can pinoys be bullies in the NZ work place?

thanks and photo acknowledgment to!

TEKA, teka, teka. I can hear you ask, you sure you don’t have it backwards ? You gotta point there, because in my own work site, for quite some time, I thought was bullied a bit here and there before I realized everyone went through the same thing.

Not even thinking about it too much, Pinoys seem more like the victims than the bad guys in a bullying situation because of their physical and social attributes. Pinoys are less than average in height and weight, eager to please, happy to just get along with everybody, always put the team ahead of self, and have very little ego whatsoever.

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But the reality is, anyone who persistently uses power (position, authority, seniority etc) over a colleague that is offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting, covertly or otherwise, may be guilty of workplace bullying.

Pinoys may not be physically imposing or intimidating, but can cause distress to workmates in other ways.  Who among us has not experienced constant sarcasm, being isolated or ignored, being undermined or overloaded in work, and being subject to constant (though subtle) ridicule that can wear you out eventually? It may not cause the obvious cuts and nicks, but the damage inside is as bad, and maybe longer lasting.

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These are typical, but actually authentic sounding scenarios. Any of them ring familiar to you kabayan?

Case 1.  Bhong, a supervisor, made romantic overtures to Denise, a new member of his work   team and was rejected. He responded by telling the rest of the team that the new girl was hard to work with, not a team player, and not worth the attention of everyone else. Coming from a weekend break, Denise quickly realized no one was talking to her, and helping her get adjusted to her new work environment. She ends up resigning before the end of her first year.

Case 2. Ricardo, a new worker, passes the final interview over a more popular candidate. The staff immediately makes this known to the successful applicant by making unreasonable work demands his very first week, forcing him to work overtime just to keep up with the workload, and requiring the new worker to produce work output not justified for someone barely a month into work. The worker survives the probationary period, but the physical and emotional stress takes its toll and resigns as well.

Case 3. Marian, a female worker produces better than average output and becomes the favorite of Dingdong, the manager. She then becomes the subject of baseless and malicious gossip from unidentified members of the mostly-female staff. Marian’s personal life suffers as a result and, with little support from management, leaves her employer shortly.

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In each of these cases no physical mistreatment, or threat of such, was used, but the behavior under present New Zealand law could be prosecuted in a court of law.

More importantly, this type of indirect or “passive-aggressive” behavior is typical across a wide range of workers, in all industries, not the least where migrants do well. Because Asians like us (di lang naman tayo) avoid direct confrontation, we resist or express our conflict in an indirect or lateral manner. Sadly, we would rather resolve our differences by obliquely attacking someone we perceive as undesirable.

Such an unlikely situation, when after coming so far to New Zealand, and working so hard to make a meaningful contribution here, we become the very bullies that we want to avoid. Getting along with everyone at work means exactly what it says, getting along with everyone, with good will to all and malice towards none. New Zealand and our employers have been good to us. Let’s pay it forward!

Mabuhay tayong lahat!



tinimbang ka ngunit kulang (so close and yet so far): the curious case of kabayan Juliet Garcia

kabayan Juliet Garcia doing the work she loves with Switzer resident Kathleen Bowater. thanks and acknowledgment to Northland Age!

(Note : To fellow Filipinos and Tagalog speakers, I agree in advance that the English translation of the initial title isn’t that accurate, yet for my purposes it’s quite apt. Bear with me please, or better yet give me a better title. Medyo mahaba po ang blog. Thank you for reading!)

WHAT IF? You spent your best 10 years (no, 11!!) working as a guest worker in New Zealand…

WHAT IF? You worked, not just in an industry where migrant workers were sorely needed (the medical and allied services industry), but in a region where no locals and New Zealanders would work, outside the comforts of the major urban centers…

WHAT IF? You were appreciated not only by your employer in that place of work but by those you cared for everyday, as if they were your loved ones and cherished members of your family, not just for the wages and remuneration (which isn’t that much by the way) but because you had grown to love them, out of love for your fellow man, and love for your profession…

WHAT IF? Despite the strict immigration and labor laws you persevered, patiently building up your skill level to the point where at least, you had a fighting chance to stay in New Zealand permanently, in New Zealand where, after all, you paid your dues, never mind the blood sweat and tears you could have paid anywhere else…

WHAT IF? Despite all these what ifs, brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, friends, Romans and countrymen, the benefit that you prized most of all, the right to stay permanently in the country you served so well, was cruelly denied you?

