thoughts on the last working day of the year


Businessman Sitting Top Cliff Rock Mountain

[ Note : Sorry if we haven’t been getting together too often Precious Reader.  But beyond my quit-smoking post on Nov most years, this is the blog that I try not to forget, the count-your-blessings post.  Thanks 123RF.com for the pic, and thanks everyone for reading! ]

WE ALWAYS work in pairs, but halfway in, my shift partner had to go home early.  So I finished my last 2016 shift alone, although there were packers on the other end of the work site.

Surprise, surprise, everything worked out well just there and then.  Everything clicked, and product was churned out ton after ton, like it was the most natural thing in the world.  More important, it went straight to packing, nothing saved, nothing wasted, probably straight into a waiting truck into bakeries, restos and supermarkets.  It was THAT urgent.

Of course there was the shift partner (gone hours ago) who helped me set up the machines and raw material, the veteran who warned me of specific issues and situations to avoid, and of course the packers who checked in on me in the production area every now and then, but in the end, after half a shift of working alone, I turned out 31 tons of product.  Working on my own.

It was then when I felt, for all the trouble, training, dramas, stresses and sore legs, arms and unending fatigue, that I liked my job.  In fact, I liked my situation, and in sum, I liked my life.

I’m not being boastful, exemplary or trying to make this a teachable moment.  One person’s survival is another person’s perfect situation.  Perfect situation being :  you have a decent job, you have a little money saved in the bank, you are in reasonably good health, and you live in a country that respects human life, liberty and property.  Not a bad-looking list, especially using the eyes of someone in Africa (almost anywhere in Africa), or someone in the Middle East (almost anyone or anywhere in the Middle East) or someone in Syria (anyone, anywhere in Syria.  Except for that guy making it miserable for everyone else).

Decent Job.  It’s not a dream job, but I get paid better than minimum wage.  In New Zealand, that means you have money for the basics, and a little left over.  The job involves a little physical labor, and moving about, but so what?  It keeps me fit, and being fit at my age is a definite bonus.  To work my job, I need to be fit, and working allows me to continue being fit.  So it’s a gift that keeps giving.

Money saved.  This is where it gets tricky.  While the going is good, money coming in, and the sun is shining, you just don’t see the urgent need to save and put aside blessings now for blessings in the future.  BUT, believe me when I say this, this is important, you won’t be earning the same amount of money all the time, and all through life, your earnings may or may not go up, but your needs will never go down.

Just to be able to save a little money, by choice, is a pure luxury for me.  And that’s what I’m doing now.  A bit late, but better than never.

Good health.  This is my ace in my sleeve.  My last physical, said my doc who felt me in places too awkward to mention in a general patronage blog, said I was, for my age, job and stress levels, in very good health.  Meaning, my numbers were good, tests looked good, and the remainder of my life, against all odds, looked promising.

Promisingly good.

Let’s all count our blessings, happy new 2017, and Mabuhay!

on reaching the business end of a mother’s day conversation


a recent photo of Mom and Dad, thanks & acknowledgment to the Dely Imperial photo library!  happy mothers' day to all!

a recent photo of Mom and Dad, thanks & acknowledgment to the Dely Imperial photo library! happy mothers’ day to all!

[Note : just by being yourself, you are already a legend.  To all moms, please take a bow today.  Happy mother’s day to all! ]

IT SEEMS improbable, but I’m willing to bet a week’s sweldo that with half a lifetime’s bonding, the amazing array of communication tools available, and the era of open, honest and leveled communication now upon us, most of you, like me, still find it a little difficult to talk and be at ease with our mothers at the same time.

We empathize, feel, relate with any kind of person mass media brings before us, we can keep in touch with people halfway around the world on numerous platforms, and we are in complete touch with the widest range of emotions as the moment requires, be it for entertainment, education or edification.

Back to our mothers.  We can talk to our moms on a wide range of topics, as long as it doesn’t concern our emotions.  We can also be at ease with our mothers, as long as we aren’t communicating earnestly.  So what I’m saying is, we can’t talk to and be at ease with our mothers at the same time.  (Or maybe it’s just me?)

