today (and everyday) is International call-your-folks-from-out-of-the-blue Day, TY to 5th Bro

a recent pic of my folks with 2nd Brother.  as you can see, they've been taking care of themselves.  miss you all! thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook Collection of Ms Dely Imperial!

a recent pic of my folks with 2nd Brother. as you can see, they’ve been taking care of themselves. love and miss you all! thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook Collection of Ms Dely Imperial!

[Note :  Thanks to brother Jude for reminding us that “wala lang” (or nope, no reason at all) is as perfectly good a reason as any to call your parents, especially from across the miles. Please visit when you’ve time Precious Reader! ]

VERY POLITELY, 5th Bro reminded us to call the olds more often.  (By the way, in the traditional Chinese-Pinoy style 5th bro is not my fifth brother, but is “the fifth brother” in a brood of five.)  He gently recounted that sometime during the Papal visit earlier this year, Dad suffered from a nasty bout of flu and related ailments, which he recovered from soon enough, but which gave them enough concern to review Dad’s physical activities short- and long-term.

During the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight early next month, they will all be together, the bros, folks and everyone else, and would a Messenger or Skype video call be possible Fifth Brother adds?  Guiltily I message back, telling him I’ll do all I can to assemble the rellys NZ-side (me, the anakis and the odd boyfriend / girlfriend of the latter).

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But almost immediately I want to call home, which I haven’t done since I completed paying my utang to Mom.

[ Let me give you a thumbnail sketch of Dad : he’s always been fit and healthy, especially since quitting tobacco around four decades ago.  Until around 10 years ago he ran 10k’s and fun runs, and strolls nearly everyday.  He’s begun to slow down a bit, but is still up and about and is as frisky as any 83-year-old shouldn’t be. ]

I took the cue and between the evening news and NCIS, quickly rang Mom.

“Advance Happy Mom’s day Mom, Noel here! (my voice is similar to all my other bros’, so identifying myself is helpful)”

“And an advance happy 50th  birthday to you!” she says, and we both laugh at that.

dumadami na’ng 50-plus sa mga anak nyo Mom I joke, and she replies with something like it’s quality not quantity that determines how old we are, how true.

I quickly hop around to the issue, asking about Dad, and as always Mom minimizes the negatives.

Oo nagkasakit sya pero very minor lang, at kilala mo naman Dad nyo, always active and about, Mom sez.  She adds that Dad exercises enough for both of them, a comment which makes me think twice, because Mom herself needs to move about too.

But is he well enough to wander around alone, I venture?

I could almost see Mom roll her eyeballs at my naivete, hearing her say as soon as I reach my pwesto (selling sweet ham in multiple locations Metro-wide) he’s gone doing who-knows-what.

I know that in his advanced age, Dad is still distracted by tight jeans and mini skirts, so I know what who-knows-what is.  That is enough to convince me Dad is still healthy and doing well.

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As a bonus, Dad isn’t eating, watching TV or napping, things that he can’t be bothered getting away from.  So I can actually get an audience with him.

HI DAD! I almost shout into the phone.

You don’t need to shout, I’m not hard of hearing, Dad says.  I remind myself that it’s the few seconds audio delay and not the difficulty in hearing that’s the issue with overseas calls.

We talk about my running, which Dad sez he’d like to take up again (wag na lang Dad) and wife Mahal’s cooking, which Dad sez is unfair on two counts : that he can’t taste it (hopefully on a visit home Dad) and that I should be doing some cooking to help Mahal (tasting na lang ang sa akin Dad).

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Out of the blue I turn senti and remind Dad of a place in Ongpin (in the heart of Manila’s Chinatown) and a resto manager who became his friend.  On Sundays in the 1970s, when I was Dad’s faithful and adoring squire, he would bring me to eat there and meet the friend.

It’s Dad’s turn to be semi-solemn : Tony’s Kitchen is closed now, he tells us.  And Yu Pak his friend (whose name actually sounds like dyslexic cursing, God rest his soul) passed away long time ago.  No more bihon guisado, and no more discounts on asado and roast duck.  But life is still good, he hastens to add.

