many in the Pinoy community in NZ nostalgic for the homeland.

Mr Ogie Alcasid, also known as Ogie the Pogi, sang not only his signature Nandito Ako, Kung Mawawala Ka and Sa Kanya, he also sang songs he wrote that were popularized by other artists like Freestyle (Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang), Martin Nievera (Ikaw Ang Pangarap/Lobo theme song), Gary Valenciano (sorry, I can’t remember the title) and Piolo Pascual (Kailangan Kita).  He also sang OPM standards throughout his short but exciting concert.

No less than six Kiwinoys sang before the main act, but the more memorable entertainment was provided by singer-comedians Joffrey and Russell who impersonated various OPM artists like Jaya, Nora Aunor and Yeng Constantino and kept the audience laughing until it was time for Ogie to make his entrance.

Like the Shakey’s dinner, the Ogie concert was too good to last, and I had to remind myself that until my next homecoming, Mr Alcasid’s evening of songs would have to replenish my store of memories of my Inang Bayan and her music.  Thanks for bringing us home, if only for an evening Ogie!

dodging awkward situations with your pinay wife / gf / partner


awkward!

awkward!

[ Maraming maraming salamat Arlene and Jun Ahorro, Arlene Gill and Aline Parrone and George and Hazel Bautista for their supreme kindness and hospitality during our trip to Auckland, may we return the favor someday soon! ]

WE DON’T guarantee 100% success; in our fallible imperfect world, nothing does.  But having had the benefit of experience, knowing our Pinay sisterhood since we were very young (and that was quite a few summers ago), we believe we are eminently qualified to help you,  precious reader, from as my audacious title suggests, dodging potentially awkward situations with your Pinay loved one.

The fundamental disconnect between cultures and values, the yawning divide between races and religions (or lack of same) and the clash between generations and familial priorities are some of  the sources of friction between Pinays and their significant others, who would otherwise be genuinely and sincerely in love, but it could be anything, as little as a momentary or wayward glance to an innocent phrase or comment that could open the proverbial can of worms.

First awkward situation.  While you are in the company of Pinay loved one, you encounter a pretty lady.  Do you (a) strike up a conversation, attract her attention and hope your Pinay loved one doesn’t notice, (b) be friendly in a guarded manner, but only if the hot lady is herself friendly first (although that’s highly unlikely), or (c) ignore her completely.  If the answer isn’t obvious, I’ll tell you what I’d do.

This was what happened: on our way to Auckland to catch the Ogie Alcasid concert, a very rare appearance by a world-class Filipino performer in this part of the world by the way, and on the discount flight to the City of Sails, I found myself seated next to a very attractive Kiwi woman.  From my peripheral view, she was slim, smartly dressed and didn’t seem to have any companion.  Of course, to my left was Mahal, who was ready to raise an eyebrow and flash a pout of disapproval if I so much as turned my head and display my famous Pinoy charm on said Attractive Kiwi Woman.

The flight was sixty-five minutes long, Mahal fell asleep somewhere between Wellington and Auckland and there was little reading matter to occupy my wandering mind, save for the usual glossy airline/travel mag that wasn’t exactly in the John Grisham or Stephen King neighborhood.  Did I talk to or even attempt to look at Ms Attractive Kiwi Woman?

The short answer is no. 😉

Common sense, a desire to not stoke any embers of  the time my conscience was less than virtuous and my eye was a little more than wandering, and the recognition that I was much better off letting sleeping dogs lie, were compelling reasons for my course of action, despite the fact that outside Mahal, encountering pretty young women and sitting this close to them was about as often as seeing more than a handful of stars as well as the moon on a clear Manila night, the odds of which is the equivalent to slim to none.

Which brings me to my valuable lesson : whenever you are with the love of your life, specifically your Pinay love, and you meet at close quarters a female topping 8 out of 10 on the hotness scale, ignore said female.  Pretend that she doesn’t exist and devote even more attention than usual on your beloved.  Whether or not she notices, it’s a win-win.  If she does, well you get a good-little-boy pat on the back.  If she doesn’t, well all you lost was the chance to admire a fine young thing while testing your steely resistance to temptation; you can always ogle the next nice-looking lady the next time, of course this means the next time you’re not with your Pinay Lady.

even more awkward!

even more awkward!

