a little self-denial (& perspective) is (also) good for the Christmas soul

If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, YOU ARE RICHER THAN 75% OF THE WORLD.  If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change, YOU ARE AMONG THE TOP 8% OF THE WORLD’S WEALTHY.  If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, YOU ARE MORE BLESSED THAN THE MILLION PEOPLE WHO WILL NOT SURVIVE THIS WEEK.  If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or the horrible pangs of starvation, YOU ARE LUCKIER THAN 500 MILLION PEOPLE ALIVE AND SUFFERING.  If you can read this message, YOU ARE MORE FORTUNATE THAN 3 BILLION PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO CANNOT READ IT AT ALL.  – posters-for-good.tumblr.com

I should be one to talk.  I’m a world-class whiner, complainer, cringe at the slightest sign of bad weather, and scream at the minutest twinge of pain.  As well, I have the least right to preach, pontificate or presume to possess the smallest gem of worldly (or unworldly) wisdom for you Precious Reader.  I just spill my guts to you everytime I post on my humble blog hoping someone like me, trudging through life and trying to survive, is feeling the same way and doing the same things I’m doing, and therefore able to relate to little old me.

Saying as much, I’m sure you will agree that this is the one of only two occasions of the year (the other being New Year’s Eve) where it’s socially acceptable and perfectly alright to be engorged and inebriated (that’s bloated and drunk in everyday lingo) before the end of the day, where everyone eats until you’re queasy and clammy, and where drinking makes us do things we regret later.  But in the end, it’s Christmas!  And so it’s alright.

But for every munch and crunch of that lechon de leche or Swiss ham, recall the cigaret vendors whose altanghap of pandesal and instant noodles will have to carry them through the day.  For every swig of San Mig Light or Pale Pilsen, there will have countless multitudes who will be happy to have a bottle of Pepsi or Coke instead of the usual MWSS juice for a change.  For every Davidoff Cool Water, D&G or Bulgari fragrance you covet and acquire, there are probably a hundred barangays in Mindanao who won’t even have potable water to drink, much less water to take showers with.  For every thousand pesos of bonus money you say you deserved but didn’t get, there are a dozen families who won’t even have a picture of a noche buena to admire, much less to taste.

It’s alright to enjoy ourselves during the festive season, but it’s hard to be extravagantly happy when you know there are people just as deserving as you and me who simply don’t have the means or chance to celebrate.

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Then let’s not forget the people who, because of their vocation and profession, have to deny themselves the pleasure of the holidays and instead do their best to keep our Christmases safe and happy.

Policemen and security people, retailers and salespersons, and everyone else who needs to work the holiday shift.  We know and they know they can’t celebrate their Christmas the traditional time, so we can only do the next best thing, and give them their due and recognition.  And also by giving them the easiest time possible.

Enough of this.  Please give my best to the rest of your family this Christmas.  And thanks for reading!

when a kabayan attends a kiwi christmas “do”

from left : Matt is the southern North Island sales mgr who tries his darndest best so that our company isn't beat up by the competition all the time, to my left is Lakay, my first and only Pinoy colleague on site, behind us is Dallas, a sometime drummer but full time retail packer for the 1.5kg & 5kg product lines and soon-to-be dad. Maligayang Pasko sa lahat!

BROTHERS IN ARMS. to my right is Matt, the southern North Island sales mgr who tries his darndest best so that our company isn’t beat up by the competition all the time, to my left is Lakay, my first and only Pinoy colleague on site, behind us is Dallas, a sometime drummer but full time retail packer for the 1.5kg & 5kg product lines and soon-to-be dad. Maligayang Pasko sa lahat!

JUST thought you might wanna know how managers here in NZ organize Christmas parties, or as they say in New Zealand, “Christmas do’s.”  My memories of Christmas parties in years past back home in the Philippines aren’t that good anymore, but they were mostly about eating, raffles, dance numbers, more eating, drinking, and car pools going home where you could drink some more.

Owing to the current mentality  popular among New Zealanders to be more healthful in their activities (ball sports, hiking and all around aerobic exercise), and the fact that our site manager wanted to try something different this year, she drew up an “Amazing Race” type contest and divided us into five teams of five members each, partly to get the juices flowing before the bar crawl, and partly to generate some team building among the staff.

Each team was given clues in the form of riddles, given a car to use to search for things and challenges to pass; we had to score ten strikes or spares in a nearby alley, hit a rusty old car in a driving range, and score a complete round in a dart game.  After that, we needed to find the answers to questions about exhibits in the Te Papa museum in town.

It was surprisingly a bit of fun, I was lucky because since I couldn’t hit the back of a barn and was quite hopeless in golf and darts, my teammates were all quite adept in the said sports.  In fact, had our nearest competitor not overtaken us on the motorway after the last challenge, we would’ve won the overall title and Westfield vouchers for each team member.

