our kabayan shines in NZ via sushi

sushi family

Kabayan Edith (extreme left) with some of her St Pierres Sushi Queensgate family : (from left) Nena Pelayo, Bree Qin, Romy Loverez and Hazel Lomboy.

[ Thanks very much to the Kabayan (formerly Pinoy Stop) magazine family for allowing me to post a story we wrote, between my original submission and the improved edited version, I have Meia Lopez to thank for the latter!  Should you have time for other awesome stories about Wellington Pinoys, please visit the 2nd issue of Kabayan by clicking this link; belated happy birthdays to Marivic Ching-Chua (6th June) and Stephanie Chan-Lam (9th June)! ]

ST PIERRE’S Sushi or SPS is one of the most visible fast food brands in New Zealand today.  The company’s yellow, red, and black logo is a familiar sight in most malls, in  many population centres, topping nearly 50 wholesale and retail stores in the country.  Managed with a keen sense of customer satisfaction, clever costing and personal touch, SPS is inside out, a true Kiwi success story.

In its desire to give back some of the success it has reaped to its loyal work force, the company has partnered with carefully selected career employees who have given their talent, time and energy towards company growth.  The latest St Pierre’s Sushi “lifer” has been Westfield Queensgate manager, Ms Editas Salita who has been here (in Wellington) for nearly two decades.

She almost declined to be interviewed, saying in a rather modest way that the achievement was nothing to crow about.  Edith (as she is know to her kabayan) is only the fifth employee and first Pinoy to be chosen to be a partner, particularly noteworthy since the company, completely family owned, does not issue franchises in conducting its business.  The brand is an overachiever in every market area it has performed in, and in its own robust way has helped contribute to the recovering NZ economy.

What has our kababayan Edith done to be chosen as partner to one of NZ’s business powerhouses?  We had to pry it out of her, but the four major criteria before one is considered is, in no particular order : the passion and commitment a candidate has shown to the job over the years; sales results by the branch, as the candidate is usually a branch manager; the teamwork such manager has fostered; and the career growth enjoyed by the staff handled by the candidate.

Momentarily forgetting her innate modesty, Edith admits that she and her team have done well in the four major areas, at the same time realizing that growth never stops.  
Dahil sa mga tinuro ng may-ari, araw-araw pa rin naming sinisikap na mapa-improve ang product quality and customer service was the succint way Edith summed up her mission statement.  
The mission and the vision, as they say, must have had an enduring impact on Edith and the rest of her family.  Anticipating the buzz of business that the partnership agreement will bring about, loyal husband Ric, who has enjoyed a career in telecoms both here and the Philippines, will be ready to lend a hand and boost moral to his wife’s budding enterprise.  And at one time or another, children Tristan, Therish and Tim have been around to train and push the bestselling products of their mom’s sushi.  For after all, who else can a Pinoy depend on in business if not her family first?  
Mabuhay kabayan Edith, congratulations on your milestone, and may your business prosper!


the day bunso came full circle

did our unanimous choice of chinese dimsum and yumcha really require explanation? :)

did our unanimous choice of chinese dimsum and yumcha really require explanation? 🙂

SEEING A person off on a journey into the vast unknown is one of the more popular metaphors lent to parents bidding goodbye to their adult children.  Part of you is so happy for them, being a front-seat witness to the first of their many milestones.  And yet you know that on many levels there is no turning back, as there are certain thresholds that, once crossed, can’t be uncrossed, can’t be undone.

Given his communication and learning skills, it had taken Bunso an inordinate time to find a job in Migrantland.  Each IQ test had given him so much encouragement, each interview had given him so much hope, and each hiring officer had practically promised him that the job was his for the taking.  Why, then was this his umpteenth job interview, and the latest in an endless stream of heartbreaking you have great qualifications, but just not a good fit for the position we’re offering right now?  It just seemed that they never ran out of ways to make you feel good and at the same time shut the proverbial door in your unbelieving face.

