towards an unspoken code of flatmates and flatting


[ Note: To kabayan going home during Christmas, have fun, spread the wealth around, but please take care.  Cliche-ish, but it’s no longer the same Philippines you left.  Thanks for reading, and thank you for the video ABS-CBN! ]

PRIOR TO Mahal arriving and joining me here in NZ, I was a flatmate with kabayan two out of two years.  Then after Mahal and I went flat-hunting and finally settled on a flat (apartment) we liked, we found a flatmate, then a flatmate, then a flatmate.  It was initially out of necessity, then we realized that as long as the flatmate was reasonably easy to live with, we liked living with flatmates.

We did this, knowing the usual caveats when seeking out and getting accustomed to flatmates: DON’T be flatmates with your best friends (you will always disappoint each other).  DON’T be too close with flatmates.  DON’T generalize and expect behaviors from flatmates according to preconceived notions based on regions (for example, Ilokanos are frugal, Pampangos are boastful, etc).  We based our tendency to look for flatmates on economics,  but also because we knew that Pinoys, for all our faults, liked to help each other, especially Pinoy migrants in the initial stages of settling in New Zealand.  Paying it forward, kumbaga  (so to speak).

Without further ado, here are the do’s and don’t we have accumulated while living and co-existing with flatmates in New Zealand:

DO help with the chores around the house.  On paper, flatmates  only need to clean up after themselves and look after their own junk.  But in practice, it’s always common sense to put yourself in the shoes of the owner / landlord/ flat mate-in-charge, and do whatever is needed for the betterment of the flat. You needn’t go all out, just do a little vacuuming, sweep around the place or water the plants / feed the pet if there’s a garden or house pet. A little effort goes a long way.

DO be sensitive with special needs and situations of flatmates.  If a flatmate is on night shift at least once a month, the week/s he or she is on the graveyard shift, sleeping times are obviously inverted, meaning when you’re awake, they’re trying to rest, and when you’re sleeping, they’re up and about, or just about to come home.  That means we need to be a little quieter around the house, and realize that when we’re ready to be off to work, they’re trying to sleep…

A flatmate and his/her group conducting Bible study / prayer meetings Tuesday early evenings?  Just for that one night (in fact, just for a couple hours), vacating the living room to give them a little more privacy and focus in their godly activity shows not only that you respect their faith, but that you can accommodate people with as much tolerance as possible (as long as it’s not TOO much or abusive na ha, use your own good judgment).

DO be sensitive about shared facilities, particularly toilet and bathroom, kitchen, TV viewing and computers (if the latter is part of the rent).  In most flats, there is only one toilet, and one bathroom.  It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that where there are between four to six users of such toilet, usage must be distributed equally and sensibly according to need and the different schedules of flatmates.

The need to understand and appreciate the complexity of this reality, the reality of shared use of toilet and bath, is nearly always underestimated and neglected, to the detriment of the flatmate relationship.  For one thing, the call of nature is something that can’t be ignored or delayed, and yet because we fear loss of face, we just can’t tell someone to get out of the toilet because we just HAVE TO let our bowels or bladders loose.  This dilemma and insensitivity on the part of the current toilet user, shallow though it may sound, may later escalate into major arguments that lead to flatmates parting ways.

Use of laptops and desktops are nowadays not so much an issue because of iPads, tablets, phablets and smartphones, but there are still flatting arrangements where the flat sharing fee includes use of a common computer, especially for messaging and emailing.  Which means, the time we get around to messaging and emailing our loved ones in the Philippines, assuming our flatmates are kabayan, are roughly the same.  So you take turns using prime time.

DO recognize that activities or habits that you may consider normal may not be so for other kabayan.  This is primarily why the classifieds and notices for flatmates specifically ask whether the owner/primary flatmate minds smokers, drinkers, socializers, etc.   Pinoys in my experience are generally more tolerant and circumspect about these things but it’s always good practice to ask.  Just ask yourself:  would  non-smokers mind tobacco smoke in the flat?  How much alcohol consumption is too much, and what is considered reasonable?  A good balance of tolerance and rulemaking, being aware of the sensitivities of your flatmates, and managing your own habits is key to being a good flatmate.

DO treat your flatmate/s as decently as you would your friend, relative or co-worker, as if you’d be flatmates forever.  Let’s be honest.  “Flatting,” or renting with flatmates, as it’s called in New Zealand, is at best a temporary arrangement, a relationship of convenience designed to fill gaps, scratch an itch, keep everyone happy until better things materialize.  But it’s not like, let’s just try to co-exist and after this, we’ll never see each other again.  It simply isn’t true.  While we may not be flatmates forever, flatting and being flatmates can be the foundation of a friendship that can last a lifetime.

