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!

 

etiquette for bedmates


Click-through-the-pages-to-figure-out-what-your-position-means..jpg

Unfortunately, not many of us look this good when we’re asleep.  They’re probably models anyway.  Thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to sonalishinha.blogspot.com!

YOU SHARE an office with strangers and you make rules.  You share a flat (apartment) with acquaintances and you make rules.  Surely it’s at least as important (and practical) to have rules with someone you sleep with?

If you’re like me, you don’t.  idiosyncratically, some things are too personal, or instinctual, for us to make formal rules for.  We either love or hate the things they do, the people we sleep with.  We literally live with them.

I just thought I’d think up a few things that would serve as helpful, when you’re starting out with someone, when you’ve lived with a loved one for years and years, or when you’re just hooking up (hope it’s not an offensive term to my old-school buddies) overnight with a hot date :

Face-to-face is romantic, but not in the morning.  You know those lovey-dovey scenes where the lovers’ faces are less than an inch from each other as they fall asleep (presumably after doing the nasty) and as they wake at dawn?  It looks good on the silver screen, but not in real life.  Our noses, lips and other bits and pieces will often bump each other, not just awkward but sometimes unsafe.  And then there’s the so-called “dragon breath” in the mornings, when we don’t smell our best.  So we can kiss and enjoy each other’s beautiful faces, just not all of the time, and definitely not when we’ve just woken up.

Don’t grab pillows, don’t pull blankets.  Spouse Mahal and I share everything in life except our pillows.  Because she has the purse and the shopping acumen, she has softer, downier and fluffier pillows.  I have the pillows from the Salvation Army store and leftover sofa pillows with itchy upholstery (just kidding). So sometime in the night, unconsciously or not, I begin to use some of Mahal’s pillows.  It’s alright as long as Mahal isn’t bothered or woken up by such (unauthorized) use, but when I begin to (unconsciously or not, again) pull our shared blanket towards me to preserve heat, especially during the winter, she wakes up and pulls right back, towards her.  I usually grunt, half asleep and don’t care.

The lesson in all this?  First, you have to make sure that there are enough pillows and that the blanket/s are large enough for the user/s.  Second, there has to be thoughtfulness and solicitousness so that pillows and blankets, regardless of whether there are enough, are shared equally among the bedmates.

Snoring, sleep talkin’ and sleep walking.  My eccentricities are not limited to my waking hours, Mahal never ceases to remind me.  I am a terrible snorer, I talk in my sleep and occasionally sit up and walk around the bedroom.  Oftentimes these are just indicators of other things going on in our lives, like an obstruction in our airway, a little too much stress in our lives, etc.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) Mahal is also a snorer, talks and even laughs in her sleep.  So we watch out for each other, know when we are going to snore loudly (it’s when we are very tired or have colds, coughs or other minor respiratory issues) and wake each other up when we’re doing something funny.  It’s just extra dosage of concern for your bedmate that can go a long way.

There are other guidelines we live (sleep) by.  Come to bed observing hygiene, otherwise you get no good night kiss.  No sneaky moves when the other partner isn’t ready for “conjugal activities” ( I enforce this rule too, although Mahal benefits more from the rule, I admit).  Don’t bother the other person when he or she is on a late night shift.  And so on and so forth.  The  guiding spirit of these rules and guidelines is usually being considerate of the other person’s needs and tastes, which is, when you think about it, common sense among people who love (and live with) each other, don’t you think?

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!

 

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!

 

 

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. 🙂 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!

to look like dad & all its benefits : happy father’s day!


this is not the first time I'm using this pic but it's the best I have..  Mahal, me, my Tita Lily who recently passed away and Dad, dashing as ever!

this is not the first time I’m using this pic but it’s the best I have.. Mahal, me, my Tita Lily who recently passed away and Dad, dashing as ever! Thanks once again to brother Jude Bautista and http://judebautista.wordpress.com/ !

