thoughts on the last working day of the year


Businessman Sitting Top Cliff Rock Mountain

[ Note : Sorry if we haven’t been getting together too often Precious Reader.  But beyond my quit-smoking post on Nov most years, this is the blog that I try not to forget, the count-your-blessings post.  Thanks 123RF.com for the pic, and thanks everyone for reading! ]

WE ALWAYS work in pairs, but halfway in, my shift partner had to go home early.  So I finished my last 2016 shift alone, although there were packers on the other end of the work site.

Surprise, surprise, everything worked out well just there and then.  Everything clicked, and product was churned out ton after ton, like it was the most natural thing in the world.  More important, it went straight to packing, nothing saved, nothing wasted, probably straight into a waiting truck into bakeries, restos and supermarkets.  It was THAT urgent.

Of course there was the shift partner (gone hours ago) who helped me set up the machines and raw material, the veteran who warned me of specific issues and situations to avoid, and of course the packers who checked in on me in the production area every now and then, but in the end, after half a shift of working alone, I turned out 31 tons of product.  Working on my own.

It was then when I felt, for all the trouble, training, dramas, stresses and sore legs, arms and unending fatigue, that I liked my job.  In fact, I liked my situation, and in sum, I liked my life.

I’m not being boastful, exemplary or trying to make this a teachable moment.  One person’s survival is another person’s perfect situation.  Perfect situation being :  you have a decent job, you have a little money saved in the bank, you are in reasonably good health, and you live in a country that respects human life, liberty and property.  Not a bad-looking list, especially using the eyes of someone in Africa (almost anywhere in Africa), or someone in the Middle East (almost anyone or anywhere in the Middle East) or someone in Syria (anyone, anywhere in Syria.  Except for that guy making it miserable for everyone else).

Decent Job.  It’s not a dream job, but I get paid better than minimum wage.  In New Zealand, that means you have money for the basics, and a little left over.  The job involves a little physical labor, and moving about, but so what?  It keeps me fit, and being fit at my age is a definite bonus.  To work my job, I need to be fit, and working allows me to continue being fit.  So it’s a gift that keeps giving.

Money saved.  This is where it gets tricky.  While the going is good, money coming in, and the sun is shining, you just don’t see the urgent need to save and put aside blessings now for blessings in the future.  BUT, believe me when I say this, this is important, you won’t be earning the same amount of money all the time, and all through life, your earnings may or may not go up, but your needs will never go down.

Just to be able to save a little money, by choice, is a pure luxury for me.  And that’s what I’m doing now.  A bit late, but better than never.

Good health.  This is my ace in my sleeve.  My last physical, said my doc who felt me in places too awkward to mention in a general patronage blog, said I was, for my age, job and stress levels, in very good health.  Meaning, my numbers were good, tests looked good, and the remainder of my life, against all odds, looked promising.

Promisingly good.

Let’s all count our blessings, happy new 2017, and Mabuhay!

towards an unspoken code of flatmates and flatting


[ Note: To kabayan going home during Christmas, have fun, spread the wealth around, but please take care.  Cliche-ish, but it’s no longer the same Philippines you left.  Thanks for reading, and thank you for the video ABS-CBN! ]

PRIOR TO Mahal arriving and joining me here in NZ, I was a flatmate with kabayan two out of two years.  Then after Mahal and I went flat-hunting and finally settled on a flat (apartment) we liked, we found a flatmate, then a flatmate, then a flatmate.  It was initially out of necessity, then we realized that as long as the flatmate was reasonably easy to live with, we liked living with flatmates.

We did this, knowing the usual caveats when seeking out and getting accustomed to flatmates: DON’T be flatmates with your best friends (you will always disappoint each other).  DON’T be too close with flatmates.  DON’T generalize and expect behaviors from flatmates according to preconceived notions based on regions (for example, Ilokanos are frugal, Pampangos are boastful, etc).  We based our tendency to look for flatmates on economics,  but also because we knew that Pinoys, for all our faults, liked to help each other, especially Pinoy migrants in the initial stages of settling in New Zealand.  Paying it forward, kumbaga  (so to speak).

