extending mary jane veloso’s Day of Miracles to other kabayan on Death Row

Taken only a few days before her execution, Mary Jane is inexplicably all smiles.  Perhaps she had the foreknowledge that God and her kabayan would not abandon her.   Thank you Indonesia!

Taken only a few days before her execution, Mary Jane is inexplicably all smiles. Perhaps she had the foreknowledge that God and her kabayan would not abandon her. Thank you Indonesia!

[ Note : sorry for the typo and errors, I was so excited to post this.  The first miracle was that the person who tricked Mary Jane into becoming a drug mule surfaced, and the second miracle was that the Indonesian Government listened.  Hopefully other miracles will follow.  Today is a great day! ]

TO BLOG is essentially a self-centered enterprise.  No matter how much you want to help your fellow man, do the right thing, etc., you want to do it on your own terms and via the things you love doing, not the least of which is blogging!  But that’s alright, that’s the way the world works, you have to get at least something out of doing your thing, even if it’s the thrill of being read by at least one other person.

I blog about a motley group of things, mainly about my own life, and how I cope as a middle-aged Overseas Filipino Worker, that’s OFW.  But every now and then I concede that there are things bigger than me, more important than me, and things that will outlast most of us long after we’re gone.

One of those things is the universal respect for human life.  I don’t want to go into platitudes, motherhood statements that you already have heard enough of.  I just want to say that no matter what the crime is, no matter what you’ve done, the punishment should fit the deed.  And no crime deserves the punishment of taking away life.

You may or may not have your exceptions, I respect that.  And obviously the Indonesian people, represented by its government and laws, has seen it fit that self-preservation (of the state) warrants any and all forms of deterrence, the most powerful of which is the Death Penalty, in caps.

One of our very own, until a few ours ago, was to have received that harshest of punishments, along with eight other unfortunate individuals from Australia, Brazil, France and another country or two.  Out of those nine, no one received a last minute stay of execution, a reprieve, pardon, or any other act that would stop the legal murder of those unfortunate enough to have been convicted of a capital crime.

Except one.

Except our Mary Jane Veloso, who until a few hours before her execution was condemned to die by firing squad for the improbable commission of drug trafficking, considering her circumstances in life, her previous criminal record, and the simple unlikeliness of her being able to do what she was accused of doing.

The media reports will better explain the minor miracle of her survival, but for now suffice it to say that the person who actually caused the circumstances for her to land in her sticky situation has surfaced, and contrary to all expectations, the Indonesian Government has relented.  The day has been saved, and our kabayan lives!

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As of this date, around 800 Filipinos worldwide are currently being prosecuted, have been convicted or are awaiting sentences to be carried out, for capital crimes.  This is an outrage, and the only ones who are in a position to do something about it is the Philippine Government, and of course, the various governments of the countries where Filipinos are being prosecuted.  Our kabayan (countrymen) may or may not have committed the crimes charged, but most certainly they don’t deserve the supreme punishment.

By agitating our Government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and various Embassies, let’s extend our kabayan Mary Jane Veloso’s Day of Miracles to all our other kabayan.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat!

working with kabsat & learning about ourselves

I've used this pic before. Can you guess who our kabayan is here? He's the bespectacled guy to my left.  thanks for everything Kabsat!

I’ve used this pic before. Can you guess who our kabayan is here? He’s the bespectacled guy to my left. thanks for everything Kabsat!

[Note : Miracles still happen!  Let’s do all we can and agitate our national officials not to let up in appealing for clemency or mercy for kabayan Mary Jane Veloso, who is now on Indonesia’s death row for a crime she may not have committed. ]

TRUE to some of our kabayan’s regionalistic nature, my first and only Filipino colleague at work was equally as proud of his hometown (and home province) as he was/is of his country, because he introduced himself to our supervisor as such.  Having known this beforehand, I naughtily prepared my greeting to him as he entered the work area for the first time late last year.

Naimbag nga bigat, I shouted over the din of conveyors and machinery.

Even with all those ambient decibels drowning everything out, I could hear his wide-eyed response.

Ilokano ka rin????

