Salute to Bro / Bad Habits of a Temporary Migrant

Dear batchmates, kabayan and friends :

THIS BLACK SATURDAY, we pause from our migrant tales, memory-scouring and daddy anecdotes to salute a giant on our personal landscape, a model to emulate ( a left-handed compliment considering how weird we turned out , but nevertheless ), someone who has always loomed large in the standard and alternate realities of our universe.

He’s no math wizard but crunches numbers like a strongman; doesn’t own a glib tongue but always ends a negotiation leaving everybody happy; never butters up his criticism but was / is a consummate motivator of every sort of worker under his wing.

In short, he possesses the qualities of a captain of industry, someone who you would want to navigate your business toward the black bottom line, or man your frontline whenever dealing with client, supplier, employee or even competitor.

Our brother Tim has filled every role, and has handled almost every kind of situation there is.

But the undiluted wonder of it all is that he does everything under the radar, as an understatement, effortlessly, and with as little attention to himself as possible. He seems to live by the philosophies of management by remote, and management by invisibility.

In childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, he left us lasting impressions that he would succeed in whatever he tried doing, whether it was playing tournament-level chess, writing for the school paper, starting up his own mobile party logistics business, or just anything else his entrepreneurial mind could fancy.

His finishing school a term early, with double degrees and dean’s list kudos almost throughout his stint at campus belied a healthy aptitude for fun and partying, but this never stopped him from hitting the ground running, reaching senior management within 18 months from joining his first employer.

He has never failed to share both his blessings and knowledge gained with his family and friends, and this has returned to him tenfold. In our parents’ management committee of two, he is always consulted as the unofficial third member, and his counsel is valued by brother, nephew, niece and cousin, actually every member of the clan.

SJCS 76er, DLSU diehard, media industry whiz, management guru, KTV champ, and marketing genius. Among your many titles, we are proud to call you Kuya Tim.

Belated happy birthday, Bro !

** ** ** **

There are bad habits, and there are bad habits. We’ve come up with a short list of faux pas we’re guilty of during a bad day, and sometimes even a good day, that we’re almost sure makes the hosts here in our temporary adopted land uneasy and quite unsure of whether or not we’re grateful that we’re their guests.

Of course, we are, grateful we mean, but the bad habits are there by force of habit, our rush to do the practical instead of the correct, and probably most important, our insistence that unconsciously or not, there are Asian / Pinoy ways of doing things that die hard.

This is by no means a final list, there will continue to be additions, the sad thing is that everytime we update this list, we will have to include the original items :

 Bad Habit Number 1 : Saying yes before we completely understand the speaker . By far ( and so far ), this is the worst bad habit we can think of, and the potential for complications hitting the fan ( just substitute your favorite @#$% ) is doubled if this happens at work. Admittedly Pinoys, whenever choosing between I beg your pardon and nodding assent to words spoken a gear too fast, with accent a little too thick and idioms a tad too quaint, just wing it: umoo ka na lang.

Not only does this lead to misunderstandings and impressions that we are dull beyond comprehension, it sometimes leads to unintended and unfortunate consequences.

Our earliest days at work many months ago, we were told by bisor : open all the windows if you want, but NIVAH leave that door open. Naturally, we didn’t have a clue who or what the heck nivah was, but the first thing we did was to open the door. How could we know that nivah was locally how u say NEVER and we did the opposite of what he told us. Automatic Yup? Never, or Nivah again.

 Bad Habit Number 2 : Making brainless and impromptu comments on some of our hosts’ hygiene or lack of same. Let’s face it, our cultural differences preclude us from thinking our hosts’ hygienic practices are normal or a natural way of adapting to the climate. No matter where we are, in whatever clime, we will always do the same things we did back home.

This however doesn’t give us the right to make comments on how they are. So what if they shower 2 to 3 times a week? So what if they don’t change clothes everyday? And what of it, if they use deodorant only when the mood strikes? (Note: No sarcasm intended.)

We’re not generalizing, but odds are about even, especially the more south your latitude is. It just isn’t a priority to keep yourself smelling good all the time, and we’re just being frank here. With this realization, all the more probably should we be sensitive to the cultural divide and live and let live, but certainly not do as the Romans do, we’re sure you get our drift.

Bad Habit Number 3 : Not laughing automatically and heartily at whatever jokes made by the host/s. The situation is similar to those contemplated in BH #1 but the outcome or expected behavior is markedly different. We’re NOT expected to ask why the punchline is so, and anyway if you bother to find out the humor / irony in the joke, you most likely will laugh ( kahit mababaw ), so it’s usually advisable to just go ahead a have a loud bwahaha. Even if you’re not exactly sure why.

The alternative, as if you didn’t know, is to sit around bewildered while everyone else is making hee-hee-hee and enjoying a good laugh. Soon enough, someone will notice that you’re not getting it, and while a kind soul will try to explain the humor behind the gag, the rest of the room will be thinking, boy these Asians really don’t have a sense of humor. When we actually just think they’re corny. So, tumawa ka na lang kabayan.

** ** ** **

What if the shoe was on the other foot ? (1) Threaten to nuke Puerto Rico whenever it attempts to secede, (2) pulverize the sovereign rights of a former colony like the Philippines, just for kicks ; (3) play with the Euro and expect that the dollar be treated as a sacred commodity; (4) sit on the UN Security Council despite trading with rogue states, and (5) speeding up the execution of thousands of condemned criminals in Texas, California and other states where execution is still legal.

Of course, the Evil Empire ( Note: sarcasm intended ) wouldn’t do these unthinkables. And if they did, like maybe Number 4 above, there would be hell to pay, before the international media and community of nations.

So why does everyone look the other way and ignore the elephant in the room when China does the exact same things?

Every now and then, it makes it clear that “dire consequences” will be met by Taiwan should it pursue anything other than the One China policy. Its Tibet policy has worsened, rather than improved, despite the mediation by third parties. It openly dumps gazillions of greenbacks on the money market daily to suit whatever its policy objective happens to be on any particular day, and doesn’t even bother to hide such fact.

And the PROC has forever sat on the fence while both Iran and North Korea play nuclear brinksmanship with the rest of the world. Beijing won’t even deny that first, billions of barrels of oil are sent from Iran to China every year, and, contrary to Chinese interests, chaos in a beaten North Korea will mean mass migration across the border to guess where? Just a few kilometers from the Forbidden City. And let’s not forget the nameless thousands executed yearly in China, more than the rest of the world combined.

Despite the inexorable march towards a Chinese Century, it’s not a great time for those with Chinese blood and heritage to hold their heads high.

It’s not a perfect world, but let’s thank Providence for the gift of democracy, and the free air we breathe.

Was it Dr Jose Rizal who said there are no tyrants where there are no slaves ?

Happy Easter everyone!