videos that make my day (& hopefully yours)

IT’S BEEN quite a while since I bugged you, and anytime that happens I’m a little guilty.  Bugging you through my bloggy posts has been such a part of my schedule that when a situation like now intervenes, as in, lack of time and my laziness conspire to prevent me from saying anything more than a few paragraphs, I feel rather incomplete.

Instead, may i just share with you a few videos I’ve seen here and there that make me (1) marvel at the beauty of life and living; (2) so thankful of where I am now  at this point in my life; and (3) make me proud to be a Pinoy, no matter what happens?  You may have already seen one, two or all of them, but still and just in case, here they are.  No commentary planned (but you never know) :


if the video doesn’t grab you, give it a minute or two.  We are so lucky with our fitness and health that we inevitably take it for granted.  We need to be inspired, ironically enough, by those who are “special” and need to go above and beyond the usual effort just to be taken seriously.  Galing-galing, diba?

Who sez Pinoys are the only ones good in creating tearjerker ads?  I don’t know who the advertiser here is, and what product or service they sell, but if you don’t shed a tear after watching this ad, you’ve got a heart of stone. 😉

And lastly…

I confess I hadn’t heard of  the group Blake, or their concerts back home, but I’m sure that after doing THAT (pointing above), they’ve earned thousands of adoring fans in the Philippines!

thanks for reading (and watching)!  Thanks and acknowledgment too to the YouTube posters!

why Julianne Alvarez is my favorite Kinoy*

Julianne still all smiles after gruelling practice on the green.

Julianne still all smiles after gruelling practice on the green.

[Note : Congrats to Didith Tayawa-Figuracion, Meia Lopez and the rest of the contributors of KABAYAN, the one and only Wellington Pinoy newsmagazine for their spectacularly outstanding Issue No. 3!  Please find the online version if you haven’t gotten your hard copy at, mabuhay ang lahing kayumanggi!  Maraming salamat  po to KABAYAN for allowing us to repost our contribution here, woohoo!]

TUCKED AWAY in a quiet, unassuming corner in one of Wellington’s quiet, unassuming suburbs lives one of New Zealand‘s most talented female golfers.  At the ridiculously young age of 17 she is number five on the New Zealand Order of Merit,** and would rank even higher if she played more tournaments.  And yes, she most definitely is a Filipina, the child of Pinoy parents Vergel and Monica Alvarez.

Before you conjure images of untold riches and superhuman feats made popular by budding golf superstar Lydia Ko, already the number one amateur golfer in the world, for the most part Julianne Alvarez is an unaffected, low-key Year 13 student from one of Wellington’s respected Catholic schools.  Julianne would rather hang out with friends in the mall than discuss her achievements.  But she has just been too good and too competitive to bloom like a rose isolated in the woods.

Since she was five, Julie has always competed with golfers much older than her, says mom Monica, who credits husband Vergel as the initial influence in their daughter’s golfing life.

“I think she was around seven or eight, swinging her golf irons one Saturday when a trio of Manor Park (their golf club in Lower Hutt) ladies approached and asked if she could complete the foursome.”  It only took the slightest of prodding from her parents for Julianne to join the foursome for what would be the start of something big.

Less than 10 years later, Julianne has become one of the brightest hopes of New Zealand women’s golf and is a mainstay of Team Wellington in challenging Auckland and the other powerhouses in annual interprovincial competition.  Her potential is literally unlimited.

And so the inevitable question is asked : in a perfect world, would Julianne be willing to lend her vast talents to represent the Philippines for international glory?

Apparently the perfect situation must remain unreachable, because strict rules of the sport and citizenship challenges would make Julianne’s participation in the national team at best, a faint and remote possibility.

But as the shoe ad says, impossible is nothing, and never says never.  By combining native Pinoy competitiveness, innate talent and unswerving discipline, there is no limit to what Julianne Alvarez and her golf clubs can do.  Wherever she goes, her kabayan community will be looking on proudly!

Mabuhay Julianne and family!

