what lies beneath

THE VIDEO is grainy, the speech is garbled, and in their respective ways, the English of both speakers is heavily accented (Kiwi or New Zealander English on the one hand, and Pakistani English on the other).  But it might have been just as well, because if you pay full attention and fully comprehend what is happening exactly, it would have been painful to watch.

There is just so much racist abuse being hurled on the taxi driver in the four and a half minutes of the YouTube clip above that you would be forgiven for turning away and losing your appetite, if not your belief in the innate kindness of strangers.  If not for its shock value, there is no redeeming social value in disseminating such a clip.  I only share it because of a profound and abiding truth which I guess every migrant, not just Filipino, has learned in New Zealand.

Our temporary adopted country is probably one of the most (if not the most) politically correct and tolerant countries in the world.  Every effort is made on the institutional level to make us feel welcome here.  No effort is spared to make the most different looking and exotic sounding migrant assimilate to the values, customs and tradition here.  It’s true that New Zealand is primarily atheist and humanist (as opposed to religious) but it is tremendously altruistic and humanitarian in all its actions.

However, that racist rant and abuse you see above is what lurks beneath the surface of what many locals show their migrant neighbors and colleagues.  Yes, our hosts welcome our contribution and participation in their communities, they appreciate our enthusiastic efforts to help turn the wheels of economy, and they especially relish the fact that we replace the bedpans of their infirm and wash the bums of their elderly.

But there will always be a firewall we cannot breach, an inner circle we cannot break.  In areas like government and certain professions, we cannot expect to be welcome.

In the end, as it was in the beginning, we will to a certain extent always be outsiders.

In a way, it’s a good thing a racist episode like this came to light.  The speaker was drunk, he was incoherent (partially) and he wasn’t fully understood, but the filter through which he usually coursed his opinions was for that evening totally absent : he therefore spoke with complete candidness, spoke his mind, and said exactly what he thought was happening in his carefully structured world.

Listen carefully to what he says : he couldn’t conceive of what people like his driver for the night was doing in his country, in a country where he didn’t belong.  He called his driver a name reserved for the human male sexual organ, modified by an adjective describing his Muslim faith.   Lastly, he said (if I’m not mistaken) he would pay the seven-dollar fare if the driver would return to his own country.  Truly horrible.

Do you know what?  Even if he apologized less than 48 hours after, even if he was remorseful, and even if he accepted an invitation to visit the community Mosque to I assume explain himself, I am willing to bet my one week’s wages that he meant every word he said, despite his drunken state then.  And I don’t doubt for a moment that it is not an isolated situation.  True, what happened above is the exception and not the rule, but racism exists everywhere, even in politically correct and tolerant New Zealand.  That’s just the way it is.

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I wanted to tell you two other unrelated things that happened to me recently, but in a roundabout way they’re not that unrelated.

Bunso my son was recently pushed by a shopper he wanted to help while working his shift in a large supermarket chain.  Everyone was outraged by the situation, but when the matter reached management, the latter decided to sweep the matter under the rug.  Why?  the shopper had mental issues daw, and had been a loyal shopper for some time.    Regardless of the unbelievable excuses given, the one thing that stuck in Bunso’s craw was the fact that he was a very junior employee, and of course, that he wasn’t Kiwi.

I won’t even answer your question on what race the shopper belonged to.  By the way, Bunso by coincidence or otherwise is no longer working in the said supermarket.  He resigned as soon as he got accepted in Starbucks.  Congrats anak and woohoo!

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And lastly, if there was any doubt  the only nation that Japan hates more than North Korea (or for that matter, South Korea) is Big Brother China, it was dispelled on yesterday’s international news page yesterday.  Japan pledged to the Philippines 10, countem TEN coast guard boats to assist the latter in its maritime intramurals with China.

Japan and China have had a long, long history of bad blood, stretching all the way to the Sino-Japanese War, Japanese War of Aggression,  the Nanking Massacre to today’s Diaoyu Islands brouhaha.  There is no simple solution to the Sino-Japanese conflict, it goes very deeply into the national psyches of each country.  Sad to say, it is just as much a racial issue, with Chinese and Japanese (ironically close genetic cousins) deeply mistrusting each other with inexplicable loathing.

The Philippines is actually just a pawn in this regional MMA battle between states.  Japan just wants to stick another needle in China’s side by giving us sticks and stones to throw at the Chinese Giant.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that we’re just being used by the Empire of the Sun in its mighty struggle against the Central Kingdom.

I just don’t know why I feel so good with those new Japanese boats on our side of the sea.

five centavo opinions vs multi-million dollar cola drink PR campaigns

[ Here I go again pretending to address a socially relevant health issue, obesity, when the only reason I’m interested in it is because I’m already overweight and losing the battle of the bulge.  New Zealand seems to be having my problem as well, with nearly one in three New Zealanders being obese, with no letup in sight. ]

IMAGINE THE neighborhood drug dealer having an epiphany : he doesn’t want to give up his lucrative trade, but he hates it that his wares are killing so many kids (and adults) ahead of their time.

