birthday thoughts for bunso

always looking to the future.  happy birthday pogi!

always looking to the future. happy birthday pogi!

ON MY 30th year on this earth, a young boy came into my life.    Among all the pictures of him that exist in early childhood, there are around one or two that show him crying, but otherwise all the rest, scores and scores, show him flashing his famous brilliant smile, radiating warmth and charm three hundred sixty degrees around, and twenty-four seven. Yes, From the very start, there was something special about him.

He’s always had the easiest time with words and phrases, better than average with graphs and figures, and creative as anyone with a brush, mouse or pen.  Early on, he showed a remarkable ease being with children and adults much older than him, but was likewise able to bond with children his age and much younger.  His gift was in expressing himself, in understanding the world around him, and as a logical consequence, in relating to all sorts of people.  Almost everytime, he would leave you feeling that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, anything he set his mind to, and he had the rest of his young life to do it.  Such was this young boy as I saw him.

It is as I continue to see him, despite all the challenges and obstacles that he has run into, perhaps because of all these same challenges and obstacles.  The past year has seen milestone after milestone that he has declared for himself : first job, first term in an NZ university, first participation in a uni varsity team, first stint as a class representative, and so on and so forth.  That he has produced above average academic results while doing all those firsts shows that he is thriving in the whirlwind, and that he is a natural under pressure.  From babyhood till today, the eve of his 19th birthday, he continues to amaze his awestruck father.

These small tributes are of course natural from an admiring parent, so I temper it with a token enumeration of his adolescent faults : he burns both ends of the candle, he is an unabashed admirer of looks and cleverness in people, usually his own, and unsurprisingly suffers from intervals of overconfidence.  But look at yourself in the mirror Noel, and pay yourself a hundred  pesos for every fault of his that you didn’t have at his age.  That’s right, better start looking for those pesos elsewhere.

The day he came into my life will be exactly 19 years ago tomorrow, but he still gives me the same gift, besides the honor of being a proud father.  And that gift is the ever brightening hope of a kinder, smarter and gentler generation that comes after mine.

From Papa and all the rest of us, happy birthday Bunso, and thank you for being in my life.  As always, you make me proud.

“sorry i’m late” no more!

thanks and acknowledgment to!

thanks and acknowledgment to!

[ Note :  With permission to repost from publisher Didith Tayawa-Figuracion and editor Meia Lopez of  Kabayan newsmagazine, for and of the members of Wellington Filipino community.   Thanks again Didith and Meia, and sorry for not participating in the presswork! This blog also appears in issue no. 6, now out in Catholic parishes and Pinoy stores throughout Wellington.  Please catch other magnificent Kiwi-Pinoy human interest stories by clicking on this link, mabuhay po tayong lahat! ]


I HAVE been lucky enough to be invited four times to functions at either the Philippine Embassy in Wellington or at Ang Bahay, the official residence of the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand.  These were four different events, with different kabayan in attendance, and diverse weather conditions and number of people attending.


The singular common denominator at the four shindigs?  Each event started on the dot, regardless of how many among the invited had arrived, with the Ambassador herself among the earliest attendees.  No Filipino Time observed here, obviously.
Parallel to their Government’s efforts, OFWs are doing their darnedest best to be exemplars not only of efficiency, honesty and cheer, but are also becoming quite reliable in punctuality, which as you know Filipinos are not always famous for.
According to research done by (many thanks for the data!), Filipino time finds its origins in the colonial tradition requiring indios to attend parties only after all the Spanish masters and lords had been seated.  Accommodating or even feeding Pinoy guests was definitely not a priority, and over the next few decades this set-up solidified into the institution known as Filipino time.  In so many words, to be late was to be fashionable.
But the modern milieu abhors a vacuum, particularly where it is caused by waiting for someone who should be there, no matter how important that someone may be.  Life nowadays is divided into slices of neatly scheduled hours, minutes and seconds, all spent doing worthwhile endeavors.  Wilfully breaching these schedules shows a general disrespect for the time of everyone else, while believing that one is not bound by rules of courtesy followed by all others.
How many times have we heard overseas guests arrive at the appointed time in our beloved homeland, only to be made waiting for 10, 15 and upwards of 30 minutes by  our kabayan, who act like as if being late was the most natural thing in the world?  Or how events are held up by an embarrassing amount of time because of the guest of honor was fashionably late?
Ask a random number of expats or dayuhan married to Pinay wives and a strong majority will give you at least one anecdote concerning Filipino time.  When everyone else scorns the appointed time on the invitation, almost like the latter is an RSVP if you will be inexplicably early, you can expect almost no one to be there on time.  Pinoys are early in discount sales, opening day premieres and A-list concerts, but not to parties.  Sadly, if you want peple to attend your affair at a certain time, it is practical to schedule it an hour earlier.  Only in the Philippines.
But there might still be hope for us.  Remember all those events I mentioned at the Embassy ?  Because each started on time, each also ended promptly, with enough space for all of us to catch the late-edition news.  Filipino time won’t last forever, as long as we keep fighting.  Sugod, mga kapatid!