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

So many maybes come to mind when I think of why this might be.  Maybe because of the generation gap.  Maybe because the previous generation grew up repressing their emotions, at least in front of elders, and therefore expecting the same from their descendants.  Maybe because children grew up with an overload of admonishment, overcorrection and micromanagement from their parents, and to show emotion would be a sign of weakness, error or extreme behavior, none of which might be seen as ideal behavior.  But remember, these are all just maybes.

The only thing I’m sure of is that as her third son, now nearly half a century old, I still behave like a little boy when I happen to share a conversation with Mom.

Sure, we talk about pleasant, everyday and important things.  We talk about them often enough, and I always get the feeling that on either side ideas, information and other good stuff go through.

But the really important stuff isn’t as easy to pass through.  There’s this filter of awkwardness, trying to say the right thing, and not lingering on how you really feel, that pervades most conversations with my mom.  And if I know you like I know myself, I’m just guessing here, you know where I’m coming from.

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

So, just to make it a little easier for you and me, I’m going to tell you what I plan to tell Mom when I call her this Mother’s Day weekend.  (Don’t really know where the apostrophe should be, but that’s not important.)

I will tell her first about the rest of the family, her daughter-in-law, her grandkids, and maybe, just maybe, future members of the family.  If any.  This is easy, because it’s not hard to talk about other people.  And it breaks the ice.

Next, I’ll tell her about my immediate plans and dreams, and how I’m tracking.  This is a little harder, because there’s the potential for success (or failure) assessment, which is the inalienable and God-given right of every parent, so proceed at your own risk na lang. But this is always good to do, because Moms feel important when you report to her your progress (or lack of it), at this advanced stage she feels you still value her input, even though your ear is further from the receiver than at any other point in the call.

Last, and this is like I said in the title, the business end (or money shot if you prefer) of the talk.  You tell her exactly how you feel about her, and how much she has impacted your life.  It is the most important part of the call, so while you can wing it or improvise on the other parts, on this part you don’t.  You tell it like it is.

If your mom is like mine, and I’m betting that she is, she has made you into the person that you are today.  So go ahead and say it.  I have good points and bad points, but most of the former, I owe to her.  I’m nearly certain you’re the same.  So go ahead and tell her.  And a lot of times I was in trouble, real or imagined, she was the first person I thought of running to.  And almost always, ultimately I did run to her. If you feel likewise (and I’m guessing you do), remind yourself, and herself of that, and tell her how grateful you are of that fact of life.

After these, you may now, appropriately, wish Mom a happy mother’s day.  🙂  And an “i love you Mom” wouldn’t hurt.

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

Look, you don’t need to tell this to Mom everyday, beyond her birthday and mother’s day.  After all, in her eyes, you are already perfect, and every good thing you do is already a bonus.

But every little bit helps.

Happy Mothers’ Day Mom, I love you very much!  And happy Mothers’ Day to all the moms in the world!

honoring the custodians of our pinoy culture


a rousing Filipiniana dance interpreted by children of Pinoy migrants including 7-year old Ella Cabauatan.  Seen in the background are H.E. Ambassador Virginia Benavidez, Consul Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa and Emb Finance Officer Rosalyn Del Valle-Fajardo

a rousing Filipiniana dance interpreted by children of Pinoy migrants including 7-year old Ella Cabauatan. Seen in the background are H.E. Ambassador Virginia Benavidez, Consul Arlene Gonzales-Macaisa and Emb Finance Officer Rosalyn Del Valle-Fajardo

[ Note : Awesome kudos the participants at the Typhoon Haiyan Philippine Appeal Concert last Saturday , particularly Meia Lopez and the Wellington Filipino Community Choir; congrats to the Typhoon Haiyan fundraising efforts of the Society for Southeast Asian Communities led in part by Didith Tayawa-Figuracion! Legends all! ]

WE CAN’T remember who said it, but more than a few times we have heard that culture is the soul of a collective people.  Language, the arts and music are the most visible indicators, but anything that expresses the spirit of a tribe or group of people is part of a culture which history preserves and the community promotes.

Because of this reality, a conquering nation or race, many times in history, after the physical subjugation of its enemies, sought shortly afterwards to suppress the latter’s culture and language with impunity, usually for political and emotional ends but all the better to wipe out the remnants of future dissent from the vanquished.

