a city remembers our Christchurch 11

[Lalaine Agatep.  Mary Louise Ann Amantillo.  Emmabelle Anoba.  Valquin Bensurto.  Ivy Jane Cabunilas.  John Kristoffer Chua.  Jewel Francisco.  Jessie-Lloyd Redoble and Ezra Mae Medalle. Rhea Mae Sumalpong.  Erica Avir Reyes Nora.  These are our Christchurch 11. ]

Four years ago last Sunday, 11 of our kabayan among a total casualty list of 185 perished in the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquake.

For some of them, it was a giant step after the long hard grind of studying for and preparing for a rewarding career of nursing.  For many of them, it was the first job overseas.  But for all of them, it was a sad example of the double-edged sword of being an OFW : full of promise, but not without the risks of uncertainty and the unknown.  Tragically, the 22nd of February 2011 cut short lives of hope, lives of promise.  All too soon.

The City of Christchurch remembers each and every one of them, and yesterday held a moving 4th anniversary memorial service.  A representative from each and every country that suffered the ultimate loss was given a chance to mention the names of the dearly departed.

If the entire service is too long for you, please start viewing at the 49:18 mark.

Thanks to stuff.co.nz and the Christchurch City Council for the video.  Below by the way is an excerpt from the stuff.co.nz report on thememorial service:

City remembers

On February 22, 2011 a magnitude 6.3 tremor struck at 12.51pm killing 185 people.

Today, Cantabrians here and around the world will mark the fourth anniversary of the devastating quake. 

The River of Flowers commemoration will be set up along the Avon and Heathcote rivers, and at the estuary.

The sites will be open from 8am to 8pm, and will be hosted by local community groups between 12.30 and 1.30pm even if the weather is wet. 

Throughout the day people are able to throw flowers into a waterway and write messages on a Tree of Hope.

At 12.51 two minutes silence will be held.

Flowers also adorn road cones around the city and around the world an idea started by Christchurch artist Henry Sunderland on the first anniversary of the quake. 

The Civic Memorial Service will be held on the Archery Lawn at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens at noon even if the weather is wet.

***     ***     ***

Mabuhay po tayong lahat!

are three mini quakes the main event or a dire warning?

This is what used to be a clean, organized condiments section.

This is what used to be a clean, organized condiments section.

[ Since I started this, there have been another three mini-tremors… I don’t know if this has any significance, but less than a week ago was the anniversary of the 1990 Baguio earthquake.  ]

IT’S AMAZING how innocuous and clinical sounding numbers can represent something more harrowing and sinister.

Friday morning at work in Wellington, a 4.5 tremor that gave us the shivers.  Early 7.00 this Sunday morning (winter sun wasn’t even out yet), a 5.8  shaker that was enough to wake Mahal who roused me from sleep.  And the clincher, a 6.5 quake that made many shopkeepers close shop at the neighborhood Westfield mall.

I can vouch for the craziness cuz I was there, and worse, Mahal and I were separated on either end of the mall due to errands that needed to be done.

unluckily, the shelf itself was dislodged in the condiments aisle.

unluckily, the shelf itself was dislodged in the condiments aisle.

I bought a parking permit for Mahal while she searched for discounted groceries .  The mall service desk issuing parking permits was on the northern side of the mall while the supermarket was on the opposite.

After buying the permit, I passed by the sushi place nearby to chat with Mahal’s colleagues and ask if they had a busy day.  In the middle of conversation, we noticed people rushing down the escalator and a few kids crying.

It’s another earthquake was the only thing I heard before I started running.  Not outside the mall, where everyone was going, but into the mall, to look for Mahal.

Methinks there will be an unscheduled sale on sauces and dressings ASAP...

Methinks there will be an unscheduled sale on sauces and dressings ASAP…

I found her near the middle, also running to look for me.

It only took a few seconds to realize we weren’t in danger, but we were both saying the same thing : that compared to Friday’s and this morning’s tremors, this was stronger, and longer.

It’s not a good sign, when three moderately strong earthquakes get progressively stronger, and a nearby Christchurch absorbed an earthquake on the catastrophe level only two years ago.

By the way, we continued buying the things we needed at the Countdown, and noticed that quite a few aisles were littered with bottles, jars and other containers that fell from their carefully arranged ledges.  Of course, the containers made of glass were broken, shattered and in a million pieces.