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If it sounds too improbable, too unfair to be true, then truth might as well be stranger than fiction Precious Reader, because in a nutshell it is what happened to Pinay countryman (woman) Juliet Garcia:

The Radio NZ website tells the short, sad story best, so we’ll quote it directly (everything in bold font):

“Ms Garcia qualified in dementia care and diversional therapy in 2017 to gain enough points to apply for a residence visa as a skilled migrant.

However, she said changes to the immigration rules that took effect last August meant she no longer had the points needed to apply for residence when her work visa runs out in mid-2019.

Under the new system, which limits some migrant workers to three years in New Zealand, she was uncertain that even her work visa would be renewed.

“I used to have points [towards residence] for ten years for work experience here and having a sister in Auckland. But I’ve lost those points under the new rules, and I don’t know if I can keep facing the stress of not knowing every year if I can stay, and the expense of applying,” she said.

If you think kabayan Juliet is on her own trying to stay here, she’s not. Her employer practically loves her, as Radio NZ continues:

Switzer Trust (Juliet’s employer) has been required by Immigration NZ to advertise Mrs Garcia’s job every year, but has never found a New Zealander to replace her.

“We have advertised locally and nationally at considerable expense. We’ve had it on Facebook, on TradeMe we had about 360 hits and that came down to three applications,” Mrs Simkins said.

“Two pulled out and the last person standing from that very expensive advertising session was not qualified.”

Switzer Trust (Juliet’s employer) had appealed to the Immigration and Health Ministers to review Mrs Garcia’s case and let her stay but to no avail, she said.

Far North mayor John Carter said Mrs Garcia was the sort of immigrant the district needed and Immigration’s stance was inexplicable.

“She’s done a tremendous amount to get qualified; she’s done all the things that this nation has asked of her, that the Switzer Home has asked of her, that the community has asked of her and now when it comes to the last hurdle we’re getting this negativity.

“We need people like Juliet and her husband who [are] contributing to the economy and the community up here as well. They are good people,” Mr Carter said.

Northland District Health Board chair Sally Macauley also believed Mrs Garcia should stay.

“It is hard in the north to obtain such professionalism as I know Juliet has,” Mrs Macauley said.

“She is one of a class of caregivers that we find difficult to retain. She has been with us since 2007; she’s loved by everyone at the Switzer and works extremely hard.”

Both the DHB chair and Far North mayor have asked the Ministers of Health and Immigration to look into Mrs Garcia’s case for residence.

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So Juliet ticks all the boxes. No one likes her job, but she does. She’s in a job that’s always in demand because there aren’t enough New Zealanders to fill it. And on the surface she earns enough to be considered highly skilled in this country. No problem diba?

But wait. On the points-based system (effective August 2017) under which enough points earns you the right to be considered for permanent residence, which with all the attendant benefits is the ultimate prize for all migrant workers in New Zealand, the rules recently changed.

To make it worse, she upskilled and retrained in order to raise her skill level, only to be tripped up by the same set of new rules that declared her 10 years work experience useless (for purposes of residence application) as it was no longer “skilled enough.”

According to Juliet herself (above) the NZ work experience and having relatives in New Zealand used to count for points towards literally reaching the promised land. But these were recently taken away.

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Kabayan immigration lawyer Maricel Weischede who has taken up the fight on Juliet’s behalf, is baffled by the lack of practicality and compassion shown by the traditionally labor- and migrant-friendly Labour Government.

Again lets give a kabayan the floor, courtesy of her FB page:

we only asked (in Juliet’s residency application) for one requirement to be waived. The rest of the requirements could still be tested under the current immigration policy.

(Because of a technicality) It is disappointing that people like Juliet who spent more than years of her life working here can no longer claim for the number of years of work experience under the skilled migrant category because of new rules.

Abogado de campanilla Maricel has given her free time, expertise, and goodwill, even the audacity to go all the way to the current Labor Government (represented by its Ministers for Immigration and Health) to knock some sense and compassion into the powers-that-be.

But even then, it might not be enough.

It’s truly heartbreaking to know that many other migrants in our major NZ urban centers work jobs that utterly fail the logic of skills shortage, essential skills and contribution visas, and yet kabayan like Juliet are desperately needed, work wholeheartedly  in the heartland of Aotearoa, never think of working anywhere else, and yet fall short of the requirements of a full welcome.

Tinimbang ka, ngunit kulang.

Let’s not give up the fight for Juliet Garcia.

For we are Juliet Garcia, and Juliet Garcia is us.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

ang tamang pagsuri ng “f-bomb” ng Kiwi


THE MOST important thing to remember when listening to my hosts Kiwis, especially working-class, blue collar New Zealanders talk, is to not take it personally.