Which was why, after a month of not hearing from Bunso, we were very happy to hear that he had already started work after a short training period.  Just when he thought he had had enough of sincere-sounding but indecisive and non-committal employers, one supermarket chain finally cut him a break and told him to report for work the next day.

It was of course nothing fancy, minimum wage, work the graveyard shift that nobody wanted, fill the shelves and man the checkout counters at all hours of the day, don’t even think about choosing your hours.  For Bunso, just having a job was seventh heaven, and a passport to the life of being able to start saving for things meant a lot to him.

And the icing on the cake ?  Bunso remembered to treat us to dinner, which was a first for both me and him, meaning him treating me and me, well, being treated.  Free food certainly tastes better than usual, and even more when it’s from someone you’ve loved all your life.

From you taking care of the baby to the baby now taking care of you, Bunso has certainly come full circle, sniff-sniff! 🙂

From Tita H and me, thanks so much and love you always Bunso!

we are all in this (food safety audit) together

this is how clean it should be.  thanks to foodiesonthefly.com for the pic!

this is how clean it should be. thanks to foodiesonthefly.com for the pic!

BAR NONE, it was the most emotional meeting I had attended in our workplace, and the odd thing was it was about a rather unemotional event that had just transpired.  But it was a good result, and any good result about work, to a work visa holder, is on top of the weekly news cycle, to be replayed, reviewed and savored, again and again.

The emotional meeting was an impromptu one conducted by the national food safety manager after a huge effort by the entire team doing remedial measures required by, quite frankly, a pasang-awa (barely passing) food safety audit conducted by a major client, a top supermarket chain with stores all over NZ.

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even the shrink wrap is inspected.

even the shrink wrap is inspected.

To put it in perspective, we had been losing clients left and right to the opposition the past 12 months, and this, one of our few remaining institutional clients, controlled roughly half of the retail market, so we were certainly hovering on the precipice the time the boardroom biggies decided to take a closer look at our operations.

If you’re gonna forget everything else about food safety audits, just hold onto these two things: food safety is the paramount consideration in food manufacturing, and everything that goes into and touches the product must be top quality and, almost equally important, traceable.  Would you believe we need to produce records not just for product but for packaging?  The whole article is sold, and we need to account for every part of it when the you-know-what hits the fan.

Our product is all right, but foreign matter, byproducts from the manufacturing process, and as I mentioned, the packaging itself sometimes taints the pristine nature of the product.  The ideal is to get into the consumer’s hands the item as it is produced and manufactured, untouched by human hands.

But that’s just part of the formula.  The second thing you have to remember is that image is everything.  The wares may be clean but if the conveyors on which they’re transported, the pallets on which they’re piled and the shrink wrap with which they’re packaged aren’t themselves spotless and hygienic, then it just won’t do.

they did this, all over the site too :(

they did this, all over the site too 😦

And that’s why everyone, and I mean everyone who drew a pay packet from our employer chipped in that day and grabbed a mop, broom, vacuum cleaner and air hose to bridge the gap between passably clean and industry-standard clean the day the auditors arrived.

Janee, who got special mention during the meeting, did her part by ensuring that paperwork, fumigation and procedures were all followed, and that any traceability as regards product and packaging was provided in case any goods sold didn’t pass muster.

***              ***              ***

they may not have had workplaces issues like we did, but I don't envy their jobs.  kudos to their nerves of steel!

they may not have had workplaces issues like we did, but I don’t envy their jobs. kudos to their nerves of steel!

Remember what I said about the emotional meeting?  Right after the decision-makers said we weren’t doing what was needed, that our food safety standards were dodgy, and that failing this audit would be ominous for the site and its workers, the entire work force went  beyond the call of duty, went the extra mile and did what was needed to pass the audit.

We hadn’t had a lot of good news for a long time, went through a lot of rough spots recently, and passing the audit, keeping the client, and ensuring ourselves continued production and work was the best news we had in ages.

Long work hours were ahead, and the war to keep our clients needed all our energies, but today’s battle was fought well.  The day’s work had been done.

