Ganda learns and earns ( and takes us to dinner )

I DON’T remember ever using the word here, but there has to be something momentous about an offspring receiving his/her first paycheque, and treating you to breakfast/lunch/ dinner (and maybe a little dessert), it’s so disorienting, because part of you still sees the small, innocent child in the newest member of the workforce, and yet so gratifying, because you know that no matter what happens next, nothing can ever take you away from your moment of pride and achievement, even though the milestone is not yours but your son’s/daughter’s.

Ganda had spent lots of anxious moments looking for a job, nervous situations surviving those final interviews, and finally gained a foot in the door towards holding down a first-ever job in NZ, and in all the time she never wavered in her resolve that, barely seconds after getting off the boat (figuratively) she could become a vital cog in the convalescing NZ engine of growth.

Notwithstanding, it was as a footsoldier in the hamburger-and-fries battalions of the fast food armies of which every member of society, First World, Second or Third, could be a stalwart.  But because there were precious few jobs whose prospective applicants might multiplied by a factor of one hundred (i.e., three openings vied for by a potential 300 candidates), that priority in NZ  was given to Kiwis and Maoris as a matter of political correctness, and lastly that Ganda’s credentials were limited to internships and on-the-job traineeships back home, actually landing a job so soon after getting here would be a challenge.

And true enough, the shortlists and breaks handed to our intrepid jobseeker were few and far between.  Despite the fact that barkada, well-meaning friends and two sets of parents had already advised her that it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, Ganda’s initial attempts at snaring a job were bound to end in disappointment.  CV’s, applications and walk-in interviews were easy to hand out, fill in and conduct, but the reality was, for Ganda to expect anything out of these daily endeavors was shooting for the moon.

It was therefore going to be a ritual of handing out your bio-data in the hundreds, pounding the pavement and zooming in on anything that resembled a job referral in the adventure of finding a job.

a previous dinner with Panganay, Ganda and Bunso. This time dinner was on esposa hermosa 😉

That she actually found a job within a month from obtaining her permanent resident status was a pleasant surprise for all of us, her circle of friends, and not the least Ganda herself.  Granted it wasn’t in the rarefied executive offices of Wellington CBD, but she wasn’t dreaming.  Better-paying and more career-oriented jobs would be there, but for now getting her feet wet and filling out her resume’ (experience-wise) was the most important thing.

We wanted to grant her wish of treating us to lunch last weekend, but at the same time we didn’t want her to splurge too much so soon after starting her new job.  A compromise was reached : she would choose any place (that wasn’t too similar to her fast food employer) and we would shoulder half the bill.

Considering that it was a marvelous grilled chicken dinner, that we hadn’t seen Ganda (and sidekick Bunso ) since they started looking for jobs (for weeks and weeks), and the conversation and bonding were outstandingly feel-good, it was hands-down a world-class way to celebrate entering the workforce.

For one sweet meal it was a reversal of roles, the providee becoming the provider, and the younger generation embracing the role of host.  It was also a very unsubtle way of reminding us that after a certain point in life, time begins to fly, and pass you by if you don’t hold on like your life depended on it.

Congrats Ganda, and thanks everyone for reading!

the first job for the rest of your life

don’t forget to dream!

[ Note : it’s been slow days and even slower nights for Bunso, whose sleepy eyes above are indicative of what for him must be an interminable wait to find a job.  With his permission, I’m posting below a letter I wrote him, hopefully to cheer him up.  Write to him some encouragement if you’ve some time as well, will you?  Thanks in advance and thanks for reading! ]

Dear Bunso :

YOU MUST have been on the front row when God was handing out smarts and wit because hands down, you’re one of the smartest kids I’ve ever encountered, among a group that includes your siblings, your contemporaries and many children I know.  You’re not the Mensa polymath type, but ever since you learned to string two coherent thoughts together, your head has been chockfull not just of facts and figures but of ideas bursting out of their megawatt bulbs just waiting for you to explain them to the rest of us.

It takes a lot to get you bored, as you can always get lost in your own world while deeply immersed in the many books you read.  I swell with pride to say this, but you are at ease with the spoken as well as the written word, a facility that is as rare as it is special.

Unfortunately, not all the intellect, articulateness and value-addedness of a young migrant like you will be an assurance of being hired despite all the verve, earnestness and energy you’ve put into your job search.

You’ve tried every approach : distributed your CV, knocked on cold doors, tried all the want ads looking for qualifed hopefuls in any industry that seeks entry-level people who make up for their  green horns with the zest to learn and the dedication to go the extra mile.  So far you’ve not reaped results, but the day is young.