Filipinos like myself who grew up in westernized 1970s Manila almost always take offense hearing the words “shit,” “fuck” and similar words used in polite conversation. (From hereon I hope you don’t mind if I omit quote marks from these so-called curse words as they are only used as examples of modern speech).

Millennials and youth today on the other hand think nothing of using the same kind of language every other sentence they speak, as they grew up hearing it not just among themselves (and adults) but also in mainstream media, popular culture and the like.

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A very similar distinction exists when discerning the salitang kanto (street talk) when the listeners are on the one hand Pinoys who grew up in New Zealand, or newly arrived or relatively recently arrived migrants from the Philippines, on the other. Ethnically, racially and even linguistically identical, these two groups perceive the way New Zealanders’ casual talk very differently.

I’ve been here for some time, before Obama’s 2nd term, but I still think that when shit or fuck is used, it’s meant to insult me. Better than 99% of the time, it’s not.

More importantly, friends and colleagues of my kids talk that way too, and quite a few of them are children of kabayan. Again, it’s just the way it is now.

Let me give you an example of how a couple of words are used in several contexts or situations.

Fucking – when somebody says the fucking forklift gave up on me in the middle of the loading bay, or the fucking coffee machine ran out of mochaccino again, the accurate counterparts of the supposedly offending word in Tagalog, in this particular context, is bwiset, or putres, both mild cuss words in our language but not particularly profane. It’s meant to denote annoyance or amusement, or a combination of both. Specifically, yung bwiset na forklift tumirik sa gitna ng daan, or yung putres na coffee machine naubusan na naman ng mochaccino. And so on and so forth. The first time I heard it used this way, I thought the speaker was angry or intensely frustrated. Hindi naman pala. Now I know better.

fuck off — literally this means get out or get away, but the usage nowadays in New Zealand refers more to (1) leave after work and (2) get out of my face, a more or less friendly phrase of dismissal. For example, I say to my workmate, an ardent New Zealand Warriors fan, hey, your Warriors really got their asses kicked last night, huh (an increasingly common event now), the expected reply to me would be fuck off Noel. For number (1) by the way, fucking off is the immediate concern as soon as it’s time to log out of your computer. So if you ask me to answer an email when I’m about to fuck off, fuck off mate. Nothing personal.

fucked, or get fucked – even though I’ve joined them here, fucked and get fucked can mean two different things. I work in a factory environment, so fucked usually refers to machinery or a system that is not working and in urgent need of major repair. No short cuts or band aids here. When the plant engineer says Man, the gearbox is fucked you know there’s no point in arguing, might as well get a purchase order for a new part and call it a day. Get fucked is when you totally disagree with someone and want to tell him arguing is gonna get us nowhere, let’s just restart after lunch shall we? The short form is get fucked. Seriously, it’s a quick way to cut short a disagreement, when you’ve given up on someone and is the spoken version of the middle finger.

This is just one word, and yet it causes so much discussion between users and generations, primarily because well, it’s so usable. It’s up to us Filipinos to know how it’s used, what it’s meant and not meant to convey, and how to react.



‘mabuhay ang kalayaan!’ to serve as honor guard 12th June

main room honor guards

Independence Day rites at the Ambassador’s residence in Wellington, New Zealand. I had the additional honor of carrying the flag. Extreme left is H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, KASAGIP Honor Guard Commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve). I am flanked by Miggy Siazon and Ted Lacsamana.

[Note: thanks and acknowledgment to KASAGIP, a Wellington Pinoy self-help volunteer group organized by Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, Rachel Pointon and others; KASAGIP Honor Guard commandant Maj. Marcelo Esparas (Army Reserve), the Philippine Embassy staff in Wellington led by H.E. Ambassador Gary Domingo, and many others yet unnamed. Mabuhay kayo!]

IN THE OLD days, kings and lords couldn’t have defended their realms with just knights, swordsmen and men of valor. The best and bravest warriors had to be close to the king to protect him.

That meant that the farmers, builders, bakers and butchers, the humblest of the king’s subjects, all “volunteered” to be first in line, against the barbarian invaders or rival kingdoms.

The tradition of common folk in the army, volunteering for their leader, came to mind our Independence Day (Araw ng Kalayaan) when we volunteered to march as honor guard, bringing in the Philippine national flag, at the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand’s official residence in Wellington.

We are all common folk. I was and am a factory worker; our leader, although he was in the Army Reserve back home, is an accountant by trade and worked in the finance industry. All the others were and are comrades hardly out of university and had just started their jobs in the city.

