nang nakuha ni Kiwi ang kiliti ni Pinay (when Kiwi tickles Pinay’s fancy)


 

 

 

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[ Note : the title above you see is an attempt to use our beloved pambansang wika (national language). since I’m not comfortable using purely Tagalog (an irony because of my brown skin), my makabayan (nationalist) self made a compromise with my blogger self by using Taglish. the original title was paano nagkikilitian ang Pinay at Kiwi but it sounds too dodgy or awkward, thus the result you see. thanks for reading, and thanks so much for the couples who allowed use of their precious photos! ]

YOU’RE PROBABLY tired of hearing this from this space but it bears repeating : the length and breadth of New Zealand (1600 km and 400 km respectively) is dotted with the most quaint and pleasant phenomena: Kiwi (New Zealander) and Filipina couples, known also as “blended” couples, accompanied by their cute and mestizo (biracial) children. They are anywhere and everywhere, in the malls, churches, parks and of course, schools.

Something that’s always intrigued me is what in the Kiwi’s character or personality attracts so many of our kabayan Pinays. Filipina women are attractive, speak English well, and know how to take care of their partners. These qualities make them popular with potential husbands all over the world. What makes them choose New Zealand men? I crowdsourced a few Pinays in my immediate circle for answers, and a few responded:

intelligence. Some qualities stand out over others, and if you were to listen to some women in Kiwi-Pinay relationships, it’s what Kiwi men have between their ears that’s more important than the rest of the body. An ability to talk about anything under the sun, a keenness to discuss the technical, the complicated, and the creative, and a willingness to discuss topics most people don’t have time for is superattractive for many Filipinas. If you ask me why, I think it’s because it indicates to a potential partner that a person is willing to first listen to the other’s point of view and then counter with an alternative point of view, and so and and so forth.

Alam nya lahat, napakatalino nya, he’s so smart and knows everything, I’ve heard not just once, twice or even thrice from my on-the-spot, spontaneous talks with kabayan I’ve just met in the mall with their smiling hubbies and supercute babies in tow. The ability to acquaint her with the Kiwi environment and world in general seems to be a super turn-on with the Filipina when describing her man, and it’s not hard to wonder why: we leave the Philippines for a strange country like babes in the woods, helpless and new to everything. Our mates are like intimate tour guides that open our eyes to everything wonderful and new. slowly and carefully lest we get a rude awakening to the Kiwi universe. To us they seemed like benevolent superhumans that knew and reacted to everything well, not just to their own environment but to a tiny little Asian girl that just got here.

At the end of the day, the mental part is what carries a relationship past the physical, when we’re old and wrinkled. This is true with Kiwi-Pinoy couples as much as with everyone else. What are you going to talk about when you come home from work, both tired and cranky? After the intimacy, the energy of your youth and the physical activity, the inevitable letdown will be there and the true meaning of companionship, communication skills and friendship will be crucial. Intelligence and EQ (emotional IQ) are important tools that many Pinays think Kiwis use well.

Empathy. Like any other relationship, there is a getting-to-know-you and preliminary phase, and again Filipinas usually like what they see in Kiwis, based on what we’ve heard. Helping around the house, babysit with kids (if one or both have kids from a previous relationship, obviously), a backrub or massage when needed, anything actually to make life easier, no traditional you do this and I do that setup where the male just provides financial support, food and shelter and everything else is done by the female sort of thing.

Even better, according to my respondents, many Kiwi partners husbands also double as hands-on dads, no practice needed, just be ready and hit the ground running, be it cooking, cleaning round the house, grocery shopping and changing diapers. That about completes the list of essential chores if you ask me, and the particular Pinay I chatted with , as of last count, is happiest with the choice she made, as she thinks Kiwi guys are keepers.

Empathy also means adapting and adjusting to the Pinoy tradition of sending money home to the relatives, for big and small reasons, every occasion, and without anyone asking for it. In virtually all the stories I’ve heard, Kiwis either fully support or at the very least tolerate our practice of remittances, because of our strong concept of filial piety and love for extended family.

Commitment. In two examples out of ten I’ve examined, the Kiwi guy went straight for the jugular (main artery), so to speak: even before consulting the Pinay girlfriend and as soon as he thought SHE was the one, he packed his bags, booked a flight and told the girl he was visiting in the Philippines, as soon as he was sure there was nothing she could do about it.