I smiled and nodded to the negative, but it was enough of a friendly greeting to him.

Thus was how I met and encountered for the first time my Filipino / Ilokano workmate, who I’ll just call Kabsat (brother) because I think the nickname has rather grown on him.

I had no idea of how his final interview with the site manager went, but with his engineering degree, work experience and engaging manner, it was more than enough for him to get hired.  I don’t know if the fact that there was already a Filipino on site (me) helped, or maybe it didn’t.   Unsurprisingly it was up to little old me to familiarize him and show him the ropes, as we would be doing the same work throughout all our shifts.


The first odd thing that I noticed about Kabsat was that everytime I told him how something ran and how to change the setting of the latter, he would not say anything immediately, as a response or to tell me that he understood.  Instead, he would look at the machine, give it the once-over and see how the flow (of product) in and out of such machine took place. Only then would he register to me his reactions, on how well he understood me (or not).

Later he told me he was trying to assess the relationship of each machine to the rest of the system, something I hadn’t thought of doing till then.  He said that part of his training was to study each machine in relation to the whole. as it made for easier understanding of the whole process.

I just nodded, but inside I was already scratching my head.  This guy is different from you and me, I shouted mentally to no one.

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Next thing I noticed was that Kabsat always paid attention to the systems in place, instead of wondering how things worked.  He realized not long after his orientation in our workplace, that because of unsynchronized projects that were started by different managers in previous years, there was both a mechanical and pneumatic system in place to transport product throughout the site.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that with his training and aptitude, Kabsat would soon overtake me in skills and knowledge about work, and I was honest enough to tell him this.

Ever the modest Ilokano, he denied it, telling me instead that his academic background and experience in the manufacturing industry made it easy for him to be comfortable in our milieu.  That, and his stories about his life in Baguio (St Louis University), a site manager in a Samsung contractor in the Cavite Export Processing Zone and his recent migrant adventures made us fast friends at work.

And even if all the above hadn’t happened, we would still have gotten along, because indeed, he has been my first and only kabayan in my job.  Hardworking, easy to get along with, humble, and most of all, efficient, Kabsat has not only proven worthy of his job, he has made me and future Filipinos in our workplace look good.  I could not ask for anything more.

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Perhaps you’re wondering Precious Reader why, after all this time, I’ve only told you about Kabsat now and not sooner.

I’ll tell you why.  Notwithstanding the ease with which Kabsat learned how to do our job, he was not gonna stay long with me.  He had too much experience, too many skills and managed people too well to just stay in the rank and file of a company, no matter how good that company was.

That, and the fact that his wife was the principal applicant for permanent residency, meant that I wasn’t gonna have a kabayan at work for long.  His wife, a specialist nurse, was headed for Auckland, and of course that’s where he was headed too.  I was happy for them, and I was happy we shared some good times at work.

For a while I was getting used to having a kabayan at work, but it was not meant to be.  I just to content myself with knowing that once upon a time, there was a slice of Manila in working-class Wellington.

Agyamanak for everything kabsat, and Agpakadaakon!

new city, new job, new life : happy birthday Panganay !

Panganay with a fellow Hobbit extra : kabayan Manny P would surely be proud.  Happy 27th birthday!

Panganay with a fellow Hobbit extra : kabayan Manny P would surely be proud. Happy 27th birthday!

WHILE it may or may not be true that children are first to reap the harvest of their parents’ success, children are certainly the first to bear the fruits of the former’s failure.  By being (literally or figuratively) closest to the point of impact, by being most closely identified with the glory or notoriety of the family name, and by being so dependent on the parents’ and family’s fortunes, children are in every sense helpless babes hostage to whatever ill-wind befalls the father, or in some cases the mother.

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In this regard, son Panganay among my brood (of Panganay, Ganda and Bunso) has borne the brunt of all my failures and shortcomings in my parenthood experiment.  He was there to endure my immaturities, my plans-gone-awry, my aborted careers, and the many times I came up short as a provider and nurturer.  Time and learning from my initial mistakes have helped soften the blow for his brother and sister, but if hunger and adversity were effective teachers, then Panganay would surely have been a masteral degree holder in the school of Life’s Realities by now.  No thanks to me.