We met all sorts of Filipinos at the occasion: community leaders, volunteers like ourselves, and kabayan just wanting to celebrate our independence day. In the end, it was just like one informal gathering wishing we were back home in the Motherland. One day we will all come home and be with all our loved ones again.

Happy Araw ng Kalayaan everyone!




ABS (alak babae sugal): the conceit of “only in the Philippines”


thanks and acknowledgment to !

I’M NOT sure what the Pinoy translation of breathtakingly naive is (Google Translate says nakakaakit na walang muwang, and it just doesn’t do the job for me)  but admittedly I will always be breathtakingly naive when it comes to Pinoys outdoing and outperforming everybody else in the world. For me, we will always be the best in certain things, I don’t even need to cite examples. You know who you are, and what you do best.

Unfortunately, I’m also naive in thinking where we’re worst at, and not even living in New Zealand the better part of this decade has changed this. I actually thought Pinoys were the best (worst), or at least among the best (worst) in the traditional ABS vices: alak, babae & sugal (alcohol, womanizing and gambling). I thought that per capita and in absolute terms (on a per person as well as in total amount) we were by far among the world leaders.

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luck and skill, although ultimately House Always Wins. thanks and acknowledgment to !

I now know that this is far from true. In a recent article, total gambling losses were divided among the total adult population to determine the gambling burden each person bore. You might be surprised, but the Philippines isn’t even in the top ten, average-wise. I’ll save you the trouble if you don’t have time to click through the story (but it’s quite cleverly written): Australia is Number 1, followed by Singapore. Ireland is #3. In this case, statistics don’t lie, because the magnitude of gambling is seen against the size of the country’s population.

In absolute terms, meaning, in total amount gambled, again, we aren’t in the top 10 either. In case you’re interested, Number One is Uncle Sam USA, China is 2nd, followed closely by Japan at third. This time it would be understandable because those are giant economies we’re talking about, they naturally would have bigger amounts to gamble with. But there are other medium sized economies in the top 10 as well. Either we didn’t crack the top 10 or we just aren’t the world-class gamblers we thought we were.

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And did you think Pinoy husbands had the most wandering eyes when it comes to leggy skirts, tight tights and generous bosoms? Again, with nine European countries in the list (the lone exception being Thailand, number one!) we’re not even in the top 10 when it comes to percentage of married adults admitting having had an affair at least once in their married lives. So point to Catholic guilt, the proverbial rolling pin or just plain old Pinoy values, there’s still hope for our Pinoy husbands.

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And at 107th out of 191 countries whose data was recorded and analyzed by the World Health Organization, according to Wikipedia, we’re not even moderate drinkers by any standard. We only drink 5.4 liters per person, although the average is heavily skewed (or imbalanced) by lambanog (fermented coconut wine) and Ginebra San Miguel drinkers in the rural areas, where we all know most of the drinking and alcohol goes. In case you wanted to know, the top three nations in alcohol consumed, per capita, are Belarus, Moldova and Lithuania, 1-2-3 respectively. Russia, who gave vodka to the world, is a tipsy 4th, while Germany, where it’s part of the culture to start drinking beer in your pre-teens, is a surprising 23rd.

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So we are probably known for other things in the world: our ability to work anywhere and with anyone; our smiles and hospitality, and our ability to speak English. But we’re not necessarily known for our vices, and now, we have the stats to (not) back this up. Bottom line, we’re very moderate in our guilty pleasures, good for us!

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!



may forever pa rin: do migrant couples stick together longer?


Thanks and acknowledgment for the Quinones family pic to and of course the Quinones family! maraming salamat po!

[ NoteCongrats to Anita Mansell, Bulwagan Foundation Trust and all the organizers, sponsors and participants in Fil-Trip of Wellington! ]

IF WE had removed that question mark at the end of the title above, it would be so presumptuous sounding. Why would migrant couples be considered any more loyal to each other than their home-bound counterparts? Why would I discriminate against couples who chose to stay in the Philippines, raise families and remain close to the extended family?

And that’s why, spoiler alert po, there is nothing scientifically accurate or facts-based about my idea that couples who migrate, either together or one shortly after the other (for practical reasons) have a better chance at their relationship than a similar couple back home.

But my experience and empirical observation (just looking around me and keeping eyes and ears open) leads me to believe that migrant couples have a lot of factors going for them. I’m almost sure that many  many couples have a stronger, stabler and long-lasting relationship relatively speaking, than if they had stayed at home, chose not to make sacrifices in terms of finances and career, and chose to devote more time to each other in the Philippines.