Second situation.  You are the judge-by-default when your Pinay love selects dresses and stuff for her party / night out.  She asks you in succession does this dress highlight my assets, de-emphasize my less flattering parts and in general, make me look prettier?  The good news is the answer is easy, the dress does none of those things.  The bad news is she’s right there’s waiting for an answer in a New York minute.  What to do?  Do you (a) tell her all is good, yes yes yes and she looks like a supermodel; (b) bite the bullet and tell her the dress doesn’t do anything for her, she looks 10 years older in that awful dress and please donate it to the needy or anyone else who’ll want it, or (c) tell her exactly how the dress might have been good for her, had she had the right skin color, height and vital statistics?  Remember, there’s no middle ground and you can’t give her a safe, wishy-washy opinion.

You want her to look at her best but at the same time you don’t want to hurt her feelings and ruin her day.  The problem with Pinays is they take their appearance very seriously and believe that, though they already look good on their own and are as beautiful as any other race on the planet, they have to trounce the competition and must claim their birthright of being the most desirable women on Earth.

I’m not sure if my answer fits into the category of (a), (b) or (c), but I would tell my Pinay love that whatever she wears is immaterial to me, because she is the only beautiful woman in my life, and ultimately the opinion of others does not count.  Of course in reality this answer will not be the one she is looking for, but this is one case where what you think isn’t as important as how the other person feels, and believe me, dear reader, how your Pinay love feels is very important.

Thanks for reading!

the day bunso came full circle


did our unanimous choice of chinese dimsum and yumcha really require explanation? :)

did our unanimous choice of chinese dimsum and yumcha really require explanation? 🙂

SEEING A person off on a journey into the vast unknown is one of the more popular metaphors lent to parents bidding goodbye to their adult children.  Part of you is so happy for them, being a front-seat witness to the first of their many milestones.  And yet you know that on many levels there is no turning back, as there are certain thresholds that, once crossed, can’t be uncrossed, can’t be undone.

Given his communication and learning skills, it had taken Bunso an inordinate time to find a job in Migrantland.  Each IQ test had given him so much encouragement, each interview had given him so much hope, and each hiring officer had practically promised him that the job was his for the taking.  Why, then was this his umpteenth job interview, and the latest in an endless stream of heartbreaking you have great qualifications, but just not a good fit for the position we’re offering right now?  It just seemed that they never ran out of ways to make you feel good and at the same time shut the proverbial door in your unbelieving face.

Which was why, after a month of not hearing from Bunso, we were very happy to hear that he had already started work after a short training period.  Just when he thought he had had enough of sincere-sounding but indecisive and non-committal employers, one supermarket chain finally cut him a break and told him to report for work the next day.

It was of course nothing fancy, minimum wage, work the graveyard shift that nobody wanted, fill the shelves and man the checkout counters at all hours of the day, don’t even think about choosing your hours.  For Bunso, just having a job was seventh heaven, and a passport to the life of being able to start saving for things meant a lot to him.

And the icing on the cake ?  Bunso remembered to treat us to dinner, which was a first for both me and him, meaning him treating me and me, well, being treated.  Free food certainly tastes better than usual, and even more when it’s from someone you’ve loved all your life.

From you taking care of the baby to the baby now taking care of you, Bunso has certainly come full circle, sniff-sniff! 🙂

From Tita H and me, thanks so much and love you always Bunso!

ang pikon laging talo unless…


[ Note : If it sounds like I’m goofing off, it’s only partly true.  I wanted to note the similarity between the Philippines and New Zealand as regards the almost painful emphasis on political correctness and the (unsurprisingly) onion-skinned response every time something politically incorrect is said about their respective cultures, and I also wanted to tell you about my news program viewing habits here.  But because of a recent event, it might just be as well if I did it in one sitting. Thanks for reading and apologies in advance for the longish rant-and-rave ! ]

I taught a journalism class at Duke (University) for 3 years.  The first question I asked on the first day of the semester was always the same : What is objective journalism? After the students gave their answers I’d tell them they were all wrong; there’s no such thing.  None of us is objective.  We all have biases that we grew up with or that develop through the years.  The key is understanding that you’re biased and trying as hard as you can to put those biases aside and be fair.  – John Feinstein in One on One.

