is it just me or r u no longer surprised when a kabayan gets a bullet, garrote or hot chair abroad?

It won't be as crude as this summary execution in Tibet, but the end result is the same : a bullet in the head for our kabayan,  unless our VP produces a miracle. :(

It won’t be as crude as this summary execution in Tibet, but the end result is the same : a bullet in the head for our kabayan, unless our VP produces a miracle. ūüė¶

[ Laziness alert : Even less than the usual 5% of all the sentences here are backed up by research, statistics or catatonic Googling or use of other search engines. ¬†If you want an entertaining read, please sample The Emperor’s Last Parade, the new e-book of my friend Fer Cao by clicking on this link, it’s a modern-day twist on a well-loved fairy tale. ¬†Reviews very welcome, and by the way, the e-book is free until midnight today! ]

OO NA (yes I know) she’d been a drug mule 16 previous times, oo na her crime would’ve made life miserable for thousands and thousands of drug addicts (who would’ve gotten their fix elsewhere anyway) and oo na, she was literally sealing her doom by bringing a maleta-load (thirteen kilos!) of heroin to a country well known for executing more people annually than the rest of the world’s governments, combined.

And yet, I dare to raise an interesting conspiracy theory question : if the drug mule was not a Pinay kabayan but a Caucasian from the US, the UK or even Australia, would the conviction, the affirmation (of the “guilty” decision) and the dismissal of the appeal be as resoundingly in favor of keeping the Pinay’s appointment with the Grim Reaper?

As warned above, I would rather that you not rely on anything here as hard data or statistical reference. ¬†But I’ve noticed that while at least four Filipinos have been executed in China after their death sentences were affirmed, none of around 28 death sentences in the last few years (imposed on Pinoys) have been reversed, or overturned. ¬†I hope I’m wrong, and I hope for justice’s sake they really did courier the drugs, but are we a suki¬†(or regular customer) for death row because (1) we don’t belong to the First World and (2) and we don’t possess any economic clout with the world’s largest economy?

[ And note that we’re not even gonna mention the current Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal brouhaha between us and China. ]

It’s pretty well-known in both criminology and legal discussions that the less legal assistance and representation you can afford, the greater the chance you will be convicted, whether you’re guilty or not, and relatedly, the greater the chance you will get the maximum penalty. ¬†It’s unfair, but a fact of life.

I’m extending this to a state-to-state level : the smaller the state, and the smaller its economy, the greater the chance its nationals committing capital crimes will be executed.

How many times have you heard of our kabayan getting beheaded, garroted, shot not just in China but in Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East as well? ¬†More than just a few times this century I’ll bet, and I’m sure you can count on your one hand the times a kabayan was literally snatched from the jaws of death. ¬†In fact (no names here) I can remember someone who did it, begged the head of state for a pardon on the condemned’s behalf, and later made it the pillar of his political campaign. ¬†And you know what? ¬†I don’t blame him.

On the other hand, how many times have you heard of US servicemen after committing rapes, pedophilia and other interesting crimes not just in the Philippines but all over the world being convicted, having their sentences commuted from death to life (or life to a lower sentence) then being sent home to serve their sentence ? ¬†And of course, never to be heard from again? ¬†Start counting. ūüôā

I don’t condemn death-penalty nations from using the draconian laws as a deterrent and as an example for other future or potential offenders. ¬†In fact, I know how vicious and destructive drug abuse is not just to the individual, but to their families and to communities as well.

It’s just that I fear that in many places a double standard exists and countries like the Philippines are on the losing end, because frankly, countries like China have little to lose if they apply the fullest extent of the law against criminals from small fry like ourselves.

If a high-profile offender from the US, Europe or big country gets into trouble abroad, every kind of legal assistance will be given him by his embassy, and the local authorities will 9 times out of ten treat him with kid gloves.  No matter what the crime is.

When one of our own gets caught overseas as a drug mule or sex crime, expect him at best to languish in prison while he gets the third degree and worst penalty, affirmed all the way to the host country’s supreme court. ¬†At worst, he or she will mysteriously die in prison.

And why?  Take your pick :  no money, no honey.  Money talks. Or, your credit is good but we need cash.

We may be the nurses, construction workers, caregivers and IT engineers of the world, but no doubt about it,  we are the small fish in a big pond of big, fat fish.