I know I didn’t have to be in the pic above, but that’s just one of the aisles that needed overtime cleaning by Sunday staff. 😦

When we got home, after checking for any damage in our flat, one of the first things I did was call Kapatid in Auckland, only a few hundred kilometers away.  He was relieved to find out we were none the worse for wear, and even updated me on recent family news in the Philippines.  I had the pleasure of exchanging pleasantries with my nieces Ganda Jr and Korea Girl.

I then received a quick cellphone call from Bunso, who was at work when the quake came.  He assured me that both Panganay and Ganda were OK,  after which I called and received updates from relatives in nearby Johnsonville.

I know it’s just awful to be a Cassandra, but three small quakes is not a good sign.  If today’s quake was the worst, then we have been spared.  If not, then we can never be too prepared.

For the worst.

proud to be a pinoy tradesman

that's me right on the bottom, but still proud as anyone on the list. :)

that’s me right on the bottom, but still proud as anyone on the list. 🙂

JUST BEFORE and during the Easter weekend, two separate events made me proud to be a tradesman, defined as  a person who earns his living from manual skills like carpentry, masonry, baking, milling and plumbing.  The first was very personal to me, as you’ll read below, and the second should put a collective lump in the throat of any Pinoy worthy of his / her kayumanggi skin.

***               ***            ***

The e-mail was posted without incident and even less fanfare, probably because people like me were hurrying to our posts or commuting home between shifts at the time.  But it was one of the more pleasant messages on the bulletin board that I’d read :

“The xxx service recognition program aims to recognise employees’ service milestones and reward their loyalty, contribution and commitment towards the business.  I (the Managing Director) would like to extend my congratulations to those who have received service awards in the last quarter :

“xxxNoel B (that’s me) : Wellington : 5 years of service in March 2013”

I hadn’t been keeping count, but I knew it was some time since I started with my employer.  It was doubly significant since it was the employer who had been keeping me in New Zealand, so I guess I should’ve been at least a little more vigilant in anticipating the milestone.

Moreover, I was on my last legs as a temporary migrant when I got the job, didn’t have an ideal background, and not only had to move halfway across the country, but I also had do shift work, get used to manual labor and do everything my superiors asked me to do.

But when the job is the only thing keeping you in the country, you try your best to do everything in the job description, and get on the boss’s good side, everytime, all the time.

I did a lot of this the last five years so often it actually became part of my routine, and in the process I learned a trade.  Five years from taking on the job in South Auckland, I’m in the unlikely position of being a service awardee, a gypsy journeyman who’s still learning something new everyday.  Thank you all my colleagues, thank you bisors, and thank you Mr Employer across the Tasman.

And Tuesday is the first day for the rest of my working life.

***               ***              ***

here's a screen shot of the tv3 news segment, thanks to tv3.co.nz for allowing us to share!

here’s a screen shot of the tv3 news segment, thanks to tv3.co.nz for allowing us to share!

This is one of those cases where words don’t do justice, and so I just direct the Precious Reader to the video which for copyright reasons (actually I violate this a whole lot) I can’t post directly, but can still share indirectly.

Our karpentero kabayan good at kalikot and kutingting were sought out by Kiwi construction companies contracted for the Christchurch rebuilding project, and, up to the challenge, many many carpenters tried out for 20 jobs back home, and are now here to provide carpentry services for the duration to the project.  Well, you’ll see all about it in the vid.

The work conditions aren’t world-class, but our countrymen are comfortable, as the footage attests.  They are also provided Pinoy food (prepared by a kabayan co-worker with cooking talents) and adequate internet services to communicate with their families back home.  Best of all, their talents and skills are valued, and if ever projects are awarded anew, will be engaged again.

For now, we don’t know if this is the start of something big, but one thing for sure : the Pinoy tradesman is and has always been welcome in New Zealand.

Kia ora and mabuhay Kiwis, Pinoys and Kinoys!

why the AKLnzPINOYs family are my favorite Kinoys*

Unfortunately this is not a complete picture of the AKLnzPINOYs family. Included here are (clockwise from left) Jinkee Say, Ervin Llacuna, John Veloira Ferrer, Mauro and Jean Oreta, Beah Ulama, Carina Mendoza-Ferrer and Jun Dolon, who graciously allowed use of this beautiful pic

I MET my first flatmates (Jerome and Lady Jalbuena) through them, a pair who turned out to be one of the most outstanding Pinoy couples in New Zealand.  On my way to Wellington from Auckland, I picked up some of the best personal and professional contacts for a thousand-and-one situations that were important, useful and incredibly helpful to me, then and now.  And in my new city, I continue to make new friends and touch base with friends in the first NZ town I settled, because of them.