The burning of books and execution of scholars by the Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang, and the infamous Nazi book burnings before World War II are just two extreme examples of suppression against culture.  In more recent times, prohibition against speaking the languages of natives in favor of the colonizers’ tongues are scenarios that strike closer to home.

Thankfully in our present day these things no longer happen.  In fact, even in host countries like New Zealand, migrant communities like ours from the Philippines are allowed and even encouraged to promote and preserve aspects of our Pinoy culture so that our youth may appreciate and continue what our forebears fought hard to preserve.

Basic things like the Filipino language, history and symbolisms behind the Philippine flag, the geography, ethnicities and various regions of the Philippine archipelago,  the national symbols, flowers, attire, tree, bird and others were taught to a group of Pinoy children and young adults a few months ago by a select group of Kiwi-Pinoy volunteer teachers, namely Aurea Weatherall, Zenaida Savill, Shirin Zonoobi, Josephine Garcia Jowett, Ruth Abenojar-Yee and Jun Samblaceno under the Filipino Language and Culture Enrichment Programme (FILCEP) sponsored by H.E. Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez and her hardworking staff at the Philippine Embassy in New Zealand.

The ten-day programme was to focus on the more basic aspects of Filipino language and culture, but its success has prompted the Embassy to plan more sessions in the near future, particularly in civics and the performing arts.

Last November 13, it was the turn of our FILCEP volunteer teachers to be honored as the Embassy and the Pinoy community held its first FILCEP Fun and Educational Day at Ang Bahay, the official residence of the Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand.

After the singing of the Lupang Hinirang (the Philippine National Anthem) by Mia Abenojar Yee and Samantha Samaniego and the recitation of the Panunumpa sa Watawat by Paulo Raphael Obach, festivities were immediately commenced, with focus on Filipiniana.

Tinikling, the native Filipino dance was taught and performed, palitaw and halo-halo preparation was demonstrated and the results enjoyed, storytelling about alamat and other Pinoy legends, Jose Rizal’s poems and stories and puppet making was eagerly absorbed, and various native games like luksong lubid, sungka and hampas sa palayok were demonstrated to other youths.

The Filifest Dance Group led by Queens Service Medal awardee Anita Mansell, with their performances both educated and entertained everyone present, particularly the freestyle dance of Stephanie Jowett, the saxophone piece by Gino Tapia, a violin performance by Sam Non, and Panaglangin sung by Kiwi-Pinoy couple Hazel and Mark Fryer.  Other awesome performances were Kathy Lopez (Next in Line) and Jodie Marquez (Torete).

The children’s group Munting Tinig stole the show with their heartwarming rendition of Ang Pipit and Tutira Mai.

The Philippine Embassy hit two birds with one stone, sharpening the prongs of their cultural diplomacy thrust and partnering with the Pinoy migrant community in New Zealand with their FILCEP family day.  If the most basic aspects of our culture, like love for country, family values and a fundamental knowledge of Filipino history language and culture served to inspire the youths present, then FILCEP would have been a smashing success.

Mabuhay po tayong lahat!

 

three things that drive foreigners crazy bout us pinoys


[Note : if there’s one thing I’ve learned the past two weeks, it’s that fatigue and blogging don’t go along well.  thanks very much tugang Aline Parrone for the video above, Waray-waray is a popular folk tune that originated in Tacloban and the rest of Eastern Visayas region.  Waray is also the common term for the ethnic group in the region.  Let’s continue praying for both the living and the dead there.  thanks Kevin Ayson for the video below! Mabuhay po! ]

I HAVE excellent sources for this blog post’s research : word-of-mouth, urban legend, and tall tales.  Seriously, tidbits and morsels of anecdotes here and there are probably the only thing/s I can share with you, given that everything else is already on the internet, that I’m relatively so isolated from both homeland, family and friends, and finally that my life and schedule are governed by my hours at work (not that I’m complaining).

But you and I have seen on the world stage how the international community has reacted to the death and destruction left by Typhoon Haiyan : an outpouring of love and generosity, in both aid and effort, from nearly every country on the face of God’s Earth.  You and I know the reason/s for this.  the unshakeable spirit of humanity and the fact that this was probably the strongest storm (on record) to ever hit land.

Last but not least, I have to believe that the groundswell of altruism also has to do with the fact that Pinoys are so visible on the world stage, whether as skilled workers or tradesmen, artists, performers and athletes, or what have you.  We can count ourselves as one of the most charming, visible and engaging people on earth, and that’s not just because I’m a Pinoy.  You can see it everywhere.