Kawawa naman po tayo.

even for shortchanged migrants, NZ continues to improve work outcomes

[ This is probably the most scatterbrained post I’ve done, but I just wanted to put my thoughts onto paper soonest. ¬†The news video above is dated, but the content is almost exactly about the problems addressed below. ¬†Thanks for your patience, and thanks for reading! ]

I’m simply awful in transferring pictures and other graphics to my YLBnoel site, so I’ll just enumerate a previous stat mentioned in a news feature program recently. In a study of cultural differences on how employees from different countries expect to be managed, the Philippines emerged near the top (of 100+ countries) of cultures that want to be told exactly what to do, with our workers scoring nearly 100. ¬†The higher the score, the more the culture desires to be micromanaged, so to speak.

The funny thing is, at the bottom of the list, scoring nearly zero, or prefer to be left alone to do the job the way they do it, are guess what?  My hosts the Kiwis of course, whose individuality and inventiveness combine to make them the best employees to leave alone as soon as you tell them the job description.

Without even looking at the complete list I know that  co-leaders with Pinoys are other Asians like Koreans, Thais, Singaporeans, Taiwanese and of course, Chinese.  Because we are such a hierarchical society, we take word-for-word whatever instructions our bosses and supervisors give us, and prefer that we are given the complete set of steps on what to do, as opposed to other cultures that immediately conceive of a variety of ways to do the job.

Talking about other nationalities, it’s relatively easy for a Pinoy like me to pretend that we’re from other cultures just for the fun of it. ¬†I think I’ve told you before that I started out in Wellington successfully pretending (for a month at least) to be a Vietnamese flatmate of Pinoys whenever friends visited, just to stop them from asking too many busybody questions. ¬†In various times I’ve also been taken for a Chinese, Taiwanese, Thai, Korean and almost every other Southeast Asian national, which isn’t too surprising, since, I belong to both the Malay, and Chinese family of races and I’m fairly certain somewhere up in my family tree is a sly Spanish friar or lecherous Cantonese merchant.

Unfortunately, the various Asians that I look like and represent in my appearance and culture share something else with me besides appearance.  As mentioned above, we repose such high respect  in our bosses, supervisors and employers that we seldom if ever  question their decisions, orders and instructions, no matter how unsafe, dubious or illegal they may be.

Nearly every week in New Zealand media, you hear of migrants and work visa holders working for less, much less than the legislated minimum wage, working under shocking conditions, and occasionally being forced under threat of trouble with the authorities to work for no pay at all.

In keeping with its reputation as a labor- and migrant friendly country, New Zealand has expanded its migrant protection laws to sharpen penalties against migrant worker exploitation,  with punishments to include lengthy jail time, fines and possible deportation for employers who are themselves migrants, as reported in a recent article.

For example, if a potential employer knows that someone is in desperate need of a job, and the time on the latter’s work visa is running out, such job applicant has little choice but to accept a job offer, even if the wage rate is below the minimum required by law.

I admit that I’ve been in a position like this when I was unemployed, my work visa was running out and my scarce reserves were running low. ¬† A dairy owner offered me NZ$7 an hour (below the floor rate of $12) for work that believe me, made me work for every cent. ¬† Sadly, it was the knowledge of my desperation, and the fact that my employer couldn’t care less if he was paying me five dollars less than the legal rate that was the reason the situation and many others like it continue to exist in New Zealand today.

Completing the ignominy of many situations addressed by the new laws is the reality that migrants themselves take advantage of naive and newly arrived migrant workers who make the mistake of trusting one of their own.  Again, even in our own Pinoy community, we have an unscrupulous few who have taken money from our kabayan for shoddy service without batting an eyelash.

Longer jail terms, stiffer fines, and even deportation for migrant offenders are the sharper teeth of the new laws protecting exploited migrant workers.

Let me just say that the economic slowdown and continuing recession has not made our adopted country the ideal place to work overseas. ¬†But it’s still a great place to work in, as long as I work hard, ¬†and follow the conditions in my work visa. ¬†Every effort is made by government to protect worker rights and migrant rights. ¬†The least we can do is to use these laws to make the work experience here fruitful and worry free.

the persistent & recurring bilocation of the migrant mind

Paco Park, near where I grew up.

Paco Park, near where I grew up.