It’s particularly galling to him that a lot of the kids look up to him as a father/uncle figure, and that many of the parents used to be his clients as well.  He knows he deals in death and misery, but how does he give up his business and keep up with the mortgage, bills and his kids’ tuition?  After all, the money must come from somewhere

So he tries to meet the neighborhood halfway : He does a business makeover with his crack and weed.  From now on, instead of selling drugs by the gram, now it’s gonna be the half-gram.  Instead of stuff that’s guaranteed to space you out for 24 hours, it will do so for 12 hours.  And our reformed baddie still pushes his poison, but will also finance the drug rehab and prevention programs.  And whatever else it’ll take to assuage the king-size guilt his drug business has been generating.

If this scenario doesn’t quite grab you reality-wise, I only derive it from the most popular fizzy drink‘s recent public relations campaign in New Zealand.

Instead of “drugs” above,  just substitute it with “popular fizzy drink”.  And instead of “neighborhood drug dealer”, just use “most popular fizzy drink company“.

I’m too lazy to present counter arguments correspondingly to the main premises of the drug dealer, I mean fizzy company.  Let me just present a few random thoughts :

The company pledges to present more nutritional information regarding its products, most notably on its vending machines.  It’s good for dieters, nutritionists and health nuts, but let’s be honest.  Drink a bottle of the stuff each day and your gut will grow.  Especially if your exercise isn’t more than walking to the fridge or raising your cola glass.

The company pledges to increase the availability of small bottles like its 300 ml bottle range.  If you had a choice between Option A, two giant 2.25 L bottles costing five dollars, and Option B, a teeny-weeny miniature bottle worth roughly the same amount, value for value, which option would you take?  I rest my case.

The company pledges a wider selection of low-calorie products.  This is like telling your addict clients, instead of the full buzz that one hit of product will shoot into your head, it will only give you half a buzz.  But it’s alright, because the addict doesn’t really want the buzz.  Because the buzz is bad for the addict.  (Duh?)

The company will help people moving by supporting physical programs.  Again, this is like the drug pusher pushing his drugs and then enrolling those same addicts in a rehab program.  And then selling to the rehabbers the same drugs all over again.

It took a popular host of a nightly newsfeature program roughly 5 minutes to come up with these retorts (very similar to mine), and amazingly, the CEO of that popular fizzy drink company didn’t even disagree with her, saying nothing more than “it’s a complex issue.”

( Wonder how much that CEO gets paid to say it’s a complex issue??? Maybe it’s partially in the stuff they sell. )

I’m sorry for the drug pusher-fizzy drink analogy.  And to totally dissolve the hypocrisy, I happen to love the fizzy drink, as much as the next addict.

It’s just that, for a multi-million dollar public relations and anti-obesity campaign, I didn’t expect it to fall so easily to five-centavo opinions like mine.

the nature of the beast called Candy Crush Saga

it's completely free... before you're hooked.

it’s completely free… before you’re hooked.

WELL, IT’S no big secret but I’ll say it anyway.  The only bigger passion of Facebook now than tracking its stock market share price and accumulating advertising revenue is push, push, pushing its Facebook games and the crown jewel of  the showroom is, of course, Candy Crush Saga (CCS).  You can’t argue with 45.6 million monthly users, with apps on Facebook on PC and laptops, iPhones, iPads and Androids.  In Hongkong, where the game is mindbendingly popular, it’s estimated that one in seven inhabitants are players.  Can you imagine that?

...and it only takes a few minutes to turn you into a Candy Crush Saga addict. :(

…and it only takes a few minutes to turn you into a Candy Crush Saga addict. 😦

I’m embarrassed to say that nearly every free moment of my time is consumed by the black hole that is Candy Crush, it absorbs not only all light and energy but emotions and focus as well.  Any time of the day or night, as long as a moment can be spared, I give it to that accursed game that is, dare I say it? NEUROTICALLY ADDICTIVE.

Now I know why so many people are online in Facebook, yet you don’t hear a peep out of them.  They say an average Facebook person has 400 friends.  You can bet your bottom peso that if you’re Pinoy or Kiwi, at least half of those are CCS players, and at least half of their time online is spent on the game, if not more.

yeah, right.

yeah, right.

It’s not a difficult game to learn to play.  In fact, a seven-year old could easily start playing and enjoying it, because the objective of the game creators and administrators is simply to draw in as many players as it possibly can, without qualification and without exception.    It only takes a moment to step back and realize that, more than selling our personal data to marketing and direct sales companies, using face-recognition technology on all our pictures for national security purposes, and amassing enough advertising earnings to become the most powerful company on Earth, it’s capturing the hearts and minds of each internet using country via Candy Crush Saga that is the prime directive of Mark Z and Friends.  There is no limit on what the game can do.