Instead of being bitter and resentful toward me, he has instead built upon the barren earth of his youth and has turned it into arable, vibrant loam of a rewarding career.  True he has his own shortcomings and immaturities as a twentysomething, but these pale in comparison to how he has grasped being a citizen of the post-modern, interconnected and sensory-overloaded New World.  Along the way he has forgiven me for not being an ideal parent, and I am grateful for that.

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The last time I saw Panganay was some months back just before he left Wellington for a new life in Auckland, the premier city of New Zealand.  The reboot was both symbolic and actual for him.  New job, new city, new flat (of course), new everything for him, and of course he would be picking up new friends, new dancing, groups and partners (Latin American dancing is his passion).  Only the few memories he has of  Marikina, Paco, Cainta, and of course, Wellington, will remain.  Everything else will be sacrificed on the altar of Embracing The Future.

He is well-equipped to handle all of these, for after all, he is a child of the Twenty-first Century, and champion of the Brave New World.  I am just proud to have supplied my half of his DNA.  Today is the first day of the rest of his life.

Happy birthday Panganay !  Love you and miss you!

today (and everyday) is International call-your-folks-from-out-of-the-blue Day, TY to 5th Bro

a recent pic of my folks with 2nd Brother.  as you can see, they've been taking care of themselves.  miss you all! thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook Collection of Ms Dely Imperial!

a recent pic of my folks with 2nd Brother. as you can see, they’ve been taking care of themselves. love and miss you all! thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook Collection of Ms Dely Imperial!

[Note :  Thanks to brother Jude for reminding us that “wala lang” (or nope, no reason at all) is as perfectly good a reason as any to call your parents, especially from across the miles. Please visit www.judebautista.wordpress.com when you’ve time Precious Reader! ]

VERY POLITELY, 5th Bro reminded us to call the olds more often.  (By the way, in the traditional Chinese-Pinoy style 5th bro is not my fifth brother, but is “the fifth brother” in a brood of five.)  He gently recounted that sometime during the Papal visit earlier this year, Dad suffered from a nasty bout of flu and related ailments, which he recovered from soon enough, but which gave them enough concern to review Dad’s physical activities short- and long-term.

During the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight early next month, they will all be together, the bros, folks and everyone else, and would a Messenger or Skype video call be possible Fifth Brother adds?  Guiltily I message back, telling him I’ll do all I can to assemble the rellys NZ-side (me, the anakis and the odd boyfriend / girlfriend of the latter).

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But almost immediately I want to call home, which I haven’t done since I completed paying my utang to Mom.

[ Let me give you a thumbnail sketch of Dad : he’s always been fit and healthy, especially since quitting tobacco around four decades ago.  Until around 10 years ago he ran 10k’s and fun runs, and strolls nearly everyday.  He’s begun to slow down a bit, but is still up and about and is as frisky as any 83-year-old shouldn’t be. ]

I took the cue and between the evening news and NCIS, quickly rang Mom.

“Advance Happy Mom’s day Mom, Noel here! (my voice is similar to all my other bros’, so identifying myself is helpful)”

“And an advance happy 50th  birthday to you!” she says, and we both laugh at that.

dumadami na’ng 50-plus sa mga anak nyo Mom I joke, and she replies with something like it’s quality not quantity that determines how old we are, how true.

I quickly hop around to the issue, asking about Dad, and as always Mom minimizes the negatives.

Oo nagkasakit sya pero very minor lang, at kilala mo naman Dad nyo, always active and about, Mom sez.  She adds that Dad exercises enough for both of them, a comment which makes me think twice, because Mom herself needs to move about too.

But is he well enough to wander around alone, I venture?

I could almost see Mom roll her eyeballs at my naivete, hearing her say as soon as I reach my pwesto (selling sweet ham in multiple locations Metro-wide) he’s gone doing who-knows-what.

I know that in his advanced age, Dad is still distracted by tight jeans and mini skirts, so I know what who-knows-what is.  That is enough to convince me Dad is still healthy and doing well.