Buti na lang (just as well) in 100% of the cases I’ve known and heard about, the visits turned out successful, as the Kiwi ended up tying the knot with our kabayan. That would’ve been awkward otherwise ūüôā

But the ideal of commitment goes far beyond turning on the charm offensive, putting your best foot forward and asking for the Pinay’s hand in marriage via pamamanhikan. In a few of the cases, when our kabayan gets sick or becomes temporarily handicapped, the Kiwi unhesitatingly stands by her side, ready to hold her hand and support her in every way possible. Especially knowing that she would do the same if the shoe were on the other foot.

There are so many things that make Kiwis and New Zealanders ideal mates for our kabayan Filipinas, intelligence, empathy and commitment just three out of dozens. But at the end of the day Pinays are still old-fashioned. A Bicolana friend summed it up for me. Every day when I wake up, I know he is there to be my knight in shining armor.

Well said, and to all the Kiwi and Pinay couples, mabuhay kayo!

 

 

ang pagbabalik: why homecomings are important to Pinoy migrants


 

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Sa gitna ng dilim
Ako ay nakatanaw
Ng ilaw na kay panglaw
Halos ‘di ko makita
Tulungan mo ako
Ituro ang daan
Sapagkat ako’y sabik
Sa aking pinagmulan  Рlyrics from an Asin song

[Maraming salamat, to sya, muchas gracias and thanks very much in advance for making our visit to the Inang Bayan so memorable and enjoyable. Sa uulitin po! ]

NANG PAGBALIK namin mula sa probinsya this year’s vacay, where I met and paid respects to my in-laws, I have been meeting friends, contemporaries, relatives and more friends.

No exaggeration, four Manila gatherings in five nights, I couldn’t say no because each event was organized for me, and people made the effort out of their busy schedules just to see me. So no way I could¬† miss each and any of those balikbayan get-togethers, in incidentally my first visit since late 2016 to early 2017.

I saw classmates, friends and peers I hadn’t met in years and years. Most of them had married, gone through tough times in both work and business, kids and relationships and survived. Most had worked their way from the bottom, and were now reaping the fruits of their labor. Kids in good schools and nearing the end of their mortgage, these guys were looking forward to comfort in middle age with an eye towards retirement.

What about me? Looking at these guys, I couldn’t help but feel like Rip Van Winkle, asleep around twenty years in a cave, only to wake up and find out time had passed him by. Of course I hadn’t been asleep, only working in a land far away and staying out of the loop from people I had spent most of my life with, previously.

Had it been worth it? I won’t know for now. I don’t even know if I’ll end up staying permanently in my second home overseas or come back home from my years away.

I only know that despite seeing the people and things I missed, I need to keep doing this, coming back as often as I can:

My parents aren’t getting any younger. Dad is 86, Mom is 79. I would like them to be around forever, they’ve always been there for me, and in the same way I’d like to be there for them. But the laws of God and nature limit us to fourscore and 10 (90), and anything above that is simply a bonus. Being overseas limits my time with them, so going home as often as I can allows me the most time with them that I can manage.

I need to see what I missed to inspire myself to work harder. For sure, I missed seeing my family grow up in the Philippines. I missed the chances and opportunities of developing a career back home. I missed bonding with friends and family in the place I grew up in.¬† All this for a chance to live a better life abroad. So far it’s been a good choice. But I will always ask myself what could have been. I can’t answer that question yet, but I know I’ll have an answer eventually if I go home every chance I can.

I need to keep in touch with the land I was born in. Nothing is sweeter to the displaced Filipino (voluntary or otherwise) than to go home to his village, his family and his country. Before the sense of nationalism, there is the strong affinity for the community to which one was born, and before that of course, there is the sense of identity with the family one is born into. This hierarchy is common to many cultures, and none more so than to our own Filipino culture.

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It may sound cheesy, but I’m energized, inspired and refreshed every time I go home. My sense of perspective and purpose gets a reboot every time I see my family members and renew my sense of belonging. Above all, I get to remind myself what’s important: where I came from, and where I will always belong.

Thanks for reading, mabuhay po tayong lahat!

nearly useless jobs I’m good for


another of my skills, finding our way back after getting lost, esp great considering I got us lost in the first place ūüôā

ALL OVER THE WORLD, Filipinos, whether as OFWs or migrants, distinguish themselves by their resourcefulness (maparaan), resilience (matiyaga) and improvisational ability (maabilidad). We thrive under the most trying circumstances, we conjure practical solutions for challenging problems, and what we lack in material wherewithal we make up for in out-of-the-box thinking.

