looking for kalakbay : shared travel among kabayan

[thanks and acknowledgment to Fly Pal for the video above. Mabuhay!]

MY VERY first trip back to New Zealand from a balikbayan vacation, I sat next to a kabayan who was a nearly-perfect traveling companion on the last leg of an exciting but wearying journey: a five-hour snoozer between Sydney and Wellington.

He made small talk the first hour before we both gave in to fatigue (I’m sure he was also on the 11-hour flight I was on between Manila and Sydney), quieted down after the hot meal provided so that we could take a much-needed nap, and asked if I needed to use the bathroom or stretch my legs (I had the middle seat). I couldn’t have asked for a better kalakbay (co-traveler) if I had ordered one.

But interestingly (or Pinoyly) enough, some kabayan board a flight wanting or needing someone to be with them for a variety of reasons : it’s their first time travelling and are unsure of the different tasks needed to get through their flight smoothly; a lack of traveling confidence, or extreme tenderness or seniority in years finds a helping hand while traveling quite useful.

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

Prior to wife Mahal’s first trip to Wellington, she was matched up on the Pinoy e-bulletin board with a mom and two sons joining their dad here. The mag-ina (mom and kids) were on their first trip to New Zealand, first trip outside the Philippines, first trip on a jumbo jet, first everything. It was a lot to take for a young mother full of luggage, the normal and human kinds, and a friendly face was quite welcome.

Without Mahal asking for it, by coincidence one of the boys sat next to her and was her foster son for 12 hours, with all the details to attend to, the real mom hardly minded at all. She occupied herself with minding a 7-year old, helped out a kabayan family, and got free practice as a harassed mom.

The kids are probably teenagers now, almost grown-up young men who won’t even recognize Mahal. But the memories remain, especially with the mom, and future mom.

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

Then on our last trip back 2017, we were texted (again through introductions on the New Zealand e-group) that a lola (grandmom) was visiting her kids and grandkids in Johnsonville, a Pinoy stronghold in Wellington region. Would we be kind enough to escort her? In true bayanihan spirit, how could we not?

We had a merry mixup texting with more than one of her Manila-based sons and looking for her, but we didn’t give up. Binilin sya sa amin (she was entrusted to us) so we couldn’t enter the boarding area without her. True enough, she wouldn’t leave her son without seeing us first, and we entered the restricted area together.

Although we weren’t seatmates throughout the entire journey (Manila-Sydney and Sydney-Wellington), we checked in on her, ate together  and spent the stopover (a couple hours) together. From NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International) to Wellington Airport, we were like family.

We never saw her again after family collected her at Wellington arrivals, but the experience undoubtedly will remain with me, Mahal and lola. As should all shared travels between Pinoy kabayan.

Thanks for reading and mabuhay!


Last page of my 2017 OFW diary: salamat employer, salamat Wellington & salamat New Zealand!

overworked.jpg[Note: so sorry I haven’t reached out lately. Maraming salamat sa pagdalaw, maraming salamat sa pagbasa, at maraming salamat sa pagtangkilik! I’ve enjoyed your company throughout the year, hope the feeling is mutual Precious Reader! (btw just had to use that pic above, thanks and acknowledgment to keywordsuggest.org! ]

THE DYING DAYS OF 2017, literally, are when our factory, as a complex, self-contained and autonomous organism, starts to slow down. People start to use up their leave, sick days suddenly start appearing on the time sheet, and even the supervisors / team leaders start zooming off the site early.

To forestall this, right after the Christmas party somewhere mid-December the boss just rosters a skeleton crew until the second week of January, when most of the staff comes out of its month-long hangover and returns to work, battle-ready with hammer and nails (or sword and shield, if you prefer).

I drew the short straw (or “taya” in Filipino playground lingo), not just because I was on leave Christmas last year, but also because the Philippines being so far away, I asked for an extended leave early this year to attend the wedding of my folks’ very first grandchild, my nephew. Except for the statutory holidays, I would be working through the season.

*****     *****     *****

Bisor calls me up with bad news and good news on Christmas Eve.

I’m gonna ask you to do something shitty and you can say no, but I’ll be grateful if you say yes.

Swallowing hard, I say what is it boss?

I’m gonna ask you to do midnight to seven the 27th, get a little rest, then come back to do the afternoon shift same day, I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed.