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Before the call starts to cost too much, Dad sez he still has one more nugget of wisdom to impart, and I listen closely :

You have a lovely young wife who is devoted to you, he reminds me (no need to actually).  Your kids are all grown up and doing rather well, he observes (again, I’m grateful to be able to see that).  And you are healthy, Third Son (cross my gouty fingers).  Don’t forget to take a step back, be grateful, and ENJOY YOURSELF.  

I already am Dad.

Thanks for reading!

to look like dad & all its benefits : happy father’s day!

this is not the first time I'm using this pic but it's the best I have..  Mahal, me, my Tita Lily who recently passed away and Dad, dashing as ever!

this is not the first time I’m using this pic but it’s the best I have.. Mahal, me, my Tita Lily who recently passed away and Dad, dashing as ever! Thanks once again to brother Jude Bautista and !

[ Note :  In the Philippines, I’ve always celebrated my birthday near mother’s day, so there are two happy things to remember around then.  Now because of the happy accident of working in NZ, dad’s birthday and New Zealand’s Father’s day are about two weeks apart. Happy father’s day to everyone not just in NZ, but everywhere else! ]

IT’S UNIVERSAL that parents like to claim authorship of anything that resembles success in their kids, and more than a passing resemblance with the same, especially whenever the latter are beautiful, intelligent, gorgeous and otherwise pleasing to the mind and eye.

Among my siblings, Eldest Brother (we are five brothers, no sisters) is unsurprisingly blessed with the most leadership skills and probably the best communicator.  Second Brother is undoubtedly the smartest and the easiest to get along with.  Fourth Brother is the most athletic and attuned to business, while Fifth Brother is the most creative.

Pure luck of the draw and genetics gave me a different gift : I like to think, and more than a few people and rellys agree with me, that I was honored to be the son who resembled (resembles) our father the most.  And because my father (naturally) considered himself not a bad-looking man and a good standard with which to compare his progeny, he almost surely (neither I nor my brothers ever thought to ask him) thought that I was the luckiest one because of the way we received our inheritance in the looks department.  LOLs and smileys all around after that one. 🙂

Seriously, my father has been honorable in executing his fatherly duties in every which way possible.  He was the solid rock of stability around which the rest of the family was built, guided and counseled all of us through our maturity, and to this day serves as an inspiration for his middle-aged sons as they strive to measure up to the greatness that is their father.

But I have enjoyed as good a relationship with my father as anyone could wish for, though I don’t  claim to know enough to say it has been as good as or even better than his relationship with his other sons, my brothers.  Perhaps viewed through the prism of self-regard and self-interest, one always thinks his appearance, his abilities, and his relationships are the best, without the benefit of comparison with a superior standard.

Should you therefore ask me how I have the audacity to write the previous paragraph, I will answer with a contrast I’ve seen with him when it comes to me.

He is probably the most opinionated person I know, holding specific, and perhaps jingoist and xenophobic opinions on everything under the sun.  He is like that, and will not aggressively attack your worldview, but his Old World eloquence and quiet conviction will assure you that you will have hours and hours of debate before you get any  meeting of the minds.

With me, whenever I talk to him about my view of things, his response has almost invariably been, for him, atypical.  He will nod his head, smile knowingly, and listen to all the points I elucidate.  He will usually say ganun pala or I never knew that.

Deep down I know he is only holding his tongue and patronizing me, but because he is my dad it is approval enough for me to shut up and acknowledge his smile.  And I know he is agreeing only because it is me.

He is also, as you might expect, very old school.  In almost everything, from popular culture, religion and customs, the roles of men and women in society, and anything else you might think of.  With many people of his generation, produced by expansionist tyranny and the Last Great War, adherence to traditional values then and now are the bedrock of his core.  (Hard to fault him for that, for in the midst of uncertainty and destruction it was all they could hold on to.)  And that is what he will be to the day he dies.

And yet in my few conversations with him about the tumultuous change overcoming our world,  about explaining to him how and why I have been the only son of his to marry twice, and how when he meets his grandkids again when they return next decade from New Zealand, he will probably not approve of their ways and their appearances, he curiously declines to challenge my points.

In so many words, he pooh-poohs my alarms, soothes my concerns,  and allays my fears.  In a nutshell he tells me :  I am not at all concerned with all that, Noel. Because I trust you to do the right thing.  Not only does he go against form and welcome change, he uncharacteristically reposes a lot of trust in me.

