why Filomeno “Palo” Gagasa and family are my favorite Kinoys

Favourite Kinoy Palo Gagasa with his daughters Nymia (foreground) and Engr Ammiel (with glasses)  and wife Amy.

Favourite Kinoy Palo Gagasa with his daughters Nymia (foreground) and Engr Ammiel (with glasses) and wife Amy.

[ Note : Sorry for the long absence, thanks to Ms Didith Tayawa-Figuracion and Ms Meia Lopez for letting me repost this, please visit Kabayan Magazine Issue  7  at http://www.pinoystop.org/kabayan/ when you’ve time, kudos to all writers and contributors for the outstanding issue! ]

FROM THE Philippines, to the Middle East, and finally to Aotearoa, there is no stopping my favourite Kinoy Palo from reaching his goals.

Thirty years ago in Quezon, Palo loved nothing better than to play basketball all day and guzzle lambanog with his friends afterwards in Sariaya Quezon.  This of course didn’t sit well with his parents and elders, but Palo was also stubborn and loved the admiring glances of girls who happened to watch the interbarangay basketball league where he excelled.

His only other pastime was playing with the construction cranes that his contemporaries who were already working in construction firms allowed him if only to encourage him to do something else besides basketball and lambanog.

It turned out to be one of the few things that Palo did well, as he became a natural in handling telescopic cranes, hydraulic trucks and all-terrain loaders, piles, pulverizers and crushers that all required the same thing : dexterity in operating multi-levered systems of control, quick thinking and an instinct for safety while working under pressure.  Adding Pinoy abilidad to the mix, and Palo soon forgot about basketball and beer and found himself moving rapidly up the ranks of specialized crane operators.  He operated them like they were extensions of his hands, which before knew only lay-ups, rebounds and three-point shots.

He moved up so fast that before he knew it, he was already lifting massive billets, pillars and slabs of concrete for projects like the Metro Manila Skyway and the MRT-3 on EDSA, working for employers like Foundation Specialists in Makati City.  He was building a very specialized niche for himself, for very few people were doing the work he did, but he felt that he could be earning much more, notwithstanding the loyalty and gratitude he felt for his past employers who gave him a break.

The lure of money to raise his two growing daughters and give them the education that he never received as a child  proved to be too strong, and he distinguished himself by working in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the State of Qatar and the Emirate of Dubai, where the high point (literally) of his career was working in the 828-meter, 163-storey Burj Kalifa, which he helped build using state-of-the-art telescopic cranes and where it was impractical to go down, so he used to stay periods of 48 hours at a time on the very top, something he would never forget.

Such was the specialized nature of this job that he was headhunted by large construction firms all over, including one from New Zealand, which he unsurprisingly had never heard of before.  The offer of long-term employment and New Zealand’s potential as a world-class migrant destination was the tipping point in his decision to shift his paradigm and leave the Middle East for Aotearoa.

Palo did the natural thing and work his darnednest best in Wellington, at one time shuttling back and forth between Auckland and Welly as he was one of only a handful of drivers in all of Australasia  for a vehicle used in supporting “Big Blue”, a massive construction gantry that was instrumental in the Newmarket (Auckland) Viaduct Replacement Project.

Unlike many Pinoys in New Zealand, Palo was offered and received Permanent Resident status in record time, which he promptly used to pass on PR status to his wife Amy and daughters Amiel and Nymia, who recently arrived in Wellington to join their husband and father.

So, from happy-go-lucky basketball player, to hardworking stoic OFW to newly minted migrant, Palo has now come full circle.  Having found time to bond with family without being away from them, he now has time to get fit again, hopefully via the sport he has loved since childhood.  Mabuhay ka kabayang Palo!


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