It’s not always about the money [ but it helps :-) ]

[My life wasn’t that hard back home, but this scene reminded me of difficult times in younger years, and I couldn’t help but smile at the work of art of Mr Chaplin.  Time for a laugh, kabayan ! ]

ANOTHER NO-BRAINER among the many gems I’ve come up with lately (tongue-in-cheek) , I’ve come to the astounding conclusion that the overall benefits I enjoy go far beyond the monetary rewards currently received on Middle Earth, where hobbits, elves and orcs gambol in J.R. Tolkien‘s and Peter Jackson’s eternal imagination.

A better way to put it would be, notwithstanding the fact that I’ve never earned as much in my life as I’ve done here, I would need to earn even more money if I wanted to enjoy the same or equivalent benefits back home.

It’s not easy to quantify the benefits to which I refer; there are accurate ways to measure them but it’s done on a macroeconomic or economy-wide level. (That’s probably the first and last time I use that word in a blog. ;))

Rather than try to enumerate such benefits according to specific areas, I think it would be less boring if I come up with specific examples of why I think I have just as much to lose (besides the income) if I were to go home abruptly without a smooth transition or a buffer fund against financial displacement.

On night shifts I can go home from work on a bike without too much worry from motorists and other nocturnal hazards.  There are peace and order and crime-related issues here like any other cosmopolitan and highly-urbanized  nation.  But they (such issues) pale in comparison to how it is back home, where ordinary citizens fear not only common criminals and organized crime but also hulidap specialists in the police, incorrigibles in the military, gangsters in politics and hoodlums in (judicial) robes.  I regret the generalization here but the disparity is too much.

To reduce it to the ridiculous : besides one isolated bike accident I attribute more to stupid negligence than anything else, I haven’t suffered anything untoward cycling to and from work for nearly three years, but if I had the same opportunity to bike the same distance on a night shift back home, I would decline every single night, although I would gladly ride the taxi or FX on a well-lighted bus stop.

I can run and exercise to my heart’s content in relatively pollution-free air, relatively safe streets and sidewalks that are more-or-less friendly to joggers.  Let me try to illustrate this opinion in another way.  For me to enjoy running in approximately the same way back home, I would have to run in a gated community, far from the center of Metro Manila where all the work is done, with as little traffic as possible (unlikely anywhere urbanized), and preferably with wide cinderpaths, greenery and tree-lined lanes.

Because of my financial circumstances (very modest), residential location choices (very limited) and career options (very narrow), you probably come to the conclusion that I won’t get those running conditions.  While I’m not an obsessive runner, I do enjoy its universal appeal and undemanding nature (you can stop and start anytime), and the fact that you don’t need to much equipment (shoes and shorts lang) and companions (running alone is enough company most of the time).  Wellington seems to be very runner-friendly even without trying to, if you can hack the initial chilliness and the rare unfriendly dog-walker (and their dog/s, of course), and I appreciate very much the unintended benefit my adopted abode has provided my fitness and general appearance.  I don’t foresee the same enthusiasm if I had to repatriate in a hurry, unless I had extra cash for a flashy treadmill or gym membership (improbable).

Esposa hermosa and I can enjoy quality groceries and commodities at reasonable prices despite our humble wages.  The best cuts of meat, the cleanest and most healthy vegetables, succulent fruits and hygienically-baked bread products are available from all the supermarkets at reasonable prices.  Not dirt-cheap OK, because NZ has to support its agrarian industries at a certain prices, and taxes, a living wage and realistic overhead are all factors we have to live with, but as long as you have a decent job, you don’t have vices and you keep eyes peeled and ears pricked for the juicy sales, you will have nutritious and clean meals on your dinner table every evening.  If Kiwis and locals can do it, you can imagine the miracles dollar-conscious and creative Pinoys can do with their food budgets.  Sadly, a living wage back home is no longer deserving of the modifier “living.”  You probably know what I mean, the peso can only stretch so far and can you imagine a four-or five-person household surviving on P1,500 – P2,000 pamalengke a week?  Honestly, I can’t.

**      **     **     **     **

I could go on and on beyond these three examples, but I’m sure you know what I mean.  If you have other ways to show how non-monetary factors make it extremely hard to consider going back home, I would gladly hear them.

I’ve said more than once that among my siblings, I’ve been the most wayward and hard-headed, and this has resulted in my enduring a harder life than theirs.  The only good thing that’s come out of it is that I’ve seen and gained an appreciation for how the greater part of our kabayan live, and how unsurpassed we are in our blessings and good fortune, to live the way we do, not least of which being the simple but comfortable way of life of Pinoys in NZ.

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 !