This, to the one who is (no false modesty here) his least successful, least accomplished, least athletic and least creative son.  Truly, to inherit my father’s appearance has also given me a side benefit : to earn the most benefit of the doubt.  The luck of the draw has helped me once again.

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Lest you think I’m writing this for my dad to see, he will probably not even know about it.  Father’s day in the Philippines is celebrated earlier, and even if they were on the same day, my dad doesn’t care for such things.  That’s one of the greatest things about him ; he is great without even knowing it.

My dad is very much alive today, in I hope the best health of his life, a bit slower now but fit and fighting trim nevertheless.  The only sad part is we are separated by thousands of miles of land and sea.

But if we weren’t, and he were right in front of me now on Father’s Day, I don’t know if I should bow deeply to him the way the ancient Chinese did (he is half Chinese), if I should render a snappy salute for the enormous respect I have him, or just hug and kiss him, as I owe him my life, and everything I am today.  The first, second or third?

I don’t know.  Maybe a combination of them, but most definitely I will hug and kiss him, because it benefits us both.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!  I love you always!

(and to the rest of you as well!)

why we’re grateful to Joe & Linda, 54 years and running

a young Joe & Linda more than half a century ago, with toddlers Tim and Donald, and Father George Lalliberte who married them only a few years ago. Your loyal blogger was probably still a bun in the oven ;)

a young Joe & Linda more than half a century ago, with toddlers Tim and Donald, and Father George Lalliberte who married them a few years back. Your loyal blogger was probably still a bun in the oven…

I THOUGHT the day would never come, but it jumped up from just around the corner, and now it’s here to stay.  I have now reached the age where my children, intelligent and discerning as always, have in so many words begun to reproach me from the things I never made accessible to them.

Here are just a few examples.  At least two out of the three (Panganay, Ganda and Bunso of course) have inquired why they never had piano lessons; one has rebuked me for not enrolling at least one of them in a Chinese Filipino school (I attended one), and a right-brained child has asked why nothing was ever done to spur or trigger their creative side/s.  To all these I furnish a motley group of excuses : economics, nurture vs nature, and all that bull-bleep, but I know deep down I have failed them in a thousand different ways, so that any success they have reaped is despite and not because of my pasang-awa parenting.

Chalk it down to a kinder, less selfish generation, cheaper tuition and simpler extra-curricular options, but I cannot say the same for my own parents, who made available a lot of things I didn’t pay forward for my own kids.

Early elementary, mom and dad enrolled me in a summer art class.  When I didn’t show any promise, the following year I attended badminton sessions and was encouraged to learn racquet sports.  And all through my youth (not that it helped) a piano teacher visited me weekly and I learned a third language in an excellent Chinese Filipino school that rivaled many of the best Metro Manila schools across the board.

...and a more recent pic with Dad (center, seated) Mom (to his left), Tita Lily (to his right), my brother Tim and his wife Joy (standing, extreme right) and Mahal (the stunner with the long hair)

…and a more recent pic with Dad (center, seated) Mom (to his left), Tita Lily (to his right), my brother Tim and his wife Joy (standing, extreme right) and Mahal (the stunner with the long hair). I don’t know who the white-shirted guy is, sorry 😦

My folks weren’t the showiest type when it came to hugs and kisses, but were right there when it came to advice and support, which as you know pre-teens and teens need tons of but won’t always admit.   It didn’t stop them from exercising stern discipline and  strict accountability, but as all good parents, they combined affection and hard knocks in a smart combination of tough love.

Best of all, they showed me, and a lot of people my generation, that you could sweep someone off your feet in a whirlwind romance and yet stay with that someone for years and years without losing the thrill of love.  Some people call it being soulmates and lovers, and other people call it commitment.  My folks just called it marriage.

...still photogenic after all these years!

…still photogenic after all these years!

As of yesterday (6th June), my folks have possessed all of these traits 54 years running, raising first five hard-headed but respectful sons, then helping seven grandkids, scores of nephews, nieces and cousins, and now dozens and dozens of people through catechism classes, community centers and livelihood groups to which they belong.