I’d like to say I’m typically competent and capable in this regard, but since joining me in New Zealand, Mahal my wife has made me about as useful as a Sony Betamax video player.¬† She learns how to operate gadgets intuitively, has embraced the DIY culture of our Kiwi hosts like a native, and has the energy and enthusiasm of any male twice her size.

Which leaves me, her prince consort, in the awkward position of being her decoration, outdated appendage if you want, holding her tools and implements and wiping her brow in her difficult moments, and knowing even less than she does when she can’t make head or tail of the User’s Manual for the newest whatchmacallit (does anybody still use that word?) bought on sale from that giant department store chain.

Rarely though I find a chore or two that I’m good at, and surprisingly, Mahal lets me do it because there’s not much more I can do around the house. Literally. I try to focus on the things I can do and stick to them, leaving the heavy lifting and major tasks to Mahal.¬† I know this is a role reversal of sorts and it certainly sounds like I’m emasculating myself, but I’m a realist:

for copyright reasons, this pic might disappear anytime. ūüôā

Folding laundry. This is by far the task Mahal pretty much leaves for me, because, after all, she does the washing, does the drying (via sampayan or clothesline drying, no less) so I should at least be able to ready the shirts, pants and underwear before they return to the closet, fresh, crisp, fragrant and clean. It would be the height of selfishness for me to do my clothes only, so I do hers right after I do mine. Her clothes are actually easier to sort, just get out the hangers and hang her dresses, office wear and blouses. I can actually do these while watching my favorite sports and quiz shows on TV, but it slows me down, as if I weren’t slow enough. (Actually I don’t care, as long as I don’t look totally useless around the house.)

Killing flies and slapping mosquitoes. It being summer, our temperate Wellington is filled with the buzzing sound of unwanted visitors who hover around sweet-smelling nilagang saba, ginataan and other tasty treats. At night, there are mosquitoes, gnats and sand flies that suck the hard-earned blood off our sweaty skin. Yes, this part of New Zealand is chilly-windy the rest of the year, but for a few weeks it’s just like the Philippines with its humid afternoons and rainy-yet-sticky weekends.

Because no one else is up to it, and I have lots of idle time while Mahal cooks, cleans and does the laundry, I pick up the battle-scarred fly swatter and swat, swat swat away at the winged demons that frequent our kitchen and bedroom during the hot days and nights. I even count said microbe-carriers and bloodsuckers, all the better to justify to Mahal my existence.

Thawing frozen food. Yes, there is no limit to the depths I will descend in pretending to actually do something. Mahal always has a razor-sharp sensor for any frozen food on sale, and likes to defrost these at the very last minute. Because our work schedules frequently complement each other, meaning I am at home when she’s at work, I am very conveniently able to bring out the chicken nibbles with plenty of time to naturally melt the ice, so that it’s just right for cooking by the time she comes home. All because of me.

Return dried dishes to cupboard. It’s simple enough, the post-meal ritual. Wash dishes, dry the same, and return them to the drawer. Since it’s my only participation in the whole process of preparing dinner and cleaning up after, I do my best to do all these properly. The washing must be thorough, no stain spots and greasy spoons. No smudge marks on glasses. and wash everything, including pots and pans. And after the washing and drying comes the icing on the cake:¬† putting, and arranging said dishes and utensils in their proper place.

If it all seems trivial and mundane, it’s because drying and storing dishes is comparatively less crucial than cooking, though according to Mahal, no less important.¬† She inspects my handiwork, and would do the dishwashing and drying herself (one of her favorite chores) if I wasn’t going to be completely left out of doing anything except eat.

I’m glad I do these little things and get better at them, day by day. Still not that useful, but getting there.

Thanks for reading!

 

my mother the legend


[ We hardly see Mom in formal wear, so this is a treat! Taken during the wedding of her grandson Jay Bautista to Linnel de Villa last March, Mom is the lovely lady in the center. Also in pic are family friend Miggie Isla, my brother Doc Donald Bautista, and Dr Nick Cruz, one of the couple’s sponsors. Thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook photo library of Jude Bautista. For more pics please visit http://judebautista.wordpress.com. woohoohoo!]

