media noche compromises that make me feel somewhat better

Fireworks and firecrackers are a noisy staple during New Year's celebrations.  They also add to underground economic activity this time of the year.

Fireworks and firecrackers are a noisy staple during New Year’s celebrations. They also add to underground economic activity this time of the year. Thanks to for the pic!

[ Note : Media noche is Tagalog for the New Year’s Eve dinner.  Thank you all for reading this blog, all the best for 2014! ]

CONSIDERING MY relatively advanced age (in relation to gifts I shouldn’t be expecting anymore), I got quite a haul from loved ones this year: wife Mahal gave me a junior Samsung mobile I didn’t anticipate but appreciate a lot (now I just have to figure out how to use it, heh heh) daughter Ganda and son Bunso were particularly thoughtful, and my grubby hands got some unexpected treats from cousins and friends, you know who you are.

I also received quite a few heartwarming and heartfelt greetings during the Christmas and New Year’s season, some from friends I hadn’t met in a while, and if you know how long I’ve been around, a while is quite a while.  Thank you, and you made my day.

My tummy was also more than a bit contented the whole silly season, as I ate more than my share more than a few times, what can I say but it is the season of celebration and congratulations all around, decadence and self-indulgence will be forgiven if only for a few gastronomic days.

Unfortunately, I have not even begun to think about New Year’s resolutions much less actually make them.  I like that stat I just googled now that 78% of NYRs (new year’s resolutions) end up on the boulevard of broken dreams; it not only makes me go beh buti nga (or nyah nyah nyah) at every do-gooder who thinks he/she can actually use  a date on the calendar (albeit a popular one) to reinvent himself/herself, not gonna happen bro/sis, but misery actually loves more miserable company.  🙂

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Seriously, besides quitting smoking, which I didn’t even do as an NYR (a month before Christmas six years ago actually), I have never, that’s not-ever, committed to one that didn’t fall apart maybe a day or two after, and I actually think you are setting yourself up for failure and disappointment if, in a drunken haze, after making a total embarrassment of yourself and wallowing in lard and booze, you foist vague and unrealistic expectations on yourself just because you want to start the year right.  The blowback and considerable disfigurement to the ego is almost surely going to insulate one against making reasonable improvements in one’s life, whether or not it’s New Year’s Eve.

Filipinos believe serving at least 12 fruits with round or roundish shapes on the New Year's dinner table brings good luck the rest of the year.

Filipinos believe serving at least 12 fruits with round or roundish shapes on the New Year’s dinner table brings good luck the rest of the year. Thanks to for the pic!

Instead, and before I stray too far again from my intended topic,  I want to, and with you Precious Reader as my witness, make New Year’s Compromises with myself, in view of the fact that I know I can still create a better Me the remainder of my lifetime, all the while acknowledging that my circumstances in life like age, health and physical limitations  inherent laziness will only allow me a certain level of success before harsh reality sets in.

Food.  My worse-kept secret, to anyone who’s known me and seen me eat, is that I’m a compulsive eater. I can try to exercise all I want, pretend to be a good boy when Mahal and I share a meal, but I probably eat three-plus full meals a day, and between four and six snacks all of my waking hours, and probably gorge on anything that I find remotely edible on the dinner and kitchen table (and elsewhere) on a particularly bad (good, if you’re me) day.  If you’re dieting or a fastidious eater, I’m not a pretty sight.  I’m not good to have around, period.

I picked up this distressing habit from way early in life, when eating as much as you can in preparation for the busy day ahead, and keeping your plate clean in preparation for a blemish-free spouse later in life were urban legends that were ingrained on us by the previous generation (and not just in our household, OK Mom? 🙂 ) to the detriment of our social niceties and general health.  As a result, anything that’s wasted by anyone I see dining I almost always view as an obligation to be saved for later, or worse, eaten on the spot.  No matter how much I miscalculate putting food on my plate, I am compelled by a self-imposed-compunction to place such contents of plate in my mouth, and I often do this without regard for my fullness or the risk of gagging.  I won’t go so far as to assume any others in my generation are like me, but I know it’s no longer acceptable this day and age.