The game starts out free; anyone can access the game and get hooked.  After a few “levels” or challenges you reach new scenarios where the rules of the game become progressively harder.  Along the way, you are encouraged to ask for help finishing levels from friends who are also CCS players.  The subtext here is that if you want regular access to help, then you should be prepared to “invite” Facebook friends to start playing the game.  This is why the average Facebook user gets annoying invites almost daily from people who otherwise wouldn’t give him or her the time of day.

Still can’t get enough help from your friends?  This is where the paradigm shifts.  For a few cents (from your credit card of course) you can purchase special virtual “tools” that help you surmount obstacles, finish challenges and complete levels that would otherwise take you longer.  Hours of repetitive play become minutes, minutes of finger-numbing techniques get accomplished in seconds.  The precious eye-hand coordination required to succeed in CCS become superfluous, assuming of course you’re willing to shell out online cash everytime you’re stuck in a level.

It looks harmless, innocuous and wholesome, mainly because of all those multi-colored candy, the whistles and string-quartet minibytes of sounds that accompany every action you perform and the congratulatory vignettes of concertos every time you finish a level.  Additionally, your feats (with your permission) are also broadcast long and loud all over your personal FB network, whether your friends care or not.

But it is the same appeal to the senses that FB has so craftily employed to hook you in deeper and deeper.  The same bells and whistles of color, sound and reward-for-achievement that Facebook uses remind me of slot machines and one-armed bandits that are scientifically tweaked to tap into your subconscious and use every neural trick to unlock doors in your inner child, inner addict and inner hedonist.  By the time you’re aware, you’re already locked in.  It’s done so subtly, so gradually and so slowly that very few realize that there’s actually an effort to do so.

Just yesterday, I spent probably an hour on CCS, the time flew by before I even changed from my work clothes.  I did a few chores after that, watched the news while playing, set the game aside during dinner (raising eyebrows from Mahal who also plays) went back to it before calling it a day and thought and dreamt about it before waking up to (guess what) maybe a half-hour of the game.  See how bad it is?

[ By the way, in case I forgot to tell you, you can buy anything that you see on the Candy Crush Saga screen.  You can buy tools, you can buy lives, you can buy extra time to finish a level, you could probably even buy a date with the Candy Crush game creator to pick his brain for trick and tips on how to finish levels sooner. But I’m not that desperate.  Yet. ]

And even if you don’t give in to weakness and continue relying on your hourly fix of five free “lives”, Facebook has every imaginable kind of advertising to bombard you with while playing, tailored to your race, gender, location and even age, not to mention your Facebook interests (learned through your Personal Information section).  Sure you enjoy yourself, but I’m sorry to say at what price?  Figuratively you’ve compromised yourself, and you’ve sold and resold your soul to both Candy Crush Saga and Facebook many, many times over.

The only reason I actually have time to do this is I’m stumped on a level (Level 65) and I’ve run out of lives.  I need to wait for a helpful FB friend or friends to bail me out, or replenish my lives before embarking on yet another mindless hourlong session of CCS.

If you haven’t yet been convinced that there is a sinister directive of world domination behind this game, let me tell you this : Candy Crush Saga was invented a year plus ago, but there is as yet no one who has finished completing all the levels.  This because levels are still being created, currently at around 300+ levels, and there is no end on the horizon.  They have not yet finished creating the game.

Facebook aims to hook more and more players, until it reaches YOU.  Forewarned is forearmed.

Thanks for reading!

for this kabayan Pinay mom, can the timing be any better?

Dominion Post[ Note : My bisor thought she was Polynesian, the Quality Assurance manager thought she was Maori, but one look at the smile on today’s front page (
above) told me the subject below was one of ours.  Mabuhay and maligayang pagdating Nicolas Javier and congrats and job well done  to the proud parents Rea and John !]

FILIPINOS, MALAYSIANS, Taiwanese and everyone else in the region must have gotten it from the Chinese.  We all love to start things with a bang.  Witness the Armageddon-like fireworks we all indulge in at New Year’s Eve; the countdowns in multi-media megaevents (well, everyone does it the world over) and the huge parties and celebrations that no one can do without.

We also like to start our major events auspiciously, like the Chinese do.  Remember the rush to have babies during the Dragon Year of the Chinese astrological calendar?  How about doing everything to have a baby born of the eighth hour of the eighth day of the eighth month, eight being a particularly lucky number in the Asian universe.

And lastly, how about having a baby born during a particularly eventful day, the Apollo 11 landing for example?  I know at least one Pinay named Aldrina, who was of course named after Buzz Aldrin, only the second man on the moon after Neil Armstrong.