But I’m just one person.  Multiply the good vibes generated above by around ten thousand, and you get a rough idea of how beautifully the concept of Yahoo!group communities has been applied by the creators of Pinoys sa Auckland, or better known online as AKLnzPINOYs.

One of the most brilliant unintended consequences (or perhaps it was a twinkle in the inventors’ eye) of the Internet has been the founding and proliferation of online communities.  You can dwell on all the evils of the information highway, its access to forbidden fruit made available, fraud and criminal enterprise now  made as easy as playing video games and sending email, but you can’t discount the networking, people-helping-people and good works paid forward by the groups of people connected by the keyboard, screen and modem, people who sometimes have never met in their lives and will never meet if not for altruism social concsiousness and kindness flying through cables and internet lines.

These goals inspired the creation of the AKLnzPINOY team led by Ka Uro or Mauro Oreta and his wife Jean formed on Valentine’s Day 2006, and its mission statement was quite straightforward :

As with other egroups, we intend to help our kababayan here and coming to Auckland to: – meet old and new friends; – expand one’s networking (very useful ito for job hunting, house hunting etc); – compare notes; – share experiences on job seeking, settlement, PR visa processing; – disseminate useful tips and information to kababayan wanting to go auckland, so new comers don’t commit the same mistakes and bloopers.

In truth, they have done much more than that.  In a very real sense, they have united a huge chunk of the Filipino community in Auckland, reaching out to much more than its 1,818 member community (as of last count) and helping connect, reconnect and link further individuals, groups and spin-off e-groups throughout the Pinoy barangay in New Zealand, which today numbers around 70,000 strong.

Need a new flat?  Leave a message on the AKLnzPINOYs e-group.  Looking for a team to play basketball, badminton or volleyball for?  There are many options, but asking the group at the e-group is a great start.  Lonesome for Pinoy food, bakeoffs or just curious as to where Pinoy foodies congregate?  Again, just check out messages and replies to food-related queries there.

To use the showbiz quote, AKLnzPINOYs has become bigger than life now.  Because the Pinoy community is so vibrant, fluid and multi-dimensional, there will be so many ways of penetrating it, and this e-group is just the tip of the iceberg.  You might just make one friend from the AKLnzPINOYs experience, or just use it a few times, but the impact on your life as a migrant will be tremendous.  I know, because the e-group has helped me so much.

The people behind this group will never ask to be recognized and would rather work behind the scenes, so I will just mention them here without their knowing it : Mauro and Jean Oreta, Anthony Patricio, Carlo Jaminola, Ervin Llacuna, Carina Ferrer, Jim Tenedero, Beah Ulama, Jinkee Say, Peachy Deles, Jun Dolon, Chichi Abadingo, Cherry Thelmo-Fernandez, Weng Docot, Roger Tenedero and Atty Manuel Jose (Manjo) Oyson.

If I have omitted any name and/or misspelled or put in a wrong name, please accept my profuse apologies and advise the necessary corrections.

And as if they hadn’t done enough, their labor of love, From Carabao to Sheep, a primer for new Pinoy migrants to NZ, was awarded the “Print Journalism Award” by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas Migration Advocacy and Media Awards “for its significant role in raising public awareness on issues on Filipino migration, and the promotion and advocacy of migration and development.”  Icing on the cake, is what I’d say.

Overall, the team behind AKLnzPINOYs deserves the highest recognition and commendation for all their unsolicited efforts for helping the Pinoy community change their lives for the better in New Zealand, in the process uplifting all of us.

And this is why, unqualifiedly, the AKLnzPINOYs admins and moderators are my favorite Kiwis today!

Mabuhay ang Pinoy !


*Kinoy, a contraction for Kiwi Pinoy, is a non-racial term for Filipinos who’ve either been born or have migrated to New Zealand

why Mimi & Jarvis Laurilla and the KASAGIP Charitable Trust are my favorite kinoys*

Mimi and Jarvis and KASAGIP help migrants of all kinds and situations, because they know how hard it is to pass through the eye of the needle.

MARICEL (NOT her real name) was three days away from an expiring work visa, and all her dreams 72 hours from similarly dwindling down the drain.  Because of a lucky referral, she rang the subjects of today’s blog.  Each hour from then on was crucial, but they were well-spent.  Clever paperwork was lodged, a proper job offer produced, processed and verified, Maricel saved from a one-way ticket home, and 24 months later the latest in a proud tradition of deserving Asian permanent residents, each day contributing to the choo-chooing of the resurgent New Zealand economy.

