my last shift with rasputin the racist

can you be offended and amused at the same time? :)

can you be offended and amused at the same time? ūüôā

[ Note : in advance I’m telling you that it was an uneventful shift. ¬†I’m just posting this (1) for posterity; (2) maybe¬†some reader out there may want to know some of the less savory realities in my temporary adopted country, and finally (3) although i won’t see the subject of the blog soon, there’s still a slight chance he will return. ¬†That’s very slight. ¬†Thanks for reading! ]

BIG BUDDHA, the most senior of my bisors, disliked Rasputin because he could never back up his big talk with efficient work. ¬†He could talk a big game, shock us with his redneck arrogance, or imagine he was the best shift boss around to his heart’s content, but if he was a crappy worker, Big B wouldn’t tolerate it for an instant. ¬†And one look at him will tell you that his intolerance is one thing you wouldn’t want to ignore.

Genghis, the other, infinitely more taciturn among my bisors, neither likes nor dislikes him. ¬†But he only manifested his feelings about him one time: when he mentioned that Rasputin seemed to be out of touch with reality in reference to the latter’s outrageous (and incorrect) way of doing things.

Then of course there’s SuperBisor our department supervisor, who more than once was on the receiving end of Rasputin’s arrogance. ¬†The latter left little doubt of his opinion that he knew more about doing his job than SuperBisor did, listened to SuperBisor only when everything had gone to sh*t, and fancied himself an authority on everything in the workplace. ¬†Each time, of course, he was spectacularly proven wrong by SuperBisor.

[by the by, the colorful names here are obviously aliases, but even if I used their real names, you wouldn’t know them anyway right? ¬†So in the end it doesn’t matter, unless one of these people reads the blog. ūüôā ]

And moi? ¬†I could legitimately use any of the above reasons in giving imagery to my professional (and otherwise) dislike of Rasputin, but I don’t need to. ¬†Because first and foremost, what defines / defined Rasputin is his being a racist.

***               ***               ***

I don’t mean racist like the Ku Klux Klan or skinheads and Neo-Nazis wherever there is racial intolerance, but in so many words Rasputin behaves one way when he is with people with skin of his color, and behaves another way with all other skins. ¬†One way to describe it, borrowing from SuperBisor, is that what he is begins with R and rhymes with acist. ¬†So that was that, and I had no stronger reason with which to dislike him.

Not that he wasn’t easy to dislike anyway, as probably 99% of the staff disliked him. ¬† Give or take a percent.

By the time he was getting into trouble, and even long before that, Rasputin had clearly been making an effort to stop being the R-Man (racist, as if you didn’t know), mainly because he was already getting into all sorts of jams, that the company had instituted a zero-tolerance policy on bullying, harassment, and yes, racism, and the non-whites in the workplace (meaning little old me) had been given instructions to notify anyone in authority the moment anything remotely resembling the R-Word (racism, just in case you missed it) occurred.

carrying a racist joke a bit too far, I'd say...

carrying a racist joke a bit too far, I’d say…

There. ¬†You’ve probably formed a more-or-less vivid picture on how much Rasputin is loved and cherished, in his dreams, by all of us at work. ¬†Still it didn’t stop him from doing things his usual haphazard and disorganized way, creating multiple and chain-reaction problems in the factory, until one problem became one problem too many, and he received a final warning hearing two weeks ago.

It was like the proverbial inch before the precipice: one slight push would seal his doom.  Anything, health and safety missteps, lates and tardiness on successive days, or another performance issue would send him over the edge, and that would be the end of Rasputin the Racist.

From my very first week more than five years ago, when Rasputin would talk to me several decibels louder than he would to anyone else at work; to his famous remark to me if people like you had half a brain you wouldn’t have your problems (at work), to as recently as a year ago when he asked me what is that effing sh*t ¬†you’re eating, it’s making my eyes water, Rasputin minced no words about how he felt about “people like me.” ¬†Because everyone else was giving him a hard time about it, I actually felt sorry for him. ¬†But I never forgot his remarks, especially because it was so hard for him to change.