You therefore can’t get any better than our kabayan who starred in Wellington‘s Dominion Post today.  She gave birth during the scary  6.5 magnitude earthquake last Sunday, and only two days before the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, more popularly known as Prince William and Princess Kate and third in line to the British throne.

So within a span of TWO days, that’s TWO major events coinciding with the said birth.   It was even reported in the local paper, and remember at the time the latter wasn’t even aware that the royal baby’s birth was imminent!  This means one event was auspicious enough.

This is one of those posts where I don’t have to say much, I’ll just reproduce the Dominion Post story below (entitled Baby’s start to life shaky but worth it, says mom) if you don’t mind :

(July 23) NEW mother Rea Javier might just be the only person in Wellington who was oblivious to Sunday’s earthquake.

The combined effects of epidurals and a tough labour meant her focus was elsewhere.

“I think I felt the quake but I had other things on my mind,” she said from her bed at Hutt Hospital yesterday as she cradled her son Nicolas.

He is already being called Quake by his young cousins.

Husband John said : “Rea was foggy with all the medicine and she was just focusing on the labour.

“I was definitely scared.  We didn’t know what was going to happen, but the hospital staff were very reassuring, they said nothing’s going to happen to the baby.”

The quake, at 5.09 pm, caused the hospital lifts to close down for half an hour and delayed getting Mrs Javier into theatre for a caesarean section.  But, at 6.42 pm, Nicholas was borh, weighing a healthy 3.3 kilograms.

“Everything was worth it in spite of what happened,” Mrs Javier said.

She and her husband moved to the Wellington suburb of Newlands from the Philippine capital of Manila, about five years ago.

Mrs Javier said that, although they had experienced quakes in their homeland, they were nowhere as intense or as frequent as in New Zealand.  (Woohoo!)

Thanks so much in advance The Dominion Post and its reporter Mr Matt Stewart, and may the Pinoy community continue to add to the New Zealand population in a spectacular way, timing-wise!  Mabuhay po tayong lahat!

Thanks for reading!

are three mini quakes the main event or a dire warning?

This is what used to be a clean, organized condiments section.

This is what used to be a clean, organized condiments section.

[ Since I started this, there have been another three mini-tremors… I don’t know if this has any significance, but less than a week ago was the anniversary of the 1990 Baguio earthquake.  ]

IT’S AMAZING how innocuous and clinical sounding numbers can represent something more harrowing and sinister.

Friday morning at work in Wellington, a 4.5 tremor that gave us the shivers.  Early 7.00 this Sunday morning (winter sun wasn’t even out yet), a 5.8  shaker that was enough to wake Mahal who roused me from sleep.  And the clincher, a 6.5 quake that made many shopkeepers close shop at the neighborhood Westfield mall.

I can vouch for the craziness cuz I was there, and worse, Mahal and I were separated on either end of the mall due to errands that needed to be done.

unluckily, the shelf itself was dislodged in the condiments aisle.

unluckily, the shelf itself was dislodged in the condiments aisle.

I bought a parking permit for Mahal while she searched for discounted groceries .  The mall service desk issuing parking permits was on the northern side of the mall while the supermarket was on the opposite.

After buying the permit, I passed by the sushi place nearby to chat with Mahal’s colleagues and ask if they had a busy day.  In the middle of conversation, we noticed people rushing down the escalator and a few kids crying.

It’s another earthquake was the only thing I heard before I started running.  Not outside the mall, where everyone was going, but into the mall, to look for Mahal.

Methinks there will be an unscheduled sale on sauces and dressings ASAP...

Methinks there will be an unscheduled sale on sauces and dressings ASAP…

I found her near the middle, also running to look for me.

It only took a few seconds to realize we weren’t in danger, but we were both saying the same thing : that compared to Friday’s and this morning’s tremors, this was stronger, and longer.

It’s not a good sign, when three moderately strong earthquakes get progressively stronger, and a nearby Christchurch absorbed an earthquake on the catastrophe level only two years ago.

By the way, we continued buying the things we needed at the Countdown, and noticed that quite a few aisles were littered with bottles, jars and other containers that fell from their carefully arranged ledges.  Of course, the containers made of glass were broken, shattered and in a million pieces.

I know I didn’t have to be in the pic above, but that’s just one of the aisles that needed overtime cleaning by Sunday staff. 😦

When we got home, after checking for any damage in our flat, one of the first things I did was call Kapatid in Auckland, only a few hundred kilometers away.  He was relieved to find out we were none the worse for wear, and even updated me on recent family news in the Philippines.  I had the pleasure of exchanging pleasantries with my nieces Ganda Jr and Korea Girl.

I then received a quick cellphone call from Bunso, who was at work when the quake came.  He assured me that both Panganay and Ganda were OK,  after which I called and received updates from relatives in nearby Johnsonville.

