mga laro ng aking kabataan (games of my childhood)

[  Thanks to Darius Marquez of the Palarong Pinoy sa Wellington games committee for the info! ]

BEFORE SOCIAL media, before the Internet, before video games, in fact before any kind of electronic games, all we had was our creativeness and ingenuity.  That, and each other.  Pinoy kids played piko (a sort-of hopping game), habulan (tag), patintero (a territorial tag team game) and all sorts of physically-oriented games that didn’t require batteries, laptops, computer consoles or controllers.  All we had was our imagination.


That, and a little piece of wood and string.  With the Yoyo, a wooden disc around which string was wound, you could do all sorts of cool stuff, like “rock the baby,” “walking the dog,” etc.


Patintero was played with teams of at least 2 to 5, with one team guarding the middle line, and two other teams trying to cross the lines from opposite ends.  In practice, it looks more fun than it sounds.


Sipa was/is basically hitting a game piece (called a “sipa,” a washer with colorful threads attached to it) with you foot as many times as you can without the sipa touching the ground.

These and many other games will be played, with an adult, children and men’s/women’s divisions, at the Palarong Pinoy sa Wellington weekend starting 22 October Saturday at the ASB Sports Centre, Level 2 in Kilbirnie, Wellington.

Although teams from Pinoy communities all over Wellington are expected to send teams, everyone, Pinoy or non-Pinoy, is invited.

See you there!

letter to young Erlinda, 19, from future son Noel


happy birthday mom!

Loving something, or someone more than yourself is a celebrated form of love throughout history and literature, but in reality the best proof that we have of selfless love is in that of our mothers. Over our lifetime and beyond, we can never show enough of our reciprocal love and appreciation for them. My mother celebrates her birthday today, enough said. What better time to tell her she is the best?  Happy birthday mom!

VIA SOME unheard-of technology, powered by a new unlimited and clean energy source and infra-infra range temperatures (discovered by those recent Nobel Prize winners), my body has been transformed into faster-than-light particles (and back to my body) that easily traverse the time-space continuum.  I’m not drunk or dreaming, this is actually happening.

Because it’s an auspicious date today, my mother Erlinda’s birthday, I select her last birthday as a dalaga (a maiden or single lady).  I alight from the time travel highway (for lack of a better term) in 1958, when the Philippines was a virtual 51st state of the American Union, and everything was much cleaner, less cluttered, and less populated than today.

Almost immediately I’m stuck by a quandary: I want to tell Erlinda all the things that will make her future a happier and better version based on my particular hindsight and peculiar foreknowledge, but if I do so, I might change fundamental aspects of our family history, including  (and especially including) my existence and that of my four brothers.  I’ve seen too many time-travel movies not to know that your (altered) past (literally) eventually comes back to haunt you.  I might even unwittingly influence (hopefully positively, but hoping NOT negatively) the lives of countless others my mother touched, and continues to touch today.

I want so much to see her and talk to her, but ultimately decide not to. Instead I write a letter and have it hand-delivered to her.

“Dear Erlinda :

“I don’t want to scare you, but I know quite a lot about you.  I know that you will get married soon, and that you want to start a family very soon after that.  But with the help of technology, I have the gift of knowing far more than that.  I know that you will succeed being both wife and mother, friend and lover.

“Because of your natural gift of canniness and improvisation, you have been successful in your various endeavors.  But you’ve also had family behind you.  I know that you’ve paid this forward, and will continue to pay it forward in the next few decades.  I don’t know if this foreknowledge will help you, maybe a self-awareness will make it even better.

Spur your children to greater heights.  You will always be there for them, but inspire them to make better use of their gifts, and do more to improve lives around them.  These sound like lofty platitudes, but when it comes from you, it will count for more.  Don’t ask me how I know, I just do.

Take better care of your health.  Like many women of your generation, you will be eating smart and avoiding vice (unlike your menfolk).  The problem is, your preference for certain foods and having to carry five strapping male babies to term will take its toll on your body, still youthful now, but human after all.  It sounds blunt and clinical, but watch your weight more and avoid sugary and starch foods like the plague.  It will be worth it.