Through it all, they have relied on many comrades, but most of all they have relied on each other in the journey of life, towards happiness and contentment.  I’m extra proud as their son to say that they’re already there, and will always serve as my models for self-sustaining love.

Thanks for being in our lives Joe and Linda, and happy happy 54th wedding anniversary from a grateful clan, Mom and Dad!  Love you always!

our accent marks us as migrants but also affirms our sense of self

versatilebloggeraward11[ Note : A little more opinionated, a little more candid, and a little less diplomatic this fair day for blogging.  Just spewing extemporaneous thoughts with little regard for the consequences, spoiler alert : the text suffers from ADHD and is incontrovertibly scatterbrained. Thanks for your time! ]

IN MY ultra-simplistic zero-sum yin-or-yang world, that recent royal-morning-sickness- aussie-DJ-prank tragedy can be ultimately reduced into : greed for information on one hand, and a sad lack of accent awareness, on the other.

Behind the naughty anything-for-a-laugh antics of those DJs who successfully attempted to access the Duchess of Canterbury’s sick ward, the whole world was waiting for news, any news about either the newest heir to the world’s most popular monarchy (rulers of the United Kingdoms of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Crown Dependencies and the remnants of the British Empire, on which the sun supposedly never set) or the Duchess’s early-pregnancy discomfort .  Preferably, news of the former, but the latter would do anytime.

Straining credulity on the other side is the willingness of someone tending to an ultra privacy-sensitive patient to believe that her grandmother would make a personal call, identifying herself without the layers and layers of protocol expected , and lastly sound the way she sounded, more like an audio caricature of herself (“this is the Queen, you know!”).

Yes, the DJs involved were trying to nail a stunt, pull a fast one on stressed, distracted health workers, but they were also shooting for the moon, outscoop everyone in merry old England from Way Down Under, and squeeze from the proverbial stone golden driblets of information and enhance their dubious status as semi-media outlets in the sea of TV, radio and print pseudo-journalists.

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But the story would not be complete without a naive, albeit efficient medical worker quietly doing her job, day in and day out, but completely unaware of what a British national, much less a reigning monarch would sound.

Would you believe that if I was a 48-hour a week rotating shift worker (regularly alternating from days to nights), confining nearly all my professional and social contacts to people of my race, and spending almost all my free time with family, I would, despite living in a country completely alien to my culture for a decade, not know much about anything besides my native language and culture?  Of course you would.

Particularly among low-income migrant workers, Asians tend to be parochial in outlook and habit, keeping among themselves.  In enclaves of migrants all over North America, Europe and Australasia, everything that reminds them of home is preserved and affirmed, and language is certainly no exception.  Would it be a big surprise that migrants here retain the tongue and accent they have brought from their native lands?

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It would then not be a big leap to assume that, not being much aware of what one needs to know beyond work and necessities, the subtle differences of accent between various English speakers would just be so much detail that matters little in the grand scheme of things.

Despite having a brother who had been in New Zealand the last 15 years when I arrived in Auckland in 2007, I had almost no idea of what a Kiwi accent was like.  There were no stereotypes in media to which I could refer, unlike icons of Austrian accents (Ahnuld Tuhminaytuh), American accents (Al Pacino or Clint Eastwood), French accents (Inspector Clouseau or Gerard Depardieu) or British accents (James Bond and his various incarnations), although I knew that there was a passing resemblance between Kiwi and British brogues.

Not just vowels and intonation, but also common words that had added, modified or even completely different meanings.  flat for apartment, torch for flashlight, rubbish for garbage, tins for cans, jumpers for jackets, and so on.

More insanely, I had not only the Kiwi accent to contend with, but other migrant accents as well.  Indian accents, Chinese accents, even Korean and Vietnamese accents.  And if I thought that being of Chinese descent would help me, I was mistaken : the Northern Chinese and Cantonese accents were markedly different from the Fukienese (Fujianese) Chinese accent I was accustomed to at home.

The only way I was going to entrench myself as a migrant, in a babel of tongues and accents, was to expose myself and not be intimidated by the different ways people from myriad races express themselves.

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And if that meant exposing them to my Pinoy accent, inflection and idioms, so be it.