You see, more than singles or people recovering from broken relationships couples particularly tend up to give a little more leaving familiar shores of the homeland. They leave solid jobs, the comfort of extended families, the stability of home-based finances etc. The chances of earning more and saving more may be greater overseas, but the uncertainty is daunting.

The clear motive for couples is the future. Raising young families and committing more time for each other, returning to the basics of the marriage, that, as well as of course the quality of life, seems to be the focus. In my humble opinion, what do migrant couples have going for them?

Fusion of goals. In marriage and relationships we often hear of alignment or adjustment of goals. We do this for harmony in the relationship, or bonding of the couple, or spending of more time together, natural objectives in any long-term relationship.

When a couple migrates, the alignment or union of goals becomes not only desirable, it becomes essential to the continued survival of the two members of the relationship, which is what makes up the couple after all. Alignment is now fusion of goals, what is the goal of one becomes the goal of the other as well. Everything, from the finances, to scheduling of jobs, free time, even the minutest details of routines in daily lives, becomes a total team effort. Only migrant couples will fully appreciate this observation, but it is extremely relateable to any couple that strives to do things together. To a romantically neurotic degree nga lang.

Less or no secrets from each other. Aminin na natin (let’s admit it), no marriage or relationship is perfect. And one of the greatest thorns on the side of the happy couple are the secrets and skeletons in the closet. We’re only human, and there are things that out of fear, guilt or awareness that a partner might get hurt we tend to keep from our spouses.

Because migration forces us to be extra extra-close to our loved ones, keeping secrets become impossible. Remember, nearly ALL our free hours after work are spent together. If ever we have recreational activities with or without the kids, 99% of time it will be spent together. Honesty and openness between husband and wife becomes second nature, the family could not survive otherwise. Anyone caught in a lie would spell disaster not only for the couple but the rest of the family as well. Anong mukha ang maipapakita nila kapag umuwi sila sa Pilipinas? And so out of necessity or love (or maybe both), the couple becomes true, or truer to each other. And the winner ultimately is the relationship.

Us-against-the-world circle the wagon mentality. Because of priorities, necessity and the nature of migrant living, everything takes second place to the family. All other distractions, like hobbies, physical activity, sometimes even religion are kept outside the focus of daily life of the migrant couple. Instead of making their relationship more difficult, it most likely will make them closer.

The couple (and by extension, their family) have no choice but to concentrate on each other, their needs, hopes and dreams. Not coincidentally, the partners’ hopes and dreams become similar, and ultimately identical to each other. Which, when you think about it, is what marriage and  a relationship is all about. When two become one.

Someday, psychologists, social scientists and relationship experts will find a way to break down how much more (or less) successful migrants couple are than other kinds. In the meantime, we’re just waiting to confirm what most of us already know: that in the migrant couple’s experience, may forever (there’s such a thing as forever).

Thanks for reading!

mga Pintados ng Wellington 1: Kabalen Kai !

kabalen kai

ready to sell out even before lunch, the happy couple behind KABALEN KAI, Nok and Edna Bognot, are all smiles on a rainy-sunny Saturday!

[ Note : It always makes my day to meet a Filipino kabayan in Wellington, whether at work or at play. Because it’s such a treat for me, I promise whenever I can to post it in this here humble little blog of mine. Centuries back, we used to be called Pintados, because we allegedly painted our faces. So welcome to my first in a series called Mga Pintados ng Wellington! thanks for reading! ]

THEY ARE the least obtrusive kiosk / stall at the Hutt Riverside weekend market, where Your Loyal kaBayan (YLB) Noel, when weather permits, spends precious downtime. To be quite honest: smallest food kiosk, least colorful food stand.

The menu is very spartan, admittedly a labor of love, but not that extensive: pork skewers (pork BBQ), BBQ pork bun (siopao); kutsinta, leche flan and Filipino kakanin (rice pastries), pork sisig (bits of pork sauteed and deep fried), and other exotic stuff. Not your normal New Zealand, Kiwi breakfast fare. However:

The Pork Sisig has sold out.

The Siopao has sold out.

Nearly everything else, save for the kakanin and leche flan (which admittedly needs an acquired taste) is gone.

Before noon.

Welcome to Kabalen Kai, loosely translated (in Kapampangan and Maori te Reo) to Homegrown or Homemade Food.

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Nok and Edna Bognot (pictured above in their food truck) have always loved cooking for people.  For gatherings of 3 to 300, the Kapampangans (a region or province in Luzon, the North Island of the Philippines) in them have considered catering and pleasuring tummies second to nature. Only when somebody suggested that they do it as a business, starting out small before going big, did they consider actually catering formally.