This becomes possible when you do the simple thing and observe the golden rule.  Do unto your flatmates what you’d want them to do unto you.  Basic things like cleaning up after yourself, keeping quiet when you know flatmates are resting, staying out of the way when flatmates are entertaining visitors, and going out of your way to do household chores, are things that will create comments like, “that Noel?  yeah he was a pretty decent flatmate before he got married,” or “Noel for a flatmate?  we could do a lot worse!

Yeah, I wish I could get comments like those.  But you get the idea.  Be a good flatmate, and ultimately, you will get good flatmates.

You won’t see any of these rules, and you won’t find flatmates talking about it.  But here they are now.

Mabuhay, Maligayang Pasko sa lahat!

what new zealanders REALLY think of us pinoys


productsfromnz

[thanks and acknowledgment for the pic to productsfromnz.com! ]

SHAY MITCHELL of the world-famous TV hit Pretty Little Liars said it best, even if it was a little rude : when the half-Pinay was asked if her mom was a yaya (nanny or babysitter), she was reported by Cosmopolitan to have answered no eff-er, but even if she was, so what?  Do you know how hard it is to be one?  Being yayas, nurses and construction workers is just one of the multi-faceted dimensions of being a Filipino, and we do other things as well. But people all over the world have preconceived notions of us Pinoys, and it’s up to us to disabuse them of those notions.

As usual, I don’t claim to be an expert in what non-Pinoys think of us, but I DO have an advantage in that I’ve been living in New Zealand albeit as  a guest worker, and I do have encounters and interactions with New Zealanders regularly, but admittedly not as much as I’d like (I usually work in two-man shifts every other week).  Here is a short list of some of the things Kiwis observe about us, but of course the list is not exhaustive:

Pinoys are team players in the game of nation building and just want to do their bit while raising families and developing careers.  Sometime in the 1990s, New Zealand decided to meet the (then) labor deficiency challenge head-on and opened their doors to migration.  The result has been mixed, but Pinoy migrants have made New Zealand decision-makers look like geniuses.  Pinoys are productive members of the workforce, are not generally known to be troublemakers or criminal offenders, and you will hardly see any Pinoys unemployed or on the (employment or sickness) benefit.

These will be supported by statistics, but on personal experience, I can confidently tell you that no  Pinoy wants to be seen as idle by choice.  There’s always work to be had in New Zealand, as long as you’re not choosy.  And it’s part of the migrant way of thinking that, because you’ve been granted the privilege of living in a country, you do your part by pulling your weight, even if it’s doing jobs you don’t particularly fancy.  This way, you participate in the economy, at the very least pay taxes that run the engine of government, and don’t become a burden to your hosts.  Just common courtesy, actually.

Someone very close to me (please don’t ask me to identify him/her, as doing so would jeopardize my life 🙂 ) had just become a permanent resident a few years ago but had had a particularly difficult time finding a job that matched his/her skills.  When I half-joked that at the very least, being on the dole (unemployment benefit) would be an option, he/she indignantly retorted, I didn’t come to New Zealand to be an unemployment beneficiary or words to that effect.  I then realized, belatedly, that such an option, option though it was, would be unthinkable for me as well.

Among a diverse group of migrant workers, Pinoy workers respond best to specific instructions and orders rather than a general set of goals.  I’m not entirely sure why this is so, just guessing that Pinoys prefer as little room as possible for doubt in executing tasks and plans especially when in an environment they’re not used to.

But probably the better reason Pinoys do better under detailed directions, and so have the tendency, over other migrant nationalities, to ask for such level of detail, is the fact that most Pinoys as OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) speak fluent English, almost as a first language (after of course the native  Tagalog, Bisaya, Ilokano or other dialects ).  Having heard and spoken English most of their lives, they are eager to show their Kiwi employers the relative ease in assimilating into and adapting to their new work environment, compared to other, non-English speaking races.

And finally…

Kiwis think Pinoys try hard to get along with everyone not only to be part of the team but to be likable by everyone.  This is, not just easily explainable but also understandable not only if you’re a Pinoy but also if you’ve worked with anyone Pinoy, half-Pinoy or married to one.  It’s part of Pinoys to work as part of a team, and consider all members of the work team (weeeeeell, anyone who WANTS to be part of the team) to be part of the family.

It’s second nature for a Pinoy to look out for each other in the work team, to fill in or help out if someone needs a hand, so to speak.  It’s natural for Pinoys to consider the office, workplace or factory as like a second home, where the inhabitants are totally comfortable and treat all the co-inhabitants as family members.

The downside to this is that, if Pinoys can’t convince themselves to like certain members of the workplace, they believe that they can’t work well with the same unlikable workmates as well.  Which is also probably why, on the assumption that liking Pinoys will foster mutual likability, Pinoys try quite hard to make themselves liked at the workplace.