Maricel’s is an exceptional case, because she would’ve spent the last iota of her strength to stay in Aotearoa anyway, her friends were prepared to see her through her immigration adventure, and she was fortunate enough to benefit from the passion and zeal of KASAGIP volunteers led by Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, who have braved fate, fickle bureaucracy and the sometimes treacherous tides of career and fortune, to help new migrants in New Zealand, as they were once migrants themselves.

KASAGIP is shorthand for Kapatirang Kabalikat sa Kagipitan, which loosely translated from Tagalog is community partners (or brothers/sisters) in times of need, but SAGIP, the root word, also means rescue.  KASAGIP is a label “of those who rescue”.  The name of their devoted team is both an acronym and a keyword for the passion of those who help with and rescue from, the challenges and obstacles of migration.

It would be misleading to say Mimi and Jarvis have done all the work, but they are the driving force of a potent group which has literally brought out of the deepest hole 20 migrants or hard-luck “cases” of which Maricel is only the latest.  The Skilled Migrant Policy stream that provides NZ migrants with livelihoods is double edged, as it sends home those who fail to find jobs that fit the would-be migrant’s skill set.  Kasagip takes this quirk of fate to heart, as it is prepared to help those who fall between the cracks of good intentions and well-meaning opportunity.

Mimi, Jarvis and their corps of hardy volunteers have undergone no formal training as immigration consultants, counselors, lifesavers or employment advisors, only the hard-knock realworld lessons of experience applying for legitimate migrant status themselves.  Add  to that, a vocation to help those similarly situated, and wanting a better life for themselves in foreign shores far from home.

To finance the logistics of helping hardluck migrant wannabes, the Laurillas and KASAGIP conceived of a thousand-and-one ways to raise money, not the least being the KASAGIP annual garage sale, grants and funding from city governments and foundations, and the goodwill donations of the KASAGIP Golden Club, anything to maintain liquidity and independence from the profit motive.

In return, this incredibly inspiring organization ask for nothing except the satisfaction of seeing an aimless, wandering and hopeless migrant brought back from the depths of despair and into the land of the living.  That is, the land of hope and new life, in New Zealand.

Each migrant sent home represents a dream extinguished, a dream that Mimi and Jarvis are not ready to give up, as long as they have the minimal requisite of passion and initiative.  Without this, KASAGIP would not survive.  And neither would the many migrants it helps.

For this and many other reasons, Mimi and Jarvis Laurilla, their comrades in KASAGIP, and their converts, are truly my favorite Kinoys.  They deserve to be your favorites, too !

Thanks for reading !

PS.  For more info and if you want to help them help others, pls email kasagipcharitabletrust@yahoo.co.nz, visit their Facebook page (Kasagip Charitable Trust) or simply ring them (04)528-5238 in NZ.  Gain the goodwill and pay it forward, woohoo !

*Kinoy, a contraction for Kiwi Pinoy, is a non-racial term for Filipinos who’ve either been born or have migrated to New Zealand

We have not forgotten

TAKING AWAY a beloved member from any family under violent and sudden circumstances is always traumatic.  It becomes even more painful when multiple members are taken away from us.  Which is why it was so cruel and unfair when exactly a year ago today, 11 cherished members of the Pinoy family were abruptly removed from our circle, their bright hopes and dreams dashed to pieces by the February 22nd Christchurch earthquake.

It is not for us to question the hows and whys of God‘s will.  Much more so when our 11 kabayan who perished were part of the greater number of 185 from different countries of the world that fateful day.  No less than New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who was among the first to condole with the shell-shocked families of the lost ones that day, observed that it was undoubtedly “New Zealand’s darkest day.”

What we can do is to make sense of the motive force that brought those 11 of our kayumanggi brothers and sisters to their appointment with eternity that day, the spirit behind their actions, and the dreams that live on despite their passing.

Without a doubt, our kabayan, who were practically all nurses who had finished hurdling their government licensure exams and had a year or two of practice under their belts, were in New Zealand to try their luck as medical practitioners in the potential-laden NZ environment.  It wasn’t so much the financial remuneration that attracted most of them, although the compensation was handsome; it was more likely the futures of the families they would bring there as permanent residents, once their status as permanent residents were sorted.