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

**The New Zealand Order of Merit in golf means a season-long player ranking in New Zealand Golf based on the highest to lowest points on the Order of Merit (OOM) calendar.  Points are allocated to tournaments dependent on the strength of the field and their ranking within the R & A points ranking system.



brothers & sisters, photographs & memories

believe it or not, these sibling grandparents all have teenaged grandkids!  The lady they are with in white is the smartly dressed Tita Dely Imperial.

believe it or not, these sibling grandparents all have nearly-teenaged grandkids! The lovely lady they are with in white is the smartly dressed Tita Dely Imperial. Mom is on the extreme right, and the fellow who looks like John Lennon is my Tito PD. Tita Beth and Tita Amy are their younger sisters.

[ Thanks Tita Dely Imperial and Tita Rose Lizo for use of the pic! ]

WHETHER THEY love or hate each other (or somewhere in between), cherish or annoy each other to bits (or somewhere in between), avoid each other or play practical jokes all the time (or somewhere in between), brothers and sisters share more than blood and childhood memories.  They are bound by a psychic connection that will not be severed by time or space, and when they reconnect after a long while apart, let’s just say the emotional whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

***         ***         ***

My mom and her three siblings more than deserve to give each other a pat on the back.  After all, they’ve endured a hard childhood, worked through school, successfully raised families and are now enjoying their grandchildren, all in the span of 70 years give or take. But every now and then they like to reminisce about the happy days they spent in their island hometown in Masbate, where the air was pure and nature was free.  Because they had no other choice, they learned to depend on each other, where in the game of Life, family and their brood was the only team that mattered.  Challenges and adversity have come and gone, but Linda, PD, Amy and Beth have remained, and have come through with flying colors for their children, grandchildren and almost surely given their impeccable health (knock-knock) great-grandchildren to admire, now and forever.

***         ***         ***

a rarity : the last time I've seen them in the same frame was definitely more than an eternity ago, and now they're all adults!

a rarity : the last time I’ve seen them in the same frame was definitely more than an eternity ago, and now they’re all adults!

They’re not exactly the closest of siblings, but the last time they met,  with (ahem) their father looking on, you could’ve sworn they might actually have missed each other.

The last few months have been a whirlwind for Panganay, Ganda and Bunso.  New milieus, new school, new jobs, even new loves, everything has been a new taste and new sensation for the trio.  So much so that they haven’t had time to compare notes and look back on their remarkable journeys from Cainta Rizal all the way to Windy Wellington.

I wouldn’t say the experience has brought them closer, but it has afforded them a new perspective with which to view and appreciate each other, if not as immediate family, then as members of individuals who’ve gone through toddlerhood and teenhood with shared eyes ears and feelings.

Almost throughout the dinner, which Mahal and I ate with them after a visit to recuperating Panganay (who was recovering from a sports injury), they were constantly wary of each other.  But only because so much had changed, around the constant reality that they would always be brothers and sister.

Take away the novelty, and what remains on the picture is the simple happiness on their faces.  At least, that hasn’t changed.

***         ***         ***

By many standards I’m an old man, and yet whenever I think of my four brothers, especially about being with them, I feel young.  Why?  Maybe because I grew up with them, and you’re only as old (young) as you feel.  And because we’re all in the same generation, I only need to be with them, physically or otherwise, to be a kid again.

I’ll bet you feel the same with your own brothers and / or sisters!

Thanks for reading!

time to stop hating

what are we in power for?  to make as much money and run!

what are we in power for? to make as much money and run! Thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to! 🙂

FOR AROUND SIX months a decade past I worked in the headquarters of a very popular fizzy drink company in the Philippines.  The gig was undistinguished by accomplishment or any kind of success, and the only thing I clearly remember now was the free cola drinks served from a mint-condition vending machine that didn’t need any coins or bills to dispense drinks representing every member of the world-famous red-and-white product line.

You could enjoy your beverage straight, on the rocks, from the famous bottles they were traditionally served in, via cans, from the vendo cup, anyhoo and any which way actually, any hour of the day on your desk, in the toilet, in a meeting room, and you could drink to your heart’s content.

As long as you drank the dark stuff on the premises, and of course, never brought anything out.  Unless it was already in your gut.