I know it’s just awful to be a Cassandra, but three small quakes is not a good sign.  If today’s quake was the worst, then we have been spared.  If not, then we can never be too prepared.

For the worst.

the sweet & endearing contempt of familiarity

when you've been married long enough, friends drop in and walk through the door...

when you’ve been married long enough, friends drop in and walk through the door…

JUST THE other night before bedtime I sprung a good one on Mahal (pardon me for all these anecdotes about esposa hermosa, I haven’t got too much of a social life outside work and these infernal FB games).

Half-seriously I popped my head in the bedroom door and asked, Mahal, iyo ba ang green na sipilyo, knowing her answer.

She nearly gagged on her green tea and said oo bakeeeet? 

Dalawang linggo ko nang ginagamet yun I admitted in a very small voice, knowing that she was all ears.

OMG tutoo????  She then rattled off a string of unmentionables not allowed in this general patronage blog before I could calm her down and tell her I was only pulling her leg.  Needless to say, she made me regret my little joke for the next 24 hours.

The funny thing about this was (although not so funny to Mahal) I really could’ve used her toothbrush (non-Tagalog speakers, please request translation assistance from a helpful kayumanggi brother or sister nearby) once or twice since she replaced our dental implements, there are after all only two in the rack and to be honest, I’ve never really paid that much attention.  Familiarity, indeed, breeds common toiletries.

Among other things.  Gag and wrinkle your nose up all you want, but through force of habit, routine and acceptance of all the imperfections of your mate-for-life, we put up with a lot of things that come with living with a partner, spouse or intimate better half.  The Divine Creator provided us with bodies that function as autonomous animate beings, but what is the purpose of life if you don’t live it with someone by your side?

And because the only topic I’m an expert on is myself, I deduce all the realities of a shared life from my own.  Before my second ride on the marriage-go-round, I was blessedly single for almost a decade and was quite happy on my own.  But the primal urge to share my fantasies, failures, hopes and dreams with a fellow wanderer in life, coupled by the relentless pull of culture and tradition brought my feet to the inevitable path of searching for, and successfully finding a mate to spend life with :

couldn't resist not using the pic... :)

couldn’t resist not using the pic… 🙂

Conditions.  I know that almost every week, Mahal reacts to certain allergens in the vicinity of work or home, so she will sneeze and sniffle during said time.  Nothing less than a box of Kleenex and Clarityne will suffice, and the least I can do is grant her time off from whatever she usually does.  On the other hand, she has learned the hard way that I am an industrial strength, world-class snorer with an audio magnitude that extends to the next room.  God bless her, she has learned to live (sleep) with this though I don’t know how, she pushes me to my side when it gets too noisy, or just places a pillow strategically over my head.  Bottom line is with the passage of time, we become intimately aware of, and adjust to, each other’s quirks and conditions that make life harder, but also more interesting.

Dino No-Dinero.  Because of the phenomenon of finite resources and infinite wants, wifey and I know exactly what goes into the pay envelope, what will immediately go to bills outstanding, and what, hopefully, will go to piggy bank for a rainy day.  We regularly make plans for how to scrimp and save so that we can enjoy whatever little it is that gets left over every week (we both draw weekly wages).  But usually I just give up, defer to her superior budgeting skills and surrender my ATM card the majority of the week.  This is called being a good Pinoy husband.  Seriously, we know each other well enough to accurately guess how either of us will spend the precious coins in the event of an unexpected windfall.  So we keep each other in check, and try to be strong for each other during the big, massive sales that seem to be on almost every other week now.  Kaya mo yan, Mahal! 🙂

sharing until it hurts.  And like we said above, one of the consequences of conjugal living is that you share everything, and by share I use the word quite liberally.  I have acquired the habit of using Mahal’s shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser, skin cleanser and other goodies such that frankly, I’m surprised I never thought to use in my previous life.  Women  pay such marvelous attention to themselves that by now it’s no longer amazing to me that the average lady can take away as much as 10 years from her appearance (as long as she exercises and eats sensibly) by just using quality beauty substances sold commercially.  The upside is I’m more confident going out the door now, even if I know people will be usually looking at Mahal instead of me.  The downside unfortunately is Mahal has to replenish her dresser ammunition more often, because naturally her pampaganda now just lasts half as long.

Morning rituals.  Just a few more lines that I almost forgot.  After being married a while, you probably won’t be surprised that I know exactly how Mahal looks in the morning, and vice versa.  Because she’ll kill me if I describe her, I’ll just tell you how she might describe me.  Wolverine-like hair (except that it’s definitely less cool-looking), eyes chock full of muta, dragon breath all around, and pillow/blanket marks on the face and rest of the body.  Not a pretty sight, but when we’re both getting ready for work, it’s no biggie.  She looks approximately the same, and hates it when I so much as look at her for more than a few secs.  Expectedly, by the time she’s fixed her face, she looks (as usual) picture-perfect, always like she stumbled out of a supermodel shoot, and expects me to say so, something like omygosh Mahal, bakit superganda ka ngayon???  Just follow the script Noel, and your day starts just fine.