[ Note :  In the Philippines, I’ve always celebrated my birthday near mother’s day, so there are two happy things to remember around then.  Now because of the happy accident of working in NZ, dad’s birthday and New Zealand’s Father’s day are about two weeks apart. Happy father’s day to everyone not just in NZ, but everywhere else! ]

IT’S UNIVERSAL that parents like to claim authorship of anything that resembles success in their kids, and more than a passing resemblance with the same, especially whenever the latter are beautiful, intelligent, gorgeous and otherwise pleasing to the mind and eye.

Among my siblings, Eldest Brother (we are five brothers, no sisters) is unsurprisingly blessed with the most leadership skills and probably the best communicator.  Second Brother is undoubtedly the smartest and the easiest to get along with.  Fourth Brother is the most athletic and attuned to business, while Fifth Brother is the most creative.

Pure luck of the draw and genetics gave me a different gift : I like to think, and more than a few people and rellys agree with me, that I was honored to be the son who resembled (resembles) our father the most.  And because my father (naturally) considered himself not a bad-looking man and a good standard with which to compare his progeny, he almost surely (neither I nor my brothers ever thought to ask him) thought that I was the luckiest one because of the way we received our inheritance in the looks department.  LOLs and smileys all around after that one. 🙂

Seriously, my father has been honorable in executing his fatherly duties in every which way possible.  He was the solid rock of stability around which the rest of the family was built, guided and counseled all of us through our maturity, and to this day serves as an inspiration for his middle-aged sons as they strive to measure up to the greatness that is their father.

But I have enjoyed as good a relationship with my father as anyone could wish for, though I don’t  claim to know enough to say it has been as good as or even better than his relationship with his other sons, my brothers.  Perhaps viewed through the prism of self-regard and self-interest, one always thinks his appearance, his abilities, and his relationships are the best, without the benefit of comparison with a superior standard.

Should you therefore ask me how I have the audacity to write the previous paragraph, I will answer with a contrast I’ve seen with him when it comes to me.

He is probably the most opinionated person I know, holding specific, and perhaps jingoist and xenophobic opinions on everything under the sun.  He is like that, and will not aggressively attack your worldview, but his Old World eloquence and quiet conviction will assure you that you will have hours and hours of debate before you get any  meeting of the minds.

With me, whenever I talk to him about my view of things, his response has almost invariably been, for him, atypical.  He will nod his head, smile knowingly, and listen to all the points I elucidate.  He will usually say ganun pala or I never knew that.

Deep down I know he is only holding his tongue and patronizing me, but because he is my dad it is approval enough for me to shut up and acknowledge his smile.  And I know he is agreeing only because it is me.

He is also, as you might expect, very old school.  In almost everything, from popular culture, religion and customs, the roles of men and women in society, and anything else you might think of.  With many people of his generation, produced by expansionist tyranny and the Last Great War, adherence to traditional values then and now are the bedrock of his core.  (Hard to fault him for that, for in the midst of uncertainty and destruction it was all they could hold on to.)  And that is what he will be to the day he dies.

And yet in my few conversations with him about the tumultuous change overcoming our world,  about explaining to him how and why I have been the only son of his to marry twice, and how when he meets his grandkids again when they return next decade from New Zealand, he will probably not approve of their ways and their appearances, he curiously declines to challenge my points.

In so many words, he pooh-poohs my alarms, soothes my concerns,  and allays my fears.  In a nutshell he tells me :  I am not at all concerned with all that, Noel. Because I trust you to do the right thing.  Not only does he go against form and welcome change, he uncharacteristically reposes a lot of trust in me.

This, to the one who is (no false modesty here) his least successful, least accomplished, least athletic and least creative son.  Truly, to inherit my father’s appearance has also given me a side benefit : to earn the most benefit of the doubt.  The luck of the draw has helped me once again.

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Lest you think I’m writing this for my dad to see, he will probably not even know about it.  Father’s day in the Philippines is celebrated earlier, and even if they were on the same day, my dad doesn’t care for such things.  That’s one of the greatest things about him ; he is great without even knowing it.

My dad is very much alive today, in I hope the best health of his life, a bit slower now but fit and fighting trim nevertheless.  The only sad part is we are separated by thousands of miles of land and sea.