The very fact that Pinoy call centers and business process outsourcing is now one of the mighty powerhouses of the Filipino economy serves notice that, Pinoy accent and all, we are understood at the very least and appreciated by the English speakers of the world.  It’s not so much that we have a way of speaking as the fact that we are understood by the way we speak.  Because of and in spite of, take your pick.

[ distracting thought : If you  talk the way you talk by the way, make yourself understood, and make your life easier, why make life hard and change your accent?  I DO concede though that a good part of our Filipino brothers and sisters speak with a very strong Pinoy accent, a little adjustment might be in order, but no biggie. 🙂 ]

Returning to the main kwento.  Conclusion : If you limit interaction among the people you were born with, you will have minimal understanding of the various accents that surround you, despite their physical presence in your adopted world.  Conversely, immerse yourself in the mixture of accents (and speakers) you hear around you and you will be conversant among strangers, friends with people you’ve never met before.

Even a passing awareness of how different races of people sound leads to better anticipation of what and how they are communicating, and ultimately to better understanding of these people, whether they are hosts or fellow migrants.

Consequently, we end up with a more profound appreciation of ourselves, as distinct yet interacting actors in the global village.

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It’s so sad that a life had to be wasted in that episode of the Duchess and her morning sickness leading to Aussie DJs and their prank call, but we can’t deny the resulting lesson that many of our daily problems between people all over the world might be solved with a little more understanding, a little less concern with privacy, and a little less deceit.

Regardless of the accent.

Thanks for reading !

who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neigh-bor-hood?

JUST THOUGHT you might want to know about our neighbors here in NZ, in a summarized sort of way.  The average neighbor here is a couple, married, Asian / Kiwi, with kids, and low-income to low middle-income level, and usually friendly.  But because it’s an average, it really doesn’t tell you anything much, unless we make a little sense out of the averages.

Before anything else, let me tell you that in a street known for quiet, well-manicured stately homes owned by high middle-income European New Zealanders (known more popularly as Kiwis), we live in an exception, an 11-unit block of houses owned by a retired couple living out-of-town.  Until very recently, the demographic majority was Asian couples living with multiple children, but a few transitions changed that, but as usual I’m getting ahead of myself.

We’ve been here over 18 months, and for the first 75% of that time it was the same set of tenants throughout, two Chinese families, two Indian, two Filipinos and the rest Kiwis.  It would be natural for us to be friendlier to the Asians but this wasn’t always the case.  The single moms (who were both Kiwi) had sons who were quite visible on the expansive, child-friendly lawns, so we got to be familiar (but not that friendly) with the moms as well.  The single Kiwi guy next door to us owned a cat who always welcomed Ganda whenever she visited us, so it was unlikely that we didn’t get to know the owner as well (Ganda is a cat person).  The Indians always smile whenever we met near the parking area, and of course the other Pinoy family (with four kids) became our buddies almost immediately, exchanging cooked meals with us and inviting each other to impromptu salu-salo at least once a month, or maybe borrow from each other odds and ends like cooking ingredients, bike pumps, or tools.

But it’s not always ideal and picture-perfectness in our neighborhood.  Once Mahal received a hand-written note on her windshield that said : Please use common-sense.  Park properly.  We didn’t know if the note meant that Mahal had parked on the note-writer’s spot (all the parking spots are free-for-all) or that the parking angle was awry, and I considered asking the possible sources of the note how we could, indeed, park with greater common sense.  Mahal, confirming what I was thinking, opined that it would be nearly impossible not to be misinterpreted, since (1) no one probably would admit it, since it was an anonymous note, and (2) the direct approach would, at least in this case, not be appreciated.

Then there was the single mom who sometimes left her small child for hours and hours in the playing area, seemingly without bothering to check if her son was hungry or cold.  Long after other children were already inside and having dinners, this child was still playing by himself on the trampoline.  I knew this was a sensitive topic, actually intervening in a home’s parental care, and in fact I found out that other mothers in the compound had made observations similar to mine.  It didn’t help that the child looked frail and neglected (although it could just be my opinion, colored by the situation) and that mom wasn’t at all friendly to other neighbors, least of all to other mothers who discouraged their children from getting too close with the child.