Without further ado, here are the do’s and don’t we have accumulated while living and co-existing with flatmates in New Zealand:

DO help with the chores around the house.  On paper, flatmates  only need to clean up after themselves and look after their own junk.  But in practice, it’s always common sense to put yourself in the shoes of the owner / landlord/ flat mate-in-charge, and do whatever is needed for the betterment of the flat. You needn’t go all out, just do a little vacuuming, sweep around the place or water the plants / feed the pet if there’s a garden or house pet. A little effort goes a long way.

DO be sensitive with special needs and situations of flatmates.  If a flatmate is on night shift at least once a month, the week/s he or she is on the graveyard shift, sleeping times are obviously inverted, meaning when you’re awake, they’re trying to rest, and when you’re sleeping, they’re up and about, or just about to come home.  That means we need to be a little quieter around the house, and realize that when we’re ready to be off to work, they’re trying to sleep…

A flatmate and his/her group conducting Bible study / prayer meetings Tuesday early evenings?  Just for that one night (in fact, just for a couple hours), vacating the living room to give them a little more privacy and focus in their godly activity shows not only that you respect their faith, but that you can accommodate people with as much tolerance as possible (as long as it’s not TOO much or abusive na ha, use your own good judgment).

DO be sensitive about shared facilities, particularly toilet and bathroom, kitchen, TV viewing and computers (if the latter is part of the rent).  In most flats, there is only one toilet, and one bathroom.  It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that where there are between four to six users of such toilet, usage must be distributed equally and sensibly according to need and the different schedules of flatmates.

The need to understand and appreciate the complexity of this reality, the reality of shared use of toilet and bath, is nearly always underestimated and neglected, to the detriment of the flatmate relationship.  For one thing, the call of nature is something that can’t be ignored or delayed, and yet because we fear loss of face, we just can’t tell someone to get out of the toilet because we just HAVE TO let our bowels or bladders loose.  This dilemma and insensitivity on the part of the current toilet user, shallow though it may sound, may later escalate into major arguments that lead to flatmates parting ways.

Use of laptops and desktops are nowadays not so much an issue because of iPads, tablets, phablets and smartphones, but there are still flatting arrangements where the flat sharing fee includes use of a common computer, especially for messaging and emailing.  Which means, the time we get around to messaging and emailing our loved ones in the Philippines, assuming our flatmates are kabayan, are roughly the same.  So you take turns using prime time.

DO recognize that activities or habits that you may consider normal may not be so for other kabayan.  This is primarily why the classifieds and notices for flatmates specifically ask whether the owner/primary flatmate minds smokers, drinkers, socializers, etc.   Pinoys in my experience are generally more tolerant and circumspect about these things but it’s always good practice to ask.  Just ask yourself:  would  non-smokers mind tobacco smoke in the flat?  How much alcohol consumption is too much, and what is considered reasonable?  A good balance of tolerance and rulemaking, being aware of the sensitivities of your flatmates, and managing your own habits is key to being a good flatmate.

DO treat your flatmate/s as decently as you would your friend, relative or co-worker, as if you’d be flatmates forever.  Let’s be honest.  “Flatting,” or renting with flatmates, as it’s called in New Zealand, is at best a temporary arrangement, a relationship of convenience designed to fill gaps, scratch an itch, keep everyone happy until better things materialize.  But it’s not like, let’s just try to co-exist and after this, we’ll never see each other again.  It simply isn’t true.  While we may not be flatmates forever, flatting and being flatmates can be the foundation of a friendship that can last a lifetime.

This becomes possible when you do the simple thing and observe the golden rule.  Do unto your flatmates what you’d want them to do unto you.  Basic things like cleaning up after yourself, keeping quiet when you know flatmates are resting, staying out of the way when flatmates are entertaining visitors, and going out of your way to do household chores, are things that will create comments like, “that Noel?  yeah he was a pretty decent flatmate before he got married,” or “Noel for a flatmate?  we could do a lot worse!

Yeah, I wish I could get comments like those.  But you get the idea.  Be a good flatmate, and ultimately, you will get good flatmates.