I probably won’t gain any additional respect by telling you, but it took me an excruciatingly long time to find a job in New Zealand, after my first job overseas fell to pieces in the recession.  Just to keep body and soul together, I became a nameless cipher in the underground economy, earned half the minimum wage from an Asian grocer (he knew I needed the job and made me work for every cent), whispered salamat to a Pinoy video store owner who gave me parttime work, all the while hoping against hope that I would find a real job before my visa ran out.

And I don’t need to remind you that it took Kuya nearly a year, fits of depression, and mind-numbing boredom before he landed his first job.  You might also want to take heart with Ganda’s efforts at networking, schmoozing and all-out marketing herself before she got hired.  Before too long, you will become a bundy-clock slave too.  Savor your idle moments for now.

Job referrals can come from the oddest places, but almost always, coming when you least expect it, a bit of information from a kabayan, being at the right place at the right time, and a nugget of good fortune coming from a prayer, can yet bring you the first job of your life.

It might not mean anything, but introductions and meaningless conversations with people you met from other Pinoys, friends of friends and acquaintances might suddenly open doors, lead to informal interviews that end up in situations that finish with, well would you be interested to work with us?  Unlikely, I know, but nothing to lose right?

Meantime, smell the crisp spring air, keep your ear close to the ground, and above all, enjoy yourself.  There are worse things than being 17, fit as a fiddle, and cute as you are.

I love you always


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.

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

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!

Ganda & Bunso adapt adjust and assimilate

I’m not sleepy, the sun is just too hard on the eyes. Snow is almost gone on Mt Ruapehu so as traditional Pinoys we dutifully pose for the Facebook post later. They are almost all grown up !

[ Note : Happy birthdays to Andrew Ong (9th Sept), Tess Aldeguer-Tangco (13th Sept), Archie Mallare (15th Sept), Stephen Liao (16th Sept), Wilson Ong (16th Sept), Martin Go (19th Sept), Ronald Y Lui (23rd Sept), and my former boss at Coke, JB Baylon (25th Sept), thanks to all the support and prayers for Jerome and Lady Jalbuena, her therapy is ongoing, and congrats to the UP Pep Squad on the successful defense of their UAAP cheerleading title ! Woohoo ! ]

THAT EAGLES tune is catchy, timeless and endearing, but it’s hard to be the new kid in town.  You feel all the eyes on you, you don’t have a single friend to hang out with, and there’s no one save your folks, usually clueless and too busy themselves, to give you tips on the places to go and sights to see.

The above is true only three-quarters of the time, because during the odd weekend esposa hermosa and I try our darnedest best to show Ganda and Bunso around, the two having been in Wellington less then five months this week.  Their own mom and stepdad, with whom they stay, are also model guides and mentors to Asians acclimatizing themselves to probably the southernmost capital city in the world, with the bonus of being one of the most diverse, multi-lingual and multi-cultural demographics around.

But during workdays they’re on their own, and there is only so much time you can spend in libraries, museums, parks and the like before you have culture and greenery flowing out of your ears.

Being Pinoys, one of the most social creatures in the world, their next impulse is to seek out people, preferably people of their own age.  This isn’t too practical as well, most of their age group being in either university or middle school most of the time.  I advise them not to be choosy in selecting friends and acquaintances, in fact seeking out people of different races, the more multi-colored the better.  Given their natural shyness and /or propensity to gravitate towards youth in their demographic, i.e, Southeast Asian 18-20s, the inclination is to find Pinoys, in the food court, on the street, wherever.

I’m unqualifedly happy that the two, particularly Ganda, have taken the time to tell us about their goings-on in their new environment, I’m sure it’s a heavily edited version, what with all the TMI details that she thinks her folks don’t want to know about, and which only heightens the usual paranoia that fathers reserve for their daughters, particularly those in the blossoming stage.

But I’m under no illusion that our kids tell us everything about their lives.  In the first place, except in relation to the big picture, a lot of the time it’s not my affair anymore, they are after all already young adults and in another era would’ve been encouraged to marry and start their own families.  In the second place, humans reach that inevitable phase when you have to let them soar on their own wings and succeed and fail on their own terms, damn the torpedoes and bite my tongue when they something incredibly clueless and breathtakingly naive.