Alas, it was not to be.  But I got to know my team.  To a man, each of my teammates was competitive and hated to lose, I could tell they were all upset by the close finish; we actually had a case to present for being the winners (the champion team didn’t stick to the spirit of the rules) but we would’ve looked like sore losers.  In the end, everyone was drunk and happy.

There’s no exaggerating about it, New Zealand is even more than the Philippines a drinking culture.  You can do what you want during the party, dance on tables and make a fool out of yourself, no one cares as long as there’s grog around.  We had our fill of alcohol, and though I’m not much of a drinker, like everyone else I got a buzz and looked silly as the drunkest guys.

Hope your Christmas party was as great as mine!

johnny jihad, you are not welcome in Australasia

screen grab of Australian channel 7 News

screen grab of Australian channel 7 News

SYDNEY  AUSTRALIA is only five hours away from Wellington where I live, probably four hours or less from Auckland where Fourth Brother and his family live.  So understandably, it is a big deal in New Zealand.  Witness the special news coverage in all the major TV channels here.

But there is a deeper, more sinister symbol behind the hostage crisis today.  Yes, there have been threats and actual incidents of terrorism from fundamentalists, Islam-oriented or otherwise.  But to my recollection this is the first actual situation where lives and well-being are held hostage in the so-called First World, for sure the first in Australasia which as far as I know is a bastion of democracy, pluralism and free speech.

It sounds dramatic, but a Pandora’s box has been opened.  If it can happen in Sydney, it can happen anywhere in Australia.  And therefore anywhere in the Western world.

Fundamentalist terrorism and extremism is at the gates of Main Street, the Free World.  We pray for peace and tolerance everywhere.

why Ms Anita Mansell is my favorite Kinoy*

Kabayan and QSM awardee Anita N Mansell walks in their shoes.

Kabayan and QSM awardee Anita N Mansell walks in their shoes.

[Note : As always, this post about this remarkable person is long overdue.  Thanks to Ms Didith Tayawa-Figuracion, Ms Meia Lopez, and of course Ms Anita Mansell for the allowing the reposting of this article and Mr Craig Phillips for graciously allowing use of the photo.  Please visit the latest issue of KABAYAN Magazine (where the original article was published), the only newsmagazine of the Wellington Filipino community, at http://www.pinoystop.org/kabayan/, advance Merry Christmas to everyone! ]

THIRTY-ONE YEARS ago, we can’t be 100% sure, but Anita Nadera arrived in Wellington New Zealand on a typically windy, overcast day.  The migrant in her conditioned her to prepare for anything and everything, and it would be her constant source of strength for years and years.  It helped her adjust to the vastly alien life of being a new New Zealander, but it also helped her to be strong for her brethren, other new migrants.

Thirty-one years later, on another typically windy, overcast Wellington day, Anita Mansell (she has been happily married since then) she looks back with much introspection on half a lifetime of service and volunteerism.

She refuses to choose highlights in her career as a volunteer, and we believe her because she doesn’t even want to be called such, only someone who has been there for others.  She wasn’t a pioneer with the Mabuhay Filipino Association, but she might as well have been.  She joined a year after the Society was conceived, and she has not stopped helping newcomers, refugees and migrants first get settled in (physically and figuratively), then finding out her wards’ particular area of difficulty in adjusting.  Whether it would be the language barrier, getting around or finding a job, Anita would be there, and she didn’t limit herself to helping kabayan only.  Southeast Asians, South Asians, Middle Easterns, it didn’t matter to Anita as long as you needed help.

She believes that better-adjusted migrants are better able to show their pride in their cultures, showing her Kiwi hosts our native performing arts could help them better understand us.  Anita became more involved in both the Wellington International Filipino Society and the Hutt Multicultural Council, where Anita served as vice-president.
Time flew by so quickly that before Anita and her crew realised it, they had helped and eased into New Zealand society scores and scores of migrant families via the simplest of formulae : because she was a former migrant herself, she knew how it was to walk in their shoes.
Almost as an afterthought when asked how she had spent so much time in these migrant aid groups, she said : helping people is my passion.
In 2011 no less than the New Zealand Government, represented by the Governor General himself, conferred on our kabayan Anita the Queen’s Service Medal in recognition of her sterling efforts serving both the Filipino and migrant communities the last three decades.
Only two other Filipinos have received this honor, but Anita says the award itself is but a confirmation of the work she has done since she arrived in New Zealand, as a volunteer where the opportunity to help others is its own reward.
Inspiring words from the Cebuana migrant who jumped into New Zealand on that fateful windy day in Wellington 31 years ago with stars in her eyes, and ended up dedicating her life to helping others.
*Kinoy, a contraction for Kiwi Pinoy, is a non-racial term for Filipinos who’ve either been born or have migrated to New Zealand