dodgy & pasaway answers to my men’s health questionnaire

thanks to for the pic!

thanks to for the pic!

MALE HEALTH AND FITNESS no longer remains the exclusive domain of health junkies, especially in our male-dominated workplace.

Just last week, Ma’a Nonu (an alias) was suspended for overexerting himself (is there such a word?), after being given specific instructions to stay on light duties in the light of his various ailments, mostly heart-related.  I don’t know for how long he’ll be gone, but it doesn’t look good for him.  Looking at the big picture, keeping him healthy and alive took precedence over any job issues that  might have been hanging in the balance.  It was a wake-up call for all of us, because New Zealanders are no different from Pinoys when it comes to health issues : we choose to ignore any potential problems until it becomes a gigantic elephant in the room, overpowering us and becoming a life-or death issue.

Just to make it an easier topic to discuss in the lunchroom, the office signed up for a male health awareness program half-jestingly called “Man Maintenance”, which focused on the health problems men were likely to suffer towards middle age and were likely to ignore until it was too late.  “GUYS, CHECK YOUR TOOLKIT” exhorts the flyer, which unfortunately I gave a second look in the lunchroom only because the black and blue color reminded me of a Domino’s Pizza discount coupon.  On the backside of the exhortation, which obviously compares our health and various bodily systems to the tools that help us go through life, was a short questionnaire, any of which if answerable by “yes” was a red flag that screamed at us to book a medical appointment super-ASAP.  Below are the questions, and my dodgy answers :

Are you aged 50 years or over?  Hmmm…  Next question please.  🙂  Seriously the question seeks to establish my age range, which predisposes me to certain health conditions like hypertension, diabetes and certain cancers.  To be perfectly honest with you, before telling you my tender age, I’ve never subscribed to the belief that you’re only as old as you feel.  Age is a measurement, and it’s there for a reason.  How well you’ve taken care yourself by the time you reach a certain number of years determines how well you’ll live the rest of your life, for better or worse.  I’ll be half a century in a few months, but whether I’ve outlasted my use-by date, remains to be seen, hopefully in the next few questions.

Are you a smoker?  This is a tricky one, in establishing whether or not the question is a good indicator of my personal health.  No I don’t smoke, but I had been a pack-plus ciggy puffer (not the naughty type) for 24 years until I quit for good in 2007.  My fitness improved dramatically since then, in almost every aspect, but who knows if I’ve already picked up lifestyle diseases because of the quarter century of smoking?  A word to the wise in this area :  Better than quitting is not starting at all, and if you’ve quit, don’t start again.

Do you exercise on average less than 30 minutes most days?  Bar none, this is the one question I can answer unequivocally in the positive.  The physical activity in my work alone (I work in a four-storey factory with no elevators) requires me to go 100kph, most of the 8-hour shift and I stay standing or walking throughout unless I’m on a tea break or lunch break.  I also bike to and from work (unless it’s raining or I’m on night shift) around 30 minutes each way, so it’s pretty much a brisk 6-hour walk for me five days a week, 48 weeks a year less statutory holidays.  I appreciate the gift, but could I just cash that gym membership for a Wendy’s value card?

Do you have more than 3 alcoholic drinks a day?  Waiving my constitutional right against self-incrimination, I enjoy a brown bottle every now and then.  Recently though, I made an important, work-related discovery about alcohol.  If you can’t get to sleep after afternoon shift or night shift, and have to catch some zzz’s for the next day, a drink or two of the nasty will give you an instant visa to Dreamland faster than any tranquilizer can.  I try not to enjoy it too much, because inevitably I start to depend on it, either that or no more night shifts for me.  Otherwise, I’m blessed that drinking has never been a problem for me, so that all the alcohol-related ailments that follow a lifetime of drinking is something I won’t worry about in old age.

Are you overweight?  Here’s another tricky one, and I’m not trying to flatter myself by saying I’m not sure if I’m overweight (or not), but even though I’ve always been a bit over my fighting weight of 65 kilos most of my life, it’s never been too much of a problem, I’ve more or less been able to keep fit and spry, never mind the love handles and pilyegis on the side.  But for every pound of fat that you keep attached to your torso after 50, you incur a corresponding number of percentage points regarding the likelihood of you dying by cardiovascular disease.  Mahirap talaga kapag di ka magbawas ng timbang, and there is no other way except via diet and exercise.  I don’t want to say that I’m losing the war against fat and more fat, but at my age it’s a daily struggle.