But enough of that.  My compromise is that I accept that it’s quite difficult to change my eating habits (and I want to change), but I can only do it gradually.  So my practical solution, simplistic as it may be, is to eat smaller portions, and in view of the reality that I’m gonna eat again later.  Without going into more detail, I will have to try cutting into smaller bitefuls whatever it is I’m engrossed with (literally), fool myself using smaller plates, and moving to more healthful alternatives when I can’t control myself.  Ultimately I know it’s not the nutritive or satisfaction element that motivates my eating; it’s the action or motion of feeding myself that is so compellingly compulsive.  If I can deal with my most important compromise with myself, then the rest should be easy to follow…

Bow to middle age, but be considerate of Mahal’s youth.  Realistically ( I keep using that word and its variants) I can no longer stay out all night, carouse with friends or use mood-inducing chemicals to lubricate my sociable-ness, if there’s such a word.  The health and social consequences (esp the day after) are too disturbing for me to maintain such a lifestyle, and of course you know I’m exaggerating.  The excesses of pleasure and vice are cheques I wrote years before and my body is now struggling to encash, and the results aren’t good.  It takes longer and longer for me to recover from a late night, it takes more grief for my bumps and bruises to heal; and while I do my best to exercise regularly, it seems that a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips seems particularly applicable to me.

The irony is that Mahal at this point being a bit younger than me is still full of energy and enthusiasm for life, not that I blame her, for her muscles are still largely tauter, her skin is still tighter, and her body still processes more fluidly and efficiently, which is quite normal for a person her age.  If I don’t at least keep the pretense of keeping up with her and do the things she does with the approximate intensity, then ultimately she will look for others to do her activities with, and that does not bode well for me.

The compromise therefore is that I will need to be more disciplined in my hours of rest, my recreational activities and how I pace myself, and at the same time keep a reserve of energy available should Mahal decide to go on a brisk walk, do an afternoon of shopping, or host a barbecue for her Pinay friends.  All of these involve vim and vigor of a man half my years, and for a few hours at least, I should be pumped and primed.

opening doors windows and drawers is also done during New Year's Eve, to "allow" good luck to come in.  Thanks to for the pic!

opening doors windows and drawers is also done during New Year’s Eve, to “allow” good luck to come in. Thanks to for the pic!

Online time.  This is one compromise that I shouldn’t compromise on, because it takes the most out of me, time and energy-wise.  Literally, I spend too much time on online games, specifically Candy Crush Saga and Word Battle.  I could use the same time alternatively improving myself in all aspects of life, spend more time with family, and rest and recreation.  Instead I line up candies for scores and level-ups no one cares about, and vie for the longest and most esoteric-sounding words with strangers doing the same thing, vegetating on their beanbags.  Surely,  I have better things to do.

There, those are my New Year’s compromises that aren’t resolutions I will almost certainly break less than a week after, but which are things that hopefully will make my life more bearable, and ultimately worth living more.  Do you have any New Year’s compromises of your own?

Thanks for reading and happy 2014 to you and family!

the ultimate unmatchable Christmas person

happy times with Tita Lily :)

happy times with Tita Lily 🙂

[ Note : I’ve been dreaming about a certain person quite frequently the last few weeks, and I just realized why.  That person, my aunt Tita Lily, would’ve been celebrating her 90th birthday this month, and moreover was the ultimate Christmas person, practically the modern equivalent of Santa Claus in our cynical day and age.  I was not among her favorite nieces and nephews (for she had many — favorites and otherwise), but in my wishful thinking she knew my quirks and failings enough to be comfortable with me.  Please indulge me in this little reverie about a truly influential person in my life, Ms Lily B Yang ! ]

I WAS tens of thousands of kilometers away when probably the most influential person in my life (after my folks), as well as that of my family, Tita Lily, passed away this May.  For many of us in her family living or working overseas, a dark cloud of extreme sadness and guilt filled our hearts, as our Tita had sent three generations of her relatives to school, supported so many families who couldn’t make ends meet; and found jobs for dozens and dozens of us between jobs, out of jobs, or who just couldn’t get a break in the hustle-and-bustle world outside.  She helped us fill our dinner table, fulfill our dreams and keep our dignity intact; she never failed us in our moment of need.  When death knocked at her door, God was merciful in keeping her suffering short before taking her home.