And the best way to start doing this was to pass an orientation course being taught at the CTV building in Christchurch CBD.  No one could’ve known that the earthquake that would visit that day and the weakened structure of the building from a previous tremor would combine to cut short lives just beginning, careers most promising.

**                    **                    **                    **               **

In Christchurch today, each of their names, among the 185, were called in a roll of honor by rescuers and firemen, the heroes of that day.  Two minutes of silence were observed in their memory, by a New Zealand that remembered those left us too soon.

Lalaine Agatep.  Mary Louise Ann Amantillo.  Emmabelle Anoba.  Valquin Bensurto.  Ivy Jane Cabunilas.  John Kristoffer Chua.  Jewel Francisco.  Jessie-Lloyd Redoble and Ezra Mae Medalle. Rhea Mae Sumalpong.  Erica Avir Reyes Nora.

**               **              **               **               **

The purpose of this little note is not to assign blame, nor to make others feel guilty for whatever part they played in the events of 22nd February 2011.  Life goes on in Christchurch, in New Zealand, even in the Philippines around the lives of those primarily affected by the earthquake of one year ago.

It’s not the easiest thing to do, especially from their loved ones, but if from the seeming senseless tragedy of the loss of lives we can draw both lessons and inspiration from their demise, then their sacrifice will not have been in vain.

The entire Filipino community in New Zealand, as well as all our kabayan back home, salute the Christchurch 11 for lives well lived.  Mabuhay kayong lahat !

Everyday is Count-Your-Blessings Day

[Sigh, another stream of consciousness rant.  Thanks for all the kind (and less kind) comments, the well-wishers, Christmas greeters, and if ever I’ve been able to give you reason to take a deep breath, forget the day’s troubles, and smile, it will have been worth doing this for me.  Merry Christmas! ]

Dear kabatch, brods, kabayan, schoolmates, officemates, Huttmates and friends :

EVERY DAY IS COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS DAY.  Apart from other occasions, there is no set time for doing this, and there are practical reasons for such : (1) you gain blessings everyday and therefore it seems logical, NOT superstitious, for doing it.  Of course, you may lose blessings as well, but that’s besides the point. (2) for those who believe in positive energy and related stuff, if you affirm receipt of blessings and thank a Higher Power for them (whatever your faith, and whether or not you have a faith, you’ve gotta believe in a force in the Universe other than yours, responsible at the very least for Intelligent Design, not necessarily personally interested in you, but that’s for another conversation OK?), chances are, positive acts and events beget ditto, and while I’m not recommending lying supine under the bayabas tree, recognizing blessings is sometimes its own blessing.  (3) and last, you never know what will happen tomorrow, this afternoon, or even an hour from now.  You may lose that all-important opportunity to acknowledge, even if only for yourself, that you’ve been one lucky person most of your life.  Enough said :

I’m thankful that no disaster has personally rocked my world.  The most clueless response I can think of whenever I come across news of a major disaster like the one that visited Mindanao last Sunday is, omg how horrible, but that could never happen to me could it???  Let’s admit it : our breathtaking naivete, smug conviction that awfully bad things happen only to other people, and the law of averages all combine to tell us that while we can condole and sympathize with the unlucky ones, we can safely reassure ourselves that we are somehow immune from such misfortune.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Part of the tragedy last Sunday was that typhoons hardly ever visit Northern Mindanao, but it happened.  High tide, the lack of absorption from the soil, the fact that the flash floods occurred late at night, all point to the mentality that a catastrophe of such magnitude was furthest from the minds of leaders and those responsible for preparing for it.  Even in Christchurch, New Zealand, where government and the Kiwi culture are known for disaster-preparedness and safety consciousness, and where a previous earthquake was enough warning, no one could’ve imagined the death and destruction that visited one of the worlds’s most beautiful cities last February.  Among many culprits?  “It can happen, but we have time to prepare.”  Returning to my own little world, I know that disaster can make its personal mark on me anytime, and I’m just grateful it hasn’t.

I’m grateful I have a job. Period.  No complaints about it being overseas (and away from kids) and the wage rate (not high but not too low, either).  The reason being that so many people are unemployed, underemployed, employed in shabby circumstances, exploited, exposed to hazardous conditions and substances, or worse, hate their job.  The hours are not-so-great, there is some manual labor involved, some tasks are tedious and boring, but I could do a lot worse.  I can do tedious and boring, especially after a week of  helping pack 20-kg flour bags when the mill went into slowdown early December and Bisor and moi packed the equivalent of 18 tons (bag by bag of course) into paper bags one damp and dreary night.  I know a lot of people, especially locals, would kill for a job like mine, where the pay is steady and the company is stable.  That only makes me more grateful, and glad that I can get along with colleagues and superiors.The fact that my work visa status gives me even less employment prospects (I can only work for the employer stated in the visa) makes me even luckier as (for now) they’re not slave-drivers, communicate with the union as often as time allows, and try not to take advantage of migrant workers like me.