You won’t see any of these rules, and you won’t find flatmates talking about it.  But here they are now.

Mabuhay, Maligayang Pasko sa lahat!

the bearable lightness of doing nothing (after night shift)


iron-man

with thanks to Pinterest and Google Images

[ Note: Advance happy birthday to one of my favorite aunts, Ms Emma Montenegro in Las Vegas.  Taos-pusong inaalay sa lahat ng kabayang uring manggagawa sa New Zealand, sa dairy workers, maggagatas, tagaalaga ng baka, tupa atbp, mga construction workers sa North at South Islands, mga obrero ng iba’t ibang uring trade work, at kung anu-ano pang mga industriya.  Mabuhay po tayong lahat! ]

(…Just got back from night shift.  I usually pick out a cold, cold brown bottle from the fridge, or half a glass of cheap Merlot, but I decided to spend it with you Precious Reader.   Charing!)

SHIFT WORK, among others, teaches me two great lessons: to appreciate the unit value of time, and to appreciate free time, even if it involves doing nothing.  Let me explain.

When you’re on afternoon or night shift, most of the time prior to work by absolute necessity is devoted to rest.  Rest to recover from the previous shift, rest to recover from aches, pains or injuries sustained during work, and rest to refresh both the mind and body for the work ahead.  Unlike a normal shift, rest will not come easily unless you deliberately and purposely lie your head on a pillow, remove all distractions, and knock yourself out into Dreamland.

*****     *****     *****

This is easier said than done.  If you’re like me, every little thing, from ambient noise, white noise, small movements, will distract your focus from relaxation.  Which, when you think about it, is actually a contradiction in terms.  You really can’t “focus” or spend energy relaxing, because relaxing is by nature NOT spending energy, a release from activity.  But you know what I mean.

So you spend a lot of time, at least half an hour to 45 minutes, getting into the netherworld between wakefulness and sleep.  So if you’re on a tight schedule (and I usually am), meaning you only have a six to eight hour window before you’re back on the road, even a tiny fraction of an hour can spell the difference between a good rest and a blah one that converts into a stressed workday.

On average, I do this five straight days every other week, and I’ve been doing so for the better part of a year now, owing to staff issues and the constant need for production.  Learning to sleep on demand at odd times and getting on with less sleep than normal is something I’ve learned to live with, but I don’t relish it, and I’ll never take sleep for granted.

*****     *****     *****

ON THE OTHER HAND, the last night shift, in fact the first few hours, minutes and moments after your last night shift, is a source of great exhilaration, because you are released from so many things.  Of course there is the weekend or rest days ahead (you will usually start late your first day back as a reward for doing night shift but not always).  But there’s also the exciting, exciting thought of NO MORE sleeping days, or afternoons, or stealing naps whenever you can.

More important, less than a few hours away, you will be able to sleep NORMALLY, that is, sleep at night, sleep in the dark, under the covers (it’s a little colder), and with no daytime noises inevitably interrupting your sleep.

But you can’t go to sleep at the moment.  The buildup to the end of your last hour of your last day of your last night shift has been so great, you’re still flush with a bit of adrenaline from anticipating the moment.

But what has it built up to?  Right now, right after work, right after earning your bread, you are actually idle, with nothing planned other than… sleep.  As if there was gonna be another night shift tonight.  Except that there’s no more night shift.

(Also, it’s early in the morning, when the sun is ablaze, birds are chirping, and the world is just starting to stir.)

But that’s perfectly OK.  You don’t mind.  You can spend the new day watching the news reruns from last night (if you can find it), read the newspaper, eat leftovers from last night, catch a McDo breakfast if you’re inspired enough, anything.

This is the bearable lightness I was talking about.  The infinite pleasure of doing nothing and everything.  The extreme satisfaction of doing nothing.

*****     *****     *****

It’s hard to explain, but doing night shift burdens you with multiple stresses.  The basic stress of work.  The stress of not getting enough sleep.  The stress of irregular sleep (when it’s bright outside).  The stress of having to prepare for the next night shift.