Arggggggghhhh. And the good news?

Surprise! I finish the week early, Thursday night.

I wanna say “but boss, that’s ONLY BECAUSE I start the week early, diba?” But I decide to save it for a rainy day. (In short, walang good news.)

“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t needed” is code for PLEASE, and besides as long as I had the requisite nine-hour rest between night shift and afternoon shift, the double shift was legal. And I liked my new bisor. Still, it was a lot to ask of my half-century old body.

All this time, the company had been doing little favors for me, like facilitating my legal paperwork, paying for tradesman training (although the ultimate benefit was theirs), and regularly sweetening the usual goodies like shift allowance, meal allowance, and other stuff that they were legally committed to anyway but improved on. It was time to give back, Noel.

That meant coming back to work midnight after Boxing Day (a holiday), getting a little sleep and then dragging myself back for the afternoon shift. Tough, but someone had to do it.

*****     *****     *****

LESS THAN 24 HOURS LATER, just as I thought I’d gone above and beyond the call of duty, comes the acting supervisor (not the one who called me earlier) with another request. Could I work till 2 am my last shift of the year (an extra three hours!), keep the packer company and, as long as I was there, keep the factory running?

The whole week before Christmas I was already on night shift by the way. Adding to the unexpected night shift the 27th, working till 2 am was almost like another night shift. Grrr… Guess what I told acting bisor?

Sure. Just tell my shift partner so we’ll finish the same time.

*****     *****     *****

It wasn’t just the extra production time needed, of course. Health and safety rules here don’t allow single man shifts (except in specific situations), so the packer working alone, admittedly urgent, was a no-no. And I liked the old packing guy, with his easy-going ways and taking pride in his work. How could I say no?

*****     *****     *****

Most OFWs and migrants say New Zealand is a great place to work, and I’m no exception. Labor laws are followed to the letter, and any doubt in the interpretation of the law or evidence in disputes are usually resolved in favor of the worker, and as long as you don’t have vices and live frugally, the pay is good.

Despite my status as guest worker, I’m treated as a local. I enjoy the same rights as any other worker, get to join a union, receive all the benefits, and get credited with seniority and recognition like anyone else.

I sometimes take these for granted, and I need little wake-up calls like year-end situations to tell me, nakikisama kami sa yo, pero kapag panahon ng gipitan, makisama ka rin sana.

It’s true that NZ needs its migrants to run the engine of growth, mind its dairy farms and care for its aging population, but those of us already here need NZ just as much. To live quality lives, raise our families and fulfill our dreams. We need each other.

*****     *****     *****

For the record, the shift went well. The packer, a brown guy like me, from the Cook Islands filled his packing orders, packed a record number of pallets of product for the supermarkets, and we all went home happy.

Happy to have done our bit for ourselves, the company, and for New Zealand, our last shift of the year.

Thanks for reading and happy 2018, mabuhay!








the dirty little secret of many pinoy communities

[ Thank you and acknowledgment to YouTube poster Maypagasa for use of the video! ]

BEFORE ANY FURTHER, may I qualify that statement above, which I’ll expand into the rest of the blog, kabayan?

On the whole, and in general, Filipinos are kind, decent and caring people, who get along with anybody and everybody everywhere all over the world, with their own kind but especially among people of other races and nationalities. So much so that bukod tangi, in prosperous cities, countries, or regions where professionals, tradesmen and workers from all nations accumulate, Filipinos are popular, well-known and requested either as co-workers, colleagues or employees.

Our very own Ambassador to New Zealand His Excellency Jesus Gary Domingo likened us to “a thousand suns” that cannot shine in unison but on their own, without other Filipinos around, in order to be fully appreciated.

The “dirty little secret” refers to the lack of unity or organization among Filipinos in some if not most migrant and overseas communities, sometimes to the point of being a disadvantage to the kabayan in these communities who need it the most.

*****          *****          *****

To be sure, there will always be Pinoy orgs, clubs, interest groups anywhere abroad. Put two or three of our countrymen (women) together and you can be sure there will be talk of registering that group, for tax, financial assistance or any advantage whatsoever.