Do you agree?  These are based on specific experiences, quotes and anecdotes learned and earned here and there, so the above are highly subjective and easily proven (or disproven).  But if it can contribute,  even just a bit, to a better understanding of the lives Pinoy migrants have led in New Zealand, then it would have been worth it.  Just sayin’.

Mabuhay and thanks for reading!

 

why walking (& even running) is better than standing for this middle-aged OFW


lower-back-pain-2

thanks and acknowledgment for the photo to spinecarechiropractic.com.au!

[ Prayers and concern for our brother and sister kabayan in Davao City and environs. ]

THE FIRST TIME i felt the pain was when I was carrying a moderately heavy load, a half-bag (sack or supot) of product, between 5-10 kg I think.

Aray, ouch, not a sharp twinge of traumatic impact pain but rather a dull bag! of discomfort, more like a heavy knock between my upper thigh and buttocks, classically where sciatic nerve pain occurs.  The pain wasn’t remarkable enough for me to cry out and complain the usual way I do (I’m a neurotic complainer), but it was enough for me to stop and take stock of the situation.

Now, that’s different.  I don’t remember anything like it before, although I’m used to fatigue, bumps and bruises and other pains associated with specific events.  This one happened out of nowhere, although at the time I had been performing a manual task.

The pain lessened somewhat after a break, one I took every two hours on this longish 12-hour night shift. (I’m assuming it was on nights because I do a night shift every other week now).  But as soon as I resumed regular work and chores, the nagging pain returned.

*****

The irony was (is), as long as I walked or even ran (except for the first few minutes, I always suffer a little stiffness coming from sitting or prone positions), I was fine.  The pain, which now alternated between dull throbs in my upper thigh-buttock area (left leg only) and pinpricks on the lower thighs to upper legs, was most prominent when I was stationary, a position I now logically avoided at all costs.

But as we workers, Pinoy,  OFW or otherwise, all know, work involves a thousand and one positions of the standing, sitting and mobile human body.  We are forever finding new combinations of  bodily activity to adjust to our multi-tasking, enhanced-activity, productivity-greedy jobs.  We stretch, crouch, squat, half-sit, half-stand, kneel, crawl all the time, every hour of the day, without a second thought.

All of which is murder, one killing blow at a time, to our lower backs.

*****

I can’t blame anyone for my suspected sciatica (suspected cuz it hasn’t been confirmed, but the signs are pretty clear).  All my life, I’ve been abusing my body beyond reason, beyond repair.  I remember staying awake 48 hours, smoking used butt of cigarets, and drinking alcohol well beyond my limits.  But this was during my failed experiment with youth.  The rest of my working life, my abuse has mostly been walking too much, standing too long, and spending too many days (nights) on physically exhausting extended shifts.  My body is only responding to the wear-and-tear I’ve exposed it to.

I can still work normally, but I need to take regular breaks now, apply warm compresses to my back on those freezing Wellington nights, and use my days off for quality breaks.  As any middle-aged person in his/her right mind should be doing.

The most important things I can do now regarding my pinched-nerve situation are specific stretching exercises that seem to relieve the pain and tightness in the area, rest whenever I can, and STAYING AWAY from the stationary, standing position.

If I can remember to do these simple things, then for the rest of my so-called life, I’m good.  For now.

Thanks for reading and mabuhay!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bakit di laging masama ang kaplastikan sa trabaho


plasticman

[ Hi there: I can’t apologize for the wry or pessimistic nature of the post; but I hope you’re not too put off by it Precious Reader.  Most of the time we celebrate the positive aspects of the Pinoy personality.  Just not this time.  Thanks and acknowledgment for the plasticman pic to cooltoyreview.com and  happy workweek ahead, everyone! ]

YOU KNOW it, I know it, we all know it.

“Kaplastikan” (the first and last time I’ll mark the word with quote marks, it is, after all used almost universally where Filipino is spoken) is as much a part of Pinoy existence as rice, videoke and halo-halo.  It is time to acknowledge it, at home, in the workplace and in public life, and to accept it for what is: something that all of us use, recognize and live with.

As a working definition, let me offer one: behavior or speech that is often insincere but more or less acceptable to the listener or person/s around, designed to avoid awkwardness, unnecessary disagreements or minor misunderstandings which do not affect the result of the current interaction “facilitated” by such plastic behavior (the adjective form of kaplastikan).

Frequently we all deride or disparage our countrymen or women kabayan of kaplastikan but the truth is, all of us, no exception (unless you’re a living saint or a hermit), behave with kaplastikan regularly, occasionally or once in a while, as the need arises.

We do this to smooth things over, to please or mollify our superiors, or because we need a favor or two from someone we’d rather not interact with.  No one can deny the utility of kaplastikan, where we (1) avoid making statements that, although true, would hurt or criticize the listener, (2) exaggerate the qualities of the listener in order to make him/ her feel better, (3) make white lies to avoid conflict between the speaker and the listener, or even third persons not around.