my personal workplace WOF (warrant of fitness)

IT SOUNDS like a  faddish health ad or vitamin promo, but due to a lotto-like combination of factors, your loyal kabayan  blogger is now in better health than twenty years ago.  Tobacco cessation, cleaner air as well as less polluted surroundings, and last but not the least, manual labor and exercise provided by the physical nature of my job are just three of these amazing factors.

I didn’t ask for and certainly wasn’t expecting these planets to align to make my life what it is now, but all things considered, I am as lucky as I could possibly be.

Just to show you the unlikeliness that made these factors in themselves : if not for the very successful “sin tax” levied on New Zealand’s cigarets, I would probably not have quit in 2007 and still be smoking today.  Instead I’ve been smoke free the last 7 years and have been reaping the consequent health benefits.  The cleaner air pristine waters and stringent anti-pollution laws of my adopted land have made it possible for me to enjoy the purest of environments available in the 1st world of the 21st century.

And before I got the gig involving physical exertion, I had never seen myself as a physically gifted person, with less-than-average grades in physicality and human endurance and outstandingly mediocre in the sports department, although I’m a champion spectator. 🙂  However, the need to work, the fact that trabahador jobs aren’t that alluring, and the stability of those same types of jobs, brought me to my job and not only have I survived, I’ve also gotten a little wirier, and a little stronger.

This is why I’ve faced the yearly physicals conducted by our company with as much confidence as anticipation, because my new-found longevity and resilience is constantly measured and hopefully affirmed.  The physicals aren’t comprehensive, they’re not the complete top-to-bottom checkup that measures everything in your body.  Pared down to essentials, we’re subjected to a lung function test, a hearing proficiency test, and basic blood pressure.

Lung function.  Lungs are like the combustion chamber of the body, where oxygen is brought and energizes our blood for useful movements like transportation, thought and physical activity for our livelihood.  It’s quite commonsensical for us to connect our respiratory efficiency with workplace effectiveness, but then again, we usually take things for granted.  Knowing this, our employer needs to at least assure itself that our lungs are in good order, for us to perform our everyday tasks and duties.

[ Also, because of the relatively high dust content in some parts of our workplace and the fact that I’m a former smoker, I guess I should  be a little more curious than the next guy about how I’ll fare in lung function, right? ]

The first three-quarters of the strong exhalation I provide for the lung function test fills up about 2 liters of air, and the remaining quarter, less than a liter.  In absolute terms, this is on the low end, but when you consider that I’m a small-framed Asian in his late 40s it’s actually quite acceptable.  Or so the industrial nurse tells me, probably to mollify my ego.  As long as my breathing isn’t labored, as long as I feel comfortable doing my everyday chores and I take a breather (pun intended) every now and then I should be alright.  The clincher is that my lung function results are almost identical with last year’s, and I could do worse, right?

Hearing tests.  The hearing tests are a bit trickier.  Normal human hearing ranges from anywhere between 35 to 95 decibels, depending on our hearing tolerance and the protection we wear.  Anything above the range is no longer acceptable for our ears, and becomes an occupational hazard.  Your hearing wear and tear is tested by determining how much of the sound you need to hear on the high and low ends of the audio range.

Again, my hearing results were almost unchanged from last year’s, and the only concern was I needed a little more help discerning the lowest pitched sounds, probably a sign of normal ageing (yikes!)  The nurse assured me that this was expected of people approaching middle age 😥 just that I needed to be more prudent in exposing myself to very loud sounds, and that my workplace earmuffs required changing periodically.

Blood pressure. Finally, the blood pressure.  I had just finished morning tea and came from physical activity, so it could’ve been a bit lower, but it was still within the healthy range : 124/72.  The nurse congratulated me on keeping fit, watching my diet, and watching for signs that would lead me astray from the health norms for men in middle age. I wondered if this was the standard script she gave her patients, but she was looking at my health records and interviews from the last five years and comparing them with my present numbers.  On balance, I had been a good steward of the body God gave me, and she was happy to tell me I was on the right track.

Of course, the usual lifestyle diseases and family history could strike me dead tomorrow (knock knock), but all things being equal, I’m as healthy as I can be right now.  Or at least, until the next physical.  It’s a pass for now, Noel, mabuhay ka!

Thanks everyone for reading!