A recently departed embassy official told me that in one of her deployments in the developed world, there were 500,000 ethnic Filipinos either born in the Philippines or of Filipino descent.  Out of this massive number, there were about 5000 Filipino organizations, all of them legal entities, that their embassy dealt with regularly. So you can imagine the logistical work needed to get all of the orgs (not to mention their members!) on the same page, especially when a big project was in the works.

But that’s just one example, one situation. Imagine all over the world, Filipino communities active in their own productive lives, wanting to do the right thing for themselves and others, but not being all that effective as a group, whether strictly as Filipinos or with others. You can hazard a few intelligent guesses for this, but I’ll enumerate them for you kabayan:

Specific interest groups, usually driven by one or two personalities. You know the type. A natural leader, usually driven in his or her desire to do good, being the driving force and providing nearly all the energy behind an organization. The others are there just for the ride, the free lunches and maybe there’s something in it for them. I hate to sound jaded and pessimist, but that’s the way it goes, business organizations or otherwise. Remember Pareto’s rule, where 20% of the group does 80% of the work? That applies to most Pinoy clubs, groups or organizations.

Now what happens is a lot of groups like these ultimately burn themselves out, with a tragically short shelf life. Either the leader himself or herself gets tired, because of the failure to see that from the very start it should’ve been a team effort, or the other members (usually part of the leadership) see that the group agenda is driven by one person only. And why not? because that one person does all the work  🙂

In many cases also, Pinoy groups are founded on the common denominator/s of religion, business goals or objectives (seeking funding or deals as a single entity), or in preparation for a Pinoy-themed event (a sports fest, a cultural event, what have you). Have you ever heard of a Pinoy group formed for the general welfare of Pinoys in that community? I mean, an organization or pangkat formed for Pinoys, purely for fostering the interest of Pinoys in general? Tell me about it if you have, because I for sure haven’t.

Intramurals and intrigues. Now because in almost every Pinoy group, leadership and authority is centered in one or two individuals, power tends to stay there and perpetuate itself. Whatever the good intentions or lofty goals of the organization, as the latter evolves, membership increases and, most importantly, dinero starts to materialize, it becomes serious business (literally). It’s no longer a mom-and -pop affair : talk of allowances, per diem during meetings and how to allocate funding becomes an intensely debated topic or topics. Where before members would volunteer their services and expertise for free, now a little appreciation (of course, in the form of a little cash) becomes part of the discussion. Grumblings start to surface about how certain group policies are forgotten, how personalities get in the way, and how some members can no longer work with each other, on issues that have nothing to do with the group itself.

Before long, splinter groups emerge, the group shatters into pieces, and chaos reigns. If you think this kind of thing happens back home in the Philippines, think again kabayan, because I’ve heard it happen in Pinoy clubs all over the world, in infinite situations and countless reincarnations. Only the lyrics change, but the song remains the same throughout.

Politics. Just that one dirty word will tell you how brittle all organizations are in and out of the Philippines, no matter how pure and well-meaning the motives at the start. I refer not just to political parties but to how politically motivated intentions start to infect the friendships and united efforts of the Pinoy clubs and in the end, twist and mangle the original mission statement so much that the founders end up entirely losing sight of what they set out to do.

It doesn’t matter if one particular party or group is in the right or if another is totally in the wrong. Most of Filipino politics is personality-driven anyway, with party membership and principles a meaningless device to be used at one’s convenience. When political affiliation based on the party or personality in power (back in the homeland) starts to influence the life of the Pinoy org, then you can kiss it goodbye. It can no longer function healthily, and before long people will start to leave. That’s the reality, and it will never change. The tragedy is, politically motivated Pinoys in and out of the organizations or clubs think they are doing what is best for the group, and end up destroying it. Tsk tsk tsk, sayang lang.

Kabayan please don’t think I refer in particular to one Pinoy community or another, specially in my adopted country. As far as I know, this phenonenon persists everywhere there are Pinoys, across the seven seas. So if we are proud of our good points as Filipinos, we should also strive to do better, as regards our shortcomings.

Key words there. Strive to do better. There’s always room for improvement.

Thanks for reading, Mabuhay po tayong lahat!



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.

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

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.)