I won’t say these are personal experience/s (wink, wink), but here are a few specific workplace situations where, in my humble opinion, kaplastikan works :

Your co-worker doesn’t observe hygiene at a level you’re used to.  This is probably one of the most common instances where kaplastikan is observed.  Someone doesn’t brush or floss regularly, is very lax on deodorant, and shampoos the hair only during holidays.  You would love to tell that person even ONCE that he or she is exhibiting oppressive behavior making life difficult for everyone around them.

But you don’t.  Moreover, you pay compliments that are likely to distract, confuse or divert attention to the real problem of the co-worker’s lack (or total absence of ) hygiene.  Reasons?  You work with this person 8 or more hours a day, five days a week, and 50+ weeks a year.  Whatever satisfaction you might derive telling that person off,  you have to live with the consequences because you will continue to co-exist with that person, who has now realized you can’t stand his/her bad breath / body odor / hair odor.

So you (try to) focus on the positives and compliment that person on his/her cheerfulness, work attitude, and clean uniforms.  You have to, because the alternative would be to hurt the person’s feelings (even if your sense of smell has long been offended).  That is kaplastikan.

Listener doesn’t take criticism well and is in a position of authority over you.  Specifically, in a position to make life miserable for you, all because you mentioned that person’s lack of fashion sense.  That’s just a random example, but a similar trifle or minor detail is enough to wind up this type of person enough to put you in his/her crosshairs, just because you were a bit too candid for comfort.

The solution?  It’s a bit drastic, but never mention anything negative, and only mention something when it’s positive.  If it means being less than truthful, then you’re doing it in the spirit of self-preservation, which is after all one of the pillars of kaplastikan.

Obviously, this takes a lot of discipline, self-restraint and with some persons, denying what you see right in front of you.  But keep practicing and with time, it will become second nature to you.  Trust me, kaplastikan works with a lot of Pinoys.

when the evil avoided by kaplastikan is greater than being honest or sincere.  You admit to everyone present that you are dismayed by your colleague’s quality of work. But in the process alienate yourself from everyone.  You withhold your praise for your supervisor (and thus deny him/her the unanimous approval of his/her team he needs for full bonus / incentives), not the least because he/she doesn’t deserve it, but because you’re the only one who withholds, you’re a moving target for extra work and sh*tty shift hours.  What to do, what to do?

Simple lang yan, bro / sis.  DON’T be dismayed, DON’T withhold praise, in fact go the other way and tell everyone within earshot that your work mate is the best and praise your bisor to the high heavens.

Why? Because that is the way of the world, and that is how things get done.  You go plastic, and you prove yourself a team player.  Yung nga lang, truth is the first casualty.  But you know what?  In this case/s, there are things more important than truth.

Just a few specific situations, but you get my meaning, kabayan.  Kaplastikan goes a long way, sometimes nga lang at the expense of truth.  But everything balances out in the end.

 

 

 

 

NBI clearance, bow


theviewingdeckdotcom

How it used to be BEFORE online applications.  (The queues move slightly faster now, thank you.)  thanks to theviewingdeck.com for the great pic!

NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION MAIN, TAFT AVENUE MANILA.

I hadn’t updated my prescription glasses, so from 15 meters, i could only read one word on the sign near the entrance :

ONLINE

from 10 meters, three words stood out :

PATALASTAS : ONLINE APPLICATION

Confusing, but curiouser and curiouser.

5 meters  (No wonder no one was paying attention) :

PATALASTAS : LIBRE PO ANG ONLINE APPLICATION SA NBI MISMO.

(Reminder : Online applications are free inside the NBI office itself.)

And the reason no one was paying attention to the half-hearted, weather-beaten sign?  Everyone around the NBI Clearance Center entrance was asking applicants : Online application? Online application?  Online application?

*****     *****

The only explanation I could come up with:  although online applications are encouraged and even strongly recommended for everyone wanting a National Bureau of Investigation clearance (for jobs, security clearances or anything that requires a certification that you haven’t been convicted of a crime), there are still people who don’t use the internet  and have no choice but to do it the old-fashioned way : go to a bureaucrat’s desk, submit a written application and wait for the precious piece of paper.

Enterprising people with laptops and PCs know this, and entice applicants into using them instead of going in, cutting in half the queueing time and, in effect, the waiting time for an NBI clearance, not knowing that in fact, the NBI, anticipating this, already has computer terminals and NBI employees waiting for this type of applicant, ready to help them apply online, for free.  Thus the sign above.

*****     *****

Although I counted around 800 to 1000 heads as I entered the applicants’ area, I wasn’t too worried.  I had already applied online in a different NBI branch, had my pic and fingerprints taken, and was just waiting for the hard copy of my clearance.

So what was I doing in the main branch?  Unfortunately, because I had such a common name (both the first and last), quite a few people I shared my name with had committed quite-serious crimes, including robbery, fraud and serious physical injuries.