All these stresses disappear after your last night shift.  The unburdening is so great and so satisfying that even doing nothing is a nearly indescribable pleasure.

I’m not sure if I’ve been able to tell you how it is, but the bottom line is:  sleep is nearly as important as food and water on the list of basic needs in life.  

And you don’t need to go on night shift to learn that.

Thanks for reading!  Mabuhay po tayong lahat!

 

your kabayan’s five mins with Tatay D


punisher.png

[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 :

nadine

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


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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.

mga laro ng aking kabataan (games of my childhood)


[  Thanks to Darius Marquez of the Palarong Pinoy sa Wellington games committee for the info! ]

BEFORE SOCIAL media, before the Internet, before video games, in fact before any kind of electronic games, all we had was our creativeness and ingenuity.  That, and each other.  Pinoy kids played piko (a sort-of hopping game), habulan (tag), patintero (a territorial tag team game) and all sorts of physically-oriented games that didn’t require batteries, laptops, computer consoles or controllers.  All we had was our imagination.

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That, and a little piece of wood and string.  With the Yoyo, a wooden disc around which string was wound, you could do all sorts of cool stuff, like “rock the baby,” “walking the dog,” etc.

patintero

Patintero was played with teams of at least 2 to 5, with one team guarding the middle line, and two other teams trying to cross the lines from opposite ends.  In practice, it looks more fun than it sounds.

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Sipa was/is basically hitting a game piece (called a “sipa,” a washer with colorful threads attached to it) with you foot as many times as you can without the sipa touching the ground.

These and many other games will be played, with an adult, children and men’s/women’s divisions, at the Palarong Pinoy sa Wellington weekend starting 22 October Saturday at the ASB Sports Centre, Level 2 in Kilbirnie, Wellington.

Although teams from Pinoy communities all over Wellington are expected to send teams, everyone, Pinoy or non-Pinoy, is invited.

See you there!

letter to young Erlinda, 19, from future son Noel


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happy birthday mom!

Loving something, or someone more than yourself is a celebrated form of love throughout history and literature, but in reality the best proof that we have of selfless love is in that of our mothers. Over our lifetime and beyond, we can never show enough of our reciprocal love and appreciation for them. My mother celebrates her birthday today, enough said. What better time to tell her she is the best?  Happy birthday mom!

VIA SOME unheard-of technology, powered by a new unlimited and clean energy source and infra-infra range temperatures (discovered by those recent Nobel Prize winners), my body has been transformed into faster-than-light particles (and back to my body) that easily traverse the time-space continuum.  I’m not drunk or dreaming, this is actually happening.

Because it’s an auspicious date today, my mother Erlinda’s birthday, I select her last birthday as a dalaga (a maiden or single lady).  I alight from the time travel highway (for lack of a better term) in 1958, when the Philippines was a virtual 51st state of the American Union, and everything was much cleaner, less cluttered, and less populated than today.

Almost immediately I’m stuck by a quandary: I want to tell Erlinda all the things that will make her future a happier and better version based on my particular hindsight and peculiar foreknowledge, but if I do so, I might change fundamental aspects of our family history, including  (and especially including) my existence and that of my four brothers.  I’ve seen too many time-travel movies not to know that your (altered) past (literally) eventually comes back to haunt you.  I might even unwittingly influence (hopefully positively, but hoping NOT negatively) the lives of countless others my mother touched, and continues to touch today.

I want so much to see her and talk to her, but ultimately decide not to. Instead I write a letter and have it hand-delivered to her.

“Dear Erlinda :

“I don’t want to scare you, but I know quite a lot about you.  I know that you will get married soon, and that you want to start a family very soon after that.  But with the help of technology, I have the gift of knowing far more than that.  I know that you will succeed being both wife and mother, friend and lover.

“Because of your natural gift of canniness and improvisation, you have been successful in your various endeavors.  But you’ve also had family behind you.  I know that you’ve paid this forward, and will continue to pay it forward in the next few decades.  I don’t know if this foreknowledge will help you, maybe a self-awareness will make it even better.