But like anyone else, we’re not perfect.  Here are some things our foreign brothers and sisters (foreigner is actually a rude term, when I am in NZ the word is never used on me, it’s always guest or visitor) find simply inexplicable about us, given the general positivity we generate :

we smell and look like roses, but live in generally dirty surroundings.  This is one of the most hurtful comments I’ve heard, but it’s true.  A Scottish prosthetics specialist I know told me once, how can you observe such good hygiene, yet live next to a dead, polluted river?  How can you dress so immaculately, yet walk casually among rubbish and filth?  At first I took offense, but I realized that it was true.  We do pay scant regard to how our rubbish and waste are collected.  We do see our countrymen spit and urinate everywhere.  And yes, we do live in an environment of dead rivers, streams and lakes, for so long now that it looks like it hardly matters to us.  (And does it, really?),

It looks like an incongruity because Filipinos in general are so clean and neat in their appearance, we bathe and take showers like water was running out tomorrow, and use perfume and colognes liberally, no matter what our station in life is.  If we showed half the concern we do on ourselves as we do our environment, how different it might be for the health of our  environment.

we are politically correct when it comes to recognizing women, but not among the poorest of our poor.  Ahead of the US and some older democracies we have had our first lady president, Supreme Court chief justice and senior lawmakers, we honor and lionize our beauty queens for leadership roles, and give prominence to the role of women and society.  All very good.  But we don’t bat an eyelash when our kababaihan are forced by poverty and hardship to prostitute themselves at home and abroad, turn our heads away to the willing (and unwilling) exploitation of our women on the internet, and shrug our collective shoulders when Pinay workers get a raw deal abroad.

We pay lip service and say the right things when it comes to recognizing our countrywomen, but accept it as a fact of life when women are objectified and become victims of white slavery wherever criminals and unscrupulous governments take advantage of our women.  It’s almost become a curse.  Our Filipinas are among the most beautiful in the world, defer to male elders and menfolk by force of tradition, and are taught early in life that it’s better to be seen and not heard.  Because of these perceived virtues, our sisters are preyed upon by those who earn blood money in the flesh trade.  And you know what they say : all that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.  I can just hear commonsense asking: Is there a shortage of good men in the Philippines?

Groundhog day.  we experience a dozen plus typhoons every year, a dozen plus major and minor earthquakes in the same period, and a couple of volcanic eruptions every now and then.  But we still scramble to save lives, property and reduce suffering everytime the wrath of God comes in various shapes and forms.  It’s like a foreigner saying, you know what’s gonna happen, you know what it’s gonna do when it happens, and you know what to do to avoid it, so why don’t you do it???

Granted what happened in the Visayas region was beyond the anticipation of even the most prudent government effort, but given our experience with such similar and parallel events, I can’t help but wonder if more lives couldn’t be saved.  It is so much water under the bridge, sumalangit nawa ang mga kaluluwa ng ating mga kabayan, but if Haiyan doesn’t change the way we face disasters and relief efforts, I guess nothing will.

As mentioned earlier, this is all a simplistic compilation on how people overseas see us.  Whether or not it helps, it’s just food for thought.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas, and thanks for reading!

repost courtesy of Bunso : “The Elusive First Job (in NZ)”


woohoo!

woohoo!

[Note : Actually, this was the second job my son Bunso successfully applied for, but this was the first time he actually liked the job. 🙂  So he was gracious enough to write about it after a local Pinoy newsmagazine in Wellington invited him to do so.  I liked it so much (his story) that I am reposting it below, with permission of course from both the publisher and the author.  You may access Bunso’s online version as well by clicking on the link in this paragraph.  Thanks again Didith Tayawa Figuracion and Meia Lopez of Kabayan Magazine in Wellington, and anak for your generosity! ]

KNOWING YOURSELF is one thing but describing yourself is another.  On finding a job, one of the most important things to remember is to put your best foot forward.  You have to present yourself as the best candidate for whatever job you’re applying for without sounding arrogant or too proud.