Not sure if it was just me, but one of the least friendly neighbors was a blended Kiwi-Chinese couple three doors down.   The Chinese in me (I’m part-Chinese) naturally wanted to reach out, and I always make an effort to be personable to Kiwis, but neither of them even made an effort to connect, with either our flat, those of other Asians, or even with most of the Kiwi neighbors.  This, despite the fact that their daughter/stepdaughter was a regular playmate of the Kiwi and Pinoy kids, even the one in the previous paragraph.  It was almost like, since they considered themselves neither Asian nor New Zealander, they felt no affinity for both groups.  A bit unfair as an observation, but again, that’s just me.

But on the whole our small community has reaffirmed our faith in the common goodness of neighbors who don’t need to know each other well to be decent to each other.  The proverb good fences make good neighbors (though there are no actual fences around here) comes to mind; no neighbor (besides the Pinoy family of course) is what I would consider anything more than nodding acquaintances to us; that doesn’t stop me from helping them move furniture or big purchases between the car and the door (and hopefully vice-versa); and Mahal always takes the time to deliver a Pinoy dish to new neighbors just to make them feel welcome.

For sure, the kaldereta and afritada might hit their taste buds a bit strangely, particularly when Mahal is in a spicy mood, but it nevertheless signals that as Pinoy neighbors go, you’ll never get a raw deal.

Thanks for reading!

why beer isn’t a sure thing even in a bar & resto district

Beer aisle

Beer aisle (Photo credit: diwong)

STUMBLED INTO a bit of barya* recently after late adjustments to guild exam-pay rises (up 11 cents to 59 cents an hour for successful candidates, those cents add up if you keep an eye on those pennies 🙂 ), a retroactive pay rise and corrections based on a new wage schedule, retroactive as well.

Before you ask for balato**, it’s been spent all of it, took care of an advance made by Bunso & Ganda’s mom, and tried to make a small dent on the obligations incurred the last trip home. But because I owed a few favors to both esposa hermosa who’d been working like a(n attractive, female) horse the last few days, and to SuperBisor who helped in agitating for the pay rise, it would’ve been poor form for me to not even suggest a small Chinese dinner treat in the popular nearby bar-and-resto district in Petone.  To which they said yes, of course, despite the short notice.

I think I’ve told you more than once that though I’m no stranger to vice, drinking like a fish is not one of them, but I thought that the company and occasion were enough reason to justify even one tiny bottle of beer, never mind if the mood happened to ask for seconds just in case.

The waiter, who unsurprisingly was Chinese, took our orders rather haughtily, but even with his curt manner what he said was jolting : instead of taking a request for a bottle of local beer, he replied we don’t serve alcohol but you can bring your own, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the door.

I don’t know if he was referring with his “glancing” gesture to a table of Kiwis who brought their own rather generous baon of wine or a sign near the door that said B.Y.O.W. (“bring your own wine”).

So that‘s what that sign meant; I always wanted to know what it was trying to say.

Almost immediately I got discouraged; not only was there a BYOW fee of $3, you also had to buy outside, preferably very soon as the food was coming.

I needed not only to loosen my tongue and unwind, I also had to find takeaway beer in a hurry.

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SuperBisor thought he saw a dairy (small grocery) a couple of blocks down the street, I also sighted quite a few bars before entering the Chinese resto.  Surely with all these choices I could sate my thirst?

The small grocery was the first “x” on my list.  No license to sell alcohol, the South Asian proprietor said.  Lotto or cigarets maybe?  No thanks as I scooted out.  The beers on the bars weren’t very inviting, price-wise.  And how would I look carrying a glass of takeaway beer outside the bar?  Pretty lame, and I’d look mighty similar to an alcoholic for sure.  Obviously I hadn’t thought this out.

I returned to an amused SuperBisor and his girlfriend who were a bit sympathetic to my beerless search.  Mahal was not so sympathetic : ibig sabihin nyan wag ka nang uminom, mamaya ka na lang bumili.  It’s a sign for you to drop the beer idea, amigo. Maybe later.

Thankfully, the dinner was sumptuous, and everyone was happy.