Spur your children to greater heights.  You will always be there for them, but inspire them to make better use of their gifts, and do more to improve lives around them.  These sound like lofty platitudes, but when it comes from you, it will count for more.  Don’t ask me how I know, I just do.

Take better care of your health.  Like many women of your generation, you will be eating smart and avoiding vice (unlike your menfolk).  The problem is, your preference for certain foods and having to carry five strapping male babies to term will take its toll on your body, still youthful now, but human after all.  It sounds blunt and clinical, but watch your weight more and avoid sugary and starch foods like the plague.  It will be worth it.

And lastly…

Try to have a daughter.  You will have no shortage of sons, grandsons and granddaughters.  But you are too beautiful to not pass on your looks to a daughter.  As they say, pagandahin ang lahi (improve the race) at magparami.

“Beyond these trifling pieces of advice, there is nothing more to say to you.  You will lead a near-perfect life.”

From 2016 to 1958, happy birthday Mom, I love you forever.

Your future son

Noel

the hardest adjustment for a migrant


[ Host Wellington and the Wellington Pinoy community welcome all kabayan participants and competitors of the Pistang Pilipino 2016 sa Wellington,  kudos to the organizers, officials, marshals and other volunteer staff.  Mabuhay kayong lahat! ]

NOPE, IT’S not communication or language.  Most Pinoys (an endearment Filipinos call themselves) treat English almost as a first language, having been taught the King’s English from nearly the very start of their lives.  In fact, I remember in Pinoy Mass (once a month, celebrated by a Filipino priest), the priest delivered his homily in (of course) perfect English, for the benefit of the non-Pinoy parishioners who insisted on attending Mass with kabayan.  After 10 minutes of a short discussion of the Sunday Gospel, he said, I now respectfully continue the sermon in Taglish, which everyone was expecting.  In both versions, Father Kabayan was outstanding (and uplifting), and considerate of  both English and Tagalog speakers.  So, adjustment to our host’s language is no biggie.

A little more complicated is the way people travel, both on the road and on the footpath (sidewalk or walkway ang tawag natin).  The New Zealand Road Code tells motorists to travel on the left side of the road, so when you cross the street (usually a two-way street), you look to the right first, then to the left when you’re in the middle of street.  It took me a while before i got used to that, and got me quite a lot of honks and four-letter words from drivers who never get used to Asian pedestrians like me.  It got a little worse when I started learning to drive, because I frequently reverted to the mindset of driving on the right side of the road, not very safe and definitely taking a little more adjustment than walking.  Still, as long as you keep focused on your walking / driving, and remember that you’re in New Zealand, not the Philippines, you should be OK.

And then there’s the work culture or culture of interaction, I can’t go any broader than that for fear of using too much space.  Kiwis or New Zealanders generally speak their mind, but are aware of the need to save face at all times, especially for Asians.  So they temper the sharpness of their tongues with subtle digs and lighthearted witticisms, sometimes using good-natured sarcasm, in short, very Pinoy, when you think of our sawikain (literary expression), salawikain (proverbs), parinig (hints) and other figures of speech that dull the kaanghangan (spicyness) of our criticisms.  Definitely, there are more similarities than differences when you compare social intercourse /s of Pinoys and Kiwis.  The key words are civility, pakisama (attitude of “getting along” with each other) and the golden rule (do unto others what you’d want them to do unto you).

Even better, as long as you let your work and your work attitude talk the talk and walk the walk, you can’t go wrong.  Kiwis may find you strange, different and awkward, but if you do your work right, work within the team concept and go the extra mile, you speak their language, and speak the universal language, the language of hard work spoken anywhere.

*****          *****          *****          *****          *****

No, the biggest adjustment you have to make is accepting the realization that the next time you go back to the Philippines, it’s no longer to return to your home base but as an excursion to a place you used to live in, to visit friends, loved ones and family, only as an interruption of your regular life… as a migrant.

The biggest and most lifechanging adjustment you make is a shifting of allegiance from the country of your birth to the country of your future, to the country you will soon (if not already) call home.  Loyalty is on unstable, shifting ground, no more so than for the migrant.

