Last page of my 2017 OFW diary: salamat employer, salamat Wellington & salamat New Zealand!

overworked.jpg[Note: so sorry I haven’t reached out lately. Maraming salamat sa pagdalaw, maraming salamat sa pagbasa, at maraming salamat sa pagtangkilik! I’ve enjoyed your company throughout the year, hope the feeling is mutual Precious Reader! (btw just had to use that pic above, thanks and acknowledgment to! ]

THE DYING DAYS OF 2017, literally, are when our factory, as a complex, self-contained and autonomous organism, starts to slow down. People start to use up their leave, sick days suddenly start appearing on the time sheet, and even the supervisors / team leaders start zooming off the site early.

To forestall this, right after the Christmas party somewhere mid-December the boss just rosters a skeleton crew until the second week of January, when most of the staff comes out of its month-long hangover and returns to work, battle-ready with hammer and nails (or sword and shield, if you prefer).

I drew the short straw (or “taya” in Filipino playground lingo), not just because I was on leave Christmas last year, but also because the Philippines being so far away, I asked for an extended leave early this year to attend the wedding of my folks’ very first grandchild, my nephew. Except for the statutory holidays, I would be working through the season.

*****     *****     *****

Bisor calls me up with bad news and good news on Christmas Eve.

I’m gonna ask you to do something shitty and you can say no, but I’ll be grateful if you say yes.

Swallowing hard, I say what is it boss?

I’m gonna ask you to do midnight to seven the 27th, get a little rest, then come back to do the afternoon shift same day, I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed.

Arggggggghhhh. And the good news?

Surprise! I finish the week early, Thursday night.

I wanna say “but boss, that’s ONLY BECAUSE I start the week early, diba?” But I decide to save it for a rainy day. (In short, walang good news.)

“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed” is code for PLEASE, and besides as long as I had the requisite nine-hour rest between night shift and afternoon shift, the double shift was legal. And I liked my new bisor. Still, it was a lot to ask of my half-century old body.

All this time, the company had been doing little favors for me, like facilitating my legal paperwork, paying for tradesman training (although the ultimate benefit was theirs), and regularly sweetening the usual goodies like shift allowance, meal allowance, and other stuff that they were legally committed to anyway but improved on. It was time to give back, Noel.

That meant coming back to work midnight after Boxing Day (a holiday), getting a little sleep and then dragging myself back for the afternoon shift. Tough, but someone had to do it.

*****     *****     *****

LESS THAN 24 HOURS LATER, just as I thought I’d gone above and beyond the call of duty, comes the acting supervisor (not the one who called me earlier) with another request. Could I work till 2 am my last shift of the year (an extra three hours!), keep the packer company and, as long as I was there, keep the factory running?

The whole week before Christmas I was already on night shift by the way. Adding to the unexpected night shift the 27th, working till 2 am was almost like another night shift. Grrr… Guess what I told acting bisor?

Sure. Just tell my shift partner so we’ll finish the same time.

*****     *****     *****

It wasn’t just the extra production time needed, of course. Health and safety rules here don’t allow single man shifts (except in specific situations), so the packer working alone, admittedly urgent, was a no-no. And I liked the old packing guy, with his easy-going ways and taking pride in his work. How could I say no?

*****     *****     *****

Most OFWs and migrants say New Zealand is a great place to work, and I’m no exception. Labor laws are followed to the letter, and any doubt in the interpretation of the law or evidence in disputes are usually resolved in favor of the worker, and as long as you don’t have vices and live frugally, the pay is good.

Despite my status as guest worker, I’m treated as a local. I enjoy the same rights as any other worker, get to join a union, receive all the benefits, and get credited with seniority and recognition like anyone else.

I sometimes take these for granted, and I need little wake-up calls like year-end situations to tell me, nakikisama kami sa yo, pero kapag panahon ng gipitan, makisama ka rin sana.