Because of this, my clearance issuance had to go through “quality control” before release, still no biggie, but delayed enough to after my departure date, vacationing OFW that I am.

*****     *****

Before the “quality control” officer, I was warned to have my application receipt (proof of payment for the clearance), identification document, and airline ticket and produce them instantly.

What I didn’t realize was that there were dozens and dozens of people needing their clearances issued before their respective departure dates, just like me, and we were all cramped into a small 5 meter by 7 meter room.  The salary grade of the QC officer didn’t allow for any bigger.

To speed things up, said QC officer just asked all those present (including me) to place their scraps of paper on top of her desk, neatly and first-come-first-served.

All present (including of course, me) dutifully complied.

*****     *****

Unfortunately, another person entered the room, added his own scraps of paper and surreptitiously placed these on top of those previously placed in front of QC officer.

I could be wrong, but this person looked like he knew what he was doing, reminding me of “facilitators” who for a small fee facilitate transactions in a typical government office.

Even before any of us could react, QC officer did it for us:

Hoy!  Nakikita mo bang andami nang nauna sa yo?  Kahit taga-rito ka, ilagay mo dapat mga papel mo sa ilalim, dahil huli kang dumating. Hmmp!

Loosely translated, the QC officer berated the “facilitator” for neglecting to follow the (paper) queue, implied that (at least that day)  she served whoever came first, and fellow NBI employees couldn’t expect any favors from her.

*****     *****

Coincidentally, because of her fair play, my paper got her attention next.  She scrutinized my clearance payment receipt, my passport, and my ticket, didn’t even interview me, scrawled her initials on my paper, and asked me to return in two hours.

In the meantime, I went to McDo for a snack, and on a whim bought a small apple pie for Ms. Low Level But Very Fair Quality Control Officer.

Despite knowing that I was committing the crime of Indirect Bribery under the Revised Penal Code, I wanted to show her my appreciation, and undoubtedly the appreciation of all those persons in the room with me.  I sneaked said pie on her desk when no one was looking, and no one was the wiser.

I got my NBI clearance two hours later without incident, and left the NBI compound containing around 5,000 applicants that day.

Mabuhay po kayo, Ms QC officer!

 

 

 

 

 

(wag maging) dayuhan sa sariling bayan (don’t be a stranger in your homeland)


san carlos[it’s already too late for a last, senti blog for the year so instead i’ll move it forward and nail a first blog of the year, up to you na lang Precious Reader to like and hopefully appreciate the topic.  onwards 2016!  Thanks to philippinecities.com for the San Carlos City pic above!]

EARLY ON, I’d already given up learning goodwife Mahal’s Pangasinense dialect, not the least because it was markedly different from the Ilokano tongue of my contemporaries in university, but also because I didn’t want my in-laws to think I was trying too hard.  In my slanted opinion, the Pangalatoks sound somewhere between Ilokanos and Kapampangans (although the latter really take some getting used to if you’ve never heard them before).

How wrong I was to not try learning even a few phrases!  Tell you what, the Pangasinenses dearly love their language, just as they love everything about their province.  This, despite the fact that the province is divided into large groups of Pangasinenses, Ilokanos and Tagalogs.

The dialect is richly sprinkled with the schwa sound (roughly a combination of the short “a”, “e” and “u” sounds), kien is a particle I heard in almost every sentence, antotan and labut were words obviously with a lot of uses / meanings since they were used as often as we did “uh” and “naman” in Manila.

Where we stayed for New Year’s Eve was a city that was considered the heartland of Pangasinenses, and I saw close-up how Mahal’s people were : frugal, hardworking, and clever.  Of course, I’m being biased and opinionated, but in the sort time I was there, that’s what I saw.

Almost every house I saw had either areas set aside for the drying of palay, an open area set aside for carpentry work or woodwork, houses were always being rebuilt or remodeled, and believe you me, I hardly saw any idle menfolk around, of course it was the holidays where people were expected to be hung over, tongue in cheek. 🙂

The reality however was, everyone was just waiting for the national elections, and based on the public works posters practically shouting the names and mugs of the incumbents, not everyone was patient enough to wait.  Everywhere were not-so-subtle posters, pictures and greetings of personalities obviously seeking public office.  Even schools had posters of potential candidates surrounded by children, purportedly benefiting from the incipient education policies of these candidates.

Sa bagay, campaign period for the national elections is less than four months away.

All in all, I haven’t been around my homeland much, but I can tell that San Carlos City is one of the more progressive places I’ve seen.  I only hope that in their drive towards progress, the Pangasinenses don’t lose sight of themselves and their identity.  The fact that Mahal comes from here is just a bonus.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

Notes on Uwian ’15


PINOYS (Filipinos) feel at home and work anywhere all over the world, but are nourished and invigorated by the soil of the homeland.  If you’re the typical OFW or migrant from the Philippines, you want to go back home every year, renew and reunite, act like you never left home, and boost your reserves for another year toiling abroad.  There’s nothing like living in your hometown, going around the province, and spending day after day with friends, loved ones and family.