I used to fantasize chucking cans and bottles out through the window to my waiting friend (itago natin ang kanyang katauhan sa pangalang “Boyet”)  in his shopping cart or kariton, and from there we’d sell it as fast as we could.  We’d do the rounds of sari-sari stores, groceries and carinderia, and we’d making a killing, cuz everyone and his dog/cat could never have enough of the fizzy pop.  It was very nearly a commodity that could be used to acquire other useful things, if you couldn’t sell it soon enough.

Of course, the only thing that stopped me from pilfering the product and taking advantage of the company’s generosity was the fact that we were on the 12th floor overlooking part of Old Makati, and the thick glass windows were not about to give way to an amateurish get-rich-through-free-cola scheme.  Also, I was then happy in my job and not about to give it up for a few extra pesos grating on my conscience.

I just remembered those few short weeks in Coca-Cola Export  (oops, slip of the tongue there) because if ever we had pulled off our grand caper and my accomplice friend Boyet was immediately fingered as the cola felon, I couldn’t very well stand by idly and watch him get the third degree from the cola police.

Even though he would get caught with the proceeds of our crime, complete with all the tools to further his nasty deed, and the list of the sari-sari store carinderia and sidewalk vendors all attesting to his sales, the real architect of the crime would me little old me, for without my original plan, my access to the drinks and my making them available to Boyet, he would still be pushing his kariton downstairs wandering aimlessly in cola-less land.

I think  you see where I’m going here.  All the glitzy mansions in Forbes Park, Dasma Village and other posh subdivisions, Los Angeles (USA) properties, and flashy BGC condos are certainly deplorable examples of conspicuous consumption, and that YouTube video of the debutante who put Kim Kardashian to shame certainly didn’t help.  The insistence that wealth was gained through legitimate means only added to the aura of arrogance. In the end, pride and denial proved the downfall of this queen of fraudsters who became a fugitive from the law before surrendering to no less than the Chief Executive of the Land.  (The highest official I could surrender to would be our barangay captain, if he was available. 🙂 ) I guess even before Lady Justice, it still helps to have a friend or two in the right places.

But really, wasn’t our Public Enemy No. 1 (for 48 hours at least) no more than a conduit for funds that couldn’t be touched by the rapacious hands of  those trusted to disburse them to the least of our kabayan?  Those most vulnerable and who needed public projects the most?   She was just an example of what happens when the arrogance of power and the craftiness of cutting-edge thievery meet in the coffee tables of five star hotels.

It goes against the fashion of the moment and current wisdom in media-saturated Manila, but don’t you think our hatred and derision is misdirected towards the effect rather than the cause of all this prodigality and high living?  Come to think of it, isn’t it time we started wondering why you’ve hardly seen a senator (except maybe Sen Rene Saguisag and one or two others) who hasn’t lived like a multi-millionaire during and especially after serving their elective term?

Going back to my cola job anecdote, it drove me crazy that I had all that privilege to drink soda and fill myself to the brim, and yet I couldn’t bring it out of the office.  I fantasized about someone helping me take advantage of what I had but couldn’t do myself.  (Seen the parallels yet? 🙂 )  And yet, in the end, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Not just because it wasn’t the right thing to do, but because I might get caught.  Like Machiavelli’s princelings, the rule of law is better feared than loved.

***               ***               ***

It’s alright to energize our actions against Ms Pork Barrel Queen via righteous indignation, but it’s better spent hating the system that made her so successful in making dirty money.  It’s time to stop hating, and start changing.

Thanks for reading!

to look like dad & all its benefits : happy father’s day!

this is not the first time I'm using this pic but it's the best I have..  Mahal, me, my Tita Lily who recently passed away and Dad, dashing as ever!

this is not the first time I’m using this pic but it’s the best I have.. Mahal, me, my Tita Lily who recently passed away and Dad, dashing as ever! Thanks once again to brother Jude Bautista and !

[ Note :  In the Philippines, I’ve always celebrated my birthday near mother’s day, so there are two happy things to remember around then.  Now because of the happy accident of working in NZ, dad’s birthday and New Zealand’s Father’s day are about two weeks apart. Happy father’s day to everyone not just in NZ, but everywhere else! ]

IT’S UNIVERSAL that parents like to claim authorship of anything that resembles success in their kids, and more than a passing resemblance with the same, especially whenever the latter are beautiful, intelligent, gorgeous and otherwise pleasing to the mind and eye.