IF MISTER SLASH MISS PRECIOUS READER¬†(that’s you) has read any of our previous posts about mother, motherhood or mother’s day, you’d probably know that we’re a big fan of mothers in general, ¬†and her special day (being Mother’s Day, besides her birthday, just where do you place that apostrophe?) is just one more reason to show her respect, gratitude, love and all other positive feelings and thoughts that affirm her place in human history.

But I also want to convey said feelings personally, about (who else?) my own mom.

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Let me balance it out first: Mom’s not perfect. She doesn’t always go the diplomatic route, is sometimes given to temperamental outbursts, and definitely, definitely speaks her mind. But it only underscores the indisputable fact that there’s not a single fake bone in her body.

Now for the good part : At 78, Mom gets up around 5.30 am most days to prepare for work. It’s not part-time work, a casual job or even volunteer, just-to-keep-busy work. ¬†It’s a real six-day, 52-week job that she’s held in the only career she’s ever loved: retail and point-of-sale. Only because she’s had the benefit of experience, and her savings, she’s her own boss, in her own business.

During the week, she supervises her staff who mind the kilns and cure the meat (it’s a ham baking business), fills out orders and schedules deliveries. Everything is in preparation for the weekend markets (when she wakes up even earlier, hears the first Sunday Mass) in Salcedo Village Makati, Mount Carmel Quezon City and Libis Pasig, where the actual selling takes place. There’s very little inventory because all of her kiosks nearly always sell out.

The rest of her time is divided into catechism work in their parish, indulging Dad in his favorite pastime, stud poker and Texas hold’ em poker, and reading the latest romance and suspense horror novels of her fave authors. Oh, she’s also anticipating news of her first great grandchild!

Long after her years of motherhood (where she raised five sons forever grateful), she continues to be motherlike. She looks after the tuition needs of dozens of children of relatives in Bicol, will send help to a sick family member but will forget about it as soon as the money transfer is complete, most days she will send food to sick kumares and old friends who can no longer look after themselves.

(btw, you won’t hear or get this confirmed from anyone. This is the sort of thing that doesn’t get talked about, least of all by Mom herself. It just isn’t her thing.)

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I could go on and on, but it would take the rest of the day. Just one last Mommy anecdote : On my last balikbayan visit, Mom pulled me aside to tell me to get serious about work and a more stable future overseas. Before I could finish, she asked me: howz your immigration going?

I said di pa tapos Mom, inadvertently letting on that the entry fee (application fee) wasn’t cheap.

She answered : I know. This isn’t much, but don’t spend it on anything else. I’m praying for you, pushing US$500 into my surprised hands.

I was speechless for awhile, marvelling at the irony of the situation: the OFW being given a handout by his mother. The speechlessness was broken by Fourth Brother (a migrant like me), who also took me aside to ask:

Binigyan ka nya ng pera ‘no? Magkano ? $500?

I said, yes, how did you know?

He replied : Hahaha! Utang ko yan sa kanya!  kakabayad ko lang sa kanya kanina. He added that he had a feeling it would go to me.

She had paid her good fortune forward instantly!

As she has been doing and continues to do, all her life.

God bless you Mom! From all of us in Manila, Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand and New Mexico, USA, happy mother’s day! I love you always!

And Happy mother’s day to all!

 

admiring Dad on fathers’ day


selfie with mom dad and george

The man of the hour, flanked by 4th Brother (standing), Mom on Dad’s right, me on his left, and Mahal shooting the selfie. ¬†Happy Fathers’ Day to all fathers and father figures!

COMPARED TO the¬†mother’s¬†biological tasks related to babymaking, the father’s involvement is a breeze. ¬†Literally, we only need to work (if you can call it work) for a few minutes if at all. ¬†The rest of the job, lasting at least 36 weeks and 9 months max, belongs to our noble mothers.

But that doesn’t make our responsibilities any less when it comes to our offspring. ¬†Almost universally across all cultures, fathers provide, nurture, inspire, educate, and act as our first role models. ¬†Plus, we should be ready to wash the dishes and be ready for carpooling to school and PTA meetings when the primary parent (Mom) is unavailable.

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My father stayed with the script, and more. ¬†He was always ready to spend time and just have fun with us, if not after school, then on rest days and weekends. ¬†He wasn’t an all-star playing coach for pickup basketball, but had more than enough time for us for Saturday trips to Chinatown and Sunday fun runs astride Manila Bay.