[ Note : Pardon me for the very senti post today, just that the wet days and windy nights reminded me of typhoons and monsoon seasons so many years ago, when we couldn’t wait for school to be cancelled so we could play all day. ¬†Old houses, asphalt roads, faces resembling faces we hadn’t beheld for years all brought to this blogger the realization that you can take Noel out of Manila, but you can never take Manila out of Noel. ¬†Thanks for reading! ]

IN A very real sense, my mind is frequently in two places and never sitting still.  This pertains to important as well as trivial things.  I bike home on empty streets and imagine the choked, bumper-to-bumper traffic on EDSA.  Mahal prepares dinner in the kitchenette and wonders how it would taste with local ingredients in relentless sunshine back home.  You read the community newspaper and wonder if tabloids in Manila are still as sensational.

We pick out flats to rent but subconsciously we transfer the same houses to tropical backdrops.  Visit malls with scores of window shoppers but daydream of rubbing shoulders with thousands in Robinsons and Megamall.  Nod and smile at strangers on deserted avenues and recall drowning in anonymity in Makati or Pasig City.

For kabayan who’ve arrived in their adopted lands early in life with parents, it might not be such an issue, but for migrants like me who’ve spent half their lives back home, the dilemma is quite real. ¬†You shed the skin of a previous complacent life and jump into a totally unfamiliar new one, all in hopes of something as abstract as a better life overseas for you and family. ¬†In the meantime, part of you will always remain at home.

St Jude Catholic School, where I went to primary and middle school.

St Jude Catholic School, where I went to primary and middle school. It looks a lot better now. ūüôā

Part of the reason is that no matter how clean your cut is with your old milieu, there are things you can never truly leave behind.  The barangay you lived in will revisit you regularly in your dreams, the barkada you never stop saying goodbye to (though they themselves will ultimately leave your old haunts as well) will keep coming back, even if each reunion will make you more and more distant from them, and your old loves will keep giving you the familiar aches in your innermost parts especially when you return home.

Every now and then you see a place that reminds of you home, and it’s like opening a floodgate of memories that brings you back. ¬†A block of old houses that resemble the old neighborhood, a corridor of mall stores (they all look similar anyway) that bring you back to your first or second date with a half-forgotten girlfriend, or a dish cooked exactly the same way you tasted it, comfort food that looks, tastes and smells the way it did when you were a teenager. ¬†Sometimes a sliver of memory is all that it takes to bring you back, and you are transported again. ¬†Like it always does every now and then. ¬†So in some ways you are living your everyday life in New York, Vancouver, Sydney or Auckland, but in other, more mysterious ways it is like you never left. ¬†You may find this extra-odd, but for me it’s like living in an MRT station for the purpose of being accessible to places you will frequent, but will never live in permanently.

A call center similar to the one where I used to work.

A call center similar to the one where I used to work. During the shift, it’s crazy-noisy! ūüėČ

Another issue is guilt. ¬†Just as often as not, you aborted a career midstream to bite the bullet and go for a less risky, albeit less paying job overseas. ¬†The well-meaning persistence of relatives, the economic uncertainty and the bright lights of the First World were enough to break the camel’s back and stop you from the (apparent) nonsense of pursuing a middling profession that never seemed to take you over the hump. ¬†Besides, when was family going to receive its rightful priority in the hierarchy of needs fulfillment? ¬†All these questions would be answered decisively by just filing those papers, grab the first letter resembling a job offer and book that flight to the land of dollars, nose jobs and silicone boobs (sorry).

The flip side of course is seeing your colleagues taking the promotions you worked hard for, ¬†receive the recognitions you deserved, knowing that the siblings in Manila are the ones who get to spend all the quality time with the olds, and knowing that those who never left home get to see all your contemporaries any time you want and have a blast any time they want, minus you of course, cuz you’re still toiling in a strange workplace far, far away from home.

In exchange, the air is a little purer, the water’s a little cleaner, you’re able to set aside a little more for your twilight years (which aren’t that far away anymore, hmm?) and maybe, just maybe you can get to finally do that trip you’ve been saving for…

A trip back home, so that you don’t have to divide your heart and mind all the time.

The First OFW

A business card Dr Jose Rizal used for one of his many careers (opthalmologist).  Thanks to the Lolo Jose's Philosophy and Quotes Facebook page!

A business card Dr Jose Rizal used for one of his many careers (opthalmologist). Thanks to the Lolo Jose’s Philosophy and Quotes Facebook page!