It wasn’t an easy road. They enjoyed rave reviews, but the overhead ate up any profits. They always got four to five stars everywhere they went, but because they always chose taste over margins, they almost always ended up just over the break-even mark. Very little to show, except full stomachs, satisfied taste buds and good will among kabayan.

kabalen kai menu

yum yum yum! i want everything, pero ubos na 😦

Nok and Edna stayed the course though. Saving up on the fees and licenses, crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on all the paperwork, they literally rolled out, on a chilly rainy Saturday last April, their mobile resto named Kabalen Kai, a portmanteau of Kapampangan and Maori words.

Two out of four Saturdays (the Riverside Market is only open Saturdays) they’ve sold out, and surprisingly the patrons are not just kabayan like you and me. Asians, New Zealanders, every sort of hungry customer ends up coming back the next Saturday. Nok and Edna are happy, but then again they would be happy if they just broke even.

Masaya kami kapag nasasarapan ang customer, Edna shouts over the hiss and sizzle of the grill.

One more order of sisig, kabalen!

Thanks for reading and more power to you, Nok and Edna!

ga-hibla lang ang pagitan ng pagbibiro & bullying

thanks and acknowledgment to for the picture!

AS USUAL, let me use myself as an example, as all bloggers do. I’m not among the most popular guys in my workplace because of my looks (LOL), or because I hand out chocolates every now and then, or because I smell good and use deodorant all the time (I do). It’s because I get along with every person and this includes allowing my workmates to poke fun at me every once in a while.

The source of the fun is plenty, it never runs out. I am the acknowledged least mechanically apt or mechanically inclined person on site, and in a factory full of machines, that is a particularly standout trait. Suki ako ng plant engineer at plant electrician, although on at least half of my calls to them, it’s a breakdown that can’t be helped. And so my legend grows as someone who gets things broken during his shift. It’s a blown up and exaggerated legend, but I don’t mind because everyone laughs.

Another source of teasing with me is that, as a Filipino, I’m one of the shortest people among staff, if not the shortest guy. It doesn’t help that more than half of my workmates are above 5 feet 10. I usually introduce almost everybody to a newcomer this way : This is Steven. He’s a tall guy!” to which Steven sez ” EVERYBODY is a tall guy to you Noel.” Which usually ends up, again, in laughs and snickers.

The last common source of good natured insults is my lack of driving skill. On site, and probably everywhere else in New Zealand, everyone, from top to bottom, has a car, no matter how flashy or trashy. I don’t bring a car to work because between wife Mahal and me, we have only one vehicle, and she doesn’t mind bringing me to work. I often walk or run home when the weather permits, and bike often when it’s not winter. I actually have a driver’s license, but wear the non-driver tag like a badge of honor, loving the environment, saving on fuel and all that. The honest truth is most of the time I’m just too lazy to pass the driving test allowing me to drive alone (in here it’s called a “restricted” license), and my colleagues see right through me.

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Once, an unnamed workmate actually took me aside and asked me if the teasing, taunts and zingers were beginning to get to me. This guy had only been in our workplace a few years and hardly knew the interchange between most of the people, especially oldtimers like me.

It’s nothing, man. You have to have a thick skin when you work here, especially with practically an all male staff, I commented, trying to justify the situation.

“That’s just it,” countered my workmate right back at me. If half those comments made at you were made to me, I’d instantly confront them or report it as harrassment, he added.

Whoa whoa whoa, I mentally checked myself.

If this guy was reacting so strongly to what he’d been seeing that was done to me, the cutting remarks, the comments on my faults, and the general mocking, either the guy was a supersensitive type, or maybe I had been getting used to too much borderline bullying at work.

The only problem? One, a lot of people did it to me, and Two, I really didn’t mind.

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For a couple hours going to work ( I walked that day) I thought about Sensitive Co-worker’s comments. Thought about it really hard. Here’s what I came up with.

( I’m not trying to justify the situation OK? )

For starters, I’m really a self-deprecating, aw-shucks, wala-lang kind of guy. Which means, if it helps lighten the mood, and if it doesn’t reflect on my character, race, personal integrity and the like, all is fair in love and war for me. I DO  have a thick skin.

Secondly, I owe a lot of guys a lot of favors around the work place. I am admittedly not high on mechanical aptitude, and I lean on the maintenance staff for helping me out when I’m in a bind or a breakdown during my shift. Because I’m a nice guy, these technical guys go the extra mile for me. I do the same whenever I can, which isn’t often. ( Think about it, what can I do for them? next to nothing.)

