my mother the legend

[ We hardly see Mom in formal wear, so this is a treat! Taken during the wedding of her grandson Jay Bautista to Linnel de Villa last March, Mom is the lovely lady in the center. Also in pic are family friend Miggie Isla, my brother Doc Donald Bautista, and Dr Nick Cruz, one of the couple’s sponsors. Thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook photo library of Jude Bautista. For more pics please visit woohoohoo!]

IF MISTER SLASH MISS PRECIOUS READER (that’s you) has read any of our previous posts about mother, motherhood or mother’s day, you’d probably know that we’re a big fan of mothers in general,  and her special day (being Mother’s Day, besides her birthday, just where do you place that apostrophe?) is just one more reason to show her respect, gratitude, love and all other positive feelings and thoughts that affirm her place in human history.

But I also want to convey said feelings personally, about (who else?) my own mom.

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Let me balance it out first: Mom’s not perfect. She doesn’t always go the diplomatic route, is sometimes given to temperamental outbursts, and definitely, definitely speaks her mind. But it only underscores the indisputable fact that there’s not a single fake bone in her body.

Now for the good part : At 78, Mom gets up around 5.30 am most days to prepare for work. It’s not part-time work, a casual job or even volunteer, just-to-keep-busy work.  It’s a real six-day, 52-week job that she’s held in the only career she’s ever loved: retail and point-of-sale. Only because she’s had the benefit of experience, and her savings, she’s her own boss, in her own business.

During the week, she supervises her staff who mind the kilns and cure the meat (it’s a ham baking business), fills out orders and schedules deliveries. Everything is in preparation for the weekend markets (when she wakes up even earlier, hears the first Sunday Mass) in Salcedo Village Makati, Mount Carmel Quezon City and Libis Pasig, where the actual selling takes place. There’s very little inventory because all of her kiosks nearly always sell out.

The rest of her time is divided into catechism work in their parish, indulging Dad in his favorite pastime, stud poker and Texas hold’ em poker, and reading the latest romance and suspense horror novels of her fave authors. Oh, she’s also anticipating news of her first great grandchild!

Long after her years of motherhood (where she raised five sons forever grateful), she continues to be motherlike. She looks after the tuition needs of dozens of children of relatives in Bicol, will send help to a sick family member but will forget about it as soon as the money transfer is complete, most days she will send food to sick kumares and old friends who can no longer look after themselves.

(btw, you won’t hear or get this confirmed from anyone. This is the sort of thing that doesn’t get talked about, least of all by Mom herself. It just isn’t her thing.)

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I could go on and on, but it would take the rest of the day. Just one last Mommy anecdote : On my last balikbayan visit, Mom pulled me aside to tell me to get serious about work and a more stable future overseas. Before I could finish, she asked me: howz your immigration going?

I said di pa tapos Mom, inadvertently letting on that the entry fee (application fee) wasn’t cheap.

She answered : I know. This isn’t much, but don’t spend it on anything else. I’m praying for you, pushing US$500 into my surprised hands.

I was speechless for awhile, marvelling at the irony of the situation: the OFW being given a handout by his mother. The speechlessness was broken by Fourth Brother (a migrant like me), who also took me aside to ask:

Binigyan ka nya ng pera ‘no? Magkano ? $500?

I said, yes, how did you know?

He replied : Hahaha! Utang ko yan sa kanya!  kakabayad ko lang sa kanya kanina. He added that he had a feeling it would go to me.

She had paid her good fortune forward instantly!

As she has been doing and continues to do, all her life.

God bless you Mom! From all of us in Manila, Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand and New Mexico, USA, happy mother’s day! I love you always!

And Happy mother’s day to all!


“nagi-guilty ka ba kabayan kapag di ka nag O.T. or nagsickie?”*

[In picture above is kabayan and dairy worker Socrates Mallari, who I hope doesn’t mind my use of this pic,  he is helping turn the wheels of the New Zealand economy! Thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to Socrates and, happy mothers’ day to all!]

I LOVE my job, despite and not because of what I do. My job validates me, gives me dignity, and gives me a chance to pursue the Pinoy dream of a better life in a foreign land.

Down to the details, it’s a job that involves considerable manual effort, physical activity (pareho lang ata yun), shift work, (night shift and afternoon shift, meron ding morning), going on fifth gear when something’s wrong in the factory. The speed and reaction time is crucial, because for the whole factory (four levels), only two of you monitor everything, and keeping the factory running is the first and only priority, but when everything’s cool, OK naman.