[ Note : Our national hero was certainly not the first OFW abroad but probably one of the most famous. ¬†Please help and see if this draft of a short talk at the Sentro Rizal launching tomorrow (at the Philippine Embassy in Wellington) will be interesting enough to keep kabayan who will be present from falling asleep. ūüôā ¬†Thanks for any comments, stay safe all Kiwinoys in Wellington and the rest of New Zealand as well as typhoon-conscious Philippines! ]

SIX YEARS ago migration was not on top of my priorities.  Like any Filipino, we all dream of going abroad, but I had a steady job back home at the time and had just started a relationship with my girlfriend.  However, the planets aligned to give me a chance to stay in New Zealand.   A short stay became an overstay, legally of course, I found a job, lost my job, found another job, my visit visa expired, applied for a work visa, received one, asked my girlfriend to join me, married my girlfriend in Wellington, and before I knew it, 2007 had become 2013.  But my point is, although migrating to another land is a desirable outcome in our lives, we sometimes do not plan for it.

Dr Jose Rizal, whose birthday (19th June) we incidentally celebrated earlier this week, was probably one of those people who didn’t plan to go overseas. ¬†First, as many of us know, he was an exceptionally intelligent person. ¬†According to many internet sources, he was a polymath and a polyglot. ¬†The first means being knowledgeable in many fields. ¬†The second means being able to speak many languages. ¬†You and I probably learned this in school, but we may not always remember that Dr Rizal was able to acquire a lot of this knowledge by going abroad and staying there for a long period of time. ¬†Because of his travels and learning, he was able to train for specialized medical practice that enabled him to restore his mother’s eyesight. ¬†He was able to learn to speak fluently 11 languages and understand as many as 22 languages.

It was abroad in Europe where Dr Rizal wrote and published two novels that would be part of Philippine history, Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.

For sure, Dr Jose Rizal did some of his most important work abroad, but his time overseas was almost surely his loneliest.  He was away from his first love, and he often faced the bitter winter cold with the least possible comfort.  But through it all, his fortitude served as an example for all of us future migrants to follow.


Personally, I can identify with our national hero not just because of his love for country and adventurous spirit, but also because he spent a long time overseas, just as I am doing now. To learn, to refresh himself, to stay away from the troubles of home, and just about anything else, his travels were quite useful to him.

One thing that would have been a source of comfort to him so many days away from home, had it been available, was a library of books and periodicals about the motherland.  Being a very literary and well-read person, such a facility would have been of immense comfort to him, especially as he was going through a lot of challenges at the time.

Of course we know that he did not have that luxury.  Almost a century and a half later however, we as migrants no longer need to do without, whenever we need Filipiniana resources about our culture.

We have, in the embassy located in our adopted country’s capital a generous collection of books, articles and related items about Filipino history, culture and the arts.

It is but fitting that the works of Dr Rizal and some of our heroes are located here as well, for it is their blood, sweat, tears and inspiration that made possible the freedom of future generations and most probably part of the reason we are here today.

Kudos to the Philippine Embassy under the leadership of Her Excellency Virginia H Benavidez and this initiative of creating a Sentro Rizal not just for ethnic Pinoys but for every student of history and letters, who may have even the slightest interest in Philippine history and culture.  Even without asking, I know everyone will be welcomed here.

Thank you very much!

why independence day 2013 worked for me, thanks to our embassy in Wellington

FLAG RAISING at "Ang Bahay", the Phil. Ambassador's official residence.  Singing Lupang Hinirang in early winter cold is not an everyday experience.  Thanks to the Embassy Facebook page for the picture!

FLAG RAISING at “Ang Bahay”, the Phil. Ambassador’s official residence. Singing Lupang Hinirang in early winter cold is not an everyday experience. Thanks to the Embassy Facebook page for the picture!

IT PROBABLY wouldn’t surprise you to know that I’ve never been a fan of government-organized holiday commemorations (live or on TV).¬† Too many memories of giant Martial Law parades and bombastic speeches by da Apo; predictable and formulaic fill-in-the-blanks declamations sounding too much like the Independence Day address of our current president, which by the way is the typical performance that doesn’t always¬†work¬† (sorry for the bluntness).¬† And while I’m at it, Araw ng Kagitingan and National Heroes Day, for me, asserts a more forceful narrative towards national consciousness than 12 June, 113 years ago.¬† The 1898 Proclamation was nice, but it didn’t stop colonial powers from shopping us around, running our country to the ground, and using us as pawns in the chess game of Cold War brinksmanship.