But by the time his final warning came along, he had already kept his R-remarks to himself. ¬†I kept telling myself no matter how much I wanted to give him that slight push over the edge, no one deserved to lose his job. ¬†Except that, amazingly, in his typical arrogant way, ¬†he again disregarded stringent health-and-safety rules during a machinery lockout, and put himself and fellow workers in danger. ¬†THAT wasn’t a slight push, it was a kick in the behind that Rasputin had given to himself, termination-wise.

In a poetic twist, and because he could only work on day shift when he could be supervised every half hour, I was also on day shift, and would therefore be his partner on what would in all probability be his final week at work.  There would of course be a meeting during which he would be presented with the evidence and given a chance to refute such evidence.  But in the face of overwhelming, documented and (previously) uncontested findings, challenging the decision to dismiss him would be nearly futile.

And so the person who fancied himself a future manager, leader and success story in the company would be working most likely his last week with a person he not-a-few-times disparaged and belittled, because he came from a demographic he understood little and appreciated even less.  But that was no reason for me not to give him a modicum of respect reserved for a colleague at work, who certainly deserved a final courtesy of cooperation and cordiality, seeing that he was my shift boss for a final eight hours.

This was why I resolved to make things as easy as possible for him, even though there would still be one more day to the work week.  The last day (Friday) usually being maintenance day,  today would be the last chance for him to perform regular tasks.  I would do anything within reason he requested, be as agreeable as possible, and even volunteer to help out if he needed it.

***               ***               ***

How I wish things turned out as ideally as projected. ¬†In his typical pompous manner, a routine question I asked him unwittingly became an invitation to a seven minute lecture, as he insisted on telling me the procedure on things I already knew. ¬†I was merely asking him as a courtesy and because, really, there wasn’t anything more to say.

Then at teatime, I sauntered into the tea room humming (a bit too loudly, I confess) a popular tune to myself. ¬†Rasputin must’ve been annoyed, because out of the blue he sarcastically asked me Why do you always sing to yourself?

Because I didn’t expect it, I reacted brashly. ¬†I answered Why do you always talk to yourself then? ¬†(People had been telling me that since he had been given a warning, he had been seen talking to himself.)

Almost immediately I regretted saying it, and I didn’t even need to look at him to know that he was surprised. ¬†In the five plus years I worked with him, it was probably the first time I “talked back” to him about something that didn’t involve work. ¬†After my promise to myself to cut him a little slack, I was a little ashamed of myself.

After all that transpired between us the last few years, it was almost anti-climactic.  The way I saw it, we would, worse than being enemies, always remain strangers to each other, not bothering to resolve things and never striving to understand each other.

I say this because Rasputin called in sick the next day, and SuperBisor advised me not to expect him to return.  Unsurprisingly, he said that he would be amazed if anyone would miss Rasputin.

And that, kabayan and friends, was how I spent my last shift working with Rasputin the Racist, my almost-acquaintance and not-quite-friend.

And ex-workmate.

Thanks for reading!

y da pinoy & da new zealand boss r good 4 each other

Six of the seven Filipinos who work on Greg and Kelly Kirkwood's North Otago dairy farm are (from left) Neil Molina, Reis Pe, Eric George, Saldy Barroga, Roel Gonzales and Jeorge Barroga.Photo by Gerard O'Brien, thanks and acknowledgment to the Otago Daily Times!

Six of the seven Filipinos who work on Greg and Kelly Kirkwood’s North Otago dairy farm are (from left) Neil Molina, Reis Pe, Eric George, Saldy Barroga, Roel Gonzales and Jeorge Barroga. Photo by Gerard O’Brien, thanks and acknowledgment to the Otago Daily Times!