Because of the migrant mentality where you feel you have to do equal or more of your share as a perennial outsider, I need to foster a brutal work ethic. Never late, never absent, first in and last out (within reason), and always volunteering for extra work and covering up for staff on leave. It’s the way it is, and everyone covers for everybody else, anyway. You just don’t wait for the request to become an order.

But not everyone always feels the same way, especially the katutubo or those who feel a little entitlement in the Land of the Long White Cloud (New Zealand’s name for itself). They don’t do anything not in their job description, don’t want to be held accountable for anything that doesn’t involve their work (fair enough), and the first question they ask when requested to do something beyond the usual shift is “What’s in it for me?” Ito naman ang nakasanayan nila bilang katutubo or locals, and beyond a few mutterings, no one begrudges them for that.

Ang problema nga lang, even as they look mediocre on absolute terms (in a vacuum), migrant workers, not the least of which are Pinoys, make them look worse (if that’s at all possible). No one to work the (urgently needed) extra shift? I’ll do it, boss! Someone needs to help out in packing (a different department)? Count me in boss! Could you come a little earlier to cover for the previous shift (who’s AWOL and nowhere to be found)? Consider it done boss! You do these things for no other reason than you earnestly feel the need to give back, and hopefully the positive deed will be paid forward, eventually back to you. The locals grumble and mutter, but what can they do? Their free time and weekends are sacred to them, and everybody respects that.

Which is why, out of every 10 offers to work overtime, whether it be on a regular shift (extension) or weekends (Saturday mornings) as long as I can remember I accept around 9. The money’s good, but it’s a concrete manifestation of your willingness to go the extra mile, especially on an unexpected turn of events. (extra orders, down time, when maintenance eats into production time, and so on and so forth).

I sometimes pretend to make a big deal out of it, bitch about having to work when I could be resting (I have lower back, gout and chronic sleep apnea issues which wife Mahal has put up with brilliantly), but in the end I almost always say yes. Saying no is not part of the equation.

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Similarly, another migrant in our workplace has infected nearly all of our production team with his durability and iron man attitude. In the eight years I’ve known him, he has called in sick a grand total of ONE time, and he was so sick we were all concerned if he needed hospital care (he is a confirmed bachelor and lives alone).

So, colds and coughs, feeling a little bit under the weather, hungover after a “bender “(walang katapusang inuman might be an accurate translation of this Kiwi-ism), etc might be enough for somebody to call in sick, but not for our production team.  You know you’ll eff up the shift schedule, there will be people before and after your shift who will cover for you, but unless you really feel unable to come to work, you don’t want to impose.  Just as they don’t want to impose.

I don’t know if this is unique to the migrant work ethic, I would be naive to think so. But it certainly comes up together, being a migrant who more than wants to pull his weight at the workplace, and the harder attitudes of trying to do more, and put in an honest day’s work almost without fail.

Throughout my gig at my workplace, I’ve been told: Use your sick days when you need to.  Don’t feel as if you have to work beyond the pale, every single time.  Get a life.  Achieve the work-life balance.

I can do all of those, but in keeping with my migrant mentality, I internalize what the American philosopher and psychologist William James said about work, or activity: Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay!

*O.T. = overtime.  Sickie = a Kiwi term for using sick leave.

belated happy birthday Ganda!


TO VARYING DEGREES, all fathers view the relationship with daughters as ultimately to be overcome by a usurper. It will be (in order) a new playmate, a best friend, a colleague, a boyfriend, and ideally (but not necessarily) a husband.

You guide them towards their first steps, capture their first moments in a party dress, bring them to school on their first day, and walk them through disappointment, heartbreak, and triumph, knowing that it is the way of the world.

Despite this, you gladly give up your precious daughter to maturity, womanhood, and another man in his life, knowing the process is immutable and change is inevitable.

Benefiting from this wisdom of the ages, I enjoyed every minute of daughter Ganda’s childhood that I bore witness too.  She was showy without being pretentious, friendly without being overbearing, naughty without being disrespectful, and self-aware without being self-absorbed.  She was all those things, without ever stopping being a joy in my life.

She is all of 25 years old now, every bit a woman, and with a guy in her life too. She has picked up the cynicism of the postmodern world without abandoning the optimism of the traditional world she left behind, in her youth, and in the Philippines. I can only wish her luck in this shattered world I will soon leave behind for her.

I cannot stop looking at her 4 years young, gorging on brandy-laced fruit cake and dropping off into happy sleep afterwards. I cannot help seeing her as perpetually a toddler, although she will be raising a family soon. I cannot view her as anything other than my own, even if she will be someone’s wife, mother and daughter-in-law soon.

But I can hope.

Belated happy birthday Ganda!  I love you always!