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I wonder if other couples, especially Pinoy couples learn to live together and make the same discoveries we do?  It sounds self-conscious, but whatever Pinoyness in the way couples live life together is no doubt pronounced when we do so away from the Philippines, when we cherish having each other in unfamiliar surroundings although, luckily for us right now, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to kiss your mahal good night (whether or not you share a toothbrush)! 🙂

the city of Boston and NBA fans everywhere thank you, mr Paul Pierce

HE ENTERED the league as a 20 year old, naive rookie.  He left his team today as a 35 year old vet.  His has been the face, not just of the NBA Boston Celtics but in many ways of the City of Boston. The video above just shows how much he has come to love the city.

Many Pinoys are fans not just of the NBA, but of the Boston Celtics.  Mr Paul Pierce is one very good reason why.  In a sport all about business, all about money, and all about what have you done for me lately, No. 34 is One For The Ages.

Thank you for making me proud to be a Celtic Fan, Truth.

BTW, I think he created the video above himself.

Thanks for watching, and reading !

old wives’ tales pamahiin & urban legends certified 100% pure pinoy

Quiapo, Manila procession during the Feast of the Black Nazarene, thought to earn forgiveness of sin for all participants.

Quiapo, Manila procession during the Feast of the Black Nazarene, thought to earn forgiveness of sin for all participants.

MORE THAN once you’ve heard in this space that if you’re looking for scholarly research, hard statistics, or cold immutable facts, then I’m afraid I’m going to disappoint more than a little bit. Bad enough that sometimes I’m so lazy that anything outside TriPeaks Solitaire and my new discovery Candy Crush Saga gets little more than a hmm from me, but to do anything beyond humoring a stray bubble of imagination or spark of interest in the big wintry world outside my room would probably be asking a bit too much these days, after fighting the cold, finishing chores and finding a little quality time with Mahal.

The only thing I can do is give voice to whatever wacky and loony thought entertained in my cranium, play with it a little bit and finally run it through the guys in WordPress, who have incidentally been world-class in hosting my little blog and have been very accommodating in allowing me to vent and rave about my life as an accidental (but for the moment quite comfortable) pinoy migrant in Middle Earth.

Speaking of Mahal, we enjoy attending Pinoy Mass, as we just did last week.  Not only do we recharge spiritually, but we also meet kabayan who we otherwise wouldn’t be able to, get access to native dishes sold by enterprising co-faithful, and commune with others in prayer and thanksgiving. Beyond that, I also found occasion to notice something about Mahal after Holy Communion, during which she kept her lips tightly pursed, and I had to ask if anything was the matter.  Evidently, it was first priority for her to consume the holy Host without so much as chewing any part of it, as it was drilled into her from childhood that the latter is/was a definite no-no.

Really???  It has no foundation in either the Scriptures or church law, but allowing the Communion bread to melt in your mouth is the accepted thing to do.  Anything else and you are asking for trouble, I realized, and as I scrutinized the people queuing up and receiving the sacrament, it was true that nearly everyone I saw kept their mouths closed.  And those who didn’t, proceeded at their peril.

If you’ve spent any appreciable length of time in the Philippines as a native or visitor, you’ll know that there are quirky  beliefs resulting from religion, tradition, or a combination of both, that have survived generations as well as urban legends that have been so imbedded in our popular culture that to Juan dela Cruz he accepts it as truth :

rest after that filling meal, but not too long!

rest after that filling meal, but not too long!

If you’ve just finished a meal, don’t engage in intense physical activity.  And if you suffer a bump on the head, jump up and down to reduce and ill effects of such bump.  I combine these two because I never bothered to figure out if they’re sound health advice and I heard about them from way, way back.  Right after lunches and dinners, one of the worst things we could do was to start playing tag, habulan, dodgeball or any of those hysterically active games.  According to the elders and the killjoys, intense play so soon after eating would inevitably result in appendicitis or some other horrible, dreadful juggling of your innards until you’d be sick to your stomach, literally.  About the jumping around after a nasty bump, it reportedly would sort of mitigate the trauma caused by the contusion.   It’s been so much a part of routine that a lot of people in my generation accept it as common-sense truth, although I’m not that sure now.