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

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!


juan tamad gets poked gives blood sees double atbp for the visa physical

hope you don't think it's in poor

hope you don’t think it’s in poor “taste” (get it?), thanks & acknowledgment to memeblender.com! 🙂

IT’S THAT time of the year again, Precious Reader.  Roll of the dice, shell game or single bullet in the chamber (sorry for the morbid metaphor), call it what you will, but the parchment that permits our stay in Disneyland to earn our pieces of silver another year needs to be renewed, based on many factors but mainly on whether or not the job we perform is important enough that even non-permanent residents like me should be left alone to do it.  And continue staying in the land of milk and honey by the way.

But that’s not our topic du jour prepared especially for you Precious Read.  Rather, every now and then (as opposed to every year, at least they’re not that cruel) Immigration New Zealand sees it fit that we guest workers submit ourselves to medicals and physicals to determine whether or not we are fit and healthy enough to continue working in this paradise.  That is what I wanna talk to you about today, how I went about doing it.  Or rather, how I went about having it done to me.

I had to in summary, submit to a basic physical, give blood and urine, then see the doc again if there were any issues based on the bloodwork and other tests.  Easier said than done, but it’s not like we had a choice.  Moreover, the entire thing would set me back roughly $500NZ, a pretty penny but well worth it. The doctor, a white Kiwi in his mid-50’s tried to be as professional as possible, but I couldn’t avoid  getting a creepy feeling.  I remembered him from last time, which wasn’t difficult because he touched my family jewels for a little longer than a few seconds.  He also tickled my smelly heels with a semi-sharp instrument, ostensibly to check my responses but likewise to see how Asians laugh.  But that’s just me.

Just before that was the usual twenty questions, which any sane worker wanting to continue staying in New Zealand would answer no to.  Have you ever been exposed to : tuberculosis, HIV, drug abuse, any communicable disease, ever been treated for mental illness, ever been operated on, ever stayed in bed for more than a week, etc. etc. etc?  His tone was cordial, but his demeanor and eyes were screaming :  you would be crazy to answer yes to any of these apocalyptic-sounding questions, and, as I had been doing the past eight-plus years, answered no no no no no no, and for good measure, a resounding NO!  To which he replied, with deadpan understatement, that’s good then.

All very good then, but my general denials had to be backed up by my blood chemistry, x-rays and related stuff, which had to be sorted out and organized in two different clinics nearby.  Said establishments were very quick and efficient, much like seasoned workers herding obedient cows and goats to the milking stations.  Which was in a sense what we were, since body fluids and other unmentionables were gonna be secreted out of us nervous individuals.

[I say nervous because let’s face it, I had recently reached my half-century mark, and this was the time for all good men to face the reality of middle age, where lifestyle diseases start to make their presence felt, where Mother Nature tries to cash cheques your body wrote out years and years ago, and where you start paying for the foolishness of misguided youth.  You can’t blame me for thinking if any of this silliness starts looking for payback in the form of red marks on physical exams.]

*****     *****     *****

Coincidentally I had a lung capacity, blood pressure and eye/hearing test done at the workplace the previous week, but for slightly different reasons.  Occupational hazards like unacceptable noise levels, dust levels and the realities of physical exertion required that we maintain a certain level of fitness, and that we haven’t broken down from said occupational hazards, and the only way to determine this was if the employer itself conducted physicals. My BP was an acceptable 125/60, hearing and lung capacity roughly the same as last year’s, but because I brought an old pair of spectacles to work that day, I didn’t pass the eye exam.  Let’s just say if I was taking a driving test that day, I would’ve been sent home for a retest.

All told, I’m generally as fit as a fiddle for a man my age, but I’m still waiting for the results of my blood and x-rays.  We never feel as mortal as when confronted by the reality of the state of our bodies, and I try to be as realistic as the next human being.  We are only as good as our last physical, and thank you God for every sunrise that we wake up to!  Thanks for reading!

why does it hurt so much to lose? (or why the pinoy is lovingly pikon)

Team NZ and Team USA, tough competitors of the America's Cup

Team NZ and Team USA, tough competitors of the America’s Cup

[We’ve been through a particularly stressful time, and hope that if there’s at least one person out there who’s been waiting for us, you’ve been patient enough, and thanks for waiting.  Woohoo! ]

IT’S ALRIGHT to talk about it now, but I was in a sorry, sorry funk the first few days.  Towards the deafening anti-climax, you fought the good fight and hoped against hope, but deep down you knew the game was already lost .  It was verily a living nightmare that built upon itself, collapsed upon itself and both obliterated and extinguished my brightest hopes and laughed in my face when I dared to dream my fondest dream.  Now, multiply this very personal nightmare by about four million, and you begin to approximate an idea of what I’m talking about.

