irresistible tech, the human need for affirmation, and unequal partnerships (between me & Mahal)


item subject of negotiation, and the freebie beside it. read below for the full story please.

IN MY tiny, well-structured world, despite my old, dilapidated phone (four years old, a hand-me-down from Mahal; I’m not complaining), no one can convince me I need a brand-new replacement. It’s just too frivolous, luxurious, and expensive.

There are only three exceptions.

First, my generous fitness tracker (free, mapmyrun) encourages it.  Second, the South Asian sales guy I (inexplicably) trust at the mall tells me I would be crazy not to consider his one-day-only deal (I always fall for these things so I try not to listen too hard when I pass by the provider’s kiosk).

And here’s the clincher: when Mahal tells me it’s an unavoidable, ultimately inescapable deal to be doing.

And herein lies the rub: in most marriages between Pinoy husbands and the wives they adore, it is essentially an unequal partnership.  The lalake (guy) may profess to wear the pants, make the decisions, blah blah blah, but when the wife doubles down, cashes in her numerous IOUs (in Tagalog, makes those sumbat-sumbat from an atraso you incurred a month ago staining the immaculate new carpet), and otherwise throws her weight around, we menfolk essentially have no answer, other than the two words American husbands are famous for : Yes Dear.

But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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After two weeks of depressing windy-stormy-windy stretches, I woke up to a nearly perfect summer afternoon.  On days like this, sun in the center of the sky and no clouds (cumulus or nimbus) in sight, you forget that you lack sleep, you forget that your extremities are cramping and sore, you forget that you have yet-another night shift tonight, and you just step out of the shade and run like crazy.  Heat and being out in the sun makes you forget you have problems, when you are in a temperate zone.

So I’m out running, on my fourth kilometer, breathless but thrilled to be up and about when I should be sleepless, tossing and turning (the unexpected adrenaline might also be due to the lack of sleep) in bed, and five minutes away from having smelly underarms (another side-effect of intense summer days but worth it, if I’m gonna get my exercise) when the phone registers an incoming from an unknown number.

boing boing boing.  throwback rotary phone ringtone, oddly out of place from a smartphone. boing boing boing.

I don’t answer these calls, because, having worked in an outbound, soliciting call center back home, chances are this call is a solicitation, a survey call, or a call from the bank.  (The last one Mahal can handle, that’s why I obediently handed over my ATM to her diba?  🙂 )

(But it could be a Nigerian prince who might inform me I just won in their lottery and just a small transfer fee away from facilitating the process.  I’m a sucker for these promos.  Woohoohoo!)


good day Mr Noel, your wife wants to take advantage of my one-day-only deal, unlimited data, brand new (toot*, brandname of phone that everyone just HAS to have) phone, for just an extra $55 a month.  Will you authorise your wife? (trick question.)

that sounds good, but may I speak to my wife please?

(almost instantly Mahal is on the line.)  Love, kunin na natin. (Toot**, name of super-aggressive telecom provider) na ako diba?  sumali ka na sa akin, shared data tayo, pero isang bayaran lang.  tapos dagdag yung cost ng phone mo sa akin, extra $55 lang, modelo pa,  walang talo eh. ( I can feel her smile, and an even bigger grin on the salesguy’s, hanging on the phone.)

Naturally, I need to slow down.  You can’t think clearly about these things when you’re jogging.

sigurado ka kaya natin Mahal?  aalis na yung flatmate natin, walang sasalo ng share nya.

OK lang yon, may papalit agad.  matatapos na rin yung hinhulugan ko, kaya bababa pa cash out natin.

hmmm.  despite the short time elapsed, I could see that some discussion and haggling had transpired.

Love nabasa ko sa internet na kapag may decision kang di ka pa sigurado, it’s always best to use one day to think about it.  Wala namang mawawala diba?  (using all the tricks in the book to delay the inevitable.)

Then, as always, comes the clincher.

Love, bibigyan ako (notice the “tayo” becomes ako) ng libreng tablet! Walang bayad yon!

(kaya nga libre diba?)

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Well, that settles it.  Sabi ko sa inyo, when the final round of bargaining starts, Mahal, and many others like her (the wives) simply won’t take no for an answer.  Spark (oops, nabanggit ko rin yung telecoms provider) knows consumers can’t resist freebies like FREE TABLETS (gosh, could you Precious Reader resist that?), on top of spread-out instalment periods, shared unlimited data, ano pa hahanapin mo?

Honestly, all Mahal was asking me to do was fill her very human need for affirmation.

And tell you what, kabayan / Precious Reader.  Remember the unequal nature of our relationship?  The unequalness is directly proportional to how much we want to please our partner, till it hurts. 🙂

That means, without the tablet, without the shared data, and without the affordable instalments, I would’ve said, you’re the boss Mahal.

There’s always the exception to the rule.

Thanks for reading!

PS. Free Spotify pa!

*Korean brand  that sometimes bursts into flames

**Spark, but I told you that already right? 🙂






outdoing herself anywhere she goes: bon voyage ConGen Arlene!


The Philippine Embassy’s Minister and Consul-General Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa, also known as Kabayan Arlene, with husband Allan.  Thanks for the pic guys!

RIGHT NOW, the image of our government, looking from the outside or in, is horribly bad.  I mean, really bad.  I’m no expert, but offhand, there is simply nothing good we can say at this time.  (Whether or not it’s deserved is something I leave to you Precious Reader.)

Except for the Philippine foreign service.