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As a bonus, Dad isn’t eating, watching TV or napping, things that he can’t be bothered getting away from.  So I can actually get an audience with him.

HI DAD! I almost shout into the phone.

You don’t need to shout, I’m not hard of hearing, Dad says.  I remind myself that it’s the few seconds audio delay and not the difficulty in hearing that’s the issue with overseas calls.

We talk about my running, which Dad sez he’d like to take up again (wag na lang Dad) and wife Mahal’s cooking, which Dad sez is unfair on two counts : that he can’t taste it (hopefully on a visit home Dad) and that I should be doing some cooking to help Mahal (tasting na lang ang sa akin Dad).

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Out of the blue I turn senti and remind Dad of a place in Ongpin (in the heart of Manila’s Chinatown) and a resto manager who became his friend.  On Sundays in the 1970s, when I was Dad’s faithful and adoring squire, he would bring me to eat there and meet the friend.

It’s Dad’s turn to be semi-solemn : Tony’s Kitchen is closed now, he tells us.  And Yu Pak his friend (whose name actually sounds like dyslexic cursing, God rest his soul) passed away long time ago.  No more bihon guisado, and no more discounts on asado and roast duck.  But life is still good, he hastens to add.

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Before the call starts to cost too much, Dad sez he still has one more nugget of wisdom to impart, and I listen closely :

You have a lovely young wife who is devoted to you, he reminds me (no need to actually).  Your kids are all grown up and doing rather well, he observes (again, I’m grateful to be able to see that).  And you are healthy, Third Son (cross my gouty fingers).  Don’t forget to take a step back, be grateful, and ENJOY YOURSELF.  

I already am Dad.

Thanks for reading!

the agony of healthy eating vs the ecstasy of giving in to forbidden treats everyday

I guess you know where most balikbayans go as soon as their plane lands in Manila right?  Thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to imgbuddy.com!

…In my dream last night, I had the pick of four eating places, and because I got to do whatever I want, I went to all four! Guess you know where most balikbayans go as soon as their plane lands in Manila right? Thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to imgbuddy.com!

[ Note : When you pause to think about it, the one universal constant pleasure in life isn’t sex, fame, beauty or wealth.  It’s eating, and eating for pleasure.  Why I just had that thought, I don’t know.  Thanks for reading! ]

TO the worksite, I almost always bring a packed lunch, courtesy of Mahal (but you knew that already right?).  Usually it’s rice and a meat/vegetable dish, sometimes spring rolls or noodles, but always sauteed with trim meat, olive oil (when we can afford it) and as little salt as possible.

Doing kitchen miracles daily, esposa hermosa manages to combine healthy eating and yummy munching, and I usually finish whatever she gives me.

What she doesn’t know is that I also manage to undo all her efforts especially on days I get home earlier than she.

a business desk : all serious business on top, and the real, more important stuff in the drawers below. :) Problem is, it's too easy to find. :(

a business desk : all serious business on top, and the real, more important stuff in the drawers below. 🙂 Problem is, it’s too easy to find. 😦 thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to hello-anna-and-mo.com!

I eat all the chichirya (my favorites : Bluebird green onion and chives, Signature Brand or Pam’s green onion and chives, and any other brand’s green onion and chives, although I’m also partial to salt and vinegar flavors) in sight, and if Mahal’s gone to the Pinoy store and stashed Jack & Jill, especially Piatto’s or V-Cut, then I know all her hiding places, and guzzle them down.

I also take care of whatever leftovers there are from any previous meals as we have no pets that should do that for us; and a very environment conscious waste disposal policy:  I taste anything that’s still edible, then eat it before we dispose of it.

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I don’t know if it’s the tiredness from the workday  or the sugar-salt deprivation from breakfast and lunch (remember the healthy baon?) that makes me ravenously hungry, I really end up guilty from all that sinful eating.  However, by the time Mahal comes home with dinner on the agenda, I conveniently forget my misdeeds.