Which is why it was more than a pleasant surprise for me to not only enjoy, as a willing participant, the recent Araw ng Kalayaan celebrations organized by the Philippine Embassy in New Zealand.¬† It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say I was inspired, and actually stood proud of both ourselves as Filipinos and the people who represent us away from the Inang Bayan.

I actually had a ringside ticket to the celebrations, as I was invited to march as color guard prior to the symbolic flag raising ceremony traditional to our Independence Day event.¬† My gouty limbs, the frosty morning and a queasy stomach brought about by an unwise decision to munch stale sweets should’ve been enough to decline the honor, but I had already said yes a week before, and as you very well know, a Pinoy is only as good as his word ūüôā besides, the Pinoy-themed buffet and taho smoothie promised by the event¬†never failed to make my day.

Apologies for the opportunistic picture above, but it¬†captured something that I don’t do often, and in retrospect is something not many people are invited to do.¬† In a land far away from home, you celebrate your country’s birthday in the most solemn way possible, and help raise your national flag along with your President’s highest official representative among the family of nations.

But it didn’t end there.¬† The speeches I heard grasped at various themes, but the recurring theme seemed to be our new found economic freedom, brought about by a confluence of factors not the least of which was the faithful persistent homecoming of OFW and balikbayan remittances as well as the remitters themselves.¬† This obviously hit close to home to this overseas worker and the kabayan around him, that day of Pinoy freedom at the embassy.

The Ambassador touched on simple gestures to perpetuate the Filipino dream of livelihoods and prosperity.  Keep bringing money home.  Send a kid/s to school.  Give three kabayan seed money for a business.  Support a well-loved Philippine institution, the PGH (Philippine General Hospital), for example.

Most of these things we were already doing, she said, but moving out of the comfort zone of family and giving others a real chance in life was the growing challenge for us outside the Motherland.

As we said earlier, it’s not often that we get to beat our breast as Pinoys, but I’m happy to say that the 12th of June last Wednesday was one of those occasions.¬† And again you might not always believe it, we have our government, represented by the irrepressible Ambassador Gee Benavidez and her do-everything staff to thank for that.¬† If I had the time, I would go around town with a T-shirt saying Proud to Be Pinoy for the rest of the day.

Especially after afritada, pancit canton, pan de sal, pan de coco and taho with sago for brunch.  Promise remembered, wish granted.

Thanks again kabayan, Ambassador and friends!  Maligayang Araw ng Kalayaan, mabuhay!

our kabayan shines in NZ via sushi

sushi family

Kabayan Edith (extreme left) with some of her St Pierres Sushi Queensgate family : (from left) Nena Pelayo, Bree Qin, Romy Loverez and Hazel Lomboy.

[ Thanks very much to the Kabayan (formerly Pinoy Stop) magazine family for allowing me to post a story we wrote, between my original submission and the improved edited version, I have Meia Lopez to thank for the latter!  Should you have time for other awesome stories about Wellington Pinoys, please visit the 2nd issue of Kabayan by clicking this link; belated happy birthdays to Marivic Ching-Chua (6th June) and Stephanie Chan-Lam (9th June)! ]

ST PIERRE’S Sushi or SPS is one of the most visible fast food brands in New Zealand today. ¬†The company’s yellow, red, and black logo is a familiar sight in most malls, in ¬†many population centres, topping nearly 50 wholesale and retail stores in the country. ¬†Managed with a keen sense of customer satisfaction, clever costing and personal touch, SPS is inside out, a true Kiwi success story.

In its desire to give back some of the success it has reaped to its loyal work force, the company has partnered with carefully selected career employees who have given their talent, time and energy towards company growth. ¬†The latest St Pierre’s Sushi “lifer” has been Westfield Queensgate manager, Ms Editas Salita who has been here (in Wellington) for nearly two decades.

She almost declined to be interviewed, saying in a rather modest way that the achievement was nothing to crow about.  Edith (as she is know to her kabayan) is only the fifth employee and first Pinoy to be chosen to be a partner, particularly noteworthy since the company, completely family owned, does not issue franchises in conducting its business.  The brand is an overachiever in every market area it has performed in, and in its own robust way has helped contribute to the recovering NZ economy.