Later on while settling the bill, I tried my primary-school Mandarin on the waiter, who was also the cashier (probably one of the owners as well) : his manner improved dramatically and in so many words this was what he answered to my question regarding their failure to serve alcoholic beverages :

Eating establishments may have one of two licenses regarding liquor.  You may either have a BYOW license (heard about that one already) or sell liquor.  It’s easier to maintain a BYOW license, and besides we need training and a “responsible” person for the second kind of license.

He actually told me (and didn’t I deserve it?), in his charmingly abrasive way : Next time, bring your own beer?  No, please, ifs, and buts about it.

Sure I will !  If ever, that is, I get the munchies for, and can afford, crispy duck again.

Thanks for reading !

*loose change                             **treat, “blow-out”, lunch/dinner on me

my paradigm-shifting dad on father’s day

with grateful thanks to Jude Bautista for the pic, from left: esposa, me Tita Lily (Yang) and Dad.

[ Note : Despite NZ Father’s Day and Philippine Father’s Day celebrated on different dates, I will use any excuse to remember my dad, who is very much alive and quite healthy by the way, and besides his birthday is less than three weeks away.  Happy dad’s day to everyone! ]

MY DAD, whether or not he realizes it, is a product of at least two aspects of his generation.  First, that of the reality that Asian fathers are more or less emotionally inaccessible to their offspring, and possibly even to their spouses.  Second, he grew up in a traumatic war period where to utter or make any gesture considered disrespectful to our Japanese invaders often resulted in dire, sometimes fatal results.  The result is many fathers coming from his generation consider it not only normal but also practical to be distant from most members of their family, to both survive and to carry on “normally” as many Asian families do.  Leave the feel-good and mushy stuff to Moms and female members of the family, I could almost hear this generation say.

That’s why it took a sea change for my own father when his turn came to be a dad.  He wasn’t touchy-feely and the type who announced a “group hug” all the time, but he never spared any efforts to show how much he cared for all of his sons.  He never hesitated to give (or for that matter, ask) for a hug and kiss from me whenever he got home from work.  Asians are famous for being “inscrutable” and circumspect, and in that respect Dad was/is traditional, because he had a countenance that was perfectly neutral in front of new acquaintances and strangers.  But before friends and loved ones, he always chose to engage rather than resist exposing his feelings and emotions.

He never ignored the template though.  He expected and received unconditional respect from all of his sons, and in return he gave them his unconditional love.  He made all the final decisions that concerned the family, but most of us knew that Mom was just letting him say out loud what made her happy.  Appearances and saving face, after all, still counted in the traditional Pinoy family.

At the end of the day, when I think of all the good things my dad did to me, did for me and did despite me, nothing trumps just being there and being both a towering and nurturing presence in our lives.  In his child’s eyes, a father cannot help but come to his life great and awesome, it is his life’s challenge to humanize himself, bring himself down to his/her level, and hold his child’s hand forever.

This you did with flying colors Dad, and I will never stop being grateful for that.  I love you so much, advance happy birthday, and for the second time this year, happy Father’s day!

spontaneous & naive pinoy observations on London 2012

WE’RE  A Pinoy with Chinese roots, and it’s no surprise that we love Chinese takeaway, appreciate various aspects of Chinese culture, and applaud performances and feats where not only Chinese but Asians outdo and outperform opponents in the global stage. (By the way, you don’t need to be Chinese to appreciate Chinese takeaway 🙂 )

What we don’t appreciate is the fact that the Chinese side don’t take in a sportsmanlike manner the disqualifications and decisions made against it during the 2012 Olympics.

Call us naive, but given the expert, superhuman and very professional way the Brits have administered the London Olympics, the gazillion-and-one details that needed to be attended to, and the ultra-scientific and fair way rules have been enforced, there was simply no way that a sinister and concerted effort was made to make the Chinese fail or look bad, as was implied by sources identified with China.

And really, given what the Chinese sports establishment is prepared to make their youths and athletes endure, almost certainly describable in other countries as torture and unacceptable at the very least, the former should be the last to claim innocence and clean hands when the issue of underhandedness at the highest levels of sports competition is discussed.

Secondly, after watching (albeit sketchily) London 2012, with a heavy emphasis on the closing ceremonies, there is little doubt in our mind that a country like the Philippines can host an event of Olympic magnitude.