And lastly…

Try to have a daughter.  You will have no shortage of sons, grandsons and granddaughters.  But you are too beautiful to not pass on your looks to a daughter.  As they say, pagandahin ang lahi (improve the race) at magparami.

“Beyond these trifling pieces of advice, there is nothing more to say to you.  You will lead a near-perfect life.”

From 2016 to 1958, happy birthday Mom, I love you forever.

Your future son


the hardest adjustment for a migrant

[ Host Wellington and the Wellington Pinoy community welcome all kabayan participants and competitors of the Pistang Pilipino 2016 sa Wellington,  kudos to the organizers, officials, marshals and other volunteer staff.  Mabuhay kayong lahat! ]

NOPE, IT’S not communication or language.  Most Pinoys (an endearment Filipinos call themselves) treat English almost as a first language, having been taught the King’s English from nearly the very start of their lives.  In fact, I remember in Pinoy Mass (once a month, celebrated by a Filipino priest), the priest delivered his homily in (of course) perfect English, for the benefit of the non-Pinoy parishioners who insisted on attending Mass with kabayan.  After 10 minutes of a short discussion of the Sunday Gospel, he said, I now respectfully continue the sermon in Taglish, which everyone was expecting.  In both versions, Father Kabayan was outstanding (and uplifting), and considerate of  both English and Tagalog speakers.  So, adjustment to our host’s language is no biggie.

A little more complicated is the way people travel, both on the road and on the footpath (sidewalk or walkway ang tawag natin).  The New Zealand Road Code tells motorists to travel on the left side of the road, so when you cross the street (usually a two-way street), you look to the right first, then to the left when you’re in the middle of street.  It took me a while before i got used to that, and got me quite a lot of honks and four-letter words from drivers who never get used to Asian pedestrians like me.  It got a little worse when I started learning to drive, because I frequently reverted to the mindset of driving on the right side of the road, not very safe and definitely taking a little more adjustment than walking.  Still, as long as you keep focused on your walking / driving, and remember that you’re in New Zealand, not the Philippines, you should be OK.

And then there’s the work culture or culture of interaction, I can’t go any broader than that for fear of using too much space.  Kiwis or New Zealanders generally speak their mind, but are aware of the need to save face at all times, especially for Asians.  So they temper the sharpness of their tongues with subtle digs and lighthearted witticisms, sometimes using good-natured sarcasm, in short, very Pinoy, when you think of our sawikain (literary expression), salawikain (proverbs), parinig (hints) and other figures of speech that dull the kaanghangan (spicyness) of our criticisms.  Definitely, there are more similarities than differences when you compare social intercourse /s of Pinoys and Kiwis.  The key words are civility, pakisama (attitude of “getting along” with each other) and the golden rule (do unto others what you’d want them to do unto you).

Even better, as long as you let your work and your work attitude talk the talk and walk the walk, you can’t go wrong.  Kiwis may find you strange, different and awkward, but if you do your work right, work within the team concept and go the extra mile, you speak their language, and speak the universal language, the language of hard work spoken anywhere.

*****          *****          *****          *****          *****

No, the biggest adjustment you have to make is accepting the realization that the next time you go back to the Philippines, it’s no longer to return to your home base but as an excursion to a place you used to live in, to visit friends, loved ones and family, only as an interruption of your regular life… as a migrant.

The biggest and most lifechanging adjustment you make is a shifting of allegiance from the country of your birth to the country of your future, to the country you will soon (if not already) call home.  Loyalty is on unstable, shifting ground, no more so than for the migrant.

You will never lose gratitude for the country that gave you existence, blood and identity, but your migrant life changes everyday, and your migrant life waits for no one.  Least of all, old memories and old attachments.

You can always go home, back to the Philippines, but with different eyes, different attitudes, and different perspectives.  That is as hard as any adjustment  you can make.

In a very real sense, you can never go home again.

Thanks and mabuhay everyone for reading!