[ Note : this is based solely on my workingman’s experience in New Zealand, so I may be more right or more wrong than you, every experience is unique. ¬†It goes without saying that if you’re looking for straight stats and research, I’m sorry to disappoint. ¬†Please point out any glaring errors in my observations , I will be grateful for such. Sorry for the SMS-like title, I was running out of space. ¬†Advance happy undas to all! ]

Ipakita mo ang tunay at kung sino ka
Mayron mang masama at maganda
Wala naman perpekto
Basta magpakatotoo oohh oohh
Gabay at pagmamahal ang hanap mo
Magbibigay ng halaga sa iyo
Nais mong ipakilala kung sino ka man talaga – Pinoy Ako by Orange and Lemons

INASMUCH AS this Monday is Labor Day in my temporary adopted country, I’d like to say a few things about how awesome it is to be working here in New Zealand. ¬†Originally I was gonna rant and rave about how great it is to be a Pinoy in NZ, but that would be too general, too extensive, and too long for one blog, and besides my merienda is running out, after which I’m leaving the table and watching the news. ūüôā

Originally also I was going to say why NZ is good for the pinoy worker, but I realized that the Pinoy is also a decent contributor to the Kiwi workforce, for reasons I’ll state below. ¬†It’s ultimately a mutually beneficial thing, and I’m willing to bet a week’s wages that both sides want it to remain that way :

English, pakisama factor, and manners. ¬†First, the obvious and threshold qualities. ¬†In survey after survey, Pinoys are the best English speakers among skilled and working migrants, beating by far Chinese, South Asian, Southeast Asian and other demographics. ¬†Not only are we facile in the universal language, but our English is more “neutrally” accented than those of other nationalities, and we take pains to understand and make ourselves understood. ¬†Quite a few observers have said that Pinoys make extra efforts to “get along,” make pakisama, conform to the particular ways of doing things in a workplace, and are generally agreeable, sometimes to a fault. ¬†Chalk it up to the traditional pakisama attitude instilled in us early in life, to respect our elders and acknowledge authority. ¬†And even if we weren’t all of these, our tendency to adhere to good manners certainly goes a long way in being popular in the workplace.

Filipino Arthur Adlaon at work for Leighs Construction at Christchurch Hospital. The company has switched from using contractors to employing its own workers. Thanks and acknowledgment to!

Filipino Arthur Adlaon at work for Leighs Construction at Christchurch Hospital. The company has switched from using contractors to employing its own workers. Thanks and acknowledgment to!

Loyalty and hierarchy. ¬†But just being papogi won’t cut it when each member of the work team is expected to be as committed and disciplined as the most reliable worker. ¬†The Pinoy obrero recognizes this and is loyal to his employer, coming early and staying late as often as needed. ¬†We are notorious for eating up overtime whenever it’s offered, anytime and anyplace. ¬†In stark contrast, New Zealanders are known to flit from one job to another, and only the recent decade of economic recession stopped this famous Kiwi habit. ¬†Most Pinoys also respect the chain of command and won’t rock the boat except in extreme circumstances. ¬† Now what employer wouldn’t want a worker like that?

Versatile. ¬†It’s good to specialize and sharpen your particular skills, but it’s equally desirable to know a little of this or that, help out in different departments as the need arises, and fill in the gaps and empty rosters during difficult times. ¬†Many of our kabayan do not hesitate when asked to upskill or do lateral training for the good of the team, whether or not there are financial rewards involved. ¬†This is because we know that the extra skill will serve us in good stead later when a vacancy opens up or when downsizing means one person must do the work of two. ¬†We’ve learned to make do and improvise so many times , so it’s just a matter of reliving our adventurous years¬†back home. ¬†What’s so bad about being a Juan of all trades?