But come December, it was like a flood of memories all so real came rushing back, so much so that it was like Tita Lily was among us again.  You see, Christmastime was one of her favorite times of the year, if not her most favorite.  It was the best time for her to make people happy, which, hands down, was her favorite activity of all.

She literally had a gift list of thousands upon thousands of giftees, a number that had grown through the years and years of friendships, relationships and even one-off encounters in my aunt’s life.  It didn’t matter if these were close bosom friends from way back, clients of the law firm where she worked and shopkeepers of her favorite stores, or the multitudinous members of her large family, including brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, grand-nephews and grand nieces, and untold numbers of godchildren gained in baptisms, confirmations, first communions, weddings, holy orders, silver anniversaries and even golden anniversaries.

She would start filling out her lists early December and would continue sending gifts well after Christmas Day.  She could never countenance missing a name, or worse, a family, for she often gave to each member of a family as she enjoyed a personal relationship with two or even three generations in a family.

One year I would help her write out gift cards (an absolute essential in her gift protocol), her helper would help her wrap the gifts, and the driver would stand by to deliver the goodies post-haste.  Very soon we realized that she needed more than a staff of two or three and from then on, Tita Lily always prepared for the gift-giving season by having at least two nephews or nieces, two separate wrappers, and of course substitutes who would spell all of them while the gift preparations would extend well into the night.

She was particularly solicitous of people who would be alone and in want during the holidays, cognizant perhaps of her contemporaries who would sometimes be forgotten by the people they had taken care of in earlier decades.  Once she rang up an old officemate who she discovered had suffered a severely bruised hip and was immobilized and hungry for nearly 36 hours.  Not only did my aunt ask her driver to bring said officemate to the hospital, she also insisted that the latter spend Christmas with her, bandages and all.  That impromptu act of kindness was just one of many that Tita Lily did year-round, but which acquired a special sweetness at Christmas.

I could go on and on and on here, but truth to tell I’m already starting to cry.  My aunt was a one-in-a-million kind of person, and amazing as she was, Christmas brought even more out of her.  Everything I do, every kind thought I think and every good deed I do (if ever), I do in her name.  Tita Lily, you will live on in our hearts this Christmastime and forevermore!

Thanks for reading!

Quittable 2013 : a Pinoy’s random thoughts on smoking

[Note : Not proud of it but it’s the proper thing to say : I sincerely apologize to both Ms Didith Tayawa-Figuracion (publisher) and Ms Meia Lopez (editor) for letting them down the latest issue of the Wellington Pinoy newsmagazine Kabayan, I offer no excuses and humbly ask for forgiveness.  Hope that in time you can forgive me.  It’s been a great week for the anakis:  Panganay‘s hard work as a world-class Wellington film extra has paid off so well that one or even more of his scenes might actually end up (one as a villager, another as an orc) in part 2 of The Hobbit trilogy (premiering in 2 weeks!), Ganda‘s dream of rebooting her aborted tertiary studies has been given hope by the University of Victoria here, and Bunso is fast becoming one of the more accomplished baristas on Wellington’s Golden Mile!  Our fatherly heart is understandably bursting with pride, thanks in advance for the kudos!  By the by, I do a blog like this once a year on the anniversary of my quitsmoking date, and inasmuch as one of my anakis is a smoker, if this can reach that particular offspring, this post will have been well worth the effort, woohoohoo!  Thanks to Nathan P and the Curtis family for the Bryan Curtis video above! ]

More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined… Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. – US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

IS ANYONE still not familiar with the saying Do as I say, not as I do?  Well, anyone who has kids, younger siblings and younger relatives especially in the Philippines will know that this particular bit of wisdom rings so true with regard to one of the greatest health and social evils known to Man, tobacco smoking.

If I received fifty centavos for everytime I heard my folks and elders saying masama ang manigarilyo, huwag tutunan magbisyo (smoking is bad, don’t start a vice), I would have probably retired before 40 and sipping pinacoladas by now.  But because life must be lived through stupidity as well as wisdom, it wouldn’t surprise you too much to know that the more my parents sought to prevent me from trying things, the more I wanted to try them.  Go figure.