It took a while to get my first job but finally, after sending in numerous CVs (both physical and online), my efforts have paid off.  When I finally landed a job, I was ecstatic!  (I honestly can’t put my feelings into words.  But it was comparable to how I felt when I passed the entrance exam for the university I wanted to attend back home in the Philippines.  I felt really happy and blessed.)

So here’s my take on how you should prepare to get that (first) elusive job.

Tailor your CV to the job you are applying for.  Customise your CV and always point out skills and qualities you have that other people might not have.  Make sure to relate these to the job you are applying for.  Some jobs require you to be independent and some require you to be in a team.  If you like to do both, say so but don’t pretend to be somebody you’re not.

Your CV must speak for you especially for jobs you apply for online and situations where you won’t be able to see the prospective manager/boss before getting an interview.  Put together an image of yourself based on your personality (are you friendly and helpful?), experiences  (have you interacted with people from different ethniticities and backgrounds giving you that cross cultural perspective from your travels overseas or interactions in school?)  and skills (are you good with managing your time, multitasking or prioritising?).

Get the best referees possible.  Ask your high school (college) principal or your parents’ friends if they are willing to be your referees.  Get someone who knows you and is willing to help and can vouch for your professionalism.

Do your homework.  It helps a lot if you know the employer or have referees working within the workplace you are applying at.  Find out as much as you can about the company where you are applying.

During interviews make yourself very presentable.  From your clothes to your demeanor, you are being observed.  Wear clothes feel comfortable in and always appear open and approachable.  There is not one job in the world that would turn away people with those qualities, if there were they would probably be jobs most people wouldn’t apply for. (ha-ha just kidding.)

Now comes the hard part — asking for prior job experience when it’s your first job (locally).  Most jobs you apply for need prior experience but how can you get experience without getting a job?  I can only think of two ways to convince the employer to give you a chance.  Work for free for a specified amount of time depending on what you’re open to, for example one to two weeks, whatever floats your boat.  The other is to ask for an interview and character reference check and if they like what they hear then they might give you a shot.

So, when you do get the job, you better show them that they picked the right guy/gal.  Cheers and good luck to all the young people out there looking for employment, it definitely isn’t easy but it’s all worth it.

You go guys! 🙂

videos that make my day (& hopefully yours)


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

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

(2


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

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

And lastly…

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

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

why Julianne Alvarez is my favorite Kinoy*


Julianne still all smiles after gruelling practice on the green.

Julianne still all smiles after gruelling practice on the green.

[Note : Congrats to Didith Tayawa-Figuracion, Meia Lopez and the rest of the contributors of KABAYAN, the one and only Wellington Pinoy newsmagazine for their spectacularly outstanding Issue No. 3!  Please find the online version if you haven’t gotten your hard copy at  http://www.pinoystop.org/kabayan/, mabuhay ang lahing kayumanggi!  Maraming salamat  po to KABAYAN for allowing us to repost our contribution here, woohoo!]

TUCKED AWAY in a quiet, unassuming corner in one of Wellington’s quiet, unassuming suburbs lives one of New Zealand‘s most talented female golfers.  At the ridiculously young age of 17 she is number five on the New Zealand Order of Merit,** and would rank even higher if she played more tournaments.  And yes, she most definitely is a Filipina, the child of Pinoy parents Vergel and Monica Alvarez.

Before you conjure images of untold riches and superhuman feats made popular by budding golf superstar Lydia Ko, already the number one amateur golfer in the world, for the most part Julianne Alvarez is an unaffected, low-key Year 13 student from one of Wellington’s respected Catholic schools.  Julianne would rather hang out with friends in the mall than discuss her achievements.  But she has just been too good and too competitive to bloom like a rose isolated in the woods.

Since she was five, Julie has always competed with golfers much older than her, says mom Monica, who credits husband Vergel as the initial influence in their daughter’s golfing life.

“I think she was around seven or eight, swinging her golf irons one Saturday when a trio of Manor Park (their golf club in Lower Hutt) ladies approached and asked if she could complete the foursome.”  It only took the slightest of prodding from her parents for Julianne to join the foursome for what would be the start of something big.

Less than 10 years later, Julianne has become one of the brightest hopes of New Zealand women’s golf and is a mainstay of Team Wellington in challenging Auckland and the other powerhouses in annual interprovincial competition.  Her potential is literally unlimited.