Thanks for reading!

holding on to my hard-earned barya

because even the Dark Knight needs some comfort shopping every now and then.

because even the Dark Knight needs some comfort shopping every now and then. thanks and acknowledgment to lostateminor.com

UNLIKE A growing number of obedient and dutiful Pinoy husbands, I still carry my ATM card around with me; I like the feel of carrying money around, and this day and age, carrying your automatic teller machine card is the equivalent of lugging around your worldly goods with you, the sum total of your honest toil and the wages paid after the day’s work.

There are however a few exceptions as to when I reluctantly surrender my card in favor of expediency and practicality whenever esposa hermosa needs instant access to the family jewels especially to purchase provisions needed for our sustenance, comfort and convenience :

Payday, when everything that’s been waiting for the cash to come can now be paid.  This is a motley group of things like utility bills, a small petty cash fund to be replenished, something that’s been waiting to be bought but had to wait cuz of the cash-flow situation, top-up of the petrol (gas at home) tank, this and that.  I can’t object to this, giving up the card because either the missus has advanced the coin needed for the commodity required, or is in the better position of acquiring the same immediately, remember she works at the mall and also uses the car?  So that’s that, just zip it Noel.

Day before payday, or what we call in the Philippines mga alanganing araw.  These are the twilight days during which all resources must be marshalled as funds are lowest, and when as you feared, supply cannot keep up with demand.  There must be something to sustain us just before the pantry is restocked, and Mahal has no hesitation about scraping the bottom of the barrel so to speak, and any dollars and cents resting on the bottom of my payroll account are fair game for the resourceful eye of my maybahay.

Early days after payday, when things we might have forgotten during the first grocery day come to mind and need to be acquired, like supplies that are important but aren’t urgent, long term provisions that are updated albeit less regularly, rainy-day and piggy bank funds that hardly get noticed unless you find unexpected sources of funds like the Lotto (yeah right) or winning in bingo or paluwagan (dream on).

Unexpected events like emergencies in the province, maintenance surprises, upkeep of household stuff and whiteware repair, yup, those can be unpleasant but they have to be done, so out goes the ATM and into the general fund, meaning Mahal’s wallet, since she has the skill to swiftly scrutinize every expense necessary for fund disbursal, yup, the loose change remaining in my proverbial worn pocket.

All of which leaves me a grand total of one or two days the ATM card is actually in my pocket, not that I miss it much anyway; the wifey advances so much that I’m in debt to her till the next Olympics (and maybe after); and by the time the card returns to me it doesn’t have much except for those lonely figures after the decimal point.

So, the unspoken deal is I get to say that I keep the card in my wallet, while the love of my life gets to keep everything else inside.  Just like the saying she loves to use, what is yours is mine and what is mine is mine. 🙂 Such is love!

thanks for reading!


is this coke ad for real ?

THIS AD is so unbelievable ( I suggest watching it to the end) that I still have trouble not thinking it’s a gag or satirical in nature.

As the ad proclaims provocatively : imagine if cigaret companies said they were doing something to protect you.  The phrase is enough to make you at least think about, if not take seriously the content.

In a nutshell, the ad says if you choose to lead a healthy lifestyle, then the answer is right in front of you.  Don’t drink Coke.  It’s killing you, and your family.

If this is a gag, then the creator is probably going to face a lot of defamation / libel / slander suits from Coca-cola.  If it’s not, then Coke is quite brave and honest to put up such an ad.

Like 90% of you, I have been a cola drinker most of my life, and it has contributed to many of my incipient health problems.  I have been proactive and have tried to cut down cola consumption, but it is a daily struggle.

Please contact me with what you know about this ad.  I am leaning towards it not being genuine (from Coke), but the possibility that it is, is intriguing.

Thanks for reading!

the fantastic Francesco and his primo packaging machine

before a break, Sun morning

our teacher is in the middle. Flanking him are a funny Maori named Beau and Your Loyal kabayan Blogger 😉

WHEN YOU’RE chosen to help operate a flashy new food packer / packager in your worksite (imported from Europe),  a machine that is used in only one other site in the whole country, it’s reasonable to expect that the makers will send someone of their very own to train you to do the best possible job of operating such machine.