But if you were a 7 or 8 year old like me (then) and looked around you, wouldn’t you have done the same?  Dad himself was then a chain smoker, unable to perform his daily functions without a smoke (2+ packs) and both starting and ending the day with a ciggie.  My two older brothers, who were naturally my first role models, were stealing smokes in the backyard and sticks from Dad’s packs in their early teens.  It seemed that for all the opprobrium attached to smoking and blowing that smoke in people’s faces, it was, behind everyone’s backs, the cool thing to do.  All the cool people were doing it, you could see it on ads and on TV, and the “bad boys” and “naughty girls”, don’t you deny it, were doing it!  So for me, while the angel on my right shoulder kept tsk tsking whenever I stared at smokers, the horny dude with a pitchfork on my left just snickered mwahahaha Noel, it’s just a matter of time before you start puffing away.

And light up I did, after high school at around 18 although the first crowd I hung out with in college were exclusive school geeks like me and never even tried smoking.  Unfortunately the next crowd all lit up before and after classes, and even tolerant professors allowed smoking in class.  So it quickly became a way of life for me, in permissive, bohemian Diliman, where even cannabis smoking wasn’t that unusual, as long as you knew where to smoke it, and believe me, in campus, there were lots of places to suck on those funny cigarets.

Even Dad’s short bout with a lung infection mid 1970s didn’t deter me, or my two elder brothers who were already moderate to heavy smokers.  All-too-expectedly, since I was young, fit and healthy, it necessarily followed that I’m bulletproof, and nothing, not even all the health and mortality statistics, my hacking cough, black sputum-congested throat in the morning and that repulsive dragon breath would make me stop, for another 24 years.  By then Dad made a complete turnaround, became a strict anti-tobacco reformist, much to our chagrin.  Everything even remotely connected to smoking, ashtrays, the slightest smell or hint of tobacco smoke, was all but banished, for good reason, from our household.

After I got married, when the stress of family, work and sedentary living creeped in, smoking became an inevitable crutch and my one reliable friend.  All the rationalizations were there : I need it to deal with all the stressors in life; I don’t have any other vices; can’t I have just one outlet for my hard work?  and all other nonsense that ultimately wilted against the fact that I had burned out struggling alveoli and was slowly strangling the remaining healthy lung cells I had.

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It wasn’t any epiphany that allowed me to confront and slay my tobacco smoking, fire-breathing dragon in 2007, despite the fact that  I was a wheezing, overweight and pasty-faced Pinoy attempting to stay in New Zealand.

It was rather a combination of several reasons that made me to decide to just stop cold turkey : the $11 to $12 cost per 20-pack of cigs was something I could ill afford; my sister-in-law wasn’t saying it out loud, but she didn’t approve of smoking in their house, where I was staying until I could rent a flat of my own; and at 42, I thought that the time was right to stop smoking, after nearly a quarter century of playing Russian roulette with my lungs.

Literally, however, you need just one reason to quit smoking : to continue living, and continue living a healthy life, at that.

Because of Divine Assistance, exercise that helped keep the withdrawal jitters away, and the cold realization that an early death would prevent me from seeing my children grow up with families of their own, I have kept away from, and have in fact been tobacco free for the last six years, the sixth anniversary falling last 17th November.

I would be less than completely truthful if I didn’t admit to you, kabayan and friends, that I’m not completely free from smoking, mentally that is.  Not a day goes by without me thinking of smoking.  Every time I see a person or persons smoke, I imagine smoking myself, especially after a full meal, when imbibing alcohol, and all those other activities you associate with smoking.

The reason for this is that there is a cocktail of powerful drugs released in every hit of tobacco smoke that goes directly into your bloodstream from your lungs and straight into your brain.  These drugs cause your brain to produce dopamine, which is closely associated with the body’s pleasureable feelings and sensations.  There is no denying it : six years after quitting, I still can’t deny that smoking gave me pleasure.  It’s just the health and social costs that has made me stop.  THAT’s how powerful smoking is.