I am grateful that I’m in reasonably good health.  Once a week or thereabouts, I wake up with a gout attack (or whatever it’s called) caused by more than a glass of red wine, or a little too much red meat in my lunch or dinner, a dip in temperature of more than a couple of degrees.  All of those are avoidable, so I have only myself to blame.  An ophthalmologist -friend (Atty Fe Makalinao, thank you) tells me that I, along with a few billion other middle agers in denial, suffer from presbyopia, which is a type of nearsightedness caused by age.  This is on top of regular myopia and astigmatism, but just like my job, I could do worse.  I have early onset creaky knees, aggravated most probably by my insistence on running around the block on warm days, early onset narcolepsy ( I wait up for my favorite shows only to start snoring even before the same is half over ), and endure high blood sugar and high LDL cholesterol, understandable given the wild excess of my youth.  Otherwise, I’m in relatively good health and have maintained my weight and fitness, as long as I don’t abuse my body’s longevity, durability and forebearance.  I need to add that probably 90% of the maintenance and upkeep, especially on the cosmetic side, I owe to esposa hermosa, who has done her best to update my appearance for the 21st century and hopefully the succeeding decades.  For this I am doubly grateful ! 🙂

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

You believe me now when I say I’ve so many things to be thankful for?  By no means is this list exhaustive, there are probably a million other blessings I must one day record, acknowledge and pay forward.  In this season of thanksgiving, giving thanks is only half the equation, and acquires more meaning when you pass it on (the blessing) to someone else, especially someone who needs it badly and who least expects it.

Maligayang Pasko my friend, thank you for your readership, and a blessed Christmas to you and your family!


Nexus between alternate realities : Pistang Hamilton & beach cleanup

[Note from Noel : Belated happy birthdays to Mr Oliver Uy and Prof Harry Roque and happy birthday to Engr Nelson Tan ! Good luck to all the participants of Pistang Pilipino 2011, particularly the Wellington and Auckland teams and contestants, and don’t forget to congratulate each other after every game OKs? ]

EVEN BEFORE I saw the YouTube teaser I had a pretty good idea what the Pistang Pilipino 2011 to be held in Hamilton, New Zealand would contain : a beauty pageant, talent quest, the all-important basketball-dominated sportsfest, and mini-reunions everywhere between Pinoys separated by fate, job assignments and love.

And if you look at the teaser yourself, you will see all the well-loved activities that unite and bond Filipino communities everywhere: Pinoys love to showcase their superlatives under the bright lights, grace under pressure, and to celebrate the best among the best, be it physical beauty, athletic talent, or the performing arts.  All under one umbrella, and that of course is the Pistang Pilipino 2011 hosted by Hamilton, involving almost all the Pinoy communities throughout the Land of the Great White Cloud, New Zealand.

It’s a safe bet that anyone who’s part of the Pinoy community who has any form of talent, and who’s adhered to any of the basketball clubs throughout Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, or any of the another cities and towns in all of the regions will attend this annual gathering of migrants from the Pearl of the Orient.  And if you can’t make it, you will either eat your heart out by listening to the tales of those who made it, or promise yourself to make it next year.

Each major event, be it the beauty pageant (Ms Philippines NZ), the talent quest or the sports fest, not only has its own Facebook page, most of the participants therein have their own FB pages where you can participate by “liking” your favorites, interact with the actors, or inquire about related activities that take place year round, not just during the Pistang Pilipino.  There are various activities that you can enjoy, and if they are not for free, admission may be gained for very reasonably priced tickets.

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

Over at the Bay of Plenty on the eastern NZ coast, not far away from Hamilton, a different kind of community bonding is set to take place.  Pinoy volunteers since early this week (17-23 October) have been raring to take part in beach cleanups as a result of the MV Rena grounding in early October.

We don’t have to emphasize that of the principal actors in this tragedy, one was and is a kabayan, and therefore most of us feel the pangs of conscience to pick up not just the solidified oil that has washed up on beaches but the contents of containers displaced (as much as 50-70 forty-foot containers) from the Rena.