It’a also entirely reasonable to expect that such trainer, given the short time available, will be a stern, no-nonsense taskmaster, intent on cramming into your cranium every possible technique, tip and detail needed to run such flashy machine efficiently.

Except that the trainer was about the farthest thing from a stern taskmaster as you could possibly imagine.  Francesco from Italy (where the packer was built) was a cool cat, teaching us how to run the machine using the user friendly panel, simple trouble shooting skills that belied the amazing complexity of the smart machine.  It was so smart that each of its component parts knew when to override itself (when a fault was going on elsewhere) and when not to (when a fault was minor).

The best part of controlling and operating the machine was letting it run by itself, and performing simple tasks like feeding it bags, glue and tape a few times a day.  Otherwise it would hum and perform the work of three men in a fraction of the time.  Bad for labor, but good for productivity.  Ah, such is progress.

Francesco, after teaching us the basic operating skills, had to rush to sub-zero degree Moscow to personally install the machine and once again train just like us its new operators.  He knew the machine top to bottom, knew its every nut, bolt, conveyor and screw, and yet allowed us to discover the machine on our own.

We couldn’t possibly have matched his skill level even after three days of intensive training, but I’m pleasantly surprised to say that, by just being himself, Francesco managed to make the last 72 hours into a relatively stress-free learning experience.  And considering all the stakes involved, that was quite a feat for the friendly Italian.

I won’t forget your teatime tales about all the places you’ve installed the machine in Francesco, your amazing patience, your Marlboro Lights, and I’ll hopefully be an expert operator by the time you return to check up on us.  From everyone in our worksite, grazie and arrivederci !

the great divide

hard at work and happy to have a job

hard at work and happy to have a job

versatilebloggeraward11THERE’S A hazy line that divides the wage earners and peons at our workplace.  We do basically the same work, do the same shifts and bear the same responsibilities.  The difference is that some of us don’t enjoy benefits like health insurance, dealing with management as a single bargaining unit (provided we join the union, of course) and similar goodies.

In short, we have something that’s known back home as security of tenure; it’s not so easy to get rid of us even for good reason, while our colleagues across the breach can be told goodbye, see ya at a moment’s notice if the latter so much as comes late or picks his nose once too often.

Trouble is, these hardworking guys are aware of their status, not being born yesterday, and the senior guys know it as well, since they’ve seen everyone come and go.  They know they’re doing the work, they try to keep their nose clean and be good little boys, but nothing short of new policy straight from the top will grant them regular status.

employee of the month especially because he works for free, did you know that? :)

employee of the month especially because he works for free, did you know that? 🙂

Ever since the 2008 subprime mortgage bubble burst, affecting every civilized economy on this planet, growth has been flat or even negative for many industries, ours (food and manufacturing) no exception.  Expansion has therefore taken a back seat to survival and keeping our existing customers happy, and holding on to our modest market share.  Everything else, including new hiring, has gone below the radar, if you what I mean.  The translation for foot soldiers like me is thank your lucky stars you’ve got a job, and I thank God as well.

It’s hard to start a conversation with the temps, as they’re called, although some of them have been working with us for at least half a year now.  They’re chipper enough and full of energy whether at work or at teatime, but inevitably the talk, when you talk the talk, turns to how long they’ll stay here before they’re granted the same rights and privileges that the regular guys enjoy.  And when you think about it, how can you disagree with someone who only wants what everyone else is getting?

Not that it’s that black and white, comrade.  Each and every member of the worksite is aware of one of the last official hires, Vladimir (not his real name, of course) and the backstory.  He was full of initiative, ready for work every day and a quick study in all the tasks assigned to him.  He never backed away from extra shifts, did overtime when requested to, and not a word of complaint came out of his stoic mouth.