There is no magic formula to quitting smoking.  The two pieces of advice from this lucky quitter : seek professional help if you can’t stop cold turkey, and better to not start at all.  It’s that simple.

Please spare a thought to quitting today.  Too many people have died, or are now dying from smoking for you not to.

Thanks for reading!

videos that make my day (& hopefully yours)

IT’S BEEN quite a while since I bugged you, and anytime that happens I’m a little guilty.  Bugging you through my bloggy posts has been such a part of my schedule that when a situation like now intervenes, as in, lack of time and my laziness conspire to prevent me from saying anything more than a few paragraphs, I feel rather incomplete.

Instead, may i just share with you a few videos I’ve seen here and there that make me (1) marvel at the beauty of life and living; (2) so thankful of where I am now  at this point in my life; and (3) make me proud to be a Pinoy, no matter what happens?  You may have already seen one, two or all of them, but still and just in case, here they are.  No commentary planned (but you never know) :


if the video doesn’t grab you, give it a minute or two.  We are so lucky with our fitness and health that we inevitably take it for granted.  We need to be inspired, ironically enough, by those who are “special” and need to go above and beyond the usual effort just to be taken seriously.  Galing-galing, diba?

Who sez Pinoys are the only ones good in creating tearjerker ads?  I don’t know who the advertiser here is, and what product or service they sell, but if you don’t shed a tear after watching this ad, you’ve got a heart of stone. 😉

And lastly…

I confess I hadn’t heard of  the group Blake, or their concerts back home, but I’m sure that after doing THAT (pointing above), they’ve earned thousands of adoring fans in the Philippines!

thanks for reading (and watching)!  Thanks and acknowledgment too to the YouTube posters!

into each life some rain must fall

satellite images showing the onward march of debilitating New Zealand drought this year.

satellite images showing the onward march of debilitating New Zealand drought this year.

WORST DROUGHT in 70 years declared the paper here in Welly.  You can’t get any more eloquent than that.  The Philippines may have its problems, it may be a daily overdose of drama back home and more than half of us live below the poverty line, but few problems are more urgent and gamechanging than the consequences of weather extremes, and this definitely qualifies as one here.

I have three memories associated with the extremes of weather, the most recent of which was when it rained for two days straight and then some some ten years ago, cutting off first our subdivision, and then our little group of houses from the rest of the subdivision, which was already cut off from the rest of the world.  What little provisions we had at home were all but used up, and we relied on radio news to find out when we would rejoin the world.

"thank you master, I will guard your house for life." :)

“thank you master, I will guard your house for life.” 🙂 thanks and acknowledgment to!

When we were brave enough to venture out after a maya returned with an anahaw leaf :), we saw cars floating in miniature ponds, swollen streams and streets that were rendered impassable because the latter were even lower than the already-low main street of our subdivision.  Our row of houses was fortunate enough to be sitting on the higher areas, but many others were not so lucky.  Furniture, appliances and everything of value sitting on ground floors were damaged beyond repair, and this among many was the harvest of one of the more brutal storms that decade.

Another strong weather-related memory was an unlucky combination of a suffocatingly hot summer and the power crisis somewhere between the late Cory Aquino and early FVR years.  It was so hot you couldn’t even move, and unmercifully there was no power during much of the day for either electric fans or if you could afford it, air conditioners (we couldn’t).  It became fashionable and quite practical to purchase backup generators for the home and industrial ones for businesses, hospitals and the malls.  The only good thing I remember about that time was the 50% discount on ice cream; practically given away by blackout-conscious shopowners who didn’t want an inventory of melted sundaes and popsicles messing up their freezers.

it happened again in the Central Luzon-Metro Manil area July 2010, thanks and acknowledgment to!

it happened again in the Central Luzon-Metro Manil area July 2010, thanks and acknowledgment to!

Two things I actually welcomed during that water-starved and blackout-weakened summer were (1) going to work where the offices were at least air-conditioned before the power outage was scheduled, and (2) the monsoon rains which brought a welcome relief from the blistering, exhausting and sweltering heat of the dry, dry summer which incidentally I always identify with Semana Santa where either you meditate in the city or vacation in the beaches.