There, the first five questions asked and answered.  Tell me if you want to hear about the next five questions, they’re just as compelling.  But of course, that’s just me.  Thanks for reading, and here’s to aging well and gracefully!


lost in translation [pause] found in translation

[ Thank you mpytacct for the video! ]

MOST LIKELY it will be fodder for another blog, but the learning curve has been steep the last few weeks for Lakay and me.  Lakay (with a capital L) I forgot is the newest character in my blog universe, referring to my brand-new workmate who happens to be as Filipino as I am (SuperBisor sez I am mocchacino, while Lakay is cappucino), and is learning how to do the job I’m doing, who better to be his training buddy than Your Loyal Blogger?

So we showed him the skillz, the way to do things, tips and tricks and above all, the nearly-human machinery that we had come to know and love so well.  Never forgetting the personal element essential in all work environments, I also told him a little about most of the people we would be working with, actually most of the people he would be working with, since work would be mostly a two-man shift, and he would not be enjoying my Pinoy company for long.

Not the least of my discussions focused on the Kiwi accent, the spicy vocabulary that peppered the effectively all-male milieu, the sometimes raunchy humor therein, and the diverse personalities that promised to make Lakay’s first adventure in blue-collar New Zealand an exciting one.

***            ***         ***

I admit that it was a weak spot in my training performance when I told Lakay about Genghis, who I must’ve told you about in a previous blog.  Genghis is not the easiest person to like, but he is probably a model worker who has excellent work ethic and attitude.  Literally he is there not to make friends in the workplace, but if you ask him directly and sincerely, he will give you a hand in your time of need.

Apart from his stoic and workmanlike demeanor (and I’m not exaggerating), he has a quaint Eastern European accent that makes him a moving target for impressionists and jokers like me.  I never imitate his way of speaking in front of him, but I admit that I get a lot of laughs when I do so.  Imagine the Count in Sesame Street, complete with the ah-ah-ah chuckle, and you probably will get an idea of what I mean:


As it turned out, my description of Genghis as a curt, unsociable and indifferent co-worker fell short of telling Lakay what was essential : that people like Genghis (who are congenitally incapable of normal human interaction) have little or no inclination for small talk and for them, everything is about work, work and work.  Nothing personal, but  it’s always about one-upmanship when it comes to work product, work output and academic credentials.

I didn’t expect Lakay to get exposed to Genghis’s charms so soon, but on only the second night of their shift together, it happened.  Not even waiting for Lakay to introduce himself in the Quality Assurance lab, Genghis started posturing and asked him : What are your educational qualifications?  What was the nature of your last work environment?

To his everlasting credit, Lakay didn’t flinch, and answered in his best Ilokano accent : I hold a Batselor’s degree in Industrial Engineering, prom di Saint Louis University in Baguio City.  He even braced himself mentally just in case Genghis challenged him to solve differential calculus problems.  Fortunately, Genghis seemed satisfied with his answers.

Later the next day, SuperBisor tried to explain the incident as best he could, but the questions in Lakay’s mind remained unanswered : Was it just Genghis’s way of acquaintng himself with a new colleague?  Was there any malice or intent to intimidate?  I couldn’t answer these questions since I myself was clearly ticked off with Genghis.  So I couldn’t blame Lakay for his dark mood.

***   ***  ***

The next night it was my turn to be paranoid.  I was asked to do a test for a special product the factory was turning out as there was no quality officer after regular office hours.  I had done the test before, but it had been a while.  The test was very involving, required more than a dozen steps, each of which had to be done quickly and efficiently if an accurate result was expected.  I was therefore a bit apprehensive while waiting for the sample and wasn’t expecting Genghis, who matter-of-factly asked if I needed help.

In a matter of minutes, he took me through the entire process, explained each step clearly and pleasantly, and waved away my offer to do the test, explaining that I could do it next time.  He also dismissed my perfunctory offer to clean up tubes and bottles after the test, and left me both grateful and impressed, something  that hardly ever happens with any interaction with Genghis.