Owing either to exceptional good luck, or just the basic high standards set by tradition, training and recruitment, both New Zealand and its Pinoy migrant community have enjoyed, in flash and substance, quality from officials and staff of the Philippine Embassy.

I’ve mentioned this to you at least twice in the form of critically good reviews for our current ambassador, His Excellency Jesus Gary Domingo, but his Number Two Man (actually a woman) is every bit as good as he, in the person of Minister and Consul General Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa (Arlene na lang, please, I can almost hear her say).

No exaj, she has hit the ground running under previous boss Her Excellency Ambassador Virginia Benavidez, nailed the Mobile Consular Services Outreach gig all over New Zealand, has ably assisted Ambassador Gary in many liaisons with MFAT (the DFA’s counterpart) and the diplomatic corps in Wellington, and lent her organizational and managerial pizzazz to nearly everything our Embassy has been involved in, the four years she’s been here.

As long as you provide her the plan and vision, she is usually the person who gets down to brass tacks, the intricate and involving details needed to see a project through.  Her strong suits are research and preparation, but she is just as fine networking and negotiating our embassy’s way through swells and tides.

I was lucky enough to have a chat-cum-interview with ConGen Arlene for our KABAYANews summer 2017 issue before her tour of duty here in Wellington ends next month.  (Hopefully Precious Reader you’ll see it soon, please watch this space.) She will work out of the DFA’s home office for the next two years before another overseas adventure in… who knows where the globe stops spinning?

No doubt she will outdo herself anywhere she is posted.

Don’t worry ConGen, we’ll get you a copy of that summer issue wherever you are!  Mabuhay ka, kudos and salud, Kabayan Arlene and family, from all of us in the Pinoy community of New Zealand especially Wellington!

Thanks for reading!


3 NZ myths busted by this OFW

breathtaking view of Milford Sound on the west coast of NZ's South Island. thanks to

breathtaking view of Milford Sound on the west coast of NZ’s South Island. thanks to

I WILL never consider myself an expert on New Zealand, no matter how much time I’ve spent here.  However, I HAVE stayed here the better part of a decade, and I’ve seen and heard things enough to qualify me to tell you what is and what isn’t true about this remarkable country, called, variously, Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud, sometimes Middle Earth, and sometimes Godzone (God’s Own).

The following are a hodgepodge of personal experience (is there any other kind?), info collected in the course of work and moving around, a little travel, et cetera.  In other words, reader beware.

an actual (horror) movie poster poking fun at the "sheep" and dairy culture of New Zealand.

an actual (horror) movie poster poking fun at the “sheep” and dairy culture of New Zealand.

You see more sheep than people in new Zealand.  The actual urban legend is “there are more sheep than people in New Zealand” (and this is true) but the belief I think one is being led to foster is (intentionally or not), for every person you see here, there are a dozen chewing grass around him/her.

In fact, unless you go out of the major urban centers like Auckland Wellington or Christchurch (among others), you will hardly see any bovine activity, although of course, anywhere else in New Zealand it is a common sight.  Most remarkable on my few trips seeing sheep lamb and cows grazing on meadows, leas and hillsides were the “coats” or cold-resistant clothing worn by the more sensitive (and probably more valuable) cows in wintertime.

For the record, there are 4.6 million New Zealanders and 60 million sheep, which means my hosts the New Zealanders will probably never run out of wool.

Everyone is rich,  there’s plenty of work for everyone, and being poor is unheard of in First World New Zealand.  Going by the traditional GNP, per capita income, quality of life and life expectancy metrics, New Zealand is indeed, way up there on the global list of desirable nation-states.  But below the surface, there are inconsistencies.  Income inequality is alarming.  Both unemployment and underemployment figures are high for a First World country.  And poverty is more common than anyone can imagine.  (Sorry to say this about my hosts, NZ is still a great place to live in nevertheless.)

Like many other nations,  New Zealand has its share of problems.  But unlike many, New Zealand is doing something about it, recognizing among other things that migration is a key factor in national development.  Which is my way of thanking this country for letting migrant workers like me take part in its nation-building. 🙂

images-1New Zealand is very liberal in its migration policy, practically welcoming guest workers, seasonal workers and refugees with open arms.  While this was true maybe 20 years ago, ever since the recession of the 1990s, the mini-downturns of the naughties, culminating in the global economic crisis of 2008, New Zealand is no longer the migrant paradise that many would-be migrants thought it would be.

In the first place, New Zealand always needs skilled workers, professionals and service providers like any other advanced, industrialized nation, to take care of its young, sick and aged population.  The problem is, the supply of workers from all over the world (including the Philippines) is nearly limitless, and therefore New Zealand is either forced to raise its standards for migrant workers seeking entry, postpone or reduce its migrant entry quotas, or stop allowing migrants entry into New Zealand altogether.

Suppose you had a farm, and needed maybe 200 workers to harvest your products and load them into transport.  You sent out the word, and almost instantly, 20,000 workers rush to your farm, seeking work, any kind of work, and demanding that you process them immediately.  What to do?

This is the problem New Zealand is facing, from applicants all over the world, but mainly from China, India, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.  The toothpaste is out of the tube, and can’t be returned.   This is why drastic measures are now being put in place to make sure people are now being made aware that sure, New Zealand still welcomes skilled migrants, but only in very specific situations, skills and numbers.

Hope this clears up a few misconceptions we’ve nurtured about New Zealand, certainly still a  great destination for many of us, and still the land of great promise.

Thanks for reading!