*****          *****          *****

Dad has slowed down now, but his mind is as clear as the day his firstborn arrived.  He no longer takes his long walks but tight skirts and long legs still bring a twinkle to his eye.

He enjoys being pampered  by his wife, albeit with the inevitable scolding if ever he indulges in his minor vices.  But the thing he enjoys most is that anytime he summons his sons scattered across the seven seas, they will show up (via Skype or FaceTime), and that every now and then the latter still seek his timeless counsel and wisdom.

Including of course, how to catch the eye of those leggy mini-skirts (just kidding, Mom!).

Thanks for everything Dad. ¬†Happy Father’s Day, and mabuhay to all fathers!

 

 

becoming dad


Mom & Dad with one of my fave aunts of all time, Tita Dely Imperial!  Thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial.

Mom & Dad with one of my fave aunts of all time, Tita Dely Imperial! Thanks and acknowledgment to the Facebook photo library of Ms Dely Imperial.

[ ¬†Paalala : ¬†Sorry for the long absence Precious Reader, kung meron pang natitira dyan. ¬†At least one blog friend coming across this makes the post worthwhile. ¬†Wanted two things : (1) to have posted this on father’s day, but laziness intervened, sigh sorry Dad, and (2) to talk about recent anti-Chinese sentiment, both in NZ and Pinas. ¬†But in the real world out-of-blog, you can’t always have what you want. ¬†Missed blabbing with you, belated Father’s Day ! ¬†]

MY FATHER is healthy and despite his advanced age has many long years ahead of him, but there are things we can no longer do together.  Similarly, I can no longer expect him to impart to me his memories, learnings and insights the same way he used to do (sometimes too enthusiastically) when we were both much younger.

But there are things I would have liked to share with my own kids the way my own father did, with the same length of attention, repeatability, and certitude. ¬†He was/is a man with simple likes and tastes, but he was devoted to those things that he did. ¬†It’s rather trite, but he lived by the saying anything worth doing is worth doing well :

Karaoke King. ¬†As regards do-it-yourself singing for entertainment, he was ahead of his time. ¬†Just chuck the mike into the amplifier, and play “minus one” ¬†tapes of timeless standards and he would sing to his heart’s content. ¬†He was the Karaoke King before the karaoke was invented, and he could match note for note any amateur singing champion, as long as the songs were by Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Matt Monroe, or Nat King Cole. ¬†He would inspire at least two of his children, that’s me and Eldest Brother, to sing out of love, no matter if the audience was one or one hundred.

Sadly, I have not paid forward the inspiration my Karaoke King father has given me. ¬†But it’s never too late for that, right?

Reading for life. Like Mom, my father loves to read, and you will always find him with a book in hand, wherever he goes and whatever else he does. ¬†He is an omnivorous bibliophile, but is partial to war and war-related novels, political biographies, and a wide range of paperback novelists, as long as it’s a good yarn. ¬†Needless to say, the years have seen me pick up his reading habits, until I’ve now reached the day when as a dedicated and committed reader, I’m truly my father’s son.

Running buddy. In Dad’s middle age, when I was a teenager, he picked up a physical fitness fad that became a lifelong sport for him, and because he had lots of sons he could pick from as running buddies, we all had a turn at running with our father. ¬†As years passed, most of us lost interest, but because I always identified running with Dad, I could never truly abandon it without abandoning a part of my youth.

Which was why when I ran my first half-marathon after nearly 25 years, there at the finish line, just waiting for me, was one of the most satisfying memories of a similar run at the Luneta, with none other than my first running buddy, Dad himself.

Belated happy father’s day Dad, and thanks for all those useful and enjoyable habits you imprinted on me. ¬†Love you always!

the birthday that time forgot


pic collage : a labor of love by Mahal. :) thanks for everything!

pic collage : a labor of love by Mahal. ūüôā thanks for everything!

AFTER ALL, it’s a birthday blog, so it doesn’t need to make (that much) sense, does it? ¬†It’s just an excuse to say whatever I want, and if you don’t like it or aren’t entertained, well, birthday gift nyo na lang sa kin ang pagbasa, Precious Reader. (Just tolerate it as a birthday gift to me is the rough unGoogle Translate, Precious Read.)