It’s true that NZ needs its migrants to run the engine of growth, mind its dairy farms and care for its aging population, but those of us already here need NZ just as much. To live quality lives, raise our families and fulfill our dreams. We need each other.

*****     *****     *****

For the record, the shift went well. The packer, a brown guy like me, from the Cook Islands filled his packing orders, packed a record number of pallets of product for the supermarkets, and we all went home happy.

Happy to have done our bit for ourselves, the company, and for New Zealand, our last shift of the year.

Thanks for reading and happy 2018, mabuhay!








Quittable 2017 : you CAN and are able to stop smoking, today

[Note : Ok ok the not so positive reinforcment is up there in that video (if I was able to find it), the positive is below. I do this around this time every year since I quit smoking for good in 2007. I don’t want to sound like a pompous, sanctimonious anti-smoking advocate, but only for today, I will. thanks for reading! ]

NOT GIVING THE SLIGHTEST care about what others say, Precious Reader / Kabayan or both, I believe that blogs are the last bastion and refuge of the brutally honest, whether or not such honesty serves them. To myself, my God and eternity I owe having done my best, choosing good over evil, and being true to myself. Since I can’t promise the last two, at least I can try doing the first, right? 🙂

And that’s why I begin this post by telling you Precious Reader, that whoever tells you that, having quit smoking for good (recently, a few years ago or a lifetime ago), he or she doesnt miss it, is lying, propagandizing, or simply not being honest  with himself / herself (I’ll stuck to the male pronoun for facility from hereon OK?). Whether it’s physical or mental, the temporary comfort of relieving stress, the appearance of being cool whatever else, there must be SOME benefit of smoking. Having quit must therefore produce an even greater benefit, or avoiding an evil greater than the supposed benefit.

And such production or avoidance we have long been acquainted with, from bad breath, breathing or lung capacity, prevention of lung cancer and emphysema, to living a quality life well beyond your retirement years, the list is long and substantial. I just want to add a few original thoughts (to me):

YOU CAN STOP AT ANY AGE. I quit smoking at the ripe old age of  42, when only twenty years previous, I thought hitting your 40s  was the twilight of your life. After quitting, I remarried, ran two half-marathons, and learned a new profession. So when you think back, at the time I quit my life was actually in front of me. And your new life is actually in front of you too, as soon as you stop smoking. You can do literally anything you want, which brings me to my next thought:

THE POTENTIAL FOR POST SMOKING GREATNESS IS INFINITE. Restart and jumpstart vigorous physical activity after years of dormancy. Spice up intimacy and sex with your beloved. Take up a new hobby, or even clean up around the house. The possibilities are tremendous, and limited only by your imagination. All because you decided to stop smoking, whose effects go beyond the rejuvenation gained by your body. You begin to think more clearly, your life is no longer defined by a bad habit, and more enjoyably, your social life improves dramatically (as in, people no longer avoid you and your bad breath). See? Those scenarios I thought up just as I was typing this, without even a second to pause and think about same. Imagine this: 24 hours after you smoke your last cigarette, you begin reaping the benefits physically and psychologically, no matter how long you’ve been smoking.

SO YOU BACKSLID? JUST QUIT AGAIN. That cynical quote attributed to Mark Twain says it all: “It’s easy to quit (smoking), I’ve done it a hundred times.” So you were on your longest streak ever, three months, when in a moment of weakness during an inuman (drinking session) you saw someone light up and just had to say yes to the offer to share a ciggie? Let me guess, you were back to smoking the next day like you never stopped. Sigh, this happens a lot of times, but the great thing is you’ve got the right attitude, and you’ve accomplished so much by taking the first step. Next thing to do is start your streak again!

See Precious Reader? You’ve made the first step by reading all the way to this last paragraph. Of course the rest is up to you, but as far as I’m concerned, you’re on your way. Mabuhay ka, and congrats on your decision to stop smoking!

Thanks for reading!