Although you can schedule anytime to do this, there is no better time than going home during the Christmas holidays.  Everything seems merrier, everything seems mellower, and everybody is in a damn good mood.  Suddenly, you don’t mind spending extra pesos (that anyway don’t seem much because of your OFW dollars), you don’t mind that tipsy uncle who tells you a little too many stories of his youth, and you don’t mind treating everyone and being the taya (party host) once in a while.  After all, you’re only in town once in a blue moon.

We’re not even gonna organize guidelines on what an ideal trip back home should consist of.  Rather, I’m just going to set to electronic paper crib notes (kodigo) on what I think I should, and probably what some of you guys should, be doing.  Bato-bato sa langit lang po:

meet, balance and spend quality time with your former work buddies, school mates, bosom friends and family, in reverse order.  This takes a lot of discipline and time management, but the reason/s should be self-explanatory.  You know who are most important to you diba?  You know who you miss most, and you know who you can’t afford not to be with esp spend quality time with.  Answering these questions often produces the order stated above, e.g. katrabaho you can always meet and greet on the fly, but family (esp your folks) you meet again and again.  Doesn’t take a lot to explain this, but the actual logistics is something else.  I just leave the details to you.

Spend time pampering yourself, esp about the things that you can’t do overseas.  I’ll use my time-worn self as an example:  Sigh, my myopia-cum-astigmatism gets worse every year, and I will probably need new glasses every now and then.  It’s expensive getting new prescription lens to accommodate my middle-aged orbs, but it’s around a third of the cost compared to if  I do it now in Wellington.  The reason is economies of scale and labor costs, but I’m not complaining, it’s just the way it is.  Another big deal is getting your teeth done, no matter how trivial and routine the treatment may be, it’s always cheaper back home.  There are so many other things that you can save on, it doesn’t need to be medical, cosmetic or health/fitness related only.

I honestly don’t think it’s dodgy or unfair to our host country.  I myself feel more comfortable with kabayan doctors, dentists, optometrists etc.  On the other hand, I pay taxes naman wherever I’m situated, so I can’t feel too guilty about my preference.

Visit the places that inspire you, or those that revive memories.  It’s a bit frivolous or decadent, but I love to visit the biggest and liveliest malls in Metro Manila, because it reminds me of my younger years and the fact that the economy is once again bustling and driven by consumer power, a healthier balance of trade and of course, OFW dollars.  I’ll be completely honest you: the ambiance and aura of our haute couture stores and fashion centers, in the heart of third world Philippines, actually look better than anything in New Zealand.  At least, to me.

But I want to visit Fort Santiago, the National Museum and right down my folks’ alley, Paco Park.  Reason?  They remind me so much of salad days and the simple fact that I haven’t been there for over three decades.

There, I think I’ve said my piece.  It should be obvious to you Precious Reader that Mahal and I are planning a trip home, the first in two-and-a-half years that doesn’t involve a sad event.  It’s also a first trip (since six years ago) that we’ll spend at least New Years day in Pilipinas.   It promises to be interesting times.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

the birthday that time forgot


pic collage : a labor of love by Mahal. :) thanks for everything!

pic collage : a labor of love by Mahal. 🙂 thanks for everything!

AFTER ALL, it’s a birthday blog, so it doesn’t need to make (that much) sense, does it?  It’s just an excuse to say whatever I want, and if you don’t like it or aren’t entertained, well, birthday gift nyo na lang sa kin ang pagbasa, Precious Reader. (Just tolerate it as a birthday gift to me is the rough unGoogle Translate, Precious Read.)

I had anticipated either working for 10 hours in the dead of night, and/or getting a satisfying homemade dinner, very late in the night (or very early in the morning), on my birthday, because first, I asked for a birthday leave (which my employer graciously gives the celebrant) the day after, so as not to disrupt shift schedules (it would be complicated to find someone to fill in for my night shift), and to take advantage of a Friday leave translating into a long weekend.

No way goodwife Mahal would let me forget it was my birthday though, as she promised to cook up a sensational dinner for me whether or not I was up for it, I would either eat it 2 am after the shift ended or in the morning when I woke up.

As it turned out, a Wellington downpour unparalleled in the last 50 years intervened (it had to happen on my birthday right?), and for the first time in as long as I can remember, a work shift was canceled.  I was actually lucky because, being on a later shift, I was spared having to go to work in the daytime and facing the risk of the nearby stream washing out the bridge and cutting off commuters from the only road back home.