I had anticipated either working for 10 hours in the dead of night, and/or getting a satisfying homemade dinner, very late in the night (or very early in the morning), on my birthday, because first, I asked for a birthday leave (which my employer graciously gives the celebrant) the day after, so as not to disrupt shift schedules (it would be complicated to find someone to fill in for my night shift), and to take advantage of a Friday leave translating into a long weekend.

No way goodwife Mahal would let me forget it was my birthday though, as she promised to cook up a sensational dinner for me whether or not I was up for it, I would either eat it 2 am after the shift ended or in the morning when I woke up.

As it turned out, a Wellington downpour unparalleled in the last 50 years intervened (it had to happen on my birthday right?), and for the first time in as long as I can remember, a work shift was canceled.  I was actually lucky because, being on a later shift, I was spared having to go to work in the daytime and facing the risk of the nearby stream washing out the bridge and cutting off commuters from the only road back home.

At the same time, Mahal came down with a stupefying allergy attack that all but stopped her from doing anything but going to work, it would be unkind of me to ask anything else of her especially since she’d been bringing me to and from work since the week started…

So as I said, I was prepared to work my behind off between 4 pm and 2 am and then have two or three beers with myself on a Thursday night, or at least have a late night dinner (also with myself), but not sit with myself the whole day with only the MagicSing videoke and Candy Crush to keep me company (Mahal also being at work, keeping regular hours).

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Not that I was complaining. ¬†As anyone with normal body temperature, not a vampire and not a werewolf (or aswang or manananggal) will tell you, night shift sucks. ¬†I’ll sleep at night any time. ¬†But here I was, doing nothing, unexpectedly, on a birthday. ¬†I also couldn’t take a walk or run, two of my favorite activities, because of the terrible weather.

I got dozens and dozens of Facebook greetings, thank you to all who bothered. ¬†I tinkered with my settings without supervision, so I ended up not allowing people to post on my page, I could’ve gotten a few more greetings but that’s all right. ¬†I got a missed call from Second Brother back home in the Philippines, too bad the phone was inside a bureau drawer. ¬†Also got SMS messages from Eldest Brother (also in Manila) and Fourth Brother in Auckland. ¬†Thank you brothers.

Late afternoon, I received phone calls and felicitations from the kids, the most emotional and heartwarming from Bunso, who still gives me the odd impression (caused by the similarity of our voices) that I’m talking to myself. ¬†Said that the good times were only beginning, and that we think so alike that we can never stop talking to each other and about each other. ¬†Thank you too, anakis.

The best part of having an altered work day that happened to be my birthday?  I slept normally that day, besides the love of my life, sharing her warmth and her company, which is more than any man could ask for.  After a few beers of course.

Thanks for all the kind thoughts, life has just begun!

birthday thoughts for bunso


always looking to the future.  happy birthday pogi!

always looking to the future. happy birthday pogi!

ON MY 30th year on this earth, a young boy came into my life.    Among all the pictures of him that exist in early childhood, there are around one or two that show him crying, but otherwise all the rest, scores and scores, show him flashing his famous brilliant smile, radiating warmth and charm three hundred sixty degrees around, and twenty-four seven. Yes, From the very start, there was something special about him.

He’s always had the easiest time with words and phrases, better than average¬†with graphs¬†and figures, and creative as anyone with a brush, mouse or pen. ¬†Early on, he showed a remarkable ease being with children and adults much older than him, but was likewise able to bond with children his age and much younger. ¬†His gift was in expressing himself, in understanding the world around him, and as a logical consequence, in relating to all sorts of people. ¬†Almost everytime, he would leave you feeling that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do, anything he set his mind to, and he had the rest of his young life to do it. ¬†Such was this young boy as I saw him.

It is as I continue to see him, despite all the challenges and obstacles that he has run into, perhaps because of all these same challenges and obstacles.  The past year has seen milestone after milestone that he has declared for himself : first job, first term in an NZ university, first participation in a uni varsity team, first stint as a class representative, and so on and so forth.  That he has produced above average academic results while doing all those firsts shows that he is thriving in the whirlwind, and that he is a natural under pressure.  From babyhood till today, the eve of his 19th birthday, he continues to amaze his awestruck father.

These small tributes are of course natural from an admiring parent, so I temper it with a token enumeration of his adolescent faults : he burns both ends of the candle, he is an unabashed admirer of looks and cleverness in people, usually his own, and unsurprisingly suffers from intervals of overconfidence. ¬†But look at yourself in the mirror Noel, and pay yourself a hundred ¬†pesos for every fault of his that you didn’t have at his age. ¬†That’s right,¬†better start looking for those pesos elsewhere.