Lastly but not leastly, he left me with a cryptic last word : It is part of my job to teach you whatever I know, but if you want to do it your way (and come up with the same results), it is up to you.  I am just here to get the ball rolling.

It was the closest thing to a friendly personal statement from him, but later on, after a bit of analysis, I realized what he meant to say :  I am here to help you, and you only need to ask. 

Needless to say, after the shift I told Lakay what happened, I had to because (1) it was quite unexpected, and (2) there was nobody else around.  It’s fair to say that Lakay still feels a little out of sorts, but the vignette made him feel a little better.

Between cultures and languages, something inevitably gets lost in translation, and you know you’re Pinoy when you take the extra effort to find whatever it is that gets lost, and return it to the sender with a smile.

Thanks for reading!


twin visits from the exam fairy in 72 hrs


[ Thank you very much and acknowledgment to Ms Eva Kaprinay for the use of your magnificent picture in our blog site! ]

TO BE as frank as the Senator who loves her pick-up lines, exam preparation is in universal terms a crap shoot, or throw of the dice.  You can go through the widest gamut of studying for your big test, including cover-to-cover readings of the course material, do all the exercises and drills after every chapter, and compile comprehensive reviewers that leave no stone unturned in culling all possible exam questions. . .

and STILL come up short on exam day, via a combination of entirely new exam questions, an examiner who’s been in the worst mood of his/her life, or just a mental block that prevented you from answering questions sensibly for two hours.

OR, you could cram and crib barely a few days before the big day, hardly cover the course content, and arrive harrassed and sleep-deprived, not even recognize the topic of half the exam questions, and still manage to scrape by the passing mark, and making the grade by half a whisker.  You produce the same result as someone who’d been diligently studying for the last six months.  Unfair, but passing or failing might be determined by as little as sleeping (or not sleeping) an extra hour, or grabbing an exam question from a previous exam.

For my recent guild exams, I was somewhere in between.  I started reading up on the text as early as a few months ago, but leveled off a month before the exam and held off absorbing the material until it was almost too late, with procrastination and laziness a potent cocktail to dull my post-shift inertia.

The last 10 days before the test, I was reminded of very good reasons to at least pass the exam.  Gaining another credit towards certification would help me in my permanent residency application.  Because someone else had started the next step of training ahead of me, I was no longer considered a training priority and further (subsidized) exams were no longer assured, meaning if I had plans to take the last module after this one, I had to pay the hefty exam fee.  And lastly, passing would mean another 50 cents to my hourly wage rate.

So I had all the good reasons to make good on the test, and I used the few remaining days to, like I said, cram and crib, using all the memory aids, tricks and gingko biloba available.  Plus, a kabayan brother-in-arms in Auckland told me where to look up sample exams in previous years.

[Don’t forget the three C’s of exams : cramming, cribbing, and coffee. ]

Remember what I said about late-minute heroics, a good night’s sleep, and the right questions ending up on your exam paper?   Yup, an alignment of all these planets produced an astounding result for me: an extra-high mark that went a long way in making me look good with work, my peers and of course, my boss.  A little extra effort indeed, goes a long, long way.

***     ***     ***

Towards getting ready for her full (no restrictions) driving license exam, Mahal’s plan was simple: by not telling me she was taking it a second time, she would be saving herself the stress of hearing me ask about it, and the trauma of having to tell me if she failed.

Great plan, except that in retrospect, if she had failed, she would’ve cried her eyes out, giving the result away.

Happily, as you obviously must have surmised, she didn’t, getting it a second time.  The irony was that she was battle-ready for the first time, engaging the services of a tutor, practicing a dozen hours exclusively on her weak areas, and getting a good night’s rest.  Not all of these preparations gave her a successful result.

Diagnoses : she didn’t make a full stop on an intersection, didn’t point out all the driving hazards, and could’ve shown more care on her turns.

This time, because she kept her re-take under wraps, she had no opportunity for another tutorial session, and almost forgot that she had the test scheduled until  the day before.

Miraculously, everything fell into place, the examiner asked her all the right questions, she showed the right technique, and got her full license the same day.

The best part was, we got our results within 2 days of each other.  Thank you God, and thank you exam fairy!