your kabayan’s five mins with Tatay D


[Note :  Not only is this a work of fiction, it is also a piece of irony, most of it.  I think. Thanks for reading!]

I DON’T KNOW about you Precious Reader, but please indulge Your Loyal Blogger:  I feel the yearlong, Palace-led and Legislature-accommodated attack against our most well-known Senadora is misogynistic, unprofessional and uncharitable; that paying political favors by allowing despots’ burials on heroes’ ground is, to say the least, ill-advised; and spewing invectives against the most powerful nation on earth because one was denied a visa decades ago is childish.

But unless the PCOO is psychic, they don’t know this.

That’s how I get my precious interview with Tatay D, who is in New Zealand following a roundabout trip to Peru and back home.  A time-consuming way to avoid certain major airports, but what’s a few hours here and there, especially when there’s protests aplenty against you back home?

Believe it or not, the five minutes of fame I have been promised, is exactly that, five count-em minutes.  A New Zealand lady reporter is queued up after me, and this is what she looks like :


Now you know why I have five minutes (mahaba na ata yun, considering).

A few ground rules though. (For a five minute thingy?) Only one politics-related question.  No questions requiring longish answers, and keep it short.  As if five minutes weren’t short enough.  Sigh.  OK lang po.

Thank you for the five minutes Sir.

Call me Tatay D.

Maraming salamat po sa five minutes Tatay D.  I won’t waste anymore of your time.  Why do you say that the controversial Marcos burial issue is the fault of Presidents Cory Aquino and Noynoy Aquino?

The past administrations before mine had 12 golden years to change the law and allow the burial, and they didn’t.  This is an issue between political families, and the past Presidents should have been non-partisan and buried (pun intended) the past.  Built bridges instead of walls.  Let bygones be bygones.  Instead, I have to fucking deal with this (pardon the French, it’s his)!  It’s a burden I could do without.

(Ahem.  Now I know why I’m limited to ONE job-related (his job) question.  Probably a blessing in disguise.)

Just one more question about recent events Sir, I mean Tatay D.

You seem to be especially impatient, not to mention short-tempered, with members of the foreign media during your press briefings.  Any reason for that sir?

Do you want the short or long answer to that, kabayan?

(putting on my earplugs) Any answer that you find satisfying sir.

OK.  All those reporters who ask me questions during my presscons, especially the white male reporters, are fucking GAY, ARROGANT BASTARDS AND SONS OF BITCHES with their own agenda.  I have no respect or time for them.

And how about the female reporters?

Well, if they have the time for coffee, and a little more time after that, as long as they’re below 30, o sige na nga kahit below 40, I don’t mind them at all.

(Double ahem.  Any more blessings in disguise?)

Tapos na ang political questions sir.  Here’s an easy one.  I’ve read somewhere that you are particularly interested in a renewed reclamation project off Roxas Boulevard.  Is this true sir?

Yes, yes yes!  It’s a project started by our former First Lady Imelda Marcos, whose husband I greatly admire and whose policies I study closely.  If you recall my precious campaign pronouncements, the casualties of the war against DRAGS that I have started will be dumped there, the Manila Bay.  if the dumping reaches a certain point the reclamation will be much easier.  Good for anti-crime statistics, good for the fishes, and good for reclamation.

(Yuck.  Kaya pala.  I don’t even know why I asked that question.)

OK, Ok.  You’ve been quite generous with your time sir.  Last question na po.  Now that you’re in New Zealand, you may have heard of the former Australian Prime Minister who is not only a very strict Catholic, but has also asked his daughters to remain virgins until they get married.  What do you think of that sir?

Magaling kung ganon kabayan.  Dapat, Mayor ang una.  Um, Presidente pala.

(Awkward silence.)

Thank you very much sir.

Thus ending the longest five minute interview I’ve ever done.

If you’ve reached this far… Thanks for reading and mabuhay!







a dambuhalang (giant) earthquake visits your kabayan’s night shift in Wellington


Not me at my prettiest, but here I was cleaning  a packing bin just four days before the Big One.  Imagine if it had happened while I was cleaning the bin!  hu hu hu hu …

Dear guys :

JUST WANTED you to know, besides the fact that your kabayan (townmate, countryman) and family are safe, that just eight hours ago, I wasn’t so sure I would get out of this earthquake in one piece.  Hyperbole and exaggeration aside, I’ve gone through a few tremors in my life, but this was quite a strong one.  But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.