And so the inevitable question is asked : in a perfect world, would Julianne be willing to lend her vast talents to represent the Philippines for international glory?

Apparently the perfect situation must remain unreachable, because strict rules of the sport and citizenship challenges would make Julianne’s participation in the national team at best, a faint and remote possibility.

But as the shoe ad says, impossible is nothing, and never says never.  By combining native Pinoy competitiveness, innate talent and unswerving discipline, there is no limit to what Julianne Alvarez and her golf clubs can do.  Wherever she goes, her kabayan community will be looking on proudly!

Mabuhay Julianne and family!

*Kinoy, a contraction for Kiwi Pinoy, is a non-racial term for Filipinos who’ve either been born or have migrated to New Zealand

**The New Zealand Order of Merit in golf means a season-long player ranking in New Zealand Golf based on the highest to lowest points on the Order of Merit (OOM) calendar.  Points are allocated to tournaments dependent on the strength of the field and their ranking within the R & A points ranking system.

 

 

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.

***            ***            ***

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!)

ganito kasi yon : more awkward situations pinoys confront everyday


[ Note :  The video above has nothing to do with the post, just touched me in a very positive way. here’s hoping the pain and misery following the massive floods back home is minimized, and that a sea change on our pork barrel culture starts to happen.  Yeah, right.  Btw, “ganito kasi yon” is Tagalog loosely for this is the short explanation.  Thanks for reading! ]

CALL US A lot of things, but don’t call us Pinoys (also known as Filipinos) anti-social.  We smile and laugh easily, engage with other people like it’s second nature to us, are great listeners, and can easily wriggle out of a potentially embarrassing situation via diplomacy or tact.

But more than all these, Pinoys are good talkers.  We love to show our facility in English to fellow English speakers (maybe sometimes too vigorously), love to show how we can discuss government and politics, even if we sometimes don’t have the slightest idea of what we’re talking about, and even use the smallest excuse to show off our familiarity with international showbiz, cable entertainment and even socially relevant issues where our region is concerned.

Trouble is, no matter how sociable we are, how cosmopolitan or how well we pass ourselves off as citizens of the world, there will always be aspects of our culture that will remain imprinted on our collective selves.  Conversely, there will be aspects of other cultures that will grate on us, simply because, like the proverbial fingerprint, no two cultures are alike, although on surface we may seem similar.  Whenever we confront face-to-face other cultures, there will be an inevitable clash, and it will be folly for us to compare these cultures with our own.   At the same time,  when these cultures try to compare ours to them, it takes every bit of our strength not to react negatively and instead tell them, live and let live.

Below are just a few examples of how these awkward situations surface whenever different cultures clash.   They are not theoretical or abstract  scenarios but actual vignettes of what happens when what we consider questionable (or sometimes disgusting) happens to be completely acceptable in other cultures.  And vice versa.

it's just more fun ! :)

it’s just more fun ! 🙂

Unwashed hair.  Let’s talk about our hosts first.  Because it’s a temperate climate here, dreadlocks and braids are acceptable hairstyles, especially among those who pursue the so-called alternative lifestyle.  Frankly, it’s a look that fits a certain body type and personality; and if you can wear a mop on your head and pull it off, well kudos to you.

Unfortunately, it’s a style that precludes daily washing of your hair, and such lack of washing is aggravated by the volume of hair and the resulting need for grooming.  It becomes worse when the temperatures rise and the owner of the hair adds sweat to the natural oils trapped in his dreadlocks.  I think you begin to see (and smell) the picture.

Now, about us Pinoys.  Washing our brown bodies is a daily essential, and our hair is no exception.  We like to smell good not just for ourselves but especially for those around us.  We think nothing of anointing ourselves with lotions, colognes, perfumes and other fragrances twice or even thrice a day, especially our ladies.  Does it follow that we should expect others to do the same?