But if we weren’t, and he were right in front of me now on Father’s Day, I don’t know if I should bow deeply to him the way the ancient Chinese did (he is half Chinese), if I should render a snappy salute for the enormous respect I have him, or just hug and kiss him, as I owe him my life, and everything I am today.  The first, second or third?

I don’t know.  Maybe a combination of them, but most definitely I will hug and kiss him, because it benefits us both.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!  I love you always!

(and to the rest of you as well!)

the sweet & endearing contempt of familiarity


when you've been married long enough, friends drop in and walk through the door...

when you’ve been married long enough, friends drop in and walk through the door…

JUST THE other night before bedtime I sprung a good one on Mahal (pardon me for all these anecdotes about esposa hermosa, I haven’t got too much of a social life outside work and these infernal FB games).

Half-seriously I popped my head in the bedroom door and asked, Mahal, iyo ba ang green na sipilyo, knowing her answer.

She nearly gagged on her green tea and said oo bakeeeet? 

Dalawang linggo ko nang ginagamet yun I admitted in a very small voice, knowing that she was all ears.

OMG tutoo????  She then rattled off a string of unmentionables not allowed in this general patronage blog before I could calm her down and tell her I was only pulling her leg.  Needless to say, she made me regret my little joke for the next 24 hours.

The funny thing about this was (although not so funny to Mahal) I really could’ve used her toothbrush (non-Tagalog speakers, please request translation assistance from a helpful kayumanggi brother or sister nearby) once or twice since she replaced our dental implements, there are after all only two in the rack and to be honest, I’ve never really paid that much attention.  Familiarity, indeed, breeds common toiletries.

Among other things.  Gag and wrinkle your nose up all you want, but through force of habit, routine and acceptance of all the imperfections of your mate-for-life, we put up with a lot of things that come with living with a partner, spouse or intimate better half.  The Divine Creator provided us with bodies that function as autonomous animate beings, but what is the purpose of life if you don’t live it with someone by your side?

And because the only topic I’m an expert on is myself, I deduce all the realities of a shared life from my own.  Before my second ride on the marriage-go-round, I was blessedly single for almost a decade and was quite happy on my own.  But the primal urge to share my fantasies, failures, hopes and dreams with a fellow wanderer in life, coupled by the relentless pull of culture and tradition brought my feet to the inevitable path of searching for, and successfully finding a mate to spend life with :

couldn't resist not using the pic... :)

couldn’t resist not using the pic… 🙂

Conditions.  I know that almost every week, Mahal reacts to certain allergens in the vicinity of work or home, so she will sneeze and sniffle during said time.  Nothing less than a box of Kleenex and Clarityne will suffice, and the least I can do is grant her time off from whatever she usually does.  On the other hand, she has learned the hard way that I am an industrial strength, world-class snorer with an audio magnitude that extends to the next room.  God bless her, she has learned to live (sleep) with this though I don’t know how, she pushes me to my side when it gets too noisy, or just places a pillow strategically over my head.  Bottom line is with the passage of time, we become intimately aware of, and adjust to, each other’s quirks and conditions that make life harder, but also more interesting.

Dino No-Dinero.  Because of the phenomenon of finite resources and infinite wants, wifey and I know exactly what goes into the pay envelope, what will immediately go to bills outstanding, and what, hopefully, will go to piggy bank for a rainy day.  We regularly make plans for how to scrimp and save so that we can enjoy whatever little it is that gets left over every week (we both draw weekly wages).  But usually I just give up, defer to her superior budgeting skills and surrender my ATM card the majority of the week.  This is called being a good Pinoy husband.  Seriously, we know each other well enough to accurately guess how either of us will spend the precious coins in the event of an unexpected windfall.  So we keep each other in check, and try to be strong for each other during the big, massive sales that seem to be on almost every other week now.  Kaya mo yan, Mahal! 🙂

sharing until it hurts.  And like we said above, one of the consequences of conjugal living is that you share everything, and by share I use the word quite liberally.  I have acquired the habit of using Mahal’s shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser, skin cleanser and other goodies such that frankly, I’m surprised I never thought to use in my previous life.  Women  pay such marvelous attention to themselves that by now it’s no longer amazing to me that the average lady can take away as much as 10 years from her appearance (as long as she exercises and eats sensibly) by just using quality beauty substances sold commercially.  The upside is I’m more confident going out the door now, even if I know people will be usually looking at Mahal instead of me.  The downside unfortunately is Mahal has to replenish her dresser ammunition more often, because naturally her pampaganda now just lasts half as long.