Lo and behold, a few months after he was regularized, he began missing Mondays and the day after payday, his sickies grating on his supervisors’ patience.  He also began keeping company with the more indifferent staff members who weren’t that concerned about work ethic.  Before long he had acquired a string of AWOLs, offenses in themselves if not for the slack cut him from understanding superiors.  It didn’t make much difference to him, because by then he had come to work only when he felt like it; was a good enough worker when he was available, but you can’t rely on a good worker unless he’s there every time, all the time.  And so as quickly as he was converted to regular worker from casual he was cut loose, and the company would think once, twice and thrice before hiring another.  Why would they, when the staffing agency was full of hopeful temps, and when someone they gave so much trust to burned them just like that?

I know what you’re thinking.  Why should someone suffer for another person’s previous shortcomings and all that?  Well, in the first place like I said unless there’s a very good reason, payroll positions  are to be put on hold, given the uncertain economic climate, and second, like I told you, once bitten, twice shy, thrice even.  Vladimir didn’t know it, but he didn’t do himself, and anyone after him, a lot of favors by letting all of us down.  Sigh.  But still, it’s an awkward situation, working, eating and trading stories with your mates, and knowing deep down that you’re not being treated equally.

The situation bodes special significance to me, because although I’m one of the lucky ones with regular status, my job is particularly important : unlike everyone else in the room, I’m on a work visa, which means my job is the reason I’ve been able to stay in the country.  A part of me is happy to stay here, but at the same time, I’m thinking : do any of my colleagues think I’m too lucky to be a guest worker, a regular status worker, and enjoy what they’re not enjoying?

And that’s why I’m lucky just to be working right here, right now.

First day at work, last day at work in Middle Earth

another day at the office…

[ Note : It’s a bit fuzzy, and it’s not very well defined, but there’s a straight line between the two people in these stories, the first on one end, the second on the other, and coincidentally, I’m somewhere in the middle, though my own destination isn’t that far away.  Thanks for all your prayers, kind thoughts and donations to Jerome and Lady Jalbuena, the latter well on her way to groundbreaking therapy. ]

I’M NOT allowed to say anything yet, lest I jinx her, but wait… is that what she said ???  OK, media embargo over, Ganda tried and tried, applied and applied, never lost heart and recently found her very first job here in NZ, finally joined the workforce after the jobsearch of a lifetime, for her of course.  She set her sights high but was realistic enough to accept whatever came her way first, played the numbers game by trying out for as many jobs as possible, one of those potential employers was bound to find some merit in her earnestly written CV, which boasted of NO NZ experience and one, countem one part-time, internship-like gig back home.  Keeping that in mind, it’s not so hard to realize that it was an uphill climb for Ganda in finding her first source of livelihood as an independent working girl.

Maybe it was just as well that Ganda was a babe in the woods when it came to finding a J-O-B, there wouldn’t have been anything to encourage her had she stepped back and taken a bird’s-eye view of the employment situation.  Not only did New Zealand suffer from the second highest quarterly unemployment rate in recent history, it also was hit badly by the mining slump in big brother Aussie, suffering job losses just as nastily as Australian miners and those depending on the mining industry.  So many people unemployed, underemployed and on the benefit, best not to tell young people like Ganda who during the low points and slow days of bagging the short-list job interview, keep their hopes high and chins up.

I hope if you ever meet Ganda just before she starts her first day on work that you don’t discourage her as well, fully knowing that employers like to squeeze every available minute of work out of the thirteen-plus dollars per hour minimum wage they give to their peons, that their breaks are strictly timed, and that the only idle time you often experience in first time jobs are just before you punch the bundy and after you punch out.  It’s best that you work the hard jobs when you’re young, inspired and hungry.  Because Ganda and her colleagues will never work harder for the rest of their lives.

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I’ll never forget Davey.  When I walked into the mill the first time in my life to start my first day, he was the very first co-worker to smile at me.   He obviously didn’t know me and I probably looked as foreign to him as lanzones or rambutan, if he was aware of those fruits, but still he welcomed me to the workplace flashing his broadest, toothiest smile.  I appreciated that.