By the way, I did mention that as much as New Zealand takes the best of our uring manggagawa (working class heroes), it gives back just as much by being a labor-friendly country:

the work is hard but the rewards are great!

the work is hard but the rewards are great!

laws and compliance. ¬†I haven’t seen the NZ counterpart of our Philippine Labor Code, but it must be a very thick book full of statutes designed to protect and promote the welfare of the worker, just like our Pinoy laws. ¬†The big difference is that whereas our laws are honored more in the breach thanks to unscrupulous bosses and negligent labor law enforcement officials, NZ laws are strictly complied with; just the thought of litigation and harassment is enough for employers to follow the letter of the law. ¬†Everything, from wages and compensation, to hours of work to health and safety standards are provided for in the law and written into the employment contract. ¬†If there’s any doubt in the interpretation of the law or contract, it’s usually resolved in favor of the worker.

unions. ¬†This is how gung ho some employers are when it comes to cooperating with unions in the workplace. ¬†Our employer actually pays for our union dues and pays them directly, although the payment appears as an allowance in our pay envelope, for accounting purposes. ¬†My guess is that they would prefer to deal with a cohesive bargaining unit that’s already aware of the nuances and intricacies of workplace bargaining.

loyalty. ¬†when you think about it, loyalty between the parties in an employment deal may or may not favor the worker, after all, there are still good and bad eggs in the world of employers. ¬†But loyalty always favors the employer, because it’s like he or she has a second owner or partner in the workplace who won’t leave him hanging. ¬†And many NZ employers are aware of this, usually recognizing or acknowledging the loyal Pinoy worker. ¬†Which is why utang na luob, very emotional but very effective, is a useful tool for both employer and employee here.

***               ***               ***

One of my first jobs working in NZ was for an Indian in a small grocery, also known as a dairy. ¬†He gave me half the minimum wage, and made me work for every cent. ¬†I didn’t know any better and was actually grateful for the work.

I didn’t realize then that I was being exploited, but after that, I never had a bad experience in any other work in New Zealand. ¬†I’ve had good bosses, good managers, and good colleagues. ¬†Above all, I’ve had good mates. ¬†Thanks to all my bosses, my employers, and thanks New Zealand!

from a grateful son, on a birthday

Mom with 2nd Bro.  Thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to 4th Bro Jude, please visit his site at !

Mom with 2nd Bro. Thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to 4th Bro Jude, please visit his site at !

[Note : on the occasion of her 74th ¬†birthday last Monday, we repost an old post we did for our revered mother on our high school batch chatgroup, hope the batchmates don’t mind. Please spare a thought and prayer for our kabayan in Bohol and surrounding areas affected by the recent ¬†earthquakes. ¬†Happy birthday Mom! ]

FIRST BIG BROTHER is the classic Type A management guru : ever stressed to the gills, but classy enough to keep his cool (and sanity) at all times. Within 5 mins. of your interview, he will have mapped out your strengths and weaknesses, guide you through your career pathing, and highlight in impressive, modulated detail in which specialty you will  contribute best.

Second Big Brother is the classic crossover professional. Starting out a licensed physician, he has expanded his medical training to build a diagnostic business patronized by both corporate and consular entities.

Young Brothers 4 & 5 are both talented and aggressive in their particular areas, give and take no quarters, and are as sharp with their wits as they are with their reflexes, both having milked their athletic aptitude well beyond their 20s.

And you know well enough about us, the ADHD-addled and underachieving jester among the brood…

We stand like deferential little boys however, before the ONE individual to whom we owe our gifts, personalities, and no exaggeration to say…our very lives.

***               ***               ***

Early on, after marrying her boyfriend at 19, she realized that she was not about to write Princess Diaries and live happily ever after. More like Journals of the Empress Dowager, as she quickly produced a noisy nest of three barakos by age 25, four Y-chromosomers by 29, and five kelots by 32. No rose among the thorns, except the one who grew them.

Lovingly nurturing us via the warmth of womb and breast, she quickly turned around and correctly concluded that a strong, tough approach to parenting was the minimum weaponology demanded by such a set of offspring.

But not without thoughtfulness and inspiration, somewhat complementary and yet contradictory qualities a parent might want to merge with tough love.

For boys will be boys, and these five siblings were never without a hairtrigger urge to scratch the naughtiness itch & sail into dark, uncharted waters at the slightest provocation.