Morning rituals.  Just a few more lines that I almost forgot.  After being married a while, you probably won’t be surprised that I know exactly how Mahal looks in the morning, and vice versa.  Because she’ll kill me if I describe her, I’ll just tell you how she might describe me.  Wolverine-like hair (except that it’s definitely less cool-looking), eyes chock full of muta, dragon breath all around, and pillow/blanket marks on the face and rest of the body.  Not a pretty sight, but when we’re both getting ready for work, it’s no biggie.  She looks approximately the same, and hates it when I so much as look at her for more than a few secs.  Expectedly, by the time she’s fixed her face, she looks (as usual) picture-perfect, always like she stumbled out of a supermodel shoot, and expects me to say so, something like omygosh Mahal, bakit superganda ka ngayon???  Just follow the script Noel, and your day starts just fine.

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I wonder if other couples, especially Pinoy couples learn to live together and make the same discoveries we do?  It sounds self-conscious, but whatever Pinoyness in the way couples live life together is no doubt pronounced when we do so away from the Philippines, when we cherish having each other in unfamiliar surroundings although, luckily for us right now, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to kiss your mahal good night (whether or not you share a toothbrush)! 🙂

why we’re grateful to Joe & Linda, 54 years and running


a young Joe & Linda more than half a century ago, with toddlers Tim and Donald, and Father George Lalliberte who married them only a few years ago. Your loyal blogger was probably still a bun in the oven ;)

a young Joe & Linda more than half a century ago, with toddlers Tim and Donald, and Father George Lalliberte who married them a few years back. Your loyal blogger was probably still a bun in the oven…

I THOUGHT the day would never come, but it jumped up from just around the corner, and now it’s here to stay.  I have now reached the age where my children, intelligent and discerning as always, have in so many words begun to reproach me from the things I never made accessible to them.

Here are just a few examples.  At least two out of the three (Panganay, Ganda and Bunso of course) have inquired why they never had piano lessons; one has rebuked me for not enrolling at least one of them in a Chinese Filipino school (I attended one), and a right-brained child has asked why nothing was ever done to spur or trigger their creative side/s.  To all these I furnish a motley group of excuses : economics, nurture vs nature, and all that bull-bleep, but I know deep down I have failed them in a thousand different ways, so that any success they have reaped is despite and not because of my pasang-awa parenting.

Chalk it down to a kinder, less selfish generation, cheaper tuition and simpler extra-curricular options, but I cannot say the same for my own parents, who made available a lot of things I didn’t pay forward for my own kids.

Early elementary, mom and dad enrolled me in a summer art class.  When I didn’t show any promise, the following year I attended badminton sessions and was encouraged to learn racquet sports.  And all through my youth (not that it helped) a piano teacher visited me weekly and I learned a third language in an excellent Chinese Filipino school that rivaled many of the best Metro Manila schools across the board.

...and a more recent pic with Dad (center, seated) Mom (to his left), Tita Lily (to his right), my brother Tim and his wife Joy (standing, extreme right) and Mahal (the stunner with the long hair)

…and a more recent pic with Dad (center, seated) Mom (to his left), Tita Lily (to his right), my brother Tim and his wife Joy (standing, extreme right) and Mahal (the stunner with the long hair). I don’t know who the white-shirted guy is, sorry 😦

My folks weren’t the showiest type when it came to hugs and kisses, but were right there when it came to advice and support, which as you know pre-teens and teens need tons of but won’t always admit.   It didn’t stop them from exercising stern discipline and  strict accountability, but as all good parents, they combined affection and hard knocks in a smart combination of tough love.