What has our kababayan Edith done to be chosen as partner to one of NZ’s business powerhouses? ¬†We had to pry it out of her, but the four major criteria before one is considered is, in no particular order : the passion and commitment a candidate has shown to the job over the years; sales results by the branch, as the candidate is usually a branch manager; the teamwork such manager has fostered; and the career growth enjoyed by the staff handled by the candidate.

Momentarily forgetting her innate modesty, Edith admits that she and her team have done well in the four major areas, at the same time realizing that growth never stops.  
Dahil sa mga tinuro ng may-ari, araw-araw pa rin naming sinisikap na mapa-improve ang product quality and customer service was the succint way Edith summed up her mission statement.  
The mission and the vision, as they say, must have had an enduring impact on Edith and the rest of her family. ¬†Anticipating the buzz of business that the partnership agreement will bring about, loyal husband Ric, who has enjoyed a career in telecoms both here and the Philippines, will be ready to lend a hand and boost moral to his wife’s budding enterprise. ¬†And at one time or another, children Tristan, Therish and Tim have been around to train and push the bestselling products of their mom’s sushi. ¬†For after all, who else can a Pinoy depend on in business if not her family first? ¬†
Mabuhay kabayan Edith, congratulations on your milestone, and may your business prosper!


why we’re grateful to Joe & Linda, 54 years and running

a young Joe & Linda more than half a century ago, with toddlers Tim and Donald, and Father George Lalliberte who married them only a few years ago. Your loyal blogger was probably still a bun in the oven ;)

a young Joe & Linda more than half a century ago, with toddlers Tim and Donald, and Father George Lalliberte who married them a few years back. Your loyal blogger was probably still a bun in the oven…

I THOUGHT the day would never come, but it jumped up from just around the corner, and now it’s here to stay. ¬†I have now reached the age where my children, intelligent and discerning as always, have in so many words begun to reproach me from the things I never made accessible to them.

Here are just a few examples.  At least two out of the three (Panganay, Ganda and Bunso of course) have inquired why they never had piano lessons; one has rebuked me for not enrolling at least one of them in a Chinese Filipino school (I attended one), and a right-brained child has asked why nothing was ever done to spur or trigger their creative side/s.  To all these I furnish a motley group of excuses : economics, nurture vs nature, and all that bull-bleep, but I know deep down I have failed them in a thousand different ways, so that any success they have reaped is despite and not because of my pasang-awa parenting.

Chalk it down to a kinder, less selfish generation, cheaper tuition and simpler extra-curricular options, but I cannot say the same for my own parents, who made available a lot of things I didn’t pay forward for my own kids.

Early elementary, mom and dad enrolled me in a summer art class. ¬†When I didn’t show any promise, the following year I attended badminton sessions and was encouraged to learn racquet sports. ¬†And all through my youth (not that it helped) a piano teacher visited me weekly and I learned a third language in an excellent Chinese Filipino school that rivaled many of the best Metro Manila schools across the board.

...and a more recent pic with Dad (center, seated) Mom (to his left), Tita Lily (to his right), my brother Tim and his wife Joy (standing, extreme right) and Mahal (the stunner with the long hair)

…and a more recent pic with Dad (center, seated) Mom (to his left), Tita Lily (to his right), my brother Tim and his wife Joy (standing, extreme right) and Mahal (the stunner with the long hair). I don’t know who the white-shirted guy is, sorry ūüė¶

My folks weren’t the showiest type when it came to hugs and kisses, but were right there when it came to advice and support, which as you know pre-teens and teens need tons of but won’t always admit. ¬† It didn’t stop them from exercising stern discipline and ¬†strict accountability, but as all good parents, they combined affection and hard knocks in a smart combination of tough love.

Best of all, they showed me, and a lot of people my generation, that you could sweep someone off your feet in a whirlwind romance and yet stay with that someone for years and years without losing the thrill of love.  Some people call it being soulmates and lovers, and other people call it commitment.  My folks just called it marriage.

...still photogenic after all these years!

…still photogenic after all these years!

As of yesterday (6th June), my folks have possessed all of these traits 54 years running, raising first five hard-headed but respectful sons, then helping seven grandkids, scores of nephews, nieces and cousins, and now dozens and dozens of people through catechism classes, community centers and livelihood groups to which they belong.