The last memory is that of our very own drought back home (a year or two before Y2K), where literally the ground turned to dust and every breeze threatened to mutate into a sandstorm, the soil cried out for moisture and leaves turned orange, yellow and finally into brown, months before harvest time.  I don’t think anyone would say I’m exaggerating, but it was a good ten months before anyone saw a drop of rain that year, and considering that the Philippines receives so much rain on an average year, the drought must have been catastrophic for agriculture, not to mention industries and manufacturing that need agricultural products as well.

Here in our part of New Zealand, it will take a good number of years to recover from the drought, and the dairy, beef and lamb and downstream industries have been all but written out of medium term planning until they have been properly resuscitated, rehabilitated and nurtured back to life after literally drying out from the drought.

Because the Wellington region (as opposed to Wellington City) is relatively compact and everything, including water consumption is easily measurable and desperate times call for desperate measures, government, media and every usyusero has understandably become OC over the issue.  I overheard my favorite deejay broadcast optimistically that due largely in part to the total effort, weekly consumption has gone down from 128 million liters to 120 million, truly mindboggling both in the amount saved and the dedication to monitoring the figures. (imagine the time spent counting those liters!)

Daily radio broadcasts here remind us that all outdoor activity requiring water, washing of cars, etc. have been banned until further notice.  Only the most crucial water needs like bathing, cooking and drinking are allowed now, and for good reason : for Wellington region, water has been free to household consumers for the longest time, and everyone wants it to remain that way, most of all Asian migrants like Your Loyal Blogger.

Thanks for reading and Happy Easter to all!

we are all in this (food safety audit) together

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

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

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

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

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even the shrink wrap is inspected.

even the shrink wrap is inspected.

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

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

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

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

they did this, all over the site too :(

they did this, all over the site too 😦

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

pinagmamalaking kabayang nars sa USA, UK, NZ atbp :)

Pinoy engineers, IT professionals, caregivers and other careers are equally deserving, but because Pinay nurses are well-known and well-loved all over the world, they hog the limelight.  The rest of us dutifully stand back and give them their due.

In his State of the Union Address last Feb 12, US Pres Barack Obama honored kabayan Menchu Sanchez, a New Jersey nurse, for devising an impromptu evacuation plan for 20 newborn patients, without regard for their own safety, while Hurricane Sandy was howling.

And just over a week ago, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, chose to speak to a Pinay nurse over two of her colleagues in a hospital visit and joked that the Philippines must be “half empty” with so many of our kabayan in the UK’s National Health Service, the equivalent of our Department of Health back home.

They carry our cultural DNA, represent us everywhere, and for good or bad, are the face of  the Filipino all over the world.  At least one in ten OFWs is a nurse, and we are proud to call them our own.  The above instances are just the most famous, but every day a Pinay nurse makes us proud to be Pinoy.  A big big hello to our kabayan nurses here in New Zealand, Americas, the Europe and everywhere on God’s good Earth!

Mabuhay po kayong lahat!

belated happy birthday to the best aunt ever !

you're the best aunt ever! Tita Lily with Dad, thanks to bro Jude Bautista for the pic!

you’re the best aunt ever!

After all my blather and slather, you’re probably used to the level of hyperbole and superlatives in almost everything I say, it’s a hazard of the job. 🙂  But I have another astounding tale up my sleeve, because of the astounding personality behind the tale.

Conservatively, my Tita Lily has sent around a thousand children to school.  Some she has sent as part of her commitment to family, some godchildren, children of godchildren, children of friends,  and even grandchildren of friends.  Still others she has given tuition support because of the recipients’ earnest desire to go to school.  And, yet some more, she has sent to school because they would have no other chance otherwise.

She has stood as godmother to hundreds and hundreds of weddings, proudly witnessed as ninang (godmother) to untold numbers of baptized and confirmed little inaanak, and has been sponsor to a goodly number of ordinations, silver (and golden) anniversaries, and many other milestones of other remarkable people.

You may find this hard to believe, but I have never seen her refuse outright a request for help, assistance or support, especially when it involves family.  Facing a choice between protecting oneself against being taken advantage of and extending a helping hand to someone down and out, Tita Lily 99% of the time would rather err on the side of compassion.