Best of all, they showed me, and a lot of people my generation, that you could sweep someone off your feet in a whirlwind romance and yet stay with that someone for years and years without losing the thrill of love.  Some people call it being soulmates and lovers, and other people call it commitment.  My folks just called it marriage.

...still photogenic after all these years!

…still photogenic after all these years!

As of yesterday (6th June), my folks have possessed all of these traits 54 years running, raising first five hard-headed but respectful sons, then helping seven grandkids, scores of nephews, nieces and cousins, and now dozens and dozens of people through catechism classes, community centers and livelihood groups to which they belong.

Through it all, they have relied on many comrades, but most of all they have relied on each other in the journey of life, towards happiness and contentment.  I’m extra proud as their son to say that they’re already there, and will always serve as my models for self-sustaining love.

Thanks for being in our lives Joe and Linda, and happy happy 54th wedding anniversary from a grateful clan, Mom and Dad!  Love you always!

the day bunso came full circle


did our unanimous choice of chinese dimsum and yumcha really require explanation? :)

did our unanimous choice of chinese dimsum and yumcha really require explanation? 🙂

SEEING A person off on a journey into the vast unknown is one of the more popular metaphors lent to parents bidding goodbye to their adult children.  Part of you is so happy for them, being a front-seat witness to the first of their many milestones.  And yet you know that on many levels there is no turning back, as there are certain thresholds that, once crossed, can’t be uncrossed, can’t be undone.

Given his communication and learning skills, it had taken Bunso an inordinate time to find a job in Migrantland.  Each IQ test had given him so much encouragement, each interview had given him so much hope, and each hiring officer had practically promised him that the job was his for the taking.  Why, then was this his umpteenth job interview, and the latest in an endless stream of heartbreaking you have great qualifications, but just not a good fit for the position we’re offering right now?  It just seemed that they never ran out of ways to make you feel good and at the same time shut the proverbial door in your unbelieving face.

Which was why, after a month of not hearing from Bunso, we were very happy to hear that he had already started work after a short training period.  Just when he thought he had had enough of sincere-sounding but indecisive and non-committal employers, one supermarket chain finally cut him a break and told him to report for work the next day.

It was of course nothing fancy, minimum wage, work the graveyard shift that nobody wanted, fill the shelves and man the checkout counters at all hours of the day, don’t even think about choosing your hours.  For Bunso, just having a job was seventh heaven, and a passport to the life of being able to start saving for things meant a lot to him.

And the icing on the cake ?  Bunso remembered to treat us to dinner, which was a first for both me and him, meaning him treating me and me, well, being treated.  Free food certainly tastes better than usual, and even more when it’s from someone you’ve loved all your life.

From you taking care of the baby to the baby now taking care of you, Bunso has certainly come full circle, sniff-sniff! 🙂

From Tita H and me, thanks so much and love you always Bunso!

reblog from Pinoy Stop : Tao po, Ramil & Marie Garcia and kids of Lower Hutt Wellington


the Dayrit-Garcias.  From left: Maxine, Ramil, Marie, Alex, Danielle and Kirsten.  Landmark not included :)

the Dayrit-Garcias. From left: Maxine, Ramil, Marie, Alex, Danielle and Kirsten. Landmark not included 🙂

[ Note from YLB : thank you, thank you, thank you Didith Tayawa-Figuracion, Meia Lopez and the rest of the editorial staff of Pinoy Stop, a tentatively-named Pinoy newsmag in the Wellington region (in its maiden issue) for allowing me to repost a story I did for them.  The section is tentatively entitled Tao Po, where Pinoy families allow me to visit them and ask them about migrant life in Wellington.  Salamat rin kay Ramil, Marie and kids for graciously allowing us into their lovely home ! Thanks for reading! ]