Operation Beach Clean Up very courteously told the various Pinoy volunteer groups that, while their assistance was very welcome, logistics and the excess of volunteers required that most of the Pinoy volunteers cool their heels until further notice. [ Thanks for forwarding the e-mail, Mr Ody Lumanglas ! ]

Well, at least we wanted to help. Kudos to the organizers and Hamiltonian hosts of Pistang Pilipino 2011, advance congratulations to all the winners of the various Pistang Pilipino events, and to the kabayan beach cleanup volunteers : mabuhay kayong lahat !


Angry Birds & A Pixellated Pinoy Sea Captain : Early Xmas wishes

As of last count, 1100 birds have been found dead, but many more have sunk to the bottom of the sea, and we'll never know how much have perished. There were pictures markedly worse than this one, enough to drive you to tears. Thanks & acknowledgment to Dominion Post / stuff.co.nz for the photo.

[Note from Noel : Not angry actually but dead, and those who are really angry are the birds left behind, and unable to propagate rapidly diminishing species. Belated happy birthdays to Carol Ng Sy , Cherry Ong, Robin Tan (11th October) and Penny Rose Tan ( 14th ), now let’s brace ourselves for NZ‘s biggest rugby match in eight years tomorrow, All Blacks vs Wallabies ! Go go go ! ]

Dear kabatch, kabayan, brods, officemates, iskolar ng bayan, Huttmates and friends :

BEHOLDING Man and the dilemma of this plane of existence, there seem to be very few absolutes in a sea of relatives.  The purest good may sometimes be poison in unlimited amounts, for example.  Or the tics and tackiness of even the most satanic dictators can sometimes provide quirky (if a bit too entertaining) distraction from the monotony of daily life.

Which is why it’s quite unusual to see something as absolutely and unequivocally awful as an oil spill, particularly one in a pristinely preserved idyll like New Zealand.  There is no upside or pogi points to be philosophized about it.  It is despicably, horribly and unqualifiedly bad for all concerned, and it tends to stay around even longer than is expected, which is believe me, long enough.

Please excuse the uncharacteristically blunt language. By nature, I try to be PC, diplomatically pleasing all around and all that, but there is simply nothing the spin doctors can do about this debacle.

An additional thorn on our side is that one of the principal actors in this tragedy is a countryman and there is no way (not that we want to) we can deny that.

The captain of the Rena, granted name suppression but not back home. Thanks to the Dominion Post for the picture.

But two things : this isn’t a race thing, any more than a plane crash piloted by two Caucasians isn’t a white issue, as many Kiwis have pointed out.  Notwithstanding the well-considered prudence of the judge granting name suppression against the Pinoy ship captain in court two days ago, the danger to him and his crew was probably overstated.

And this is the second thing : efforts of Kiwis now are not focused on the blame game but on cleaning up beaches, saving wildlife and preserving what’s left of the Bay of Plenty, which is one of the most immaculately beautiful showcases of nature in this part of the world.  Having said that, I humbly present seven early Christmas wishes in light of recent events.  The 7 represent each of the weeks before December and Christmas season , which we all need to remind ourselves that in the light of bleakest tragedy, Jesus Christ is there to give us grace and hope :

The last 72 hours, the ship has been listing in various directions. Strong winds previously feared to have pushed the Rena to a doomsday position have actually helped right itself from a previously precarious state. Thanks to Dominion Post / NZ Herald for the photos.

I wish that the endangered species further placed in peril by the oil slick will find pockets of surviving members of the same species elsewhere in New Zealand.  At least three to five species of the birds affected by the Rena oil slick number less than 2000, meaning they were already in trouble before it happened.  But there is precedent for finding the same species in isolated areas of the country, and for the sake of continued biodiversity and preservation of precious wildlife, I hope this happens shortly after the cleanup, or even during such event.

I wish the cleanup volunteers, despite the many discomforts, continue to perform their heroic tasks.  This might be the only country where, out of pure community spirit and do-goodness, you want to clean up your beach but are prevented from doing so.  There are now actually more volunteers than official cleaners of the debris and oily sludge washing up on the 22 kilometers of beach, but because they are not properly trained and the Government doesn’t need to expose itself to any more liability, are carefully selecting who can volunteer to do for free, pardon the French, a totally shitty job.  Now how outrageous is that ???  Anyway, I hope the volunteers don’t give up, cuz even if (and maybe because) my kabayan was partly responsible and I want to help, I would think twice about going out there, for obvious reasons.