Just as with salty treats, I’m equally hopeless with sugar.  Gummy bears, fruit bursts, hard candy, I stuff my mouth with everything, no discrimination and everyone welcome.  And this is probably why :

oatmeal for breakfast : "pwede bang matulog na lang uli?" thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to womenshealthmag.com!

oatmeal for breakfast : “pwede bang matulog na lang uli?” thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to womenshealthmag.com!

In the morning, I eat an oatmeal breakfast, with organic milk that Mahal buys when it’s available, honey instead of sugar, and fresh fruit bits mixed in.  So healthy I could die right there and go to heaven, but with a breakfast like that, I’ll live for another century at least, knock on narra.

I probably don’t need to tell you that the breakfast is a politically-correct version that I consume mainly for Mahal’s benefit.  By midday my blood sugar is so low I’m seeing stars before they come out.  My corrective action is vacuuming whatever sweets there are at home, using my mouth as the vacuum cleaner.  So now I have not only salt overload, but sugar overload. It’s a wonder I don’t pass out from junk food.

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I try my best to drink as much water as I can throughout the day.  It’s the one eating habit I do well, because my physical activity and running / walking around gets me thirsty often, and I’ve heard someone say that by the time you feel the thirst, your body has needed water forever.  Nearly everytime I’m near the cooler, I swallow a glass or so.

Again, it’s too much for me to resist the 1.5 L of cola that they’re literally giving away at the supermarket, bless their souls.  I don’t know how I find any more space for coke, given the amount of water I’ve guzzled.  But I do.

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Given the great weather the last few weeks, Mahal and I have started a nightly habit of strolling after dinner.  Just as well, because after the junk food today, the big dinner, and all the snacks in between, I really really need some instant exercise.

We walk and walk and walk, as much for conversation as for relief from the fullness.  We talk about events of the day, and how to get game ready for the next day.  Also what we’d like to do the weekend next, and the weekend after that.

Wouldn’t you know?  As a treat for eating all those healthy packed lunches, after that walk, and from the freezer Mahal gives me a sweet surprise.

A tub of my favorite ice cream flavor, boysenberry ripple!   Waaaaaaaaah!

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Thanks for reading!

Mei Magsino’s Voice of Truth

giving way to my brother’s blog today. a terrible way to treat a fellow blogger / writer. thanks for reading!

Text and Photos by Jude Bautista

From Mei Magsino fb page: https://www.facebook.com/mei.magsino?fref=nf From Mei Magsino fb page: https://www.facebook.com/mei.magsino?fref=nf

Written by

Jude Bautista

Seeing the headline on PDI woke me up in a terrible way, the broadsheet was one of the first things I saw seconds after getting up from bed. Former PDI correspondent Mei Magsino was shot dead less than 50 meters away from her apartment Monday noon April 13, 2015 in Bauan, Batangas. The photo with it was a lovely face of a woman who still had a lot to do and express taken from her family and loved ones way too soon at the age of 40.

From TAGA BAUAN BATANGAS KA KUNG… https://www.facebook.com/groups/547223052056448/ From TAGA BAUAN BATANGAS KA KUNG…

The story noted that she had several investigative stories one of which was critical of Governor Sanchez in 2005. The Governor later on died of a heart attack in 2010. No one can really confirm who the perpetrators are as she had created a lot of…

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Quittable 2015 : proof of life (after smoking)

stop it now!

stop it now!

[ Note : I know in my heart of hearts that if it can make even ONE person stop, it’s worth  the effort, so I try to post a quit smoking blog at least once a year, preferably on the anniversary of  the month I stopped eight years ago, that’s November.  that means I’m five months late.  Well, better late than never, thanks for reading! Maraming salamat to IAmAPizza for the YouTube video below!]

I almost didn’t notice it a few years ago when my sense of smell returned to its former powers, and it came in a blast.  The combination of smells I hadn’t discerned in decades and the memories they brought back was initially overwhelming : fresh cotton candy, the faintest aroma of imminent rain and the “singaw” (heat) coming from the earth as it drizzled; even freshly mowed grass.  I was brought back instantly to days of teens and late childhood, and I couldn’t believe I had gone without such awareness for so, so long.