     UNLIKE MANY Pinoy migrant couples embarking on the New Zealand magical mystery tour, Lower Hutt couple Ramil and Marie Garcia knew exactly what they were getting.
     This couple, who already had three daughters (Kirsten, Alex and Maxine) when they landed in Wellington in 2001 and added one more to their brood (Danielle) eight years ago, chose New Zealand over Australia for the more relaxed pace of life and lifestyle, access to benefits like health insurance and social security, a standard of living that allows decent shelter and car ownership, and fresh food, cleaner air and a comfortable retirement.
     Obviously, not in that order.
     But coming here, Marie noticed and experienced something different in health care, particularly in obstetrics.  While quality maternal and neonatal care in the Philippines is costly, Marie is thankful it is free for residents and citizens here. Another point of difference is the emphasis on the natural and avoidance of too much anaesthesia here which is something many Pinay mothers need to get used to.  Marie knows what she’s talking about, having given birth to three kids back home and one here.
     If it’s a toss-up between native land and adopted land for the wife, the husband is almost completely sold on New Zealand.  The laid back life, clean and green environment, honest government, anything and everything ticks all the boxes for him.
     Ramil and Marie are able to supervise their children every day, go hiking on a nearby hillside trail most weekends, visit Marie’s parents and two sisters (and families) anytime they want (the majority of Marie’s siblings migrated to NZ soon after the Garcias) and just as important, enjoy quality time with each other nearly twenty-four seven.  Needless to say, almost none of these would be possible on a regular basis in the Philippines.
     Icing on the cake is their recent acquisition of the home of their dreams, functional for their six-person family but quite easy on the eyes as well.

     New Zealand has been everything this Pinoy couple has asked for, and more.  So far, they have been able to raise their children in a clean and healthy environment, put them through quality schools under the New Zealand educational system, have both acquired fulfilling jobs that, though not the ones that would have earned them the income of a lifetime, have given them the chance to live the life many would be envious of back home. 

***               ***              ***

     For the observant ones out there, did anyone notice that among their goals and dreams, not a single one mentioned saving a bunch of dollars, bringing it home and having the holiday of their lives?
     It’s not a typo.  Both Ramil and Marie, like you me and most other Pinoys, love an extra bit of money and enjoying the fruits of their labor.  It’s just not a big deal for them, and raising their daughters properly, enjoying their lives together and keeping fit and healthy are what count most.  After that, maybe a trip back home every now and then to visit Ramil’s relatives might be in order.
     As you might guess, that’s the only thing on the other side of the scale that Ramil misses, not hard to imagine since most of Marie’s sisters and both her folks are already here.
     Yun lang ang nakakamiss, sa aming lahat ako lang ang nandito.  Silang lahat (ng kapamilya) nasa Quezon province, Ramil says with a little lump in his throat.  The consolation is he sees his brothers, sisters and parents in each of the faces of his daughters.
     And when you do see the smiling faces of his daughters, the cozy facade of their bungalow, their two-car garage and the cork board full of school athletic and extra-curricular activities, even the sleek but modest entertainment center side-by-side with their wicker/rattan lounge set, what more could you ask?
     Just a loving spouse, family close by, and everything else to remind you that home is in the heart.  Kudos and maraming salamat po, Ramil, Marie and kids!

cheat sheet red flags for pinay admirers


Probably the most famous Pinay wife in NZ, Mona Dotcom, wife of Kim, facing charges of racketeering, copyright infringement and money laundering.

Probably the most famous Pinay wife in NZ, Mona Dotcom, wife of Kim, facing charges of racketeering, copyright infringement and money laundering.

I KNOW it’s a cheesy and clumsy-sounding title, but I couldn’t do any better with the limited title-giving time available, apologies.  The way Pinays are growing as favorites among Kiwi men, you’d think our kabayan Pinays had a new gayuma, aphrodisiac or guy magnet combination, literally dozens of Kiwis are linking up with Pinays everyday online, and eventually bringing them over here to start new lives and new families in an environment that encourages blended families scattered all over the New Zealand landscape.

And why shouldn’t they?  Filipinas are generally attentive, affectionate, loyal and resourceful girlfriends, qualities that are universally appreciated by menfolk, not that we aren’t supposed to be the same ourselves.  But Pinays are also fiercely protective of their families, deeply religious and expect the same loyalty that they shower over their mates.

There are some constants that are immutable for our girls; some values, virtues and even institutions that have weathered the onslaught of change and the tumult of migration.  These they bring to whatever shore they migrate, and their husbands, boyfriends and partners would do well to recognize these constants.