Don’t tell them that I told you, but I don’t envy them right now : extracted from the comfortable environment of friends, org-mates and BFFs in their respective universities back home, they have been abruptly transplanted into an unfamiliar, less-than-colorful and not-so-welcoming milieu.  Plans for summer vacations, internships and endless frolicking in beaches, rest houses and giant malls have been scuttled indefinitely.  For Ganda, almost a college graduate, and Bunso, barely out of the multi-tasking of high school honors section, it was a lot to ask.

But they have handled it well, with elegance and a maturity beyond their years.  They have adapted to so many things, having four parents instead of two not the least.  Add to that chilly nippy and goose bump-inducing temperatures that pummel them each time they venture out the door; a diet that is not exactly conducive to the Pinoy palate, and having to overhaul their personalities just to be able to make new friends.  It’s just as well that they are just beginning their lives as citizens of the world, for youth are better positioned than any age group to adapt, adjust and molt their skin into any environment, I just don’t know how long it would’ve taken me.  You won’t hear me tell them, but I admire their resiliency, as Asians, as Pinoys and as owners of half my DNA.

I feign indifference when Bunso tips me off about lurking potential suitors in Ganda’s 50-meter radius, but I take it yet as another sign of normalcy : which parent, when you think about it, wouldn’t be proud that the fair members of his brood receive flattering attention?  Not to put too fine a point on it, but if she gives brown skins, black hairs and sub-five-sixers (like her dad) equal priority with the Chris Evanses, budding Mark Zuckerburgs and future Nobel laureates of their new universe, all would be right in my world.

Thanks for reading!

nest is half empty but pride is full full

IN FAIRNESS to the discussion, I’ve been more of an absentee parent than I’d care to admit.  If not for heroic grandparents, dutiful uncles and enlightened in-laws, Panganay, Ganda and Bunso would certainly have been worse off for sure.

I’m not casting my lot to the political-correctness (PC) wolves, nor do I ask for the mercy of the court, but if one of these days you bump into any of these three kids and happen to ask how I did as a dad, well don’t say I didn’t warn you.  But I digress.

Owing to extreme good fortune (the end of which I can’t foresee) and the natural gifts of my kids, they have done remarkably well the last few years, in spite of me rather than because.

So well in fact that against common wisdom, barely three months off the boat and both Ganda and Bunso are now the newest permanent residents of the Land of the Long White Cloud.  Where it used to take the better part of a year till recently, at least six months in Panganay’s case, it has taken roughly half of that for his siblings, surely a sign of progress for all migrants everywhere.  Of course, it helps that their mom’s a PR, that their bro’s already past the gate and to a small extent that their dad’s a guest worker, but on the whole, that it’s been relatively easy for them to reach their immigration goal has been nothing short of amazing.

In fact daughter and son though depressed had already steeled themselves for an idle six months of killing time in libraries, volunteer work and helping grannies, orphanages, homeless shelters and anyone else who’d accept their offer/s with odds and ends, bits and pieces and things that needed little more than the usual attention.  No chore would be too mundane for the intention, no task too tedious for the day. For they understood that in their worthy wait to be legal residents of the realm, days would stretch into weeks, weeks into months and months into seasons.  Only an eye trained towards the destination would make the agony of waiting a bearable one.

But all this was now moot, under the bridge, a figment of fond memory, as their case officer had very recently informed them that upon payment of their respective migrant levies, they would become recognized as NZ permanent residents; application and processing times but a formality.  This would almost immediately but not straightforwardly open doors like benefits, student loans and most importantly the legal capacity to perform and be recompensed for work.

The projected forced idleness of weeks and weeks was now a thing of the past.  Their self-conceived image of indigence and indolence was thoroughly extinguished in inspired industry.  An unexpected turn of events brought a 180 degree turn from aimless wanderings into a newfound way to affirm self-worth.

And by the way, how did this leave little old me, their cheerleader dad?  All this time I had been constantly reassuring them that their wait was not deathly boring, that there were many worthwhile things to do, and that their dad and Tita H were always there for movies, walks in the park, trips to museums and even runs around the block.

But as is the way of the world, as soon as the Pandora’s box of options and opportunity is opened to the babe in the woods, there is no turning back.  Every choice leads to another in an infinite maze of decision and adventure, and youth is on their side.  Really, as a parent who finds himself/herself no longer the be-all and end-all of their children’s universe, one can only stand side and avoid being in the way.