He was in his early 60s even then, but he was strong as an ox, easily able to lift 20-kg bags of flour hundreds of times a day, as it was his job to pack flour into paper bags, stack them up on pallets, as he had been doing for twenty odd years.  He liked to impress us with his tall tales when he was much younger, but mostly he loved his horse racing tips and schedules, and couldn’t stay away from the bars on payday.  We all liked Davey, and we understood that old bachelors like him needed their pasttimes.

But of course it was part of the agreement that you could bet as much of your wages and drink as much as you want, as long as you showed up on the job the next day.  He nearly always honored this gentleman’s agreement (actually one we honored with the Bossman if we wanted to keep our jobs), but sometimes he drank a bit too much, and a bit too early, even before his shift started.

He did this once too often, and one day Bossman said he went beyond the red line.  Even after two ownership changes, dozens of mill managers and thousands of paychecks, Davey shouldn’t have taken too lightly his final warning, because this time Bossman really meant it.  We all knew he had no choice, and strict rules from upstairs (meaning management across the ditch) had given Davey many previous chances before.  The sad part was that he was the longest-staying, one of the most well-liked and dependable workers around, and yet his weakness for firewater and a penchant for one too many extended hangovers doomed him to an early goodbye from our team at work.

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

Thinking about both Ganda and Davey on their first and last days of work gave me time to think about my own.  Work gives you food on the table, a roof over your head, respect for others, and gratitude from your family.  It defines your day, defines your attitude, and in many ways can define your destiny.  To those just starting out like Ganda, good luck and may you always be inspired to respect your job and the benefits you derive from it, and to lifers like me and Davey, may we always find the discipline and endurance to stay in our posts and give justice to the trust reposed in us by our employers.

Congrats again Ganda, we’re so proud of you, and good luck Davey!  Thanks for reading everyone!

The Re-education of Joelogs Jonas

"I don't think we woke up early enough, Comrade 😦 "

[ Note : Belated happy birthdays to Mevelyn Tang (10th January), Raymond Ong (10th January), and Dr Annie Oliveros – Robrigado (14th January) Thanks for reading ! ]

LET’S CALL HIM Joelogs Jonas.  He loves to remind me that people call him the eldest of the famed brother group, and he does nothing to convince them to do otherwise.  In the past two years I’ve known more about him than in the previous ten, and no exaj, everyday I learn something new.

Recently he’s faced probably the most daunting challenge of his life : to find gainful employment in a strange land.   As a single, twentysomething Gen Y techie unawed by the trinkets and bright lights of White Man’s Land, working abroad was not in his list of Most Important Things To Do B4 I Start Caring, BUT perfecting his craft, looking cool and earning street creds among his peers, potential colleagues and former rivals in Most Likely To Be A Chick Magnet Whenever, Wherever, were.  Although not exactly congruent, he realized those two vocations were starting to run along parallel courses especially when he started to pound the pavement for a jay-oh-bee.

He started his job search a bit inauspiciously, drawing a bit of negative vibes when I dared to suggest that he pick up the first available job, whether it was gathering trays at the foodcourt, deep-frying hash browns as a counter cadet down by Happy Meal Avenue, or arranging hangers and racks, preferably at the Feeder Mall that draws Kiwis, Maoris, Asians, Islanders and all sorts of weekend warriors this corner of the world.

He uttered his now-famous phrase hindi ako nag-aral para gawin yung job na ganyan, raising eyebrows all around the household.  I don’t know about you, but if you weren’t willing to start from the ground up in whatever you did, your perspective would never be complete, and you’d never gain a classic understanding of the big picture. But well, naive hubris is wasted on the clueless young, and not all the diametrically opposite, devil’s advocate views coming from me (maybe especially from me) could dissuade him from his confidence.

Such confidence did not flag immediately, but you could see it come crashing to earth in steady swoops.  It wasn’t a free-fall, because he had a ready rationalization and credible explanation everytime he failed to grab a gig :

Overqualified daw ako;  wala pa akong job referee, kailangan ko muna ng experience; kakatapos lang ng hiring nila, and here’s my favorite, mabobored lang daw ako at di ko sila magugustuhan as employer.