The revival of long-diminished lung capacity was more gradual.  Purer air encouraged me to breathe more deeply, and breathing more deeply encouraged me to exercise more.  And exercising more, of course, led to more deep breathing.  A vicious cycle, but with pleasant consequences.  After around five years, it’s an educated guess, but I was as fit as I was before.

Before what, the Precious Reader may ask.  Isn’t it obvious, sir / madam? Before I started smoking, that’s what.

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When you really think about it though, what I just said, returning to a fitness level before I started smoking almost 25 years ago is actually near impossible, so I admit I might have been exaggerating.  But imagine inhaling a mini-furnace that produces around 2,000 chemicals and injecting it straight into your lungs, every waking hour of your day.  Imagine choking your alveoli with carbon monoxide, tar and a cocktail of several other luscious gases instead of the oxygen it so badly needs, nearly 30 times a day (the equivalent of a pack and a half of ciggies), 5+ minutes each time.  Take away this awful exposure to supermagnified pollution, and the benefits are almost immediate.

You just need to stop.

And because your sense of smell has become so numbed by smoke, smoke and more smoke, your nose forgets the subtle smells and fragrant aromas you used to associate with good cooking, closeness to nature, and the exhilaration of youth.  By the time you realize your folly, you’ve been smoking for more than half your life.  But it’s never too late to take back your health, and what remains of your life.

You just need to stop.

And if you think there isn’t much left of your life, after all that you’ve lived through and smoked through?  If you think not stopping isn’t going to make a difference, I dare you to take a look at these gems of advertising.  If you can’t look at all the 40 ads, just try the first two :

It sounds tacky, but it’s never too late to stop smoking.  (Erase that, it doesn’t sound tacky.  It never will.)

`bakit ka pa nag-regular kung pang casual lang ang oras mo?’

In the distant future, we will get the same sweet deal as Seth and James.  But don't hold your breath waiting.  In the meantime, zero-hour workers of the world, unite! :)

In the distant future, we will get the same sweet deal as Seth and James. But don’t hold your breath waiting. In the meantime, zero-hour workers of the world, unite! 🙂

BY the time I was in 3rd or 4th grade primary, Dad said I would find a lot of things interesting in his Quiapo printing shop, which was a sneaky way of getting me to work summers in the family enterprise.  Well, besides the 19th century minerva presses, the printer’s ink smell that permeated the whole site, and the endless folding, glueing and old-style embossing in the binding department, I also liked to watch my aunt type payroll forms in her giant Underwood typewriter.  My aunt, when she wasn’t bringing me with her shopping in Carriedo and Villalobos, was also the company accountant.

On Thursdays, I would look at her tally the time sheets and overtime logs and summarize it into one spreadsheet-like payroll record.  The supervisors were earning six pesos and hour, the rank-and-file around P4.  A special column was reserved for overtime pay, where the premium was 50 centavos over your regular rate.  Everyone, even Dad, was in this payroll summary, which seemed to me quite cool for my aunt, as she got to know what everyone was paid.

[ By the way, I didn’t know why she seemed to think I was invisible, as she didn’t allow anyone else to see what she was typing.  I guess kids really got away with a lot, until they started sprouting facial hair. 🙂 ]

No matter what your position was in the company, as long as you were on the regular roster, you got the same eight hours.  Everyone, from the Mainland Chinese pressmen who’d been in the shop since the Communists overran China in 1949, to the youngest kargadors and apprentices from my mom’s hometown in Masbate, were considered “regulars” because they were “regularly” rostered and received 48 hours a week,  and an additional 50 centavos an overtime hour over their regular rate, but that was enough to sweeten the deal.  The overtime was there often, and everyone took it.  Everyone was happy to take the overtime, but the 48 hours were basic; everyone expected it.  And got it.

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I was around 10 years old or thereabouts, but it didn’t take an adult to understand the fundamental agreement between hirer and hiree.  In return for skills and commitment to executing the will of the hirer, hiree is given cash for his efforts.  Because the basic hours of work ends on the eighth hour, anything over that is an imposition on the worker’s leisure and / or personal time.  So there’s a “premium” or extra value assigned to eight-hours-plus.  There may be fringe benefits or additional details to the agreement, but as far as everyone’s concerned,  the work, and the eight-hours comprise 95% of the deal.