Among my siblings, Eldest Brother (we are five brothers, no sisters) is unsurprisingly blessed with the most leadership skills and probably the best communicator.  Second Brother is undoubtedly the smartest and the easiest to get along with.  Fourth Brother is the most athletic and attuned to business, while Fifth Brother is the most creative.

Pure luck of the draw and genetics gave me a different gift : I like to think, and more than a few people and rellys agree with me, that I was honored to be the son who resembled (resembles) our father the most.  And because my father (naturally) considered himself not a bad-looking man and a good standard with which to compare his progeny, he almost surely (neither I nor my brothers ever thought to ask him) thought that I was the luckiest one because of the way we received our inheritance in the looks department.  LOLs and smileys all around after that one. 🙂

Seriously, my father has been honorable in executing his fatherly duties in every which way possible.  He was the solid rock of stability around which the rest of the family was built, guided and counseled all of us through our maturity, and to this day serves as an inspiration for his middle-aged sons as they strive to measure up to the greatness that is their father.

But I have enjoyed as good a relationship with my father as anyone could wish for, though I don’t  claim to know enough to say it has been as good as or even better than his relationship with his other sons, my brothers.  Perhaps viewed through the prism of self-regard and self-interest, one always thinks his appearance, his abilities, and his relationships are the best, without the benefit of comparison with a superior standard.

Should you therefore ask me how I have the audacity to write the previous paragraph, I will answer with a contrast I’ve seen with him when it comes to me.

He is probably the most opinionated person I know, holding specific, and perhaps jingoist and xenophobic opinions on everything under the sun.  He is like that, and will not aggressively attack your worldview, but his Old World eloquence and quiet conviction will assure you that you will have hours and hours of debate before you get any  meeting of the minds.

With me, whenever I talk to him about my view of things, his response has almost invariably been, for him, atypical.  He will nod his head, smile knowingly, and listen to all the points I elucidate.  He will usually say ganun pala or I never knew that.

Deep down I know he is only holding his tongue and patronizing me, but because he is my dad it is approval enough for me to shut up and acknowledge his smile.  And I know he is agreeing only because it is me.

He is also, as you might expect, very old school.  In almost everything, from popular culture, religion and customs, the roles of men and women in society, and anything else you might think of.  With many people of his generation, produced by expansionist tyranny and the Last Great War, adherence to traditional values then and now are the bedrock of his core.  (Hard to fault him for that, for in the midst of uncertainty and destruction it was all they could hold on to.)  And that is what he will be to the day he dies.

And yet in my few conversations with him about the tumultuous change overcoming our world,  about explaining to him how and why I have been the only son of his to marry twice, and how when he meets his grandkids again when they return next decade from New Zealand, he will probably not approve of their ways and their appearances, he curiously declines to challenge my points.

In so many words, he pooh-poohs my alarms, soothes my concerns,  and allays my fears.  In a nutshell he tells me :  I am not at all concerned with all that, Noel. Because I trust you to do the right thing.  Not only does he go against form and welcome change, he uncharacteristically reposes a lot of trust in me.

This, to the one who is (no false modesty here) his least successful, least accomplished, least athletic and least creative son.  Truly, to inherit my father’s appearance has also given me a side benefit : to earn the most benefit of the doubt.  The luck of the draw has helped me once again.

***            ***            ***

Lest you think I’m writing this for my dad to see, he will probably not even know about it.  Father’s day in the Philippines is celebrated earlier, and even if they were on the same day, my dad doesn’t care for such things.  That’s one of the greatest things about him ; he is great without even knowing it.

My dad is very much alive today, in I hope the best health of his life, a bit slower now but fit and fighting trim nevertheless.  The only sad part is we are separated by thousands of miles of land and sea.

But if we weren’t, and he were right in front of me now on Father’s Day, I don’t know if I should bow deeply to him the way the ancient Chinese did (he is half Chinese), if I should render a snappy salute for the enormous respect I have him, or just hug and kiss him, as I owe him my life, and everything I am today.  The first, second or third?

I don’t know.  Maybe a combination of them, but most definitely I will hug and kiss him, because it benefits us both.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!  I love you always!

(and to the rest of you as well!)