That last one really floored me, as if lost souls from the netherworld of the idle could actually play a part in picking apart the desirable qualities of those who would liberate them from their deprived state.  I was still at that point where I was both loathe to criticize JJ’s jobhunt attitude and eager to lend him every bit of moral support.  Besides, each rejection from a prospective employer brought him closer to that elusive “you’re hired!”, so based on the law of averages, after so many no’s, he was tantalizingly close to joining the ranks of the working class.

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

Evidently still not close enough, after a few more weeks.  He finally swallowed his pride and admitted that an I.T. certificate, the techie geek’s ultimate passport to job security  wasn’t enough in the era of post-subprime recession and failing Euro economies, and by way of a white flag sought employment from the local government job-placement agency, which  was powered by the overwhelming desire to reduce the burgeoning numbers of people on the benefit.

He promptly soared back to form by rejecting outright the gigs that were served on his plate, a tiler’s assistant and bricklayer, just-show-up and no-questions-asked.

Hindi ako ganon kadesperate, masyado namang mahirap yan para sa akin and meron pa naman sigurong ibang job para sa akin, were still-in-denial phrases I heard when he dismissed the job offers.  I wish to reiterate, these were jobs that were instant hires that only required that the candidate report for work, be a quick study, and show enough interest to stay hired for maybe the rest of the project.  Ummm, even one-out-of-three was gonna be a challenge for Joe tomorrow morning.

could you hold my spot? I need to check eBay, TradeMe and Nasdaq 😉

After the week of the employment agency misadventure, Joelog’s head had shrunk enough that he was willing to try even the non-IT gigs, like maybe barista traineeships, retail positions, or even the dreaded foodcourt openings that at least gave away, from common knowledge, free lunches, leftovers that couldn’t be served the next day, and similar stuff that we didn’t mind having for dinner 😉

What neither of us realized (I’m sorry to say that even I had naively overlooked) was that because of the severely skewed employer’s market that had been prevailing, there was extremely high competition even for the barest bits of scraps on the table; that only those who were showing the greatest initiative, interest and desperation were to be considered for these remaining jobs.

As you might have guessed, JJ was ill-prepared for this development, and each day that week he still came home dejected, downcast and empty-handed. He hardly made any final interviews, and in some cases was told outright that only those who had related experience for the job and were willing to commit to a certain amount of time to staying with the position were to be considered.  Given the fact that most of these positions were hardly career-makers, our jobhunter couldn’t even tell the white lie of saying he was willing to be a cleaner for six months, and stayed unemployed.

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

This story doesn’t have a happy ending, yet.  As of last count, JJ hasn’t yet started earning his keep for the last eight months, but he is a long way off from giving up, mainly because he has no choice but to keep trying.  Most of his friends back home think he is having the time of his life living the life of an accomplished, fat-cat IT wunderkind enjoying everything his heart could desire.  For that alone, he is resolved to continue chasing the dream of earning First World dollars, in the job of his choice, and coming home to yehey-welcome-homes and blowout naman Mr Bigtime!

Di ka nag-iisa, J.J. !

Thanks for reading !