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Nearly four decades have passed, and I’ve worked in two countries, and maybe in a dozen workplaces.  The deal hasnt’ changed.  Which is why, when some wise guys try to tinker with that basic agreement, and introduce bull-bleep like “giving workers 40 hours isn’t necessarily part of the contract of work” or “employees are actually independent contractors and there’s no employer-employee relationship in reality,” I just roll my eyes.

Amazingly, the potential for abuse in a regular work contract where hours aren’t guaranteed (or “zero-hours” contracts as they are also known), be it in New Zealand where I am now, or in the Philippines, is so obvious it should be plain to everybody, and yet until last week the clamor for change wasn’t taken seriously.

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I’ll give you just one example.  Daughter Ganda had been working in a popular hamburger chain here in Wellington for a few months (and had therefore assumed, correctly, that she enjoyed regular employee status) before she had an argument with her supervisor/manager.  Seems that she couldn’t make it to an emergency shift that her boss asked to her work in place of a sick co-worker.  Cool, the boss said, don’t worry about it (the sarcasm a little more than palpable), but don’t ask me for any extra shifts in the future.

He was good on his word, and then some.  Not only did he stop giving Ganda any extra shifts like he used to, he also gradually cut down her hours until Ganda worked no more than the typical casual or part-time worker.  All because she didn’t do the manager a favor when he needed it.  This, based on the reasoning that the manager stops being a good guy the moment you (Ganda) stop “being a team player.”  Sheeeeesh.

The tragedy not just to Ganda but to thousands of other workers like her (especially in the food service industry) was/is that the discriminatory action of managers like Ganda’s is perfectly reasonable and legal in light of the zero-hours contract that so many workers agree to, if they want to earn their bread.

At the risk of sounding repetitive :  What’s the incentive to aspiring to become a regular employee when there’s no assurance you’ll get regular hours?  In Taglish:  Bakit ka pa nag-regular kung pang casual pa rin ang oras mo?   Bakeeeet?

*****     *****     *****

Last week was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Restaurant Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut, and Starbucks, has finally begun to realize what an unjust contract the zero-hours contract is, and has removed it from all their labor contracts.  The union that was once a lonely voice in the wilderness is now rightfully earning kudos (I think it’s First Union, which I happen to belong to 🙂 ) and hope that not only the rest of the food industry, but the whole of New Zealand employer-dom will follow suit.  It’s not a dream anymore.

The day will come when the zero-hours contract will be a thing of the past, and workers like Ganda can’t wait.  Hopefully, that day will come soon.  In the meantime, don’t lose hope Ganda!

Thanks for reading!

the enemy of my enemy is my friend, & other gems from the working holiday visa holders

Hobbiton, a tourist spot that most working holiday visa holders schedule on their itinerary, on their days off work of course.  Thanks and acknowledgment to madison.co.nz for the pic!

Hobbiton, a tourist spot that most working holiday visa holders schedule on their itinerary, on their days off work of course. Thanks and acknowledgment to madison.co.nz for the pic!

[ Note : New Zealand allows nationals from certain countries “working holiday visas” where the holder can work while enjoying the sights around the country, for a limited time of course.  I found out there were two such working holiday visa holders right in my own backyard, Ray H of Taoyuan Taiwan and Jack H of Bradford England. ]

THERE won’t be a single surprised Precious Reader to know that I no longer consider myself a young person.  Sure, I still do crazy things, laugh at stupid jokes, and react immaturely to the silliest provocations, but the ravages of Time and dictates of Reality have taken over the hopes and dreams of younger years.  I still act and think like a much younger person many times a day, but it’s no longer the norm.

One thing that won’t change about me however is feeling young and keeping a youthful perspective on life, and part of this outlook is my tendency to never hesitate introducing myself and mixing it up with younger people, in varied types of social situations.  It helps that I have had the blessing of having children who are in the prime of their youth now, so I can add to my knowledge and experience of dealing with and interacting with them, for better or worse.