Don’t take a bath on Tuesday, don’t whistle at night, and don’t sing lively songs on Holy Week.  The last one is self-explanatory for Catholic Philippines, where the only holidays taken as seriously as the Semana Santa break are Christmas, New Years Day, general elections and, used to be, a Manny Pacquiao prizefight.  The solemnity and rituals observed during such feastday week were such that until recently, modern music and regular TV programming were taboo.  Whistling at night, according to elders, was an invitation to malevolent spirits and other denizens of the night.  And the first? Just another remnant of the old days when every day of the week represented a different day of Creation.

Funerals and wakes.  Pregnant women are advised against attending funerals, I’m unaware exactly why but it surely has to do with the unborn child’s welfare and the recently departed who I assume is between the world of the living and the dead.  We’ve known  from our earliest years that  it’s accepted practice to give money to the bereaved during funerals, in fact if you are close to the dead’s family you are expected to give a little something.  It is acceptable and very few will frown at people conducting games of chance and gambling during the same, on the rationale that a portion of the winnings are set aside again for the mourners.

According to the UK's Daily Mail, our Fabella Memorial Hospital, at three moms to a bed, is the busiest maternity ward in the world (blush!) :)

According to the UK’s Daily Mail, our Fabella Memorial Hospital, at three moms to a bed, is the busiest maternity ward in the world (blush!) 🙂

Pregnancy.  On pregnancy itself, the expectant mother is advised against having sex until the very end of her long wait, on the ground that the baby’s head will be harmed by the father’s emissions;  the baby itself soon after delivery is bound by a cloth so that its abdomen will not expand (this is more for cosmetic purposes but is widely practiced to the present time), and cruelly, mothers are advised strongly against bathing or showering for a month after delivery because it will be harmful to their health.  I’m glad I won’t ever be a mom, because I can’t abide by these strange practices, no matter what their benefits are.

Where's the guilty were-reptile? Your guess is as good as mine. :)

Where’s the guilty were-reptile? Your guess is as good as mine. 🙂

Urban legend.  I have only two here, because any more and I won’t stop.  On Balete Drive in the older part of Quezon City (the largest city in the Metro Manila region) there is a persistent story about a ghostly female presence that frequents the area, and there have been so many sightings and testimonial evidence that at least one movie has been made about it.  Crazily, dozens of people have sworn that there is a half-human, half-reptilian creature that preys on unsuspecting women inside fitting rooms in the vast Robinsons Galleria mall.  This urban legend will not die a quiet death, as it has returned again and again the past few decades.

Quiapo procession.  And before I forget, it was a part of my childhood to witness a little portion of the famous Black Nazarene procession in Quiapo Manila where my father managed a printing press in the 1970s.  No matter how sinful you were during the year, if you participated in this yearly procession in your bare feet, you could at least get forgiveness for  most of your sins, assuming of course you did the penance or punishment.  No wonder so many Catholic faithful participated in this event, pictured above.  (Now, whether or not your sins were actually forgiven is probably a matter of conscience and conviction, I guess.)

Ask any Filipino, especially those living in Metro Manila past and present about any of the items above and you will likelier than not get a half-hour lecture on their origins and veracity.  You will emerge either amused, outraged or a true believer.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

friends as a migrant, friends for life


friends for life. (I know the pic has no connection to the story but it was too cute not to use) 🙂

A PLEASANT surprise in our accidental OFW/migrant adventure is the friendships gained not just by me, but by Mahal, who like the typical Pinay is initially reserved but ready to engage warmly before long.

I don’t feel like I’m blabbing to you about her friends because I won’t identify them by name, and I try to be general in my descriptions (wink, wink).

One of the first Kiwis (white New Zealanders of European descent) esposa was introduced to was a cleaning woman who needed a part-timer.  Hers was a carefree, happy-go-lucky youth but was now all-business and managing her own contracting company.  She was (is) very accommodating to my wife, who had been in NZ for only a few months, taught her the ropes, and was an endless source of practical knowledge on living in New Zealand.

At first, Mahal found it a bit difficult to listen and understand to all the Kiwi-isms and idioms like mucking around (wasting time), having a feed (eating), on the piss (drinking alcohol), and the singsong way Kiwis end all their sentences, but after a while and with all that practice, it became second nature to her.

In turn, Mahal also started telling Kiwi Cleaning Lady all about this erstwhile little-known country who looked a little like the Polynesians, a little like the Chinese, but were definitely more friendly, adaptable and hardworking.  Her part-time boss didn’t find the qualities hard to believe because Mahal was all these, friendly, adaptable and hardworking!

Lastly, her cleaning boss left an indelible mark on her, as the former insisted that she learn a few driving lessons from her everyday and even left her the wheel under supervision.  Before long, Mahal was already applying and sitting for her learners and now has a Restricted driving permit, all thanks to part-timing under her Kiwi friend.  Not a bad bargain don’t you think?

A second working relationship of Mahal’s I discovered was with a Christian Singaporean family  she cleaned house for weekly.