She has been a paragon of professionalism, hard work and consistency throughout the six decades that she has worked, and for a single employer at that.  She has served as model for quality performance, honest toil, and innovating her craft as administrator in one of the country’s largest law firms, and continues to serve as one of its valuable resource persons.

Among the many many things I remember about her as a massively fortunate nephew, I once accompanied her on a visit to a nearby hospital.  The person she visited was battling a lingering illness, and entertaining her visitors was the last thing on the patient’s mind.  She hardly recognized my aunt, but the latter treated her as if she were the dearest friend in the world, stayed for quite a while to reassure her that her friends were still around, and offered her prayers for recovery.

On the way out, I asked Tita Lily who the friend was, and why she hardly recognized her.  She said, we have been friends for over half a century now.  I have many friends like that, and I visit a lot of them often (in hospital) these days.  They have very few remaining relatives and even less friends.  I’m just doing what I can for them.

I was touched by that.  My aunt, not that young anymore, but still moving actively and sharing her time and energy for people who can’t do much for themselves anymore.  But then again, that’s what Tita Lily has always been most of her life, thinking of others first and second, and then only does she think of herself last.

Thank you for always being there for us Tita Lily, I love you so much!  Belated happy birthday!

anniversary thoughts of a former pinoy smoker

[ NoteThis is for my maternal grandfather Jose, Tito Val (Bautista), Tito Fonso (Yang), Tito PD, Uncle Jess Imperial, and everyone else in my family who is/was smoking.  Thanks for reading everyone! ]

THE 17TH of the month, it will have been exactly five years since I quit smoking.  I’m not usually a stickler for dates but this particular one sticks out in my mind as it was one of the few things I did that was unequivocally smart (after 24 years of silliness), and something that probably saved my life, and preserved the quality of such life for the remainder.

I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you that I still light up every now and then, elaboration below.  But on the whole it has been smoke-free and tobacco-free for this Pinoy for probably 99.9% of the last 60 months, coincidentally also spent as an accidental migrant.

So I don’t sound like a puritanical, hypocritical turncoat who’s seen the light, and preaching to the choir, let me start first by stating the frankly obvious : given the millions and millions of smokers who’ve been smoking throughout their adult lives until their last, gasping breath, there must be some benefits, addle-brained as it sounds (the medical evidence to the contrary is overwhelming).

This is not arguing for argument’s sake, or standing as devil’s advocate in a debating tournament.  Long after quitting, I still think there are benefits to smoking.

Needless to say, but I’m as usual saying it, is this is all my penny-for-your-thoughts opinion, which isn’t worth much, but I have an hour before I need to get ready for my afternoon shift :

The first, most obvious benefit to smokers is the pleasure and physiological effects that tobacco provides.  Speeds you up, slows you down, it all depends on the smoker.  Administered as a direct hit to the brain and bloodstream, several thousand chemicals are introduced to the body, and among many things smoking claims to clear up your thinking, makes you more alert, helps you relax, and helps you get rid of the “feeling of fullness” after a heavy meal.

Relatedly, smoking helps you engage in conversation, helps you focus in whatever work you do, and helps you get into the routine, if you have gotten used to smoking in your daily life.

The second benefit of smoking is that it’s a sociability tool, mainly for smoothing over any awkwardness in introducing yourself and acquainting yourself with strangers.  Essentially, if you smoke, and I smoke, we can do something together, even if we’re strangers who happen to be killing ourselves (no overt sarcasm intended).  Because smokers meet and converge in smoking areas, share cigarettes, light each other’s cancer sticks, friendships are easily struck and nurtured, no big surprise.  The real surprise is why can’t we do this in church, the gym, or even on the train commuting to and from work?  Because smoking is a social activity, and misery loves company.  Nothing more, nothing less.

I thought there would be a third benefit of smoking, but I was wrong.  That’s it.