*****          *****          *****

Quarter to zero hour, that’s midnight, I was so looking forward (not!) to a week of night shifts, in unexpectedly chilly late spring weather, at work.  My focus was starting up the network of old machines struggling against wear and tear, lack of maintenance and startup crankiness (common to all old factories) in the middle of night, when everyone else was snoring in dreamland.

I was therefore lucky : the factory had responded well to my ministrations and a recent lubrication project, I was starting the shift with a low-end product, not too much stress quality-wise and production-wise and, against the odds, the ebbs and flows, air pressure, and different settings of the more temperamental machines were holding and under control.  Things were looking good.

Famous last words.  Just when I was settling down to do my chores (unshuttering the windows to cool the rapidly heating machines), across the main production area, where by pure chance a door was opened showing me the adjoining area where packing machines and pallets of finished product were situated, I saw a scene that was straight out of Poseidon Adventure (a 1970s disaster movie, for those under 40).

All the hanging halogen-strength lights were swaying 45 degrees left and right, and the pallets of product, each weighing roughly a ton and stacked four high, were doing the Gangnam Style strut and starting to fall on each other.  I swear Mom (if you’re reading this), never in my 51 years had I seen something like that.

The packer who did night shift, a katutubo (native) not in my department but of course my brother-in-arms, looked like he’d chugged a few cervezas, glugged a liter of milk, a tub of ice cream and then ridden a dozen roller coasters, was pale as the Balete Drive Lady: he was ready to bail out of the site, not even bothering to shut down his machines but alert enough to shout to me:  EARTHQUAKE!  JUST GET OUT!

Sound advice, in fact the best I heard that night.  No arguments from me…

[For the record, I remember two biggie earthquakes, the July 1990 one that killed a few thousand in Baguio and regions, and the Christchurch one five-odd years ago that killed thousands, among them 11 kabayan nurses.  None of them felt as strong as this one, mainly because I was much closer to the epicenter.]

*****          *****          *****

Two other guys were in the site, and as there were just four of us, a roll call was foolish:  my shift partner Jacob, ready to retire in two weeks (he is in fact past the retirement age, being 70 years and barya), his trainee, another katutubo, the nauseous packer guy, and yours truly.  We weren’t gonna wait for the obvious : aftershocks which on their own were scary and almost as strong as the original tremor, and even scarier, the potential tsunami, which brought to mind  the tidal waves which killed more than 10,000 in Japan half a decade ago.

But a modicum of protocol had to be followed, and we each called our respective supervisors.  The packing supervisor wasted no time : just pack up and get out of there, you’re less than a kilometer from the bloody sea, for jeez sake.  My ops supervisor was somewhat vague, so vague that my call went to voicemail.

So that’s that, I had no choice but to call the overall site manager.

She was in Auckland out of town, an hour away by plane, but I hadn’t known it yet.

Because she knew my number, this was her first sentence:

Noel?  Are you guys OK?

She already knew.  The earthquake was that bad.  The whole North Island was shaken (literally).

A few spouts popped out boss, Pallets fell on top of each other, one big machine off the moorings, but otherwise the site’s fine.

Never mind that, I mean, how are you guys?  everyone safe and accounted for?

We’re OK all of us Boss, hope you’re safe on your end.

Turn everything off and shut everything down, and get the eff out of there OK? We’ll talk tomorrow. Stay safe.

And that, my friends, is why Boss is our Site Manager.

*****          *****

Less than an hour later, the inevitable tsumani alert is called by the local government, and the natural thing to do is to literally, head for the hills.  Mahal my beloved,  our two flatmates and Your Loyal Kabayan spend two hours in a car on the road up to Wainuiomata, which is the highest point on a 20 kilometer radius.  Our instructions from the Civil Defense Office are simple.

Stay off beaches.  Stay out of the water.  Do NOT go sightseeing.  And share this information.

Simple enough, but we are on a hillside, because we ALSO want to get down asap.  And hillsides are also known for landslides.  And guess what?  We just had a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, just what you DON’T need for landslides.

As soon as the tsunami alert stops wailing, we head down.  We don’t even think of passing by McDo or Burger King, as the employees have undoubtedly up and left their stores.

We stay by the radio and don’t go to sleep until 5 am.

For all its imperfections, New Zealand is razor sharp and steroids strong on safety alertness.  Which is why, if even one life is lost from this latest earthquake, it will be regarded as a national tragedy.

Which is why Your Loyal Kabayan, as long as he is wanted, will work in New Zealand.