What the eff are you talking about kabayan Noel?  I can hear you say.  I’m just  relating to you the humongous meltdown experienced by Team New Zealand after leading Team USA’s Oracle 8-2 (first to win nine races would’ve won) to last week lose what was painfully within reach, the America’s Cup.

In boat racing, the America’s Cup is like the NBA’s World Championship, Major League Baseball’s World Series, the four tennis majors and golf’s four majors melted into one.  It was a sublime, transcendent win for the Americans in what is almost undoubtedly the greatest comeback in all of sports.  But to the losers it was a tragedy that is hard to accept, much less live down.

It’s too painful to recount to you how Team NZ lost their mojo after racing through seven of the first eight races effortlessly as if they were destined to win.  It’s still inexplicable how after the Kiwis looked like they could do no wrong, suddenly smashed into windy conditions and made error after error.  It didn’t help that people were already talking about the huge economic impact to Auckland where the next America’s  Cup would be held, as soon as Team New Zealand won.

That was the key phrase.  As soon as.  Meaning, Team NZ hadn’t won yet.  And they haven’t, two weeks later.

I noticed that it wasn’t so much the fact that America won the America’s Cup (it is after all named after them) but the fact that New Zealand, my temporary adopted country, lost.  I realized that in many many occasions where I am an active partisan and an active spectator, almost like a stakeholder in the fortunes of my favored team, what hurts more than the other winning is my team’s losing.  The only thing I can’t stand more than NOT WINNING is LOSING.  I know each outcome is synonymous with the other, but it makes a world of difference if you take your partisanship seriously.  Particularly if the team you’re losing to is a worthy victor.  Crazy, right?  But more often than not, it makes sense.

When I was a high school student and a PBA fanatic more than a few years ago, I was usually in the minority whenever I rooted for my  beloved Toyota Tamaraws (which became the Toyota Super Corollas).  I didn’t mind my team being upset  occasionally by lesser teams like U-tex Wranglers or Royal Tru-Orange but whenever there was a matchup with arch-rival Crispa Redmanizers, I was all wound up not by the thought of thrashing the hated first five of Co, Fabiosa, Hubalde, Cezar and Guidaben but by being outcoached by the master tactician, Baby Dalupan.  It was not quite the ideal, but I was actually rooting for my team to not lose, instead of winning.

I found that I was not alone in my particular brand of not-losing-is-better-than-winning.  It was alright for my UP Fighting Maroons not to win, we were in fact never expected to challenge for the UAAP title year after year (except that golden moment in ’86 when Benjie Paras & Co. won it all).  As long as first, we didn’t end up the doormat, and two, we didn’t lost to particular teams like Ateneo (our neighbor in Diliman), UST (for some reason we hated them) and co-cellar dweller NU, who is not so weak now.

I notice that as long as we don’t lose to regional rivals Taiwan and Korea in basketball, no campaign is too miserable.  But most of all, it’s the fact that if ever we lose, we don’t want to lose badly, we don’t want to be embarrassed when we lose, and again, we don’t want to lose to certain teams that make losing a double-jeopardy thing.  You lose, and you lose to someone you dislike.

Did you ever notice that we Pinoys tend to excel in certain sports to the exclusion of a whole lot of others?  Remember the time when Pinoys were known to be great, the world over, in sports that began only with the letter “B”?  Of course it’s not true, but we certainly have a surplus of great billiards and basketball players that can compete among the world’s best, anytime and anyplace.  And I don’t need to tell you how we punch above our weight, literally, in nearly all boxing divisions save for the heaviest ones.  Reason?  We are physically talented in those sports.  Because we won’t stand a chance in many other events, we’d rather not compete.

It’s unfair, but I think that’s the reality.  For a country with athleticism and physical intensity such as ours, have you ever wondered why we’ve never won a gold medal in the Olympics?  It may be hare-brained for me to say so, but it’s probably because we have preconditioned ourselves into thinking we’ll never be world-class in sports where we traditionally don’t do well.  So there’s no concerted effort to develop our grassroots sports in those areas.  Kesa mapikon lang tayo at masaktan, huwag na lang.