IT’S NOT that hard to understand.  If I take pains to be politically correct and sensitive to the cultural diversity that exists between nations and states (and even within a particular society), common sense dictates that I expect the same courtesy to be granted me, especially when I host visitors from other countries and places.  Sounds good in theory right?  In practice however, that’s not always the case, and it’s not always a clear-cut case of doing as the Romans do.

Danish minister of parliament Marie Krarup criticized as “uncivilized” and “grotesque” a traditional welcome ritual performed by Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, on a parliamentary defense committee visit last week.  To be perfectly blunt about it, Krarup said she was “shocked to be welcomed by a half-naked man in grass skirt, shouting and screaming in Maori.”  She added several other unflattering details, glossing over the fact that such a dance ritual, called a powhiri, has been a traditional welcome ceremony used in New Zealand for centuries honoring visitors from all over the world.

Whether or not you appreciate the aesthetics of the dance is ultimately beside the point.  As many radio commentators have presumed, the Danish official must have been prepped and briefed by her handlers about NZ customs and would at least have basic awareness on how New Zealand fetes and welcomes its honored visitors.

As mentioned, because the majority of NZ society takes pains to observe political correctness, an entire spectrum of Kiwis (and Maoris, of course) have expressed dismay and disdain for Krarup’s comments, ranging from measured criticism to wholesale condemnation.

But it’s not that cut-and-dried, as some people have expressed support for Krarup’s sentiments.  Compared to other cultures, Maoris may admittedly appear a bit aggressive and for lack of a better term, in-your-face that it may put off some people.  But it doesn’t detract from the rich culture and history of said people, who have rightly shown their displeasure, particularly as it concerns a guest of NZ who should have at least shown a little more tact.

***              ***               ***

Taking the devil’s advocate view, doth the media in my host country protest too much? To appear too onion-skinned and sensitive to criticism of native culture, especially from overseas, is a common trait of columnists and opinion makers, often in support of other agenda and interests.  A desire to curry favor with the political leadership, increase readership/viewership, or protect itself from appearing to promote specific interest groups are the usual suspects, but in my humble view, most New Zealand TV news programs are often vanilla-safe, fence-sitting or neutral to the point of being unhelpful on what an issue means to ordinary people.  I realize this is an extreme judgment, but one thing for sure : you’ll never hear an honest opinion from the TV newsreaders here except by way of occasional funny remarks or tongue-in-cheek comments.

[Content from radio or print media is another matter totally, but we can discuss that some other time. ]

***               ***               ***

Back home, I notice that anything highlighting our imperfect Pinoy society is fair game for media, as long as it isn’t coming from foreign personalities or foreign media.  If any utterance or reportage (print, electronic or video) comes from abroad, it then acquires a “meddler” or “foreign devil” status that instantly deserves universal scourging, sometimes disproportionate to the original comment.

One example is the prevalence of Asian dating sites, specifically our kabayan Pinays making themselves relatively more accessible to prospective husbands from the First World.  Everybody back home in the Philippines knows about this; it’s not only a fact of supply-and-demand relationships, women from other cultures also promote themselves as desirable partners to men in return for favorable migration and economic outcomes.  Men, wherever they come from, provide stability and security = Women who offer love, affection and the comforts of life.  Pinays just seem to do a better marketing job than others.

But just imagine a non-Pinoy making this observation in whatever medium and you can rest assure that almost immediately will surface (1) a thousand and one aspersions on this person’s right to make judgments (as if anyone needed credentials to make an opinion) (2) numerous conjectures as to the motives of this person, as if you needed a reason to point out the good or the bad in anything and (3) counter-comments and opposing judgments that ironically will only call more attention to the original criticism that otherwise wouldn’t have been noticed that much.