You will never lose gratitude for the country that gave you existence, blood and identity, but your migrant life changes everyday, and your migrant life waits for no one.  Least of all, old memories and old attachments.

You can always go home, back to the Philippines, but with different eyes, different attitudes, and different perspectives.  That is as hard as any adjustment  you can make.

In a very real sense, you can never go home again.

Thanks and mabuhay everyone for reading!

 

 

what new zealanders REALLY think of us pinoys


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[thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to productsfromnz.com! ]

SHAY MITCHELL of the world-famous TV hit Pretty Little Liars said it best, even if it was a little rude : when the half-Pinay was asked if her mom was a yaya (nanny or babysitter), she was reported by Cosmopolitan to have answered no eff-er, but even if she was, so what?  Do you know how hard it is to be one?  Being yayas, nurses and construction workers is just one of the multi-faceted dimensions of being a Filipino, and we do other things as well. But people all over the world have preconceived notions of us Pinoys, and it’s up to us to disabuse them of those notions.

As usual, I don’t claim to be an expert in what non-Pinoys think of us, but I DO have an advantage in that I’ve been living in New Zealand albeit as  a guest worker, and I do have encounters and interactions with New Zealanders regularly, but admittedly not as much as I’d like (I usually work in two-man shifts every other week).  Here is a short list of some of the things Kiwis observe about us, but of course the list is not exhaustive:

Pinoys are team players in the game of nation building and just want to do their bit while raising families and developing careers.  Sometime in the 1990s, New Zealand decided to meet the (then) labor deficiency challenge head-on and opened their doors to migration.  The result has been mixed, but Pinoy migrants have made New Zealand decision-makers look like geniuses.  Pinoys are productive members of the workforce, are not generally known to be troublemakers or criminal offenders, and you will hardly see any Pinoys unemployed or on the (employment or sickness) benefit.

These will be supported by statistics, but on personal experience, I can confidently tell you that no  Pinoy wants to be seen as idle by choice.  There’s always work to be had in New Zealand, as long as you’re not choosy.  And it’s part of the migrant way of thinking that, because you’ve been granted the privilege of living in a country, you do your part by pulling your weight, even if it’s doing jobs you don’t particularly fancy.  This way, you participate in the economy, at the very least pay taxes that run the engine of government, and don’t become a burden to your hosts.  Just common courtesy, actually.

Someone very close to me (please don’t ask me to identify him/her, as doing so would jeopardize my life 🙂 ) had just become a permanent resident a few years ago but had had a particularly difficult time finding a job that matched his/her skills.  When I half-joked that at the very least, being on the dole (unemployment benefit) would be an option, he/she indignantly retorted, I didn’t come to New Zealand to be an unemployment beneficiary or words to that effect.  I then realized, belatedly, that such an option, option though it was, would be unthinkable for me as well.

Among a diverse group of migrant workers, Pinoy workers respond best to specific instructions and orders rather than a general set of goals.  I’m not entirely sure why this is so, just guessing that Pinoys prefer as little room as possible for doubt in executing tasks and plans especially when in an environment they’re not used to.

But probably the better reason Pinoys do better under detailed directions, and so have the tendency, over other migrant nationalities, to ask for such level of detail, is the fact that most Pinoys as OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) speak fluent English, almost as a first language (after of course the native  Tagalog, Bisaya, Ilokano or other dialects ).  Having heard and spoken English most of their lives, they are eager to show their Kiwi employers the relative ease in assimilating into and adapting to their new work environment, compared to other, non-English speaking races.

And finally…

Kiwis think Pinoys try hard to get along with everyone not only to be part of the team but to be likable by everyone.  This is, not just easily explainable but also understandable not only if you’re a Pinoy but also if you’ve worked with anyone Pinoy, half-Pinoy or married to one.  It’s part of Pinoys to work as part of a team, and consider all members of the work team (weeeeeell, anyone who WANTS to be part of the team) to be part of the family.