So whether you’re considering a romantic adventure with our Filipinas, just seeking friendship, or already doing your best to improve a budding relationship with your Pinay girlfriend, here are areas over which you would do well to tread over lightly, if at all :

religion and tradition are nearly indistinguishable in the Philippines.  :)

religion and tradition are nearly indistinguishable in the Philippines. 🙂

Religion, specifically positions on social issues taken by the Roman Catholic Church.  Imagine the force of tradition that’s lasted for centuries handed down from generation to generation.  That’s what you contend with when you so much as attempt to discuss religion with Pinoys and Pinays, and although the latter are one of the most modern of their species on Earth, Catholic traditions die hard.  They’re not so much manifestations or gestures of devotion as they are living proofs of what Catholic Spain influenced our forebears to do.

So much so that if your Pinay girlfriend insists on attending Holy Mass every Sunday, refuses to cook any meat dish on Lenten Fridays (between Feb and April, it changes yearly) is set on marrying you before consummating your relationship (yes, there are still those who insist on that), chalk it up to Catholic upbringing and Catholic guilt.  Fighting her on these issues might win you the battle, but it will cost you the war.  So choose your battles carefully, mate.

a family reunion.  Thanks and acknowledgment to philstar.com!

a family reunion. Thanks and acknowledgment to philstar.com!

Family.  At least once in this space I’ve mentioned that if you marry a Pinay, to a certain extent you marry her family, but that’s mostly an exaggeration.  Still, Pinays before they become wives and lovers are first daughters, sisters, aunts and cousins.  The ties that bind are for life, and though they are the most loyal of partners, they will never forget welfare and well-being of family, most especially parents, siblings and elders.

Just the slightest whiff of dissent on your part if she ever decides to help monetarily the people who gave her life (that’s her parents, bro), or if she decides to underwrite the tuition expense of a fave nephew or niece will bring about a full-blown confrontation, so better think twice before making so much as a negative comment about family, particularly helping family.

Better than thinking twice is understanding that family is first second and last on the list of priorities of a Pinay, more so since your girlfriend / spouse / partner has the inside track or  has already reached NZ shores, perceived to be a bottomless source of financial assistance and wherewithal.  Unfair for you my Kiwi friend, but as they say, no money, no honey (sorry for that).

peekingLoyalty.  And since the closeness and tradition of family ties is so important to your Pinay love, it’s not much of a stretch to assume that loyalty and faithfulness is, as well.  What I’m trying to say is your days of being a player and connoisseur of nubile beauties, as soon as you’ve declared your undying love for your Binibining Pilipinas, are long gone.  If you are still entertaining thoughts of playing the field while enjoying the role of Mr Husband of Pinay Beauty, you might succeed for a short, short while but you will soon be reaping the whirlwind.

Reason?  Pinays possess the skills of James Bond, CSI experts and Criss Angel (the mind reader) in one scary package.  They use their powers of intuition effortlessly, pick up the most miniscule clues like they had microscopic vision, and can literally read the thoughts off your forehead like an LCD display, and additionally they are relentless in their pursuit of getting to the bottom of how you can’t account for an hour last Thursday afternoon after you got off work.  Like Chris Rock says, they may not make a big deal of of any indiscretion you commit, but they reserve the right to bring it up between the moment of discovery and whenever she feels like it.

The easiest way to avoid the Pinay counterparts of Dan Craig, David Caruso and Criss Angel (I know they’re only actors and fakes, but it’s easier to visualize this way) is simple : stay true and loyal to your Pinay love throughout the life of your relationship, tell her everything she needs to know, the absolute truth and no prevarications, concealments and misrepresentations, and you can’t go wrong.  When in doubt, just tell her what the facts are, and what you think is right.  I know this sounds simplistic and you might think you can get away at first, but do you know the saying : you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time?  Just substitute your Pinay loved one for all of the people, and believe me, your relationship will flourish swimmingly.

These are just three areas where you should exercise extra care, but they take up a meaty share of what NOT to do if you treasure the Pinay in your arms.  Vaya con Dios my son!