And lastly… It’s nearly at the back of the mind, below the surface kind of thing, but after more than 10 years working in Wellington, I still see myself as the guest, the outsider, always on the outside looking in. I’m here via the goodness of their hearts, my hosts I mean, and to be courteous, tolerant and literally, to have a thick skin. So far it has worked for me.

Is it part of the normal day-to-day of people working with each other? Is it borderline bullying? What if everybody does it? Not just to me, but to everybody else?

I’m not prepared to answer that now. On this issue, I’m a fence sitter.

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Obviously, what is alright for one person may be quite stressful, or even painful to another. If you feel harrassed at work on any level, don’t let it pass. Tell someone,  someone you trust in management, or your human resources (HR) officer. In my case,I recognize that the notoriety I enjoy at work is a double-edged, 50-50 thing.

But at the moment, I’m not complaining.

Thanks for reading!



why the NZ pinoy community is like a layered sapin-sapin

thanks and acknowledgment to

[Note : It goes without saying, but everything here is Your Loyal kaBayan Noel’s opinion. No research, no stats, just me.  If you’re still reading, thank you po. 🙂 ]

IN MORE than one local movie I saw growing up in the Philippines during the 1970s, someone would burst into a scene shouting, sunog, mga kapitbahay! SUNOG! (fire, neighbors, FIRE!) which would launch everyone in the scene into chaos, running around like headless chickens before an organized effort to put out the fire was conducted. The communication was short but sweet; the reaction instantaneous. A universal response of help for your fellow man, and an instinct towards self-preservation.

Figuratively, there are a few fires facing our little barangay community in Aotearoa, New Zealand. But the response is not as readily discernible as the cinematic fire scene above.

Instead of literal fires, we have social issues that potentially affect all Pinoys here. I picked out three major issues facing the Pinoy community in NZ today.

The first is the use of private educational training institutes to convince would-be kabayan into applying for student visas, in the hope of using a “back door” to residency. (This might’ve been effective before, but not now.) I won’t comment on whether or not this has helped Pinoys, it helps to know that an element of fraud has entered the picture, and there has been enough public discourse on the matter.

The second great issue is the situation faced by many Pinoys already in New Zealand: Is residency available, and how difficult (or easy) is it to attain such residency status? How important are the specific skills possessed by our different kabayan in improving their migrant status? Assuming a particular set of skills brought you to New Zealand shores, will the same skills give you permanent resident status? Are there any other avenues to migration success, like new legislation, amnesty, etc that are available?

Last but not the least is the ever-present issue of racism, overt and subtle, that permeates into all layers of NZ society.  It’s an issue that affects all migrants not just us Pinoys, but it’s important nevertheless.

These three issues affect us all in different ways, and to gain a personal understanding, I thought of how the NZ Pinoy community is divided, for my purposes, three generic (for lack of a better word) classes that view these and future issues in their respective ways.

(Describing or touching on the issues themselves is only incidental, my paksa is just to pigeonhole how we as Pinoys are affected and guessing at how each might react.)

WAGs and family. Or short for Wives and Girlfriends of Kiwis, and immediate family. These are our kabayan who’ve gained entry and residence into New Zealand via the partnership visa, by being wives, partners and fiancees of citizens here. On the surface, they are the ones who would have the least relateability to current issues facing migrants in New Zealand. After all, by virtue of being family, they are instantly considered New Zealanders as well, don’t you think?

It’s not as simple as that. For one thing, they have to live and work here like everyone else, and they have to prove that they are as skilled, dependable and as able to contribute to the local economy of their new home as well as the next guy (or girl). As much as anyone else, Pinay wives and partners of Kiwis keep their eye on the employment and economic pulse, because they have to compete for jobs and wages as most of us do.

Let’s be real: more than anyone else, Pinays who are here on a partnership visa don’t want to be seen as getting a free ride on living the dream in Aotearoa. They are just as skilled, hardworking, creative and results-oriented as any kayumanggi brother or sister. Some of us might mention that they are just a bit luckier than the ordinary Pinoy. Just don’t let any of them hear you. 🙂

The student visa holders. These are the kabayan who got here to study a field of expertise, allowed to look for a job for a certain period here in NZ after graduation, and if successful allowed to apply for permanent resident status.

I’ll be brutally honest with you: these are the kabayan who are affected most by the current issue of fraud in the migrant education industry, because the system is being abused in other countries. In the Philippines we aren’t entirely innocent either, unscrupulous kabayan use the dream of using a “shortcut” pathway to living in NZ permanently via the student visa: it simply isn’t done that way.