I hope the winds cooperate and don’t make it too hard for both the salvage operation and the beach cleanup.  Strong winds, which are notorious all over NZ, are a bane to the oilslick operations in two ways : they make it more difficult to remove the oil, and they also endanger the position of the vessel stuck on the reef.  If Divine Intervention makes it possible for calm winds to prevail the next few days, it would mean a whole lot for everyone here.

I hope the Rena itself doesn’t crack like a rancid coconut, as this would be total catastrophe despite everything that’s happened.  It’s estimated that around 300 to 500 tons of the ship’s fuel (which serve as ballast as well) have seeped out of the hull after the vessel crashed against a shallow coral reef, and this has already incurred extensive damage to marine life.  But it’s nothing compared to what will happen if the balance of the 1700 ton fuel capacity empties into the Bay, which is a virtual certainty if the ship sinks.  The consequences are too dire, and in fact for me are unthinkable.  Fortunately it has not come to that yet, and everything ( I hope) is being done to forestall that.

I hope all the remaining containers teetering like carelessly connected Lego Blocks on a giant kid’s creation don’t fall off, and are salvaged in time to not cause any more damage.  Most of the 70 containers that have fallen off contain consumer and food items but one or two contain hazardous materials that will be extremely difficult to contain should it spill out to the water. This means the earlier the containers are retrieved and placed on other vessels, the better.

I hope New Zealand wins the Rugby World Cup semifinal against Australia tomorrow night, and against the Wales-France semifinal winner at the finals next week. God knows NZ needs the cheering up, after all the things that have happened the last 12 months, the twin Christchurch earthquakes that killed 182, the Pike River mine blast that killed 29 coal miners, and the thousands left homeless and vulnerable from all these events.

I hope, lastly that my mother who celebrated her birthday yesterday continues to enjoy good health and the love of family, who she has taken care of and loved back for so long.  I love you very much Mom !

Thanks for reading !


Why Norman Latosa is my Favorite Kinoy*

El Presidente

Whenever I see a Johnny Walker Black Label or Jim Beam bottle, one of the first memories that comes to mind is that of probably the first Pinoy (outside of family) that I met in New Zealand, in Auckland 2003, Engr Norman Latosa.  We weren’t drinking then, and he was still quite formal and polite, having just been introduced to me by my brother George, but after that, we had lots of quality time spent over many a bottle of liquid fire, as it loosened tongues and made every joke funny.

He was (and is) such a first-rate drinker that he could nurse his drink without finishing even half of it (if he was driving home later) or, he could outdrink half a dozen men twice his weight and towering over his modest frame.

But that w0uld be unfair to him, remembering him only for his love for wine and good company.  He has since the early part of the previous decade been organizing basketball tournaments for the Auckland Pinoy community, particularly in and around the North Shore City area.  He has successfully managed year-round basketball for youth, inter-color, age-group, over-35 and, the most competitive of all, the Men’s Open version of Pinoy basketball under the aegis of Pinoy Basketball sa Auckland (PBA), one of the pioneering Pinoy sports organizations that have spun off into various tournaments and clubs throughout the Auckland region, and probably elsewhere in NZ.

Largely because of the talent development spawned by the PBA of Norman and his group of merry men, Auckland has sent several quality teams to the annual nationwide Pinoy sportsfests held during the Queen’s Birthday in June and the Labor Weekend, when by rotation, different NZ cities like Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch (among many others) host multisport extravaganzas, including of course basketball.

Either because of the quality of basketball talent, or just the fact that Norman’s PBA has always attracted the best players, Auckland teams have usually fared well in these NZ wide Pinoy sportsfests.  But more importantly, the friendship and camaraderie that sports and athletics foster are the best results of the Queen’s Birthday and Labor weekend events.

As usual, with people like Norman, the honor and recognition associated with leading basketball clubs is secondary to the sense of accomplishment of having served community and countrymen, and this we guess is what keeps him going after so many years.  He doesn’t receive anything for his time and effort and yet he continues to hold tournament after tournament without expecting anything in return.

And that’s why Norman Latosa is my favorite Kinoy !

PS. You can read about current activities and tournaments of the the PBA on their website, http://pinoybasketball.co.nz/  Mabuhay!

*Kinoy is a contraction for Kiwi-Pinoy, a non-racial term for Pinoys who live, permanently or otherwise, in New Zealand.