One last anecdote.  We Pinoys are pikon (sore losers), although we don’t openly admit it.  (the Kiwis are the reverse; they are good losers but love their country too much to admit that other countries send better teams.)  The only time we admit we are pikon is when first, our numbers are so strong the other side can’t be pikon and fight back; and when, while being pikon, we can still make fun of ourselves.

And for it’s for this reason that Barangay Ginebra, eternal inhabitants of the PBA arena, will always exist.

thanks for reading!

Nang Madatnan Si Gollum Papuntang Middle Earth (Bumping into Gollum on the way to Middle Earth)

There's something about memorabilia and authentic collectibles that make you savor the film and book experience.

[ Note from Noel : Happy birthdays to batchmates Raul delos Santos, Andrew Ong, Wilson Ong and Stephen Liao, kudos to the FILINARTIZTS group for their Festival of Carnivale participation in Wellington, interpreting an Ati-atihan inspired performance.  Mabuhay and thanks for making us proud to be Pinoy ! ]

WE GOT lost three times despite Google Maps and checking out the site, but getting there and taking it all in was worth it, and the pics are here to prove it.

I’m referring to the Weta Cave, the mini-museum and shrine put up by the partnership led by Oscar-award winning director and New Zealand icon Peter Jackson, and which is something no one visiting Wellington can afford to miss.

As you might guess, the mini-museum houses several life-size dummies used in Jackson’s obra maestra, the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy  (the majority of which was shot on location in NZ), including Gollum, Orcs (a warlike subhuman species created by LOTR author J.R.R. Tolkien), the creations of several Jackson collaborators (artists, special effects engineers, screenwriters, etc.) and quite a few mementoes of a few of his films before and after LOTR.

The star of the show with a great looker, bahala ka na lang kung sino ang alin 😉

If you’re a science fiction and fantasy buff, it’s a feast for the eyes and mind that you will not be able to replicate unless you visit a Comic-Con or similar multi-media extravaganza available only in the Americas or Europe.

If you’re an Lord of The Rings and / or Narnia fan and lap up anything connected with Middle Earth, alternate worlds or glorious wars of various ages before Man ruled the planet (it’s figurative language only 🙂 ) then the Weta Cave is probably on both ends of your There And Back Again itinerary.

But most of all, if you’re a Peter Jackson diehard and you’ve followed his work even before Lord of The Rings and have seen every item on his filmology, whether he’s contributed as screenwriter, producer or director, then this is a shrine that is the focal point of your pilgrimage.

Now, I don’t even consider myself a serious afficionado or any of the above (some people actually studied Elven, spoken by some of the LOTR characters), although I’ve read and watched the books and movies at least twice (Ganda and Bunso have done so more than double that), and didn’t even realize I’d seen quite a few Peter Jackson movies, but together with good bro Jude I’ve never strayed too far from the sci-fi and fantasy genre, and seeing the compact film and alternative culture-inspired museum was quite a treat.

Underneath a likeness of the Uruk-hai, one of the Orc subspecies used by Saruman in LOTR : The Two Towers

Along with rugby, its world-class dairy industry and an adventurous spirit (think Sir Edmund Hillary), Enzed is known for its cutting edge film and downstream industry, and the high point of global recognition it received came during the decade dominated by LOTR and the torrent of adulation that followed.

To be sure, and to avoid offending Tolkien fans, Jackson’s creations, collaborations and filmology are not synonymous with the great body of work of Tolkien, who is considered one of the greatest authors of the 20th century.  But it can’t be denied that Jackson’s efforts have entrenched the genre, and by extension reading even more deeply in popular culture, and in the process put NZ on the map.  That’s why you can’t help but feel he’s such a great guy, even if he’s a filthy rich multi-millionaire 🙂

But enough of that.  I could talk about all the ultra-cool busts of every major LOTR character, the prosthetics used in some of his movies, and best of all, the glittering future of more movies, notably Tintin (the comics versions of which I read in the 1970s and which will use hypermodern motion capture technology popularized by Avatar) and mouth-wateringly, The Hobbit, an LOTR prequel, but I wouldn’t be able to stop.  Let me just try to post a pic or two here, don’t have to tell you it was an eventful day for this accidental migrant.

Thanks for reading !