At the same time, Mahal came down with a stupefying allergy attack that all but stopped her from doing anything but going to work, it would be unkind of me to ask anything else of her especially since she’d been bringing me to and from work since the week started…

So as I said, I was prepared to work my behind off between 4 pm and 2 am and then have two or three beers with myself on a Thursday night, or at least have a late night dinner (also with myself), but not sit with myself the whole day with only the MagicSing videoke and Candy Crush to keep me company (Mahal also being at work, keeping regular hours).

*****     *****     *****

Not that I was complaining.  As anyone with normal body temperature, not a vampire and not a werewolf (or aswang or manananggal) will tell you, night shift sucks.  I’ll sleep at night any time.  But here I was, doing nothing, unexpectedly, on a birthday.  I also couldn’t take a walk or run, two of my favorite activities, because of the terrible weather.

I got dozens and dozens of Facebook greetings, thank you to all who bothered.  I tinkered with my settings without supervision, so I ended up not allowing people to post on my page, I could’ve gotten a few more greetings but that’s all right.  I got a missed call from Second Brother back home in the Philippines, too bad the phone was inside a bureau drawer.  Also got SMS messages from Eldest Brother (also in Manila) and Fourth Brother in Auckland.  Thank you brothers.

Late afternoon, I received phone calls and felicitations from the kids, the most emotional and heartwarming from Bunso, who still gives me the odd impression (caused by the similarity of our voices) that I’m talking to myself.  Said that the good times were only beginning, and that we think so alike that we can never stop talking to each other and about each other.  Thank you too, anakis.

The best part of having an altered work day that happened to be my birthday?  I slept normally that day, besides the love of my life, sharing her warmth and her company, which is more than any man could ask for.  After a few beers of course.

Thanks for all the kind thoughts, life has just begun!

a little self-denial (& perspective) is (also) good for the Christmas soul


If you have food in your fridge, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, YOU ARE RICHER THAN 75% OF THE WORLD.  If you have money in the bank, your wallet, and some spare change, YOU ARE AMONG THE TOP 8% OF THE WORLD’S WEALTHY.  If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, YOU ARE MORE BLESSED THAN THE MILLION PEOPLE WHO WILL NOT SURVIVE THIS WEEK.  If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or the horrible pangs of starvation, YOU ARE LUCKIER THAN 500 MILLION PEOPLE ALIVE AND SUFFERING.  If you can read this message, YOU ARE MORE FORTUNATE THAN 3 BILLION PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO CANNOT READ IT AT ALL.  – posters-for-good.tumblr.com

I should be one to talk.  I’m a world-class whiner, complainer, cringe at the slightest sign of bad weather, and scream at the minutest twinge of pain.  As well, I have the least right to preach, pontificate or presume to possess the smallest gem of worldly (or unworldly) wisdom for you Precious Reader.  I just spill my guts to you everytime I post on my humble blog hoping someone like me, trudging through life and trying to survive, is feeling the same way and doing the same things I’m doing, and therefore able to relate to little old me.

Saying as much, I’m sure you will agree that this is the one of only two occasions of the year (the other being New Year’s Eve) where it’s socially acceptable and perfectly alright to be engorged and inebriated (that’s bloated and drunk in everyday lingo) before the end of the day, where everyone eats until you’re queasy and clammy, and where drinking makes us do things we regret later.  But in the end, it’s Christmas!  And so it’s alright.

But for every munch and crunch of that lechon de leche or Swiss ham, recall the cigaret vendors whose altanghap of pandesal and instant noodles will have to carry them through the day.  For every swig of San Mig Light or Pale Pilsen, there will have countless multitudes who will be happy to have a bottle of Pepsi or Coke instead of the usual MWSS juice for a change.  For every Davidoff Cool Water, D&G or Bulgari fragrance you covet and acquire, there are probably a hundred barangays in Mindanao who won’t even have potable water to drink, much less water to take showers with.  For every thousand pesos of bonus money you say you deserved but didn’t get, there are a dozen families who won’t even have a picture of a noche buena to admire, much less to taste.

It’s alright to enjoy ourselves during the festive season, but it’s hard to be extravagantly happy when you know there are people just as deserving as you and me who simply don’t have the means or chance to celebrate.

***           ***           ***

Then let’s not forget the people who, because of their vocation and profession, have to deny themselves the pleasure of the holidays and instead do their best to keep our Christmases safe and happy.

Policemen and security people, retailers and salespersons, and everyone else who needs to work the holiday shift.  We know and they know they can’t celebrate their Christmas the traditional time, so we can only do the next best thing, and give them their due and recognition.  And also by giving them the easiest time possible.

Enough of this.  Please give my best to the rest of your family this Christmas.  And thanks for reading!

the least we can do is call her Jennifer


thanks and acknowledgment to dailymail.co.uk for the lovely photo of Ms Jennifer Laude.

thanks and acknowledgment to dailymail.co.uk for the lovely photo of Ms Jennifer Laude.