It would take probably half a generation to prepare, the country’s defense budget for around five years, but it’s not impossible.  The facts are smaller countries with less populations than the Philippines have successfully staged the Olympics, the investment amount required is formidable but attainable, and the can-do spirit and hospitable attitude of Pinoys are raw but powerful assets that will go a long way towards the fulfillment of a goal like hosting the Olympics.

The rewards expectedly are enormous.  In two weeks, Great Britain has shed its image of a lethargic former world power clinging to past glories.  It has by itself rejuvenated its national economy, and the positive effects will be felt for at least the present generation.

It’s a distant, pie-in-the-sky goal, but certainly a worthy one for a country as humbly placed as ours.

Thanks for reading !

belated happy birthday Kirby !

Kirby with batchmates during our latest reunion last July 14th. He is the distinguished looking gentleman in the suit in back row.

belated happy birthday (4th August) to batchmate Mr Kirby Hartigan-Go !

IF IT’s true that quiet confidence speaks loudest, then Kirby was definitely one of our most confident contemporaries in high school.

In his words, gestures, academics, and leadership skills, the strength of his conviction carried the weight of someone far beyond his build, the wisdom of elders far beyond his years.

But even these meant little next to the conviction of his faith, a badge he wore proudly then and to this day.

It has undoubtedly paid dividends to him in this world, but he gives more weight to the rewards in the next.

About that belief, we have every confidence, you can be sure.

Belated happy birthday Kirby, sorry for the late greeting, thanks for serving as one of our most dedicated Batch Officers, and many happy returns!

YLB Noel

there and back again after 30 years

At this point the titles don’t mean a whole lot, but just for posterity we are flanked by past batch officer Stef Victorino, current batch president Ricky Ko Pio, and past batch officer Mel Asiddao. Except for this loyal blogger, everyone in the pic has done so much to advance the interests of batch 82, and deserve hall-of-fame recognition, kudos guys!

THE SHORT lesson was, if you attend a culminating activity 30 years in the making, small inconveniences should either be taken care of early or endured peaceably.  If one can last through nuclear meltdowns, seismic upheavals, iron curtain-shattering and geopolitical tsunamis, technology-gamechanging, black President-electing, Beatle-dismantling, Bee Gees-terminating and Michael Jackson-moonwalking 10,950 days 1,560 weeks 360 months or 30 years, you had better have a good penetrate-and-escape plan for your 30th anniversary high school reunion, James-Bond level at least.

But I guess that would be too much to expect from a wishy-washy part-time philosopher, part-time blogger and full-time slave like me, so I once again had to miss the lion’s share of that wonderful event prepared by our batch handlers Ricky Ko Pio, Carol Ng – Sy, Kirby Hartigan – Go, Evelyn Cheng, Maribeth Ang – Wong, Melanie Lim, Ricky Cheng, Tessie Sy – Chingkaw, Rosemarie So – Cheng (did I miss anyone?) because esposa hermosa and I had to catch a ride home, of all things.

On the way home I realized, was anything more important than enjoying to the fullest an event like your 30th homecoming?  Wasn’t it worth the hassle of bumming a ride home from someone else, anyone else who had the minimum of a kariton or bicycle that my wife and I could ride on?  Sigh, but I’m counting my blessings anyway.

Blessings like I made it at all to the Philippines when just organizing a trip, finances, wherewithal and all would have and did take major coin and energy; like we were able to accomplish substantive chores that only a trip back home made possible; that both my family and that of esposa were in awesomely good health and with whom we could bond, and that we partook of so much good food, conversation and hospitality in the short time we were back home.

But nothing could match the familiar faces that we saw at the 42nd floor of the Discovery Suites Saturday night.  It would be unfair to mention any single one, but each face that we beheld brought back wonderfully detailed memories that only face-to-face encounters could bring in stark relief, and if you have attended even one reunion, you know what I mean.

Special mention was given to overseas – based members of batch 1982 (what we informally call our group, by the way ), and I was one of those lucky enough to be kudosed, although others came from much further.

I will do my best to post pictures here later, just to show you how little has changed among my high school friends and how well our friendships have weathered the test of time !

Thanks for reading, and to all my high school friends, take a bow please !

YLB Noel