Just one more example of how overkill becomes counterproductive when it comes to our paranoia over other people criticizing us.  Few may remember Homeland star Claire Danes in the movie Brokedown Palace above, but after its production, Danes had some colorful things to say about Manila.  Quoting Wikipedia :

In 1998, just after the filming of Brokedown Palace in Manila, Danes was quoted in Vogue magazine as saying that Manila was a “ghastly and weird city”.  She further remarked in Premiere magazine that the city “smelled of cockroaches, with rats all over and that there is no sewage system and the people do not have anything—no arms, no legs, no eyes”. Kim Atienza, son of then–Mayor of ManilaLito Atienza, responded to the comments by saying that, “those are irresponsible, bigoted and sweeping statements that we cannot accept”.  Her films were subsequently banned from being screened in the Philippines.  Joseph Estrada, then President of the Philippines, condemned her publicly , and she was declared persona non grata.

It may have been somewhat over-the-top, but what did Danes say about our beloved Manila that wasn’t true about any other Third World city?  The comment about our lack of extremities and eyes should’ve been taken in context, considering that she shot some scenes in our famous National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong City.  Comments on her comments made by high officials only gave them more mileage and legitimacy, which I’m guessing wasn’t the intent of those officials.

***            ***            ***

On the other hand, there is only one case where you can raise a hoot when your culture is offended and get almost instant results : if you’re the number one consumer market in the world.  Everyone who cares knows that China (1) trades with and acknowledges Taiwan, but officially refuses to accept the latter’s existence and (2) executes more criminals than the rest of the world combined.  In so many words, (1) and (2) are official government policy.

But any official mouthpiece of any nation enjoying diplomatic relations with China who tries making a comment about those things on any media platform (I hope blogs don’t count) risks reaping the whirlwind, or causing a shock-and-awe response from the combine of sanctions and propaganda from the People’s Republic of China with massive ripple effects all around.

The Chinese community is so established in NZ that there are two TV channels dedicated to Chinese content.  One station I think airs predominantly pro-Mainland programs, while the other station allows pro-Taiwan content.  (I can watch both because they’re free; no cable needed; and I learned passable Mandarin in high school, although I need a lot of practice to speak and understand it well.) Both channels operate in the so-called free market of ideas, but steer clear of any criticism of Chinese government and culture.  It would be therefore be hard to imagine either TV station airing any local (much less foreign) entity saying anything negative about China.  The closest thing it resembles to me is the late years of Philippine martial law, where it was still unsafe to say anything about government but you constantly tried to test the limits of criticizing authority without getting in trouble.

***            ***            ***

I tried, but couldn’t find an accurate translation for the Filipino adjective pikon; the closest was irritable or sore loser.  None suits my purposes right now, because pikon may also mean onion-skinned or sensitive to teasing or criticism.  I say this because besides the singular exception above, most countries, New Zealand and the Philippines definitely included, should whenever they hear foreign criticism of their respective cultures should remember the common-sense advice : ang pikon laging talo.

belated happy birthday Oscar “Oca” Gomez Jr !


Oca and the love of his life Mari.  Is that Bruce Lee's statue in the background? :)

Oca and the love of his life Mari. Is that Bruce Lee’s statue in the background? 🙂

If there is one thing I remember about my friend from university Oscar Oca Gomez, it is that he was passionate about almost everything he did.  About his politics, sports (which he wrote a lot about), his interests and best of all, women who happened to catch his eye, he never held back an ounce of feeling or a spark of sentiment.  He was either non-responsive or all in, never in between.

Whether it was exuding full confidence in the Philippines (he never understood why skilled and talented people ever left the country), covering the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons for the Philippine Collegian sports section (we were lucky enough to be part of the student body when UP won its only UAAP basketball title) or being son, brother  and later husband and father to the family he loves, Oca has always given 101%.  Still does, I’m sure.

I haven’t seen him for so long now that I’m afraid we will almost not recognize each other when we finally do meet, with only the memories of presswork all-nighters, UAAP games and passionate discussions about life and love to remind us of the wonderful life in Diliman that we never appreciated then, but will always treasure.

We are grown men now, parents of children who are almost full-grown themselves, and we have nowhere to go but late middle age.  Only the memories of our youth, maybe the passions that inflamed us then, and the joy of seeing the successes of our children (and grandchildren) will keep us young.

That, and maybe a reunion with friends of yesteryear.  Thanks for the memories Kuya Oca, and it will certainly be a treat to see you one of these days.  Belated happy birthday and warmest regards to your gorgeous wife Mari, and beautiful kids Gio, Fiona, Cheska and Francine!

reblog : the Philippines 70 years hence seen thru a Pinoy youth


thanks and acknowledgment to scottbrownscerebralcaffeine.wordpress.com!

thanks and acknowledgment to scottbrownscerebralcaffeine.wordpress.com!