Some kabayan have hit the home run so to speak of attaining PR (permanent resident) status but they did it the hard, old-fashioned way. They applied for specialty courses in fields where very few or no New Zealanders are available, acquired the necessary skills, and with the companion Pinoy sipag at tiyaga applied for jobs fitting their new qualifications after graduation. These kabayan richly deserve their migrant rewards because they worked for it.

The skilled migrant pathway users. These are the guys who went through the proverbial eye of the needle. They acquired their experience and expertise in the Philippines, the Middle East, all over the world. They were lucky enough to be in professions that were badly needed in New Zealand. And they were either direct hires or gambled time and money looking for jobs that suited their qualifications before striking gold with a Kiwi employer using their particular talent and skill.

You know the script : Nurse, I.T. engineer, scaffolder, carpenter, builder, caregiver, teacher, all the traditional jobs and professions Pinoys are good at. But there are dozens and dozens of other positions we fill, simply because we are needed in the New Zealand workplace : communications linemen, draftsmen, allied medical professions like x-ray technicians, phlebotomists, physiotherapists; the list goes on and on.

Of course you’d expect the partnership visa holders, student visa holders and skilled migrant pathway visa holders to all be affected by an migrant related issue in New Zealand. Each time a Pinoy is granted entry here, we stake our country’s reputation as honest, hardworking, dependable, grateful, courteous, cheerful workers who only want a chance to live the New Zealand dream of a living wage for an honest day’s work.

It’s just we react a little differently depending on how we got here. The Pinoy community has so many layers, like the multi-colored sapin-sapin. The examples above barely scratch the surface.

It’s up to each of us to show others we deserve our precious Pinoy reputation, and everyday the challenge is renewed.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat! Thanks for reading!


to God’s noblest creatures, today is your day! (hi Mom!)

despite our groovy outfits, Mom still stands out (1975 or thereabouts)

IF YOU Precious Reader are like me, there have been few constants in your life. Our postmodern, post Industrial and Social Media-oriented age trains us to embrace change, meet change head-on, and discard the old ways in favor of the unknown, untried, untested and new, as long as the latter has the requisite likes, reposts, or retweets.

I’m no stranger to trying new things, but being a middle-aged, baby boomer, child of the 70’s, I’m afraid of anything shiny, bluetooth-accessible, and assembled best via YouTube tutorials. It’s a hazard of reality that I have to be friendly to user-friendly, cuz it’s not always that friendly, if you know what I mean.

*****     *****     *****

Comfortably old, comfortably, classic and comfortably never-changing for me (and I’m confident for my 4 other bros) is a surprisingly agile, sharp and canny woman still running her own business in Paco Manila, the old country.

She grew up with an absentee father and a mother always needing help with her three siblings, so she had to grow up right away and become first, a second mother, and then a substitute father to the rest of her brood. No surprise then, that she has such a strong personality, a subtlety better suited to a 14-wheeler, and a heart bigger than life itself.

She is the one constant in my life. If ever I have to call home, she is the first person I think of calling. If ever I’m in trouble, and believe me I’ve been there lots of times, she’s the first person I know who’ll bail me out, although not without the required sabon and scolding. I know I’m too old to still get myself in stupid situations, but no one is ever too old to run to their mothers for help.

…and barely 40 years later, we’ve hardly changed! Mom is still the rose among the thorns! Happy Mother’s day everyone!

We’re not lovey-dovey close, the way many offspring are to their mother. Her generation, the way she was (or wasn’t) brought up, and her basic personality doesn’t allow that. But I like to think that she loves me to bits, that way I do her.

After all, I think I’ve said before elsewhere that one of the other-worldly abilities of mothers, especially those with large broods, is that she can make you feel extra-special, alone among others. Later, you learn when comparing notes that she made each of you feel the same way.

In this world, mothers are alone doing that, and Mom is no exception.

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This year’s Mother’s Day is unusual. My mother is somewhere in Europe, on the pilgrimage of her life with her church group, to visit Rome, the Vatican, and hopefully, Pope Francis. A fleeting glance and a general blessing will be enough for her. As a bonus, son Panganay, working in UK, will be commuting via Eurail just to meet her. It will be a good reunion.

I won’t be able to call or text her. Nonetheless it’s a minor wrinkle for me, much less for her. She deserves this trip and everything, after all her years as a mother, and otherwise.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! I love you always! From all of us who do.

Thanks for reading everyone!