[ Yes we love our gays, as sure as we love bashing them.  But does this also mean we should protect the most vulnerable of their lot, the sex workers who must endure the occasional psychotic homophobe?  The answer is : is gay-friendly Pope Francis Catholic? 🙂 ]

ALMOST as an afterthought and nearly needless to say, 99.9% of this letter-length hodgepodge of words and phrases is sourced from the richest of info motherlodes : word-of-mouth, hearsay, urban legend, and deep bias, not the least of which is that most overrated of sources, internet news media.

But as my constant companion and excellent listener, you already know that, right?  (That’s my way of saying reader beware, accuracy alert and all that. )

But it really insults the intelligence and taxes the patience of whoever has been witness to the murder of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude and the resulting brouhaha that (1) more than the moral outrage of his/her death is the apparent cover-up of the details of the commission of the crime, and (2) the scant regard for the reckless behavior of American servicemen that is the consequence of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between Pilipinas and Estados Unidos.  Number (1)  is bad enough, but (2) ensures that this sort of thing will not just recur, but will be overlooked and therefore flourish with impunity.

Imagine buying a mislabeled product, bringing it home and finding out it only looked like what you wanted.  What do you do?  Let me guess.  You bring it back to the mall with the receipt, demand a refund (or at the very least an exchange) and come back none the worse for wear.  A no-brainer, right?

Let’s extend the analogy a bit.  We’re all adults here.  (For the kids, you’ll be adults soon right?)  You’re a hot-blooded young stud, you’ve had a bit to drink, after two weeks of non-stop work on a boat in the middle of the sea.  Not only that, you’re starved for a bit of action.  A sweet young thing is in front of you and you can’t wait to bring her somewhere dark and cozy, so you can do dark and cozy things.  After a bit of negotiation, you do just that, bring her to the said dark and cozy place, where you do a lot of necking and smooching, and a lot of other things that can’t be mentioned here.  Along the way you discover that the sweet young thing isn’t what he/she actually is but is more like you, meaning she has all your junk.

Do you say sorry for the foreplay, no matter how enthusiastic, but I’ve just lost interest, and vacate the premises ASAP?  Do you return said not-so sweet young thing to wherever you met and part ways?  Or do you throw a fit or tantrum, demand your money back, and hopefully try your luck again?

You might do one, two or all of those things.  But you certainly don’t beat the sweet young thing up, and break every bone in his/her body and drown him/her in the bathtub.  Because you’re not a crazy, psychotic and homophobic person who reacts as such just because you found someone who has a dick and balls attractive.  (Sorry for the language, but that’s how it is.)

I’m not even sure if Jenny Laude was such (yes, let’s at least call her by her preferred name), but our gay prostitutes are among the most vulnerable in the gay community.  I can’t even imagine the hurt, ridicule, not to mention the danger they expose themselves to, just to earn a living.  I can’t go any further.

The protection afforded by the US Government to US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton is natural and expected.  They will do nothing short of bribe, lie, and conceal the truth to get said US Marine out of the proverbial jam.  Wouldn’t you do the same if one of your citizens were in mortal danger of a long prison sentence in a foreign country?  The problem is, while doing so, justice would be denied to one of our own, who just happens to be a transgender Pinoy/Pinay, Jennifer Laude.

If you wanna continue being outraged, you are certainly free to read on in ph.news.yahoo.com. I just want to commend Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago who is at least entertaining while picking apart the way details of the crime are being obfuscated :

Chief Superintendent Theresa Ann Cid, chief of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory, said evidence recovered at the crime scene included strands of hair, two used condoms, blood and urine samples. The PNP is still completing the tests on the evidence.

Told about the condoms, Santiago remarked: “At least we can safely say that the suspect, or what they call in America as a person of interest, ejaculated twice. Would that be correct?”

Cid replied, “Not necessarily, your honor. The first condom has fresh seminal fluid, with fecal material. The second condom seems not to have the presence of semen… Apparently, they were used.”

Chief Inspector Reynaldo Dave, PNP medico-legal officer, said it was safe to say that the condoms were used in anal sex. The police experts, however, said they could not conclude that the semen samples belonged to Pemberton.

“If he was a male, how does he have sex with the Marine?” Santiago asked.

“I just have to corroborate with the findings on condoms and the other pieces of evidence,” Dave replied. “We can safely conclude (anal or rectal sex).”

Santiago said anal sex is “the usual method for transgenders.” (duh)

***     ***      ***

For every Vice Ganda in the super limelight, and every Diego in Mixed Nuts, we probably have a hundred or so Jennifer Laudes who face the dangers of getting beaten up, or worse, getting killed while trying to earn a little money.  Yes we love our gays in the Philippines, but we should also protect them.  Apologies for the scatterbrained and haphazard way I put this together today.  Jennifer deserved a little better.  She still does.