It’s second nature for a Pinoy to look out for each other in the work team, to fill in or help out if someone needs a hand, so to speak.  It’s natural for Pinoys to consider the office, workplace or factory as like a second home, where the inhabitants are totally comfortable and treat all the co-inhabitants as family members.

The downside to this is that, if Pinoys can’t convince themselves to like certain members of the workplace, they believe that they can’t work well with the same unlikable workmates as well.  Which is also probably why, on the assumption that liking Pinoys will foster mutual likability, Pinoys try quite hard to make themselves liked at the workplace.

Do you agree?  These are based on specific experiences, quotes and anecdotes learned and earned here and there, so the above are highly subjective and easily proven (or disproven).  But if it can contribute,  even just a bit, to a better understanding of the lives Pinoy migrants have led in New Zealand, then it would have been worth it.  Just sayin’.

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!

 

etiquette for bedmates


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Unfortunately, not many of us look this good when we’re asleep.  They’re probably models anyway.  Thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to sonalishinha.blogspot.com!

YOU SHARE an office with strangers and you make rules.  You share a flat (apartment) with acquaintances and you make rules.  Surely it’s at least as important (and practical) to have rules with someone you sleep with?

If you’re like me, you don’t.  idiosyncratically, some things are too personal, or instinctual, for us to make formal rules for.  We either love or hate the things they do, the people we sleep with.  We literally live with them.

I just thought I’d think up a few things that would serve as helpful, when you’re starting out with someone, when you’ve lived with a loved one for years and years, or when you’re just hooking up (hope it’s not an offensive term to my old-school buddies) overnight with a hot date :

Face-to-face is romantic, but not in the morning.  You know those lovey-dovey scenes where the lovers’ faces are less than an inch from each other as they fall asleep (presumably after doing the nasty) and as they wake at dawn?  It looks good on the silver screen, but not in real life.  Our noses, lips and other bits and pieces will often bump each other, not just awkward but sometimes unsafe.  And then there’s the so-called “dragon breath” in the mornings, when we don’t smell our best.  So we can kiss and enjoy each other’s beautiful faces, just not all of the time, and definitely not when we’ve just woken up.

Don’t grab pillows, don’t pull blankets.  Spouse Mahal and I share everything in life except our pillows.  Because she has the purse and the shopping acumen, she has softer, downier and fluffier pillows.  I have the pillows from the Salvation Army store and leftover sofa pillows with itchy upholstery (just kidding). So sometime in the night, unconsciously or not, I begin to use some of Mahal’s pillows.  It’s alright as long as Mahal isn’t bothered or woken up by such (unauthorized) use, but when I begin to (unconsciously or not, again) pull our shared blanket towards me to preserve heat, especially during the winter, she wakes up and pulls right back, towards her.  I usually grunt, half asleep and don’t care.

The lesson in all this?  First, you have to make sure that there are enough pillows and that the blanket/s are large enough for the user/s.  Second, there has to be thoughtfulness and solicitousness so that pillows and blankets, regardless of whether there are enough, are shared equally among the bedmates.

Snoring, sleep talkin’ and sleep walking.  My eccentricities are not limited to my waking hours, Mahal never ceases to remind me.  I am a terrible snorer, I talk in my sleep and occasionally sit up and walk around the bedroom.  Oftentimes these are just indicators of other things going on in our lives, like an obstruction in our airway, a little too much stress in our lives, etc.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) Mahal is also a snorer, talks and even laughs in her sleep.  So we watch out for each other, know when we are going to snore loudly (it’s when we are very tired or have colds, coughs or other minor respiratory issues) and wake each other up when we’re doing something funny.  It’s just extra dosage of concern for your bedmate that can go a long way.

There are other guidelines we live (sleep) by.  Come to bed observing hygiene, otherwise you get no good night kiss.  No sneaky moves when the other partner isn’t ready for “conjugal activities” ( I enforce this rule too, although Mahal benefits more from the rule, I admit).  Don’t bother the other person when he or she is on a late night shift.  And so on and so forth.  The  guiding spirit of these rules and guidelines is usually being considerate of the other person’s needs and tastes, which is, when you think about it, common sense among people who love (and live with) each other, don’t you think?

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!