Sorry kabayan but the short answer is no.  I have a dreadlocked colleague who is otherwise a decent chap and pleasant enough, but even in the cold weather, his hair is beginning to reek.  I thought that it was just me being an odor-sensitive Pinoy, but a tactless workmate hit it right on the nail : he mentioned that even with a hairnet and cap, it looked (smelled) like Dreadlock Guy hadn’t washed his hair for a week.  And with winter ending soon, the warmer weather was going to make it worse.  Now the million-dollar question is : who’s gonna be the one to tell Mr Alien Predator  (of the famous braids) that the hair ain’t helping his social life??? 🙂

kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap :(

kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap 😦

Corruption and lack of honesty in public service.  As they say in all democratic countries, public service is a public trust, although in many developing countries like ours, this rule is usually honored in the breach.  In those same free states also goes the saying  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There’s more : Graft exists in all societies, to the victors in public office belong the spoils, and if you want to avoid more trouble, think twice before reporting a crime to the police.  We’ve all known these truths to be self-evident back home, so much that a political career untainted by corruption is probably beyond comprehension, it’s simply inconceivable to us.  And yet, whenever a New Zealander asks me any detail about how pervasive corruption is in our political culture, I hasten to justify it, explain it away, or compare it to other countries where dishonesty is tolerated as much as it is condemned.

The truth is, we accept the evils of crony capitalism and the old-boy network as part of the necessary evils that make modern government work, as long as it doesn’t offend our sense of proportion or some vague moral boundary (a line which I think was crossed by that Pinay found to own 28 houses in the Philippines and several more in the USA).  But the moment people in other countries try to pass judgment or tsk-tsk the way our government  runs things, the usual instinct is for Pinoys to circle the wagons and defend ours as the Confucian way of governance (which usually means look the other way or your time will come, mwahahahaha).

digital stealing.  We like to do the right thing, watch movies as they actually come out in the moviehouses, borrow DVDs from the corner rental, and wait for the clearance sales on movies we missed.  But the temptation to go to the dark side is too strong sometimes, when people give you the latest, unreleased films on their flash drives, when they talk about the newest pictures even before the reviewers do, and when a lot of people do it, you begin to wonder if it’s worth being one of the good guys.

It’s even worse back home, where frankly speaking everything can be downloaded without paying for it if you know your way around the internet, intellectual property is a joke, and paying for licensed software is something only big companies do.

Don’t think that Kiwis don’t know that Third World countries do this with impunity, because they automatically assume that Asians use software, listen to music and watch movies without always paying for it, and that’s putting it mildly.

To them I fashion, as usual, a defensive response.  The day will come when everything on the internet will be shareware, free-to-use and for everyone to download as they please.  Besides, I like to delude myself into thinking that the world is divided into two : those who pay for stuff and those who can’t afford to pay for it, but ultimately still end up using it, I mean who doesn’t depend on gigabyte power these days?

What I mean is, those who pay for movies, music and software, unless they opt for a lifestyle change, won’t consider downloading it illegally, while those on the other side of the fence have much more important issues of survival and won’t  have the money or inclination to buy the digital stuff.

Yes, we Asians download stuff like it’s the most natural thing, without even considering paying for it.  We watch the latest movies and listen to the latest hits, and only pause to buy the movies or music as an afterthought,  And software we buy, if we buy it at all, is of the bootleg variety.  But we also have mortgages to maintain, rents to pay, groceries to shop, tuition payments to meet, and yes, bills to pay.  These, out of a puny paycheck that’s running on fumes.  Is it still a surprise then that I can hardly think of respecting intellectual property?

If it sounds like I’m justifying stealing things I should be paying for, I’m not.  But as sure as the sun rises at dawn and sets 12 hours later, movies, music and software will always be stolen (or copied, as simple as that) outside the so-called Western world.  It’s just a fact of life.

Now, how do I tell all these to my Kiwi hosts and keep my straight face on?

hi-definition bonding with kids is even cooler when they’re your own


It's Friday casual. As usual, I will hide from Mahal after posting this w/o her knowledge. ;)

It’s Friday casual. As usual, I will hide from Mahal after posting this w/o her knowledge. 😉

[ Note : “high definition” : high resolution, greater detail often on a wide format of viewing.  “Bonding” : Establish a relationship with someone based on shared feelings, interests, or experiences. Thanks for reading this extra long post! ]

AN ETERNITY AGO, when there were more sons and daughters in my age group than mothers or fathers, I often bristled at the slightest impression that any parent of  my contemporaries had a favorite (or worse, favorites) in their brood.  Bad enough that the folks had to apportion their affection among multiple offspring, were they that awful that they couldn’t even distribute such affection equally?