Many a time were the bahala na forays into Thursday outings (our St Jude Catholic School free day was Thursday) without permission met with scoldings, dressing downs & corporal punishments that looking back, we richly deserved.

From her too was the weekly audit earned and learned. Allowances were raised, reduced, and raised again, it didn’t¬†matter as long as you showed where it was going and how black your bottom line was.

Born without the sarcasm gene, she bluntly told you what you needed to know : grades are dropping, what’s wrong with you? ¬†Out too often, enough time for priorities? Keep your room clean, keep the bugs and mice away !

She lost no time in showing you how strongly she approved or disapproved of your actions, giving her words an edge which¬†might’ve hurt for the moment, but were well worth the sense of urgency with which they were said.

All in all, she gave up most of her youth for all of us, held fast to her old-world beliefs that we might survive in the new, and kept her spanking hand on-the-ready and tongue sharp-as-blades if only to keep us on the straight-and- narrow.

She wasn’t always successful, but it was never for lack of trying.

Going full circle, she now dotes after her 7 grandchildren with healthy servings of indulgence and treats, almost as if telling her sons-turned- fathers: see if you can top what I can give them; they richly deserve it just by being my apo.

On your 74th birthday, you stand tall as our tower of strength, and we love you more than ever.

Thanks for the lessons learned, and thanks for the memories Mom.

Happy birthday !

repost courtesy of Bunso : “The Elusive First Job (in NZ)”



[Note : Actually, this was the second job my son Bunso successfully applied for, but this was the first time he actually liked the job. ūüôā ¬†So he was gracious enough to write about it after a local Pinoy newsmagazine in Wellington invited him to do so. ¬†I liked it so much (his story) that I am reposting it below, with permission of course from both the publisher and the author. ¬†You may access Bunso’s online version as well by clicking on the link in this paragraph. ¬†Thanks again Didith Tayawa Figuracion and Meia Lopez of Kabayan Magazine in Wellington, and anak for your generosity! ]

KNOWING YOURSELF is one thing but describing yourself is another. ¬†On finding a job, one of the most important things to remember¬†is to put your best foot forward. ¬†You have to present yourself as the best candidate for whatever job you’re applying for without sounding arrogant or too proud.

It took a while to get my first job but finally, after sending in numerous CVs (both physical and online), my efforts have paid off. ¬†When I finally landed a job, I was ecstatic! ¬†(I honestly can’t put my feelings into words. ¬†But it was comparable to how I felt when I passed the entrance exam for the university I wanted to attend back home in the Philippines. ¬†I felt really happy and blessed.)

So here’s my take on how you should prepare to get that (first) elusive job.

Tailor your CV to the job you are applying for. ¬†Customise your CV and always point out skills and qualities you have that other people might not have. ¬†Make sure to relate these to the job you are applying for. ¬†Some jobs require you to be independent and some require you to be in a team. ¬†If you like to do both, say so but don’t pretend to be somebody you’re not.

Your CV must speak for you especially for jobs you apply for online and situations where you won’t be able to see the prospective manager/boss before getting an interview. ¬†Put together an image of yourself based on your personality (are you friendly and helpful?), experiences ¬†(have you interacted with people from different ethniticities and backgrounds giving you that cross cultural perspective from your travels overseas or interactions in school?) ¬†and skills (are you good with managing your time, multitasking or prioritising?).

Get the best referees possible. ¬†Ask your high school (college) principal or your parents’ friends if they are willing to be your referees. ¬†Get someone who knows you and is willing to help and can vouch for your professionalism.

Do your homework.  It helps a lot if you know the employer or have referees working within the workplace you are applying at.  Find out as much as you can about the company where you are applying.

During interviews make yourself very presentable. ¬†From your clothes to your demeanor, you are being observed. ¬†Wear clothes feel comfortable in and always appear open and approachable. ¬†There is not one job in the world that would turn away people with those qualities, if there were they would probably be jobs most people wouldn’t apply for. (ha-ha just kidding.)