[ Note : I’m so happy when Generation Y-ers can engender nostalgia for values of a bygone era, even happier when the member of Generation Y is our own son.  It acquires triple satisfaction when it coincides with today’s commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan.  Lifted with permission from both the author and publisher of Issue No.1 of Pinoy Stop  (Wellington) newsmagazine, maraming salamat po! ]

Every journey begins with one step.  We go on for miles and miles, sometimes knowing where we are going and what we’re looking for. Most of the time we just walk down roads idly, letting our instincts lead the way. We see different things along our different paths. Some things we wish to take with us or at least know more about. We share our experiences to other people but some things we won’t even bat an eyelash for.

That is how I saw the Philippines five years ago, a country proud of its people and their achievements but apathetic to its misgivings and failures. A country that has taken a path unique in many ways, such as being an Asian democracy albeit a flawed one at that. It has millions of skilled workers, all with warm hearts; countless natural resources, filled with so much unrealized potential.

This is what thousands of Filipinos and Americans died for during the infamous Bataan Death March They marched down a seemingly-endless road their captors forced upon them. Many of them did not survive. Whether by starvation, dehydration, exhaustion or by a bullet, their death neither came quick nor easy. Now in remembrance of their deeds and what they fought for, the Philippines commemorates the said event the same day it happened seventy­-one years ago on April 9.

April 9 is a public holiday in the Philippines, with most of the workforce and the student population exempted from work and school, respectively, and the usual Filipino past times would follow such as going to the mall or just resting. As a young person myself I can recall that I did the same on that holiday, enjoying my free time and disregarding the story behind it. That I regret doing, not only because I feel that as a Filipino, I am indebted to those people who died on that road but also because  there are lessons to be learned. Our country’s history has shown us many things. It has shown us that we as a nation bend. We do not break. We have been given a myriad of paths through the years, all of which would not have been possible if not for the people who lost their lives during the death march.

A period of nation-building followed the war.  We chose the paths we have taken. We took the lead. Our neighbors looked up to us. As the rest of Southeast Asia grappled with nation building, weak economies and civil wars, the Philippines was the shining beacon of prosperity and democracy in the region. Unfortunately because of dictatorship, we entered a period of economic stagnation and political crises.  We then, overthrew that regime in a bloodless revolution. After the democratic transition, the expectations of the international community was high. We did not meet those expectations, we didn’t even meet our own. Now under the current government we are seeing  a slow but steady and assured resurgence of our country, not only in the economy but with our political ideals, moral and ethical principles as well. If we have any captors at present, it is us.

We as a people have always chosen what we want to tell others about our experiences. We  are proud of our country’s rich history and culture and are known for our resilience, perseverance and work ethic.  But we ignore the lessons from the past.  Events such as the ‘Fall of Bataan’ and the subsequent death march should serve as a reminder to us all of the hardships our people have experienced.  That is something we should never take for granted.  We owe it to them to aim higher to accept criticisms so we can make ourselves better and make our country proud of all our actions.  We may be forced down a road we have not chosen but we persevere through it and learn from that experience.  We survive — stronger and wiser.

To my countrymen, we do not take holidays so we can take a break off from work and rest.    It has a far greater purpose than that.

reblog from Pinoy Stop : Tao po, Ramil & Marie Garcia and kids of Lower Hutt Wellington


the Dayrit-Garcias.  From left: Maxine, Ramil, Marie, Alex, Danielle and Kirsten.  Landmark not included :)

the Dayrit-Garcias. From left: Maxine, Ramil, Marie, Alex, Danielle and Kirsten. Landmark not included 🙂

[ Note from YLB : thank you, thank you, thank you Didith Tayawa-Figuracion, Meia Lopez and the rest of the editorial staff of Pinoy Stop, a tentatively-named Pinoy newsmag in the Wellington region (in its maiden issue) for allowing me to repost a story I did for them.  The section is tentatively entitled Tao Po, where Pinoy families allow me to visit them and ask them about migrant life in Wellington.  Salamat rin kay Ramil, Marie and kids for graciously allowing us into their lovely home ! Thanks for reading! ]