Many years later, now to be exact, I know now this inequitable maldistribution of wealth to be an unfortunate but inevitable fact of life.  Should you ask, it’s because the naive son has become a naive father (and quite possibly a naive lolo in the near future, need you ask again), and mainly because one, there is simply no way love and affection, spoils and favors can be dealt out in a perfectly symmetric way to sons and daughters.  Two, in your brood there is always the one who seeks you out just a little more, appreciates you more and is a little more demanding of your time.  The resulting surplus of communication and appreciation, despite what many parents deny, is what manifests itself as a show of favorite/s, the Joseph among the Twelve or maybe John the Beloved among the Apostles.

So it shouldn’t be too much of a shock for me to tell you that whoever among Panganay, Ganda and Bunso communicate, share more of their time and show a little more concern more often is for that particular point in time my favorite.  I’m too old now to worry about offending them, they all know that I love them as much as I love myself (which is a lot), but then and now whoever is closer to me is that, closer.

That evening it was Bunso, who on his own asked if he could have dinner with Mahal and me, which of course we obliged as we hadn’t seen him much since he got his first job, and then his second job at a superpopular cafe chain.  Engaging with people is a natural skill with him, so we were so happy when he made the move.

Except that between this dinner and the last, I was unaware that Bunso had quickly grown from a laugh-a-minute, outspoken and gregarious individual into a brooding, intense and introspective 18-year old.  Sure he was still talkative, animated as life itself, and never shied away from controversy, if it meant defending the things he stood for.

But there was a seriousness with him, a loss of innocence that only a recent milestone of adult life could’ve made possible.  Yes Mahal, Bunso had fallen in love.  And was fortunate enough to have survived it.

In so many words he told us  that it was both an exhilarating and sobering experience, but that was it.  No other juicy tidbits.  We were privileged to have been part of his milestone, yet respected his privacy enough not to ask further.  It was all I could do to restrain myself from asking a million and one questions, for after all could you blame me for thinking that the baby, the youngest of the litter, was now nearly a full-grown man?

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Beyond this, Bunso also told us something we hadn’t expected.  Panganay, from whom we hadn’t heard for some time, was down with something, but couldn’t tell us what.

It was high time for me to give Panganay a long overdue call.  Overdue mainly because he had been busy with his stuff, but also because the latter didn’t sound too much like he needed any presence other than friends and the current ladylove of his life, who I was also more than a little curious to see.  Almost immediately after Bunso left the next day, I called.

Anak, kumusta ka na?  Ano na’ng nangyayare sa buhay mo?  I wanted to know all about his mystery ailment, but also wanted to give him the chance to open up first.

“Wala Pa, may nabugbog lang akong muscles and full bed rest ang recommend ng doc.”

I knew his condition was a tad more serious than he let on, so I probed a little further.

Kailangan mo raw ng medical procedure anak?

“Oo, pero nagiipon pa ako.”  That last  statement of independence melted me a little, so I tried a half-joke, half-expression of concern.

Kung barya na lang ang kulang anak, tawagan mo kami agad ni Tita H.  I think he knew we were half serious because Mahal reinforced the offer a minute later.

Now, on to more important matters.

May girlfriend ka na raw Anak?  At superganda pa according to Bunso?  At supersexy? 😉

“Linoloko lang kayo ni Bunso” Panganay stammered, but more out of modesty than anything.

Anak, I semi-scolded him, kapag sinabing maganda ang syota mo, umoo ka na lang.  At kapag sinabing sexy ang GF mo, sabihin mo OO NGA.

We both had to laugh at that.

We couldn’t end the call without an offer to cook him and his new girlfriend an authentic, adobo and sinigang Pinoy dinner very soon.  Hopefully, while he’s convalescing from his momentary setback.

The moments are few and far between, but when you reconnect with the younger generation, you feel a bit younger again, and the years of your youth come back for a while.  It’s even better when the reconnection is with your own kids.

Before I forget, may I just add one more crazy piece of advice for you after reading this blog, from someone who has no business giving advice anyway : try bonding with your chikitings about things they care about, things they do and things that affect their everyday lives.  It just might work one of these days.

thanks for reading!

[ Postcript : Just in case you feel Ganda might be left out here, her boyfriend is an above average basketball player, so anytime I watch one of their Pinoy community league games, I can bond with them easily.  So there. 🙂 ]