Now comes the hard part — asking for prior job experience when it’s your first job (locally). ¬†Most jobs you apply for need prior experience but how can you get experience without getting a job? ¬†I can only think of two ways to convince the employer to give you a chance. ¬†Work for free for a specified amount of time depending on what you’re open to, for example one to two weeks, whatever floats your boat. ¬†The other is to ask for an interview and character reference check and if they like what they hear then they might give you a shot.

So, when you do get the job, you better show them that they picked the right guy/gal. ¬†Cheers and good luck to all the young people out there looking for employment, it definitely isn’t easy but it’s all worth it.

You go guys! ūüôā

caught between the cracks, surviving between the cracks: Year 6 as a NZ guest worker

One hundred percent NZ pure, for citizens, residents and workers alike.

One hundred percent NZ pure, for citizens, residents and workers alike.

I can’t conceive of a mental picture that’s expressive enough, but imagine being teleported with your fellow Pinoys to a dog sledding race somewhere in the Arctic Circle. In the middle of a surge between giant mounds of snow, your sled falls into a half hidden crevasse more than 10 feet deep. ¬†Before you can collect your wits and assess any injury to you and your dogs, inertia and the slope of the icy floor push you further into another crevasse, this one even deeper. ¬†Can it get any more uncertain from here on?

***               ***               ***

ON PAPER, and on surface level, New Zealand, one of the most liveable and most desirable places to migrate to on our Lonely Planet, has given aspiring migrants probably the widest range of tools with which to become adopted New Zealanders and fulfill the migrant dream of plentiful food, comfortable shelter and a peaceful life. The skilled migrant policy,  working holiday scheme, cultural policy are all manifestations of the welcome given to nomads from overseas.  Athletes, religious, farm workers and different classes of people from all walks of life, assuming the latter are law abiding, healthy and sincere in building a new life, are welcome to become New Zealanders.  Even political refugees stand a healthy chance of at least being heard and hosted while their cases are considered.

But in reality, because of fierce competition from fellow migrants all over the world, the average aspirant to these shores is not unlike a participant in the weekly lottery.  Thousands of applicants for a visa, any kind of visa flood online sites of immigration NZ, and once their papers are sorted and sifted, still a huge number of the original applicants flock to visa processing centers.  After requirements are scrutinized, verified and assessed, the merits of these hopefuls are weighted not just on their own but relative to other, equally deserving applicants.  After that, the moment of truth arrives in the interviews, where everything hinges on the human element : whether or not the applicant and his/her papers match, answers to crucial questions concerning honesty and character, and the X factor of is there anything dangerous lurking within the outwardly innocuous applicant..  If everything passes muster, then and only then are the precious visas issued.

[Before I continue, I must stress that there are several filters that eliminate probably three-quarters of the original applicants before visas are granted, based on the merits.  First, there is the NZ$270 application fee, roughly US$220.  This immediately wards off all but the most serious applicants.  Then, a long wait of processing and verification assures all the candidates that they should have the stablest of incomes or war chest of funds while waiting for the visa result.]

As I had neither the energy or discipline (not to mention the qualifications) to go through the more traditional, albeit time-consuming admission streams,  I chose a popular, though risky method : I was fortunate enough to be granted a visit (tourist) visa, and solicited the help of my brother in finding a job in New Zealand early 2007.  Needle in the haystack and eye of the needle, but Bro pulled through and got me a job in his workplace.

But as mentioned, the trouble with this method is what happens if you can’t find a job suited to your qualifications within the short time of your valid visit? ¬†Remember, the sentinels of New Zealand’s borders, also known as Immigration NZ, already know that your purpose in coming to their country is merely to see the sights and visit relations, which fortunately I had. ¬†To do anything else, like attend job interviews and look for jobs, while not too surprising, raises the proverbial eyebrows and attracts attention. ¬†Luckily for me, even when I wore my welcome out with my first employer, I was able to find still another job that allowed me to apply for a true-blue, certified work visa that extended my stay in New Zealand.