Through it all, they have relied on many comrades, but most of all they have relied on each other in the journey of life, towards happiness and contentment. ¬†I’m extra proud as their son to say that they’re already there, and will always serve as my models for self-sustaining love.

Thanks for being in our lives Joe and Linda, and happy happy 54th wedding anniversary from a grateful clan, Mom and Dad!  Love you always!

paying it forward with padala and pabilin

Mahal and I meet a friendly face back home, and unload our precious cargo. :)

Mahal and I meet a friendly face back home, and unload our precious cargo. ūüôā

THERE ARE two remarkable things I associate with the concept of padala, or accepting something across the miles on behalf of another, usually a kabayan. ¬†The first is it costs little or nothing to do it, just clear some space in your maleta or luggage, make sure there’s nothing illegal or dodgy with the items subject of padala, and the favor is considered done or on its way. ¬†The second is that you earn a big swig or spoonful of goodwill from either the person requesting the padala, the person/s receiving it, or even better yet, both.

Common sense is enough to explain the first thing; the second, just a bit of explanation.  Sending things overseas is considered a big deal between Pinoys and their kin, and this is why: working or living abroad is still imbued with an air of mystery, whether the OFW/migrant is a domestic helper in Hongkong or an oil rig worker in faraway Scandinavia.  The treats and trinkets from strange lands never cease to amaze the family assembled in the bahay kubo, especially when Ate/Kuya has remembered a little item for each member of the family.

It doesn’t matter if they’re cheap giveaways or souvenir items that wouldn’t merit a second look from our more sophisticated countrymen, as long as they’re from the place where dollars, rial or pounds come from, those articles must be first-class, world class and worthy of being treasured.

Such that the person bringing them over, by stroke of luck or because a favor is being returned, is bestowed with as much gratitude as the receiver can afford. ¬†Meeting them at the airport just won’t do; even a cup of coffee and a donut might not be enough. ¬†The typical recipient will usually insist on treating the lucky courier to lunch/dinner and lavish on them a meal more than worth the item sent, often many times over.

The seasoned padala-bearer will know better than to allow this; he or she knows it is neither practical nor good form to take advantage of the goodwill or hospitality of the sendee; the latter usually just showing gratitude for a favor that is routinely exchanged between friends.  The best compromise is usually to settle on a snack or refreshment that will neither be too onerous nor guilt-inducing on either party.

And this is what happened our first shift as padala bringers at SM North EDSA mall, when we met a relative of one of Mahal’s colleagues at work. ¬†We both needed a break from the sweltering summer heat outside, we were both punctual, and we were both ready to exchange genuine pleasantries. ¬†It helped that the relative looked exactly like Mahal’s colleague, and that he was as friendly as we were thirsty. ¬†More than the documents and bit of cash that we carried was the assurance that his sister, our friend was doing well and his nephews and niece were living the Kiwinoy dream. ¬†For his part, he sent word through us that he and the rest of his family were doing well, thanks to the prayers and assistance sent by his Ate. ¬†What better pabaon of news could we bring home to our co-migrants in NZ?


I know my beer gut looks terrible, but Max’s, Shakeys, and Gerry’s Grill continue to beckon; note also the happy faces of the friends we met in SM MoA !

It was a bit more lighthearted in our second gig as padala couriers, as this time our legs brought us to SM Mall of Asia (see the pattern?) to bring a small bag of gadgets, perfume and children’s clothes to yet another relative of a different workmate of ours. ¬†They were equally as appreciative, and we exchanged all sorts of anecdotes and observations of how their cute niece looked like her aunt (our friend back in Wellington) and, to the mother, how well her daughter was doing as a young wife in a hospitable land.

If padala can go one way, it can also go another, as we brought something from the Philippines back to New Zealand. ¬†This time it was more sentimental in nature, a wedding invitation and a video CD of the said event. ¬†The transaction took place nearly midnight a few days before we were leaving, our drop-off point wasn’t easy to spot, but once we met, the conversation was warm and it was a pity we couldn’t talk further. ¬†I spoke to siblings of an in-law, surely not a very close relation, but the way we bonded, you wouldn’t have guessed it. ¬†It was as if we were old friends who needed much more than the 20 minutes we had to catch up.

But the point was, the padala was sent and on its way to its intended recipients, thousands of kilometers away and hopefully in good hands.   All because of a well-loved Pinoy tradition that will persist as long as migrants and OFWs seek their fortune all over the world.