I had a youthful moment recently when I saw the newest temp tasked to clean the grain (shipping) containers that none of us regulars had the time nor patience for.  Told that he was Japanese, I quickly jogged to the container area to say hello to only the third Asian on site.

Ohayo gozaymasu!  I greeted to Japanese Temp, who quickly countered, “Sorry, I am not Japanese.”

And I should’ve known, his almond eyes and roundish face unmistakeably un-Japanese and almost surely of the other East Asian empire closer to my homeland.

So sorry myself!  You are most definitely Chinese are you not?  Zhongguo ren ma?  I attempted in my rudimentary Mandarin.

Bushi, wo shi Taiwan ren. No, I’m Taiwanese, in identical Mandarin but on the other side of the ditch.

Okay.  It being the start of the Year of the Sheep, I greeted him in Fujianese, the most popular Chinese dialect in the Philippines, which happened to be the same popular dialect in Taiwan.  Kyong hee wat tsay then?  ( as opposed to the more popular Kong hei fat choy of the Cantonese 🙂 )

Wow, you can speak Fujianese?  Are you from Taiwan as well? Taiwanese Temp, also known as Ray H, asks.

Actually no.

Malaysian then?  Or Singaporean?

umm, No, and no.  I tell  him that he has plenty of provincemates in the Pearl of the Orient, none other than Islas de los Pintados or the Philippine Islands.  He says that there are so few Taiwanese in Wellington compared to Mainland Chinese, and even less non-Taiwanese who speak his tongue, thank God for English and Mandarin.

I ask him what brings him to New Zealand, and expectedly he says it’s a working holiday visa, and after saving a couple of week’s worth of wages, he visits the South Island, parts of the North Island, and most recently the urban wonders of Auckland.

I know that Taiwan was under Japan before and during the Second World War, so I tread carefully when I ask him about what he feels about the dispute between the two nations caused by disputed islands.  His response surprises me.

“Recently we have come to admire all things Japanese and Korean, because of their adaptability to Western ways, but more so with Japan now.  We don’t worry that much about our dispute with Japan, actually we are happy that someone has stood up to China’s bullying.”

Wow.  In that case, then I told him that Japan recently gifted the Philippines with military speedboats to patrol our coasts, definitely a nod to recognizing a common enemy in the region.

No surprise to know that, Ray says.  Cryptically, and in surprisingly good English, he tells me, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  Was that referring to Japan and the Philippines, or Taiwan and the Philippines?

Maybe both.


Another temp I didn’t realize was also on a working holiday visa here was Jack, whose job 90% of the day was tearing up bags packed defectively or printed with the wrong batch or production code.  Boring work, but somebody had to do it.  Somebody who wasn’t a regular employee.

I didn’t even know he wasn’t a local because he was as white as a sheet, and spoke like a local.  Only when I bothered to spend a few minutes with him did I know that he was from the land of New Zealand’s former colonial master, the United Kingdom of England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

*** *** ***

Not having too much in common with the UK, a typical Pinoy like myself could only say so much about merry old England, but  I still tried.  Having no one talking to him 99% of the shift, and working tediously and monotonously, I think he deserved that much at least.

I told him that riding the London Eye would be a highlight for me on a bucket-list Europe trip, and that a good part of the nurses from our country make their way to the UK, one of the better places for our nurses to work in.

I realized that the quarter-hour I spent with him at the packing area, where he was shredding bags of product, I was doing most of the talking.

What was the defining emotion you feel while working and holidaying in New Zealand? was the best question i could come up with.

Just the impression that no matter how friendly the people are here, no matter how some places remind him of home, and no matter how easy it is to travel between the two countries, I’m so far away from home, Jack told me.

He’d been in both New Zealand and Australia the last six months, but even a seasoned traveler like him missed home, his old job in medi-science at a teaching hospital, and his 3rd division Bradford team that beat top-division Chelsea just early this year.

He loved his time using his working holiday visa, but admitted that he was looking forward to going home.  Reminiscent of the words of the popular Passenger song (Let her Go), you only hate the road when you’re missing home.

Quite a lot I learned from those unlikely teachers, the two youngsters on working holiday.