Congrats Ganda and Bunso.  You deserve every happiness that comes your way, and every success you strive for.

inhabiting a house that waits in slumber

ONE OF THE basic things you learn as you wallow into middle-age hood is that if it ever was before, it’s no longer about you, not even half the time or a quarter of the time now.  The unpaid debts of yesterday have returned with a vengeance, aches and pains have magnified twofold, and things you neglected to take care of have not withered or died away, but are still there to haunt you.  And yet, you cannot dwell on these small discomforts, because if I may repeat, it’s no longer about you.  If it was at all.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

I was a bit sad when I came home to an empty house in Cainta, half-expecting beyond logic that Ganda and Bunso would be there to welcome me, when they had just migrated to NZ two months ago, maybe for good.  I knew this as personal knowledge because I was/am a temporary resident there also, having found against all odds a decent job there, obtaining a job offer and trying to merit permanent resident status someday.  But leave credits had accumulated and I was past due to meet esposa hermosa‘s parents, so there was no reason not to go home and incidentally attend our 30th high school anniversary reunion.  Thus did I find myself in front of the old homestead on the foothills of Antipolo (just romanticizing the place, it’s highly urbanized already).

Are you a fan, or at least a watcher of The Walking Dead, which jumped from the pages of its best selling comic books into the HD near-reality of TV?  The abandoned rooms of my former family home resembled the rooms of abandoned homes in that TV series, personal effects strewn about, newspapers unread, books unfinished, there was even a small bag of chichirya untouched, its contents no doubt nearly expired.  I felt of a chill of loneliness navigate up and down my spine, because I knew that after my brief stay here, no one would inhabit this abode for at least another year.

Pricking me deeper were artifacts of their childhood, things they had kept from years back when I was still living with them.  Pictures from primary (elementary) and secondary (high) school when friendships were more profound and intimate, remnants of toys and houseclothes intended to be given away but for which they had no time; even class schedules from schoolyears past still stuck to bedroom walls.  I found myself poring over the most trivial things.  Costume jewelry first worn by Ganda, hair gel used on Panganay‘s voluminous mane, flyers for student council campaigns run by Bunso.  I marveled at the stories told by these artifacts, and I could not help but smile to myself.  What a trio of remarkable children I was lucky enough to be father of.

They had grown up in two cases a majority of their early adulthood and in one case a majority of teen years without me, save for sporadic letters, emails and chats, and certainly did well in spite of me, and not because of.  I contributed little but genes and the accident of doting grandparents and a grand aunt who in adverse situations made the best of everything by chipping in the lion’s share of their educational costs.  By default and by choice, I had become an almost-bystander in their lives.

***     ***     ***     ***     ***

Hopefully that has changed a bit now, but the bits and pieces of the lives they left behind, hurrying to take advantage of still-lenient family policies in NZ, need I use the cliche, brought back a flood of memories for me, when I was a relatively younger father for them.

Strangely enough, in an empty house, that waits out the next few years in slumber for its former and future masters, whomever they might be.

Thanks for reading !

“I loved you the day we met, to this day still…”

Joe and Linda, also known as Mom and Dad, with Ganda and Bunso. I wish I could show classic pics of them on their wedding day, but I can’t.

I’VE BEEN such a blabbermouth about eclectic, sometimes sophomoric topics that it would be a travesty to my frivolous blogging if I didn’t, if only once, mention my folks as a couple.

I know history can never be changed (sorry time-travel devotees), and what’s done is done, but sometimes I try to revisit the scant facts I know about how my folks met (reminiscent of the movie Serendipity, for you Kate Beckinsale die-hards out there), just to give myself a shiver, knowing that a slight misstep or two towards their fateful introduction might have produced very different results for five middle-aged men (me and my bros), and I might not even be sitting here blogging this today, if you know what I mean.

***   ***   ***    ***   ***

On Rizal Ave, better known as Avenida then and now, Joe and Linda met, in one of its many combo buildings that were stores on the ground floor and offices above.

Joe was around 26 when he met Linda, who was around 19.  Probably only two people can confirm it now, but it was Linda’s dad who introduced them; all three worked in the same company, a leather-goods manufacturer on Rizal Avenue Manila, in 1958. I’m biased, but the pictures show they were a strikingly good-looking couple.

Again I never thought of asking either of them, or if I did they were probably circumspect in their respective replies, so as far as I’m concerned, at least for Linda, each was the first serious relationship for the other.  I won’t say they had similar personalities, because they didn’t, but they didn’t have contrasting personalities either.  It’s safe to say they complemented each other, both being ambiverts, mildly gregarious people who wanted to get ahead in life and were pursuing the Filipino dream.

It’s formally known, I’m not sure, as the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, but to many it’s simply Sta Cruz Church, and it’s where Joe and Linda wed, in 1959.