The day he came into my life will be exactly 19 years ago tomorrow, but he still gives me the same gift, besides the honor of being a proud father.  And that gift is the ever brightening hope of a kinder, smarter and gentler generation that comes after mine.

From Papa and all the rest of us, happy birthday Bunso, and thank you for being in my life.  As always, you make me proud.

the longest trip home


Mahal and the first man in her life.

Mahal and the first man in her life.

[Note : ¬† Sadly, ¬†Mahal ¬†never quite made it in time to say goodbye to her Papa on his deathbed. ¬†Fortunately for many other kabayan overseas, they make it home in time to bid fond farewells before loved ones cross the Great Beyond. ¬†I just thought about what would’ve happened had Mahal made it home. Thanks for all the kind wishes and the condolences, and thanks for reading! ]

AMONG ALL the overseas Filipino narratives, the rush home to visit a sick or dying relative is almost certainly the most compelling. ¬†You begin with an internal contradiction : ¬†the Pinoy’s instinctive need to provide for his/her family, versus the fond wish to stay close with parents and extended family, who traditionally are as much a part of immediate family as anything. ¬†You continue with the constant conflict between wanting to come home and spend more time with kinsmen, and postponing annual trips in order to send a little more hard-earned cash home to help out with the leaking ceiling, an additional carabao or dried-up fishpen.

Alas, through the years the visits grow less and less, until you wonder where all the time went. ¬†Suddenly, siblings begin to earnestly make more requests for you to come home, and the need for speed, speed to rejoin and reconnect with the olds, acquires a new urgency. ¬†Money and financial support, while helpful still, isn’t that essential anymore. ¬†Tatay and Nanay just want you to come home and enjoy more time with them, not while you can, but while they can.

Still it’s hard to comply with such requests, what with the uncertainties of working overseas, your employer’s rostering planned well in advance, the difficulty of bringing all the kids home with you, and an eye trained towards career advancement that includes a hundred-and-one percent dedication, extra ¬†hours and extra shifts, the proverbial performance beyond the call of duty thing and all that. ¬†How could the feeble voices and grainy images of Tatay and Nanay, albeit on Skype and Face Time, compete with that?

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…Until the shock of the news comes, it’s still beyond belief. ¬†Words like cancer and terminal are still avoided, but the message is clear. ¬†You had better get home as soon as you can kapatid, every day is a blessing now. ¬†Then it’s a series of ominous don’ts.

Don’t ask to speak with him because he gets tired easily. Don’t ask for details, because we will just start crying and the keyboard is wet enough. Don’t delay.

But still you cry, because you feel so helpless, thousands and thousands of kilometers away, unable to help your elders while you are in the midst of so much affluence, technology, and the detachment of a different culture. You want to literally teleport yourself from one hemisphere to another, project yourself astrally if you had the power, but in reality you are here and your loved ones are there, and until you fly home there is nothing you can do about it.

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Leave must be applied for, special requests granted, goodbyes rushed and suitcases packed. You do everything quietly and efficiently, but all the while you are in a daze, thinking of what to say and how to say it, and behind all that thinking the guilt of never being able to make up for lost time bears heavily on your stressed, stressed conscience.

You rush home, ¬†take the first taxi to the bus terminal, take whatever bus is there, take the tricycle, and walk the familiar footpath up the munting dampa, up the worn steps and on the wooden slats still burnished by coconut husks. The air is thick with liniment, the bedsheets need changing, and there are enough vials and drugs to fill an aisle of Mercury Drug, but everyone is happy to see you…

Tatay, Baby is here. (You have been an adult half your life, but everyone still calls you Baby.)

The figure in bed has seen better days, and to say that he is at Death’s door wouldn’t be an exaggeration. ¬†He has one last battle to fight, and that is the battle to die with dignity.

He can no longer speak except in whispers, but his eyes are still bright. And those eyes are trained on you.

Thank you for coming home, Baby, his eyes seem to say.

That’s all. His eyes close shortly afterward, and they never open again.

Thanks for waiting for me, Tatay.

hitting an early highlight w/Mahal & anakis 1st week of 2014


Post-lunch contentment with Mahal & anakis wasn't complete without Bunso, who was working while we were sipping.  Thanks BF of Ganda for shooting the pic!