Now, on the other side of the scale :

Lung cancer and related diseases from smoking is the second most prevalent preventable cause of death in the world, or is among the top three at least.  The graphic in the video above says 4 million die from smoking related causes every year, but it’s at least two years old.  ( I just looked, it’s five million now.)  For someone as smart, practical and common-sensical as you, it beggars belief that you’re still smoking. 😉

There are so many negative social consequences that one must live with if he/she persists in smoking, among them being shunned and ostracized (and sent to smoking areas), being thought of as being inconsiderate, especially if they are parents, “dragon breath”, work interruption caused by cigarette breaks, and so on.  This is a list that keeps giving, and so I better stop here.

And there are many many others, reasons to stop I mean, but since I’m a scaredy cat, I need to ask you Precious Reader : what if you don’t die from  cancer, complications or emphysema soon after diagnosis?  Below is not a very watchable video (yet again), but it’s quite convincing :

Sorry to use such a graphic video, but it’s better than a video of an actual person sick with COPD and emphysema.  The voice-over with the video is effective, too.

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

That’s it.  That’s my take on smoking.  I can’t say I’m completely free of tobacco addiction (’cause I still think about smoking, especially when I see you smoking), but pardon me for bragging when I say that I’m getting there.

And I would love your company. 🙂

nibbling at the realities of a pinoy fortysomething dieter

the lunch I bring to work, twice a week (sigh). the sausage roll is a concession to the rice-free and meat-free qualities of my new diet guidelines. 😦

YOU KNOW you’ve reached that netherworld of neither-old-nor-young when health and fitness has supplanted sports and entertainment as your top Yahoo! article topic; when the holiday/birthday/media extravaganza all-nighter has become rarer and rarer, almost a thing of the past; when you scour Facebook and alumni updates for news of lifestyle diseases whose incidence seems to increase every year; and when the concept of a healthful, nutritious and energizing daily diet is becoming less and less theoretical and more and more inevitable.

Before I continue, a little bit of domestic background : esposa hermosa enjoys twin humongous advantages that abandoned my ship a long time ago.  She will eat what she fancies, and what she fancies she can usually cook.  On my end, I can no longer eat with reckless abandon, and even more sadly, I have no notable culinary skills save boiling eggs or opening sardines or pork and beans.

But even this disparity of gastronomic fortune has further gone against me : esposa has recently laid down new guidelines to which I w0uld do well to adhere food-wise : at least two riceless meals a week, at least one salad day, and beloved greasy Pinoy breakfasts of Mighty Meaty, sinangag (fried rice) and tostadong itlog (fried egg) limited to one weekend day.  In addition, I’m to discard the daily ice cream habit (sob) and step up my fruit and veggie intake, as if the previous rules weren’t punishment enough.

The crime?  Long years of excessive, irresponsible eating,  sedentary weekends and an infatuation with beer and pizza for any and every occasion, a love for pastries, pies as well as all things sugary and starchy.  My personal chef and nutritionist has gone so far as to say that observing my formerly irresponsible diet has become a matter of life and death, so that what I eat (or not eat) for the next few years will determine if I live the balance of my life healthily, if at all.  Now that’s an incentive for me to eat wisely and well.

Fortunately, she has the discipline and creativity to prepare our meals.  Given the option to observe her rules at home or for my baon, I happily opt for the latter, knowing that I have work to distract me during my shift.  That’s why my colleagues look on with amusement at my colorful lunches. each hue of the rainbow represented in my salad, each fruit in the painting transferred to my lunchbag.

That’s not all.  Remember the illegal greasy breakfasts?  Swept under the rug, they’ve now been replaced by bran with fruit bits, cereal with berry, and multi-flavored oatmeal.  Regardless of the variety and the effort to prettify my morning repast, I can’t help but recall the spartan breakfasts of Dad and the regular fare in all those rest homes and retirement villas manned by my caregiver kabayan, when they talk shop among each other.

The bland menu and what passed for food that I thought I would never even consider eating, I now had to include in my regular schedule of consumption, if I wanted to clean out my indoor plumbing and purge myself of the poisons of all those fats and sugar accumulating years.

My chef, nutritionist and diet constable is not totally unreasonable though.  If I’ve been a good boy during the week, I get my just rewards, be it a Kiwi Big Breakfast, a Double Down at KFC or dimsum and noodle festival at Asian takeaway.  It’s a worn-out cliche, but I have to say it : Let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!