Belated Birthday Thoughts for The Incredible Tita Lily / LBY / Mrs Yang

I AM almost never at a loss for words.  In a previous life, I may have been a lexicographer, a surrogate writer of love letters (like the main character in G Garcia Marquez’s Love In The Time of Cholera), or a royal speechwriter.  I am at ease expressing myself, especially using the written word.
Which is why I’m a bit surprised, putting pen to paper, when attempting to communicate my thoughts about a particular person who came to mind on her birthday.  She is not so much remarkable as she is incredible, as she has made, in my life among many others, an impact that is beyond compare.  I am momentarily unable to say what I feel.
At least, I will try.  There are many, many instances on which I have witnessed the greatness of this person, but on one particular occasion she asked me to help sort out items which she had stored in boxes from decades past.  Through the years, she never threw out anything which she felt was a record of her busy life, and as a result she had a room full of journals, envelopes, folders and assorted containers of artifacts of her life.
She asked me to take my time, not to rush, and to sort things by the year, and to consult her first before dumping anything. 
My first impression was that not a scrap of paper was thrown away from the last four, maybe five decades.  Receipts, lists, notes, letters, bills, statements, mass cards, novena cards, promissory notes, greeting cards.  Every scrap of paper that documented the length and breadth of human transactions, business, personal and whatever else, was stored in those boxes.  
The one thing that stood out, and which made a real impression on me was the consistency of two particular things :  Cancelled cheques and thank you cards.
Over and over again, this remarkable person issued cheques almost every day of the week, every week of the month, and every month of the year.  She issued cheques for tuition payments for children she would never see, bill payments for people she hardly knew, donation remittances for charities she had hardly heard from, and even utility payments for people who could no longer support themselves. 
She was an equal opportunity, across-the-board, all-weather philanthrophist, although her favorite activity, I noticed, was writing greeting and gift cards herself, replying to thank you cards, and buying big bags of sweets and delicacies, then dividing them up for redistribution for nephews, nieces, grand-nephews and grand-nieces.
Like a freshly-glazed mirror image, all these perfectly reflected what she was/is at work.  I was fortunate enough to be a worker bee three years at 105 Paseo de Roxas and most of my free time, I chose to hang around in her office, which never ran out of tasty merienda, candy, chichirya and Friday club provisions.
I never saw her turn down a request for help as long as her inner compass pointed to the request as legitimate.  Three quarters of the time, she knew the assistance, in the form of loans, would take forever and a day to return, the remaining quarter she chalked up to spreading good karma that would eventually find its way back to her.
And find its way it did, in a BIG way, tenfold or more probably.  Because she is blessed in almost every way; she has resources for herself and everybody else (and the number is considerable) who depend on her; friends relatives and loved ones that keep multiplying like YouTube hits; health and a youthful countenance that doesn’t quit, and above all a positive outlook that renews itself everyday.
It would be no exaggeration to say that she has sent more or less a thousand children to school, been primarily responsible for the professional careers of hundreds of practicing doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and nurses, sent so many migrant hopefuls (including myself) on their way to their land of promise, and paid for the life-saving hospital expenses of people who otherwise might never been able to shoulder it themselves.
Besides the magnitude of this once-in-a-lifetime generosity, the collateral wonder is that unless the moon is blue, the sun is dancing or Halley’s comet has chanced to pass by, you would never hear about it, all these unceasing gestures of altruism, least of all from her.  And she probably prefers it that way.
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It’s a very belated birthday greeting that I have for her, almost a week past.  I’m ashamed for myself, after all she has done for me, my children, my brothers, my parents, and everyone else in my family.  It comes as no surprise that she has been like this all her life, to co-worker, colleague, neighbor, co-CWL devotee, co-parishioner, and has never made a distinction between relative and friend; even people who have not been kind to her have been recipients of her legendary kindness.
I have only one other anecdote about her, among so many others, and this concerns her driver, Mang Gaudencio.  He and his three sons, along with the rest of his family, have been helped by her sterling recommendations on the way to good jobs and stable lives.  Mang Gaudi told me once that, despite his age, if his employer ever needed them and his organs (any of them) were still serviceable, he would gladly donate his kidney, liver, eyes, lungs or heart to her.  And he would consider himself richer for it.
[ The knee-jerk reaction I felt was that why did he think of it ahead of me?  Because no greater source of pride would I have than to be able to say that a part of me could be used by this person I’m talking about, now. ]
He was probably exaggerating when he said it, but I couldn’t blame him.  For besides my parents, I know of no other person who has so enriched my life, in terms of her immeasurable  and inspiring selflessness, as this person.  I once thought that it would take my entire lifetime to repay her for all the things she has done for me.  Now I know that one lifetime is simply not enough.
Belated happy birthday Tita Lily / LBY, you are definitely one of a kind.  Speaking for myself and the rest of the Bautista and SycipLaw families, I love you very much, thank you for being in our lives !
Your nephew