Post-lunch contentment with Mahal & anakis wasn’t complete without Bunso, who was working while we were sipping. Thanks BF of Ganda for shooting the pic!

NINETY MINUTES¬†(at least) doing anything that’s not pure recreation, not pure rest or keeping close company with someone who isn’t your beloved, particularly on a non-working day, is hazardous to your mental health. ¬†The only exception/s is/are (1) when it’s spent on a special day or holiday, on which thanksgiving and introspection is better spent in communion with other people, and (2) when (1) is spent with loved ones and/or family.

That is how Mahal and I convinced myself (Mahal needs to help me convince myself) despite previous postponements, to go all the way and spend a nice, all-extras-included New Year’s lunch with son¬†Panganay and girlfriend (if any), daughter¬†Ganda and boyfriend (if any), and younger son Bunso and partner (if any).

Which would’ve been great, had all of the aforementioned not had previous engagements, holiday shifts, basketball games, gym workouts and overtime work intervening. ¬†In the end, we just settled on whoever was available for the Saturday post HNY lunch, which unfortunately didn’t include Panganay’s girlfriend (visiting a sick friend) and Bunso, who was at work.

Which didn’t bode well for Panganay and Ganda, who hadn’t exactly been on the same wavelength recently. ¬†Panganay was having uncharacteristically the best of times with Bunso, who traditionally had always been on Ganda’s side, so Bunso would’ve smoothed any wrinkles between the two.

But it being a new beginning, and it being the first get-together for the year, we were all hoping for the best.

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It turned out that we had nothing to fear. ¬†Brother and sister both wanted to have a good time, and sister’s boyfriend, to be fair, wanted to get along with everybody. ¬†The Beef Wellington and Heineken beer certainly didn’t hurt, although designated drivers could only drink a bottle at most.

We were all so happy that we didn’t mind Panganay bragging about his recent promotion, his anticipated work as an extra on Avatar 2 (to be filmed in NZ, largely expected as its producer had recently set up base in Wellington), and so much good luck that had come his way. ¬†I figured, for him to appear (albeit as an extra) in a movie that had a good shot to be in the top 100 films of all time was as good as it got. ¬†(Besides, to somehow balance it out, he also underwent a minor operation in 2013.) On New Year week, and with family around, we all had a right to feel happy with ourselves.

Ganda, after her migration seriously stalled her academics, had rounded up enough credentials and documents to get admitted to the nerdiest school in town, a bit out-of-character for her and therefore doubly impressive. ¬†As if that weren’t enough, I couldn’t stop smiling with the news that her devoted (so far) Pinoy BF (yes, he’s Pinoy) not only approved of her going back to school but was actually going to help her with matriculation fees (??!!) New school, new boyfriend and new outlook in life, and I couldn’t help but be impressed with Ganda, who I thought was hapless enough to have inherited my happy-go-lucky attitude in life. ¬†I couldn’t be more thrilled to be wrong.

All ready for the next batch of caffeine addicts, Bunso can produce a mocha latte, a caramel latte, a frapuccino & a coffee of the day in less than 7 mins, which is what he did for us. :) Proud dad moment!

All ready for the next batch of caffeine addicts, Bunso can produce a mocha latte, a caramel latte, a frapuccino & a coffee of the day in less than 7 mins, which is what he did for us. ūüôā Proud dad moment!

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We still hadn’t given up on Bunso, who while working was only a half-dozen blocks away in his barista job. ¬†Instead of hoping he would join us for his lunch break, we decided to surprise him at ¬†Istarbak, have our post-lunch coffee there and sample his wares.

I almost got teary-eyed watching him in the first job he loved (he worked a previous job but didn’t like it), conjuring coffee creations for urban addicts who were eager to sample first-hand the talented techniques of the rookie Istarbak brewer. ¬†I was almost certainly biased, but it seemed to me that as the cafe queue grew longer, Bunso worked faster and more dexterously, never sacrificing quality for quantity. ¬†Of course, this included our lattes, frappucino and coffee of the day. ¬†Seeing Bunso work for the first time, ¬†we were one proud dad and stepmom that afternoon.

Considering that I had already experienced what would probably be one of the highlights of 2014 on only the fourth day (and first Saturday!) of the year, it was a good day.

Thanks Mahal for convincing me to gamble on those 90 minutes.  Practically risk-free!

Thanks for reading!