     UNLIKE MANY Pinoy migrant couples embarking on the New Zealand magical mystery tour, Lower Hutt couple Ramil and Marie Garcia knew exactly what they were getting.
     This couple, who already had three daughters (Kirsten, Alex and Maxine) when they landed in Wellington in 2001 and added one more to their brood (Danielle) eight years ago, chose New Zealand over Australia for the more relaxed pace of life and lifestyle, access to benefits like health insurance and social security, a standard of living that allows decent shelter and car ownership, and fresh food, cleaner air and a comfortable retirement.
     Obviously, not in that order.
     But coming here, Marie noticed and experienced something different in health care, particularly in obstetrics.  While quality maternal and neonatal care in the Philippines is costly, Marie is thankful it is free for residents and citizens here. Another point of difference is the emphasis on the natural and avoidance of too much anaesthesia here which is something many Pinay mothers need to get used to.  Marie knows what she’s talking about, having given birth to three kids back home and one here.
     If it’s a toss-up between native land and adopted land for the wife, the husband is almost completely sold on New Zealand.  The laid back life, clean and green environment, honest government, anything and everything ticks all the boxes for him.
     Ramil and Marie are able to supervise their children every day, go hiking on a nearby hillside trail most weekends, visit Marie’s parents and two sisters (and families) anytime they want (the majority of Marie’s siblings migrated to NZ soon after the Garcias) and just as important, enjoy quality time with each other nearly twenty-four seven.  Needless to say, almost none of these would be possible on a regular basis in the Philippines.
     Icing on the cake is their recent acquisition of the home of their dreams, functional for their six-person family but quite easy on the eyes as well.

     New Zealand has been everything this Pinoy couple has asked for, and more.  So far, they have been able to raise their children in a clean and healthy environment, put them through quality schools under the New Zealand educational system, have both acquired fulfilling jobs that, though not the ones that would have earned them the income of a lifetime, have given them the chance to live the life many would be envious of back home. 

***               ***              ***

     For the observant ones out there, did anyone notice that among their goals and dreams, not a single one mentioned saving a bunch of dollars, bringing it home and having the holiday of their lives?
     It’s not a typo.  Both Ramil and Marie, like you me and most other Pinoys, love an extra bit of money and enjoying the fruits of their labor.  It’s just not a big deal for them, and raising their daughters properly, enjoying their lives together and keeping fit and healthy are what count most.  After that, maybe a trip back home every now and then to visit Ramil’s relatives might be in order.
     As you might guess, that’s the only thing on the other side of the scale that Ramil misses, not hard to imagine since most of Marie’s sisters and both her folks are already here.
     Yun lang ang nakakamiss, sa aming lahat ako lang ang nandito.  Silang lahat (ng kapamilya) nasa Quezon province, Ramil says with a little lump in his throat.  The consolation is he sees his brothers, sisters and parents in each of the faces of his daughters.
     And when you do see the smiling faces of his daughters, the cozy facade of their bungalow, their two-car garage and the cork board full of school athletic and extra-curricular activities, even the sleek but modest entertainment center side-by-side with their wicker/rattan lounge set, what more could you ask?
     Just a loving spouse, family close by, and everything else to remind you that home is in the heart.  Kudos and maraming salamat po, Ramil, Marie and kids!

Panganay Ganda & Bunso learn and earn


now pay attention, at least on your first day at work! ;)

now pay attention, at least on your first day at work! 😉

LIKE A distracted hiker climbing out of a densely forested hillside, I’ve stumbled onto a tuktok or plateau rather abruptly, almost anticlimactically.  All of my children have not only reached adult age, but have been engaged to work full-time jobs, and have begun the slow but rewarding journey towards building their lives in earnest.  A milestone I’ve not worked for, but am proud of nevertheless.

this looks a lot like where Bunso works now.

this looks a lot like where Bunso works now.

Their quest started a bit unexpectedly, but was hastened by the cocktail of migration and novelty, specifically being in a strange land and wanting to do well in a different environment.  I doubt very much if they’d been as motivated and inspired had they been at home, but looking at them now, all’s well that ends well (so far).