Here’s where the paradox begins: Job it was that provided the legal basis for my stay in Aotearoa, but my trade was on neither the Long-Term or Short-Term Skills Shortage List, meaning my job was no help if ever I wanted to apply for Permanent Resident status someday soon. ¬†And I was already too entrenched in my job to even think about any of the other migrant policy streams. ¬†Yes I was able to work in New Zealand and continue justifying my stay, but only as long as I kept working in my particular job and kept my employer happy.

I hadn’t remained idle in reducing the odds against becoming a PR, or permanent resident when the opportunity to apply ever presented itself. ¬†I started honing my skills, tried to advance my skill set towards certification in my vocation, and made myself available whenever new or lateral development was offered.

The problem was, I had fallen between the cracks. ¬†My situation didn’t correspond with the standard scenarios under which the NZ government makes permanent resident status accessible. ¬†But I had already invested too much blood sweat and tears ¬†to just roll over and give up the ghost. ¬†Hanging over the precipice, I had to harden my steely grasp on the shallow foothold I gained, and claw my way to the distant summit that remained unseen.

In the meantime, I know I can no longer fall back on any other possible skills or blame myself for whatever missed chances fallen by the wayside. ¬†I’ve fallen further into a tighter spot, but I’ve made my choice. ¬†Besides, six years after my original work visa, I’m still in New Zealand.

***     ***     ***

Last week I lodged yet another work visa application, my seventh in the same job and with the same employer, a record of sorts for me.  Fate has been kind to me, with all the uncertainties and whirlwind changes in both my particular line of work and the New Zealand economic climate.  Nearly all the kabayan I started out with, in different lines of work, have become permanent residents.  Some have even become citizens and have called New Zealand their permanent home.

For me to do that, I have to continue struggling, continue fighting the good fight.  The obstacles are challenging, because the rewards are great.  Despite myself, I have acquired the patience and discipline required to stay in the game of migration.  I have blazed a trail towards my destiny as a migrant, and have no choice but to soldier on.

Mabuhay to Pinoy migrants, all over the world!

why does it hurt so much to lose? (or why the pinoy is lovingly pikon)

Team NZ and Team USA, tough competitors of the America's Cup

Team NZ and Team USA, tough competitors of the America’s Cup

[We’ve been through a particularly stressful time, and hope that if there’s at least one person out there who’s been waiting for us, you’ve been patient enough, and thanks for waiting. ¬†Woohoo! ]

IT’S ALRIGHT to talk about it now, but I was in a sorry, sorry funk the first few days. ¬†Towards the deafening anti-climax, you fought the good fight and hoped against hope, but deep down you knew the game was already lost . ¬†It was verily a living nightmare that built upon itself, collapsed upon itself and both obliterated and extinguished my brightest hopes and laughed in my face when I dared to dream my fondest dream. ¬†Now, multiply this very personal nightmare by about four million, and you begin to approximate an idea of what I’m talking about.

What the eff are you talking about kabayan Noel? ¬†I can hear you say. ¬†I’m just ¬†relating to you the humongous meltdown experienced by Team New Zealand after leading Team USA’s Oracle 8-2 (first to win nine races would’ve won) to last week lose what was painfully within reach, the America’s Cup.

In boat racing, the America’s Cup is like the NBA’s World Championship, Major League Baseball’s World Series, the four tennis majors and golf’s four majors melted into one. ¬†It was a sublime, transcendent win for the Americans in what is almost undoubtedly the greatest comeback in all of sports. ¬†But to the losers it was a tragedy that is hard to accept, much less live down.

It’s too painful to recount to you how Team NZ lost their mojo after racing through seven of the first eight races effortlessly as if they were destined to win. ¬†It’s still inexplicable how after the Kiwis looked like they could do no wrong, suddenly smashed into windy conditions and made error after error. ¬†It didn’t help that people were already talking about the huge economic impact to Auckland where the next America’s ¬†Cup would be held, as soon as Team New Zealand won.