If you believe in stereotypes,  then this family’s for you : the husband and wife were both successful manager-types in their fields, specialists in number crunching.  All of their three sons were overachievers, evidenced by their being tops in their class in maths, accounting and languages.  Their house was typically understated Asian: smart without being ostentatious in the furnishings, and functional but not drab.

I sometimes helped Mahal clean their house and couldn’t help but be impressed by two things : the devotion to learning, the extra books and literature the kids pored over, and the division of labor from the most senior member (the dad) to the most junior (the youngest son) in mowing the lawn, laundry and even organizing their bible reading classes!  Almost too perfect to be true.

Their rooms were a bit disorganized at times and sometimes the kitchen was a bit dodgy, but beyond that, the house usually hardly needed cleaning, and that’s why Mahal loved keeping the latter spic and span for its owners, who likewise have kept Mahal as its trusted cleaner (even and especially during vacatios) for its owners for two years now.

The last friend Mahal has made is a bit of an oddity.  She is a Mainland Chinese who has been in NZ the last 10 years, has had three Kiwi husbands but in her manner and speech sounds and looks like she is the eternal migrant.  Not only has she kept her Chinese accent, but she literally translates idioms and phrases into English, and something inevitably gets lost in translation.  Because Mahal has had plenty of experience in awkward language encounters, this suits her fine.

The Chinese friend is one of her occasional colleagues at work, but they go so well together that the language barrier is more a novelty than anything else.  They are like hand in glove and know what each person’s functions are that they both wonder why they don’t work together more often, and in the near future they will probably do so.

Mahal recently found out that while Chinese Friend likes the work, it’s more optional than anything else.  She has a tidy nest egg and lives in her own house, and earns  a comfortable sum from shrewd investments both here and in her homeland.  Literally, she can quit her job anytime she wants, jump into her new Nissan Juke and race into the sunset.

She often asks Chinese Friend why she doesn’t work  or go into business for herself but the friend insists that money isn’t that important to her anymore.  After the rat race of working in bureaucratic Beijing, working in New Zealand is the idyll for semi-retirement, which is where she sees herself now, with her early pension and middle-aged husband.  Everything is fine for me, I don’t want anything to change, she says in her typically inscrutable English.

And those are Mahal’s Kiwi and migrant friends, who have made her life richer and more interesting.

how Serena’s wimbledon upset gave me 2 hours of sleep last night

[Note : If it looks like I’ve had nothing serious to say the last few days, you’re right. 🙂 Thanks in advance for reading ! ]

AFTER TWO straight 12-hour shifts, sleep becomes a little more important to you, and the distinction between fatigue and sleepiness becomes a little more blurred.  Despite this, I still couldn’t rest well early Wednesday morning (shift ended 3 am) and at around seven-ish was roused by the extra-cheery voice of the morning deejay.

Her words tap-tap-tapped my temples, yet made no sense.

Massive upset again at Wimbledon.  Serena Williams loses to (indistinct).

Notwithstanding all the upsets and injuries at the most famous tennis tournament, the one-liner sounded like an April Fool’s joke.  But the dispassionate internet update said it all : 6-2, 1-6, 6-4.  Serena lost to someone who turned out to be Sabine Lisicki in a tournament that was hers from Day One.

I had to get out of bed just to verify how the challenger (Serena’s the defending champion) won.  Sure she won the first, but got flattened in the second, and came back from 0-3 in the deciding third????  Whoa.

To get past Serena, Sabine needed two victories: she needed to triumph over the concept of Freight Train Serena, who had bulldozed three opponents on what previously looked like a victory match to the Wimbledon trophy stand.  After that psychological hurdle, she had to actually produce the miracle of vanquishing probably the best player of the tounament, the best player of the year, the  best player of the decade, and probably the best player of her generation.

Morever, after a tight first set against Lisicki, she got flattened in the second set 1-6, which lasted probably as long as a toilet break you make between sets.  Except that by  the time you returned, said set was already over.  (Actually, the set time was between 15 and 18 minutes, but I haven’t checked.)

Like all great matches, the pretty German played the game of her life,  broke Serena’s serve in the fourth game, produced winner after winner, paradoxically causing Serena to back up from her usual killer aggressive game.

It helped that Sabine plays exceptionally well on grass and is considered one of the few players who (obviously) can compete with Serena.  If you believe pictures can tell a thousand words, moving pictures tell even more, and the video above speaks eloquently of Sabine’s unabashed pleasure over her win.

And just to show you how  generous Serena was with her words, despite her loss, here’s what she said at the post-game conference:

As for me, at the rate I’m going, it’s gonna take a little more than a Wimbledon upset to rouse me from sleep tonight.  Maybe a Pinoy drafted in the NBA first round, or winning a Grand Slam, but knowing the odds of those happening, I’m finally gonna get my 8 hours, good night!