Not to take anything away from their attitude and achievement, but the comfort zone of home sometimes make you less desperate, less hungry, and less prone to just going for the big play.  Specific circumstances forced them to lacerate from the placenta of familiar surroundings, supportive relatives and cheerleading friends and peers.  The rough start was a bit off-putting, which included having to get referrals from anyone who would bother to give them the time of day, distributing CVs all over town, and pounding the pavement for casual jobs, part-time jobs and any sort of gig that would wedge a foot in the door.

this reminds me of Panganay's desk. ;)

this reminds me of Panganay’s desk. 😉

And recently it finally happened.  Bunso was exhilarated, stumped, depressed, ambivalent, went through so many stages of anticipation and decompression, stressing and destressing that it was almost an afterthought when he finally got hired.  Partly helping was the parallel path travelled by Panganay and Ganda, who previously got jobs of their own.

I don’t have much advice to give them, besides maybe the example set by my own folks, who worked every day of their lives before semi-retiring (they still work), possessed a tremendous work ethic, and always chose to help someone in need by giving him/her work rather than provide a handout.  They were lucky enough to get to know the lola and lola, and hopefully will still get a few pointers from the dad.

one of Ganda's colleagues tries to help a familiar-looking patron with a ketchupp stain ;)

one of Ganda’s colleagues tries to help a familiar-looking patron with a ketchup stain 😉

Since this blog is ending, I have only a quote for my kids.  It’s not the quote I was looking for but the spirit is more or less captured, thanks to searchquotes.com :

Nothing in this world will take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race. –Calvin Coolidge.

If this gem can be applied to success in the field of solving the planet’s problems, I trust it will be effective in the field of success in work.

Congrats to all of you on entering the work force, mga anak.  Make all of us prouder!

Thanks for reading!

are you ready for Afterglow Arcade this saturday?


I CAN no longer relate to current OPM (if ever I did) the way the present generation does,   but I certainly know if somebody deserves attention from their kabayan Pinoys.

I was lucky enough to attend the Rivermaya-Bamboo-Gloc9-Loonie concert held in Wellington last November.  Fronting for them was an energetic indie fusion band that seemed to combine all the right influences into their sound.  They were doing all the obligatory cover songs, but they were doing quite well on their own with a couple of catchy original numbers.

I wasn’t surprised upon knowing of their success afterwards.  Afterglow Arcade has won 1st place in the 2007 and 2008 Rockquest regional finals, a youth band competition in New Zealand.  Being a partly Kinoy band, they’ve visited their homeland the Philippines and have done the rounds with variety shows on GMA7 and TV5.  They’ve also provided street entertainment for the 2011 Rugby World Cup Fanzone, and have as I mentioned fronted for various superstar Pinoy bands and artists visiting the Wellington region.

Their signature blurb sounds so good I just have to repeat it :

Forming in late 2005, the Wellington based band has been engaging audiences with their intense live show, original compositions and spreading their love for music to eager ears all over the world.

Combining their love for sports fitness and music seem to be the common thread of the Afterglow band members. 

Camille / Jaycee , an athletic, K-Pop-loving Victoria University sophomore, enjoys writing music and playing instruments like the guitar, piano, bass and drums.  Her brother Mike, a Victoria University IT grad is also athletic, but loves music even more.  In between developing software for various industries, he runs, plays basketball and collaborates with bands from multiple genres.

Kervin on his final year in Victoria University doing Bachelor of Business Information Systems, combines music, sports and the technological aspect of improving the Afterglow sound. Drummer Von started playing in his late teens and has never  looked back. Besides music, he’s also very fanatical towards basketball, beats and drum solos. 

Wellington Soundcheck, their April 6 (Saturday) concert will be at the St Bernard’s College auditorium on Waterloo St Lower Hutt, and performing with them are an equally awesome band the JAMBLN juaNZ. Fronting them are Paulo Canlas, Bhren Barot, Lyn & Peach Bobis, and SIMPLY MelOdDi.  Each and every artist is Kinoy in word and in deed.

If you’re free this Saturday, how about giving our kabayan musical artists some of our time?  Tickets are available at the gate, or with Carol at 021 408588, Lev at 021 2167041, Neil at 0210355880 or Precy at 021 127927.