Could they do this while raising a family?  Without a doubt, for sure would be their answer, by the way the married soon after a short courtship, sealing the deal in Sta Cruz Church and their firstborn Tim coming nine months after their honeymoon in Baguio.  Judging from their pics, they went to quite a few places and did the rounds around the country, enjoying each other’s company before the brood that was to come.

And come they did, Donald barely a year after Tim, Noel (that’s me) four years after that, and George another four years after that.  Jude the youngest was born three years after George, and as the odds of having a daughter seemed more and more distant with each son born, they stopped at Son Number Five.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Mayon Volcano, one of the many picturesque sights Joe and Linda visited. Wish I had the real pics! 🙂

Five sons, seven grandchildren, and 53 years later, many relationships have blossomed and floundered, administrations established and torn down, empires built and crumbled, showbiz careers launched and died, but the partnership called Joe and Linda is still standing.  Some of their contemporaries are still there right along with them, but very few have retained the friendship, passion and affection that their marriage enjoys.

I don’t just say this because I’m one of the products of that relationship.  There are of course arguments, philosophical discussions, the inevitable highs and lows of any union, but on the whole they are remarkably blessed to have continued bringing out the best in each other.  I wish I could avoid the use of cliches like that last one, but they do make each other look good, complement each other’s strengths and don’t hesitate to admonish the other’s shortcomings.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

It was a sad goodbye when my son and daughter left the Philippines last month, although a new life awaited them in NZ.  One of the sadder goodbyes they had to make was to my folks, who had become a sort-of second set of parents to them, in the absence of their mom and stepdad, and dad and stepmom on the other side of the pond.  Ganda and Bunso (pictured above) needed their support and guidance, and my folks enjoyed their company and seeing them grow into young adults.

In a strange way it’s one of the best legacies they could leave across generations, giving a part of their experience and generosity to their departing grandkids.  Without my asking them, I’m sure they left lasting impressions on Ganda and Bunso, who have never stopped marvelling at their enduring love.

I wish I could be there with you Joe and Linda, happy happy 53rd wedding anniversary from five grateful sons, seven appreciative grandchildren, and an ever-growing circle of family and friends.  Love you always Mom and Dad!

bon voyage, congrats and happy birthday Ganda !

Note : On her birthday, Ganda leaves her native land for New Zealand.  What could be more eventful for a young girl of 19? ]

AT THE risk of raising eyebrows among your bros, I have so many good and funny memories about you Ganda, and they threaten to blot out all the negative memories (if any) I have of you.

Finishing half of a huge piece of brandy-laced fruit cake, and sleeping it off for hours and hours afterwards (at four years old).  Looking after the 14 newborn puppies of the pet dog and crying your eyes out when all but three of them died (at eleven, I think).  And changing your Facebook profile pic every week, after every batch of pictures taken, and after every new outfit worn (last I checked).

I remember the very first time I came home from overseas, and you would not allow me to sleep anywhere else but beside you.  You insisted on holding my wrists even as you were falling asleep, and of course I smiled at your vigilance, because before long my wrists were free, and of course when you woke up I was long gone.

I admit these memories are years and years apart, but they constantly remind me of the most beautiful thing in whose creation I have proudly made a small contribution, and that is you.  You are the one thing that I will never stop being proud of, and my one out of very few accomplishments (if you can call yourself that) that will never tarnish.  Your brilliance continues to dazzle, and your wisdom continues to grow.  I can honestly say that you have, enhanced by your youth, unlimited options ahead of you

It might be presumptuous of me to say so, but if you work hard, apply yourself to learning everything you can about New Zealand, and be unafraid to ask and ask some more, there is every reason to believe that you will fulfill your dreams and reach your goals.  Filipinos are known to be overachievers and success stories wherever they go, so you enjoy a rich tradition of success by those in whose footsteps you follow.

It is perhaps no coincidence that you leave the land of your birth on your birthday.  Old milestones are a great way to set new beginnings, and I can think of nothing more portentous than starting a new life overseas on your birthday.

I remember a nice quote from one of those Matrix movies that made your early teens so memorable, and I can’t resist saying it today : Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, but today’s a gift.  That’s why it’s called the present.  And what a great present you have Ganda!  To start the rest of your life in a better land, full of promise.  I can’t think of a better birthday gift  !

I’m sure you will look back fondly on the Philippines, but after tonight you look forward.  I can’t wait to see you and Bunso,  I’m so happy for you.

I love you always, happy happy birthday!  Kaawaan ka lagi ng Diyos anak!