That was the key phrase. ¬†As soon as. ¬†Meaning, Team NZ hadn’t won yet. ¬†And they haven’t, two weeks later.

I noticed that it wasn’t so much the fact that America won the America’s Cup (it is after all named after them) but the fact that New Zealand, my temporary adopted country, lost. ¬†I realized that in many many occasions where I am an active partisan and an active spectator, almost like a stakeholder in the fortunes of my favored team, what hurts more than the other winning is my team’s losing. ¬†The only thing I can’t stand more than NOT WINNING is LOSING. ¬†I know each outcome is synonymous with the other, but it makes a world of difference if you take your partisanship seriously. ¬†Particularly if the team you’re losing to is a worthy victor. ¬†Crazy, right? ¬†But more often than not, it makes sense.

When I was a high school student and a PBA fanatic more than a few years ago, I was usually in the minority whenever I rooted for my ¬†beloved Toyota Tamaraws (which became the Toyota Super Corollas). ¬†I didn’t mind my team being upset ¬†occasionally by lesser teams like U-tex Wranglers or Royal Tru-Orange but whenever there was a matchup with arch-rival Crispa Redmanizers, I was all wound up not by the thought of thrashing the hated first five of Co, Fabiosa, Hubalde, Cezar and Guidaben but by being outcoached by the master tactician, Baby Dalupan. ¬†It was not quite the ideal, but I was actually rooting for my team to not lose, instead of winning.

I found that I was not alone in my particular brand of not-losing-is-better-than-winning. ¬†It was alright for my UP Fighting Maroons not to win, we were in fact never expected to challenge for the UAAP title year after year (except that golden moment in ’86 when Benjie Paras & Co. won it all). ¬†As long as first, we didn’t end up the doormat, and two, we didn’t lost to particular teams like Ateneo (our neighbor in Diliman), UST (for some reason we hated them) and co-cellar dweller NU, who is not so weak now.

I notice that as long as we don’t lose to regional rivals Taiwan and Korea in basketball, no campaign is too miserable. ¬†But most of all, it’s the fact that if ever we lose, we don’t want to lose badly, we don’t want to be embarrassed when we lose, and again, we don’t want to lose to certain teams that make losing a double-jeopardy thing. ¬†You lose, and you lose to someone you dislike.

Did you ever notice that we Pinoys tend to excel in certain sports to the exclusion of a whole lot of others? ¬†Remember the time when Pinoys were known to be great, the world over, in sports that began only with the letter “B”? ¬†Of course it’s not true, but we certainly have a surplus of great billiards and basketball players that can compete among the world’s best, anytime and anyplace. ¬†And I don’t need to tell you how we punch above our weight, literally, in nearly all boxing divisions save for the heaviest ones. ¬†Reason? ¬†We are physically talented in those sports. ¬†Because we won’t stand a chance in many other events, we’d rather not compete.

It’s unfair, but I think that’s the reality. ¬†For a country with athleticism and physical intensity such as ours, have you ever wondered why we’ve never won a gold medal in the Olympics? ¬†It may be hare-brained for me to say so, but it’s probably because we have preconditioned ourselves into thinking we’ll never be world-class in sports where we traditionally don’t do well. ¬†So there’s no concerted effort to develop our grassroots sports in those areas. ¬†Kesa mapikon lang tayo at masaktan, huwag na lang.

One last anecdote. ¬†We Pinoys are pikon (sore losers), although we don’t openly admit it. ¬†(the Kiwis are the reverse; they are good losers but love their country too much to admit that other countries send better teams.) ¬†The only time we admit we are pikon is when first, our numbers are so strong the other side can’t be pikon and fight back; and when, while being pikon, we can still make fun of ourselves.

And for it’s for this reason that Barangay Ginebra, eternal inhabitants of the PBA arena, will always exist.

thanks for reading!